The Devil's Reprise
Angeline. Of course. “It’s not like that,” I said quickly.
He raised his hands and quickly brought out a cigarette. “I never said it was.”
“And I bet you never said it wasn’t,” I said under my breath.
He lit his smoke and puffed on it for a long time before exhaling. I missed smoking. It was something I’d given up when I thought I’d gotten a new lease on life. Seemed kind of pointless now, considering the other shit I was taking.
I held out my hand. “Can I bum a smoke?”
He shrugged and shook another one out of his pack. “Be my guest.” He tossed me the lighter. “And by the way, it’s not my job to make sure you and Dawn are communicating properly.”
“Oh yeah?” I said, leaning back in my seat and taking a deep, long, delicious puff of the cigarette. I coughed. “And what is your job? You know, I saw you last night taking photos from the pit. You didn’t take very many.”
“It’s a long tour.”
“Not that long. And it was opening night. Sometimes I think you’re here just for show, Max.”
He shrugged. “I’m not here for show, I can tell you that.”
“And what else can you tell me?” The nicotine was starting to revive my brain.
I felt his eyes go to me. “Were you running after Angeline to get your pecker serviced, or was there some other reason?”
I started coughing loudly, choking on the smoke. “Excuse me?”
“I’m just asking.”
I glared at him. “I ran after her because she said something that…I don’t know…it bothered me. What’s your deal? What did you say to her? You seemed to be kind of threatening her.”
Max faced to the side and exhaled a large blue cloud. We both watched it rise into the warm night. “I don’t trust her. That’s all.”
Right. I felt like we were dancing this big elaborate number, each footstep so carefully placed. I wanted to trip him.
“Well, you could say I don’t trust her, either.”
He exhaled sharply through his nose and turned to me, his stance rigid. “What did she say to you?”
“Max!” Dawn’s voice rang out.
I eased around on the bench to see Dawn coming down the street, palm trees framing her on both sides, her gait crooked. It wasn’t until she was quite close that she noticed me sitting on the bench. She stopped suddenly, almost falling forward, and Max quickly shot out his arms to stop her.
She giggled, falling into him. She was drunk.
“Careful now, little lamb,” Max said to her, wrapping his arms around her waist. Maybe to hold her up, maybe to hold on, but damn if I was going to sit there and let him do that, say that. His grip around her seemed a little too firm.
I got to my feet, proud that I didn’t sway. “Little lamb?”
He grinned at me. “And I’m the red potato. You mean you don’t have cute little pet names for each other?”
“Man slut,” Dawn said, laughed at her own response. She looked at me, her dark eyes glinting in the streetlights, and I saw nothing but hurt in them. And I knew how destructive that hurt could be.
She tightened her grip around Max and said, “Let’s go, potato. Leave him here. I’m sure Angeline will pop up at any time, like the white rabbit.”
I looked to Max, and I finally saw his face clearly as he was turning to leave with her. He was smiling. The bastard was smiling. Like he’d won something.
“Fuck you,” I said, tossing my cigarette on the ground.
He stopped, and I could see he had a short fuse if I knew where to cut it. Dawn pulled at Max’s sleeve, as if she really wanted him. And fuck, could she really want him? Was this actually a fucking thing? If I let them leave, would they go back to each other’s hotel rooms and…I couldn’t even finish the thought.
Max is good for her, Jacob’s voice rang through my head.
Like fuck this guy was good for her. I was good and I wasn’t even good; I was better.
“You heard me,” I repeated, my fists clenching. Max might have been better built and an inch taller than me, but I still had muscle beyond muscle, and beyond that, I had near-psychotic rock star rage. That was fucking hard to duplicate.
“Sage,” Max said in a low voice, “you don’t want to do this.”
I stepped toward him. “And why is that?”
“This isn’t the issue,” he said carefully. He looked down at Dawn, who was looking at us fearfully. She didn’t want this. But if she was picking Max over me, she was going to get it. I was tired of missing out. I was not backing down. “There is something bigger than this at work. It wants this to happen.”
“I know what I want to happen,” I said, my fist ready. “And I know you won’t want the same thing.”
With an explosion of rage, I clocked Max right in the side of the head. Dawn cried out, letting go of him, and I tried to go for Max again, but suddenly he was to the side of me and a few yards away. I had no idea how he moved that fast, but it was disorienting as hell.
Before I could even go after him again, I was being pulled away by heavy arms wrapped around my stomach, and Jacob’s coffee-and-mothballs breath was at my ear.
“Stop it right now,” Jacob seethed to me in a harsh whisper. “Stop it before you ruin everything.”
Normally I could have fought Jacob off. We’d only been in one fight together, just a few months ago, when I’d taken PCP and a slew of other stuff, and he unleashed a decade of managerial buildup on me. I had won—but barely. Jacob was a fucking bruiser.
