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S. C. Stephens

Chapter 1


  My Boyfriend, the Rock Star

  According to the channel four weatherman, it was the hottest summer on record in Seattle. Since I'd only been here a little over a year, I took the kind man's word for it. As I was smashed into and bumped up against, I felt that heat in the skin of every person that touched me. It was a little revolting to have strange people rubbing up against my body. It was even more revolting when some of those strangers decided that being crammed together in a group like we were, gave them the freedom to invade my personal space. I'd smacked more hands off of my butt in this one afternoon than in the entire time I'd been at Pete's bar.

  Sweat poured down the back of my t-shirt and I momentarily cursed my fashion choice. As I glanced up at the cloudless, azure sky, the midday sun hit me square in the eye, blinding me. I rolled up the short sleeves of my black-as-night shirt, then went to work tying a knot above my bellybutton, just like MaryAnn from Gilligan's island.

  But then I smiled, remembering why I was wearing it and what I was doing in this crowd of sweaty bodies. As I stared past the few rows of glistening people in front of me to an empty stage, a nervous energy flooded into me. Not for me. No, for my boyfriend. Today was his big day. Today was his band's big day and I bounced a little on my feet as I waited for him to bound up onto that stage. I knew that at any moment he was going to rush to that microphone and the awaiting crowd was going to scream ear-splittingly loud.

  I couldn't wait.

  Hands next to me grabbed my bare arms. "Can you believe it, Kiera? Our boys are playing Bumbershoot!"

  I looked over at my best friend, my coworker and my confidante-Jenny. Her face didn't have sweat pouring down it like mine and she only looked gloriously dewy, but the sparkle lighting up her eyes was exactly like mine. Her boyfriend was playing the Seattle Music Festival for the first time too.

  Squealing a little in my growing eagerness, I clutched her arms back. "I know! I can't believe Matt actually got them booked here. " I shook my head, impressed that my boyfriend was playing in the same venue that Bob Dylan was playing on later tonight. Hole and Mary J. Blige were playing in the next couple of days.

  Jenny looked over when some stranger ran into her; he seemed completely stoned. Glancing back at me, her blonde ponytail lightly flicking my face, she shrugged. "Evan says he worked really hard to get them this spot. And it's prime! Saturday afternoon on a perfect summer day, smashed right in-between two great acts. It doesn't get any better than that. "

  She tilted her head up to the sky, the rays of the sun glinting off the white lettering on her matching black t-shirt, a t-shirt glorifying the full name of our favorite band-Douchebags-although, they shortened it to D-Bags, for marketing purposes.

  I nodded when her face returned to mine. "Oh, I know, Kellan said he-"

  A sudden eruption of sound disrupted my conversation and my eyes automatically darted to the stage. Smiling broadly, I watched what had the getting-raucous crowd's complete attention. Our D-Bags had finally decided to grace the crowd with their presence.

  The assemblage before the outdoor stage started jumping and hollering as Matt and Griffin hopped on stage first. Matt was his normal, contained self, acknowledging the fan fest with a small smile and a slight wave. He quietly walked to his microphone and strapped on his guitar. I hollered for him, but it was a mess of noise and people around me and the guitarist didn't hear my voice. His light blue eyes scanned the crowd nervously as he adjusted the strap on his shoulder.

  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Griffin, his attention-seeking, horn dog of a cousin, ran up and down the front of the stage, smacking people's hands and pumping his fist in the air. His pale eyes scanned the crowd, and even though I wasn't yelling for him, he actually did hear me. Spotting Jenny and I back a ways from the front, he pointed at us. Then he lifted his fingers up to his mouth in a V position and did suggestive things with his tongue that made my cheeks flame hotter than the steamy sunshine I was standing in. I immediately looked away.

  Several people around Jenny and I laughed and looked at us. My embarrassment tripled. Jenny beside me saucily exclaimed, "Ewww, Griffin!" then started laughing with the crowd. I shook my head, wishing my sister, Anna, hadn't been at her photo shoot for the Hooters calendar today, so she could, maybe, attempt to keep her pseudo-boyfriend in line.

  Evan had come up during the middle of that display, and seeing Griffin sexually harass us, he looked over our way. He smiled and waved, blowing a kiss to Jenny. She snatched it in the air and blew him one back. His warmhearted smile got even bigger, but once he'd acknowledged us, he twisted to take in where he was, and his dark eyes seemed awed. I laughed at the look, happy that the good-spirited man was taking a second to enjoy his success.

