As he stood in the wings of the stage in Dallas, Bane looked out at the few people who were already starting to fill the seats. His eyes were drawn almost immediately to a girl in the front row, center stage. She looked about his age—twenty-three—and she also looked uncomfortable. Unlike most of his fans, she had on a flowing blue blouse with black skinny jeans and black knee-high boots. Her long, blonde hair looked natural, and her makeup was minimal. She was a welcome contrast to the others around her, dressed in traditional goth style—pale foundation, thick black eyeliner, ruby red lipstick, and black clothing. At the moment, she was doing something with her phone, and he couldn’t see her eyes, but then she looked up at the stage, and he saw that they were green. Not hazel, but a brilliant dark green. He wondered if they were contacts.
“Ten minutes, Bane,” Tony spoke behind him. “We’ve got to get you ready.”
“I want her tonight.” Bane pointed to the girl. “Make it happen.”
Tony looked out at the seats, and smiled. He knew his friend wouldn’t be able to go a night without a companion, and he said, “Sure thing, Bane. I’ll do it now. She’ll cream her jeans thinking about what is going to happen after the show. Especially if you make eye contact with her while you’re singing. Just let me know if you see anyone else you want.”
“No one else. At least, not for me. You can ask Cass and the others what they want to do, but I just want her tonight.”
“One? How long has it been since you’ve fucked just one person, Bane? Four years? Five?”
“I don’t have any fucking idea, Tony. Just make it happen.” Bane whirled on his heel and went to the prep area to get ready for the show.
His makeup artist, Sharon, was finishing up with his black eyeliner when Tony appeared in front of him. She’d been with the band since the beginning, too.
“Is it done?” he asked.
Bane’s eyebrows came together, and he frowned.
“Bane! Knock it off. I can’t do your makeup if you move your eyes,” Sharon scolded him.
He relaxed his eyes, but he still glared at his friend. “What do you mean, no? Why not?”
“I mean that she said no.” When a low growl came from Bane, he continued. “Don’t be a dick, Bane. I can’t force her. That would be kidnapping and rape.”
“Fine, but do me a favor. Ask her if she’ll give me a chance to change her mind.”
Tony’s eyes went wide. “What do you mean by that?”
Bane just grinned. “Let’s just say that she might need some extra protection from the skanks in the audience. I’m going to make them fucking jealous.”
Tony frowned. “Why would you do that for one girl? Why don’t you just let me find someone willing like always? Or several someones?”
“Because I want her, Tony! And I’ll have her tonight.”
Tony’s frown turned into a grin. “Wanna bet?”
Bane’s grin grew. “You’re on. How much?”
“You’re that confident that her answer will stay a no?”
“You didn’t hear her when I offered the first time. She really isn’t interested, Bane.” Tony laughed as he walked away.
“Why are you doing this, Bane?” Sharon asked as she finished up with his eyes.
“Pursuing a girl who isn’t interested in you. You’ve never done it before. Why now?”
Bane sighed and forced himself not to run his hand through his hair. “I don’t know. I told Tony this morning that I was sick of one-night stands, and I am. This girl is different, Sharon. I thought maybe I could have a chance at something with her.”
“Something lasting? You know the odds against that, right?”
“Of course I do!” Bane snapped, and then he frowned. “I’m sorry, but I can’t do this anymore. I am tired of the bullshit, Sharon. I want something different.”
“And you think this girl is it? Why?”
“Because she’s got blonde hair that doesn’t look like it came from a bottle and a bright blue shirt on at one of my concerts.”
“Well, I wish you luck. Although I have to admit that I wouldn’t have said no if you ever asked me back to your room, Bane. I’d like to see you happy again. I know you haven’t been lately. I miss the laughing, fun-loving Bane from high school. I’d like to see him back again.”
“Yeah, well so would I, but now I have a show to do. Do me a favor and watch her, would you? Let me know at the break what you think.”
“Sure, Bane, I can do that.”
“Thanks, Sharon.” He kissed the air over her cheek, not wanting to ruin her makeup job or his. “I appreciate it.”
She smiled, and he went to join his band. All the instruments were already onstage, so his friends were just lounging around in the wings.
Cass, the bass player, was sitting on the floor, his eyes closed as always before a show. Bane knew he was visualizing every note of every song they would play tonight. David, the drummer, was playing cards with Trenton, his guitar player. All three of them had their faces decorated in the same way as his own, and they were all dressed in their signature black leather, although Bane knew that by the end of the night, their jackets and shirts would be off, and the females in the audience would either scream or faint or both.
Bane risked a glance out into the seats, and he saw that the girl was still there, but she was frowning, and he wondered why. He’d find out later that night, for he was not about to lose a thousand dollars to his friend. Somehow, he’d get that girl in his room and in his bed.
Fifteen minutes passed and then their opening band took the stage. Devil’s Breath was a pretty good band, and Bane thought they could actually go far if they really wanted to. They played for half an hour, and then, after their last song, their lead singer spoke into the microphone as the audience cheered and clapped.
“Thank you, Dallas! And now, the ones you really came to see! Venom!”
Bane let his band enter the stage first, to the sound of screams and cheers and thunderous clapping and stomping of feet. Then he moved to the back of the stage and took his microphone in hand. Cass started the concert with a slow, deep beat on his bass, and David joined in on the bass drum. When Trenton added his guitar, Bane started to sing, still concealed by the shadows. At first, his voice was low and deep, but as he continued, his voice got louder and faster, the music got louder and faster, and when he got to the chorus, he was suddenly flooded with light, and the screaming of the audience grew a hundredfold.
