I smiled slyly at him and brushed his hair out of his eyes. “You have no idea.”

“No, you have no idea.” He smiled and kissed me hard on the lips. “I missed you, Dawn.” He put my hand on his chest. “I missed you from in here.”

“Sage, what the fuck are you doing in there?” Jacob suddenly yelled from the hall, the door vibrating from his heavy knocks. “Or who the fuck are you doing is the better question,” I heard him mumble.

Well, that was enough to sober us both up.

Sage shot me a sheepish look as he pulled the condom off, flicking it in the trash, and quickly pulled up his pants. “Guess we went over our time limit.”

I hopped off the desk and smoothed down my skirt. “You still made me come twice; you’re a man of your word.” He bent down and tossed me my tank top, which I quickly put on before he went over to the door and opened it.

Jacob eyed him suspiciously before he saw me and let out a burst of relief. “Oh, thank God it’s you, love.”

Who did you think it would be? I thought but pushed it away and smiled, making sure my shirt and skirt were on properly.

He raised his brow at Sage. “Of course, you do realize you’re going on stage in one minute, right?”

Sage stared down at him. “I didn’t. Lost track of time.”

Jacob’s gaze went to the whiskey bottle, which Sage had put on the ground. “Is that going to be a problem?”

Sage grinned. “No problem, boss.” He smacked Jacob hard on the shoulder. “I’m gonna make those French fuckers scream.” He looked at me and gave me a faint nod before heading out the door and into the hall.

Jacob slowly turned to face me, his brows high on his lined forehead, a shocked smile on his lips. “I could kiss you, love, you know that.”

I scrunched up my face, smoothing back my ponytail. “Please don’t.”

“No promises,” he said. “I didn’t think you could talk sense into Sage like that, but…I guess that wasn’t talking, either.” I opened my mouth to say something, but he raised his hand to stop me. “Your silence is enough; so long as Sage is ready and wanting to play, I have no qualms.” He looked at his pocket watch. “Showtime. Are you ready?”

Was I ever.

He held out his arm for me, and I linked mine around it. We headed for the stage.

Chapter Eight

Dawn

There is nothing like being backstage at a concert. Nothing. And if it’s a band or musician that you love, that you know inside and out, as deep or deeper than your own soul, then it’s a practically otherworldly experience. You can’t even describe it, though I have tried in my own writing, time and time again.

Jacob and I went to the side stage, among a few family members of the French drummer and a few other journalists covering the show. On the other side of the stage were the sound tech guys and roadies, who’d finished running across the stage and taping down the setlists. Sage and his band were in their places in the middle, Sage at the forefront. The lights were completely off in the theater, and the place was absolutely humming with anticipation and the cries of the fans who were dying for Sage, dying for the lights, dying for the music.

I stood beside Jacob, who was elegantly filing his nails, something I learned he did when he was nervous. We all had our quirks. I hadn’t gotten a look at the setlist back in the dressing room—there were more pressing things than that—so I was waiting there in as much anticipation as the crowd. I knew Sage would most likely only be playing songs from his solo album, but there was always a chance a Hybrid song would pop up. He wrote most of them anyway.

I heard someone onstage tap his foot three times, and Jacob muttered “Go” under his breath.

The first few notes of Sage’s crystal clear guitar rang out into the crowd. It was the start of his song, “The Tail I Had,” and everyone cheered as the drums and bass kicked in and the lights in the house went on, illuminating the stage. It was one of my favorite songs from the album, one of the catchier, more radio-friendly tunes that hit hard with swagger and heavy bass that made your hips swing. Sage’s voice was perfect—this low, raspy growl that just screamed sex to everyone else and especially to me since it was the sound I’d heard just moments earlier.

And that’s when it hit me, the holy-fuck realization that I’d just had sex with the man onstage, the man that all the women were screaming at, the tall, exotic golden god with the green eyes and the bronze skin who prowled the stage like a broad-shouldered panther. More than a panther, he was king and we were his subjects. Sage was nothing but one hundred percent confident in himself and his music, and he was enjoying the control he had over everyone as we swayed and sang and attached our souls to his words and his guitar chords.

Tears sprang to my eyes.

I found myself singing out loud, very loud, through this song and the next song and the next song, grinning so hard I thought my face would freeze that way, feeling nothing but love, utter fucking love, for this man and his gift and his music that made me feel alive more than anything else could. And as I looked over the crowd, taking in their enraptured faces as they sung along and stared up at him, I knew everyone was feeling the same way. We were all joined together in this poetic web, maybe all feeling different things and taking away different stories and lessons, but we were all feeling. And sometimes in this world full of war and strife and daily shit that made you numb, that’s all you really needed.

When the third song was over and the fourth song, the hard and fast “Sick, Sick” started, Max joined me onstage, leaning over and whispering, “I’m fucking amazed,” as he took his camera strap off his neck.