  Then the scream got so loud my ears started ringing. I actually half-closed my eyes it was so painful. The girls right next to me, looking all of fourteen, started clutching each other and chanting, "Oh my God, there he is. Oh my God, he's so hot. Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!"

  I grinned and shook my head, amazed and amused at how my rocker boyfriend could affect people. Of course, I completely understood. Lord knows he had completely affected me in the beginning. Still did, honestly. Even just watching him confidently strut onto the stage, the stage he owned with every fiber of his being, my body tingled for him.

  Kellan walked up to his microphone slowly. Or maybe it was a regular pace and my mind was just on the slow-motion button. Whatever the reason, it seemed to take him forever to get to where he was headed. He had one hand up, waving to the mass of people clamoring for him and he ran the other back through his thick, bed-head hair. The heat and sweat made the sandy-brown mess stick out even more crazily and he looked just completely edible.

  I bit my lip as he finished his saunter to his mic stand. He scanned the crowd as he adjusted the height on it. I knew from experience just what the front row was feeling as those midnight-blue bedroom eyes washed over them. He had a way of looking at you that made you feel like no one else existed in the world, even if a crowd was around you. Add that to the sexy half-smile on his face, and you got a man who could ignite you with just a glance. He was igniting me now, and he hadn't even spotted me yet.

  As his face turned away, hopefully looking for me out in these masses, I studied his jaw line-strong, masculine, so freakin' sexy it hurt. The girls behind me seemed to think so, too. From amongst the screaming, I clearly heard, "That is going home with me tonight," and, "God, that man is completely fuckable. " I resisted the urge to turn and tell them that he was taken, keeping my gaze focused on him instead. I shouldn't be jealous or irritated by fans, but their comments were a little less cute than the fourteen-year-old's.

  As Kellan's eyes finished with one half of the crowd, they swung over my way. Like magic, he spotted Jenny and me instantly. She waved then whistled with her fingers in her mouth. I flushed and smiled as those amazingly intense eyes locked onto mine. He nodded at me and mouthed, "I love you. "

  The stupid girls behind me started moaning that he'd said it to them. I again ignored the desire to acknowledge that I knew him and to tell them that he was mine. It wouldn't change their feelings towards him one tiny little bit and I'd only end up opening myself to endless questions about our personal life. Questions I did not want to talk about with complete and total strangers. I'd gotten enough of that at school before Kellan and I had even gotten together.

  Instead, I discreetly mouthed that I love him too and gave him a couple of thumbs up. He laughed at my move and shook his head, clearly confident that he'd completely kick ass on stage. And he would. If anything, Kellan had been preparing himself for a moment like this for years now, playing small bars and clubs down in L. A. and then up here,
after his parents had died. He'd sort of been preparing for this his whole life.

  Slinging a guitar over his shoulder, he wrapped his hand around the microphone. The screams intensified again when it became obvious that he was going to speak. Over the sound system, I heard his warm laugh, then, "Hello, Seattle!" The girls around me jumped and screamed his name. I laughed and tried to move away from some of the more revved up girls, although, with nowhere to go, I only ended up bumping into a couple of guys in front of me.

  Muttering apologies when they glared back at me, Kellan's voice hit me again. "We're the D-Bags. . . in case you didn't know. . . " another long screaming session, ". . . and we've got something for you. . . if you want it. "

  He raised an eyebrow after he said that, eyeing some of the women up front a little too suggestively for my taste. But, I knew it was an act. While his face clearly said, screw me later, that wasn't what was in his heart. I was in his heart. Heck, I was tattooed over his heart. I smiled, knowing that not one single woman here was aware of that fact. Well, besides Jenny, anyway.

  He held up a finger to quiet the crowd. They surprisingly did back off, a little bit. "Do you want it?" he asked suggestively. The crowd loudly indicated that they did. Jenny was hollering her answer through her hands, so I joined in.

  I noticed Matt shaking his head, smiling as he flexed his hand. Evan was now sitting in front of his drums, moving his body to an unheard beat and spinning a stick in his hands. As Kellan eyed the crowd, I watched Griffin try to get a couple of girls to lift their shirts. I didn't keep looking to see if they did.

