“What? No. Dude, we can’t do that. We can’t sell out like this,” James said.

“He’s right, Ian. I know we are in a hard spot, but we can’t just throw away everything we’ve worked for,” Marcus agreed.

“We have a limited amount of time, and we can’t waste time trying to create new songs,” I explained.

“But . . .” Eric sighed, but he didn’t finish his thought.

Probably because he knew I was right.

“I can’t let us all go into major debt and lawsuits because of this, you guys. We can’t go backward. We have to move forward.”

“Even if that means selling out our souls to mainstream music?” Marcus asked.

“Let’s be honest; we did that the moment we signed the contracts. If we wanted to stay small, we should’ve walked away at the beginning. We signed a contract, you guys, and there’s no way to get out of it. I’m going to go tell Max we’re taking Warren’s songs, and we’ll get in the studio tomorrow to get going.”

I walked out of the room and only stopped when James came chasing after me.

“Ian, wait up. What’s going on, man?”

“What do you mean?”

He narrowed his eyes as if he were staring at a stranger. “You don’t even want to fight to try to create our own music again? You don’t want to try?”

“I’ve tried my whole life, James. I tried with my parents, I tried with Hazel, and I tried with our music. Trying doesn’t work. We might as well just go with what they want us to do. It will be easier that way.”

“Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s worth it. You don’t mean what you’re saying. You just feel defeated, but you can’t let your pain weigh you down so much.”

“I don’t feel pain,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “I don’t feel nothing.”

“Don’t you think that’s a problem?” he asked.

Maybe it was.

But I was too tired to really fucking care.

I lay in the darkest form of night. Even when I opened my eyes, I felt as though I were still staring into the blackness of my eyelids. How long had I been lying in the shadows? How long had I been in my current state of affairs? I shifted a bit, and my lower back stung. My whole body ached from head to toe, as if I’d been hit by a semitruck. What the hell had I done yesterday? Run a marathon? Fought a grizzly?

Oh yeah, I’d gotten drunk as hell after leaving the meeting at Mindset Records.

I rubbed the palms of my hands against my eyes, completely dazed and confused as I tried to piece together the last few hours of my life.

Dammit, Ian. How did you get here?

I didn’t mean that in a superdeep, profound, meaningful way. What I meant was, How the hell had I fucking gotten here? And where, exactly, was here?

My head pounded at a vomit-worthy speed as I tried to swallow down the crashing memories of the meeting at Mindset Records.

I pinched the bridge of my nose, and before I could sit up, two pairs of arms wrapped around my body in the darkness.

Two big, strong pairs of arms lifted me up from my bed. As I went to holler, someone covered my mouth with one hand and my eyes with the other as the arms carried me away. I began kicking and trying to shout as I was hauled to the hallway of the hotel, in a complete panic as these men carried me away.

Was this some kind of fanatic kidnapping? Was someone going for me because of my money?

I bit the hand that was covering my mouth and heard a shout of pain. “Dude! What the fuck?”

“Shut the fuck up, will you?” the other hissed.

“He fucking bit me!”

That voice . . . was that . . . Eric?

“I don’t care if he fucking bit you. We aren’t supposed to talk!”

“Well, you weren’t the one who was freaking bit!”

“I told you to duct-tape his mouth!”

“I’m not some freaking psychopath! I wasn’t going to duct-tape his mouth!”

“That’s why you got bit, you idiot!”

Eric and Marcus?

I’d know that bickering from miles away.

“What the fuck is going on?” I yelled now that my mouth was uncovered.

The hands dropped my body to the hallway floor, and when I was allowed to look up, I saw my three bandmates dressed in all black like fucking ninjas. What in the ever-loving hell was going on?

“What the hell is going on?” I blurted out, rubbing the back of my head, which had smacked hard against the floor.

“Sorry, Ian, we were, er—we thought—” James started, looking guilty as fuck.

“We’re fucking kidnapping you, dude,” Marcus exclaimed, without a second of guilt in his tone.


He didn’t explain any more. He nodded toward me. “Come on, guys. Grab him.”

The bandmates did as Marcus said, and before I could yell, Eric pulled out a roll of duct tape and slapped a piece against my mouth. “Sorry, Ian. But this is for your own good.”

What in the hell? Where the hell was security? Didn’t they see me on camera being dragged out of my hotel room by three men in black? This had to look suspicious as fuck.

When we got outside, going through the back entrance of the hotel, there was a black van parked near us. They hurried me over, tossed me inside, and scrambled in themselves.