After years of trying to hit it big with his band, Adam Rees’ dream is finally about to come true. A new lead singer brings with him a hot tour invite, but with a catch—his sister has to come with them. Despite an off-limits edict, Adam is instantly attracted the smart and beautiful Landry. But if he wants to claim his woman, it might be at the expense of all his ambitions.

Landry Olsen has had success at every stage of her life, except when it comes to men. She’s put her heart on the shelf, but one look at Adam and she’s a goner. The hot rocker heats her from the inside out, and she wants him as much as he wants her. The only thing standing in their way of their happiness is Landry’s brother—she ruined his musical hopes before, and she won’t do it again. Even if it means saying no to the one guy who makes her believe in love again.

There’s no fruit more tempting than the forbidden kind…




Enter Stage Right
So this is how my single state ends. How all the casual dating, random hookups, and general fucking around grinds to a halt because of one girl. A girl I haven’t even laid hands on before. A girl I haven’t heard speak. A girl whose green eyes—they must be green to go with that red hair—are bright enough to light up the whole damn bar.

“You all right, man?” Ian Turner, my drummer, asks as he muscles by me with a snare in one hand and his throne—aka the stool—in the other.

I wipe a hand across my jaw. It comes away dry. No drool is a good thing. “I’m fine. Why?”

“You look like someone hit you with a baseball bat. Shocked,” Ian explains.

That sounds about right.

“Just happy with how we played,” I improvise. I’m not ready to share my thoughts yet, not even with Ian.

He buys it. A huge grin spreads across his face. “We killed it tonight.”

We did, indeed. After only a month on the local scene, my band, Fuck Marry Kill, is slaying it. I hoist the bass drum onto my shoulder and gesture for him to lead. We need to clear the stage for the next band.

Part of me wants to run back out there and play another song or ten, but one of my old man’s mantras was to always keep the audience wanting more. Rock their clothes off (sometimes literally given the band’s infamous collection of underwear collected over the years on tour) and they’ll be hungry to see you again.

The rest of me wants to hunt down the redhead. I figure she’s in the bathroom now because the corner of the bar near the door where she hid for the three final songs has been filled by a couple of hipster guys with carefully trimmed facial hair and plaid shirts tucked into dark jeans.

“You see Mica Hollister is here?” My bassist Rudd careens around the corner, barely stopping before crashing into me. His eyes are hot and excited. Ordinarily, the only things that turn Rudd on are women and a sweet guitar riff. But Hollister would get his dick hard, too. Hollister’s a regional promoter with sticky fingers in a dozen pots.

“I saw. I heard he’s setting up some big city tour for new bands?” I give Davis, our new front man, a nod as he holds the door open for Ian and me.

Rudd trails behind like an overeager puppy. “Not just new bands—any bands with a decent local following. It’s called the Under the Radar tour. He wants to use it to build a big social media following and then launch the best one into big time radio play.”

“Hollister’s always full of ideas.” There’s not a promoter in the business who doesn’t think he has the next Coachella up his sleeve. Making those ideas into something concrete is the challenge, and I haven’t seen Hollister put together anything more than a local festival of a couple thousand people.

Ian shoves this throne into Rudd’s empty arms. “Hold this.” He piles the bass drum on top and then hops into the back of the van. We start handing stuff inside. When the band is playing on a regular basis, there’s zero need to get to the gym. Lifting the instruments in and out of the back of this vehicle three or four times a day is all the workout I need.

“You should hear him out,” Rudd urges.

“We don’t have an album together. What we would sell if we toured?” Talking to Hollister is the last thing I want to do right now. I head inside for more of our equipment. Sooner we get this done, sooner I can hunt down the redhead. There’s probably a dozen dicks pointed in her direction, and I need to get out there and stake my claim.

“Hollister’s blowhard,” Ian adds. “He’s the kind that strokes your dick with one hand while robbing you with the other.”

