“Hey, those beers for me?”

I looked to my left to see a cute, smiling guy in a Sabbath t-shirt approaching me.

I smiled uneasily at him. “No, they’re for Hybrid, and apparently Mickey will be pissed if he doesn’t get his share soon.”

I hoped I sounded cool.

“Good point,” he said. He stood beside me and peered down at my pass. “Ooh, All Access. Aren’t you fancy?”

I took a quick glance at his pass and found it to be hanging off the side of his jeans. I guess that was the cool way to wear it.

“You’re apparently fancy, too.”

He grinned. He reminded me a bit of Robert Redford, if Redford had a slight beer belly, tattoos, shaggy black hair, and a mustache. He held out his hands.

“Well, here let me help you. I promise not to drink any.”

I let him take the Corona but kept the Carlsberg close to my chest.

“I’m Chip, by the way.”


“And so, Dawn,” he said, “might I ask why you have Mickey Brown and Sage Knightly’s beer?”

So the Corona was for Sage. Interesting. I think that was the most I knew about him.

And here went the spiel I’d have to repeat for the month of August.

“I’m a music journalist for Creem Magazine. I’m going on the road with the band for this tour, and hopefully if I write a good enough story, I can get the band on the cover.”

He raised his brow. “And are you a fan of the band?”

I grinned. “One of the biggest.”

He returned the smile. “Well aren’t they lucky. For once, they get a journalist who’s a fan and she ends up being a hot chick on top of it.”

That thing where I rarely blushed? It was happening again.

“I’m just hoping they won’t toss me out of the bus in the middle of Kansas,” I said, thinking of moody Noelle.

“No way. Anything goes with Hybrid, so as long as you keep the alcohol flowing and the coke powdered.”

Now it was my time to raise my brows.

He stroked his mustache and looked chagrined. “Ah, fuck. I guess I shouldn’t be telling you these things, should I? Hell, you’re going to be on the road with us, you’d find out sooner or later.”

“Us?” I repeated.

He nodded. “I’m the sound tech. I like to think I’m the best, but I’m really just the most loyal. Come on, let’s get those boys some beers.”

I looked back at Jacob on the other side of the fence. He was drinking his beer and talking to a few people.

“Jacob needs a pass too,” I told him. “He gave me his.”

Chip raised his hand in the air in dismissal and started walking toward the buses. “Jacob’s The Cob, man. He can take care of himself.”

I shot Jacob one last glance and then hurried after Chip, the bottles in the box rattling against each other.

He stopped in front of one of the buses, an aging forty foot behemoth of scuffed chrome and peeling green paint. The windows were tinted, but from the faint afternoon light coming in the other side, I could see movement inside and silhouettes. The vague drone of a stereo emanated from the closed doors.

“This is it. The Green Machine,” he said, looking up at the bus with pride. “She’s a piece of shit but we’ve decided to love her anyway.”

He gave me a coy glance over his shoulder.

“You ready to meet the band and your home for the next few weeks?”

My mouth went all dry and I couldn’t speak. I nodded slowly, my body caught in a net of apprehension. My fingers gripped the box of beer until it hurt, and I had the greatest urge to just run far, far away.

He let out a laugh, clearly amused by my attack of nerves, and pounded his fist on the bus door.

“Let me in, you fuckers!” he demanded.

The bus swayed back and forth slightly. The door proceeded to shudder and then eased open with a hiss of hydraulics.

He went up the first few steps, passing the beer to someone inside who I couldn’t see properly, and paused.

“Are you guys ready to meet Rusty?” he yelled into the bus.

Rusty? I was Rusty now?

“Who the fuck is Rusty?” someone hollered back.

“It’s that groupie chick,” I heard Noelle say from inside.

I nearly dropped the entire case of beer on my foot. My fingers clung on strong with anger instead of nerves.

“Well, I don’t think she’s a groupie, per se…” Chip trailed off. He looked over at me. “Well, get on over here and say hello.”

I took in a deep breath and willed my legs to move. Somehow my sneakers carried me to the bus door and I climbed up the stairs until I was at the top of them beside Chip.

I gave him an anxious smile then turned to face everyone in the smoke-filled bus.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, that feeling of having a band that you loved, the faces you gazed at in magazines, the ones who created life-changing music, staring back at you, and only you. It was almost too much to take in at once, but my brain did a commendable job of taking a snapshot of it as Bad Company’s “Rock Steady” provided the soundtrack.

Behind the empty bus driver’s seat was a table with two benches on either side of it. Noelle and Mickey sat on one side facing me, Noelle in his lap. Her arms were draped all over her boyfriend, the quiet rhythm guitarist. He was of medium height, dressed in khaki green suede that was too big for him. I’d seen pictures of him with his shirt off and he was pretty thin and ripped with fine muscle. His eyes were dark and wary, his hair long, his beard and mustache adequately bushy.

