“It’s different when you go from being fuck-friends to just-friends,” I reason. Yes, Joel was sweet today. No, it doesn’t mean anything. “Maybe he thinks he has to do those things.” Or maybe he still feels like he owes me for what happened with Cody. One day, maybe he’ll consider us even and then we’ll be nothing at all.
Rowan sighs and flops flat on her back on the black-satin bed. I kick her foot and say, “I need scissors.”
“To murder you for convincing me to take your packing advice.” When she glares at me, I roll my eyes and say, “I need to go all fairy-godmother on one of these T-shirts.”
After she finds me a pair from downstairs, I spread one of my new band shirts flat on the bed and cut one of the sleeves off to make the shirt one-shouldered. Then I cut the other sleeve into a thin strap and tie the top of it into a cute knot. I continue cutting slits all the way down that side of the shirt, and then I cut a straight line through them and tie the ends of fabric together into more cute knots. With knots and peek-a-boo slits laddering the side of the shirt, I carefully pull the now fitted top over my head and ask Rowan how I look.
Even though she’s shaking her head, a smile sneaks onto her face. “You look like a freaking rock star.”
Outside, the air is thick with unshed rain, and in the open lot next to the buses, there are people everywhere, laughing and drinking and chasing each other with squirt guns. Singers and guitarists and drummers. Roadies and festival volunteers and girls. Sooo many girls.
Shadows intrude on the massive bonfire from all sides, and in the darkness, cigarette cherries twinkle like fireflies. Girls with dyed hair and piercings are prancing around with sparklers or draping themselves over guys who spent the day performing onstage. When a topless girl with big fake boobs skips up to us, I’m too busy staring at her bouncing tits to notice she’s trying to hand me a sparkler. Rowan takes it instead, and the girl frolics away. Some guys are gawking, some are drooling, and yet others are barely glancing in her direction. Rowan and I are both staring after her with our mouths hanging open.
“Oh . . .” I say.
“My . . .” Rowan adds.
We look at each other, mirroring wide-eyed, open-mouthed expressions.
“What the hell was that?” Rowan asks, and I shake my head.
“A sparkler fairy?”
She lets that sink in for a moment, and then we both burst out laughing.
“Oh my GOD,” she says mid-laugh, grabbing my shoulders with a look of absolute horror on her face. “My boyfriend is here somewhere!”
When we find Adam, he’s already unsteady on his feet, standing in a group of around a dozen people while warding off a pair of groupies with two sparklers crossed like a crucifix. When he spots Rowan, he shouts, “Peach! Did you bring the holy water?”
Joel, Shawn, and Mike are standing nearby laughing their asses off with a bunch of other guys, and the girls in front of Adam are pouting.
“Do you need something?” Rowan asks the girls, fully accustomed by now to putting groupie bitches in their place. She sidles next to Adam and gives them a look that could kill.
“Who the hell are you?” one of them asks.
“Are you deaf?” I taunt from behind them. “She’s Peach!”
“And who the hell are you?” the girl snarls, turning her scowl on me.
Rowan smiles my way and says, “She’s Sparkler Fairy’s understudy!”
I crack a wide smile and take a flourished bow, and the girls huff and walk away with confused looks on their sour faces.
“Sparkler Fairy?” Joel asks. His shirt is off, flaunting toned muscles shadowed under golden skin, and a pair of cargo shorts is slung low on his hips, barely held up by a mesh belt. My tongue curls against the back of my teeth, missing the cold bite of his nipple ring.
“Oh, you know the one,” I say, snapping myself from my ogling and holding my hand up a little higher than my head. “About this tall. Hasn’t eaten a cheeseburger in her entire life. Boobs out to here.” I hold my palms a foot away from my chest, and Joel laughs while Shawn grins into his red Solo cup. His arm is slung around a cute brunette—this one with her top on, thank God—and I’m surprised Joel hasn’t picked up some arm candy of his own.
As if on cue, he moves to my side and wraps his arm around my waist. “You must mean Izzy.”
I lift an eyebrow at him but don’t bother asking how he knows her name. There are some things I just do not want to know.
The guys introduce Rowan and me to the rest of the people in the circle, punctuating some of the names with inside jokes I’m not paying attention to—because I’m too busy trying not to notice Joel’s bare skin pressed against my side or the way his fingers are finding the side-slits in my shirt and teasing my goose-bumped skin.
“You should’ve done this to one of our shirts,” he whispers in my ear, his fingers sliding deep into the slits. If he wants to be nothing but friends, he’s doing a fucking terrible job, because my brain is flash firing with all sorts of not-just-friendly ideas.
“Why?” I manage to ask, my voice miraculously steady.
“Because I’m never going to hear the end of it.”
“What do you mean?” I ask, my brow furrowing up at him.
He points his chin toward the other side of the circle, and I look across it just in time to see the lead singer of Cutting the Line join our group. Van Erickson claps hands and gives hugs to people he’s apparently friends with, including Adam, Mike, and Shawn, and his eyes travel around the circle. They land on me, they stick, and my brain sputters. Joel’s fingers tighten around my side.