  Kellan brought his hand up to his ear. "Well, if you want it, I'm gonna have to hear you ask for it. " There was hooting and hollering and more obscene suggestions tossed out from behind me, but I didn't care. I no longer cared about any of them, because Kellan brought his eyes back to mine and the pure joy I saw on his face was enough to make all of the forward women, all of the grabby men, and all of the sweaty strangers, completely worth it.

  It was like watching his soul come alive as he smiled down at me. He loved this. Aside from me, it was the one thing that Kellan really lived for. True, he tried to act like it didn't matter, like he just did it because it was something to do at night, but over time I'd come to see that that was just his way of coping. I think a part of Kellan was afraid that this would get snatched away from him. He hadn't grown up under the best of circumstances. Quite the opposite. He'd had the horror story childhood that would have had most people running straight for booze and drugs. But Kellan had found music, and music, along with a seriously healthy sexual appetite, had saved him from a life of mind-numbing addictions.

  Kellan flicked his wrist behind him, and Evan, waiting for his cue, immediately began to play.

  The song was fast, catchy, and even though I'd heard it a bazillion times, I started jumping up and down with the excitement of it. There was just something about the crushing, noisy bodies rubbing against me, the deafening vibrations of the severely amped-up music, and the hot sun beating away on all of us, that sent electricity through the crowd. It gave me a rush. I could only imagine what Kellan was feeling.

  His voice cut through the music, perfectly on time. No matter what he was feeling off the stage, in this, Kellan was a professional. The countless practices and small shows around the area had paid off well; his voice was spectacular. A high-pitched, feminine squeal surged throughout the crowd as his microphone drifted the words over the open area. He was singing an older song, a D-Bag classic, and several people around me were singing along. Since I'd watched Kellan write songs before, it was a little awe-inspiring to witness his lyrics be repeated back to him, especially in a crowd this size.

  He beamed as he strummed and sang. A distractingly sexy half-smile was on his lips. It never failed to amaze me that he could play his guitar and sing at the same time. Me? I could barely do just one of those things. Jenny waved her hands in the air and hooted and hollered for her man and I did the same, happy that I could come out and support him today, support them all today. Well, maybe not Griffin.

  The song ended with a thunderous reaction from the crowd, even the guys directly in front of me. I was ecstatic for Kellan and the boys. They deserved the success. Kellan put his guitar away for the next song, popping the microphone off its stand. The stage here was wider than Pete's and with more room to walk around, Kellan also had more room to flirt. Moving into the next song, his eyes slipped over the crowd in ways that I was only used to them slipping over me.

  It bothered me a little, but I let it go. He was just excited to be here, excited to play. He'd slipped back into the aggressively sexy guy that I'd first seen on stage. The sexed-up behavior had seemed over-the-top to me on that very first glance that I'd had of him, but the audience here was eating it up. Hands were stretching out to him from everywhere, even from rows behind me. I wasn't quite sure what those women expected him to do. Stage dive? I furrowed my brow, hoping he didn't do that. He could get hurt. . . or fondled to death.

  As he propped a foot on a speaker and leaned out to grab a fan, I idly wondered why that one. Did he like her hair? Was she the most excited one in that section? Did she have the biggest. . . voice? Shaking my head, I pushed it out of my mind. He had so many things to concentrate on up there, he probably wasn't thinking at all. Just reacting to a fan asking for more of him. And they could certainly touch him. I wasn't such a jealous harpy that I couldn't handle a few caresses. Within reason, of course.

  And Kellan was good with keeping most of his flirtations on the stage. He would never look or act the way he was while he was singing in our day to day life. You wouldn't even know he was practically a rock star in-between his shows. Really, he seemed a little lazy to the untrained eye. But I knew his mind was always busy, even if he was just slinging back cold ones at the bar.

  As the heat only increased throughout their set, I started to wonder if Kellan might strip down. It wasn't a preposterous idea; he'd done it before while singing. A couple of times, from what I'd heard. He was wiping himself off with the lower half of his shirt whenever he got the chance, his shirt rising to the edge of his upper abs, each line still gloriously defined. With the symphony of screams whenever he did that, I was sure the crowd would approve if he chose to remove it. The bulk of the crowd, anyway.

  I wasn't sure how I felt about women ogling my boyfriend in that way. I wasn't sure how I felt about his tattoo being exposed either. That sort of bothered me more. But after a quick wipe, he always let his plain, white t-shirt fall back into place. I preferred to believe that he liked keeping his tattoo a secret too, like it was something just between us. And it should be. Even though it was on his body, it was incredibly personal for each of us. It had kept him connected to me while we'd been apart. It had helped seal us when we'd gotten back together.

