“Slut,” I said, half joking.

“Groupie,” she retorted. “Which reminds me, I saw Ryan. He looked really disappointed. And I saw you two walk off together…you were gone for awhile. Long enough for him to poke you. What happened?”

I sighed. “Well, he didn’t poke me. That’s what happened.”

“Girl, I have to say I’m glad. He’s still a douche, and as much as you need to get some action, he’s not the dude to get it with. You need someone new.”

“Do I?”

I turned my head on the pillow to look at her. The room was growing lighter by the second as the planet tilted toward the sun. Her eyes were closed, but she managed to raise an eyebrow in response.

I went on, “I just…I don’t know. I know this is going to sound bonkers and all, but…I feel like what Sage and I had isn’t over yet.”

Mel’s eyes snapped open. “Oh, honey. No.”

I nodded. “He invited me to Paris, Mel. To go on tour with his solo band.”

“Yeah, but you said it’s all official now. That Creem wants you to do it and they’re even making a photographer tag along with you.”

I shut my eyes. “I know, I know. But still, he invited me. Mel, he said he misses me. I could tell he meant it.”

She looked up at the ceiling, chewing on her lip. “Dawn, I’m only saying this because I’m your best friend. We’ve been through a lot…more than a lot. Let’s not forget when I flew down to see you guys in San Antonio.” I cringed, remembering the shit I said to her in order to get her away from me and the band and her imminent doom. “And I totally believe that Sage wants to re-shag you, I really do. I saw you guys together; you had a connection. It was there.” She paused. “I just don’t think you should put off other guys just because of a chance with Sage. He is a rock star, Dawn. And the spotlight is all on him now. He’s free of that…deal…he made. Free to move on with his life. Free to do whatever the fuck he wants. I love you, you know that, but he doesn’t.”

“Ouch,” I muttered, pretending my heart wasn’t being swallowed.

“Sorry,” she said quickly, licking her lips. “But you told me what happened. That the fact that he didn’t love you was what saved you all in the end. So I’m glad he didn’t. But it’s true. And if he didn’t love you then, he definitely doesn’t now, when you’ve been apart for so long.”

“But he could,” I said, somewhat pitifully. Even though I was saying these words to my best friend, I still felt stupid. Hoping it. Thinking it.

“He could,” she said slowly. “You’re a hot fox, Dawn Emerson. Hotter than you know. But you’re still a music journalist from a small town in the Pacific Northwest, and he’s a rock star on his first solo tour, finally getting all the recognition he’s always wanted and deserved. And we both know the man; he does deserve it. Do you really think you’d stand a chance, even if he did come around?”

“Again, ouch,” I said, trying to sound like what she said didn’t shank me in a million different ways.

“I’m sorry, honey,” she said, patting my hand. “But I just don’t want to see you get hurt. I’d rather it come from me now than come from him later. He may be your Sage Knightly, and you may have literally gone through Hell together, but he is still Sage Fucking Knightly. You dig?”

I exhaled through my nose, feeling all sorts of hope and excitement drain out of me. Deep down I knew Mel was right. That she was being the voice of reason here, as she often was when it came to me.

I had been getting ahead of myself with fantasies about what would happen when he saw me again. I thought maybe he’d be waiting at the airport in Paris, a bunch of flowers in his arms. He’d see me get off the plane and come running toward me. He’d scoop me up, and I’d laugh as the flower petals showered down. We’d twirl around and he’d kiss me with so much passion that I knew no time had passed between us at all. The paparazzi would be there, all of the European press, and maybe the New York Times. They’d all be taking our picture, and the next day the headlines would read, “Sage Knightly reunites with long-lost girlfriend, Dawn Emerson.” There would be speculation about me and what exactly had happened between us when I went on the road with Hybrid. We’d then spend our mornings sightseeing as we made our way across Europe, and in the evenings I would stand proudly at the side of the stage, watching him in action as he prowled with his guitar. All the women in the crowd would cry out for him, throwing their underwear up on stage, but he’d only have eyes for me. Maybe one day he’d even propose to me during a live show.

Yes, this is what I had been thinking of—dreaming of—since Sage had invited me to Europe to join him on tour. I tried not to let my imagination run away with me, but letting it run wild made me feel so damn good inside. Delusional, apparently, but good. What girl didn’t fantasize about having a rock star in love with her? And what girl actually had the scant possibility of her fantasies coming true?

Hope was so dangerous at times.

I nestled into the pillow, my heart waging war with my brain, the dream against the logic, my hopes against Mel’s words. I knew, knew, knew the reality but…

I drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Three

Sage

“Bonjour, monsieur Knightly.”

I looked up from the baggage carousel to see where the breathy, sex kitten voice had come from. There was a tall blonde standing to the side of me, looking me over with a hint of a smile.

“Hola,” I said, then quickly grimaced. I was hungover from all the drinks on the plane and had been slipping into Spanish the moment I stepped on the ground, my brain on overdrive trying to deal with the French language.