He’s not wrong. Hollister’s been around for ages, even when my dad was touring. He’s always trying to put something together, and while he has contacts, he’s disorganized, which means most of his big ideas end up being huge fuckups. Plus, he’s known to employ shady tactics, skimming money off the top of a band’s take, meddling with the makeup of a group, being a general asshole. I steer clear of him.

“I don’t care who’s stroking me, as long as it gets some loving,” Rudd replies.

“That’s the most honest thing I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth,” I grunt. Behind me, Davis cough-laughs. He’s new, so he doesn’t hassle Rudd as much as Ian and me, but he’ll catch on. The only way to live with Rudd’s gigantic ego is to constantly be punching it down to size.

“We sign up for Hollister’s deal and we’re going to be huge. Roadies will do this shit while we’re in the green room getting some post-concert loving.”

Ian chortles. “Except for you, Rudd. No one wants to fuck the bassist.”

“Fuck you, man,” Rudd retorts. “Lots of chicks love the bass guitar.”

“Name one famous bassist.”

I roll my eyes.

Davis nudges me. “They always like this?”

“Always,” Ian confirms.

“Always.” I nod. Rudd and Ian have been friends for a while, and this is an ongoing debate—whose instrument attracts the most chicks. “I think it’s numbers over quality, though.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Davis says.

“So is this gig better than filing reports at CloudDox?” I ask, only half joking. Davis’ day job is some kind of data engineering at a local cloud computing company. This particular band will only go as far as our singer takes us. I can write the songs, the music, get the gigs, but without a front man, we’re in the shitter, which is where my band dreams have been since high school.

Luckily, I have a good feeling about Davis. The guy’s voice is a rare one—great range and a little gravel for the girls. He stepped in to cover for a friend at a concert series last summer. He only sang backup, but the minute I heard him, I knew. He had it. A few beers later and Davis was officially part of FMK. I couldn’t believe my fucking luck when he agreed to come on board.

“Fuck, yeah,” Davis replies. “So what’s next?”

“We’ve got a Thursday night gig at the farmer’s market followed by a two-hour set at Gatsby’s. Saturday, we’re driving to Layton to do a half-hour set opening for a local college band.”

Davis makes a face. No one likes to be the opener, but despite our success tonight, we’re still so fresh from the garage you can smell the exhaust. Still, we’re burning that all off.

“Don’t worry. A few more nights like tonight and we’ll headline bars all over the state.” Other states as well, but I keep that ambition to myself. I’m not sure he’s ready.

Davis is big on going home at nights. Rudd thinks he has a honey stashed away, but if he did, she hasn’t shown her face around here.

“Or we can come on the road with Hollister, make some decent cash, get our sound heard by a shit ton more people than we played in front of tonight,” Rudd persists.

Ian gives me a look that says I better go talk to Hollister or Rudd will be riding my dick all night. With a sigh, I mentally hit pause on my plans to find my dream girl. Turning to Rudd, I say, “If I talk to Hollister, will you stop hassling me?”

He grins. “For tonight.”

“Jesus Christ. Go inside and find a girl who’s too desperate to say no, will you?”

Rudd doesn’t immediately do as I ask, and, as if sensing an explosion is imminent, Davis collars him around the neck. “Come on, Rudd, I’ll buy your first drink. The girls inside are thirsty, and I’m man enough to admit I can only handle a couple of them.”

“I knew I liked you from the first moment I saw you,” Rudd says.

“I thought the first words out of your mouth were, ‘Who is this douchebag and why is his khaki-covered ass in our studio?’”

“As I said, liked you from the first.”

Ian chuckles as he follows them. I don’t get two steps inside the backstage door when Hollister pops up, like a whack-a-mole. The guy may have had hair once, but I don’t remember the last time he looked like anything other than a pale, bald light bulb.

“Adam Rees, that was a righteous set, my man. Righteous!” He slaps me on the back like we’re old, old friends.

“You played like a motherfucker up there.”

