Insider, p.14

Insider, page 14

 part  #1 of  Exodus End Series

 




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  She looked at Logan. Really looked at him. Her expression softened. “Maybe if he cut his hair,” she whispered out of the corner of her mouth.

  Logan laughed. “I cut several inches off of it just a few weeks ago, but I’m not going any shorter. The ladies like to pull it when . . .” He lifted his eyebrows suggestively, and Toni finally found a woman who could blush more crimson than she did when Logan teased.

  “Well, I never,” the lady gasped, a hand trembling at her neck.

  Logan scowled. “That’s unfortunate. You really should. Not that I’m volunteering. I’m thinking about getting a steady girlfriend.” Logan moved his gaze to Toni. “A sweet girl who gets easily embarrassed. Has brains. Mismatched socks. And big boobs.” He held his hands out two feet in front of his chest. “Really stacked.”

  Toni smacked him in the arm, but her heart was smiling. She’d never expected him to consider her girlfriend material. She tucked the idea in the back of her mind. She’d get all goofy about it later when some stranger wasn’t shaking her head in disapproval.

  “Did your whole congregation come to protest the concert?” Toni asked the woman.

  She shook her head. “Some of ’em don’t blame the band for Jeff’s suicide, but that sweet boy changed when he started listening to Satan’s music.”

  Toni’s heart rose to her throat. “I’m so sorry. Did you know Jeff well?”

  She nodded curtly. “He was my grandson’s best friend. At least when they were boys. They grew apart in junior high. Didn’t even talk to each other in high school. Our Timothy still cared, though. He still cried when he heard the news after Jeff shot himself. Thought maybe he could have been a better friend to Jeff. And then maybe Jeff wouldn’t have . . .” The lady broke off, pulled a tissue out of her pocket, and dabbed at her eyes. She noticed that Toni’s eyes were also leaky, and she reached into her purse to offer a second tissue to the bleeding heart beside her. Feeling foolish but no less empathetic, Toni dabbed at her eyes with the proffered tissue.

  Logan reached out and squeezed the woman’s shoulder. “My condolences. I know how hard this is.”

  “How could you possibly know how hard this is, rock star?” she sneered.

  “When Vic killed herself, I thought the pain of her loss would kill me too.”

  Vic?

  Logan glanced at Dare, who was talking to the kid with the shiny new backstage pass.

  The woman covered Logan’s hand and squeezed. “I’m sorry about your . . .”

  “Friend,” Logan said. “She was our lead guitarist’s high school sweetheart. They dated into their twenties, so we all knew her well. Everyone thought Dare would marry her someday. When she lost the baby . . . The doctors said her hormones were off balance and that’s why . . .” Logan swallowed and closed his eyes.

  How had Toni missed that in her research? She wrapped both arms around Logan and hugged him as hard as she could. Dare Mills was next on her list.

  “If it makes you feel better to have someone to blame, I completely understand,” Logan said to the woman. “I can’t hold that against you if it makes your grief easier to bear.”

  “That boy,” she said, nodding at the young Exodus End fan she’d accompanied, “he reminds me a lot of Jeff. I guess that’s why I followed him in here.” She smiled as she watched the kid chatter excitedly with his guitar hero. “He looks happy to be here. I’m glad I could give him that.”

  “Well, since you’re here, you might as well have a beer. I promise we won’t sacrifice any goats in honor of Satan tonight.”

  She laughed. “It’s not nice to poke fun at a helpless old lady.”

  “Helpless? I don’t see a helpless old lady. Though you must be terrified to be in the same room with Max, and who can blame you.”

  Toni chuckled and finally released her hug. Logan wrapped an arm around her to keep her from moving away.

  “Which one is Max?” the woman asked.

  “That tall one over there in the leather pants.”

  The woman craned her neck and gasped when she caught sight of Max in a crowd of female admirers. “The tall one with the short hair?”

  “Yeah, he’s our lead singer. He comes up with most of our evil lyrics.”

  “Now that one is easy on the eyes,” she purred.

  Toni bit her lip so she wouldn’t laugh.

  “Go introduce yourself,” Logan suggested. “He’ll get a kick out of it.”

  “I think I will,” she said, stopping to grab a beer out of the nearest cooler as she wandered off in Max’s direction.

  “I didn’t think I’d ever get rid of her,” Logan said before stealing a kiss. Someone lifted their cellphone to take a picture. Logan spun toward the camera and pulled Toni behind him. She understood why he wouldn’t want anyone to have photographic evidence of him kissing her, but it still made her chest ache and her ire rise. She pulled out of Logan’s grasp and marched toward Dare. She still owed him a hug. She couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to lose an unborn child and have the baby’s mother commit suicide over the tragedy. No wonder he tried to keep strangers at a distance.

