I squeezed the two hands that I was gripping, and they squeezed back as we all said in unison, “Until forever.”

It was the pact we’d made since we were kids. To always be there for one another, until forever.

Then we took our rightful spots, I gripped the microphone, and we began to play. We played five songs for Max. It was hard to tell if he was into it at all, because he had a stone-cold expression as he listened, and his eyes were hidden behind sunglasses. Whenever we finished a track, he’d wave his hand in the air and say, “Next.”

When he finally held up a halting hand, we all took a breath, exhausted, but more than willing to play all night long if need be.

“All right, come on out.”

We were dripping with sweat and excitement as we stood in front of Max. Still, it was almost impossible to read him. I couldn’t tell if he liked what he heard or loved it. Up until he took off his shades and gave a half grin.

“Where the fuck did that gold music come from?” he asked.

My heart exploded, and I hoped he couldn’t see it happen.

“That was nothing like the recordings I heard on Instagram. This shit is magic. It’s passion. It’s the living, breathing, doing kind of music that I crave. What changed?”

James smirked and nudged me in the arm. “Ian got himself inspired by a girl.”

“It’s always a fucking girl,” Max muttered, shaking his head. “I’m not one to bullshit or to waste my breath, so believe me when I say you got the ‘it’ power. Even your little cheesy family group pep talk before performing was important. You don’t try to overshadow each other. You all shine because you work as a unit. You’re tight, something most bands can’t say about each other. You can easily be the next Maroon 5.”

We all glanced at one another, feeling a little deflated by those last few words.

The next Maroon 5.

I knew what all of the bandmates were thinking, so I cleared my throat to speak up. “With all due respect, Mr. Rider, I don’t think we want to be the next Maroon 5. We want to be the first Wreckage.”

He grimaced a little, his brow low and moody. If there was anyone in the world who was hard to read, it was Max. Fucking. Rider. If he was pleased, you couldn’t tell it. If he was pissed off, there was no way to know. His brain moved quick, and when he made up his mind, he made up his mind.

I felt sick thinking that I’d just shot myself in the damn foot by disagreeing with him about our future. If he wanted us to be the next Maroon 5, then we should’ve been fucking ecstatic about the fact. My answers should’ve been, Yes, Mr. Rider. Whatever you say, Mr. Rider. We will suck your dick if we have to, Mr. Rider.

I would’ve been willing to make the same ultimate sacrifice as the brave men of the Fyre Festival, and I would’ve gotten down on my knees and blown Max Fucking Rider if it called for it.

Take one for the team, Ian.

I shifted in my shoes and nervously coughed.

Max put his sunglasses on and stood up. “I think that’s a wrap for today, boys.”

He started walking away, and I felt as if I’d been sucker punched.

“Wait, Mr. Rider—” I started.

“I hope you’re okay leaving the small-town life,” he cut in. “Because we’re going to be busy starting as soon as possible to make you the first Wreckage.”

And just like that, our dreams came true.



“Tell me again,” Hazel said through the phone as I sat in bed that night, reciting to her everything that had gone down with Max Fucking Rider that afternoon. The other guys were in the second hotel room, celebrating the successful meeting we’d held.

Max wanted us to come out in two weeks to be ready to work our asses off. Everything was moving so fast, and I hardly had a grip on what was coming our way.

It felt like an odd dream, and I was terrified I’d wake from it any second now.

I chuckled into the phone. “I’ve already told you three times.”

“I know, but I love hearing the excitement in your voice.”

I couldn’t wait to get back to Eres to kiss her. Whenever I wasn’t thinking about music, I was thinking about Hazel and those full, thick lips of hers. It had to mean something, the fact that when the good news came to us, she was the first person I wanted to share it with. She was the first person who came to mind. She was . . . my person.

“You are my best friend,” I whispered, chills racing through me as the words rolled off my tongue.

More chills hit me as she said it back. “You are my best friend.”

I didn’t say the next words that crossed my mind, because I knew it would’ve been too confusing and too much, but I loved her. I loved her so much, and I didn’t know if it was just a friendship kind of love or a romantic kind of love, but it didn’t matter to me whatsoever.

Because love, no matter what kind it was, was a good thing. She’d taught me that through making me explore my emotions . . . she’d tapped into the love that still lived in me, even though I’d thought it was all gone after my parents had abandoned me. Love was a good thing, and Hazel Stone was a good fucking thing for me. She was the best thing, and I loved her so much it scared me a little.

The last people I’d loved that much were my parents, and they’d walked away and never looked back. Love felt so good, but in the back of it was the fear that it could someday slip away. I wouldn’t tell her yet. I’d keep the love thing to myself and hold on to it as long as I could.