Page 28 of Mayhem (Mayhem 1)

A young guy in jeans so worn they look older than I am jogs halfway down the stairs. His eyes go from me to the open door between us, and then he curses something about “Fucking Shawn” and complains, “I told him to close the damn door!” This guy looks Adam’s age, with a mop-top of curly reddish-brown hair and a chin layered with days-old scruff. His long, baggy Ninja Turtles tank makes him look even taller and lankier than he already is.

“Uh . . . Hi, I’m Rowan.” When it becomes clear that means nothing to him, I add, “Adam said to tell you I’m with him.”

The guy looks me up and down. “So you’re the tutor, huh?” I doubt I’m what he expected, but he smiles warmly at me and shakes my hand. “I’m Driver.”

“Nice to meet you.” I knock my toe against my suitcase. “Where should I put my stuff?”

“Oh, here, let me get that for you. Just hang tight.” He takes my suitcase and backpack and disappears upstairs. After Dee finished packing for me, I emptied everything out and started over. She pouted the entire time, complaining about the non-attention-grabbing things I decided to bring along. Flats. Jeans. Leggings. T-shirts. Basically, the polar opposite of what Adam’s “Peach” would wear.

After Driver hops back down to the lower level, I tell him what Adam said about locking up and taking me backstage. He closes up the bus and then walks me across the parking lot. There’s still a long line out the door even though the show’s already starting, but Driver cuts to the front and tells the bouncer I’m with him. Looking at all the girls in line, I suddenly feel way underdressed—which means I’m way overdressed—and way out of place in my black leggings, my blue T-shirt, and my black flip-flops. But it’s not like I have anything better to change into. I frown, realizing I really should have listened to Dee for once, even though there’s no way I’ll admit that to her when she grills me about this the next time we talk on the phone.

When we get inside, my eyes take a moment to adjust to the darkness. And then I hear Adam’s voice, and my eyes swing to the stage. Butterflies. So many butterflies. Why is it that the feeling I had sitting next to him gets multiplied by like . . . a thousand times when I see him standing onstage? The spotlight transforms his ordinary navy blue T-shirt and tattered jeans into . . . ugh, I don’t even know. He is too damn sexy. The front of his shirt is tucked into a studded belt, and he’s running a hand through his hair. I wonder if he knows the effect that has on the girls in the crowd.

By the confident smirk on his face, I’m guessing he does.

Adam talks to the crowd, laughing with Shawn and getting them worked up, while Driver and I skirt along the edges of the room to get backstage. When the first song starts, it makes the ground beneath my feet vibrate. And it’s good. Seriously—really good. I find myself staring up at the band again. There are five of them, with Adam front and center and Shawn off to his right. To Adam’s back-left is a guy much shorter and . . . well, slighter than he is. But maybe that’s just because Adam is so . . . Adam, sucking up all the attention without even trying. The smaller guy has short, light blond hair and is looking down at his guitar as he plays. Closer to the front of the stage, there is another guitar player, this one sporting a spiked blond mohawk. He’s just as tall as Adam, and his neon yellow T-shirt is hugging him so tightly I can tell he must work out. The drummer in back is a guy who is a little heavier, with cropped brown hair. He’s banging on the drums so hard and fast that my eyes are getting a workout just from following his drumsticks. He’s lost in the song, his entire body moving with the beat he’s setting. I could probably watch him all night, but then the beat slows down and the instruments quiet, and all there is is Adam.

I suddenly feel a hand on my elbow, and I realize I’ve stopped walking. I’m just standing there practically undressing Adam with my eyes. I look up at Driver, who points with his chin toward a door a little farther back, and I follow him. He shows a pass to the security there, and then we both slip inside.

“Ever been backstage before?” he asks as he leads me down a hallway packed with rolling band equipment and people bustling back and forth.

I shake my head. “No.”

He grins back at me. “Then this’ll blow your mind!” He opens a door that leads to a set of stairs. The music is deafening in a way that makes my blood buzz with excitement. I’m mesmerized, watching the guys play from a vantage point that most people will never get to experience. Their backs are to me, but every time Adam turns in my direction to walk across the stage, it’s like my heart stops beating. He looks as comfortable onstage as he did singing to me in the car, maybe even more so, as absurd as that is. When the song hits a chorus, he crouches down at the edge of the stage and holds his microphone out to the crowd. Everyone sings in unison as crowd surfers ride the waves. The front rows are surging forward to touch Adam’s sneakers, the frayed edges of his jeans. He stands up and walks across the stage again, and when his eyes lock with mine, I’m sure I look as stunned as I feel. Adam smiles and winks at me—seriously winks—and I’m surprised I don’t faint right then and there. But then he turns his back to me and continues the song, and I can breathe again.

Can I still call myself a virgin after that wink? Dear God . . .

The next song starts out quieter. Someone rushes past me, carrying a stool out for Adam to sit on. Adam puts the mic back in its stand and holds on to it as he sings in a voice as beautiful as it is haunting. He sings about breaking hearts and girls who should have known better, and there’s no doubt he’s the person who wrote this song. The lyrics convey a lack of emotion, but the way Adam sings it . . . it’s like I can feel every word.