Lick (Stage Dive #1)(13)


by Kylie Scott

Mal hissed out a breath. “You’re f**king joking. He sicced that ball-sucker Ted onto you?”

I nodded, blinking, trying to get myself under control.

“Did you have anyone with you?” he asked.

“No.”

He cocked his head. “Are you going to cry?”

“No!”

“Fuck. Come on.” He held out his hand to me and I stared at in disbelief. “Ev, think. There’re photographers and shit waiting out front. Even if you get past them, where are you going to go?”

He was right. I had to go back, get my bag. So stupid of me not to have thought of it. Just as soon as I had myself under control I’d go in and retrieve it, then get the hell out of here. I fanned my face with my hands, took a big breath. All good.

Meanwhile, his hand hovered, waiting. There were a couple of small blisters on it, situated in the join between thumb and finger. Curious.

“Are you the drummer?” I asked with a sniff.

For some reason he cracked up laughing, almost doubling over, clutching at his belly. Maybe he was on drugs or something. Or maybe he was just one more lunatic in this gigantic asylum. Batman would have had a hard time keeping this place in check.

“What is your problem?” I asked, taking a step away from him. Just in case.

His snazzy sunglasses fell off, clattering on the asphalt. He swiped them up and shoved them back on his face. “Nothing. Nothing at all. Let’s get out of here. I’ve got a house at the beach. We’ll hide out there. Come on, it’ll be fun.”

I hesitated, giving the jerks on the front steps a lethal look. “Why would you help me?”

“Because you’re worth helping.”

“Oh, really? Why would you think that?”

“You wouldn’t like my answer.”

“I haven’t liked a single answer I’ve had all morning, why stop now?”

He smiled. “Fair enough. I’m David’s oldest friend. We’ve gotten drunk and out of control more times than I can remember. He’s had girls angling to snare him for years, even before we had money. He never was the slightest bit interested in marriage. It was never even on his radar before. So the fact that he married you, well, that suggests to me you’re worth helping. Come on, Ev. Stop worrying.”

Easy for him to say, his life hadn’t been skewered by a rock star.

“I need to get my stuff.”

“And get cornered by them? Worry about it later.” He held his hand out, fingers beckoning for mine. “Let’s get out of here.”

I put my hand in his and we went.

CHAPTER SIX

“So, hang on, this song isn’t about his dog dying or something?”

“You’re not funny,” I laughed.

“I so am.” Mal sniggered at the opposite end of the couch as Tim McGraw let rip about his kind of rain on the flat screen TV taking up the opposite wall. “Why do they all wear such big hats, do you think? I have a theory.”

“Shush.”

The way these people lived blew my tiny little mind. Mal, short for Malcolm, lived in a place at the beach that was mostly a three-story architectural feat of steel and glass. It was amazing. Not ridiculously huge like the place in the hills, but awe-inspiring just the same. My Dad would have been in raptures over the minimalism of it, the cleanliness of the lines or some such. I just appreciated having a friend in my time of need.

Mal’s house was clearly a bachelor pad-slash-den of iniquity. I’d had a vague notion to make lunch to thank him for taking me in but there wasn’t a single speck of food in the house. Beer filled the fridge and vodka the freezer. Oh, no, there was a bag of oranges used as wedges to go with shots of vodka, apparently. He’d ruled out touching those. His super slick coffee machine, however, made everything right. He even had decent beans. I wowed him by busting out a few of my barista moves. After drinking three cups in the space of an hour, I felt a lot more like my old well-planned, caffeinated self.

Mal dialed for pizza and we watched TV late into the night. Mostly he found his joy in mocking my taste in pretty much everything: movies, music, the lot. At least he did it good-naturedly. We couldn’t go outside because a couple of photographers were waiting on the beach. I felt bad about it but he’d just shrugged it off.

“What about this song?” he asked. “You like this?”

Miranda Lambert strode on screen in a cool ’50s frock and I grinned. “Miranda is mighty.”

“I’ve met her.”

I sat up straight. “Really?”

More sniggering from Mal. “You’re impressed I’ve met Miranda Lambert but you didn’t even know who I was. Honestly, woman, you are hard on the ego.”

“I saw the gold and platinum records lining the hallway, buddy. I’m thinking you can take it.”

He snorted.

“You know, you remind me a lot of my brother.” I almost managed to duck the bottle cap he flicked at me. It bounced off my forehead. “What was that for?”

“Can’t you at least pretend to worship me?”

“No. Sorry.”

With total disregard for my Lambert love, Mal started surfing the channels. Home shopping, football, Gone with the Wind, and me. Me on TV.

“Wait,” I said.

He groaned. “Not a good idea.”

First my school pictures paraded past, followed by one of Lauren and me at our senior prom. They even had a reporter standing across the road from Ruby’s, prattling on about my life before being elevated to the almighty status of David’s wife. And then there was the man himself in some concert footage, guitar in his hands as he sang backup. The lyrics were your typical my-woman-is-mean, “She’s my one and only, she’s got me on my knees …” I wondered if he’d write songs about me. If so, odds were they’d be highly uncomplimentary. “Shit.” I hugged a couch cushion tight to my chest.

Mal leaned over and fluffed my hair. “David’s the favorite, darlin’. He’s pretty, plays guitar, and writes the songs. Girlies faint when he walks by. Team that with your being a young ’un and you’ve got the news of the week.”

“I’m twenty-one.”

“And he’s twenty-six. It’s enough of a difference if they hype it just right.” Mal sighed. “Face it, child bride. You got married in Vegas by an Elvis impersonator to one of rock ’n’ roll’s favorite sons. It was always bound to cause a shit storm. Given there’s also been some crap going on with the band lately … what with Jimmy partying like it’s 1999 and Dave losing his music-writing mojo. Well, you get the picture. But next week, someone else will do something wacky and all the attention will move on.”