“Who are you telling? I know. I’ve been in charge of damage control, remember?”
Hazel cocked another eyebrow toward Max’s tone, and I could tell she was bothered by him. She must’ve been trying really hard to bite her tongue. I could imagine the sassy responses flying through her brain.
“Yeah, I know. But I just need a night off.”
“Not now,” he argued. “Now is the time you get out there and showcase that you aren’t on drugs. You be charming and funny and the persona we are creating Ian Parker to be.”
“I don’t feel like being charming and funny.”
“That’s why it’s called acting.”
“I’m a musician, not an actor.”
He laughed. “All musicians are actors. The only difference is musicians can sing better. Anyhoo, I’ll text you the details.”
He hurried out of the room and slammed the door behind him before I could respond.
“So that’s the amazing Max Fucking Rider, huh?” Hazel said, rolling her eyes so hard I thought she’d never see straight again. “He does know that at the end of the day, he works for you, right?”
I gave a lazy smile. “I doubt he knows that. Sorry you had to witness that. I was hoping we could talk and chill, but I think I have to make an appearance tonight, for damage control and all.”
“Who’s handling the damage control on your heart?” she asked.
I wrapped an arm around her and pulled her in close. “You are.” I pressed my lips to her forehead. “I know you didn’t come out here to come to a party, but I’d love to have you by my side to keep me levelheaded.”
“Where you lead, I’ll follow. Whatever you need from me over these next thirty hours, I’m yours.”
Max Fucking Rider.
More like Max Fucking Dickhead.
I couldn’t believe he was so cocky for such a little, little man. Max was a bald-headed guy, probably in his forties, but he dressed like he was in his twenties. He was obviously trying too hard to stay relevant, and it was coming off exactly as that—a middle-aged man trying too hard. Plus, he had a large amount of chest hair curling out of the top of his shirt.
If a penis and a gorilla had a child, it would be Max Fucking Rider.
If it weren’t for Ian and the band, I would’ve told Max where he could shove it. But instead, I was a good southern belle. I smiled and charmed and kept my extremely unpleasant thoughts about the man to myself.
Then I went to the hotel with Ian to get ready for the party.
“I have nothing to wear for a party,” I confessed, combing through the few items of clothing sitting in my suitcase.
“Whatever you have is fine. You could wear what you have on now, and that will be fine,” Ian said.
I laughed and looked down at my oversize hoodie and leggings. “Really? Is this what people wear to meet celebrities nowadays?” I frowned, feeling a bit defeated as I saw the fancy clothes that Ian was changing into. I doubt the women who were surrounding the Wreckage on the daily looked the way I did. They probably wore formfitting dresses and high heels.
I looked down to my Adidas.
Definitely not Christian Louboutin.
“Don’t do that, Hazel,” he warned.
“Think you have to change for this world I’m in. These parties, these fancy clothes—this isn’t real.”
“And what is real?”
“Old dirt roads. Bonfires. Grams’s cooking.” He smiled at me and walked over to scoop me into his arms. “You. Me. Us. We’re real. Everything else is just an act. Whatever you wear is good enough.”
The comfort those words gave me eased my troubled heart. I couldn’t help but fall more in love with the man standing beside me. “Is it too soon for me to ask how you’re doing with seeing your parents? Or do you want to get through tonight first?”
“Let’s get through tonight; then we can talk until morning.”
“I also want you to tell me all your thoughts on Max.”
I snickered. “Trust me, they aren’t nice.”
“I know.” He nodded. “That’s why I want to hear them all.”
When we arrived at the nightclub, I was completely out of my element. Yet still, Ian kept my hand wrapped in his as we wandered through the club. People were packed in like sardines. Everyone and their mama were in that place for the night, chatting it up and kissing the asses of the boys of the Wreckage, singing their praises. It was so strange seeing how much people loved the band. It was . . . powerful.
The guys all interacted as if they belonged too. Even though Eric was underage, there must’ve been an “I am becoming famous” clause, because he was allowed into the club too. Plus, I was allowed in because I was on Ian’s arm.
“I’m going to run to the bathroom,” I said to Ian, giving his hand a squeeze. He hadn’t let go of me since we’d walked inside, and I was so happy for his touch. He gave me the comfort I hadn’t known I needed.
“I’ll wait here,” he said, stepping to the side of the bathroom.