I stifle a sigh. “Nice to see you, Hollister.”

“I’m getting a tour together.”

“I heard.”

“We need you.”

“You don’t need to butter me up, Hollister. Just give me your spiel and I’ll consider it.”

He rubs his hands together, like some comic book villain. “I’m taking five bands on tour, including Threat Alert. Crowds like the variety, but we charge more—for everything. More booze. More food. More merch sales. Each band gets a share after management.”

Interesting. Threat Alert is a rockabilly band with a bluegrass sound. They were just signed to a small indie label and had one song on the Billboard Top 100 chart. “What’s your role?” I ask warily.

“My job is to set up the gigs and Right Stuff will take care of the rest.”

Against my better judgment, I perk up. Right Stuff is a legit outfit. They ran a big tour out east a year ago and two bands of the seven that worked the coast ended up playing at big summer festivals.

Damn. This might be the real deal.

I don’t ask how Hollister hooked up with the promotional firm, because it probably involved shit that wouldn’t make me happy. “We don’t have an album together.”

Hollister looks taken aback. “No album? How long have you been playing together?”

“Less than two months.”

He rocks on his heels. “Shit. You sound like you’ve been together a while now, but, no album is no big deal. You collect emails during the tour, record the album, and then shoot up the charts afterwards.”

It’s unconventional, but music discovery is these days. Bands get noticed by having viral hits. Threat Alert got on the radar because a friend of a friend snuck the song onto a big-time reality tv star’s playlist. The peppy tune caught on and boom, they have a record deal and a tour.

“How long of a tour?”

He grins. “Five months.”

I whistle. “That’s a damn long time.”

“I know. But all you got to do is show up. I swear the thing is going to pay for itself. Look at the crowd tonight.”

I run a hand over my chin, the stubble I shaved away hours ago making a re-appearance. The venue was packed.

Hollister presses me. “Four hundred people paid a twenty-dollar cover tonight. They’re spending a ton on booze and I bet if you checked with your merch man, you sold a bunch of CDs.”

It’s never been about the money for me, but that’s not true for the rest of my guys. And if I’m pulling Davis off his cushy desk job, I’ll need to dangle a real carrot in front of him.

“Don’t know. I’d have to talk to the band. Davis, my singer, has a day job.”

Hollister grimaces. “Well, he’s going to have to quit that.”

“It’s a real job. Benefits and all.”

“We need a big name, Rees, and yours is the biggest around here.”

“You mean my dad’s name is the biggest around here,” I correct.

He shrugs. “Same thing. Last I checked, you’re still Adam Rees.”

“I’ll think about it,” I say, not wanting to get into a big argument about how I feel about using my last name rather than my music to gain success.

“All I ask.” Grinning, he pulls an envelope from inside his jacket. “All the details are in here, including the Right Stuff management contact. Let me know by the end of the week. I know you’ve always wanted to tour without using your old man’s connections. This is it.”

I fold the envelope and stick it into my back pocket “I’ll let you know.”

“Don’t take too long,” Hollister warns. “There are a dozen other bands that would kill for this.”

Try a thousand other bands, but there’s no point in showing Hollister that I’m eager. He might have questionable ethics, but he’s sharp. I have to pretend lukewarm interest because he’ll leverage any excitement against me. “Like I said, I’ll let you know.”

Hollister purses his lips in frustration. He wants an immediate commitment, but that’s not going to happen. I want to investigate this deal, but most of all, I’m not going to commit to a five month tour of anything until all the guys are on board. I stare implacably back at him. When he realizes he’s not going to get it, he gives me a sad shake of his head. “You’re going to be a headache on this tour, aren’t you?”

“You’ve known me forever, Hollister. Did you think I wasn’t going to question everything?” My entire life has been keeping one eye out for people who wanted to take advantage of me—my money, my skill, my parentage. Because of that, I’ve cultivated a close set of friends outside of the music industry, kept my achievements to myself, and learned to rely on my own gut instinct. With a few missteps here or there, my system hasn’t failed me.