  Once their allotted time had diminished, the band members each gave small bows and Kellan thanked the crowd for listening. He was happier than I'd ever seen him as he backed away from the stand. His eyes flicked down to mine in the crowd. No, I was wrong before. The look he was giving me now was the happiest look I'd ever seen on him.

  The crowd around us started shifting, some staying to watch the next show, some leaving to check out another venue. Bumbershoot had dozens of artists playing at any given time, from the big names, to the locals, like the D-Bags. Having been here just last year with them, when Kellan and I had just been friends, well, as much of friends as we had ever been, it was a little surreal to see their name on the lineup posters. I'd snagged about three dozen of those posters as mementoes.

  Giggling, Jenny locked her arm with mine and pulled us towards the side of the stage. The guys were alternating between acknowledging the fans and unplugging their stuff. Kellan grabbed his prized guitar, and with a smile and a nod at me, ducked behind the stage. Jenny and I approached a metal railing fencing off the backstage area from the rest of the populace. And just in case the fence wasn't enough
of a warning, a couple of yellow-shirted security guards were shooing people away.

  Waiting in the spot where I knew Kellan would eventually appear, I, for a moment, wished I was forward enough to sneak behind the fence. I wanted to be with him, to give him the huge congratulatory hugs that were bursting my prideful stomach apart. But it was off-limits to normal folk, like me, and I didn't want to cause a scene by getting busted by the burly guys who put Pete's bouncer to shame.

  Sighing as I watched Evan and Matt disappear from the stage, Griffin leaning over to suck face with some blonde before he too vanished, I again wished my sister was here. Anna was hot, by most men's standards, and she could get into places closed off to plain-Janes, like me.

  After what seemed like an eternity, Kellan came out, sans guitar, sans the rest of the guys. Rushing up to me, he leapt over the metal rail. The security guards glanced at him, but they were more interested in keeping people out, not in. A small scream erupted from the knot of people also waiting for their rock-god, but this god headed directly for me.

  Immediately his arms were around me, sweeping me into a hug. With his exuberance I thought he might sling me over his shoulder and twirl me around. If I also hadn't been sure that he'd smack my bottom a few times, turning my face beet-red, I might have let him do it. But I'd prefer it if those sorts of things were done in a more private setting. And Jenny and I weren't the only girls waiting around back here for the band.

  So, giggling as he lifted me up, I made sure to sling my arms firmly around his neck so he couldn't get too carried away. His smell hit me instantly. That undeniable aroma that was purely him. Clean, manly, seductive. . . it was a scent that lingered with me, even in my dreams.

  Kellan laughed and squeezed me tight, the air compressing from my lungs until he set me down again. Pulling back, his impossibly blue eyes glowed at me. "That was so much fun! I'm so glad you were here. . . did you like it?"

  His eyes sparkled in a shaft of sunlight as he grabbed my shoulders and squatted down to look me square in the eye. I giggled more at his question. Really? Of course I liked it, I loved watching him perform. His expression was so sweet, in his joy. Almost innocent. Cupping his warm cheeks, I nodded. "I loved it. You guys were amazing! I'm so proud of you, Kellan. "

  His face beamed even more at my praise, then he seemed to notice something that he hadn't before. His fingers around my arms pushed me back a smidge and his eyes traveled down my chest. I swear I felt the heat increase in a straight line down my body by his gaze alone. Stopping at my exposed navel, his lips twisted devilishly and he peeked up at me from under his so-long-it-wasn't-fair eyelashes. The smoldering desire in his gaze was enough to quicken my breath. Kellan's innocent moments never lasted very long.

  "I like your shirt. "

  His voice was melted sex. Yes, melted. . . sex.

  I flushed all over. He could still make me feel like he was looking at me for the first time, not the thousandth time. He still gave me butterflies.

  Just as I was about to come up with some response to his comment, Kellan was attacked. Not literally, but female hands did grab his arms and twist him around. Laughing adorably, he let go of my shoulders and basked in the affections of his fans. Some of them looked at me with raised eyebrows, but then I was ignored. That was fine by me. I'd rather not be in Kellan's spotlight, if I could help it.

