Go on tour with the woman who betrayed me?
Not on your life.
Six years ago, she was just some stranger I woke up next to. By nightfall, I knew she was the one.
Or so I thought.
Six months later, she destroyed me.
And now, we're being forced into a reunion neither of us wants.
We may have to play nice, but when the lights are off ... so are our masks.
Release date: January 21, 2021
Print pages: 309
Reader says this book is...: emotionally riveting (5) entertaining story (4) escapist/easy read (2) happily ever after (4) heart touching (3) heartwarming (4) high heat (1) profanity-laced (1) sex scenes (3) strong chemistry (2) strong heroine (2) suspenseful (1) swoon-worthy (2) tearjerker (1) terrific writing (2) tragic (1) triggers (1) unputdownable (3) year's top 10 (1) realistic characters (3) satisfying ending (3)
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Listen to a sample
I carefully push her off me, hoping I don’t wake her. I study her face for a second, trying to remember her name. Karen? Karly? Kiersten? She makes a noise, and I stiffen. Then she rolls over and goes back to sleep. I take my pile of clothes into the bathroom and quickly dress. When I emerge, she’s sitting on the edge of the bed. Naked.
She yawns. “Where are you off to so early?”
“With the band?”
I slip on my shoes and nod.
“Can I come? I’d love to meet them.”
“Please?” She lets her legs fall open. “I’ll make it worth your while.”
It’s impossible not to look at what she’s offering, and for a moment, I contemplate taking her up on it. But Bria and the guys would kill me if I showed up with a groupie. I start for the door. “I can’t be late.”
She holds out a hand with her phone in it. “Put in your contact info so we can hookup again sometime.”
I try not to laugh. I’ve been bitten more than once by falling for that. In fact, I’ve had to change my phone number twice in the past six months. I’ve learned my lesson. “The record label doesn’t allow me to give out my number.”
It’s not a complete lie. I’m part owner of said record label. Therefore, I make the rules, and I just made that one. I shrug as if I have no control over it.
“At least take my number then,” she says, following me to the door—still naked.
“Uh … Karen? Kristen?”
“Right. Kara, I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and tell you I’m going to call, because I’m not. I’d be a dick to string you along, and I’m pretty sure I told you last night was going to be a one-time thing. Which you agreed to, by the way. I’m not interested in dating or even fucking again, so thanks for last night. It was nice meeting you. Have a nice life.”
“Asshole!” she yells after me as I shut the door.
I stop at my apartment for a shower. After living with Liam, Crew, and Bria for almost a year, it’s still strange coming home to a place that’s only mine. The three of them aren’t far away, however. Crew and Bria kept the three-bedroom we had, while Liam and I leased our own places just down the hall—on the same floor in the same building. The four of us had a lot of good times living together, but with Crew and Bria engaged, and Liam and Ella wanting to move in together, it seemed time to get our own places. Funny how none of us wanted to leave the building. And we all have keys to each other’s apartments. Hell, we eat dinner together at least three times a week. It’s like we’re one big happy family.
Except for Brad.
I’m still mad at him for jumping ship. He still plays bass for us, but it’s temporary until we find a replacement. He recently had a kid and says he won’t leave her when we go on tour. That gives us two more months to hire someone new. We’ve been auditioning people since last summer but haven’t found the right fit. Now it’s getting down to the wire.
When I arrive at IRL, everyone is waiting in the conference room. All eyes are on me as I walk through the door.
Ronni, our rep, lets out a disgusting snarl. “You had three weeks off, Garrett. The least you can do is be on time to start the new year right.”
I check the time. “I’m five minutes late. Cut me a break.”
In usual Ronni fashion, she hands everyone a thick packet with Indica Record Label in bold print on the front. Sometimes I still can’t believe we own the company—a fluke situation involving Liam, our guitar player, and his uncle, the slimeball we bought it from. But here we are, six months later, trying to navigate not only owning the label but also being one of the hottest new bands in the country.
Brad walks in after I do, looking like death warmed over. “Sorry,” he says. “The baby was up all night. Katie thinks she has colic or something.”
