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Authors: Wendy Higgins

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BOOK: Sweet Evil
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As the current song ended, I watched Kaidan shush the cymbals with his fingers, then tuck the drumsticks under his arm and swish his damp hair from his eyes again. When he leaned down to pick up a water bottle, our eyes met. My breath stuck right where it was in my lungs, and the loud voices around me turned to static white noise. The drummer’s lustful starburst throbbed for one gorgeous moment, and then his forehead creased and his gaze tightened. His eyes searched all around me before coming back to my face. He broke eye contact and took a swig of his water, tossing it back to the floor in time for the next song.

The brief encounter left me unnerved.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” I told Jay, turning to go without waiting for a response. I noticed that the crowd moved much easier when one was moving away from the stage.

The air in the girls’ bathroom was stagnant with smells of urine and vomit. Only one of the three stalls was unclogged, but that didn’t seem to stop girls from using them anyway. I decided I could hold it. I reapplied my lip gloss at the mirror and was about to leave when I overheard two girls who had crammed themselves into one of the tiny stalls.

Kaidan Rowe.”

“I know, right? You should throw him your number. I want Michael, though. He can do to me what he does to that microphone.” They squeezed out of the stall, giggling, and I recognized their voluptuous chests as the ones that had been in front of the stage. Both of their auras were faded.

I adjusted my hair clips. Jay’s sister, Jana, had wrangled my mass of thin strands into well-organized disarray, which I was successfully ruining. I had let her dab a little makeup on my face, but she’d freaked out when I asked her to cover up the pesky freckle at the end of my upper lip.
Are you crazy? Don’t ever cover your beauty mark!
Why did people call it that? A freckle was not beautiful. It was a small, dark attention grabber. I hated the way everyone’s eyes went to it when they talked to me.

I snapped the last clip in place and scooted over so the girls could wash their hands. They shared the faucet and complained about no soap, then moved on to primping. I looked at them, so comfortable together, and wondered what it would be like to have a female friend. I was about to leave when something in their conversation stopped me.

“The bartender said Kaidan’s dad is one of the head honchos at PP in New York City.” My stomach lurched. PP stood for Pristine Publications: a popular, worldwide corporation that included pornographic magazines, videos, and I could only imagine what else.

“No way,” her friend said.

“Yes way. Hey, we should try to get backstage!” She got excited and somehow lost her balance, stepping on my foot and grasping my shoulder. I reached out to steady her.

“Oh, sorry,” she said, leaning against me.

When she seemed to have her balance, I let go of her.

Out of nowhere there was a murky tugging within me, an urge to open my mouth and say something that I knew was neither true nor nice.

“I heard that guy Kaidan has gonorrhea.”

And there it was, out of my mouth. My heart pounded. I knew most people lied on some level, sometimes on a daily basis. But for whatever reason, I’d never even been prone to tiny fibs. I didn’t tell people I was “fine” if I wasn’t. Nobody had ever asked me whether something made their butt look big, so I suppose I’d never been truly tested. All I knew was, until that moment, I had never purposely deceived anyone. The look of shock on their faces mirrored the shock I felt at myself.

“Ew. Are you serious?” asked the girl who had called dibs on him. I couldn’t respond.

“Okay, that’s nasty,” said the other girl.

There was an awkward pause. I didn’t really know what gonorrhea was, except that it was an STD. What in the world was wrong with me? I flinched when Kaidan’s girl reached out and touched my hair.

“Hey, oh my gawd. You have the softest hair. It looks like honey.” Her emotional colors were so muddled from alcohol that I couldn’t get a good reading, but it felt like she was sincere. Guilt soured my stomach.

“Thanks,” I said, feeling terrible. I couldn’t leave that ugly lie sitting out there like that.

“Um, I didn’t really hear that about Kaidan.” They both looked at me with confusion, and I swallowed, forcing myself to continue. “He doesn’t have gonorrhea. I mean, not that I know of.”

“Why would you make that up?” The friend was more sober, and she was looking at me with deserved contempt. The drunken girl still looked confused. I contemplated playing it off like I’d been joking, but that would also be a lie, and who jokes about STDs anyway?

