Before Evie Pearson, I never thought a pyrotechnician could be so damn cold.
Fifteen thousand people are screaming my name, and she won’t even look at me. Crab crawling along the front edge of the stage, she mutters to herself as she pours explosives into small metal canisters.
She told me what the compound is, but I was too stunned she’d responded to my question to pay attention to the answer.
Three weeks she’s been on tour, and she’s barely spared me a glance. Every member of the band has won their way onto her good side. Except me.
Fuck. Even our surly head of security makes her smile on a regular basis.
I grab thousands of people by the balls every night, not to mention enough groupies to notch my mic stand into a pile of shards.
But Evie? Nope.
The last of the stage lights dim as the intro music starts. In her black cargos, boots, and tank top, she becomes a shadow as she heads to the risers, doing one last quick check before she disappears behind the wall of amps. A moment later a small light comes on across the stage and I can just make out her roadie pass hanging from her neck over the switches on her control board.
The board she uses to detonate a few thousand dollars’ worth of pyro within inches of my dick every night.
Maybe it’s not such a bad thing she’s cold. If she was hotblooded, she’d probably burn me to ash when I fuck up.
She’s the last roadie to leave the stage before Bax mounts the drums and Terrel, our tour manager, turns on the house mic to do the introduction.
Fifteen seconds left and like clockwork, the last bits of Grady Baker, guy, get consumed by Grady Baker, rock star. It crawls out of my bone marrow, through my pores, until I’m covered in the sleaze and sex and angst and fists-in-the-air performer the fans are here to see.
It’s not just for the show. It’s a living, breathing, fucking part of me. A part I relish for one hundred and twelve minutes on this stage.
“Phoenix, Arizona!” Terrel shouts into the mic, and the noise in the arena triples. Screaming, chanting, feet stomping, hands clapping. “Put your fucking fists up! From the gutters of the Sunset Strip, Bourbon Suicide!”
Lights flash on Bax as he raises his arms, bringing his sticks down hard on the snare drum to launch into the first song.
Noah, James, and Dodge run to the edge of the stage, lights following them, and I prowl out, taking a running jump onto the monitor at the front of the extension in the middle. I raise the mic and the crowd sings every line with me. By the end of the first chorus, they’re mine. For the next one hundred and ten minutes, I own them.
The bridge before the guitar solo starts and with it, a pounding downbeat. At the end, I raise my fist in the air and growl into the mic, then crescendo to the yell that launched our first number one hit. Beside me and just a little to each side, fire balls launch nine feet into the air. With each one, my heart pumps another shot of adrenaline into my system, until I’m vibrating out as much energy as the crowd is feeding us. Flanking the drum riser, more fire spurts with each downbeat of the song until the solo starts and the spotlight swings from me to Dodge.
I jump off the monitor, heading to the riser where a bottle of water is waiting. I reach down and touch the leather of my pants. It’s warm from the pyro and there’s sweat beading on my neck under my hair.
Before the next verse, I glance over at Evie. She’s watching us with sharp eyes, making sure we’re where we’re supposed to be before the next pyro cue. Even so, there’s a happy little tilt to her lips that the first effect went off.
To own that mouth for five minutes, I’d gladly let her singe my balls.
By the end of the next song, I’ve given myself over to the music, the crowd, the show. Time stands still and races at the same time. I’m not aware of a damn thing else. Because not a damn thing else matters.
“Are you ready to get fucking dirty tonight?” I ask the crowd and a roar rolls from the cheap seats, gathering force as it meets the people crushed to the barrier in front of the stage and crashes over me in a resounding yes.
We rip through another number one hit, girls flashing me in a wave as I stalk across the stage. The drum solo is next, and I duck off stage, into a hidden corner behind the boards where the crowd can’t see me.
Not everything about rock and roll is pretty. Including singers spitting out mucus and saliva and fuck knows what else a few times a show. Maybe sweat? It runs into my mouth enough.
I tilt the bottle of electrolyte water I grabbed before I sat down to my lips, but it’s already empty.
“Fuck,” I grumble, my legs not quite ready to stand me up yet.
“Here.” It’s a female voice. Since there’s only one female back here, it’s Evie. I raise my head and yep, she’s holding out a full bottle, cap already off.
I nod my thanks and chug it down, sprawling back in the metal folding chair like it’s a throne. It’s only then I realize she’s heard me coughing out all the gunk now splattered across a towel taped to the floor beside me.
No wonder she doesn’t want a damn thing to do with me, king of fucking rock and roll or not.
“Need this too?” she asks, lifting a bottle over her shoulder. It’s a spray lozenge that tastes like shit but does the job. It’s not mine, and it takes a second for me to realize it must be hers. No idea why she needs it, but it’s not the worst idea, so I reach over and grab it, my forearm brushing against her biceps in the small space. She’s not as sweaty as I am, but there’s a sheen on her shoulders and the strands of hair that escaped her messy bun are damp and clinging to her face and neck. Nevertheless, her skin is warm and soft and my forearm buzzes from the contact.
The urge to bend her over the board and fuck us both stupid makes my leather pants even tighter, but she looks over her shoulder with a pointed look and jabs her thumb toward the stage.
Right. Forty-five seconds until the next vocal.
Barely enough time to get our pants down, even if she was up for it. Which she is obviously not.