  Eleven

  Logan spun around, wondering why Toni had suddenly stomped off in the opposite direction. Had she wanted her picture all over the Internet with speculation about why he’d been kissing her in public? Kissing her in front of everyone hadn’t been his brightest move, but he couldn’t help it. He liked to kiss her. And he didn’t mind who knew it. Yet he knew how brutal people could be to the significant others of famous people, so he wanted to protect her from the bullshit. Hadn’t she recognized that? Where in the hell had she gone? He scanned the room for a mane of thick brown hair.

  When Logan spotted her with her arms wrapped around Dare, his jaw dropped in disbelief. Dare knew that Logan liked her. Where did he get off putting his hands on his woman? Maybe Mr. Know-It-All wanted to prove to Logan that he wasn’t ready to commit to her. Maybe Mr. Can-Do-No-Wrong thought this would make Logan give up on her. The bastard.

  Logan stalked across the room and shoved Dare in the shoulder. “Get your fucking hands off her, Mills.”

  Dare looked at him as if he were speaking Klingon. “What?”

  “You heard me. Don’t touch my woman.”

  Dare blinked especially hard. “Your woman?” He grinned wickedly and then tugged Toni closer. “I think she missed your memo. Looks like she’s with me.”

  Logan’s arm moved of its own volition. He honestly hadn’t meant to punch Dare in the face. It didn’t actually register that he’d hit him until Logan drew his stinging knuckles away from the nose they’d connected with. Before Dare could retaliate, Toni had Logan by one ear and jerked him down to her level.

  “What is wrong with you?” she bellowed.

  He’d never seen her angry before. Why was his fly suddenly so tight?

  “Me? You’re the one hanging all over Dare.”

  “I’m going to fuck you up later, Lo,” Dare said. He held his head tilted backwards with the bridge of his nose pinched between two fingers. One of the security guards was forcibly directing him toward the bathroom.

  “I wasn’t hanging all over Dare,” Toni said. “I was hugging him.”

  Logan pulled her hand off his ear and straightened to his full height. He crossed his arms over his chest and glared down at her. “Same difference.”

  “It is not the same. At all. And since when am I your woman?”

  “Since I popped your cherry.”

  She gave him a frosty stare. “I would have let any member of your band pop my cherry,” she said. “You know that, right? I just wanted it over and done with. I didn’t care who did the deed.”

  His heart twisted in his chest, cutting off his ability to take a decent breath. She couldn’t mean that.

  He glanced around at their spectators. Maybe the meet and greet wasn’t the best place to discuss this. He grabbed her arm and tugged her toward the bathroom. He’d forgotten that Dare was already in there until he was
confronted by a pair of grass-green eyes above a freely bleeding nose. No way was he confining himself with that caged tiger.

  “Did you come to apologize?” Dare asked as he stuffed a tissue up one nostril. “It won’t save you. I’m still going to fuck you up.”

  “Actually, I forgot you were in here,” Logan said.

  “Figures.” Dare shoved him aside and left the room. The roadie, who went by the nickname T-Bone, grabbed the first aid kit and scurried after Dare.

  When they were alone, Toni yanked out of his hold. “Why are you acting like such a jerk?”

  She thought he was a jerk? Ouch. “I-I don’t know.” He’d never felt so confused before in his life. And worried about what someone else thought of him. And afraid that he’d done something that she’d never forgive him for. He was less concerned about Dare fucking him up than he was of Toni’s disapproval.

  “How could you think I’d mess around with Dare? Especially right in front of you?”

  “I didn’t just think it, I saw it.”

  “I was hugging him, Logan. What you said about him losing his baby and the mother committing suicide, it made my heart ache and I needed to hug him.”

  So she’d been behaving like a first-class sweetheart and he’d been behaving like a first-class asshole. “It wasn’t even Dare’s baby. It was Max’s.”

  Toni stared at him open-mouthed for a long moment before licking her lips. “I thought she was Dare’s girlfriend.”

  “She was.”

  Toni sucked a deep breath into her chest and blew it out with a fierce scowl.

  “That better not end up in your book,” he said.

  She shook her head vigorously. “I won’t put anything in the book that could potentially hurt one of you.” She lowered her head. “Or all of you.”

  He believed her. If she’d told him that pigs had finally evolved wings, he would have believed that too. “I’m sorry for being a jerk,” Logan said. “I just . . .” He stared at the wall behind her. How could he put this? “I didn’t like seeing another man with his hands on you.”

  “Obviously.” She chuckled, and he shifted his gaze to hers.

  She was smiling. He felt as if the weight of the world had lifted off his shoulders.

  “You don’t hate me?”

  “Why would I hate you? I’m your woman, aren’t I?” She tilted her head and winked at him.

  He grinned, his head swimming with happiness. “Yeah.”

  “Go talk to Dare.”

  “Do I have to?”

  “You sucker punched him in the nose, Logan. Don’t you think you at least owe him an apology?”

  He took a deep breath. “Yeah. He’s going to kick my ass, you know.”

  “You probably deserve that. But I’ll kiss it and make it better.”

