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The Complete Series
By Ophelia London, Lisa Burstein, Rebekah L. Purdy, Suze Winegardner, Erin Butler
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Mary A. Smith, Lisa Burstein, Rebekah L. Purdy, Suze Winegardner, and Erin Butler
All rights reserved.
Aimee and the Heartthrob
The voices were getting muffled, so Aimee pressed the whole side of her face flat against the door, wishing she'd been carrying a glass of water when her parents had banished her to her bedroom. A glass always worked when she was trying to eavesdrop.
Even though she couldn't hear their exact words, she could tell from their tones that something big was going down. She already knew her parents were starting their summer trip with Doctors Without Borders a month earlier than planned. No biggie. Since Grandma was in the middle of the ocean on a cruise, Aimee would be crashing at Becky's house, and Aimee and Becky could start off summer vacay together, two besties hanging at the pool, checking out guys, posting daily updates on their vlog, and binge watching Teen Wolf.
When her parents' voices got too low to hear, Aimee contemplated shimmying out the window and sneaking in the back door so she could find out what was up. But since her bedroom was on the second floor ...
"Ames?" Dad tapped on the door, and Aimee jumped back and flopped on her bed, all casual-like. "Hey, kiddo." He poked his head inside the room. "Mom and I need to talk to you."
Oh, crappers. The serious tone. It was odd for her parents, who were usually cooler than most adults. They better not cancel their trip. That would be so much suckage. She and Becky had the next three weeks mapped out.
"Okay," she said, and followed him downstairs into the kitchen.
Her mom was on the phone, looking out the window above the sink. "Thanks again. I don't know what we'd do without you. The timing couldn't be more perfect." Mom turned around and caught Aimee's eye. "I'll call you in the morning when we get the schedule nailed down."
Aimee glanced at her dad. He didn't look worried, but there was definitely something up with his face. Was he ... excited? Dad held out a chair for Aimee to sit. The formality felt weird. "Is something wrong?"
"No." Dad cleared his throat and stroked his goatee. "But there's been a change of plans."
Double crappers. "Again?"
"Becky's got mono, hon."
Aimee automatically pulled her cell from her pocket. She hadn't heard from Becky all morning. But it was only ten, so that wasn't strange, and it was Sunday, so she was probably still sleeping.
"Since her mother called an hour ago," Mom said. "You won't be able to stay with them after all — you know how contagious mono is."
"It's called the kissing disease," Dad said.
"Dad, gross. There're other ways to catch it." But Aimee silently wondered which hottie from the Pacific Palisades High soccer team Becky had made out with on the sly. Though of course it sucked that her best friend was all sick and everything, but it was even suckier that their kick-ass kick-off-the-summer plans were shot down before they even took off.
No wonder her parents had to have one of their hush-hush convos.
"So, I guess that means you're not leaving for Cambodia until July?"
Her parents shot each other a look. "No, we are, honey. They really need us there, so we've made other plans for you till Grandma's home."
Hmm. Since when did her parents make plans for her without consulting her? They'd been volunteering for DWB for the last seven years, so she was used to spending the summer with Grams.
"Other plans?" Aimee repeated.
"Yep." Mom smiled. "I just got off the phone with Marsha. It's all settled."
Marsha? The only Marsha Aimee could think of was ...
Oh, snap. Oh snap, oh no, oh please no.
A metaphoric bucket of arctic water dumped down the back of her shirt.
"You guessed it!" Mom's grin widened, obviously reading the exact opposite in Aimee's stunned expression. "Since Nick is spending the whole summer with them, you'll technically still be with family, though obviously your brother's there as an intern so he won't be your official guardian. I went over the whole thing with Marsha — Mrs. Carlisle, I mean. You know, Miles's mother."
Aimee nodded stiffly as her palms got more and more clammy. Could she fake a case of mono? She'd rather spend three weeks in the hospital than three weeks with ...
And of course she knew Miles's mom. Though she'd tried her best to not spend one nanosecond thinking of anything connected to Miles in the last two years. Which was pretty impossible under the circumstances.
She did live in America.
And he was Miles Carlisle.
Dad pushed back from the table. "Marsha's always traveled with the band, since Miles is underage, and she's assured us there's plenty of other parental supervision — professional supervision, as well." He looked at Mom and they both laughed. "Nothing like the party bus we're imagining."
Aimee swallowed. "What are you ..."
"We know hanging out with musicians is more your brother's scene," Mom said, "but don't you think it'll be fun to go on tour for a few weeks with a real band?"
A bubble of panic filled her chest. Or was it excitement? No, definitely panic.
It was one thing that Nick had gotten permission to travel with Seconds to Juliet during their summer tour. His reasoning was actually legit: despite their two years age difference, he and Miles had been BFFs for the past five years, and Nick was majoring in music production at UCLA. So yeah, it made sense that he could go on tour with them, but it made zero sense for Aimee to tag along — like she was eleven years old again.
