Play (ROCK HARD Book 1) - Kat Mizera



There was something about a sold-out show at a club that pumped me up. I’d played in arenas and stadiums all over the world, in front of thousands of fans, but the smaller, more intimate venues were the ones that got me going. I loved performing and would tour eleven months of the year if I could. It never got boring, I never got tired of it, and the rock-and-roll lifestyle was all I’d ever known as an adult.

The crowd was restless, surging up to the stage as they waited for us to go on, and I bounced on my toes to warm up.

“You ready?” My drummer, Bash Kelly, came up beside me.

“I’ve been ready. Where the hell is Lexi?” I looked around for our lead singer.

Lexi Rousseau had just come into the small backstage area, and her eyes sought out mine. “Ready?” she called.

“Are they ready for us?” I looked over at our tour manager, Lance Baker.

“Another minute,” Lance said. “There’s an issue with Lexi’s mic.” He moved off, talking to the roadie, who was trying to correct whatever the issue was.

“Hey.” Bash elbowed me. “Check it out.” He made a barely discernible motion with his head, and I turned, curious.

Holy shit.

Ariel freakin’ Fox.

America’s child television star turned teenage wild child supermodel turned adult pop goddess.

She was the ultimate Hollywood screw-up. Sex and drugs and nervous breakdowns all before she turned eighteen. Then there had been an arrest, rehab, and her father had taken over her career. Now she was a huge star who was currently a guest judge on some celebrity dance show.

And she was so fucking beautiful in person she took my breath away.

The tall, willowy blonde had absolutely no emotion on her face. She was staring at nothing while the middle-aged man beside her talked animatedly to the small entourage surrounding them.

“…huge fan of Pretty Harts, so of course she wanted to see the spinoff band.”

I fucking hated that term.

We weren’t a fucking spinoff. We were new and had two original members of Pretty Harts, of which I was one, but everyone else came from somewhere else. Lexi’s background was pop, Ford had his own bluesy-rock band called Malone’s Martyrs that had one huge hit album before falling apart, and Stuart had been part of a metal band called Waking Wonder. Together, we had a unique sound with edgy new songs and an amazing lineup. And calling us a fucking spinoff sucked.

“She’s smokin’, huh?” Bash was checking her out too. “But a hot mess.”

“Yeah.” I was about to turn away when Ariel’s eyes met mine. She didn’t move or even blink, but those crystalline orbs burned into mine. A silent plea for…something? I had to go, but I couldn’t look away, and she didn’t either.

Jesus. It was like being hypnotized. As I stared into her eyes, for those few seconds, there was no one else. It was as if we were the only two people in the world. The club, the stage, her entourage—everything disappeared.

A jab to the ribs snapped me back to the present, and I had to break the gaze.

“We gotta go,” Bash said, his eyes searching mine before glancing over his shoulder at Ariel, who was now looking in the other direction. “What the hell was that?”

“Nothing. What are you talking about?” I held up my fist and bumped it against his. “Let’s do this.”

We ran out on stage, and I grabbed my bass, slinging the strap over my shoulder. I cut my eyes back to the backstage area, and Ariel was standing just off to the side. Which was weird. Only special guests of the band got to stand in the wings during a show, and it had to be agreed on by all of us. Shows were intense and personal. We didn’t want or allow distractions. Even Lexi’s husband, Zaan, wasn’t usually allowed to stand there. We’d agreed on that.

Yet there she was. Ariel Fox was standing a few feet away and fixing me with another soul-piercing stare. It was fucking nuts, and I purposely turned away, tuning in to the roar of the crowd, Ford and Stu’s wailing guitars, and Bash’s backbeat. Lexi was about to hit the beginning notes of the first song, and I had to focus. Normally, I could play our songs with my eyes closed, but tonight it was taking all my concentration to remember which song it even was.

Every time I glanced over to the side, she was there. She was smiling now, though, her head