  As Kellan started signing things and getting his picture snapped with cell phones, I shook my head. It was so weird. I constantly forgot that he was a little famous. I mean, I was used to the girls at Pete's, but we weren't at Pete's. Watching that fame follow him to such a public venue was kind of hard to wrap my head around. As I watched, the next girl in the crowd clamoring for him to notice them pulled down her tank top to expose the cups of her bra. She begged him to sign her chest. He glanced back at me really quick, but then he did it. . . and he had plenty of room to sign his name, if you know what I mean.

  My cheeks flamed hot and I felt a knot of tension in my stomach. Yeah, I tried to be cool with his life, but his face in her chest while he signed away with a sharpie was a little much. As was her hands on his ass. Just as I thought to shove the vixen away, a firm hand rested on my shoulder.

  "He loves you, Kiera. He's just playing. "

  I looked over my shoulder at Evan. He'd come out from behind the metal fence while I'd been preoccupied with watching Kellan. Kellan could do that to me-make me oblivious to the world. My habit of getting so wrapped up in him that everything else around me blurred into the background was sort of a weak point in me. I was working on it.

  Evan's jovial face was grinning at Kellan as he slung his tattooed arm around Jenny's waist. The perky blonde gazed up at Evan with adoration. Being the front man, and drop-dead gorgeous, Kellan got a lot more notice than the other guys, but Evan certainly had his followers, too. They were behind him now, waiting for the sweet, teddy bear of a man to disengage from his girlfriend.

  His warm brown eyes glancing down at me, he pointed his other tattooed arm at my boyfriend. "It's sort of his job, you know, to keep the fans wanting more. "

  I glanced over at Kellan, now smashed in-between two girls kissing his cheeks while a third forever captured the moment with her camera. I was certain the photo would be on the internet within hours. I sighed. At least he drew the line at them kissing him on the lips since we'd gotten together. He didn't used to. And yes, those pictures were on the internet too.

  Looking back up at Evan, I shrugged. "I know. . . I just wish he wasn't so good at it. " My voice came out a little sullenly and Evan chuckled, clapping my shoulder as he finally twisted to acknowledge his fans.

  With Jenny by his side, Evan signed autographs and made playful small talk with complete strangers. Jenny did too. Standing back from the mayhem a bit, I marveled at how comfortable they both looked. Me? I'd rather die than have to make multiple introductions over and over again.

  My eyes darted to Kellan's broad back, where a woman had her hand resting a little too low for my taste, and I quickly averted them. No point in making myself jealous by watching. Instead, I glanced over at where Matt had quietly joined the fray. He looked just as uncomfortable with this part as me. He enjoyed playing, enjoyed being on the stage, enjoyed creating and making music. That was where his passion lied, not in the people-pleasing part. But he nodded politely, taking a couple pictures and signing a couple of t-shirts.

  Attached to Matt's arm was his equally quiet girlfriend, Rachel. She was a beautiful mix of Latin and Asian with bronze skin and deep brown hair. She held the hand of her spiky, blond boyfriend, not looking jealous by the attentions he received, but not looking like she wanted to partake in the socializing either. Not one for crowds, Rachel had watched the performance from the lawn nearby. She was quieter and shyer than me. . . which was saying a lot. Rachel was Jenny's roommate, and she and Matt had started seeing each other last spring, around when Kellan and I had officially gotten together. The low-key pair was still going strong. Their personalities blended very well. They were sort of adorable.

  The last D-Bag to stroll into the awaiting crowd was less adorable. I rolled my eyes as Griffin sauntered through my line of sight, his hands fondling anything that he could. Some girls smacked him, others giggled. He always returned to the giggling ones. His form of signing autographs usually involved tongue. It turned my stomach, watching him. Honestly, I didn't get what my sister saw.

  Matt's near identical released a girl he'd just deep-throated and swung his head around, looking for more prey. Unfortunately, Griffin's horny eyes fell on me. His thin lips twisting into a familiar curl, he started walking over my way. I instinctively started backing up. Griffin was one person that I liked to keep some distance from. He had a tendency to be a little. . . grabby. Tucking his chin-length blond hair behind his ears, he threw his hands out to the side, conveniently brushing against a fan's breast as he did.

  "Kiera, my future lover! I'm thrilled you came to chec
k me out. " His hand went down to his cargo shorts and cupped his. . . stuff. "Did you like what you saw?" he asked, tilting his head.

