And I was very aware that I was shoved in the back of a cab with her and staring at her blatantly.

“Hi,” I said awkwardly. I wiped my sweaty hand on my cords and put my hand out for her. “I’m Dawn. I’ll be—“

“I know why you’re here,” she said quickly. She turned her attention to Jacob who was just coming into the car. “Can we get a move on or what?”

Jacob shot her a look over his shoulder. When his amber eyes narrowed, he looked positively avian. “You don’t call the shots, missy. You wanted to come along and along you came.”

She sat back in her seat and crossed her arms, looking out the window with annoyance. “Had I known it would take so long, I would have sent someone else to get the alcohol.”

I felt like I had to say something. “I’m sorry the flight was a bit late and—”

“And now,” she added, still not looking at me, “I have to watch what I say because some groupie is in the car.”

“Hey,” I protested. “I’m not a groupie!”

The cab driver and Jacob exchanged a look and the car roared off. I was thrown back a bit and I made sure I was fastened in properly.

Noelle rolled her eyes but didn’t say anything.

“I’m a journalist,” I went on to say even though it didn’t seem like anyone was listening. Jacob was grinning like a madman from the front seat, like he was really enjoying himself.

“You’ll have to excuse Noelle here,” he finally explained, tucking away those big teeth. “She’s the girl of the group. You might be infringing on her territory a wee bit.”

I gave him a funny look. Well why the hell did he want me to come on the road with him if he thought it was going to be a problem?

Never mind, suck it up, I told myself. I was obviously a bundle of nerves and taking things the wrong way. I’d win Noelle over sooner or later. She was just one tiny piece of the band, albeit a fairly formidable one considering the chill she was giving off with her cold shoulder.

I took a deep breath and gave them both a smile I hoped was charming and understanding. “No worries, we have plenty of time to get to know each other. Tonight I guess is all about settling in.”

“Yeah, you have the easy part,” Noelle said to me out of the corner of her mouth. Her arms were still crossed. “This is the start of our tour. I…fuck, Jacob, how long till the store?”

Jacob patted the cabbie on the shoulder. “Pull over at the nearest establishment, good sir.”

The cabbie gave him an eye roll that rivaled Noelle’s but did as he asked. Soon we were rolling into a generic-looking liquor store, all pale blue paint and gold letters.

Noelle sighed, either annoyed or relieved, then put her palm flat out toward Jacob. He put a few bills in her hand. “This is part of the room and board,” he told me with a wink. “You’re included, Dawn. Go in with Noelle and pick your lot.”

I raised my brows at him. Noelle had closed her hand over the money and was out the door and walking fast toward the entrance.

“Go on,” he said, nodding at her. “Give her a hand. And make sure she doesn’t steal anything.”

He looked serious, so I couldn’t figure out if it was true or not. No matter, if the band tour manager wanted me to follow Noelle, bassist of Hybrid, into a liquor store, then that’s what I was going to do.

I walked into the store, the air conditioning smelling like ice, and went over to Noelle who was perusing the vodka section.

“Looking for something in particular?” I asked. Sometimes I sucked at small talk.

“Maybe.” She straightened up and glanced over at the cashier. His back was turned to us, arranging a display on the wall. She quickly unscrewed the cap off a bottle of Smirnoff and quickly chugged a mouthful. Then she wiped her lips, put it back on the shelf and grabbed the Grey Goose next to it. She repeated it all over again, keeping her eyes on the cashier but never looking the slightest bit chagrined or worried.

I was aware that my mouth was hanging open a little so I closed it. “Taste testing?”

She screwed the cap back on the Grey Goose.

“Jacob never gives us enough money, and I heard half the fucking venues don’t even supply the kicks anymore. Fucking economy.”

After she had her third mouthful of vodka, a relaxed glaze had come over her eyes.

“Hey, wanna be of help to us?” she said lazily, scooping three bottles of Smirnoff into her arms. “You go get the beers. A case of Corona. A case of Carlsberg. A flat of Heineken.”

I was strong but if she thought I could carry all of that, she was crazy. And judging from the way she had moved on down the aisle and was putting mini bottles of booze into the tops of her boots, there was no disputing it.

Oh boy. What exactly had I got involved with here?

I made my way over to the beer fridges, aware that we could get totally busted at any moment and I would be guilty by association. I thought Mel could be a badass at times, but Noelle was taking the cake and enjoying every mouthful.

I took what I could to the counter where Noelle was waiting, seemingly impatient. She had the bottles of vodka, a bottle of Crown Royal, a bottle of Jameson, and two boxes of red wine. I hoped that was their booze for the week and not just the night. I knew Hybrid got in trouble sometimes for being disorderly, but I didn’t think it was this bad.

It took two trips to get the booze out to the car, with Jacob sitting in the car watching us the whole time. I wondered if he hoped it would be some sort of bonding experience between Noelle and I. I couldn’t tell you if it worked. As we drove off toward the amphitheater, which was a long drive out of the city, she went back to being quiet and sullen.