“I don’t know,” I whispered. “I just... I’m sorry.” I backed up and slipped out of there as fast as I could. It was a good thing, too, because Lascivious’s last song was ending and all the girls were wobbling toward the bathroom now. It was time for the bands to switch. I wrung my hands and bit my lower lip, looking for Jay as the crowd surged around me. I wanted to go home.

“Anna!” Jay waved to me, and I had to chase him through the crowd toward a door where a gigantic man stood frowning, arms crossed over his chest in the classic bouncer pose.

I just lied! It was all I could think about. Terrible feelings slithered around in the pit of my belly.

Gregory held out a laminated card, which the bouncer glanced at before opening the door.

I grabbed Jay’s arm. “Wait, Jay, maybe I should just stay out here.”

He turned to me. “No way. Patti’ll kill me if I leave you. It’s all good. C’mon.” He pulled me through the door.

We made our way around crew members who were hurriedly hauling around stage equipment. Music and raucous voices spilled from a room at the end of the hall.

“Are we really doing this?” I asked. And was my voice really all high-pitched and shaky? I needed to scream.

“Chill, Anna. It’s fine. Be cool,” Jay said.

A wall of cigarette smoke and alcohol fumes hit us as we entered the warm room. I put my hands on my hips and tried to be inconspicuous as I checked for sweat marks on my tank top. When I saw small dampened spots had formed I snapped my arms back to my sides.

Be cool
, Jay had said. Like that could ever happen.

It took only a few seconds of scanning the room to find him, standing in a back corner with three long-legged beauties who were obviously aware of the latest fashions. A ribbon of red aura wove around and between them. One of the girls pulled a cigarette from a pack. Like a magician, Kaidan whipped out a matchbook and flicked it open to light a match with one thumb. How did he do that?

Jay gave my hand a tug, but I pulled away.

“No, you guys go ahead. I’ll wait here.” I wanted to stay near the door. My stomach wasn’t right.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’ll be right here. Good luck, or break a leg, or something.”

As Jay and Gregory turned and headed into the crowd, my traitorous eyes returned to the corner and found another pair of eyes staring darkly back.

I dropped my gaze for three full seconds, and then lifted my eyes again, hesitant. The drummer was still staring at me, oblivious to the three girls trying to win back his attention. He put up one finger at the girls and said something that looked like, “Excuse me.”

Oh, my goodness. Was he... ? Oh, no. Yes, he was walking this way.

My nerves shot into high alert. I looked around, but nobody else was near. When I looked back up, there he was, standing right in front of me. Good gracious, he was
—a word that had not existed in my personal vocabulary until that moment. This guy was sexy like it was his job or something.

He looked straight into my eyes, which threw me off guard, because nobody ever looked me in the eye like that. Maybe Patti and Jay, but they didn’t hold my stare like he was doing now. He didn’t look away, and I found that I couldn’t take my gaze off those blue eyes.

“Who are you?” he asked in a blunt, almost confrontational way.

I blinked. It was the strangest greeting I’d ever received.

“I’m... Anna?”

“Right. Anna. How very nice.” I tried to focus on his words and not his luxuriously accented voice, which made everything sound lovely. He leaned in closer. “But who

What did that mean? Did I need to have some sort of title or social standing to enter his presence?

“I just came with my friend Jay?” Oh, I hated when I got nervous and started talking in questions. I pointed in the general direction of the guys, but he didn’t take his eyes off me. I began rambling. “They just wrote some songs. Jay and Gregory. That they wanted you to hear. Your band, I mean. They’re really... good?”

His eyes roamed all around my body, stopping to evaluate my sad, meager chest. I crossed my arms. When his gaze landed on that stupid freckle above my lip, I was hit by the scent of oranges and limes and something earthy, like the forest floor. It was pleasant in a masculine way.

“Uh-huh.” He was closer to my face now, growling in that deep voice, but looking into my eyes again. “Very cute. And where is your

My what? Was that some kind of British slang for boyfriend? I didn’t know how to answer without continuing to sound pitiful. He lifted his dark eyebrows, waiting.

“If you mean Jay, he’s over there talking to some man in a suit. But he’s not my boyfriend or my angel or whatever.”

My face flushed with heat and I tightened my arms over my chest. I’d never met anyone with an accent like his, and I was ashamed of the effect it had on me. He was obviously rude, and yet I wanted him to keep talking to me. It didn’t make any sense.