“Your presence isn’t required at this meeting,” Ronni says.
Liam hands Brad a packet. “Shut up, Veronica. He’s still a part of the band.”
“But he has no say in any of this.”
“Brad helped us get this far,” Bria says. “He most definitely has a say. How’s little Olivia, by the way? I mean other than the colic?”
His face lights up. “She’s amazing. I swear she smiled at me the other day. Katie says it’s too early, but I know she did.”
“She probably just shit her pants,” I say.
Crew slugs my arm.
Ronni clears her throat. “If you’re finished, I’d like to get started.”
“Go ahead,” Liam says. “Let’s get this over with so we can get back to rehearsing.”
“You’ll get there soon enough. First I want to go over what’s in store for you this year.”
I lean back. “What’s in store is we’re going to be even more famous than we are right now.”
“That’s the goal,” she says. “But getting to the top and staying there are two different things. Right now you’re shiny and new. People are taking notice. It’s keeping their attention that’s going to be a challenge. We need to strive to keep things fresh. Album number six comes out tomorrow. I’ve been able to get some serious airtime for ‘Swerve’, and I think this song is going to catapult you to the top of the charts. But I want to see a few more solos on this next album. We want to expand our demographic. Having Bria sing one or two more by herself will do that. You know, give it a Taylor Swift feel.”
Liam laughs. “You want Taylor Swift’s fans to follow us?”
“I want everyone’s fans to follow you. You want to know how to accomplish that? Write songs that appeal to every demographic. Pull them in with one great song, and they’ll be loyal fans for life.”
“Why now, Ronni?” Crew asks. “You’ve done everything in your power to push Bria out of the band. You never wanted her on board, and now you’re demanding she sing another solo?”
“Don’t worry, big man,” Ronni says. “I’m not replacing you. You should have another solo song on number seven, too.” She turns to the rest of us. “I’ve been able to take you further than anyone thought, and I don’t plan to stop until I’m living in a penthouse on Fifth Avenue.”
“So this isn’t really about us?” I say. “It’s about money?”
She laughs. “Of course this is about money. Isn’t everything?”
“We don’t do this for the money,” Crew says.
She rolls her eyes. “Bullshit. I get that you love what you do, but that won’t necessarily pay the bills. By the end of this year, I’m going to make you all multi-millionaires. But hey, if you don’t want the money, I’ll be happy to take it off your hands.”
“Very funny,” Liam says. “You know what else is better than money? A best new artist nomination.”
Ronni looks pissed. We’ll never let her live this down. She screwed up royally last year by releasing our fourth album too soon. It made us ineligible for a new artist nomination. We had released too many albums with too many songs.
“That again?” she scoffs. “I’ve made you so much money, you don’t know what to do with it all. It never would have happened without the release of albums four and five. The nationwide tour you’re going on this year—you think it would be happening if you’d only cut thirty songs? You need to keep your eyes on the prize.”
“A Grammy for best new artist—that would have been one big fucking prize,” I say.
“Puh-leeze,” she says. “Like you didn’t know the rules. Don’t try to blame it all on me. Besides, you never even had a song break into the top ten. You wouldn’t have gotten a nomination.”
“We had ten songs in the top hundred.”
“Not good enough.”
“Screw you, Ronni,” Liam says.
She shoots him a spiteful glance. “We tried that already and it didn’t work. Listen, you kept me on after the transition because I’m the best rep out there. You have to trust I know what’s best for you. I knew you wouldn’t get the nomination, so I released the albums to get more attention. And it worked. You aren’t playing in bars anymore. Not even amphitheaters. You’ll be touring the country, playing in arenas in front of ten thousand or more. You do realize that’s just one step away from the big-time, which is playing in football stadiums, right? Twenty of your performances have already sold out.”
The five of us look at each other. “Sold out?” Bria asks, excitedly.
“Yes. Sold out. Do you think it would have happened with a measly thirty singles?” She turns a page. “Let’s move on. We don’t have all day. There’s a new list of bass players I’d like you to go over. You need to pick someone and soon. If he’s not up to speed by March, you can kiss next year’s Grammy nominations goodbye.”
