The fans showed up early every damn day.
I couldn’t blame them, given how amazing Kissing Cinder really was, but I never understood having nothing better to do with your entire day than stand outside a venue hoping to catch a glimpse of your favorite rock star.
Maybe because I’d grown up catching glimpses of my favorite rock star, which meant I couldn’t relate.
I also got to call him “Dad.”
My plane landed early and Dad had offered to pick me up at the airport, but I declined. The last thing the world needed was for the Vince Cinderstone to take over O’Hare International Airport just to pick up his daughter. Plus, I didn’t love being splashed all over the gossip sites and where Vince Cinderstone went, cameras usually followed.
“How was your flight?” Dean asked as soon as I got out of the restricted area. He smiled but his body was all business and on alert as always. His head was still shaved which made his muscles seem even bigger than they were. Though he was strong as hell. I’d seen him pick up decent-sized people and move them.
As my dad’s favorite security guy, Dean was the compromise I’d made to ensure Dad wouldn’t come get me himself. Nobody would snap random pictures of Dean and me.
“Quick. I just should’ve driven myself,” I said.
We walked toward baggage claim to get my suitcase. I had my purse and carry on with me, but no way could I fit my entire summer in such a small bag.
“Then you’d have to store your car somewhere.”
“I could’ve waited until the tour comes to Michigan,” I countered. Dean and I did this back and forth every tour. It was our thing. I pretended to complain and he told me why I was wrong.
“That’s not for another month,” he reminded me.
He’d gotten me on the timeline. Waiting a month wasn’t part of the deal and I didn’t want it to be. I never got to see Dad enough as it was.
Dean had a car waiting out front to take us to the venue and when he’d opened the back door for me, I passed by to climb into the front. He chuckled as I pulled the door shut. I didn’t love the rock star treatment and since I wasn’t one, I didn’t need it.
The whole situation worked for me, though. Going on tour with my dad Vince Cinderstone, lead guitarist for one of the biggest rock bands in the world, had some perks—a summer of crisscrossing the United States, time with my dad, my camera around my neck, and a lot of people to watch, an arena to explore—maybe even a city to capture.
If I could get my dad to remember that I was an actual fully grown twenty-one-year-old. He could be a little protective. A byproduct of his guilt over not being with me full-time while I’d been growing up. Or at least that was what my two college psych classes told me.
On the drive, Dean asked about school and I asked about his wife. Like he was an uncle I only saw once a year which was kind of true. He had to slow way down to maneuver near the crowd that had already formed outside the arena.
“You need anything before I start checking on things?” Dean asked as we walked across the parking lot of the venue not far from where the fans gathered near the buses.
Snap, snap, snap.
“Indie,” he said as he put a hand in front of his face.
Too bad for him I got several shots before he had time to react. Have to love the quickness of digital photography.
“Sorry, Dean,” I said with a giggle as I flipped the switch to display the photos I’d just taken on the screen. “Hey, this one’s good. Your wife will love it.”
I tilted the display toward him so he could see.
He smiled and shook his head, almost blushing I’d say. There was no denying that Dean was a good-looking man, but the most attractive quality about him was how much he loved his wife.
“You can’t guerrilla attack people with your camera,” he finally said.
“I can and I will. But tell me she doesn’t find big, scary bodyguard Dean incredibly sexy.”
He tried to hide another smile and shook his head again. I was right. Of course, she did. Who wouldn’t? I knew he got many, many offers while he was on tour with Kissing Cinder and he always acted like he didn’t even hear them. I’d be crushed to find out different about him.
“I’ve got to go,” he said instead.
Dean walked away, leaving me to roam with my camera.
Since he’d given me the permanent pass hanging around my neck with my camera, I slipped through the side door without anyone giving me a second glance. I just wanted to wander around backstage and snap some pictures.
Venue people could be jerks about me being in their space. But I learned long ago that they were just people who had a job to do, so I tried to stay out of their way as much as possible. These huge buildings had great nooks and crannies where shadow and light crossing was too amazing to pass up.
As I moved around, the crowd outside became louder which meant it’d gotten bigger. No idea how the guys in the band got used to sleeping through the noise since the crowd usually gathered near the buses. Years of experience, I guessed. For me, the fans often woke me up before I knew what city we were in. Spending the summer with my dad meant less sleep and I could handle that.
