BEHIND THE LIGHTS

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Chapter 15

October 28th, 2016
Oslo, Norway
Hereafter - Architects

After the meeting with the A&R guy, the members of Dark Omen were busy with a couple of interviews and the recording of a video of a live session—aside from other stuff related to their side businesses.

Their partial job of trying to stay under the radar was the most exhausting thing of all. With the new era and everyone having phones and video cameras they had to be careful when they were outside—those tireless bugs even stalked Ian and his wife into the clinic one day they went for a check-up.

The musicians knew they were public figures. They had signed up for people fantasizing about them or wanting to be them but it was really frustrating sometimes. They could be metalheads, rock stars, or whatever people wanted to call them, but they were also human beings and deserved to have some privacy.

Luckily, the week was finally over and, even if everyone knew who they were in the club, it was a safe place for them. They used to hide in the back, in a private lounge they had, but this time they decided to enjoy the atmosphere of Crash and Burn, a bar for rock, punk, and extreme metal music lovers. Their club.

After a few years of saving money, traveling, and feeling homesick, Alex and Søren decided to buy it when it was about to close forever. It was one of those classic places where everyone met at the end of the week, but the former owners didn’t seem to care anymore. Broken toilets, sticky floors, bad drinks. People stopped going and it was slowly dying.

However, they loved it. It was the first place they had performed in with their first band and then with Dark Omen too. It was the hole in the ground where they spent a lot of nights when they were younger, drinking, laughing, and talking about the dream of becoming a world-famous band one day.

Restorations and advertisements were made so, on the opening night they blasted it. It sure was a safe money income for them but, above all, it was a place they could call home.

Letting out a sigh, Søren sunk into the black leather couch, head thrown back. Watching the gaggles of women ogling him had never felt so boring.

“What’s wrong with you tonight?” Astrid asked him before sipping from her drink.

“He’s still sulking because he got rejected a week ago,” Ian stated, laughing.

“Is that it?” Alex quirked an eyebrow.

“Fuck you.” He didn’t even look at them.

“Aww, c’mon! You know you’ll always have us,” the Irish quipped.

“Shouldn’t you be with your wife?” Søren retorted.

“I’ve been so clingy since we came back, she kicked me out of the house.” He shrugged.

“I told you, I don’t know how she can stand you,” Jørn quipped.

“Well, you’ve seen what I have between the legs.”

“That again no, please!” the drummer groaned.

“Well it’s either we talk about my happy dick or his sad dick,” Ian pointed to Søren.

“I’m gonna punch you in the face,” the singer threatened, lifting his head but with no intention of moving from his seat.

“Aw, did she hurt your ego that much?” Alex mocked.

“You’re a bunch of fucking idiots.” Søren leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He grabbed the glass with the insipid lemonade in it and took a sip, feeling his friends’ eyes on him like those of a hawk, waiting for him to tell them something else. “She said she’s not up to be one on my list, or some shit like that.”

The three men burst out laughing, throwing their heads back, slapping their legs, almost crying. Astrid, on the other hand, stared at him as she tried to hold back a grin. Søren rolled his eyes, annoyed.

He hadn’t told them anything about what had happened before, but they had spent enough time together to know what was going on with the others when they were acting weird.

The truth was that, as much as he tried to get her out of his mind, he couldn’t. And the fact that he had become so pussy whipped, obsessed with a woman when he could have a dozen if he wanted, was driving him nuts.

Every time he saw his new guitar hanging on the wall, he thought about her and the emails they exchanged talking about her work and music instruments in general. The burgundy t-shirt he was wearing that day made him think about how close they had been. Even coffee reminded him of her and that bittersweet kiss they shared.

Stalking her musician official Instagram didn’t help. Leah was so annoyingly gorgeous.

Why the hell did she reject him like that? She was obviously attracted to him... For fucks sake, she fucking moaned!

It had been a week since he last talked to her at all, and every time he remembered her smile, her sweet perfume or the way she snorted—something she did a lot and that was so damn cute—he wanted to text her.

Fuck. No.

She had rejected him, no way he was gonna crawl back to her.

“She doesn’t want you!” Jørn cried, still laughing.

“Poor Søren!” Alex followed with a whiny voice.

“Your balls must feel so painful right now!” Ian added.

“Want to feel pain in the balls?”

“No, please! That one time you twisted them I couldn’t walk for days.”

“Then, shut it.”

As the night went on, after finally dropping the topic, they talked about the meeting they had at the beginning of the week with the A&R guy to talk about the upcoming tour dates, so he could talk to the label representatives around the world for them to organize some press and other stuff that would fit their schedule.

They had those booked since months before, some completely sold out, and they couldn’t cancel them now, not after postponing the tour because of Ian’s injury and the uproar that Alex collapsing in the middle of that concert in LA had caused. It had affected everyone badly—the label and the promoters had lost money and they were losing their patience. So, in a month they would be traveling to Asia.

