I eyed him suspiciously. “Do you know something I don’t?”
He squeezed the bridge of his nose, and I was surprised to see he didn’t sleep with his gaudy gold rings on. “Honestly, I don’t know a thing. Good night, love.”
And then he was gone, and I was alone again in my hotel room, nerves shot and heart tenderized.
I didn’t sleep.
“Hello, hooray,” I could hear Tricky singing from outside my door. “Let the show begin, I’ve been ready.”
I moaned and buried my head further into the pillow. “Go the fuck away. Can’t you read the Do Not Disturb sign?”
“No,” Tricky said, “it’s in French.”
“You should learn ‘go away’ in French,” I mumbled. I rubbed my hands up and down my face. Scenes of the night before came flooding into my head. Dawn. Oh fucking hell.
“Don’t make me keep singing,” he said. “I have something for you, and we have breakfast, like, now.”
I sighed, my head spinning as I got out of the bed and pulled on a pair of sweatpants. I felt both like ass and an ass. After the dinner with my new bandmates, we went out to the bars and really got to know each other on a musician’s level. Which always meant women and alcohol and drugs. Rock and roll never even came into the equation.
Even though I only stayed at the strip club for a few hours—clubs that were so mind-blowing compared to the U.S. that I was surprised they were legal—I was still pretty fucked up when I got back to the hotel. When I heard Dawn scream, I didn’t even think to cover up the scratches that Angeline had left on my back. The flies were fucking creepy, but they barely registered compared to seeing Dawn barely covered up in the towel. I just wanted to run my hands up her long legs.
And then I fucked it all up. I was still too high from the evening to even handle myself the way I should have. I told the damn truth and then made it worse by trying to turn it around on her. There was just no way I could explain what the hell was going on in my head. I didn’t even know.
I just knew I wanted it gone.
I opened the door and glared at Tricky. “It’s eight in the morning. I had a rough night if you couldn’t tell.”
Tricky was dressed and ready to go. He grinned, his teeth blindingly white. “I heard about it. I brought this to help you.”
He handed me a vial of coke, and I stared at it in my hand for a few moments, thinking it over. Did I really need this, or was this going to make everything worse?
A lady with a beehive, who reminded me of my third-grade teacher, walked past in the hall, causing me to quickly close my hand over the drugs and make my decision.
I nodded knowingly at Tricky. “I’ll see you at breakfast. Be there in a few.”
I shut the door in his face and opened my palm. I didn’t know how to deal with Dawn. I didn’t know how to deal with the show tonight.
I decided to do just a little bit, just to get me through breakfast, and take it easy with the rest. Afterward, my head already clearing, I pulled on pants and a shirt and made my way downstairs.
Everyone, save Angeline, was in the main dining room. The tables were all done up with white tablecloths and gilded chairs, which wouldn’t have looked out of place in one of the bad historical dramas that my mother used to watch. She hadn’t understood much English, but she liked her men in white wigs.
As I approached the table, I quickly noted the seating arrangement. I was the last to arrive, and the only empty chair was across from Dawn. I watched her carefully as I came around, pulling out the chair between Tricky and Garth, our touring keyboardist. She didn’t look up at me; instead she looked to Max, who was sitting beside her, and asked him to hand her a tin of jam for her croissant.
This was going to be awkward. Even drugs couldn’t erase that.
“Glad you’re finally gracing us with your presence,” Jacob said smoothly from the end of the table. Sometimes, with his accent, he sounded like a masterful James Bond villain. He delicately buttered his croissant with his scarred hands. “Back to the flip-flops, are we?”
Running on autopilot, I’d put my flip-flops on. Jacob had banned me from wearing them in Europe, saying they conflicted with my hardened image, so I’d taken to wearing my combat boots instead.
“Old habits die hard,” I said and looked at Dawn. She glanced up, her beautiful brown eyes meeting mine for just a second. That was the most I got from her for the rest of the meal, though my gaze was drawn to her again and again.
Even in the morning, suffering from lack of sleep and jet lag, which had created purple circles under her eyes, she was absolutely stunning. She had never been “hot” in that cheesy supermodel way, and she wasn’t a refined beauty like Angeline, but she was gorgeous to me all the same. And to other men, too; I could see it in Tricky’s eyes and in the leer of this fucking photographer beside her, whose angle I didn’t trust for a minute. I took bitter pride in the fact that I knew her beyond her lush red curls and lightly tanned skin and the freckles that dotted her nose when it was sunny out. I knew what it was like to cup her firm ass in my hands, to bring her curved body hard against mine, to see her moan, throat exposed, when she was coming. I knew what she tasted like.
Before my erection got uncomfortable and I was too swept away in the fantasy of going under the table and discovering she was wearing a skirt and no panties, making her moan again in front of everyone, Tricky was elbowing me in the side.