Tag along ... She felt her cheeks redden at the phrase she'd heard too many times when it came to Miles.
Her parents must be in a ginormous jam to allow this plan, and even encourage it, from the way Dad kept grinning all weird like that.
For two years Aimee had done everything she could to forget Miles Carlisle existed. She'd stopped buying her favorite magazines when his perfect face started gracing the covers, stopped listening to radio stations when she heard his perfect boy band voice, and even shut down her diary blog, unable to write anything else about Miles's perfect ... every-damn-thing.
Nick's best friend had been the object of her romantic obsession since the day her brother brought him home five years ago. Miles was so cute and shy and he had the dreamiest British accent.
He was a year older than her, and most of the time he'd treated her no different than Nick did — like a sister. But there were other times when Nick wasn't around, and she and Miles would hang out like real friends, laughing together and teasing each other. Those were the times she'd fallen for him the hardest.
Then that stupid audition happened, and then that stupid reality show, and then five number one hits later ... he was gone, totally ghosted, never even said good-bye. Not long after that — thanks to her brother spilling the beans — she'd learned what Miles Carlisle really thought about her: she was a big, huge nothing.
"Mom," Aimee said, "you seriously want me to spend the summer on tour with a rock band? What kind of parents are you?"
Dad laughed. "It's not like they're Black Sabbath."
Mom put a hand on her shoulder. "All five boys are under eighteen, still in high school — they have sessions with tutors every day; a strict curfew; and, from what Marsha told us, their manager keeps them under tighter supervision than a Swiss boarding school."
"Awesome." Aimee rolled her eyes. "Sounds like a real rave. Can't I just stay here? Please? I'm sure Becky's mono isn't that contagious."
"Sorry, kiddo." Dad patted her back. "But you're just going to have to suck it up and be a groupie for a few weeks. I thought you liked Miles, Ames. When Nick used to bring him over, you'd follow him around like a puppy. It was adorable."
Her cheeks were on absolute fire now. Had she been that obvious?
That was why she'd started her diary blog in the first place, so she'd have somewhere to unload her feelings. And since keeping a handwritten journal was so pre-WordPress, she'd started a super-secret blog. It wasn't privately blocked or anything — in fact, she'd had a few hundred followers, especially when Seconds to Juliet started getting really huge.
Besides Becky, none of her friends knew about it, though. Oh yeah, Aimee'd be completely humiliated, even if what she'd blogged about was pure Miles fantasy. The day she'd officially decided to get over him, she'd stopped posting and shut the thing down.
It was hard, but she'd finally moved on, even had a boyfriend last year — who had dark hair and dark eyes and therefore looked nothing like Miles Carlisle.
And now she was expected to ride around on a tour bus with the one boy she'd been hardcore avoiding for two years? Her parents could be so cool and laid back, never hovering, always letting her do her own thing. But right now, that lack-of-parenting coolness blew.
For a split second, Aimee paused her no-way-in-hell opinion, and allowed a single thought: would it be cool to hang with S2J?
No! Gah! She didn't want to see Miles's indifferent attitude toward her from a front row seat.
"Nick will swing by for you tomorrow on his way from UCLA," Mom said. "The band's first concert's in San Francisco, so you two will drive up there together."
So soon? "It sounds settled, which is majorly unfair of you guys." Aimee folded her arms, going for tried and true teenage defiance, while actually attempting to settle the cyclone thrashing around in her stomach.
Dad pinched her chin. "Try not to look too excited about this once in a lifetime opportunity."
She lifted a toothy smile while dying a thousand deaths inside. "I'll try."
* * *
Miles was the last of the five to leave the pressroom after waving a final good-bye to the gang of journalists. His cheeks actually ached from smiling for so long.
"We're out, mate," he called to Trevin, jogging to catch up to his bandmates. "And dude, that was turned up. Last of the day, yeah?"
"You can drop the accent now," Ryder said without turning around. He'd been in particularly bad spirits all day, even for his "bad boy" persona.
Miles laughed at the old dig. "I'm English. It's not like I can switch it off. It's the way I talk."
"Shyeah. And you don't play up the Prince William angle for the cameras?" Ryder pushed a hand through his hair. Apparently, he was growing it long for the "unwashed and homeless" look. Miles didn't bother replying, and let his leather-clad bandmate outstride him.
"You answered all their questions," Trevin said.
"Why shouldn't I?"
"Maybe because up until a few weeks ago, whenever anyone asked you about Paige, you'd either get all up in their grill or go radio silent."
Miles only shrugged, but at least hearing the name of his most recent ex no longer made him want to punch a wall. Hey, that was progress. As they passed a window, Trev waved to a small group of girls who were hugging each other and crying. Miles still wasn't used to that — the sobbing-because-they-were-excited fangirl reaction.