They would rest for three weeks before their European round, and after that they would stop for a month before the South American one began. Resting three months after that with just a few concerts here and there at different European summer festivals—like the SWR Barroselas Metalfest in Portugal or the Antwerp Metalfest in Belgium. Then, they’d go to the United States for the Burn to Rise festival as one of the headliners.

Way to go.

He knew it was important, that touring was the best way to make money, and he didn’t want to disappoint their fans, but he couldn’t help but worry about Alex’s situation since he had started to play with fire again...

“Do you have the pictures from yesterday?” Astrid asked, snapping him back into the real world.

“Huh?”

“The ones Knut took during the concert we hosted yesterday.”

“Ah, yeah, yeah...” Søren bucked his hips up to get the phone out of the back pocket of his jeans. “They should be somewhere there,” he commented, handing her his phone.

“Great, I wanted to upload some on the bar account.”

“Sure.” He nodded.

As Astrid sat beside him, sliding her finger over the screen, looking for the photos, Søren asked, “why didn’t you go to Henrik’s house today?”

“He’s not in town,” she simply replied. “Oh, I like this one!” She showed him the phone with the black and white picture of the bassist. He looked like he was really enjoying it with his head thrown back and eyes squeezed shut while he bit his bottom lip.

“Yeah, that’s a good one.” He knew she was just avoiding the conversation.

“Okay, gonna send myself this one.”

“Yeah, whatever you want.” He stood up and strode towards the bathroom.

Unlike what most would expect from that kind of club, the restrooms there were pretty decent. Medium grey tile walls and flooring, black countertops, backlit mirrors. Someone fucking in one of the toilets.

Chuckling and shaking his head, once he had emptied the bladder, Søren washed his hands and he went back to his friends.

“Here.” Astrid handed him his phone. “It’s getting late, I’m gonna go back home.”

He frowned at sneaky and elusive attitude, but didn’t give it too much thought. “Hm... Sure. Want me to drive you?”

“No need to, I just called a cab.”

“Send me a text when you get home.”

“Okay, Dad,” she quipped as she put on her coat, making Søren.

Astrid said goodbye to the guys, kissing their cheeks and lecturing them about how they shouldn’t get drunk, and left.

The closing time was near. The club was still packed, but people were starting to leave. Ian had already gone home and Jørn was flirting with Hilde, one of the waitresses and the assistant manager of the club. Well, they had been fooling around for a few months, but he was publicly claiming her now. Since he saw her with another dude before they went to Germany, he had been acting a bit territorial with her. She didn’t seem to mind it though.

Alex and Søren were still sitting on the leather couches, accompanied by a couple of chicks. They were grinding on them while whispering a bunch of stereotypical bullshit in their ears, trying to get into their pants. Zero shame.

Søren was more than used to everyone wanting a piece of him. Used to people seeing him as a golden opportunity and not as a human being. That was how he had learned to fake it all. Act mean, snooty or nice depending on the moment. It was a cynical attitude, he knew, but it was the only way to deal with all that shit.

Trust was a real issue when you were on the top.

After some time, it became a simple transaction where both parts would get what they wanted. He never had a problem with that as long as everyone knew where they stood. His body was always ready for a ride, but that night he wasn’t in the mood.

At any other moment, that red-haired would have already been on all fours with him ramming into her over and over, but his cock hadn’t reacted to her. Not even half-mast.

He tried to deny it, but deep down he was well aware of the reason why.

Fuck my life.

Upset and frustrated, he grabbed the chick’s wrist and dragged her with him to the back of the bar—towards their private area. How could he still be thinking about Leah? He was really a pussy if just a pretty face and a conversation had him craving for her like that.

Okay, that fucking kiss and the way his whole body throbbed when she was in his arms might be messing with him too.

Fuck me twice.

He hated it, so he did the only thing that could help to get her out of his mind.

“Kneel,” he growled as he unbuckled his belt.


October 31st, 2016
Munich, Germany

The four members of Buried Alive were having breakfast together at the cafe in front of the building where Gunther and three other men ran a small agency to help emerging bands make their way to the top.

The sky was still dark outside as it was barely seven-thirty in the morning, the last fallen leaves remaining on the streets swirling in the air with the autumnal wind.

“Man... Couldn’t the meeting be at lunch or later in the afternoon?” Chris grumbled with his face ducked between his arms crossed over the table.

“Some of us have to work,” Erik replied.

“I also have to work.” Chris glared at the drummer, not even bothering to raise his head. He was a night owl and waking up before nine was torture for him.

“So grumpy...” Leah mumbled before sipping from her cappuccino.

“Said the witch. You’re always in a bad mood when you wake up, no matter the hour,” the guitar player protested.

“It’s not like that’s new.”

“The first step is to recognize your problems.” Marc laughed.

“Who says it’s a problem?” Leah arched an eyebrow, looking at him over the edge of her mug. A soft smirk on her lips.

“I do!” Chris exclaimed. “You tease me and scare me by inviting my fucklets over. Besides, you snore when you’re drunk.”

“I don’t!”

“Oh, yeah, you do! And always mumble incomprehensible shit. Dude, at least say something funny or embarrassing so I can laugh at you.”

