Read VIP (Rock & Release, Act I) Online

Authors: Riley Edgewood

VIP (Rock & Release, Act I) (9 page)

BOOK: VIP (Rock & Release, Act I)
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I feel the corners of my smile wobble, fall.

Vera's expression softens. Maybe she understands the way my emotions are churning. "How did he die?" she asks, gently.

The world stutters around me the way it always does when someone asks, the way it always does when I have to remember. I resist the urge to suck in a deep breath and force the word out instead. "Overdose."

Her eyes widen. "I'm so sorry. Like, I'd be sorry no matter how he was taken from you, but drugs… That had to be even more painful for you. I'm sorry. I'm completely putting my foot in my mouth."

"It's okay. You're really not." It's true. Her reaction is almost…I don't know…
compared to the people who grew up knowing Jason. The speculative expressions, the
wow this is awesome gossip
glints in so many of their eyes. Followed with the pity. So much
pity. Vera's face is saddened, but she's not secretly thrilled to hear about something as dramatic as a drug overdose. It's refreshing, in the worst of ways.

"Was he… Did he do a lot of drugs?"

And this is what absolutely kills me. Dead. Dead all over on the inside. "I don't know. I would've sworn he never touched anything harder than alcohol." My breath hitches in my throat. I swallow it down. "I didn't know him as well as I thought."

Funny, smart, sweet-when-he-wanted-to-be Jason.

Maybe talking about him isn't actually as freeing as I thought, because a part of me is dying all over again.

"And your parents aren't handling it well?"

"They're not really handling it at all. The doctor prescribed something for my mom when it'd first happened—ironic, I know, drugs to deal with a drug overdose—so she didn't feel anything for weeks, just walked around like a zombie. She still does, except she's turned into this super fake happy zombie. Like she smiles all the time, but there's no truth behind it. And my dad's just furious. With the world. With me now, especially."

"You should definitely stay here until he chills out," she says.

Hope clears the thickness in my throat, but, "I didn't mean to make you offer that with my sob story. I swear."

She waves me off, standing to stretch. "That didn't even cross my mind. But I think you should stay here."

"Just a few days would be awesome." Gratitude floods me in waves.

"A few days, a few months—stay as long as you want. As long as you need." She walks over to open her fridge, pulling out a bowl of something. "Salsa from last night—we ordered Mexican after you and Gage closed yourselves off." She pauses to smile. "Plus, if you crash with me…I have ulterior motives."

"Ulterior motives?" I wait, wondering what her response will be. Rides to work? Extra rent money?

"You inspire me, taking a stand like you are." She winks, all co-conspirator. "If you stay here, you can keep me from letting Jared come back after work tonight. And all other nights. Well, most nights. Some. A few… Or—ugh. See? I need help. I have zero resolve. This is so annoying."

you want to talk about Jared?"

"If we're going to be roommates, you'll figure things out about him pretty quickly anyway."

Roommates. What a lovely word. So lovely, I stop myself from telling her I figured Jared out the moment I met him. There are gentler ways to get around to it. Instead, I open my mouth to ask what I can contribute toward rent, but she speaks again before I have the chance.

"He comes across as a total jerk. I'm not blind."

"But you're into him?" I keep my face molded into the least judgmental expression I can manage.

"There is so much more to him than what you see on the surface." She pulls out a bag of chips. "Help yourself."

I join her at the kitchen table, but am too full from the burger to eat. I wonder if I should keep asking her about Jared, or if it's too much too soon. She makes things easy and switches the conversation to BackBar and bartending and the essentials to making drinks. My gut tells me it won't be quite as easy as she makes it seem.

An hour later she's following me out to my car to help carry my things in.

This time when she says, "Make yourself at home," she means it literally and I blink furiously when my eyes grow hot with tears.

But I brush them away because this is not a summer meant for tears. This summer's Cassidy is breezy and happy and not attached to anything serious.

And I'm also—I can't help but think of Gage—ready for some serious heat.


