Nothing. Nothing but a drop of sticky, shiny blood on the floor.

Another spot formed beside it.

I gradually raised my head and looked up at the ceiling.

She was there—my mother—flat against the ceiling, legs and arms splayed, facing me. Her black dress hung off of her like Spanish moss, and her eyes were closed. Blood dripped from her white wrists.

I swallowed hard, not wanting to scream, not wanting to move.

This was not my mother, but she had answers all the same.

But before I could open my mouth to say something, anything, her eyes flew open, completely yellow, like globes of glowing saffron, and fixed themselves on my face.

“Tomorrow,” she said in that dark, depraved voice that rumbled with animalistic origins.

Then she was gone. I blinked and there was nothing on the ceiling anymore except stucco and wood. I looked down at the ground. The drops of blood were still there, a reminder that the things that didn’t seem real still were.

I opened the door and saw Max waiting, brow furrowed in concern.

“What is it?” he asked. “I thought I heard you say something.”

I shook my head and gave him a weak smile. “I think I was just told that I am going to die tomorrow.”

The good news is that I didn’t die at midnight and I didn’t die in my sleep. I woke up in one piece, with Sage at my side and Max on the other bed. The weather outside was still dark and grey, like winter had decided to extend one last bony hand into spring.

I’d told Max about my mother-turned-yellow-eyed-demon in the bathroom and made him promise not to tell Sage. Maybe it was wrong of me to keep another thing from him—after all, he still had no idea about the man in black on the train to Italy—but the show tonight was the biggest one on the tour, and I did not want to screw it up for him. If I couldn’t be all right, I needed to know that he would be.

So, with that in mind, I tried my best to put on a positive face—for Sage. I accompanied him to soundcheck and, as I let the music wash over me and really watched this man, this panther of the stage, give it his all, even in practice, I started writing my article. If anything were to happen to me—and let’s be honest, there was no doubt about it—I wanted something to leave behind that covered not the journey I’d been on but the journey that Sage had been on. How he picked up the pieces following the tragedy of Hybrid and proved to the world, or at least to Europe, that he was a talent and a force to be reckoned with.

After I was done writing, unsurprised by the tears that had come to my eyes given the fact that after today there was a chance I’d never hear his beautiful music again, I went back to the hotel with Max and Jacob and got ready for the show. I decided to go all out. I slipped on the only dress I had brought, a long dark red one with a braided rope belt. I put my hair up into a messy bun and put on a ton of makeup. It still didn’t hide the tiredness that crept up around my heavily mascaraed eyes and bright blue eyeshadow, but it helped.

“You’re looking good,” Max said from behind me as I put on my final touches of rosy pink lipstick. Jacob was sitting in the corner of the room, trying to read an English-language newspaper and periodically checking his pocket watch. It’s funny how used to being around them I was. We really were the ginger trifecta. Would have made an awesome band name.

I turned around from the mirror and smiled. “Thank you. I figured I might as well go out with a bang.”

Max frowned uneasily. “While I reckon its fine and dandy for you to be putting on a happy face, don’t dismiss this threat as final. We don’t know what’s going to happen today. But we do know it’s something, and this doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”

Jacob snorted caustically, crossing his legs so I could see bright green ankle socks peeking through. Without looking up from the paper, he said, “Come off it, Mr. Sunshine. We all know it’s bad. No matter what happens to Dawn, it’s going to be bad.” He shot me an apologetic look. “Sorry, love. No point sugarcoating it. No point even thinking about it. Max and I will do what we can to help you, but as you know, we have no idea what to expect. As Mr. Churchill said, we just have to keep calm and carry on.”

The funny thing was, it wasn’t hard to do. I’d already felt like I was sleepwalking through the whole thing. I finished getting ready and together the three of us went to the show. It was tough for Jacob because he had to be in the bowels of the venue, working with the promoters, talking to the box office, dealing with the band, so I just stuck by his side as if I was a manager myself.

I didn’t see Sage for quite a while—I guessed he was in his dressing room doing some heavy thinking or drinking—but when he finally came out, his jaw dropped in surprise when he saw me. Appreciative surprise.

“Dawn,” he said softly, wrapping his arms around me while Max and Jacob and a promoter looked on. “You look absolutely fucking stunning.”

And so did he. For once he wasn’t wearing all black. His pants were still black, but his shirt was a vibrant green that brought out the color in his eyes. In his usual fashion, he made it more rock and roll by unbuttoning it halfway, the more to show off his pecs and the large cross he wore around his neck.

“God, I wish I had you alone for a minute,” he murmured with his mouth to my ear. I could feel him hard against my thigh and suddenly that’s all I wanted, too. I wanted a place for just him and me, where we could talk, really talk, and make love one last time. The last few days, we hadn’t had a moment to ourselves, and without realizing it, it had worn on me terribly. I wanted to feel his body in my hands—those strong, rounded shoulders, the smooth length of his back, his muscular ass. I wanted more than just his lips on mine. I wanted him inside me, the real him; I wanted him to erase the damage that had been done.

