“But I don’t know what I owe them,” I cried out in frustration. “I don’t remember making the deal!”
“I know,” Max said. “And they know it, too. This is why it’s a bit tricky. But they can’t do anything—shouldn’t do anything—right now, not until we talk to them. If you don’t remember the deal, then it shouldn’t be in place. We can get you out of it on a technicality.”
I sat up straighter. “You can? Then do it! Talk to them.” I looked at Sage. “You talked to the woman, the housekeeper, in Paris. Let’s go back there. Pass the message on through her.”
“No,” said Jacob. “Sage has a tour to do.”
Sage’s mouth dropped open. “Fuck the tour! Fuck all of this. I’m not doing anything until we deal with Dawn.” He looked at me with wide eyes. “I am not going to lose you.”
“You can’t do anything for her, Sage,” Jacob said, colder now. “You outsmarted these demons before, and they would love nothing more than to have your new career thrown away. You can’t let them win. You have to go on, and Dawn will go on with you, as will Max. He’s her manager, and he will keep her safe. You keep living your life; it really is the best way to stick it to them. Don’t involve yourself. Just be there for her and trust Max.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I felt the walls around me closing in, the voices turning to mush. This was it. I’d entered a contract without knowing it, and now they were coming to collect. All those months of feeling like there was a catch with my brother and my father—I was right. The guilt was right. I brought this on myself.
“What about my family?” I asked quietly. “I should be with them. I can’t let anything happen to them.”
“Your family will be okay for now,” Max said, getting out of the chair. He stood beside Jacob, arms folded across, and I was suddenly—dumbly—struck by how similar they looked. An old Jacob and a new one. “But you need to be here with me, with Jacob, with Sage. If you go home, you risk bringing the problem with you. Your family is safest if they stay in their lives, none the wiser.”
I nodded, knowing that made sense.
“Dawn,” Jacob said, bringing the photograph forward. “Do you recognize this?”
I took the photo into my hands and immediately dropped it. I felt sick to the bone. “Where did you get that?”
“The hotel manager in Paris gave it to me,” Sage said, placing his hand on my arm and giving it a comforting squeeze. “He said it was from the housekeeper. That’s all that was in it. You recognize it, don’t you?”
“It was my stuffed horse. Miss Piggy. From when I was a little girl.” I gingerly picked the photo back up. I had no idea why there would be a photo of this, but I guess it didn’t matter. I flipped over the back. “She won’t doubt me next time,” I read aloud. “No, I certainly didn’t.”
“What happened to the horse?” Sage asked.
I frowned, wondering why his voice trembled. “My brother tore it apart. Had a fit. Why?”
He swallowed thickly, his Adam’s apple bobbing, and said, “Angeline. She saw the photo. She said—”
“Little brothers can be so cruel,” Jacob filled in quietly. We all looked to him. “I think I need to have a talk with Angeline.”
“I knew she was a fucking GTFO,” I growled.
“I don’t think so,” Max said with a shake of his head. “I’ve suspected her, and I’ve been watching her…but I don’t think she’s a demon. She does, however, have something to do with this.”
He and Jacob started walking for the door. I felt a pang of fear at the idea of Max leaving me, but even though he’d told Sage he could do nothing, I still felt safe with Sage by my side. For being able to do nothing, he had still saved me from the demon in the bathroom.
“We’ll be back soon,” Jacob said. “Don’t open the door for anyone else. And I mean anyone.”
They went out, closing the door behind them. Sage watched me intently for a few moments. “Mind if I get in with you?” he asked.
I smiled despite myself and moved over so he could get in under the covers. He opened up his arms for me, and I carefully nestled in them.
“You’re going to be all right,” he said determinedly, kissing the top of my head.
We both knew he was lying. But I let him lie to me anyway.
I felt like someone inserted a toothbrush into my brain and royally fucked me with it. Everything I knew or thought I knew was scrubbed clean, and here was this brand-new world that I had to make some fucking sense of.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t gone through this before—obviously I had. And obviously I knew there was something bogus going around concerning Dawn and the supernatural. But for all the shit I’d seen in my life, for the cryptic messages from a man in black and weird old photos and nearly drowning in Lake Shasta last year, I did not expect to see a seven-foot-tall demon in my bathroom, one bloody tentacle down Dawn’s throat. I did not expect to feel the fear in knowing that she was really, truly in debt to the Devil. And I really did not expect for Red Potato to be a motherfucking redheaded notary public of the angelic kind.
But the show must go on, Jacob said. And so I tried to bury this new truth by knocking on Tricky’s door and seeing what kind of uppers and downers and drowners he had. I’d been sitting in my room by myself going all sorts of crazy. Dawn was with Max somewhere—apparently safe, yeah I knew that, but it still bothered me. Jacob was still trying to track down Angeline, but I’m assuming that was a lost cause. Early that morning, he and Max had gone to find her and get to the bottom of all of this, her role in everything, but she was nowhere to be found. The hotel staff said she checked out of her room about the same time as all the demon shit went down with Dawn in the bathroom.
