Chapter 45. - Curtain Call
This time, I arrived at the concert with Lukas LaBelle and was led backstage without the security guards checking for any passes, or asking for my ID. We walked in, holding hands, smiling from ear to ear as we discussed the new songs the band was working on.
Hazmat was set to start recording in a couple of weeks, while they were on the road. Lukas promised I’d get to listen in as they were settling into their new routines, and I nodded and laughed and lied right into his eyes as I reassured him that I couldn’t wait.
I held his hand a little too tight as he walked up to the row of guitars the crew has already arranged for him. Lukas began asking the sound technician some questions and I watched his golden profile transform from the lover I came to know so well, to the famous rockstar I grew up adoring.
“London!” A familiar, friendly voice sounded from behind me, and I turned around to face Jesse. “Glad you could make it! You look like a knockout!”
I felt, rather than saw Lukas’ gaze on the back of my head as I went in to hug the drummer that became one of my best friends. “I’m excited to watch you guys tonight!”
“Well, keep that excitement going! We might have a special surprise for- Ow!” He was cut off as Brian smacked the back of his head.
“Don’t listen to a word he says.” He said calmly, but his glinting eyes suggested that I definitely should expect the unexpected tonight. “It’s good to see you again, London.”
I nodded at him in greeting, before his wife swooped in. “Alright, the fans will be here in ten minutes! I need the backdrop area cleared, and-” Nikki paused. “Where the hell is Ash?!”
“Right here!” His deep, unmistakably raspy voice made all of our heads turn to the door, where the long-haired rock star stood, with a girl under each arm.
Nikki sighed in exasperation. “I hope those are not the raffle winners!” She murmured under her nose, before scurrying away with a couple of crew members.
Lukas wrapped his arms around me from behind, pulling me against his hard chest. “Do you want to wait back here before the show starts?”
“That’d be great.” I breathed, my heartbeat picking up as his familiar scent enveloped me. “As long as Nikki is fine with it.”
Lukas chuckled. “She’s not the one in charge here, Kingston.” His plump lips pressed against my ear, making goosebumps rise on my arms as I shivered. “Just stick close to security.”
For brief moments like this, it was easy to forget our situation - put the unhappy fans, management, the world’s problems out of my mind. For these little moments when he held me this close, I didn’t think about the future or lack of it. I just felt.
“Will do!” Go make these girls happy!” I joked, turning around to plant a quick kiss on his lips, just before Nikki announced that the VIP pass holders and raffle winners were now lined up outside. “I’ll be right here.”
“Good!” Lukas grinned, his golden eyes shining from more than the bright reflectors strategically placed around the room. He started walking backward, away from me, looking every bit of the delicious famous sensation that he was.
Tonight, he wore a tight, black shirt that stretched across his wide muscles, tan jeans that were ripped around his knees, exposing dark golden skin, covered in light blonde hairs, and black hightop sneakers. His look was simple, but so him, accessorized with tens of leather bracelets around his thick wrists and completed with the perfect length of blonde curls.
Lukas LaBelle looked effortlessly sexy - because the thing that made him stand out amongst us mere mortals was his cocky charisma that no agent could ever teach someone that wasn’t born with it. Lukas LaBelle walked with the confidence of someone who knew they deserved every bit of this dream he got to live, a spark that was so full of life it was mesmerizing to watch, and a pleasure to get to be a part of.
The girls piled in, screaming when they caught sight of the band.
Most of them wore Hazmat merchandise, some cut and ripped in all the right places to show off everything they had to offer.
This was the life of rockstars. And I really couldn’t fault the girls, especially since I was one of them. I, myself, stood to the corner in a short, ripped denim skirt, and a boho vintage top that cut right between my modest, but shapely cleavage, and heels so tall that my head nearly spun when I had to balance on my own.
Group by group, they took their place between the men, telling them how they wanted them to pose, who should stand with who - even bringing little souvenirs to the guys.
I couldn’t help but feel envious of the way they expressed their admiration, openly flirting with whichever band member caught their eyes. Then, when they were done, they blended back into the crowd - inconspicuous, nameless, but forever remembering these fleeting few moments.
“Excuse me!” Someone called to my left, and my stomach clenched as I turned to face the small group of girls. “You’re London Grey, right?”
I glanced over at the two security guards behind me, before nodding. “Yes,” I responded, tucking my sweaty palms into the back pocket of my skirt.