  Wanting to gag, I twisted to leave. Close enough to grab me, he sidled up and snatched my hand. When he looked like he was going to place my palm on his junk, my eyes widening in horror, my fingers were suddenly torn away from his. Stepping between us, Kellan shoved Griffin's shoulder back. "Fuck off, Griffin," he muttered, shaking his head and rolling his eyes.

  The bassist shrugged and found some other girl to touch him. I breathed a sigh of relief and sank into Kellan's side. "Thanks. "

  Chuckling, Kellan kissed my head. "No problem. I know how much you love conversing with Griffin. " I cringed as Kellan waved goodbye to some of the fans that were lingering, maybe hoping he'd stay and chat with them all day. No, Griffin was about my least favorite person to talk to.

  Twisting us around, his arm firmly attached to my waist, Kellan started walking us away from the private area and back to the main part of the park. Almost subconsciously, like they'd follow him anywhere, his band members started trailing after him. Looking back, I watched Matt and Evan strolling along with their arms around their girls. Griffin strolled along with his hand scratching his privates. In a way, they did follow Kellan anywhere. When his parents had died, Kellan had sort of ditched everything to come up here, and they'd all followed him without a moment's hesitation. They'd been here ever since.

  Fixing my focus back on the man beside me, I slung my other arm around his waist, cinching him tight. I couldn't imagine what that day must have been like for him. It was true that Kellan had good reason to hate his parents, they were abusive, cold-hearted bastards, blaming Kellan for all of the miseries they'd felt in their lives, but still. . . they were his family. The only close family he'd had. Their death had deeply affected him.

  He'd only been nineteen at the time, away from their torture for only a year, since he'd run away to Los Angeles right after high school. Nearly right after the ceremony from the way he told the story. And he hadn't told them he was leaving, he'd just done it. They'd never even searched for him. Kellan had told me once that when he finally had called them, to let them know that he was, at the very least, still alive, they hadn't sounded like they had cared either way, like they'd done their jobs and he could live or die on his own. It was a miracle Kellan wasn't completely messed up.


  Griffin coming up and clapping Kellan on the back snapped me out of my dark thoughts. With Matt and Rachel behind him, he pointed to a band playing in the distance. I could hear the heavy rock beat in the sweltering air. "We're gonna go check out some of the other bands. Comin'?"

  Kellan looked back at Evan and Jenny, but they were sappily gazing at each other, absorbed in some quiet conversation that I couldn't hear with the multitude of bodies walking back and forth around our group. A few females passing by looked at the four guys like they seemed familiar, but none of them stopped for more than a couple of seconds.

  Looking down at me, Kellan started to ask me what I wanted to do. My body answered for me. My stomach growled so loud that even Jenny broke away from her tender moment to laugh. I closed my eyes for a moment while I felt Kellan's body chuckling softly at me. Cracking just one eye open, I attempted to glare at him. He found that even funnier and laughed a little harder.

  Glancing up at Griffin, Kellan shook his head. "I think we'll get something to eat first. " Smacking Griffin's back, he added, "We'll catch up with you later. "

  After watching the physically similar cousins walk off, melding into the crowd around them, Kellan smiled down at me. "Should we get some food in you, noisy?"

  I smirked and rolled my eyes, but then his lips were on mine and I couldn't have cared that he'd been teasing me. With his hand brushing over my cheek as he ran his fingers through the hair above my ear, his warm lips expertly leading mine as he forced a small space between our mouths, and the tip of his tongue flicking out to briefly touch mine, I didn't care about much of anything anymore.

  My hand reached up to securely tighten in his hair. I tried to angle him so his gently probing tongue was all over mine. All over my body would be nice too. Chuckling, he broke free from my mouth. Surprisingly, just that brief intimacy had my heart racing and my breath faster. It took so little for him to turn me right on.

  Grinning crookedly, he tilted his head. "Do you need a minute?" he whispered, raising an eyebrow.

  Gathering my senses, I smacked his chest and started to storm off. Wasn't I just thinking earlier that I needed to work on not letting Kellan so completely absorb me? Hmmm, I had a feeling I'd be working on that one for a while. Feeling a little dazed, I headed off to where I thought the food was. Laughing a little harder, Kellan grabbed my elbow and twisted me the other way.

