He sounded like a young Paul McCartney, if Paul McCartney were really, really stoned.
“…wwwwhy?” I asked with trepidation.
“Do you really have to ask that question?” Derek said, in a deliberate echo of our conversation down in the bar.
I shot him another look. He just grinned, knowing he’d gotten my goat.
“Wow, you know how to pick ‘em, D,” Riley said. “Great rack, but dumb as fuck.”
God, she was worse than a construction worker.
Wait – how DO they all know who I –
I closed my eyes. I could have slapped my forehead when I realized it.
The songs. Of course… the songs.
I turned back to Derek. “You told them who you were writing about?”
Riley burst out laughing. “He didn’t have to tell us anything – it was ‘Kaitlyn this, Kaitlyn that’ the whole fuckin’ first album. Your name was in every other goddamn verse. We had to hold a band meeting and strong-arm him into changing the lyrics.” She cocked her head and looked me up and down as though judging livestock. “From the way you were all gone on her, D, I thought she was Miss America and Miss December all wrapped up into one. She ain’t all that… but I’d still hit it,” she added, as though she’d be doing me a favor.
I slipped behind Ryan a little bit more.
“You’re not making a very good first impression, Riley,” he scolded her.
“The fuck do I care what kind of impression I make?”
“Nowhere to go but up,” Killian said genially as he took a drag on his joint.
“Yeah – exactly! Nowhere to go but up. Hey, Blondie!”
Is she talking to me?
I was the only blonde in the room, if you didn’t count half of Riley’s mohawk.
“You into chicks?” she asked eagerly.
“Aaaah, we can fix that,” she said, and waved her hand like it was no big deal. “After one night of me goin’ down on you – ”
At that exact moment, Miles suddenly reappeared from another room, or wherever he’d been hiding for the last few minutes. “Christ, Riley, can’t you keep it in your pants for at least five goddamn minutes?”
“No, I can’t. Hey, Blondie, did Miles give you the boot speech?”
Before I could answer, she turned to the manager. “Hey, Miles, didja? Didja give her the boot speech?”
“Piss off, Riley.”
“Ha haaaa – you did! ‘Ah’ve gah a shuvell in me boot.’ What else ya got in your boot, Miles?”
“What didn’t you understand about ‘piss off’?”
“‘Av ya got a pint in your boot?” Riley prattled away in a hilariously bad English accent. “‘Av ya got a guv’nor in your boot?”
“You’re not even making sense – not that you ever do. Oy, and you – ” Miles snapped his fingers at Derek behind the bar. “What the fuck did I tell you? No more drinking before the show!”
In answer, Derek very deliberately picked up his glass of amber liquid and took a long swig, never breaking eye contact with Miles the entire time.
“That’s right, keep it up, you stupid sod,” Miles lectured. “Go an’ piss yourself onstage, for all I care.”
“I’d pay good money to see that,” Riley snorted. “Hey, D, throw me some Jack!”
“Don’t – ” Miles warned, but Derek picked up a bottle of Jack Daniels and lobbed it underhanded into the air.
I freaked out. I totally expected it to crash to the floor and shatter in a million pieces and a tidal wave of whiskey –
But Riley caught it expertly, like it was a move they’d practiced many times before.
“You arseholes – ” Miles shouted.
“That’s the other thing in the boot!” Riley exclaimed, as though she’d just now remembered it. She lapsed back into her British accent: “‘Av you got an arsehole in your boot?’”
“Hey Riley, you’re a millionaire now,” Derek said. “Why don’t you drink better shit than Jack Daniels?’
“Cuz I’m not a pussy like you,” she retorted, right before she started guzzling straight from the bottle.
“It’s like working with animals,” Miles fumed.
“At least they’re housebroken,” Killian offered.
“Barely. And you,” Miles snapped at Killian, “do you know how much it’s going to cost to steam-clean this room? It smells like a goddamn Rastafarian convention in here.”
Killian shrugged. “Apparently I’m a millionaire now, if Derek’s to be believed.”
“I am,” Derek called out.
“I think I can pay for it, then,” Killian said philosophically.
“Hey Blondie – ya got a nice ‘boot,’” Riley catcalled as she twirled her drumsticks in her hands.
“Derek, you ever tap that boot?”
“Not yet,” he said as he took another sip of his drink.
“Not EVER,” I snapped, and glared at him again.
Derek gave me a self-satisfied little grin. Like, Just wait.
“Oooooh, drama,” Riley hooted. “Hey Blondie – you ever take it in the boot?”
Ryan looked down at me. “So… welcome.”
“Thanks,” I muttered.
What the hell have I gotten myself into?
Ryan turned back to the other two band members. “Kaitlyn’s here to interview us for Rolling Stone.”
Again Killian’s fingers froze on the guitar, and he looked at Derek for confirmation. “What, she’s the one?”
“She’s the one you’re breaking your famous embargo for?”
The guitarist shook his head in wonder and went back to playing. “This just gets curiouser and curiouser…”
“Waaaait a minute,” Riley scowled. “How is it that the same chick you mooned over is the one who – ohhhhhhh. You couldn’t seal the deal back in the day, so you thought you’d bring her here and dangle that big exclusive in front of her so you can getchoo some, huh?”
Actually, that had been my working theory, too… although I wouldn’t have put it quite that way.
Neither would Derek, because he flipped her the bird.
Riley threw a drumstick at him. Just whipped her arm back and sent it pinwheeling through the air.
I let out a little scream.
Derek sidestepped out of the way just in time, and the drumstick clanked! against the row of bottles behind him.
“JESUS!” Miles shouted.
“Yeah, respect the booze, Riley,” Derek said, completely unfazed, like flying drumsticks happened all the time.
“Shut up or I’ll shove the next one up your ass.” Riley turned back to me. “So, Blondie, what do you wanna ask me first? How I like my women? Cuz I like ‘em like you.”
“…that wasn’t on my list, no.”
“What is on your list?” Ryan asked.
I actually hadn’t gotten that far yet.
I’d been too preoccupied with seeing Derek for the first time in four years to actually think of any questions.
Riley shook her head. “Woooow. You really must wanna tap that ass, D, cuz she sucks at being a reporter.”
“Journalist,” I corrected.
“Well, you suck at that, too,” she assured me cheerily.
“No time for chitchat, we have sound check in an hour.” Miles clapped his hands. “Let’s go, let’s go! Limo’s waiting for us downstairs!”
Killian stood up and took his guitar. Riley followed him. Derek snagged a bottle from the bar and headed for the door.
“I need to go get my stuff first,” I protested.
“Then you get to the concert on your own,” Miles snapped.
“But – ”
Ryan saved the day. “What do you need?”
“I left my tape recorder in my bag, which is in my room. I hope.”
Since I hadn’t even been to my room yet.
He reached over by a laptop computer and grabbed something. When he handed it to me, I saw that it looked like a digital recorder with a fat, wide microphone at the top. ZOOM was printed across the front, above a control panel of tiny buttons.
“Here, take this. There’s a flash card in it – there should be, like, 24 hours of recording time on it.”
“Don’t you need it?”
“I’ve got plenty just lying around.”
“‘Just lying around’?”
“We record practice on them in case somebody comes up with something great. Plus, when inspiration strikes, I always want to have something around to record it.”
“Press that button there… see the red blinking light? That means you’re on standby. Hit it again and you get a continuous red light, which means you’re recording. Then just hit that button to stop recording.”
“Thanks,” I said gratefully.
“Teach her to do her fuckin’ job in the limo!” Miles said, herding everyone towards the door. “Let’s go, let’s go! Right!”