And I went back to overthinking things. As the realization that I was actually in a car with Hybrid’s bassist and manager began to sink in, I started focusing on another problem—one that I could see becoming a shadow over this whole tour. Just what the hell was I supposed to write about here?

When I had called Barry back and told him I was on board with the idea, he barely gave me any ideas for the piece. He said it could run on the cover, which was unbelievable, but it really depended on what I came up with, what it was going to be about. The last thing I wanted was a poor version of celebrity journalism, talking about the shoplifting habit of their bassist. I wanted it to be about the music and I hoped that’s where it was going to go.

I took in a deep breath and let my eyes drift over the mountain scenery as the cab climbed higher towards rolling red and green hills. I needed advice but I didn’t have anyone to give it to me. Even if Ryan and I were still together, every time I mentioned writing, his eyes would glaze over. He loved the music part and loved sharing music with me, but I never had the impression he thought I was going to do anything great with it. My dad was a good listener when sober, but he wasn’t one for advice. Mel’s opinion would get me into trouble. Anything Jacob said would be biased, and Barry didn’t seem like someone you could bug. Besides, I wanted to come off stronger than I was. The only person I could think of would be the young music journalist Cameron Crowe. The kid was only sixteen and writing genius articles for Rolling Stone. But he was famous now and in a class of his own. Not my class, not by a long shot.

I needed a mentor. Maybe I should have had one all along.

And now, I realized, I had been thrown right into the deep end.

Alone.

Thank god I knew how to swim.

CHAPTER FOUR

It wasn’t long before the cab rolled up to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. My heart went pitter-patter over the sight of the famous red rocks flanking the sides of the natural arena, a desert-like oasis with the lights of Denver in the background. This was the place where The Beatles rocked in 1964, where Jethro Tull’s sold out show a few years ago led to the “Riot at Red Rocks” and a five-year ban on rock concerts. The ban was apparently still in place; the only way Hybrid was able to play was because they were the opener for Pretty Mary and both of them were playing “unplugged” or acoustic only.

Still, by the looks of the fans who had already begun to ascend on the venue, an acoustic show didn’t keep out the rockers. I had only heard about their acoustic only show on the ride over and I was totally intrigued by it. No wonder they had wanted me for the start of their tour; this was something that not many rock bands did, let alone one that gave Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin a run for their money.

The cab was only able to get so far before we were met with the barricade that cut off the road from the backstage area. We climbed out of the car, armed to the neck with alcohol, and made our way toward the guard at the gate.

Jacob was talking to him, motioning his head in my direction.

“The other redhead is with us.”

“Where’s her pass?” asked the unsmiling guard. He was built like Andre the Giant, only Andre smiled a lot more.

Jacob sighed. “I don’t have it on me. It’s inside. I’ll come show you later, okay, mate?”

“She can’t come in without a pass. Rules.”

Noelle rolled her eyes at the hold-up and quickly flashed her badge from out of her purse. She pushed past the guard and disappeared into the darkening area behind the stage.

Jacob looked back at me and seemed to be thinking.

A cool breeze came rolling down the cliffsides and mussed up my hair. I felt disheveled and stupid standing there with my arms wrapped around two cases of beer, being told I couldn’t come inside like I wasn’t good enough.

Jacob came over, set the flat down on the dusty ground, and pulled his laminated pass over his head. He placed it around my own neck, giving me a look. “I’d go and get it but I’m afraid you’ll take off with everyone’s beer. And if Mickey doesn’t get his Carlsberg, he’s gonna be right pissed. Try to follow Noelle. The band should be in their dressing room, if not the bus. And tell someone to come get me, please.”

He gave me a little shove toward the guard. Shoving seemed to be his thing.

Suddenly I was full of panic. I couldn’t go in alone! I was already getting flack and I wasn’t even inside the venue yet.

“Who do I ask? Where do I go?”

“Are you deaf, woman? Get someone. Preferably from the band. You do remember what the band looks like, right?”

I nodded dumbly and found myself walking past the guard with Jacob’s pass around my neck. I shot Jacob a look through the chain link fence. He gave me a “bye bye” wave, before plucking a beer out of the flat and opening it with a satisfying crack.

I turned around and tried to get my bearings. I was behind the stage and it wasn’t at all like I pictured. The road continued off to the side, where two large buses sat. Along the rock faces, multiple doors disappeared into it, all guarded by different men, checking passes for everyone. At the stage area, a few lucky souls were lined up along the side, while sound technicians fiddled with the board and roadies ran about with instruments.

I looked down at the pass that was resting on top of the case of Carlsberg. It said ALL ACCESS across it. If I wasn’t so lost and nervous, I would have felt like doing a little kick of joy. All my passes before were either photo or media passes—I’d never had the coveted All Access Backstage Pass for anything before.

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