Her lips curled in amusement—red lipstick, matte and dark. They would make a wonderful color for an album cover. “Puedo hablar Español, si desea.”

I shook my head and smiled at her. “No, no, English is fine. Sorry, my French is rusty, and my Spanish isn’t much better.” I was glad I was wearing my aviator sunglasses so she couldn’t see how red my eyes were. She was quite the looker—long legs she showed off in a short shift dress, her platinum blond hair piled high on top of her head. And she knew Spanish, too.

I stuck out my hand. “Sorry, what I really meant to say is yes, I am Sage Knightly. And you are?”

“Angeline,” she said, taking mine in hers. Her hand was soft as silk, light as feathers. “I’ve been expecting you.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Yeah?” I looked around the baggage carousel. Jacob had gone off to get a luggage cart, even though the bags had been going around for ages and none of them were mine. I didn’t know where Tricky was, either. We’d both gotten pretty trashed on the plane, though I at least had the sense to quit a few hours before we landed.

“Bien sûr,” she said, putting her fingers to her lips and giggling. “Sorry, my French again. I work for the promoters here in France. I’ll be with you in Paris and in Nice as well.”

If I’d felt better than total shit, I would have attempted a lame joke at all of that sounding very “Nice” (since it’s not pronounced the way it’s spelled). Instead I nodded and asked, “And what is your job with the promoters?”

She grinned, observing me closely. “I’m making sure your travels here in France go smoothly.”

“Isn’t that my job, love?” Jacob’s rough voice came from behind me. I turned my head to see him pushing the luggage cart, eyeing Angeline suspiciously.

She didn’t seem put off by his brusque attitude. I didn’t think the French were put off by a lot of things. Then again, I hadn’t been in the country for very long.

“You must be Jacob Edwards,” she said, eyeing him back. Her lips twitched up into a pleasant smile, though her dark blue eyes were as cold as anything. She stuck out her hand and he took it hesitantly. But once his hand closed over hers, he gave one hundred percent, his patent bone-crushing squeeze.

It was enough to make Angeline wince, though she still managed to look polite as she withdrew her hand. I notice her wriggling her fingers out at her side. “Nice you meet you.”

Jacob grunted and eyed me. “Your bags here yet?”

I shook my head, pushed my sunglasses on top of my head, and looked at Angeline. “I wasn’t aware that the promoters cared that much about what we thought about the country.”

She tilted her head. “Well, after Jim Morrison came over and sort of made a mess of things, we’ve been a lot more, how you say, vigilant with our touring American bands. And the British, of course. But the Americans are the ones who seem to go the most, well, wild.” Her gaze intensified. “I’ve heard Hybrid was quite the wild band.”

I swallowed hard. This was not the conversation I wanted to be having the moment I stepped off the plane. A sick feeling swirled in my gut, though perhaps it was the excess vodka at thirty-five thousand feet.

Jacob spoke up quickly. “Sage Knightly is not Hybrid. It would be best if any comparisons stopped from here on out.”

She shrugged, unfazed, her eyes fastening on my crotch. “That’s too bad. I like it when boys are wild.”

Right then I knew she would be the easiest lay ever—if I wanted it, of course.

“And who is this babe?” Tricky’s voice broke through the downward spiral of my thoughts. He was sauntering over from the bathroom, his nose jerking back and forth and he quickly snorted through it. Naturally he had been doing blow; I just couldn’t figure out how he had gotten it through the strict French customs. Actually, I could figure it out…I just didn’t want to think about it.

Tricky’s real name was Richard. But people called him Dick. And then with Nixon’s rise and fall, he became Tricky Dick. It helped that he fucked everything that walked (and some that didn’t) and was rumored to do tricks with his penis. Not sure if that started before or after the name, but I didn’t ask, and contrary to the threesomes and orgies we took part in together, I had never seen his dick bent into any funny shapes, either.

Tricky was an amazing bassist and a fun guy to be around, but aside from pussy-swapping, we weren’t exactly close. He was thin yet muscular and quite dark for a black person, with piercing brown eyes and dreadlocks, and the ladies were drawn to his exotic looks as much as they were drawn to mine. But while Tricky dipped into the same drugs as I did—and then some—he wasn’t trying to escape anything. He wasn’t trying to hide. He was just Tricky, just a musician and a rock star through and through. This tour meant more to him than it did to me.

It was only sometimes, when we were jamming together and his well-honed stubbornness came into play, insisting he knew my songs better than I did, that I missed the past. I missed Noelle, the old bassist for Hybrid, how easy she was to play with. Maybe it had helped that Noelle had sucked more than a few of our dicks, but she had made the ride in Hybrid smooth. She had talent and soul beneath that prickly veneer, and now my dear Noelle was recovering in a mental hospital somewhere in California while I was jet-setting with her replacement.

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