Bartending is not easy if you have absolutely zero experience and the person you're working with apparently hates you for no reason.

Oh, and your boss is just freaking
living it up
over how much you're struggling.

Screwing the pourer on a bottle of tequila and giving a few silent three counts, I pour four shots for two slightly drunk old dudes, who, thank God, only order simple things like these shots and beers.

But then an order for three margaritas comes in and even though I've already got the tequila out, it takes me forever to make them. I step around the huge damp spot on the ground where I've already—not once, but twice—spilled entire drinks.

So actually I guess Clark—my co-bartender—doesn't hate me for

The VIP patio is a million times more crowded before tonight's concert than it was for Demi Jade's. Or maybe it's just from my frenzied perspective behind the bar. And the bar. Oh, the bar. It's so much bigger than it looks from the other side. I swear I've walked five miles back and forth and back and forth in the past hour alone. Thank God Vera warned me about wearing comfortable shoes instead of the sandals I originally slipped on.

I wipe my hand across my brow, finding it slick with sweat. I'm out of breath and I've already forgotten the next ingredient on the very short list of margarita ingredients. Oh wait. It's simple syrup. Where the hell is the simple syrup? I spin around looking everywhere, on top of the bar, below the bar—but everything just blurs together.

This is hard. This is so fucking hard.

I can't stop grinning.

This is so much better than some stuffy internship.

"Here." Clark manages to fit both a sigh and a sneer in one word and hands me a cocktail shaker. "Margaritas on the rocks already made. All you have to do is add ice to the cups and pour." He wraps his hand around my wrist to stop me as I'm about to do just that. "You have to salt the rims first."

"Shit. Right. Sorry. Thanks."

"Honey. You can't just stand there with a silly little smile." He pinches his pillowy lips together and cocks a well-groomed eyebrow. "You have to keep your shit together. I get that you're new, but if you make less tips, I make less tips."

"Right. Sorry." Great. I can't stop repeating the same set of words. And I can't quite keep the corners of my mouth down, which I'm sure is even more irritating.

"Listen." He runs a hand down the side of his short brown hair, smoothing it all back into place. "Trial by fire's the best way to learn this stuff as quickly as possible. People really only order a handful of different things. Once you have these, this'll be a breeze." He pauses. "That was not an intentional rhyme."

I laugh. He's not so bad. "Noted."

The next while goes by in a blur. Then after I've said, "Next?" without looking up, I hear, "Give me a beer or give me death, according to George Washington."

Pleasure blooms through me, all melty and soft. Gage is leaning on the bar, his chin angled in my direction, watching me. "I see you took the job."

"Yep!" The word comes out a little peppier than I intend, and I ignore the twinge of nervousness that maybe he didn't want me to take it, even though he said otherwise in the car. I choose to take him at his words—and I'm too high on the hustle and bustle from behind the bar to overthink things right now anyway. "I suck at it. And it's

"It's nice to see your face again so soon," he says, and the nervous twinge melts into something much, much sweeter. "You'll get the hang of slinging drinks before too long."

"I didn't think you were going to show up," I say. According to Jared, Gage was supposed to be here to perform on the VIP deck stage over an hour and a half ago.

"Family emergency," he says, and must see the question I'm about to ask because he adds, "it's all good now, though."

"Glad to hear it." I need to get back to taking—and making(ish)—orders, but I can't move on. I'm glued to the spot, too filled with the sight of him.

"She's not too bad though, huh?" He gestures toward the deck, where Nicole is filling in for him. Her voice has come through here and there while I've worked. It's pretty and sweet. And simple.

"You're better," I say, honestly.

"You're biting this again." He taps a finger to my lower lip. "How am I ever going to finish her set if I can't concentrate on anything but that sexy lower lip of yours?"

A little thrill shoots up my stomach. "Are you doing anything after work?"

"Hanging with you," he says, like it's fact.

Another little thrill. And another and another. "Sounds good." Sounds perfect.