I laughed and nudged him in the side to tell him he was an idiot for even doubting.

“I always thought Hybrid were Led Zeppelin wannabes,” he said, trying to be heard over the music, “and since Sage was the king of that, this just proves me wrong.”

“At least you can admit it. Get any good shots?” I asked him, unable to take my eyes away from Sage, my mouth automatically mouthing the lyrics, my head bobbing hard to the beat.

“I think so. Won’t know until I get them to a lab. Hopefully there’s one in Nice. He’s a photogenic man, though. I’ll have to give him that, too.”

Photogenic, talented, powerful—there were too many adjectives to describe Sage onstage. The best one I could think of was assured. He was owning it. From ballad to bass-driven to full-out drums and distortion, he owned every second of it and he knew it. He sauntered up and down the stage, his fingers making quick work of the guitar strings, and sometimes, when he turned to face the band, playing off of Tricky, he was smiling like a little boy. In his element. This place where nothing could touch him. During even the darkest songs, which I knew were about Hybrid, he was in control, paying his respects instead of succumbing to the darkness like he did when he was offstage.

“You really love this music, don’t you?” Max asked, leaning in close. The band had been playing tirelessly for an hour now, and I knew they were close to having their encore.

“What do you think?”

He smiled. “You’re a swell chick, Dawn Emerson.”

“Thanks, Max…” I trailed off and frowned. “Wait, what’s your last name?”

There was a pause after I asked that, and I tore my eyes off of Sage and looked at him.

“Jacobs. It’s Jacobs,” he said, scratching at his sideburns.

I gave him an odd look and looked at Jacob, who had moved away to talk to one of the roadies. “You’re not related to Jacob, are you?”

“That would make him Jacob Jacobs,” he said, “and I reckon that just sounds stupid.”

I pursed my lips and looked back to the stage just as the drummer hit the top hat, the last note of the last song on their album. My gut wrenched thinking that the show was almost over. I had to remind myself that I was lucky, that I’d get to see this show quite a few more times on the tour. There was nothing so curiously sad as a great concert coming to an end.

Sage and the band exited to the opposite side of the stage, but since the lights in the house stayed off, I knew they were just taking a break before the encore. I tried to catch Sage’s eye as he stood to the side, guzzling a bottle of water and talking to Tricky, but it was too dark.

“So did you get a chance to talk with him earlier?” Max asked.

“Sorta.”

He snorted. “Gotcha.”

I glared at him. “It’s not like that.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he answered. I knew that Max knew about Sage and I, but it still made me nervous with all the groupie implications. Not that he was saying that, but I was still always afraid that people were thinking it all the same. That’s why I’d never really told anyone about Sage and me, even though, believe me, there were a few times I’d wanted to.

The stage lights went on, but the spotlights were shining on the audience instead of the stage, illuminating clumps of people in circles. I watched, dazzled and concert-high, as the smoke that sat about the audience caught in the lights. I was amused at the grins and cheers from the concertgoers who were being blinded. Most would never have the view of themselves that I had.

But, for one second, I saw something that I never thought I’d see again.

The lights paused at the middle of the crowd, where everyone was jostling back and forth in anticipation, drinks spilling, drunks stumbling—and in the middle of it all was a pale girl with long white hair and violet eyes standing absolutely still. She smiled, her mouth full of razor-blade teeth.

I see you, her voice said in my head.

I froze in horror, ice forming on my limbs, my breath leaking out slowly like a balloon losing air.

“No guesses, huh?” Max said from beside me. The spotlight moved elsewhere and the place I was staring, where the girl in white was, was plunged into darkness. “Dawn?”

“What?” I squeaked out, unable to move.

“I asked if you knew what the encore would be.”

I tried to swallow, but my throat wouldn’t allow it. I couldn’t have just seen what I thought I’d seen. There was no way, no way that could have been a GTFO. No way it could have been Sonja, head of the demon groupies. I kept my eyes glued to the same spot, and when the spotlight came back again, she was gone.

I brought my eyes to Max, glad it was dark enough to hide my expression. “Uh, I don’t know,” I said, fumbling for words. Though I couldn’t see his face properly, I could feel his questioning gaze, and I knew he was concerned. Across the way, dark figures moved across the stage, taking their places. Sage’s tall form picked up his guitar, Tricky strapped on his bass, the drummer picked up his sticks. The audience went on in its drunken anticipation, but the area around the stage lapsed into a hush, feeling the weight of the moment, knowing what everyone else didn’t.

Even in my fright over what had happened, over what I thought I’d seen, I was still able to appreciate the moment for what it was: Sage hidden in the shadows, plucking a pick off the microphone stand as he hunched over his guitar, hair hanging in his face, fingers poised at the strings.

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