Page 35 of Riot (Mayhem 2)

I sing along with the lyrics, thrumming with energy that crashes through my body like rapids. When I jump up and down with the beat, I’m reminded that my bra is undone, and my laughter causes Rowan to give me a strange look.

“Can you clasp my bra?” I yell to her over the music. Her eyebrows pinch together, and still laughing, I turn away from her and lift my shirt in the back so she can re-clasp it before I turn back around.

We watch the show until the set ends, and the entire crowd screams until voices are lost and eardrums are bruised. The guys and I head backstage, and Joel barely has time to brace himself before he has to catch me in midair. My arms wrap around his neck and my knees bend as he holds me. “You were so fucking good!”

“Come back to the bus with me,” he says in my ear. His voice is low, seductive, and when I pull away to look at him, his eyes are full of unspoken promises that make the rapids in my veins boil.

I drop to the ground toe by toe when the rest of our group catches up with me, and Van joins us from the other direction and claps Joel on the back. “You guys have to come with us to the meet and greet.”

“Dee has a headache,” Joel says without taking his eyes off me, and Van laughs and gives me a wide smile.

“Meet and greet is in fifteen minutes. Joel can take care of your headache later or you guys can find a Porta-Potty and take care of it in there, but then he needs to get his ass to our tent.”

Fifteen minutes later, after Joel tries and fails to sweet-talk me into a Porta-Potty, Rowan and I are sitting at the back of Cutting the Line’s merchandise tent. Van and his two non-hungover band mates are busy signing people’s stuff and introducing them to Joel and the rest of The Last Ones to Know.

“Networking,” I muse, swinging my pointer finger back and forth between the two bands.

Rowan nods and blows a big bubble with her gum. “Sometimes it makes me nervous.” I gaze over at her, and she sighs. “Did you see how big that crowd got today?”

It was impossible not to. Once people realized Cutting the Line was playing, they abandoned other stages to join the frenzy. A mob of people manifested out of thin air, and I realized where the festival got its namesake.

“It was like the girls in the audience suddenly developed an allergy to clothes,” Rowan complains, and a single chuckle escapes me. There were topless girls crowd surfing and sitting on shoulders, and it didn’t escape me that one of them was probably the girl who offered to suck Joel’s dick. I don’t doubt that she would if given the chance, and then I’d have to kill her.

“Adam loves you,” I assure Rowan, but I understand why she’s worried. Relationships require a lot more than just love, and a relationship with a rock star is going to be tested. A lot.

My gaze drifts to Joel, and as if he can feel my eyes on him, he looks over his shoulder and flashes me a pearly white smile. I try to return it, but it feels weak.

When he turns back around, chatting up a group of girls clamoring for his attention, I turn back to Rowan. She’s glancing back and forth between us like she’s trying to figure us out. Like that isn’t impossible.

“What is it about him?” she asks sincerely, and I brush off her question.

“He’s hot.”

“What else?”

“He’s a rock star.”

Rowan narrows her eyes on me. “I think you’re lying.”

“You also think aliens built the pyramids.”

Her eyes remain narrowed, and I smirk at her. She blows another obnoxiously large bubble and pops it at me, and then we both stare out at the long line formed in front of the tent.

In our silence, I think of all the reasons I didn’t give her.

I like Joel because he makes me laugh. Because he doesn’t put up with my shit. Because he breaks down doors and convinces me I’m not broken. Because he tells me he cares about me. Because I’m starting to believe it.

Chapter Thirteen

THE SECOND TIME Joel and I have sex without a condom is different from the first, with lots of giggling and repositioning and knocking things over on the kitchenette counter. Afterward, I’m liquid in his hands, and it takes every ounce of strength I have left to put my clothes back on and join everyone else outside. The bonfire is relit and raging, and the entire party is rippling with an exhausted sort of excitement, the kind that makes people friendly and stupid-happy.

We find Rowan, Adam, Shawn, and Mike sitting in a circle of lawn chairs with Van, his band mates, some familiar faces from last night, and a few faces I don’t recognize.

“The man of the hour!” Van shouts, and everyone cheers Joel and lifts their Solo cups in a toast. I’m looking for a spot to sit when someone taps me on the shoulder.

Two pretty girls grin at me when I turn around—one short, one tall, both with candy-apple-red hair and milky white skin. The short one has an eyebrow piercing and a pixie haircut, and the tall one has a tiny diamond nose stud and hair down to her waist.

“I love your shirt,” the tall one says. She’s built like she was born to roll around in music videos, with long, long legs and a slim, slim waist.

“Thanks . . .”

“Did you make it yourself?” the shorter girl asks. When I nod, she beams up at her friend. “Told you!”

“Can you make me one?” the taller girl asks me.

“And me?” her friend adds.

Today, I lost count of the number of compliments I received on my shirt. A few girls asked me where I bought it and were awed when I told them I made it. But these are my first requests, and I feel an odd sense of pride getting them. “I’d need scissors . . .”