  Smiling in that seductive, devilish way that he could, he nodded his head up the concrete path, opposite of where I'd been going. "Food's that way. " His smile widening, he added, "Unless you had something else in mind?" I instantly pictured finding a secluded spot in this massive campus and letting that tongue do. . . all sorts of marvelous, wondrous things to me. My breath stuttered a bit.

  Shaking my head out of my steamy thoughts, I started marching up the path towards the one craving I'd let myself cave into here. I was not about to indulge in public sex with my rock star boyfriend. As much as he would like that, I did have some self control.

  Still chuckling, still amused by me, Kellan easily caught up and slung his arm back around my waist. Smiling down at me as Evan and Jenny fell into step behind us, he murmured, "So adorable. What am I going to do with you?"

  By the time we'd reached the pizza stands, I'd thought of at least a half dozen things he could do to me.

  Once we were all full of food and music, and enough memories to cement this day into our brains forever, we all met back up at the staging area so the guys could get their instruments. Well, not Evan. Drums weren't as portable as the other instruments, so one set was brought in for all of the bands to use. Except the big acts at the end of the night. They would take the time to bring in their own.

  With Matt, Griffin and Kellan all having guitar cases slung over their backs, our group earned a lot more attention than before. They did have a special area for band members to exit the park that wasn't quite so public, but Griffin, being Griffin, insisted on heading out the main gate. Out of all of them, Griffin enjoyed the limelight the most. He was already living up his fifteen minutes.

  Stopping for a few more autographs and pictures, it seemed to take forever to get to the parking lot. But eventually, we did. Jenny gave me a quick hug, telling me that she'd see me tomorrow at work. Evan then gave me a huge bear hug, also jokingly telling me that he'd see me tomorrow at work.

  Smiling at them, I waved goodbye as they headed off together in Jenny's car, probably on their way to Pete's, since Jenny had to work tonight. I'd gotten the night off, so I could spend the evening with Kellan. Because of their afternoon gig at Bumbershoot, Kellan and the guys had the evening off from the bar. Not that that would stop the rest of the boys from spending the night there anyway. They could never be peeled away from Pete's for long.

  I congratulated Matt as I gave him a scant, one-armed hug. He wasn't as overtly affectionate as Evan was and I tried to respect the level that he was comfortable with. Smiling shyly at me, he thanked me for coming. Rachel smiled and waved goodbye as she and Matt put away Matt and Griffin's instruments and got into Griffin's Vanagon.

  Griffin, perhaps seeing that I was doling out hugs to D-Bags, decided that he wanted to be a D-Bag, too. Checking his breath in his palm, he started striding over to me. I put my hand out to stop him, but I think it was more Kellan clearing his throat, quite loudly, that finally made him pause. Rolling his eyes, Griffin waved his fingers instead. "We're going to Pete's. Catch you guys later. "

  Kellan laughed and clapped him on the back before twisting to open the door of his sleek muscle car.
A 1969 Chevelle Malibu from what Kellan had repeatedly told me. Shiny black with chrome all over, it was possibly the only possession, aside from his guitars, that Kellan cared about. He'd found it cheap in L. A. and had spent most of his time that first summer of his newfound freedom fixing it up. It was his pride and joy. . . and ever since the one time I'd stolen it, he never let me drive it.

  Sliding into the leather bench seat, he glanced over at me as I slid in too. "Your place or mine?" he asked, exaggerating the huskiness in his voice.

  I laughed as I leaned over to kiss him. Still trying to keep our relationship on an even keel, instead of bursting right into the red-hot zone that we so easily could dip into, Kellan and I were still living apart, still taking things slow. "Mine," I breathed, trying to be as sexy as he was, but, I'm sure, failing horribly. Although, he did bite his lip as he looked over my face. Flushing instantly, I sat back and ran a loose lock of hair behind my ear. "Anna's gonna be late tonight, so we'll have the place to ourselves. "

  His grin widened as he started the car, the hearty engine roaring to life, its growl as sexy as Kellan's smile. Feeling the heat in my cheeks, I shook my head and added, "School is starting soon, so I should really start going through my stuff. "

  That wasn't really what I wanted to do tonight, but the intensity of his gaze was riling my body up, and I hated how much he could see himself affecting me. I wished I could be more subtle around him.

  Twisting his lip, he seemed to contain a laugh. "Uh-huh, school stuff. All right. I'm great at. . . school stuff. " His mouth breaking out into a heart-stopping grin, he pulled his car away from the place he'd just completely rocked.