Still, there was something in his voice. And beyond that, beyond the alcohol that was still in my system and the drugs from the night before and everything else that liked to take away from the bigger picture, there was Dawn. My beautiful Dawn, who was staring up at me with heartfelt eyes, a blend of fear, and pity. I couldn’t stand it.
I relented and let Jacob drag me away. He pushed me back on the bench and pointed at me. “You stay there.”
Then he turned to Max. “And you, you stay there. There’s no such thing as doing your job and being a bloody prick, and you’re being the latter at the moment.”
Finally he turned to Dawn. “And Dawn, my love. Get your fucking head on straight, woman.” He jerked his head at me. “This guy, Sage, right? He’s the one you love.” He jerked his head to Max. “And this one, your ginger brethren, he’s the one you work with. He’s your big brother in all of this.” He placed his palms against his own chest. “And me? I’m your manager, whether you need one or not.”
He sighed and slid his hands down his face, staring up into the sky. I was only now noticing that it was clear and starry. “All right. There’s no point in talking to you two right now. So we’ll wait till tomorrow morning to discuss what needs to be discussed. But for the love of God, if you both don’t go home together, I’m going to be very upset.” He looked to Max and snapped his fingers. “Potato, let’s go.”
Max grunted something, avoiding both my and Dawn’s eyes, and followed Jacob as they went down the road, disappearing into the shadows like ginger ghosts.
Dawn and I stared at each other in a tipsy showdown.
She looked away first, seeming to go after Max and Jacob. I got off the bench and grabbed her hand.
“Don’t go,” I said.
She reluctantly let me pull her closer to me, wobbling on her feet but still managing to keep her distance as much as she could.
“Stay with me.”
“Because Jacob told you to and you do whatever he says,” she said, bite in her voice.
She looked at me with a pained expression. “You told the press you were single. Just because it’s a better image for you.”
“That’s not fair.”
She ripped her hand out of mine and walked away, throwing her arms up in the air. “You weren’t even around last night when I needed you; you passed out from being an idiot. Sage, I need you, I need you now, and you’re barely here half the time.”
“Look,” I said, feeling defensive in spite of myself, “I’m sorry, but how the fuck was I supposed to know you were going to have a nightmare? So I went out with the band after my first show in Europe. How is that my fault?”
“It wasn’t a nightmare!” she yelled at me with fury. “My mother called me on the phone!”
I bit my lip and stared at her in confusion, unsure of how to handle this. “What?”
She wrapped her arms around herself, her hair glinting dark red in the streetlights. “She called me. It wasn’t a dream; it happened.”
Shit. Things were really lining up now. I thought about bringing out the photograph I’d received in the envelope, but realized Jacob still had it.
I eyed her sincerely. “I believe you.”
“I know you do.” She exhaled loudly. “I know you do, and that’s why I needed you. Because you do believe me, and you know what I’m going through…you know the fear. And yet you were out. And I know I’m just a journalist to you sometimes, but…I should have been with you last night. I wanted to be with you. Be with the band. I wanted to talk to you about the show. I wanted to experience that aftershow high with you.” She gave me a wounded look. “But instead you told everyone that you were single and you went on without me. Like I didn’t matter.”
I ran my hand through my hair in frustration. “You do matter. You matter a lot.”
“But not enough,” she said bitterly. “You never loved me. Why start now?”
“Oh, that isn’t fair,” I said, my voice raising. “That is not fucking fair.”
“None of this is fair!” she yelled. “But it’s not always about you.”
“You left me!” I roared at her. The blood was rushing to my head. I couldn’t keep anything down, not now, not when we were laying it all on the table, what we really thought. “You’re the one who left me, Dawn. How is that for love?”
She looked like I’d slapped her. Her face went white, her brows coming together. “I…I don’t understand.”
I took a step closer to her as the resentment took its toll. “You left me. I had to put my whole life back together on my own. Aside from Jacob, you were the only person out there who knew what I had gone through; you were the only one I had left in this whole fucking world. And yeah, maybe we didn’t know each other all that well, but when we were at my father’s house in Redding, when we were together, I was actually happy. You actually gave me hope. You actually made me think that I could pull through. I believed you loved me and that we could go from there. That we were living that first step. But then you left. You went back to Washington. You left me. And then you never even bothered to pick up the phone and see how I was. Rock star fucked, article finished, I’m done with you, Sage Knightly.”
Silence. She was speechless. I could see the confusion in her eyes, her mouth trying to form words that weren’t coming. She blinked, shook her head, rubbed at her face. Finally she said, “I had to leave, Sage. I had to finish school. I had to take care of my family.”