Clark snaps at me that people need drinks, nodding his head toward Gage, who leans all the way over the bar to snag a bottle of beer. "See ya after," he promises, heading toward the stage.


When the concert starts and Jared lets me off my shift, I slump into a chair on the patio, exhausted and strangely euphoric. I made a hundred dollars in tips.
A hundred dollars
. It doesn't make me rich, but it does put me a step further away from relying so much on Daddy's credit card. And, according to Clark, who became
nicer after things slowed down, that's lower than the average take-in.

When Vera finishes cleaning off her now empty tables—something I should probably offer to help with, but tonight I'm too tired to even function—I hand the cash out to her. Well, first I stuff a twenty in my back pocket. I've got to eat. "Here."

She doesn't take it. "What's that for?"

"Rent. Well, maybe like a tenth of rent. Or whatever you want for rent, guess we haven't discussed that yet. But part of it, anyway."

"Cassidy, my mom covers my rent. You're my guest." She waves my hand away.

"Then give it to her. Or take it for yourself." I keep the money out. "Plus, who knows how long I'll need to depend on your generosity?"

"Stay all summer for all I care." Now she pushes my hand gently back to the table. "Unless you turn out to be a psycho or something, in which case you're out." But she's smiling as she says it.

"I'll try my hardest to steer clear of psychoville." I smile, too.

She heads to the bar, promising to return with beers and food. Which makes me realize I could probably eat a cardboard box at this point. I slide the rest of the money in my back pocket.

A second later, Gage slips behind my chair, whispering, "Hey gorgeous," in my ear. I think he means to surprise me, but I've been hyperaware of his movements all night. Including the fact that he headed out toward the amphitheater when Fordham and Co started their set and that he came back into the patio less than a minute ago. Hmm. Maybe I need to work harder at steering clear of psychoville…

"Hey yourself," I say and turn my head to the side, finding his nice, broad, sexy-as-hell shoulder in my line of vision. "Did you enjoy the opening act?"

"Are you talking about last night or the band?" He gives a little tug on the braid my hair's thrown into. "The answer is yes to either. But especially last night." He whispers the last part into my ear and adrenaline spikes through me, swift and sensual.

I cannot wait to get my hands on him again. To have his on me.

In fact, if the way my heart is throwing itself against my chest in anticipation is any indication, I cannot wait another second. Forget the drinks and food. "Want to get out of here?"

"My place?"

"Uh," I pause, as Vera puts a beer in front of me. I don't know why the thought of his place makes me nervous, like it's a bigger step than I'm ready for. "Maybe Vera's?"

"Cool with you?" he asks her.

She shrugs, her gaze on my face. "My house is your house, make yourself comfortable. But if you're having a sleepover, so am I." She glances pointedly toward Jared, who's standing over by the bar.

"But you said—"

"I changed my mind."

Great. Do I keep my earlier promise to Vera and stop her from bringing Jared home with her, or do I get to have Gage?

He's trailing his thumb up and down my upper arm, raising a trail of gooseflesh in its wake, and my decision's made.

"Guess we'll see you guys there," I say, instantly feeling like a jerk considering how nice she's been to me. But not enough of a jerk to change my mind about Gage. I ache for his touch in the most amazing way.

She smiles. "Don't worry—I was bringing Jared home with me whatever you decided anyway."

"Could've led with that," I say, relieved, handing her back the beer she's just delivered. Then I pull Gage out to the parking lot, beyond eager to find out what the rest of the night holds.


Gage arrives first, and he waits for me at the base of the concrete stairs leading up to Vera's apartment. He stands there, his hands half tucked into his jeans, his mouth parted into a disarming smile. My heart begins to beat a little harder. A little faster.

"Hey." He smoothes a hand across my shoulder and runs it down my arm. I fight a shiver.

Feeling bold, when his touch drops to the base of my wrist, I twist my palm and weave my fingers through his. "Hey back."

BOOK: VIP (Rock & Release, Act I)
2.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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