“I haven’t heard of any of these,” Liam says, perusing the names.
“You’ve rejected everyone else.”
“Brad’s a hard man to replace.” I turn to him. “Why don’t you stay on? It’s only two months.”
“It’s ten weeks,” Brad says, shaking his head. “I’m not leaving them. We’ve been over this a hundred times. I’m sorry, man.”
“Can I arrange to bring them in this week?” Ronni asks.
I look at the others. At this point, we don’t have a choice. “Make the calls.”
Ronni runs through the rest of the packet. It’s all boring shit, but now that we’re owners, we need to know all of said shit.
“Is that it?” I say, turning the last page.
“Spit it out,” Crew says. “What did we do now? I haven’t kissed Bria onstage for months.”
“It’s not you,” she says to them and turns to me.
I point to myself. “Me?”
“You need to talk to Joe Perry.”
“Our lawyer? Why?”
She stares me down.
“Fuck no, Ronni. If this is about Jessica, there is no way the kid is mine.”
“Jessica? No. But it’s nice to get a head’s up about the next one. Does the name Nicki Montlake ring a bell?”
She scolds me like an overbearing mother. “Do you even bother learning their names, Garrett?”
I laugh. “There are so many of them.”
Her eyes briefly close in frustration. “And here I thought Liam was going to be the one to knock someone up, but now he’s with Ella. Crew and Bria are together. Brad’s married. That leaves you as the only possible member of Reckless Alibi to father some groupie’s illegitimate child.”
“I haven’t fathered anyone’s anything, Ronni. She’s lying. They’re all lying.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I use protection.”
“What, are we in middle school? Everyone knows condoms aren’t one hundred percent effective, and don’t tell me you believe girls who say they’re on the pill. All of you better start realizing you’re in a position to be sued by anyone for anything. You have to watch what you do, even what you say.”
I hold out my arm. “Take my goddamn blood. I’ll prove it.”
“I’m not sure it’ll come to that. Just talk to Joe, okay? And for chrissakes, try to limit the number, Garrett. At ninety-eight percent effectiveness, if you sleep with a hundred girls, statistically speaking, two will get knocked up.”
I feel the blood drain from my face. “No shit?”
Crew throws a bagel at me. “What the hell do you think ninety-eight percent effective means?”
“It means almost a hundred.”
“Yeah, douchebag,” Liam adds. “Almost.”
“Fuck. I’d better start using two then.”
Ronni rubs her forehead. “Don’t you dare. That’ll make it worse. The friction between them could make them break.”
“How the hell do you know this shit?”
“I’ve worked with musicians for a long time, Garrett. Trust me.”
“I should have gotten snipped a long time ago.”
Bria looks surprised. “I hope you’re kidding. You’re not even twenty-six.”
“I’ve never wanted kids. That and being a drummer are the only two things I’ve ever been sure about.”
“Garrett, please don’t,” she says with puppy dog eyes. “You’re still young, and you have absolutely no idea what will happen in the future.”
“If I get a vasectomy, I’ll sure as hell know what won’t happen.”
“Dude,” Crew says. “Seriously, don’t do it.”
“Whatever. It’s not like I’m running to the doctor right now.”
“Are we finished?” Liam asks. “Can we go rehearse now?”
On the way down the hall to the studio, Bria pulls me aside. “Garrett, you need to listen to me. Crew never thought he’d have another serious girlfriend after what happened to Abby, and now we’re engaged. Look at Liam—after what he survived as a kid, he didn’t expect to find love. You may not want a girlfriend now, but it’s because you haven’t met the right woman yet. When you do, your whole world might change.”
“Not everyone wants to fall in love and get married. You girls think every guy needs a girl to live happily ever after. Well, guess what? This—Reckless Alibi, you guys—is my happily ever after.”
“I want you to get everything you deserve.”
“I already have it, Bria.”
She looks at me sadly. She’s become the sister I never had. She’s family. The only thing I can do is smile and pull her into the rehearsal studio. Because if I continue to look at her, she might get me to admit I already met the right woman.
And she fucking destroyed me.
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