I slipped back outside to get some shots of the crowd already forming out there. Some of the best shots came when people didn’t know you were out there taking them.
Dad loved what he did. That made me happy for him, but I could never be a rock star. Every single time someone opened one of the venue doors, the crowd began screaming. Especially the women. Fans followed him everywhere. Asked for pictures and autographs. He took it all in stride because he’d had decades of handling it. But me… I’d hate the hell out of it.
The morning sun did beautiful things with the colors outside. It was going to be an amazing summer day. With digital instead of film, I could snap everything and decide later what to keep and what to delete. I tried to avoid any close-ups on a particular person. For the fans, I stuck to group shots or shifted the focus to blur them out.
Then I headed back inside to the empty arena, where the roadies were setting up the stage. Whenever I was on tour with Dad, I documented everything. Now that I’d learned how, I liked to make awesome digital videos for the guys as a way to remember the tour. Videos were easier to store and easier to turn on in the background instead of physically flipping through an album. I liked to include a little something from each city but mostly memories from backstage.
I lifted my camera to capture a funny moment between a couple of the stagehands and something hard hit me from the left, knocking me sideways but not to the ground. Took me three steps to balance myself.
“Damn,” I muttered under my breath. The contact hurt but that also would’ve been a great shot.
“What’re you doing in here?” The man who’d just slammed into me said with a sharp tone. “No one’s supposed to be inside yet. You need to get back outside.”
No apology for running into me and almost sending me to the ground. How rude. He didn’t come off as intimidating, right around my age actually, but clearly not that nice.
“Outside?” I furrowed my brows and stared. Oh. He thought I was a fan who’d snuck inside. “Yeah, I can be here.”
“Heard that before. Come on.” He pointed toward the closest exit.
I swallowed and forced myself to ignore how hot this guy was. Hotter than the usual roadie or venue worker, that was for sure. He was quite the pairing of clean-cut and bad boy with neat, light brown hair, shaved on the sides and back but longer on top—and also the sleeve of tattoos on his right arm. His very muscular right arm.
“Listen,” I said, pushing all thoughts of his hotness aside, then sighed. “There’s obviously a misunderstanding. Take two seconds to listen to me.”
“I don’t have two seconds for you.”
“Damn, you’re a dick, aren’t you?”
“Woah, the guys get older, but the groupies get younger,” a different deep voice said from beside me.
Something about this new guy creeped me out. He was a bit bigger than the first, darker, too. Darker hair, darker eyes, and from what my sixth sense told me, darker personality. He was much closer than I would’ve liked, too. The way he leered at me, made the hair on my arms stand straight up and my stranger danger instinct kicked in full force.
When I took a look at my surroundings, I found that there were actually four men surrounding me. They all looked to be just a few years older than me, in their mid-twenties, but I liked being outnumbered even less than I liked some random dude being in my space. Though we weren’t exactly alone and I could call for help if I needed to. Still, I wanted away from them.
“Excuse me?” I asked, turning to face Dark Guy.
I crossed my arms under my breasts and gave him my best death glare. The one I’d perfected going through high school when people said I was spoiled and that I thought I was better than everyone else because of who my dad was.
If they knew I was Vince Cinderstone’s daughter, they’d likely be fake with me. I hated that more than all the other stuff combined.
“Not judging,” the dark one said. “We love the medics.”
I raised an eyebrow because I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about but his stupid grin begged to be forcibly removed from his face.
“Medics,” he said again as if it’d mean something to me. Like I hadn’t heard him before. “Women who bring sexual healing. I think you’d be perfect for the job.”
“You know,” I said, cocking my head to the side while narrowing my eyes on him. “You’re probably going to want to shut up now before you dig a hole too deep to get out of.”
“I wouldn’t mind digging in your hole.”
Hot Guy dropped his head to look at the ceiling, then muttered, “Jesus Christ.”
The big one took a step toward me. I raised an eyebrow and steeled my jaw but didn’t step back because once I did that with an asshole like this, it never ended. He’d know he could get to me and however short our current interactions would be, he’d use it to his advantage. I knew the type. Had dealt with them many times over the years.
“Let’s just go do this,” one of the others said with authority.
They finally walked away but I still had no idea who those men were. The fact that they were leaving me alone was going to have to be good enough.
But the moment I’d been trying to capture had passed.