We talk about touring and buses. We talk about Rowan and Dee. And when Adam’s cigarette is nothing but a dimming red cherry in the dark, he smashes it under his shoe and we all head back inside. The four of us pass by the sunken sitting area, where Van’s drummer and bass guitarist are hanging out with a cluster of other people. There’s smoke and bottles and paraphernalia on the table that I know better than to inspect too closely or ask questions about, and I let the pool room distract me as a wall of bubbles wraps itself around the laces of my boots. A hot tub in the corner is overflowing with half-naked chicks and vanilla-scented suds, and Nikki ignores the girls calling to her as she beelines straight for Van. He’s sitting on the opposite side of the pool, in a makeshift sitting area of leather couches and chairs that look like they’ve been moved from some other room. The other guys from my band are all with him—aside from Joel, who’s cannonballing into the pool. His splash arcs toward the ceiling, and my eyes travel up to the LED lights sprinkled in the deep blue concrete sky. The pool room is just as magical as the rest of the suite, even when the spray of chlorine-scented water wets the bottoms of my shredded black jeans.
“KIT!” Joel yells from the water, his voice bouncing through the cave-like room. “Get in!”
“Nuh-uh,” I say from the edge, shaking my head for extra emphasis.
He argues, argues, and stops. And then his eyes flit behind me and my training kicks in—all eighteen years of it that I got from living with Kale, Bryce, Mason, and Ryan. In one swift movement, I sidestep and spin, latching on to Adam’s reaching arms and using them to launch him into the pool.
I’m caught off guard when Molly grabs on to me, but end up laughing when she simply starts bouncing up and down, laughing hysterically as Adam’s head pops back out of the water. He’s laughing so hard he can barely breathe, and when Joel jumps onto his back and dunks him under, I’m pretty sure he might die.
I turn to Molly and shrug. “Serves him right.”
“I fucking love you!”
I jump out of the way of the splashes that come my way from Adam and Joel as I circle the pool, flicking them off when they boo me. Karma attempts revenge by making me slip and nearly eat floor, but Molly catches me at the last moment, and we both laugh as we cautiously finish maneuvering around the pool. When I get to the couches, I take the first seat I see, which also happens to be right next to Shawn. I’m propped on top of the plush leather arm of his couch when his fingers brush the suds away from my shins, traveling much higher on my leg than they need to. He gazes up at me, and the red in my cheeks boils to the surface.
“What are the boards for?” Molly asks about the mini dry-erase boards on each of the guys’ laps.
Shawn hands me his, and I give him a confused look as Van says, “You’ll see.” He gives Molly a playful smile, and then he pulls a megaphone from next to his leather chair. Where in the hell these guys got dry-erase boards and a freaking megaphone, I’m sure I’ll never know. “Okay! Contestant one!”
A member of the bikini brigade in the hot tub climbs out and positions herself at the arced entrance of the room. In a sparkling pink two-piece that’s covering her crotch, her nipples, and little else, she faces the pool and waits as Van chants, “On your mark! Get set! No!” Van chuckles as the chick jumps forward a step, tries to stop herself, and slips around like a newborn donkey on ice before he shouts, “Go! Go! Go!”
She’s barely regained her footing when she takes off running, her bouncing boobs threatening to knock her head right off her shoulders. She nearly slips again, catches her footing again, and makes a poor attempt at cannonballing into the pool. The guys are all unmerciful, holding up ones and twos as her wet blonde head emerges. When I realize everyone is staring at me expectantly, waiting for my score, I uncap my marker with my teeth.
“NO. JUST NO.” is what my sign says when I finally lift it above my head. The guys all laugh, the girl giggles like she’s cute, and I roll my eyes as she makes a show of climbing up the ladder of the pool, her bikini bottoms pinched between tan ass cheeks that are pushed out for Van’s benefit.
“NEXT!” he shouts, simultaneously curling his finger at a different girl in the pool. No questions asked, she hauls herself out of the water and rushes to his side. “Grab me something to drink, will you?”
She turns toward the bar like it’s her privilege to serve, and even though it’s a total bitch move, I seize the opportunity before she gets too far. “Me too!” I shout, and when she turns back around, Van gives me an appreciative smile before smacking her on her ass.
Nikki, sitting on Van’s lap as he pays attention to every girl but her, hooks her fingernail under his chin and stares down at him until she’s the only girl in the room. When she kisses him, I look anywhere else, accidentally meeting Shawn’s eyes while my cheeks are flushing as red as the next contestant’s bikini. It’s decorated with tons of polished hardware, and when it’s clear Van’s thoroughly preoccupied, his lead guitarist picks up the megaphone and shouts, “GO!”
Van tears his lips from Nikki to watch the second contestant frolic the length of the floor, stop at the edge, and pinch her nose. She jumps in toes-first—in a cannonball competition—and I’m left sitting there with my face scrunched up and my head shaking in disgust.
“What the fuck was that?” I ask, but when her top floats back up without her—yanked off by her pathetic splash—most of the guys start cheering. They hold up eights and nines as the girl covers herself with one arm and tries to catch her drifting top with the other. Adam—fully clothed, dripping wet, and sitting on the side of the pool—covers his eyes while Joel lifts it with two fingers and launches it in the girl’s direction before she can get too close to him.