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Authors: Elizabeth Nelson

Backstage Pass: All Access

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Backstage Pass, All Access

A New Adult Romance

 

by Elizabeth Nelson

 

 

All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014
Elizabeth Nelson

 

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author and/or publisher. No part of this publication may be sold or hired, without written permission from the author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are a product of the writer’s imagination and/or have been used fictitiously in such a fashion it is not meant to serve the reader as actual fact and should not be considered as actual fact. Any resemblance to actual events, or persons, living or dead, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.

CHAPTER
1

 

I flinched as the front door slammed closed. My knees wobbled and I grabbed the end of my bed.

What have I done?
Jesse’s demo CD lay on the floor, glimmering in the sun and showering my room with a mocking disco. All I had to do was give the CD to Ainsley. She would have listened and probably signed him and we’d have had a whole slew of new problems to figure out. But instead, I screwed up and now we didn’t have anything left to work on.

My hands trembled and I gripped the bedpost tighter.
My empty house teased me and my guts ached. I was such a fool. Everything had been going so perfectly and I’d managed to throw it out the window. Somewhere deep in the house my phone rang, but I lowered myself to the floor.

He was right, I had no idea how relationships worked—not good ones anyway. I dropped my face into my palms and
rocked back and forth. I should have just tossed it in the package and shot it over to Ainsley. I was a complete dick.

My heart hurt; p
retty sure that even though I had no idea how to work a relationship, this one should have been easy to figure out. Even as a friend, it had been a dick move. I’d let my own issues get in the way.

And now that he’d stormed out of my life, I really was sorry. Maybe not sorry that he wasn’t already signed and on to his new life, but sorry that I’d hurt him. I should have said that out loud, but I was so overcome with shame when he found it I didn’t know how to react or what to say.

I groaned and tipped my head back against my bed. “Now what, Sasha?”

I jammed the heels of my hands into my eye sockets until bursts of light catapulted against my eyelids.
My running shoes peeked out from beneath the pile of papers. I hadn’t run for a week and if there was anything that could help me sort through my feelings it was the insane burn of my muscles catching on fire.

I forced myself upright and bit my lip to keep the sob from leaking out.
I wasn’t going to cry over a fuckup. This wasn’t a big deal. He’d gone out to blow off some steam and he’d be back. We’d talk it out and fix this.

He’d help me fix this.

Like he helped me fix everything.

I yanked my shoes on and changed into running shorts. I didn’t bother to find my phone but strapped my iPod on and headed out the door.
Instead of heading left and into the park, I went the other direction and wound my way up the hill and through the neighborhood. I hadn’t gone more than three blocks before my lungs started to ache and my thighs turned rubbery. I pushed on, desperate to outrun the confusion.

I turned right and headed up the steepest hill in the neighborhood, on the lookout for
stray dogs and old men in their cars. The block welcomed me with open arms of silence and I raced through the leafy shade. At the far corner, I turned left and headed even higher. Every breath felt like molten fire but I welcomed the focus. I only needed to make it to the end of this block, then I’d slow down.

Ahead
, the light turned and I strained forward into a sprint for the last hundred feet. My ankle protested and I eased up at the corner, jogging in place and letting my heart rate mellow out.

“Hey sexypants!”

I cringed, then jogged a small circle, noticing the frat houses for the first time. I didn’t realize how far I’d run. Dew—my rugby playing admirer—straightened in the far corner of his front yard and tossed a beer bottle into a big trash can.

I waved.

“Where’s your musician? I hear you two were inseparable.”

I wasn’t about to let on that we were having problems. We’d gotten in a fight. No big deal, and not anything worth dishing about—especially not
with Dew. “Playing a gig. That’s what they do.”

He
grinned and bent to pick up another piece of trash. “That’s probably true. Your light changed.”

He pointed a thick arm toward the traffic light and I saw that he was right. I hesitated, unsure what to say that wouldn’t seem rude. We hadn’t exactly ended our bizarre date on good terms.

“See you around, then.” He moved the trashcan to the other side, clearly less concerned than I was.

I past
ed a smile on my lips and waved at his retreating form.