He grinned as he sang, striding forward past David until he was standing between Cass and Trenton. He loved this. Performing was in his blood, and he had always known that he would be a star someday. His gaze instantly went to the girl in blue, and his grin faded a bit. She wasn’t screaming or cheering; in fact, she was actually frowning at him. He finished the opening song, letting his eyes travel away from her. He knew what he was going to do later, but for now, he would ignore her.
As the cheering died down a bit, he stepped to the edge of the stage. “How the fuck you doing tonight, Dallas?” he roared, and the responding explosion of voices, both male and female, caused a shiver of delight to flow through him. He would never get enough of this. “You ready for a fucking good time?” The affirming noise that flowed over him was as good as the drugs he had never taken. Drinking, yes. Drugs? Just say no despite what the tabloids claimed.
They performed three more of their signature heavy bass, mind-numbing heavy metal songs, and then Bane pulled a stool close to the front of the stage, hooked his hands-free mic over his ear, and picked up his guitar. The audience quieted except for several random outbursts of, “I love you, Venom!” He ignored them all. Those skanks had no concept of what love really was, and he was no longer interested in any of them.
“This next song isn’t on any album yet,” he began. “I wrote it for everyone out there who believes in love. For everyone who wants to believe in love.” He grinned without humor. “I wrote this song for all of you out there who are like me, wondering if there’s more to life than the next nameless, faceless fuck.” He strummed the first chord, and hummed into the mic. Then his fingers danced over the strings as he picked out the melody of his newest song.
“My one, the matching half of my soul,
You are the most beautiful woman in the world.”
He looked at the girl and was happy to see that her frown had almost disappeared. He kept his eyes on her as he sang, and he saw her gradually relax her stiff stance as he sang the chorus to her.
“Rising like the morning star at the start of a new day,
Your eyes are the loveliest green.
Your lips are sweet.
The taste of them drives me insane.”
He had written the song with the girl having the loveliest blue eyes, but he changed it for the girl in front of him. She had a small smile on her lips now as she stared into his eyes, and he felt his chest tighten.
“Your body is full of grace, your hair soft as silk,
And I am so very grateful to call you mine.
Other men are jealous when I simply hold your hand,
And they ask you to dance when I am away,
But you tell them all no as your eyes search for me.”
The song continued, and he never took his eyes off her. She was truly lovely, and he desperately wanted to know her name at least. He knew the other women in the audience would be craning their necks to see who he was singing to, but he didn’t care. All he cared about was that she would see something in him that would make her want to know more. He hoped this song did that. He finished it off with the chorus one last time, and when he strummed the final chord, the auditorium erupted with applause and cheers, and he gave them a small bow before putting his guitar on its stand.
For an hour, the band performed, and then Bane said, “Time for a little break, but don’t worry, we’ll be back in fifteen minutes!” Amid cheers and screams, the members of the band filed off the stage. Bane took one last look at the girl, and he was pleased that she didn’t look angry anymore. He waved to the audience and joined his friends. He immediately went to Sharon.
“Well?” he asked her.
“She looked fucking pissed at you when the concert started, but when you sang that song to her, she thawed quite a bit,” she answered with a smile. “You just might get that grand from Tony after all.”
“Fuck, I hope so. I have never wanted something so much in my entire life.”
“Liar,” Cass said, coming up behind him. “You wanted that Grammy last year this much. And we won that. You can win this girl, Bane.”
“Fine,” Bane said with a laugh. “I’ve never wanted someone this much. And I don’t want to win her. I want her to want to be with me.”
“Why? What’s different about her? Why do you want her so much?”
“What’s different is that she’s not screaming my name and drooling over me. She’s the first person to ever turn down a night with me, and I want to know why. I want to get to know her.”
“Well, you might get the chance,” Sharon said, “but now you need to get touched up and get back out there.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Bane said with a grin as he sat down in her chair.
“Smart ass,” she muttered with a matching grin. As she touched up his makeup, she said, “It’s good to see a real smile from you, Bane. You are truly gorgeous when you smile.”
“Nice to know, babe. Thanks.”
“No problem. Now, get out there, take your shirt off, and let the shallow women in the audience drool. I’ll watch the girl for you.”
“You don’t have to do that. I’ll be watching her myself.”
“Don’t forget the rest of the audience, Bane. Ignoring them won’t sell albums. You know that.”
“Of course I know that,” he said, getting out of the chair. “I won’t ignore them, but I will keep an eye on her at the same time.”
For the next hour and a half, he did exactly that. He played to the audience, but his gaze kept drifting toward the girl in the bright blue blouse, and every time he looked at her, she was smiling at him. He had taken off his jacket ten minutes after returning to the stage and his shirt twenty minutes after that. It felt good to sing in his skin, especially considering how hot the leather jacket got, but he noticed that the girl’s frown returned as his shirt flew into the audience. He didn’t like it when she frowned at him.
For the rest of the concert, he tried to read the expressions on her face. She never turned to the others around her, so he was pretty sure she had come alone, but that didn’t make sense. She was the complete opposite of his usual fan, and he wanted to know what she was doing here. Her frown faded when they sang softer songs, but it returned full force when he ground his hips during one particularly suggestive line in another. Finally, the concert was over, and Bane exited the stage. Tony was waiting for him.
“Ask her again,” Bane demanded of his friend.
Tony just shrugged. “She’ll still say no, Bane.”
“I’m not so sure about that. Just ask.” He disappeared into the dressing room.
Bane took his time changing because he wasn’t sure he could face Tony if she did say no again. He wiped the sweat from his body, washed the makeup off his face, and dressed in a black and white striped shirt and black jeans. Then he took a deep breath and opened the door.