Hard Rock Desires - Athena Wright

One

Grace

A loud, crowded club. A throng of bodies pressed against me, sweat-sticky and warm. A deafening thrum of heavy bass and drums, causing vibrations I could feel in my bones.

Someone stepped on my foot and an elbow jammed into my ribs. My head ached with a pinprick right between my eyes.

To say that this wasn’t my scene was an understatement. A vast, monstrous understatement.

“Isn’t this so much fun?!” my friend Lisa yelled in my ear as she bopped along with the music.

I faked a smile. “Sure is.”

I was positive I couldn’t be heard over the noise, but the smile worked. She grinned and went back to cheering the band on stage, joining the rest of the crowd.

This was just the opening act, a local indie band who had garnered some attention. If a little-known band was enough to get the crowd this riled up, I shuddered to think how much worse it was going to get when the main attraction appeared. The real band had yet to take the stage, and wouldn’t for another—

I checked my phone for the time. I grimaced.

It was still another forty-five minutes before Until We Break hit the stage.

I didn’t know much about the band itself, aside from that they’d exploded in popularity about a year ago. Lisa had been a fan forever, before they’d gotten big. She never did the whole, ‘I knew them before they were famous,’ but from the excited grin on her face, I knew she was looking forward to this more than anyone.

I probably should have done a bit more research about the band I was going to be watching for two hours, but I hadn’t been given much warning.

“Thanks for coming with me tonight, Grace,” my friend yelled again. “I know it was last minute.”

As much as I regretted saying yes, I hadn’t been able to turn down Lisa’s offer earlier today. With two backstage pass tickets to see her favorite band at a VIP-only live, it seemed like she was going to have a birthday to remember — until her boyfriend got the flu.

I don’t want to go to a concert all alone on my birthday, she’d texted me.

I couldn’t say no. Being alone on your birthday was the worst, not to mention that a single girl alone at a concert was easy prey for sketchy creepers.

So I’d said yes. That was how I found myself in a tiny club, with barely enough room to move and little air to breathe, waiting for a band I knew next to nothing about.

The lead singer was a girl; I knew that much because I’d heard their songs before. She was a powerhouse of a voice, but I never read anything in the news about her, unlike some of the other band members who regularly popped up on my social media feeds for one reason or another. It was usually the guys, usually shirtless, and usually for causing some kind of havoc. But aside from scrolling past a few blurry fan cams, I was in the dark when it came to Until We Break.

I hoped they at least put on a good show. I would have hated to be bored for the entire night.

A heavy weight jammed against my side and I nearly toppled over. A splash of something cold and wet hit me, soaking my shirt.

I scowled and looked around, but I couldn’t identify the offender. Now I was sticky from the cold liquid, as well as sticky from the heat.

The scent of strong vodka wafted up until it was all I could smell. It was as if someone had waved a bottle of pure, one hundred percent alcohol under my nose.

My lungs seized. The scent tickled a memory at the back of my mind. My heart jackhammered in my chest.

Air. I needed fresh air.

I grabbed Lisa’s shoulder to get her attention, then jabbed my thumb over my shoulder and made a drinking motion. She nodded and turned her attention back to the stage.

I pushed through the crowd, swerving away from the bar and heading toward the exit. The bouncer didn’t blink twice as I scrambled out the door. His job was to check the tickets of people coming in. He surely didn’t care about anyone who wanted to get out.

I stumbled onto the sidewalk and began walking, not caring which way I was going, nearly doubled over on myself. The people outside the live house looked at me oddly. I ducked into the alley adjacent to the building and slumped

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