On the other side of the intersection, I slowed to a walk and let my lungs chill for a couple minutes.
This run hadn’t offered me any solace or answers. But it had felt good. I’d relied on Jesse for so much of my entertainment over the last few weeks, I’d forgotten what it felt like to do something just because I wanted to.

And okay, maybe on the heels of what just happened that was more telling than anything else I could have come up with.

Dammit.

Maybe I was just a dick.

It sure ran in the family.

I groaned and crossed the street.
Was that it—was I genetically programmed to screw up every relationship I had?

Based on results, that was definitely true. Jesse had lasted longer than anyone else. Way longer.

I didn’t want to be my dad. There had to be a way to unprogram my genes so I could fix things between me and Jesse. Or, if not fix them, figure out how to be better in the future.

A schnauzer jumped out from behind a low white fence, making me jump. “Get away!”

“Timmy.” An older blonde leaned out the front door and called the dog. She waved in apology. I saluted.

See? I was a dick. All the time. Everything was everyone else’s fault.

I managed to run home without getting eaten alive by the thoughts hunting me down inside my own head, but that also meant that I didn’t have a single idea of what to do next.

The aching emptiness of my house mocked me. I’d expected Jesse to have come back after blowing off steam, and his absence punched a giant hole in my guts. I couldn’t believe he didn’t want to talk this through, force another apology out of me. I stripped and crawled in the shower, but I left the door open so I could hear him come back. By the time I grabbed my towel and wiped the droplets of water off he still hadn’t
returned. I bit my lip and pulled my damp hair up in a tightly coiled bun. I wasn’t hungry, there wasn’t anything on TV, I didn’t have any homework.

I checked my phone for the thousandth time but he hadn’t called. I scanned the texts but the last one he’d sent me was two days ago in the living room of his parents’ house. I tapped out
a quick one that simply said
I’m sorry.
Crickets answered me back.

I tossed it on the couch and
walked out to the porch. My street was silent, echoing back the yawing caverns of my mind and heart. I sat heavily on the bench and folded my hands in my lap. He was going to come back, right?

But what if he didn’
t?

Terror gripped me from my scalp to my intestines. That wasn’t even an option. Now that I’d experienced the depth of our relationship, I didn’t know how to function without him.

My phone chirped and I bolted inside.

One text.

From Kerri.

***

There are few things that are complete deal-breakers for me. You’d think, as an up and coming rocker, nothing would stay sacred if it meant getting my break. But I don’t want to be that kind of guy. And okay, maybe some of that is because I’m afraid of the disappointment I’d see on my parents’ faces. Their opinion still matters.

So did one other person’s, but now I can admit that Sasha’s never going to grow up and be able to separate the horror of her childhood experiences with her dad from who I am as a musician.

I crossed the street and headed into the park toward home. That’s what I get for trying to change Sasha. I should’ve known better, but I love her so much I thought that would be enough to get us through anything. I thought if I showed her I was a normal guy, she’d come around.

Not only did
that not work, it completely blew up in my face. I stormed up the stairs to my room and slammed the door behind me. A short burst of adrenaline coursed through me and I picked up my heaviest textbook off the corner of my desk and hurled it against the wall. The reverberating thump felt good. I paced the room. What the hell was I supposed to do next?

My roommate, Scout, knock
ed on the jamb of my door. “What’s up?”

I
shook my head. “Fucking girls, man.”


Uh oh.” He stepped into my room and sat on my cluttered desk. “Wanna grab a bite?”

I
shook my head. Food was the last thing on my mind. “No. Anybody around? I’ve got some songs rattling around in my head.”

He stare
d at me for a long minute, probably unsure what to do with this high-strung version of me. I sure didn’t know.

“Yeah, man. We were getting ready to go dick around with some of the new sound equipment, but that’s a way better idea.”

I nodded sharply and kept pacing. Might as well put this energy to good use. Ainsley’s going to get two demos to make up for the last time.

We met the rest of the band at our practice garage and I tackle
d the arrangements with fervor. We worked through dinner and into the early dawn. Finally, Tate, our bass player, begged off. I let him go. Pretty soon, the rest of the band ditched out and it was just me and my mic.

Scout flipped
the recorder on as he left. “Don’t miss anything good, man.”