Across from him and turning around in his seat to see me was Robbie Oliver. The Robbie Oliver. The Metal Monkey. The Spazz of the Stage. The Singing Seducer. And he looked just like I imagined he would. He wasn’t the tallest guy, maybe my height, but he had a gymnast’s body that he usually showed off in the tightest pants and undershirts. He had moves, he was flexible, and on stage he was a maniac. Off stage he had a reputation for being a lady-killer. From what I understood, he had a fiancé in California, but that didn’t stop the rumors from flying.

And how could they not? Robbie had three things going for him: one, his charm—he was a gregarious man, full of snappy one-liners and quick wit. He was never rude to the press or to fans, even when they got too nosy or extreme. Two, his looks. Robbie was twenty-eight like most of the band and had that wonderful boy meets man appeal. His hair was a shiny and thick chestnut, the kind you’d see in shampoo commercials. It fell blunt across his forehead and longer in the back and nicely framed his sparkling blue eyes and dimples. He was somehow cute and sexy at the same time, and the sexiness came from three—the fact that he could sing the panties off of anyone. Any woman, anyway, and I was sure any man. Robbie Oliver was the man Mel waxed on about when we were going through the rock stars we’d like to shag list (I should not have to point out that the list was her idea and my only contribution was to nod and listen to her). She didn’t like Hybrid’s downtuned guitars, but she did love Robbie’s soaring voice.

And here he was, shirtless except for an open sky blue vest that matched his eyes. And he was looking at me. Smiling.

It took all my energy to look away, and when I did, my eyes rested on Graham Freed. He was sitting at the front of a long couch, closest to me. Graham was an amazing drummer and one of the key aspects to Hybrid’s success (in my opinion, anyway) but he certainly wasn’t the most charismatic. Oh, he wasn’t bad looking by a long shot—none of the guys in the band were anyone you’d find fault with. He had shoulder-length black hair and a thin beard and was covered in tattoos and strange piercings that made him look like a tribesman. He loved to admit his fascination with the occult, never really refuted the fact that he had ties to a Satanic church, and was just a general oddball. Of course, everyone knew the whole thing was bunk and it was just for show, but his opinions made him annoying. To me, Graham was always the disgruntled drummer of the band constantly vying for attention.

Except in this case, Graham looked like he didn’t want any attention from me. In fact, I could have sworn he shuddered at my presence and his brows were knit in confusion.

I kept my eyes moving and settled on the last person on the bus. The person sitting at the end of the long couch.

Sage Knightly.

He was leaning against the wall with a book in hand, his long, black-jean clad legs sprawled in front of him. On his feet were his trademark flip-flops, his wide upper body in a wide-collared black shirt that was unbuttoned halfway, a peek of his scruffy firm chest popping through. Tattoos drifted out of the sleeves and onto his forearms. He was looking at me with all the intensity in the world, and in my numb state I couldn’t read any expression on his face. His gray-green eyes were clear and piercing, framed dramatically by his low, strong brows. Black curly hair fell softly on his forehead and onto the sides. His dimpled chin was strong, his bottom lip was full with an upper lip that curved sweetly. His skin was bronzed and looked more exotic in person, alluding to his rumored Hispanic ancestry.

He was the man on my wall.

My musical hero.

My musical crush.

And he was on the bus, sitting there, right in front of me.

No, wait…he was leaving.

With a slight narrowing of the eyes, he finally stopped staring, and after giving everyone what seemed to be a disgusted look, got up and marched down the aisle toward me. He was so tall he almost had to duck down as went by. I leaned against Chip to get out of his way—Sage was built like a brick house and probably would have clipped my shoulder.

“We have your beer!” Chip yelled after him as Sage pushed past me and stomped off the bus. He didn’t even throw us a backward glance.

I looked back at Chip, my heart racing, the urge to vomit teasing me. What the hell just happened there? Did I piss him off somehow? Already?

Also: Holy smokes, Sage Knightly just touched me.

Chip grinned. “Welcome to the band, Rusty!”

“You’re not the guy from Rolling Stone,” Graham said to me, sounding accusatory.

I looked at him, surprised. “Rolling Stone? No, Creem.”

“I thought I asked for someone from Rolling Stone,” he mumbled angrily. Wait, the drummer arranged for this?

“Who cares, she’s hot,” Chip said, putting his arm around me. “Come on, put down the beers, let’s get the introductions over with.”

I put the beers on the table, right in front of Robbie. Our eyes met and I immediately tore mine away, too many weird emotions going through me at once. I was bewildered, shook up, confused, and in disbelief.

“Nice to meet you, Rusty,” Robbie said in his smooth voice. “I’m Robbie.”

He smiled. I was turning into a puddle of swoon.

“Dawn,” I corrected him and immediately felt silly for doing so. Robbie Oliver could call me Pooey-Poo-Poo Smelly Face if he wanted to.

“Rusty it is,” he said, still smiling, still working out those dimples. He scooched over and patted the faded seat next to him. “Come, sit, regale us with your tales of Creem Magazine.”


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