“You’re a pussy, dude,” Erik said, chuckling.

“Agree with that.” Leah nodded, pointing at him as she ate her croissant. “Erik’s the smartest of us so whatever he says.”

“Meh. I just wanna die.”

“Aww... Poor big, baby. Do you want a num-num?” Marc mocked him.

“Shut up!” Chris threw the ball he had made with a napkin at him.

“Should we get going?” Erik asked, checking the time on his phone.

“Yeah.” Leah nodded, drinking the last sip of her coffee.

Once they had paid for their breakfast, they left. The road on that street wasn’t big so, after making sure no cars were coming, they crossed and made their way into the building.

“Morning, Finn,” Leah greeted the security guy.

“Morning, guys. Why so early?”

“We have a meeting with Gunther,” Erik explained as they waited for the elevator.

“Is that good or bad?”

“I think he has some good news for us.”

“Nice.” Finn smiled. “Have a good day.”

“You too!” Marc waved his hand before the doors closed.

Inside that metal cage, none of them talked, probably just sleeping with their eyes open or overthinking shit about the meeting. Gunther had told them it was good but didn’t give them any more detail so—even if they didn’t show it—they were nervous.

As they walked down the hallway towards the manager’s office, none of them spoke, afraid to break the silence on that floor.

“Good morning, guys! Do you want anything to drink? I can get Hannah to bring you a coffee or something.” Gunther gestured towards the inside of the huge yet cozy office.

“We just had breakfast across the street,” Marc said.

“At Sweet Harmony?” the manager asked as he walked around his table.

“Yeah.”

“They have the best croissants in the city,” he stated.

“That they do,” Leah agreed.

“Okay, well... Let’s go straight to the point. About the Battle of the Bands for the Burn to Rise festival...” Gunther intertwined his fingers over the table, smirking. “You’re in!”

He could look like a badass sometimes with his undercut hairstyle, both hands tattooed and more ink creeping up his neck, but the kindness in his baby blue eyes, his round jaw covered in a slightly copperish-brown beard and the permanent smile on his face made him look like the nice and trustworthy man he really was.

“Yes!” Chris shouted, leaning on his chair.

“Are you serious?” Leah asked, stunned, her grin painful.

“Yeah.” The manager nodded, a proud smile on his face.

“Do you know who else is participating?” Erik asked.

“Only the judges know, the participants will be publicly announced one week before the first round of concerts,” he said.

“Amazing!” Marc beamed, still trying to process the information.

“So, this first competition will be held here in Munich on November nineteenth. You’ll play along with another nine bands. If you make it to the second phase, which I’m sure you will, you’ll have to travel north three weeks later so you can compete against one band from each state... Only ten out of the sixteen will make the cut,” Gunther explained.

“I’m already feeling nervous.” Leah chuckled. She loved having the chance to participate in such a big event, but there were so many good bands out there. It would be a tough contest.

“No need to be, I’m sure of what you all have, and I’m certain you’ll make it to the international competition,” he reassured them, giving her a faint smile.

“And what does that mean?” Erik questioned; hands clasped together in front of his face.

“Well, the third phase would mean you’ll travel to Vienna and compete against one band from each European country participating in the contest. It will be a two-day event. Only two bands will come out of this last phase and they’ll be put in a list together with bands from all over the globe so the public can choose who they want to see on the tour,” the manager said.

“That’s scary,” Marc tittered.

“Well, it can be, but I know your strengths guys, and I’m sure you’ll boom it there. And even if you don’t make it to the last phase, you will already have such visibility that we’ll barely need to promote your works anymore.” Gunther laughed.

“And what about the rest of the tour for the year?” Erik asked.

“I’m still arranging those, but you already have several dates confirmed for Germany and the UK, Brussels...” Gunther checked her papers. “Oh, yeah! Helsinki and Oslo.”

“Nice...” Leah gave him a half-smile, clenching her jaw.

“You’re going to blast it this year,” the manager went on. “I’m really proud of what you’ve achieved in such a short time.”

“It’s thanks to you that we made it this far,” Erik noted.

“Well, you worked your asses off for years, I’m just helping you handle the boring part of the business, and eh, as long as you keep paying me, I’m not going anywhere.”

“I bet,” Chris laughed.

Leah disconnected from the conversation. She had managed to stop thinking about Søren for the last few days, but hearing the name of the city where he lived in made him resurface in her mind.

The weekend after their awkward situation, she was alone at home, music blasting loud through her earphones while she checked her social accounts. But when she slid her finger on the screen of her phone to jump into the next stories and saw an old, black and white, picture of Dark Omen from their last Burn to Rise festival, something inside of her twisted.

The members of the band were sitting around a picnic table, cracking up. Søren was holding a cigarette between his index and middle finger, covering his face partially with that same hand, his beautiful smile shining bright.

The clock said it was half-past one in the morning, but she decided to listen to Julia’s wise advice. Setting aside her pride, she texted the metalhead to apologize for her reaction, but he didn’t even bother to answer—and he had seen her message.

Prick.

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