I heard Jacob clear his throat, and we broke apart from our embrace. I could have held onto him and stayed in his arms forever. There was no forever.

“I think it’s time you get ready,” Jacob said to him, looking at least a little sorry for breaking up our moment. There was no opening band for this show, just Sage, and it had still sold out. I could hear the crowd in the audience, the excitement building for them. He turned to me. “Dawn, this time we’re mixing it up. I know you can’t really get the full experience from the side stage, so we’ll be sitting up at the front of the balcony.”

Sage growled, “I don’t think that’s wise.”

Jacob shrugged. “She is still writing the story, isn’t she?” That was beside the point, though. I knew Jacob was afraid of something happening to me during the show and if it happened on the side stage, the chances of Sage getting involved were high. We really wanted the show to go on as much as it could.

I reached up and touched his cheek, smoothed his black eyebrows, ran my finger down the bridge of his broad nose. “You go play me a good show.”

He stared into my eyes until I could feel him in my soul. Then he kissed me with determination. “I will.”

He disappeared down the side of the stage, going to get his bandmates for their pre-show huddle. I watched him go, committing him to memory. I didn’t want to move, to let go. But Jacob pulled gently at my arm.

“We better go now before the house lights go off.”

I nodded absently and let him and Max take me off the stage and down into the crowd. We had an usher escort us to the balcony. Our seats were at the front and gave an outstanding view of the theater. Like most of Prague, the building was old but opulent, with maroon velvet seats and gold walls with intricate moldings. A large chandelier hung high above. Below us was the orchestra pit, filled with writhing teens, and the empty stage, just waiting for its players.

We took our seats. It seemed the demure side of the crowd, mainly young women, were all up here, where they could watch the rock without being trampled on. Seconds later the lights went off and everyone cheered. A voice came on the loudspeakers, rattling off a bunch of Czech and then pronouncing “Sage Knightly” with a forced American accent.

The lights popped back on with the swagger that only Sage’s guitar and Tricky’s bass could produce. I felt like I was seeing him for the first time all over again, not just as a lover but as a fan. As his biggest fan. The growl of his voice, his fingers as they slid effortlessly over the guitar, his commanding presence that showed the utter ease he was in his role as a damn fine rock star. He took my breath away and yet breathed life into me. Music, his music, always music, always my lifeblood, always the thing that gave me strength.

We were midway through the second song when a heavyset teenage girl to the side of Jacob cried out. At first I thought she was just really getting into it, having something like a Beatles’ fangirl moment. Then I realized she was screaming, screaming bloody murder. I craned my neck around Jacob to see the girl getting out of her seat and yelling something over and over again as she climbed onto the edge of the railing, holding her head.

Holy shit, she was going to jump.

Jacob sprang up and grabbed the girl’s arm just as she jumped. She went over, nearly pulling him down with her. “They’re in her head,” Max mumbled as he pushed me aside and went to help Jacob, trying to grab on to the girl’s other arm. The band had stopped playing, and I could see Sage staring up at me, pick dangling from his fingers. His eyes widened in horror.

One second was all it took for Max and Jacob to be preoccupied. One second was all it took for me to be alone and exposed.

“Remember us?” I heard a throaty, cold voice say from behind me. Fiery hands reached for both my arms. On one side of me was Alva; on the other was Sonja, another GTFO. White hair, empty black eyes, mouths full of razor-sharp teeth. They had come for me, to collect me, and now they had me.

I couldn’t scream or call attention to myself if I had wanted to. I felt helpless, compelled, just like the girl that Jacob and Max were now hauling to safety. I watched Sage as I was being lead away, mouthing the words “I love you” to him.

I hoped he knew how much I meant it.

Chapter Fifteen

Sage

It all happened so fucking fast. The chunky chick on the balcony was screaming and jumping over the edge, and if it weren’t for Jacob’s quick thinking, she would have plummeted onto the panicking crowd below. Max then went to lend a hand.

And I saw Dawn, standing there like an angel in red, all alone and unprotected.

The skinny, shimmering shapes of Alva and Sonja came gliding down the aisle like insect-like ghosts. I watched as they grabbed on to Dawn with each hand and said something to her.

Dawn stared right at me in frozen horror and told me she loved me.

And then she gave up. She let them lead her away.

But I wasn’t going to give up. No way in hell.

I yelled, “No! Stop them!” hoping someone would see what I was referencing. Then I tossed aside my guitar, took a running start, and leapt right off the stage and into the crowd in the ultimate stage dive.

I plowed right into the fans, most of whom were quick enough to catch me without injuring themselves. They set me down without much fuss, and I ran through them as quickly as I could, sprinting up the stairs to the balcony level.

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