I’m around her board and almost onto the stage when I remember the bottle of lozenge. I spin on my heel, shout “Head’s up!” and toss it at her. She snatches it ten inches above the controls, but her eyes blaze.
“What the fuck, cockbag!” she screams at me.
For a second, my jaw drops. I’d done it for a reaction, any reaction, but this is even better than I could have dreamed.
It’s all I can do to keep the grin off my face long enough to get the vocals out.
“Fuck it. You guys want another song?” I ask thirty-five minutes later. We do two songs for the encore, and we just finished the first. We’ve got ten minutes before local ordinance says we have to finish playing, so we can throw in an extra.
I swing around to the guys and we do a quick rock-paper-scissors to decide who gets to choose the song. We come up with several covers during sound checks for possibilities. None of them are ever my dad’s, but they’re from that era. Tonight, Noah wins.
“So when you’re talking sleaze fucking rock,” I pause for the crowd to roar. “You’re talking Faster fucking Pussycat, am I right?”
The roar gets loader as Noah starts one of the best riffs in all of rock and roll, Faster Pussycat’s “Bathroom Wall.” I catch a glimpse of Evie as I scan the crowd on that side, and she’s still glaring at me. But she’s also dancing a little to the riff.
At least I hope it’s the riff. There’s a huge pyro cue at the end of our last song, and it would be pretty easy to toast me with it.
We close with our biggest hit, and I catch a towel and a few high fives as we exit stage left, right past Evie’s board. Where she has not blown me up, but she is collapsed in the chair I was in earlier, wiping her brow. Her hands are as dirty as any roadie’s and it leaves a dark smear across her flushed skin.
I toss my towel, still clean, at her and she looks at me like I threw a sack of vomit, but at least she’s finally looking at me.
“Hey, Grady,” someone purrs as I walk past. “Bet I can make you scream like that again tonight.” She’s gorgeous, but she wants the guy on stage. I give her his dirtiest smile, but I’m already sloughing him off for the night.
There’s more than a few groupies backstage willing to peel me out of my leather pants, but I slip into my dressing room alone. Restless energy is still pounding in me but for maybe the first time ever, fucking through it holds no appeal.
I work the buttons open and give a silent thank you for lining. Otherwise I’d have jock itch from my waist to my ankles. It’s still a battle to pull them off. My boxer briefs are soaked through and those and my socks go straight in the trash.
Our wardrobe mistress-slash-administrative goddess puts up with a lot for rock and roll, but washing our underwear and socks is not part of it.
The water is only lukewarm, but it’s enough to lather up enough soap to stop the smell and make me feel almost human again.
I take two shots of the whiskey left on my dressing table as I pull on ragged jeans and a worn t-shirt. There’s a backstage party raging, but instead I sit on the lumpy couch and pull out the night’s ticket information. Just a few minutes to catch my breath, then I’ll go out there and do what rock stars do. One more show and we have a few days off in Vegas. Then I can just chill. I spend most of our downtime by myself these days, and try not to wonder what it’d be like to watch a movie with someone. As long as we’re touring, it won’t happen. Long distance doesn’t work.
As perfect as her pyro, an image of Evie, curled against me on a huge comfortable couch, laughing at some dumb comedy, flashes across my mind anyway.
Usually I know what is about a woman that catches my attention. I’m attracted to this feature or that trait.
With Evie, I have no idea. Not that she isn’t pretty, she is, but that’s not why I have to fight to keep my eyes off her. Her voice is sharp more often than not, yet my ears perk up at every sound she makes. Until tonight, I’d never touched her, not even a handshake when we met, yet my skin seems to know when she’s around.
I take another shot and force myself to focus on the numbers.
Sold out. Ninety percent of the shows for this tour were sold out in three days. The rest are selling out before we roll into town. Careful scheduling and buying our staging outright after our last tour means we’re pulling in even higher profits this tour. The album dropped at number one, and is still selling strong three months later.
The band, as a business entity, set out three years ago to be a five-hundred-million-dollar enterprise within ten years. We’d be in our late-thirties, less than twenty years since our first release. We’re ahead of schedule. Now we just have to not fuck it up.
The person peeking their head in the door doesn’t care about any of that. Her name escapes me, but the long shiny dark hair and bright green eyes are familiar. My dick stirs as it remembers every time she’s sucked it when we’ve been in town. Bax’s head pops up behind her.
If there’s a first time for anything happening, Bax is down for it. He holds up three fingers and gestures to the two of them and me. Bax ran out of his own firsts years ago, and it wouldn’t be the first three-way he and I have been in, so it must be a first for her.
It’d be hot. It’d be fun. It’d burn off the last of this edginess.
I shake my head and point to my throat. It’s not a complete lie. My voice has been giving me trouble lately.
“Dude. You need to cool it down after a show too,” Bax says, his concern genuine. He slides an arm around her waist. “No worries, doll. I’ll bet Dodge is up for some fun.”
She smiles up at him then turns back to me. “We’ll miss you, though. Great show!”
I smile back and nod. Five minutes later, I’ve packed up my shit, dumping my leather pants and other stage clothes into a laundry bag and putting it on top of my case. I pull on a hoodie and head for the buses where I’ll most likely rub one out before we head back to the hotel.
Roadies are tearing down the stage and starting to shove cases to the parking lot, but that hasn’t stopped a few of them from popping into shadowy corners to enjoy the women hanging around.
I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it. I take a deep breath and belt out a line like I’m aiming for the nosebleed section.