His stance softened and he took a step back, seeming confused, although I still couldn’t read his emotions. Why didn’t he show any colors? He didn’t seem drunk or high. And that red thing... what was that? It was hard not to stare at it.

He finally looked over at Jay, who was deep in conversation with the manager-type man.

“Not your boyfriend, eh?” He was smirking at me now. I looked away, refusing to answer.

“Are you certain he doesn’t fancy you?” Kaidan asked. I looked at him again. His smirk was now a naughty smile.

“Yes,” I assured him with confidence. “I am.”

“How do you know?”

I couldn’t very well tell him that the only time Jay’s color had shown mild attraction to me was when I accidentally flashed him one day as I was taking off my sweatshirt, and my undershirt got pulled up too high. And even then it lasted only a few seconds before our embarrassment set in.

“I just know, okay?”

He put his hands up in mock surrender and let out an easy laugh.

“I’m terribly sorry, Anna. I’ve forgotten my manners. I thought you were... someone else.” He stuck out his hand. “I’m Kaidan Rowe.”

I peeled one arm away from my tight self-embrace to take his hand. Every inch of my skin broke out in goose bumps, and my face suddenly burned hot. I was glad for the dimmed lighting. I wasn’t one of those people who blushed pink in the cheeks; I blushed crimson in the whole face, and my neck became splotchy. Not cute. The rush of blood always made me dizzy. I should have pulled my hand away then, but he continued to hold it, and his large palm and long fingers felt so nice.

He chuckled deeply and let his hand slide away from mine until we were no longer touching. He noticed as my arms crossed over my chest again, and then he lifted his chin and sniffed the air.

“Ah, smells good. There’s nothing like American hot dogs. I think I’ll have one later.”

Okay. Random. I sniffed.

“I don’t smell anything,” I said.

“Really? Lean toward the door some. Breathe a bit...

I did as he said. Nothing. Determined, I did something that was rare for me: I reached my sense of smell out farther.

There was no scent of hot dogs in the entire club. Only stale alcohol and hot bleach water for the mops. I pushed it out farther. Nothing at the restaurant next door. Farther. My nose burned and I was getting light-headed. Farther. And there it was. I smelled the nearest hot dog at a small street vendor nearly a mile away. My olfactory sense snapped quickly back and I found him watching me with expectancy. What was he playing at? He couldn’t have smelled that. Why would he pretend?

I shook my head and tried to keep my face neutral.

“Hmm.” He smiled. “I suppose I was mistaken, then.”

Gosh, his eyes were gorgeous—the color of tropical honeymoon waters ringed in dark sapphire and enclosed by thick lashes.

What... ? Honeymoon waters? Get a grip!

A wispy perfumed girl walked up and stood between Kaidan and me, placing her back firmly in my face. I had to step backward.

“We’re getting lonely over there.” Her hands moved over his chest and up to rest on his shoulders. Red jumped out from her when she touched him, and he brought his hand up to squeeze her bony hip. I turned away, not listening to his whispered response, which appeared to appease her. She gave me an icy glance before walking back to the corner.

“Maybe I’ll see you around, Anna. I’ll be certain to give your boyfriend Jay’s songs a listen.” And with that he was gone.

“He’s not my... ,” I sputtered at his retreating back.

I’d been looking in the wrong place earlier when I searched for a flaw in Kaidan. It was not in his face; it was in his personality. Confidence was good, but overconfidence was not. I looked around, feeling stupid and alone.

Thankfully I had to stand solitary for only one long moment before Jay came back feeling over-the-moon happy. I let his emotion drench me.

“What were you and Kaidan Rowe talking ’bout?” Jay asked me. “Man, y’all looked like you were gonna rip each other’s clothes off!” I gasped and smacked his arm, but he didn’t flinch.

“We did
.” My eyes darted over to Kaidan for a fraction of a second, and though he was too far away to have heard, the wink he sent me brought another flush to my skin.

“So?” Jay said. “You gonna tell me or not? What was he sayin’ to you?”

What in the world could I tell Jay that wouldn’t leave him as thoroughly confused as I felt? I glanced over at Kaidan again and caught him watching me for one last second before turning his back to us.

BOOK: Sweet Evil
9.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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