“What the hell is she doing here?” Drake Bonham’s words alarmed me, waking me up better than any cup of coffee could at four in the morning. I tried to hide my shock and act as nonchalant as possible.
Did I really want to explain what I was doing here? As much as I wanted a hole in the head.
I let Ryder take the lead.
“She’s coming with us.” Ryder didn’t look at Drake when he spoke, unaffected by the tone of his inquisition. His eyes lost in the shadow of the bill of his baseball cap, he continued playing with his phone. I stood nervously next to him as he perched on his suitcase. I wanted desperately to reach out to him for some sort of comfort. I didn’t, in fear that Drake would swat my hand like an old nun with a ruler.
“No. Maddox, you know the rules. You double bag it and forget about the chicks when you leave town.” In Drake’s eyes, I was less important than luggage. I wondered about all the girls who followed the band around, hoping fora second of Drake’s attention would feel listening to him right now, talking about me like I was some cheap souvenir.
Ryder sighed and shoved his phone in the pocket of his motorcycle jacket. “I’ve had enough of the rules. They’ve already cost me my kids and marriage.How much more do you expect me to give up for your band? She’s coming with us.”
“That’s right. My band. As your boss, I’m telling you we don’t need to be transporting groupies all over the country.”
“Don’t worry, she won’t cost you a cent. I’ll take care o fher out of my per diem.”
“She’s not coming.”
“Either she comes with us, or I stay here with her.” The tension in the room was electric as Ryder and Drake glared at each other, almost willing each other into a full blown fist fight. The other members of the band hardly reacted, like this was a regular occurrence. Great.
Was I willing to destroy any more lives to enter some sort of parallel witness protection plan universe?
I was still recovering from the shock of learning that Drakeregarded the other members of the band like bad children who couldn’t think for themselves. If it wasn’t for Ryder, Drake wouldn’t have ever written all of those songs, or had the success he had enjoyed.
No wonder I always liked Ryder better. I always thought Drake was a pompous *ss. What had Erin seen in him?
Even a pretty face couldn’t excuse all that ugly.
I put my hand on Ryder’s shoulder. “Listen, I don’t want to cause any trouble. I can meet you there instead.” It might have been a good idea anyway. Otherwise, my car would be left in the parking lot and I’d have no way to get home from wherever they left me.
Like I could ever go home again.
“No. It’s no trouble at all. I want you to come with me.”He looked up at me but didn’t smile.
I could feel the steam rolling off of Drake as he crossed his arms in front of his chest from the corner of my eye. I didn’t dare make eye contact with him, lest he incinerate me with his glare. “It’s cool, I don’t want to cost you your job or anything.”
Drake scoffed, but we both ignored him.
“You won’t. If you’re going to hang around with me, baby,you need to get used to Drake’s outbursts.” Finally the corners of Ryder’s mouth turned upward. I nodded and smiled, sneaking a look at Drake. He rolled his eyes and shook his head.
An awkward silence spread over the lobby as we waited to board the bus. I tried to distract myself by looking at my phone. Friends back home were wondering how Jamie and I were faring during the storm, with some even asking if we needed anything. A friend with electricity and heat offered her house if the cold was too much to handle. All the kindness overwhelmed me. I could probably still feign being a power outage victim; it bought me some time before I had to start answering their questions.
How long would it take before someone started looking for us because we didn’t answer them? How long before Angela’s family started searching for her, if not already?
I attempted to focus, hard, on how excited I should be to be going on tour with my favorite band. But all I could see was Angela’s two little girls.
I focused my thoughts again. I’d never been on a tour bus before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. We boarded a small kitchen area first,and rows of bunks eerily stacked like coffins, filled the middle.
“This is home.” Ryder stopped at the top bunk off to the right side. He graciously took my bag and slung it up on the bed. “The lounge area is in back, and the bathroom is right here.” He pointed to a door at the entrance to the living area. “You know the rules of the bus, right?”
“No. What rules?” What I thought would be a party bus was turning into a boarding school on wheels.
Ryder chuckled and blushed. “I can’t believe I’m saying this to a lady. Serious business, if you know what I mean, goes in a bag and gets thrown out the window.”
I burst out laughing. “Why on earth would you do that?”
“You don’t want to be traveling on a rolling cow patty.”
“Oh my God.” I pictured myself throwing a bag of crap ou tof the window onto the side of the road. “That’s so gross. Funny, but gross.”
“That’s kind of what life is like on the road.” Adam, the drummer, piped in as he put his stuff in the bunk below us. “Funny, but gross.”
“I wouldn’t expect much else from five guys living on a bus.”I smiled at him. He winked at me and headed back toward the lounge.
Speaking of Drake, where was he? “There are only four bunks and there are five of you.” I did a head count while looking at Ryder. “Where doe sDrake sleep?”
“He has his own bus.”
“What? Are you kidding? He’s too good to travel with you guys?” And he was concerned about me costing too much money? Little did he know I could more than pay my own way. And the b*stard had his own bus.
“Something like that.” Ryder shrugged.
Drake was obviously a sore subject. I needed to stop pouring salt on the wound. Time to switch gears.“So what happens on this bus?”
“Oh you know, a little of this, a little of that.” Ryder smiled, leaning against the bunks, making his black T shirt ride up a little on his stomach, and exposing the line of hair that started at his belly button disappeared into his jeans. I forced myself to tear my eyes away.
“Do the mice play while the cat is away?” I traced my finger along his jawbone.
“They do.” He grabbed my hand, putting my finger into his mouth to suck on it. He had some crazy sharp teeth. I thought I had imagined it while we were in bed together, but now it felt like he practically had fangs. I’d never noticed that before. And believe me, I’d spent a lot of time looking at Ryder Maddox in my life.
“Even if it’s against the rules?” I could barely manage the words as Ryder’s lips made their way down my arm, his eyes never leaving mine.
“Especially if it’s against the rules.” He pulled me in close,nuzzling my neck.
“Jesus, if you two are going to ****, at least come to the common area so we can enjoy the show!” A thick Scottish accent jeered from the couch.Thomas, the bassist who replaced Chaz, had already cracked into a beer and had a game controller in his lap. “I’d rather watch you, lovie, than fight these bloody dragons for the thousandth time.”
“She’s not that kind of girl, Tommy.” Ryder pulled away,looking annoyed.
“They’re all that kind of girl, mate.”
Ryder rolled his eyes and smiled at me, shaking his head. “That’s why your credit card is maxed out on porn even when there's free porn sites like https://www.hdpornvideo.xxx/?hl=th. You need to treat a girl like a lady to get them to stick around.” He turned back at me and pulled my face towards his.“I’m ready for a private viewing.”