Jesus. A shiver rocked through me. The creature’s eyes were pure yellow orbs, like gumballs. I’d never be able to get the image out of my head, the look of horror in Dawn’s face, the utter stench of evil that rolled off the beast—but I was going to try.
I pounded on Tricky’s door even louder until it finally opened and a bleary-eyed Tricky was staring at me in annoyance, one hand covering up his junk.
“Could you have at least put on some pants?” I asked him.
His expression was dry. “What do you want, Sage? It’s eight in the morning. You know Tricky doesn’t like this hour.”
“Yeah, well, neither do I,” I said, leaning against the doorframe and trying not to look or sound desperate. “Do you have anything? Anything at all. I need my brain erased, badly.”
He looked put off. Maybe I failed at the nonchalant thing. “Yeah, I got stuff, Sage. But it’s early, even for you, and we have our show tonight.”
I closed my eyes and groaned, not wanting to beg. “I don’t need a lecture, Tricky. I just need to get floating. Help a brother out, man.”
He sighed. “Okay, okay, come in. I might as well take a ride with you.” He opened the door and let me in, and I had to avert my eyes from his package. With Dawn at my side, I’d never have to see Tricky naked again.
If you can keep her at your side, the voice in my head threatened. If you can even keep her alive. You’ll lose the one thing you love, Sage. You’ll lose her.
I grunted, wanting to smack the thoughts out of my head, and picked up Tricky’s pants, which were lying on the floor, and threw them at him.
“Naked days are over for me,” I told him, sitting down on a chair and running my hands up and down my thighs anxiously. I eyed his bed, which was empty. “I’m surprised there isn’t a naked chick or three.”
“Nah,” he said with a shrug as he did up his pants. “Angeline didn’t stay the night.”
My head snapped up, the taste of bile filling my mouth. “Angeline was here?” Of course I hadn’t thought to check Tricky’s room.
He frowned. “Yeah, man. Just for a lay and then she left.”
“What time was this?”
“I don’t know, I was at the bar till it closed and then…maybe one a.m.? Why you sketching out? Where were you last night?”
“I was with Dawn.” There really was no point trying to explain to Tricky what had happened. Anyone worth their salt wouldn’t believe me at this point.
“So are you and Dawn like that now?”
“Yes, me and Dawn are like that.”
I narrowed my eyes. “No fucking sharing.”
He fished out a baggie from his duffel bag, grinning to himself. “All right. Well, good for you, man. May you both fuck for a long and happy life.”
There was a sharp pang behind my heart. I didn’t know long and how happy it would be.
Five minutes later, though, I didn’t really care.
I don’t know what I did for the rest of the day, not clearly, anyway. The morning was just a pleasure cruise, with me and Tricky walking around the round-pebbled beaches of Nice, spying on topless ladies sunbathing and drinking rosé wine. The afternoon was a sloppy soundcheck at the venue we were playing at, a tiny hole-in-the-wall-type bar that barely had a backstage area. I should have been nervous about that, nervous about the crowd and how close they were to me, but I didn’t care. And I liked that.
I knew Jacob disapproved. He always disapproved. That was his thing. He never said anything to me, though, just watched me like a hawk with those golden eyes of his, thinking, calculating. I know he wanted to say something so badly, to put me in my place, but he was really exercising his own discretion. He gave me the freedom to self-destruct, to treat the Nice show like it meant nothing, like it wasn’t just the fucking second show of the tour, like it wasn’t important.
I knew it was. But it was so hard to care about anything, especially that. When I could think, all I could think about was Dawn. I didn’t want to be rehearsing, I didn’t want to be figuring out the setlist, I didn’t want to get up on the damn stage and sing and play my heart out to the fucking French crowd when my heart belonged to Dawn. She’s the one who needed it.
Or did she? I didn’t get to see her much during the day and after some time, I got the impression that it was done on purpose. Maybe it’s because I was fucked up, I don’t know. But it stung. Or it would have had I been able to feel anything.
The show went okay, I guess. I was on autopilot and the crowd ate it up, so at least I had that going for me. I fucked up a few times—sang the wrong lyrics, missed a verse here and there. At one point, a drunk chick wanted to climb onstage, so I helped her up. Got Tricky to play a slow beat and made her strip down to her skivvies before Jacob came storming on stage and pulled her off.
Sorry, Nice, hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.
When the encore was over, the high started to leave my system. Sometimes it was hard to tell if I got high from the crowd—just the exquisite adrenaline rush of playing my soul to an audience, people there for me, to hear me, see me, really get me—or from the drugs and alcohol. I think most of the time, the high from playing live won out. When I was in Hybrid and playing shows, I could be sober as hell on some days and I’d still be walking off the stage absolutely buzzing—dick hard, heart racing, hands shaking, nerves on fire. Such a fucking sweet, organic feeling that not many people would ever get to experience.
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