Dirty Pleasures (Page 3)

Hurrying, I adjust my purse over my shoulder and hustle up to my apartment. The first thing I see when I open my door is my old battered guitar case tucked under my coffee table.

My first ever. I fried thousands of onion rings and tater tots in order to buy this guitar from Super Pawn. It took me almost a year to save up, and then when I finally had the cash in hand and went to the pawnshop, the owner offered me a disgusting back-office discount.

Furious, I threw the bills on the counter, not bothering to haggle, and told him to give me the damn guitar before I reported him to the cops for soliciting sex with a minor. It was so much less than what I wanted to do—namely, grab the baseball bat from behind the counter and swing it at his head. I left minutes later with my very first guitar and never looked back.

A million years ago, it seems. Just look how much has changed.

I’m halfway down the tiny hallway to my bedroom when my phone buzzes in my purse. Creighton is my first thought. My hand shakes as I dig inside to pull it out.

My heart—my stupid heart—falls when I see the text is from my manager.

Chance: Where the hell are you? You better be on your way. BT is almost ready to head out.

Shit. I run into my bedroom and grab a suitcase from my closet, and stuff handfuls of underwear and bras in it. A few pairs of yoga pants and some T-shirts and jeans, and I’m pretty much packed.

I reply to Chance.

Holly: Just finished packing. On my way. Where’s the bus?

Chance’s answer makes me cringe.

Chance: At BT’s. I left your name at the gate.

Double shit. BT is Boone Thrasher—the headliner of the tour I’m currently on. His place isn’t in one of those fancy neighborhoods behind a regular gate like Tana’s. No, he lives out in the boondocks where he can shoot skeet off his back porch, ride his dirt bikes on his own track, and his dogs can run wild and bark at everything in sight.

If I’m going to get to his place on time, I’ll need every minute I’ve got. I’ve been there once before, when he invited me out to meet him before agreeing to have me on his tour. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be—in his words—some whiny-ass bitch who would make him miserable. We hit it off when I kicked his ass at bowling in his basement lane. You can take the girl out of the bowling alley . . .

Time to get my ass in gear and hustle, but my phone buzzes again.

Chance: Good news. He wants to rehearse that duet you talked about before Christmas. Get your ass here and make it happen.

I toss my phone on the bed and do a little fist pump before tearing off my jeans and blouse to throw on something clean and get the hell out of here. This duet would mean getting to go back out onstage during his set where I can feel the energy coming from his fans when they’re all whipped up and excited for him.

As the first act, I generally play to a less-than-full stadium, when people are a little more concerned about making sure they have full beers than they are about paying attention to my music. Well, except for the fans who actually come to see me.

But this is where everyone starts, I remind myself, and I’m crazy lucky that I’m on tour with Boone Thrasher to begin with. And the duet? That’s huge.

I spend thirty seconds freshening up my makeup and shoving my toiletries in my makeup bag before slipping into the battered brown-and-black cowboy boots I bought for my eighteenth birthday. Which was the fourth birthday in a row that my mama didn’t even bother to send a card.

Pushing that thought away, because it was just one more piece of baggage that Tana was talking about when she dropped me off, I grab my jacket and head for the door.

Despite his badass reputation, Boone’s a good guy. A really good guy. His tiny, gorgeous, chart-topping girlfriend is a lucky lady. But from what I’ve seen of her, I’m not so sure she’s aware of that fact. She’s actually kind of a bitch. And by kind of, I mean, she’s a total Grade-A, possessive, catty bitch.

Not that I’d ever tell Boone that. These lips don’t do the gossip thing. One negative word to the wrong person, and I’d be screwed. So I just keep my opinions to myself. The world of country music isn’t so different from high school.

I lock my apartment door behind me and hoof it down the stairs and out to the covered parking where my 1998 Pontiac Firebird waits for me. And yes, I’m completely aware that what was cool in 1998 is not quite so cool now. Which means that I got a killer deal on it when my 1988 Fiero kicked the bucket just before I got my golden audition ticket for Country Dreams.

I suppose I could buy a little bit newer car with the semi-regular paycheck I get now, but the Firebird still gets me from A to B, and I prefer to save my money for a rainy day. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about this town, it’s that everything can change in a moment.

Thirty-five minutes later, I pull up at the gates of Boone’s place, and a man built like a brick shithouse comes out of the guard shack and bends down to my window. I open the door—because the window doesn’t work anymore—and he smiles.

“I got the same problem with my Grand Prix. Fucking Pontiacs,” he says.

“You got that right. I’m Holly—”

“Yep. Know who you are, sweet thing. They’re waiting on you. Buses are here and ready to go too.” He backs away from my car and activates the gate opener.

I swing my door shut and drive through. Sure enough, two tour buses are parked in front of the house set off from the road by almost a mile-long driveway. I pull into a small parking lot-size area beside the garage and shut off my car.

I need to get in there and find Chance and make sure he reports in that I wasn’t late before someone at the label starts checking, looking to boot me off. As soon as the thought hits my brain, the man in question knocks on the window of my car and opens the door.