I stayed there listening to the lyrics rolling off Ian’s tongue as he sang, his voice melting into every inch of my soul.

And that evening, I knew those lyrics were being sung solely for me.



“Please tell me you’re joking, because every demand you are making is out of the realm of possibility. Furthermore, for you to go off the grid as long as you did without reaching out is beyond unprofessional. You’ve missed ample studio time, and now you have no damn album to showcase. But now you have the nerve to come sit in the conference room of the biggest record label ever, with Donnie Schmitz, the CE-fucking-O of Mindset Records, to tell us that we owe you a fucking apology?” Max spat at us in a complete state of shock.

It was funny how much had changed since we’d sat across from Max for the first time. We were so naive back then and happy to just be given a chance. We were so happy that someone as big as Max took notice of us that we didn’t even consider what exactly someone like him noticing us meant.

“You all are in for a hell of a lawsuit,” Donnie grumbled, clasping his hands together with a threatening look on his face.

I clasped my hands together in the same fashion and sat up straighter. “I doubt we have to get lawyers involved. We just want a few things from you, and we’ll get out of your hair.”

Donnie huffed. “You want something from us? We gave you everything!”

“Yes, even the kindness of you both leaking our album earlier in order to force us to play your mainstream music,” I explained.

Donnie and Max both glanced at one another before Max shook his head. “What in the hell are you talking about?”

“We have our own geek squad,” James said, nodding toward Eric. “He figured out where the leaked records came from. Don’t play dumb; it’s not a cute look on you.”

Donnie grimaced as he rolled his hands through his grayed hair. “Yes, well, you hacking into our emails isn’t going to look swell for you. That’s an illegal act.”

“Yes, which is why we aren’t taking the emails to the feds. We are, instead, sending these videos to your wives,” Marcus said matter-of-factly. He pulled out his cell phone and emailed Donnie. “Mr. Schmitz, if you would please check your email.”

Donnie opened his email to a very, very inappropriate video. After Eric had revealed his plan to us, we’d been able to reach out to some of the girls in the videos with Max and Donnie, and they were fans of our music. They’d been eager to send us videos of their private affairs with Donnie and Max, and let’s just say a lot of weird shit had happened with grapefruits and dicks. Max raced over to Donnie to see what video was being played, and I watched the exact moment the color drained from his face.

Donnie sat up in his chair. “Where did you get this?”

“It doesn’t matter, but if you were smarter, you would’ve had those women sign NDAs. But seeing as how you didn’t, I wonder if your wives would be interested in seeing these videos. Also, if you were smarter, you would’ve probably had prenups put in place before marriage. But instead, it seems that your wives might be able to take a good chunk of change from you.”

“They are bluffing,” Max spat out. “I know these guys. They don’t have the balls to—”

“Shut the fuck up, Max,” Donnie barked, silencing Max in mere seconds. Donnie’s brow knitted, and he lowered his eyes as he kept replaying the video. His lips were pressed together so tightly the vein in his neck throbbed.

When he was finished staring, he finally placed his phone down and locked eyes with me. “What are your requests?”

“Are you kidding?” Max sighed. “You can’t really—”

Donnie held a silencing hand up to Max, and he instantly shut up.

Good puppy.

“We want three more months to create a new album. You’ll push the release date back. We’ll release our music—our real fucking music—and then, once that’s done, we’re freed from our contract with you. We don’t owe you any other albums down the line, and everything we agreed to is null and void. We’re free to walk with our hands clean after this album releases.”

There was a thickness to the air as Donnie contemplated his choices. He cleared his throat. “I’ll have a new contract drafted up over the next few days.”

“Are you shitting me?” Max hollered. “You’re really going to allow these small-town dicks to push you in a corner?”

Donnie leaned forward toward the conference telephone and hit a button. “Laura, please have security come up front and remove Max Rider from the building.”

“What? What? You’re joking, right?” Max said, looking panicked. “You can’t kick me out of here.”

“Yes, I can, and I am. I should’ve never taken you up on the idea of leaking that album, and that is something I’ll have to live with. But for now, you are no longer allowed at Mindset Records.”

“This—this is all because of you dicks!” Max hollered, gesturing toward the band and me. “You idiots ruined your only shot at fame. I discovered you! I fucking made you what you are! You are shooting yourself in the fucking foot. You’re stupid and making a million mistakes. You staying with that girl is a scandal waiting to happen. Your stupid fucking indie music is a train wreck. You won’t take off without me. Don’t you know who I am? I’m Max Fucking Rider! I make stars!”