ZANE WAS BACK. Thank God.
His memory. His snarky weird-ass attitude and love for all things sugary and sticky.
At least that problem had solved itself.
And now I was back in Seaside, where Hollywood single rockstars and actors go to die—also known as the place where every single one of my clients end up in love, married, or with kids.
My gut twisted.
I twirled the stick between my hands over the fire. I was exhausted.
I love my job.
I love my job.
I love my job.
I freaking hated my job.
I was thirty, and I wanted to retire.
I was an agent, partially because I was good at it, partially because when my boy band broke up, I didn’t really have a choice. I needed a purpose, and it was easy to go into the business side of things.
I had an ear for talent.
I loved managing musicians.
I loathed actors.
I wanted to strangle them with my bare hands, give them a little shake, then take them for a long drowning swim in the ocean.
“You look like hell.” Lincoln sat down next to me and sighed. “And you’re burning your marshmallow.”
Zane shot me an evil stare from across the fire, I held up my hands in surrender. “I wasn’t paying attention.”
“She coming?” Linc whispered.
“Hell if I know.”
I let the sound of laughter float around me. It was nice, the laughter, seeing Zane dance around the fire with his girlfriend. Out of all of my clients — I loved him the most.
I wasn’t supposed to pick favorites.
Our clients were our children — God knew they acted like them most of the time, but Zane had always been different.
More of a brother than a client.
And watching him grow up in the industry had been a pleasure, a privilege.
But as if the universe needed to remind me of the current hell I was residing in, the sound of a car door slamming jolted me out of my happy place.
And Angelica Greene marched toward me, her tiny hands clenched into fists, her face one of beautiful fury.
We weren’t supposed to pick favorites.
And we sure as hell weren’t supposed to sleep with them.
Granted, our history was just that — history.
And I was her last hope. The only guy willing to work with her.
Her final shot at stardom.
“Sis,” Linc coughed into his hand while the gang around the fire grew quiet.
Zane shared a horrified look with me. Yeah, I might have forgotten to mention that she was the new client.
Jay held out his hand. “Glad you could make it, Angelica. Guys,” he grabbed her by the shoulders. “Most of you know Linc’s sister. She’s graciously agreed to star in the final movie — as you know, Jessica had to pull out due to her pregnancy.”
Alec made a cross motion over his chest while Demetri looked like he was about five seconds away from throwing her in the fire.
I wasn’t the only one who had history with her.
She was known for burning bridges almost as much as she was known for her drug problem and inability to get over Alec Daniels.
Hell, I was in over my head.
“Hi.” Angelica found her voice and addressed everyone with a haughty expression that had me groaning out loud.
Lincoln winced and then patted the sand. “Angelica, why don’t you sit, I know it was a long drive back from Portland.”
Her eyes penetrated mine with ferocity.
“Well…” Her voice always did remind me of sex, damn it. It was low, controlled, raspy. “I would have gotten here a lot sooner if my jackass of an agent wouldn’t have dropped me off on the side of the road with nothing but a twenty dollar bill and a cell phone.”
Jay glared at me.
I crossed my arms. “Well, maybe your agent wanted you to remember who’s in charge of your career. The same career hanging on by a thread. I’ve heard walks are good for dogs, you know, clean air and all that.”
She gasped in outrage.
Zane shot me a “really man?” look across the fire.
But I was over it.
So over it.
I was over it the day Angelica Greene walked out of my life and into my band mate’s arms.
I was over it then.
And I was over it now.
The only reason I was even involved in it was because she had about just as much shit on me as I did on her — and most days I loved my job.
She kicked sand onto my marshmallow.
I loved my job.
I loved my job.
I loved my job.
I hated Angelica Greene.
New York City — Madison Square Garden
I FIXED THE earpiece and slowly grabbed a stool to sit on while the crowd of ninety percent girls went completely wild, losing their minds, sobbing, screaming my name. The signs were littered with marriage proposals and glitter. Some were decorated with bras while others were flung onto the stage.
“We’re going to slow things down a bit.” I chuckled into the mic as the screaming intensified. I always loved this part. The part where thousands of people were silenced just because I wanted them to be silent. The power was addicting — then again, nobody ever said fame didn’t change people.
I refused to be that person.
Maybe that was why I was the lead singer. I was the only one smart enough not to get caught up in all the shit that my bandmates found it impossible to stay away from. Like all the amazing sex I wasn’t having and the drugs I wasn’t taking because why ruin a good thing? And our band? The biggest boy band the world had seen — trust me, we were a good thing just waiting to get brought down a peg or two. Already we’d lost one member to rehab, and I’d be damned if we let it happen with the others.
It was our last tour stop, then I had a cameo in a movie soon after that. Who knew?
A young teen caught my eye. She couldn’t be more than twelve or thirteen, though the way she wore her makeup and short skirt told me that her parents better put her on a tight leash before she ended up in trouble.
God, just listen to me!
At nineteen, I felt like I was pushing thirty.
I finished the last set with the guys, hardly remembering anything above the shrieking screams as security ushered us off the stage.
I was exhausted, but I knew what was expected before I could sleep. Autographs with every single tween who’d managed to beg their parents to pay the steep price, and there would be at least a hundred of them.
I inwardly groaned while Trevor gave me a look of disgust. He hated it as much as I did — but he faked it better than any of us. Maybe it was because he was a cocky piece of work and people expected him to be a bit rude, who knew? If I was the frontman he was a close tie, more second frontman than sidekick though he hated the label.
Andrew jerked off his headset and cursed. “Let’s just get this shit over with.”
My thoughts exactly.
It had been fun when we were fourteen.
It was a blast when we were sixteen.
But now that we were all pushing twenty and twenty-one, we wanted more to life, I knew that the lifestyle was getting to everyone, and I could see it in their eyes when they talked to friends back home, friends who were in college, friends who actually had lives.
Friends who wanted ours.
Without having any idea, the sacrifices made to have it.
We were basically shoved toward the dressing room and the backstage area where we were at least given snacks and something to drink while we waited for the screaming to erupt again.
The first girl that came through was quiet.
The second sobbed.
I gave her a tissue.
I think it made her cry harder.
It went on like that for two hours, until finally, the last girl walked through.
I narrowed my eyes.
She was older than thirteen — that same girl I’d seen from the stage, too pretty to be by herself and too damn innocent to be wearing such a short skirt.
Feeling like a total pervert, I looked away.
Only to see Andrew’s eyes bulging out of his head.
I elbowed him.
He coughed and elbowed Ty who in turn elbowed Trevor, yeah so all of us were elbowing, nobody was talking.
“Hi!” she said, her voice lit with excitement. “Not sure if that’s your guys’ way of saying hi or if you’re being weird.” She thrust out her hand. Her fingernails were covered in pink nail polish, bangles clanged against her wrist, and a small bird tattoo covered the expanse of pink skin just below the last bangle. My fingers twitched with the sudden alarming need to trace the black edges. “I’m Angelica—”
“Greene!” The girl who’d just walked out of the room shouted and then more shouts came with, “OMG! IT’S ANGELICA GREENE!”
And suddenly it hit me.
Why she looked so familiar.
She was the actress I was supposed to be working with on set next month.
With a smirk, she locked eyes with me.
And I knew, in that moment.
I was screwed.