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From USA Today Bestselling Author Lauren Rowe comes an all new, Standalone Friends to Lovers Romance.
I met Alessandra at a party. Tried to impress her. Was almost positive I was going to fail.
I think I said something along the lines of, “I’m a Goat called Fish who’s hung like a bull—but not really. I’m actually pretty average.” Smooth. I know. Try not to be jealous.
When she laughed—and I mean, really laughed—I knew she wasn’t like the other girls I’d been meeting on tour. Hell, she wasn’t even in the same stratosphere as those fangirls and gold-diggers.
At one point during the party, Alessandra said, “There’s nothing like a girl’s first love.” I knew she was talking about the first smash hit by my band, 22 Goats. Alessandra said it was the first song she’d heard by us and it “hit her like a ton of bricks.” Ironic, seeing as how I was having the same reaction from being in her presence.
I made it my mission to impress her. Give her the kiss of a lifetime that night. But since I’ve always been the dude with zero game, nothing went according to plan.
I’m not giving up, though. I’m going to win this girl over. I’m done sitting on the sidelines, watching the bad boy getting the girl. This time, the nice guy will finish first. Even if it’s the last thing he’ll do.
|Books by Author:|
“All Day and All of the Night”—The Kinks
“You and Me Song”—The Wannadies
“Only Love”—Ben Howard
“I Don’t Want to Change You”—Damien Rice
“Grow Old With Me”—Tom Odell
“Baby I’m Yours”—Arctic Monkeys
“I know what you’re probably thinking . . .” our business manager, Clive, says to Dax, Colin, and me—the three dudes of 22 Goats. It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in downtown LA and my band is sitting across from our business manager at his desk. We don’t normally meet with Clive on Saturdays. But due to our recent tour, and the fact that Clive’s wife just had a baby, we decided to hold our regular meeting today, on a Saturday afternoon, before we three Goats head over to the home of Reed Rivers, the owner of our label, for a pre-party at his pool.
Clive holds up his hand, halting any responses from the three of us. “Before you give me an answer, you should know Pepsi is offering ten million bucks, guys—and that’s for only one commercial! After taxes and my commission, you’d each clear almost two million.”
“Damn,” Colin murmurs next to me, succinctly expressing my exact thoughts. Our band has turned down a lot of lucrative endorsement offers, ever since our debut single blasted to number one around the world four years ago. But we’ve never turned down anything with a payout that big before.
I look at Dax—my lifelong best friend—and, instantly, know what he’s thinking: I’m not going to hawk soda, no matter the pay day.
And I’m not surprised.
Dax isn’t thinking that because he’s selfish, by the way. It’s never a “my way or the highway!” kind of thing with that dude. It’s just that he genuinely doesn’t give a shit about money or fame. He’s a true artist. A guy who lives to make and perform music. To share his soul. Sure, Dax appreciates fame in the sense that it expands the sphere of people coming to our shows. Also, he’s not a saint. He likes the large house he shares with his wife and kid in Malibu. He also likes that fame gives him a platform that allows him to raise funds for his favorite causes—chief among them the cancer charity founded by his wife, Violet. But the other stuff tied to fame? The way people literally worship him? The dehumanization of it? The lack of personal freedoms? He can’t stand any of that stuff.
It’s true our fans sometimes get pretty amped about Colin and me, too. Mostly, Colin. But the way they treat Dax, our lead singer/guitarist, is on a whole other level than the way they react to Colin and me—our drummer and bass player, respectively. It’s like fans think Dax is a literal god among men. Which, if you know Dax at all, is the last thing in the world he’d ever want anyone to think.
When Dax, Colin, and I remain silent, Clive sighs and says, “This is a lot of money, guys. I could help you invest it to ensure you’ve always got a big safety net, no matter what might happen in the future.”
Aw, poor Clive. All he wants, even more than his fat commission, is to make sure we three Goats are squared away for life. Like Clive always says, he doesn’t want us blowing through our millions at age twenty-five, only to wind up penniless by thirty, or whenever the world inevitably moves on from its current obsession with our band.
But money isn’t everything. That’s something I’ve learned these past few years. A guy’s got to be able to look himself in the mirror and like what he sees. And I know Dax would never, ever be happy to look in the mirror and see the face of Pepsi. Neither would I, to be honest. But I could stomach it, if necessary. But Dax? I think selling out like that would decimate a large piece of that boy’s soul.
I look at my best friend, and not surprisingly, he looks a bit out of sorts, to put it mildly. But when Dax shifts his gaze to Colin, and he sees Colin’s hopeful expression, his features noticeably change. Suddenly, I’m reminded of something that happened when Dax and I were in fifth grade when this popular kid, Keegan, came over to Dax and me at our lunch table and invited Dax, but not me, to his elaborate birthday party. I remember Dax initially looking excited about Keegan’s invitation. Because, come on, Keegan Harris was the height of cool in those days. But when Dax looked at me, and saw something on my face that made him realize I hadn’t been invited along with him, his features instantly transformed. Kind of like they did, just now, looking at Colin.
Without missing a beat, Dax replied to Keegan, “Sorry, I’m busy with Fish that day. Happy birthday.” And that was that. No matter what I said afterwards about not minding if Dax went to the party without me, Dax wouldn’t budge. I’m pretty sure the day of Keegan’s cool birthday party, Daxy and I skateboarded and sat on his couch playing video games. Nothing special. But Dax never mentioned the cool party he was missing or made me feel bad I’d held him back from hanging out with our school’s most popular kids.