The girls ran their eyes down the length of my body, not bothering to hide the fact that they were checking me out. I held my breath, bracing myself for the crude, angry words that I was used to now, but never actually accustomed to.
Finally, the girl in the middle, the leader of the group, smiled over at me. “You’re even prettier in real life. Although, I pictured you to be a bit taller.”
My mouth dropped open, as the one to the left nodded. “So much prettier!”
Finally, the third one stepped forward. “Could we get a picture with you as well? I know it’s not a part of the package, but I’ve been dying to meet you at one of the Hazmat events.”
“Kelly brought one of your paintings.” The middle one grinned at her friend, who blushed in return. “The one of Jesse. He’s her favorite you know. I’m more of an Ash-girl, but even I admired the way you captured those hazel eyes of his! Anyways, could we get a picture?”
Slowly, I began to relax. “Yeah, I suppose that’d be alright.” I looked over my shoulder at the security detail, who only nodded at me. “What are your names?”
It was as if a seal broke. After the first group, another one came up to me, followed by a third and a forth, until I began to lose count. Their names and faces blurred together, but the feeling of acceptance, and even admiration, I got from them didn’t fade.
“We should begin to charge for pictures with you too.” Nikki walked up to me, after the last few fans have said their goodbyes. “Scandal seems to be a good business, after all. Erika was right when she said there was no such thing as bad publicity.”
At the sound of her name, the easy feeling I got from the girls evaporated. “I guess you’re right.”
“Don’t be surprised if some of them will say bad stuff about you.” She nodded toward the fans. “Drama sells, and people know how to fake things - especially in this town.”
“You’re probably right.” I agreed. But that was no way of going around, thinking about life.
“Would you like a picture with them?” She surprised me by asking, taking me back to the first time I was escorted backstage to a Hazmat concert. Back then, I knew nothing about them, only that they weren’t at all how I made them out to be in my head. Back then, I was full of questions and hope, and nervous excitement as I took my place between them, only dreaming of what Lukas’ touch would feel like.
It was hard to believe that it’s only been a few short months since that night with Arielle, and her funny security guard, teasing me about my innocent crush on the most famous, talented guitarist on the planet.
“Sure, why not!” I stuttered when I realized Nikki was still staring at me, waiting for a response.
Nikki’s dark eyes stayed on me for a second longer, before turning to the band. “One more, guys!” She yelled out, as four pairs of eyes locked on me.
I walked up to them, tentatively stepping over the red rope. A hand reached out to steady me, before pulling me into his side. “How do you want us, baby?” Lukas’ rich voice washed over me in a mixture of tingles and heart-racingly strong sexual tension.
“Want me to propose to you now?” Jesse offered, wiggling his brows as he took his spot on my other side.
“I think I’m good just like this.” I couldn’t help my smile as the familiarity of the moment embraced me, and I reveled in the feeling I got when I was around these four incredibly talented, gorgeous, kind, normal men, who just happened to be my favorite band.
“Three-” The photographer began to count down, just as I felt Lukas’ hand slide from my waist to my hip. “Two-”
“Ow!” He pinched me, and I turned my head toward him, just as the flash went off, illuminating his honey-colored gaze. I grinned up at him. “You ruined the photo!” I teased.
“It’s actually a very good shot.” The photographer shot back in a monotone voice. “They’ll mail it to you in a few days, and we can send you a digital copy now.” He ran through the information on which website to log into, where I could find my code, how to download the photo.
But despite the photographer’s best attempts, I couldn’t take my eyes off Lukas LaBelle, and his damned cocky half-smile, and his unfairly perfect, handsome face. “You better take that card.” Lukas warned, his tone teasing as he nodded his head toward the cameraman. “And send me the photo too.”
My heart was now hammering so loud, I was afraid everyone in the room could hear. But the only person I focused on was the man right in front of me.
I lifted myself on the tips of my toes, watching intensely as he lowered his head to meet mine, our lips brushing against each others in a soft kiss, just as the flash of the camera went off again.
“That’s enough, Romeo!” Ash’s signature raspy voice snapped us both out of our little bubble as he pulled his best friend back. “You can kiss her all you want after the show. We got a fucking crowd to entertain now.”
“Roman, will you walk her to her seat, please?” Lukas called one of the security details over, before turning back to me. “Pay close attention to the show, you got it, Moncton?”