“What?” I snapped at him, turned on and irritable, and he rolled his eyes toward Jacob. Shit. The Cobb was talking about something important. I tried to bring my attention away from Dawn and focus on what business was being discussed, but my body had different ideas.
“The show tonight,” Jacob was saying, “is at the Theatre du Chien. Which I believe means theater of the dog or some frog nonsense like that. I’m telling you this in case you all get lost and separated from me, like I’m the bloody mama duck. But quack, quack, you all need to smarten up and stay in line today. This is the first show of Sage’s tour, and it’s going to go off without a blooming hitch, you understand that?”
Everyone nodded, murmuring in agreement.
“This means,” he went on, his eyes fastening to me like a laser beam, “that we’ll be doing soundcheck early. It’s ten o’clock right now, and I want to see you all down here at eleven. You haven’t had time to play together yet, so it will be a long soundcheck and we won’t be coming back here before the show, which again means get yourselves bloody organized.” He looked to Dawn and Max. “You two can take a cab to the venue at two. That will give the guys enough time to sound like an actual band before you start writing them up and taking pictures of their pre-show jitters. Ya got that?”
“Yes, sir,” Max answered almost automatically, like a soldier.
Jacob got up and leaned across the table, looking everyone in the eye. “Then you’re dismissed.” He banged the table with his fist and walked away.
“Christ on a cracker,” Garth said under his breath. He watched Jacob go in fear. He was a skinny little dude with eyes too big for his head. He seemed like an all right guy, even though he was young and skittish. His keyboard skills were stellar, which was all I needed from him. “Is he always like that?”
“Jacob runs a tight ship,” I explained to him while out of the corner of my eye I caught Dawn and Max getting up together and leaving. I was struck with a burst of incurable jealousy and had to swallow it down.
“I can see that,” Garth said. “Guess it was true that Hybrid was a bit of a wild band.”
My head snapped toward him, my jaw automatically tensing. “Don’t even mention Hybrid,” I growled, my voice low. “This isn’t Hybrid. It never will be. This is my band, my show. Got it?”
Garth nodded quickly, his eyes even wider than before. He turned his attention back to his food, his shaking hand reaching for his coffee cup. I sat back and ran my fingers through my hair, exhaling slowly. Nice start to the morning. I was all over the damn map and practically scaring my new bandmates.
I grabbed a piece of toast, excused myself from the table before I became even more of an ass, and took off for my room. The rickety open-caged elevator had freaked me out when I rode it the other day, so instead I took the stairs, pausing to catch my breath at the fourth floor. Shit, if going up stairs was making me winded, I didn’t know how I was going to handle the show tonight.
You’re not going to handle it, the voice inside my head said. You’re going to fail because you can’t handle any of this on your own.
I closed my eyes, my arm resting on the railing, and tried to make the voices shut up.
“I have another message for you.”
I opened my eyes at the whispered words and looked for the source. At the end of the hall, just beneath one of the sconce light fixtures, was a very short figure, a woman who couldn’t have been taller than five feet. Her silhouette was heavyset, flabby, and though I couldn’t see her face but for her gleaming eyes, I had a feeling she was ugly as sin.
“Excuse me?” I asked, taking a moment to realize she spoke perfect English, though her accent was still foreign. Russian, maybe.
“I have another message for you,” the woman repeated in her strangely monotone voice. Then she turned around, and I noticed her wide body had been hiding a maid’s cart.
It all clicked. This was the housecleaner who wrote on my mirror.
I walked off after her, more annoyed than anything.
“You wrote on my mirror,” I said accusingly as she stopped and slowly looked at me. I came to a halt, put off by her eyes, which were so heavily lidded I could barely see her irises. She was all elephantine jowls and cheeks, hair gathered at the top like a cow took a shit on her head. Ugly as sin was right.
She stared at me—at least I think she was staring at me; it was hard to tell—and then she said, “Oh, yes. You. I have another message for you.”
“A message from whom?” The lights flickered in the hall. “What did that mean, ‘be careful what she wished for’? Who is ‘she’?”
She shook her head sharply, to the left, the right, the skin under her jaw jiggling. “I don’t know. I only pass on the messages.”
I folded my arms. “Then tell me who told you?”
She smiled, and I tried not to grimace at her missing canines. Jesus, what was the hotel thinking hiring this charity case? “The dark man with the white face. He tells me in my sleep.”
Okay. I blinked hard and rubbed my forehead. Too many drugs, not enough sleep.
She went on, “He says to tell you it will all end when she appears.”
“I don’t think you know what you’re talking about, but I’d appreciate it if you stayed away from my room,” I said, trying to bury the uneasiness in my voice. “I’ll report you if you try and talk to me again.”
“The dark man won’t care,” she said, turning around to continue to push her cart. “He will find her once she’s been given everything she wants, and it will all start all over again.”
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