I dip
ped my chin, curled both hands around the base of the mic and pressed the stand into the cement until it swayed. There was one song that had been swirling in the back of my mind all night, but it was going to make me sound like the world’s biggest pussy-whipped fuck ever, but now that I was alone it burst out of me.

My voice thicken
ed with emotion, changing my range, but I didn’t fight it. I let everything I’d bottled, from every single point of contention in our relationship, flow out of me like the dam had been dynamited. Every single note was filled with so much emotion I could barely keep going, but I did it anyway. I heard the perfect accompaniment in my head and it was a fucking stunner.

As the last note fade
d, the walls rang with the betrayal and sadness.

And I
knew it was going to be a number one hit.

CHAPTER
2

 

I rocked back and forth on my porch swing and watched the sunrise. Jesse never showed up last night. Kerri did. I told her everything and then she fell asleep in my bed. She didn’t want to leave me alone, and I supposed that was nice, but even with her here, I felt like I was the only soul left on the entire spinning planet.
I’m such an idiot
. With Jesse gone and me feeling like maybe he wasn’t coming back, I was realizing that I was scared of a ‘maybe.’ I had let the chance of a possibility ruin the perfection of what was real.

And now I was
starting to wonder if that wasn’t what was in my genes.

If I really
thought about what my childhood was like growing up, my mom did the exact same thing. She held us back on a maybe. When she could have created a somewhat normal life for us—like she had now—she held out for a ‘maybe.’ Granted, hers wasn’t quite the same because hers was the maybe of a happily ever after with her husband; but still, instead of just living what we had and enjoying the now, she had let the future cloud our present. Why couldn’t we have been happy, just the two of us? She was always looking toward the horizon, waiting for my rock star father to come home. And I was doing the same thing, just in reverse.

I slap
ped my hands down on the wooden swing. “What the hell did you think would happen, Sasha?”

I
hung my head and berated myself a little bit more. I guessed now the only thing to figure out was what I was going to do to fix it. I stood. First, I was going to do what I should have done in the first place. Ainsley was going to get that CD, and then I was going to bug the crap out of her until she listened to it and was as blown away as I knew she was going to be. Then I was going to hunt my man down and apologize until he took me back just so I would stop bugging him.

I jump
ed off the swing with a renewed energy and purpose. I snuck into my bedroom, past a snoring Kerri, and rummaged through the pile of stuff until I found the CD. There was an empty envelope and just enough stamps in my shoebox full of randomness on my desk and I snatched them and snuck back out.

Even though I
didn’t mean to, while I was looking up Ainsley’s address, I checked for a new text from Jesse, but there wasn’t one. My heart broke only a bit this time because I had a plan.

I scribble
d out a note for Kerri and loaded water and coffee into the maker and turned it on so she would at least have java when she woke up. I shuddered. Kerri without java in the morning is a scary beast. My shoulders relaxed and I tiptoed back to the door of my room to peek in at my best friend. I loved her like a sister. She’d always been there for me, come hell or my own stupidity. She’d been my best champion. I was glad she was here.

I ble
w a kiss and tiptoed out of the house. My car was covered with an icy dew and I tugged the hood of my sweatshirt up and climbed in. I could almost see through the windshield, and if I squinted it was good enough. I twisted the defrost on high, turned the radio down while the DJ droned on about the road report, and backed out of the driveway.

When the DJ
finished telling me about all the roads to avoid on the morning commute, he faded out to music and my body instantly revved, recognizing the tune that Jesse played on my skin and inside me. I doused the notes and sang “Twinkle Twinkle” at the top of my lungs. Warmth was spreading across my lap and down my thighs and there was a vice around my heart. I launched into “You are My Sunshine” but my body was on high alert and I bit my lip.

Maybe this
was good for me. Maybe this would make me work harder to fix it.

With a trembling hand, I turn
ed the radio up and my nipples tightened in response.

There wa
s so much of Jesse that I needed.

The song serenade
d my vajayjay the entire way to the post office and by the time I got there, my legs were Jell-O and some other parts were nearly molten. Good lord, he had left a brand on me. As I thought about all the songs he’d sung to me or sung in me, I knew music was ruined for life without him. All my favorites were tainted now. At the time, that was a beautiful thing, but on the other side I realized the danger in letting someone touch all your favorite stuff. I’d let him see and touch it all.

