“CRAP MCRAPSTERS!” Raven screeched, zigzagging through the students milling in the sidewalk, getting in her very precious way. “MOVE OR BE SHANKED!”
She was late. It was Maddie’s first performance, and she was late. It was all the damn cat’s fault anyway. If she didn’t love Sophia so much, there would be one less fur ball ruining underwear in the world.
There was a large crowd at the Sound tonight. Maddie had gotten a good slot, prime time Saturday night. Craning her neck, she spotted Landon’s stupid beaniecovered head. She blew on her elbows like pistols and proceeded to nudge and growl her way to the front. “Hey babe!” she shouted over the noise, grabbing Jesse’s arm. He wrapped his arm around her waist and heaved a breath.
“I thought you weren’t going to show!” he confessed. Raven scowled and flicked his collar.
“Why the hell would you think I wouldn’t show?”
He pointed at the guitarist. “Because you’re you.” Erica strummed her guitar and grinned encouragingly at Maddie, who was fiddling like crazy with the buttons of her shirt. Maddie met Raven’s gaze and beamed.
“I’ve been getting along with Erica,” Raven said pointedly. “Even if I didn’t, I adore Maddie. I’d be there for her if the drummer was Bush.”
At her declaration, Jesse got the same look in his eyes before some fantastic itsy bitsy spidering. Standing on tiptoe, Raven pecked the underside of his chin and whispered, “Stare straight ahead and don’t move, because you’re wearing my favorite button-up and I’m getting all sentimental.”
He broke the rules and glanced back, towards the tables. “We met here one year ago.”
“That’s why you’re sentimental.”
“Oh boy, he is a smartie!”
He drew her in for a steamy kiss, regardless of the crowd surrounding them. “I love you too, babe.”
Raven bit her lip and fought away the annoying blush staining her cheeks. “I’m going to break your foot and make you eat it.”
“No, you won’t.”
No, she wouldn’t.
She kind of wanted to keep this one around.
She was going to throw up.
“You okay?” Erica inquire, sitting on the crate beside her. “We go on in ten minutes.”
She waved her hand in the air. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Fighting the urge to flee the country a bit.”
Erica wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “You got this, babe. This is what you’ve been preparing for.”
She was right. Maddie had been so insecure about her singing abilities that she hadn’t told her friends she was practicing with Erica’s band. She would mysteriously vanish without an explanation for long stretches of time and act cagey about it. Raven and Sophia were concerned, and it wasn’t until after Sophia was released from the hospital that she’d come clean about her absences and her tumultuous relationship with Erica.
Raven had nearly peed herself with excitement when she found out she was in a band. And once Erica realized
Maddie’s feelings for Raven had shifted into platonically affectionate, she’d toned down the rudeness towards the fiery girl. The pair had even formed a tentative friendship.
Jesse met her gaze from the front and winked. She giggled and glanced to their right, where Landon and Sophia were. Sophia was gesturing wildly and her cheeks were pink. This meant either Landon had said something to fluster her and bring on the babble, or she was trying to make a weird argument that likely involved aliens.
Rolling his eyes, Landon hooked his arm around Sophia’s neck and tucked her into his side. Sophia pouted briefly before throwing her arm around his waist and drawing closer.
“Those two are nauseatingly cute,” Erica commented, watching the couple as well.
Maddie tilted her head and tapped her chin thoughtfully. “I don’t know. We’re pretty damn cute ourselves.” Grabbing Erica’s shoulders, she pressed her lips to her girlfriend’s and felt the tension in her chest slowly seep free.
Grinning, Erica tugged Maddie to her feet. “C’mon, it’s time. Go get ’em, tiger.”
Holding on to the mike for dear life, Maddie exhaled slowly and straightened her shoulders. She was going to rock this show. And hey, if she didn’t, her friends would probably buy her a lot of junk food and trashy tabloids. Win-win.
Clearing her throat, Maddie gazed at the crowd of eager students and felt confidence surge through her.
And shy little Madison sang her heart out.
“Did you know she could sing like that?” Jesse muttered to Landon. The latter shook his head, awed.
“Not a clue. But Sophia and Medusa are screaming loud enough to burst my brain cells. It’s possible I’m going deaf.”
Maddie was phenomenal. Her voice was powerful, carrying across the Sound easily. She sashayed across the stage, dancing and drawing in the audience with raw magnetism.
Jesse knew she had it in her. Since meeting her nearly a year ago, he’d felt a kindred spirit in Maddie. She was shy and sweet, but there was a fire burning in her chest that he’d felt reflected in him. He’d never have guessed it was through singing, but she’d clearly found her calling.
And she was extraordinary.
Landon’s shoulder bumped his, and Jesse rolled his eyes. Sophia was jumping around like a maniac, but there wasn’t even a trace of irritation on his best friend’s face. A year ago, if a girl had tried the same antics, Landon would have politely taken her home and lost her number.
Jesse elbowed him. “Did you ever think when we came to Franklin that either of us would be in committed relationships?”
Landon guffawed. “Man, I couldn’t even commit to soda flavor. And you were too nerdy to see past your Calculus textbook.”
“Shut up you two!” Sophia hollered, waving her arms in the air. “Can’t you see magic is happening tonight?”
“We should have left them at home!” Raven bellowed, and the two started shrieking Maddie’s name.
Jesse smiled, rolling his eyes. They weren’t wrong, though.
There certainly was magic in the air.
Sophocles’ blonde buddy was busting some sweet moves onstage. Riker hung at the back of the crowd, perched on the edge of a table. He’d waved hello to his little worker bee a while ago, but he wasn’t down for the negative vibes from her boyfriend enough to hang with them.
“Can you scoot over?” a tall chick with radical green eyes asked, poking his shoulder. “There’s no room here and I’m not allowed to leave.”
Riker moved to the side, leaving room for the girl to hop up beside him. “I’m Riker,” he introduced, giving her a one-armed hug.
The girl gave him a weird look. “Riker, get your arm away from me before I snap it in two.”
Riker quickly retracted his arm. “I don’t like shaking hands. So formal. Nothing personal ’bout it.”
“I disagree,” she said, wagging her fingers in the air.
“There’s plenty personal about fingers if you use them
And just like that, Riker was spellbound.
“What did you say your name was?”
She stuck out her hand. “My name is Shawna.”
They shook hands and turned back to the music playing.
And for the first time in his life, Riker couldn’t find a word to say.
California was beautiful. California was free.
And the best part?
California was home.
The guy in the bunk across the room was giving him googly eyes again.
Munching on her popcorn, Lexi floated next to
Maddie and did a mad riff. Maybe she’d try out for a band herself. Or a traveling circus.
She was still making up her mind.
The giants were gone.
His domain was his once more. Licking a paw, he sauntered from Feeder’s side of his castle to Invader’s. He jumped onto Invader’s resting cot and surveyed his jungle, lighting upon the delights she had foolishly left exposed.
Retreating, Poe did not move. Poe did not twitch. He had not been able to perform this leap since losing the sweepy thing on his behind. But there was an open drawer beckoning him, replete with Invader’s butt-holders.
Not a whisker dared ruffle. The world narrowed to that single drawer.
Poe leapt, sailing belly-long into the side of the drawer. Digging his claws into the scratching-post, he hauled himself up to this throne, victorious at last.
Feeder would be amused. Invader would be loud.
Regardless, Poe had made the jump, and now he had unlimited panties.
Best get started right away.
After all, it wasn’t every night the stars shined quite so bright.
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