  “I’m going to hold you to that.”

  “So you’d let me?”

  “Let you what?”

  “Do things to your ass.”

  Logan gawked at her.

  She lowered her eyes. “Forget I asked that.”

  “Depends on what you have in mind. No strap-on dicks allowed in my bedroom.”

  She laughed. “Why would I use a strap-on . . .”

  Her eyes widened when she apparently figured it out. She was still so innocent and he was so enjoying making her naughty. Logan stroked her hair from her lovely face and tucked it behind her ear. He stared down into the inquisitive brown eyes hidden behind thick glasses and couldn’t help but smile. It was a permanent condition when she was around. What was it about this woman that had him in knots? God, he hoped he didn’t fuck things up with her. Yet he figured it was inevitable. He tended to fuck up everything eventually. Except his music. It was the one thing he had under perfect control, but maybe that had more to do with his bandmates, the crew, and his anal-retentive manager than it had to do with anything he did. “You’re beautiful. We’ll try things—some of them so naughty your glasses will steam up.” He kissed her forehead before leaving the room to seek his well-deserved ass-kicking.

  Pissed off and out of sorts, Dare had let his guard down and was completely surrounded by a collection of lead-guitarist worshipers (mostly male) and rock-star -dick worshipers (mostly female). Logan knew exactly how to earn Dare’s forgiveness. Free him from the hell of adulation. At least Dare considered that hell. Logan wouldn’t mind a little more of it.

  “Hey, Dare,” Logan called over the crowd. He had no chance of making his way through the flock of admirers. “We need you in the dressing room. Pronto.”

  Dare gave him a measured look. He obviously knew Logan was lying. Now he just needed to decide which was the lesser of two evils—fans he’d allowed to get too close or one of his best friends who was currently on his shit list. Logan thought Dare had decided to take his chances with the crowd until he lifted one finger, said, “Excuse me,” and the crowd parted before him like the Red Sea.

  Dare stalked toward the dressing room which was labeled Band ONLY—No Guests, and Logan followed him, hoping there were witnesses present behind that closed door in case Dare actually killed him. He was such an easygoing guy until someone pissed him off.

  Dare stormed into the dressing room, and Logan closed the door behind them. They probably should have knocked before barging in. A rhythmic pounding of flesh on flesh came from the couch on the opposite side of the room. Logan couldn’t see anything but one feminine foot poking over the back of the sofa, but he could hear a whole lot.

  “Yes, Steve. Oh yes!”

  Well, that explained where Steve had been during the meet and greet. His head appeared above the sofa back, and his confused gaze shifted from Logan to Dare.

  “What the fuck happened to you?” Steve asked as he took in the bit of bloody tissue Dare had shoved up one nostril.

  “Logan.” Dare pulled the tissue out of his nose and dabbed his nostril on the back of his hand to check if it was still bleeding.

  “Don’t stop, baby. I’m almost there,” crooned a woman from somewhere beneath Steve.

  Steve continued to stare at his bandmates, but he was moving again. The sound of wet pussy getting pounded was unmistakable. “Did you punch him or what?”

  “Yeah,” Logan said, raking a hand through his hair. “I didn’t mean to. Well, yeah, I did. I overreacted when I saw Toni hanging all over him. I thought he was making a move on her. I’m sorry I hit you, Dare. I overreacted.”

  “Logan is stupid over a woman,” Steve said. “Now his ignorance knows no bounds.”

  A hand with long hot-pink fingernails moved to Steve’s hair. He flinched as she got a handful and pulled.

  “Ouch. Don’t yank.”

  “Then stop talking. I can’t concentrate.”

  “Me neither.” Steve shifted and moved to kneel on the sofa, his elbows resting on its back and his fingers linked together.

  “I didn’t mean you should stop,” the woman protested.

  Steve ignored her. “So are you going to hit him back?” he asked Dare. “Because that’s something I’d like to see.”

  “No,” Dare said. “I have a better way to get back at him.”

  A chill raced down Logan’s spine. He had no doubt that Dare was capable of ripping his guts out if he had a mind to. “Just hit me. Get it over with.”

  Dare chuckled coldly and then let himself out of the dressing room without another word.

  “Shit,” Logan said. “What do you think he’s going to do?”

  “I’d keep a close eye on Toni if I were you,” Steve said. “You know if he shows the slightest interest in a woman, her panties are around her ankles in less than five seconds.”

  “He wouldn’t do that. He knows I like her.”

  “Are you sure? I think he’s pretty pissed off at you.”

  Dare wasn’t someone you wanted to piss off. And Logan had decked him in the nose. In front of a crowd of people. Logan rubbed his forehead with one hand. So what should he do about this? It was too late to take it back. He guessed h
e’d just follow Steve’s advice and keep an eye on Toni. As if that would be a chore.

  “Can we finish now?” an annoyed voice said from the sofa.

  Steve rolled his eyes at Logan and then disappeared from view

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