And while I love the idea of this tour, agreeing to it can wait. Tonight is about paying attention to my gut and finding the redhead before someone who isn’t distracted snatches her up.

I make my way down the back hall to the door that leads to the front. The corner where the redhead was stationed is empty. A moment of panic flares.

Did she sneak out while I was loading our equipment? No way. I’ve had enough female attention to know when a woman’s interested—and Miss Hide in the Corner was definitely interested. She wouldn’t have left without making a play, even if it was just to catch my eye and lure me over to her.

Rudd waves to me from the bar. He wants to know about the meeting. I spare another glance toward the bathroom. Women always take a long fucking time in there doing God knows what. Rudd will hassle me all night if I don’t spill the details now. Better for me to get my business out of the way so I can spend the rest of the night with her.

“What was that all about?” Rudd asks when I reach the counter. All three of my band mates look at me with expectant eyes.

I hand the envelope to Ian who pulls out the contract while I explain the deal. “We’ve got an invite to go out on tour with Threat Alert and two others. It’s being partially underwritten by TA’s new label.”

“What about the lack of the record? We’d have nothing to sell at the merch tables,” Ian says. His voice holds suppressed excitement.

“Hollister suggests we build up our fan base during the tour and then record after.”

“I don’t care if we record during the tour,” Rudd offers.

“It’s for five months,” I caution.

“So what? The longer, the better!” cries Rudd. “That’s fucking awesome!” He punches his fist in the air.

“Ian?” I ask.

“Is it even a question?” His smile is so broad, the corners of his mouth might reach his ears. “I’m in. I’m so in.”

“What about the baby?” Ian and his wife just had their first kid.

“Her mom will help. Sarah’s going to be as psyched as anyone. Have you checked it out?”

“Not fully. I’ll vet it tomorrow, but if you guys want to go, I’m down with it.”

Five months playing music with a decent band isn’t a hardship for me. I have plenty of money to take care of us if the tour craters, but while Ian and Rudd are willing to throw five months of their life away for their music, I don’t have the same confidence about Davis.

He peers at me over the top of his glass before draining the contents. Slamming the empty glass on the bar, he hails the bartender.

A girl trots down immediately, her white T-shirt damp from work. “What do you need, babe?”

“I’ll take four shots of the top shelf whiskey,” Davis orders.

“We celebrating something?” I ask, cautiously.

“We’re going on tour,” Davis answers with a crooked smile. “That seems like something to celebrate, no?”

Rudd and Ian bust out the cheers. They body slam each other. Across the room, Hollister catches my eye. I give him an affirmative chin nod and a thumbs up for good measure. He salutes me.

I pick up my just-delivered shot and raise it. “To FMK.”

“To FMK,” the boys cheer.

The whiskey burns as it slides down my throat.

“Christ, man, it’s all coming together,” Ian crows, tossing his shot glass onto the bar top.

“Can you imagine the road pussy?” Rudd claps his hands together.

“Do you ever think about anything but sex?” Davis asks.

“Yeah, music. Which is the same thing, ain’t I right?” Rudd asks me.

“Can’t argue.”

“Give us another round!” Rudd shouts over his shoulder. To us, he says, “I’m going to hit the head. None of you motherfuckers touch the glasses until I get back.”

The crowd slightly parts to make way for Rudd, and that’s when I spot her.

My redhead.

And she’s looking my way.

I hurriedly toss a few bills on the bar to cover the bill.

My band finally coalescing? Check. An undiscovered talent like my new singer found hiding in an office cube? Check. Big tour on deck? Check. Girl I’m supposed to spend my future with waltzes into a random bar and stares at me for nine minutes straight like I’m the incarnation of every wet, dirty fantasy she’s ever had? Check. Check. Check.

“Where are you going?” Ian asks.

“To meet my future,” I answer.

© March 2017 Jen Frederick


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