"Seems like you're in a good mood," Trevin added.
"I am. We're starting a new tour, a proper one this time, with twenty buses and a catering staff, the whole bloody lot."
"And the Paige thing?"
Miles shook his head, happily still unaffected. "That's ancient history. Mind over matter." It might've taken professional therapy when he'd been a little kid, but now he could work through anger issues on his own. "Yeah, Paige was a nightmare, just like Kelly was, but it's simple — if I don't want a chick to backstab me, I won't give her the knife. I'm in complete control."
"How Zen of you," Trevin said with a laugh.
"No more drama, dude. I'm young, healthy, and single."
"Spoken like the true Seconds to Juliet heartthrob."
Miles cringed at hearing his fan-given nickname. It was so utterly lame-ass, and personally, he deemed himself anything but a Justin Timberlake wannabe. Still, it wasn't even close to being a tragic gig. For the past two years, the five of them had worked their asses off, turning their dreams into reality. After all, it had been a making-the-band reality TV show that started this crazy ride.
All that work paid off when Seconds to Juliet made it onto the charts, then topped the charts, then crushed the damn charts. After their second and third singles demolished the competition, they couldn't even be considered a flash in the pan. S2J was the biggest musical act on the scene, and Miles was part of it.
"Headed back to the bus?" Trevin asked, when Miles didn't follow the others toward the exit.
He did loathe the tour bus. That was one of the black marks on an otherwise kickass life. He missed the L.A. beaches and the streets of Pacific Palisades — the place that had been his home since he and Mum moved from the UK when he was twelve. He missed his own room and his buddies in the marching band at Pali High. But that was a small price to pay for the dream he was living with his five mates ... grouchy Ryder included.
"Naw. Meeting a friend." Miles nodded toward the banquet room that was clearing out from the press conference. Media types and random members of the tour milled around.
"Friend, huh?" Trev grinned, squinting his thin brown eyes. "Blonde or brunette?"
Miles laughed. "Now you sound like one of those reporters. Don't let TMZ warp what you know about me. I'm all about selectively playing the field."
"Good answer, dude," Trevin said. "See ya later."
Speaking of playing the field ... Miles spotted her the second he was alone. She had long brown hair, wore a bright yellow dress, and was standing along the wall, out of everyone's way. She wasn't media — too young — but judging by her looks, she was definitely with his tour group, probably a backup dancer, though he didn't recognize her. And why should he? They'd gotten a whole slew of stage performers for this show.
Miles wasn't psyched about that aspect of their concerts. He preferred when there was less production and more legitimate music. In fact, he was happiest during the one song he accompanied the guys on his guitar. The rest of the time, they were either on stools, or spread across the stage behind mikes, or involved in some pretty complicated dance choreography.
Tall and with long legs, the girl in the yellow dress had the body of a dancer. He took two long, purposeful strides in her direction. Then stopped.
No, dude. Just no. Sometimes his ego took over. He wasn't completely immune to what the internet said about him. Was he a "heartthrob"? Could he get any girl he wanted with the crook of a finger?
He glanced at the girl again. She was biting a thumbnail. Damn, she was seriously hot. He felt his finger twitching to crook.
But then he thought of his last two relationships. Crashed and burned failed relationships, to be correct. They'd both been with girls in the business. Kelly was a solo singer — a pretty famous one. The few months they'd been together last year, he'd hated all the drama that went along with being part of pop music's teen power couple.
Paige had been a different level of drama. He still wouldn't admit this to anyone, but she had been pure rebound, the quickest, easiest way to prove he was no longer hurt or affected by Kelly's betrayal. Which only added to his heartthrob mystique ... "the player." And he'd damn well play that up if it meant never getting hurt like that again. Though he knew he'd been asking for trouble when he'd hooked up with one of the girls in their opening act. Now he had to see Paige every day. That sucked on epic levels.
One positive thing about being with someone in the biz was that she knew what she was getting into, and so did he. But because of that, he knew better than to expect shallow relationships to last.
When he did fall in love for real, the whole thing would be different.
If the girl in yellow was part of the tour, he should learn from his mistakes and stay away. But when she flipped her dark hair, his feet — and other organs — overtook his brain.
"Hey there." It was almost too adorable how she blinked and choked on a cough the second she noticed him standing in front of her.
"Miles. Hi —" She was still coughing. He must have genuinely caught her off guard. He'd grown used to girls falling tongue-tied or bursting into wails, but he'd never caused one to go into respiratory arrest.
Excerpted from Backstage Pass by Ophelia London, Lisa Burstein, Rebekah L. Purdy, Suze Winegardner, Erin Butler. Copyright © 2017 Mary A. Smith, Lisa Burstein, Rebekah L. Purdy, Suze Winegardner, and Erin Butler. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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