I scrunch
ed my face in frustration and yanked the doors open. The bleary-eyed post office worker was helpful and we got the demo and my note sent to Ainsley in the fastest way possible. He said she’d get it by tomorrow.

Back in my car, I flinch
ed in anticipation of what was going to come out of the radio, but blissfully it was nothing I’d heard with him. I swung through a drive thru and got breakfast for Kerri and me and I couldn’t help wondering what he was doing right now. And yes, in a total stupid girl groupie moment, I wondered if he was thinking about me.

***

I ditched every single class and wrote like I was going to lose the ability at the stroke of midnight. Two songs, five songs, a dozen. I couldn’t stop. By the time the guys showed up at four to practice, I’d written an entire CD.

Scout flip
ped through the pages. “Are you kidding me?”

I lean
ed back in my chair and flexed my hands. “I hit a zone.”

“You think?”
His lips moved as he read the words and I watched his face change as he heard the music in his head too. He didn’t comment, but moved on to the next one. And the next. Finally, he set the stack down on the desk and very slowly lifted his gaze to mine. “These are fucking insane.”

I scratch
ed behind my ear and fought the blush trying to burn up my face. We had an understanding around here; everyone was good and we didn’t need to talk about it. It’d been a nice arrangement that kept things from getting weird. We never wanted to buy into our own hype and we all agreed to keep it humble. We knew we were good, that was why we were together. But hearing Scout voice it made me shift uncomfortably in the chair. “Thanks, man.”

He stare
d at me for a long second, then shook his head. “Fuck, man. She did a number on you.”

I laugh
ed. “Yeah, well . . .”

He shrug
ged and wandered across the room to set up for practice. I wasn’t sure how I felt about exploiting my feelings to pen a hit, but wasn’t that how artists worked? We poured our souls into our art to make it real to whoever was checking it out. I couldn’t touch their soul if I didn’t touch mine first.

I
didn’t want to think that this was the only reason Sasha and I were together. I mean, I guess it was okay for now, but I really did love her. Still love her. I sighed and stood, then tossed the pen on the desk and gathered the papers. Didn’t matter now, I had a band to catapult to greatness and she’d never have come along for that ride. Better that I decided this way between the two of them, than when things were going good between us.

The night’s practice
was brilliant, but we called it good well before midnight. I was fucking starving and hadn’t slept in two days, so I was okay finally taking a break. Scout and the boys invited me out for dinner but I begged off. They bailed and I gathered all my pages and notebook.

A knock
at the door lifted my head and I forced my heartbeat to slow the fuck down. That shit needed to chill the fuck out. She had way too much pride to come here and I sure as hell was not going to hunt her down. We were done.

I
took my time loading my bag, then tossed it on my shoulder and flipped the lights off on my way out. I paused in the darkness with my hand on the knob before I opened it to whoever was on the other side.
Please don’t let it be Sasha
.

I tug
ged it open and the sight of Axel’s ugly mug still managed to send a wash of disappointment through me. “Hey man.”

He glance
d over my shoulder at the darkened room. “Came to hear you practice.”

I laugh
ed. “No you didn’t.”

He crossed his arms then uncrossed
them. This was as uncomfortable as I’d ever seen him. “What happened?”

“I came. I practiced. We’re done. I’m going to get dinner.” I close
d the door behind me and stepped around him.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know. But that’s what you’re getting.”

“I’m hungry too. Want company?”

I paused and turned around. “Not really, Axel. Look man, I know that the girls probably put you up to this, but I don’t want to talk about it. Ask Sasha what happened. You guys are besties, right? I’m sure she’s got all kinds of things to say about what’s going on in that fucked up head of hers. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“They didn’t put me up to it, but yes, I’m worried about Sasha—”

“Ha! You don’t need to worry about her. Sasha will take care of herself. No matter who she has to roll over—” I stopped. There was no point in trying to explain this or letting the emotion dissipate. I needed to get home and write, not waste it here in the parking lot. Besides, Axel didn’t need details. He was just a dude caught up in Sasha’s web. Like we all were.

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