I grinned, saluting him. “Sir, yes sir.”
And with a final wave in his direction, I was led away from Hazmat, away from the man of my dreams, and into the deafening crowd of screaming fans that could not wait to have their favorite songs heard live.
The man Lukas called Roman escorted me to my seat, which was in the front row, a little off to the side of the stage. There were two empty seats, one of me, and one for the best friend I didn’t even realize was missing until now.
I kicked myself for being too preoccupied with Lukas as I pulled out my phone, and shot Callie a quick text, asking her where the hell she was.
Her reply was immediate.
Callie: Running late! I got held up at the airport. Be there in 30.
“Perfect,” I muttered to myself as I leaned back against the seat. This really was for the best.
I did my best to relax and not think about who might have recognized me from the crowd as Hazmat ran out to the stage, taking the entire arena by storm. Jesse kicked the first song off, and the rest effortlessly joined in on their respective instruments. Ash’s beautiful voice filled the space, drowning out the calls and screams of the tens of thousands of fans.
The first song was a quick rock song, one of their singles from the new album, that made everyone jump to their feet.
“Are we having fun yet?!” Ash’s voice boomed after the song came to a stop. He held the microphone over the crowd, winding them up. “Then you fuckers aren’t ready for the next one!”
They played one song after another, blending the new releases with a few classics from their older album, only stopping in between to say a few words to their fans.
At one point, the lights dimmed, and Jesse rose from the drums. “This next one is a very special song for us.” He began, and the crowd screamed in impatience. “And not just because it was written by Lukas - who honestly writes most of our shit.” He grinned, earning whistles and laughter from the fans. “But because it’s about a very special girl. And tonight, as a treat to her, and all of you-” The arena erupted. “-he’s actually going to sing it to her. Serenading our beautiful London, live, from Los Angeles, is Lukas LaBelle!”
My breath caught as the light fell on him, making his golden skin glow even brighter. Lukas was now shirtless, his abs glistening with perspiration, his chest rising and falling as he positioned himself on top of a stool, with an older guitar now on his lap.
I recognized the one - it was the same he serenaded me the first time I was at his house. It was the same one that I painted on most pictures of him. It was his favorite.
The song began to play, Lukas stroking the strings of his guitar just as much as he strung my heart, shattering it into a million pieces as he started to sing.
It was our song, from him to me. Just to me.
And despite the entire world watching, this moment was only ours.
I watched as he retold our story, in his own words, speaking of the girl who caught his eye and his heart while the scent of coffee lingered in the air.
My eyes welled with tears - tears that I couldn’t let out. Not just yet.
This was special, and I couldn’t afford to miss any second of it. This was his gift, just to me.
When the song ended, my stomach was in knots with feelings I never knew I could feel. Feelings I didn’t know how any human being could bear. Because after every high, there came a crashing low, and as his golden eyes met mine over the crowd of people, I knew just what I had to do.
The band launched into the next song, this one quicker, our moment fleeting away and I struggled to catch my breath, as I looked up at the man I’ve been in love with since I was sixteen.
I idolized him back then, not knowing what love truly meant - I just knew that I was his in every way, if he would have me.
Body, soul, mind.
We were on the same wavelength. I used to think we were made for each other.
Now, at twenty-five, I knew a different love for him. I knew passion, and raw, primal hunger than only he could ever invoke in me. I knew what it meant to truly be one of his girls - and it was more than I could’ve bargained for.
I loved him. I always have - and if I was being honest with myself, I knew that I always will.
But it was time to say goodbye. This would be the last time I saw him, and soon, I would allow myself to cry about it. But now, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the music. I got lost in the rhythm, the beat, the song… That wicked guitar solo.
And him. Always him.
My gaze found his. Twenty thousand people in attendance tonight, but he looked at me. I smiled. How could I not?! He was everything. He always has been.
The song ended, and I clutched the strap of my back tighter. One last glance - I promised myself. Then, I turned on my heel, and walked out of the arena, never to look back again, as the electric guitar cried a heartbreaking melody.
No one could see what the future would bring, but I knew I’ve made the right decision. The first of many tears rolled down my cheek, but I kept my head up high. This wasn’t the end of us - the love I always felt wouldn’t just go away. It would just transform, over time, back to admiration.
At least, I had to tell myself that.