Andre burst through the gym doors, as bare-shouldered as always, graceful tattoos coiling up one of his muscled brown arms. Though his breath came in misty puffs, his hands were warm when he took my cold ones in his.
“Come inside, Beth,” he said, a hint of a smile in his dark eyes. “You’re gonna freeze your ass off out here.”
At Andre’s touch I felt my tension ebb, and the sob that was trapped inside my ribs dissolve. Andre, respectfully distant, was always just close enough when I needed him. I pressed my head against his chest and let him hold me.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t feel it, too,” he murmured. Andre was the only one who understood what it was like to breathe when your lungs were gone. Sam had been his best friend, the rock he could hang on to when things at home got to be too much for him.
“But standing here in the cold isn’t going to bring him back. Besides, it’s
time for the sound check.”
And just like that, I felt better. Andre’s touch, as I called it to myself, had the power to calm me. It wasn’t attraction. Andre and Shelly had been together even longer than Sam and I. It was shared pain. And somehow, Andre had the ability to take mine away. I was in too much pain to wonder what he did with his own.
Squeezed into a black satin bustier over a cobalt tulle skirt and black fishnets, I waited in the wings backstage. I couldn’t see past the glare of the lights, but judging from the crowd’s roar, the whole town had shown up for the Band Slam Semi-Finals. August Rebellion was pitted against eight other bands. The winner wouldn’t be chosen until
the Grand Finale next week.
At last, our turn came and I tried to kick it into gear. I belted out Blast Mahoney’s “Like Never”, hoping to incinerate my nerves with the screaming licks of my guitar. Shelly scorched on bass. Andre hammered the beat. We sounded good, but inside I was hollow, the keyboard chords ringing in my ears. I wanted them to be Sam’s notes. And they weren’t.
When it was over the crowd went nuts. Long-time Slam tradition required the audience to throw random junk at their favorite band. They flung crazy stuff at us—coins, confetti, flowers, rubber chickens. Even someone’s bra and underpants landed on the stage. I figured as far as the crowd was concerned, we’d rocked the house. When the spotlight dimmed, I glimpsed Luke and Carson standing on their chairs and pumping their fists. My chest tingled and I felt the roots of my hair, as if I was about to be struck by lightning. I had to get out of there.
Pushing past the kids who crowded the backstage, I fled to the dressing room behind the auditorium.
A boy with a halo of blond curls and mirrored sunglasses slouched against the door.
“Hi,” he said, walking up to me, hand extended. “I’m Vincent Rousseau. Your bandmate Andre asked me to come to the Band Slam tonight to hear you play.”
“What? Andre didn’t tell me anyone was coming.” Shivering in my skimpy costume, I scanned the empty corridor. The next band, Wails from the Crypt, was already tuning up. My phone was in the dressing room drawer. If Vincent Rousseau planned to kidnap me, no one would hear my screams.
“What do you want?”
The boy’s surprisingly deep voice was colored by a trace of an accent. French, I decided, from the way he emphasized the second syllable in his first name—Vin-cent. I couldn’t help but notice how his dusky skin contrasted pleasingly with his mop of bright curls. “I’m a scout for a high school residency program for talented youth. Andre
speaks very well of you.”
I twirled a strand of damp hair. “Huh? Where is this program?”
“We’re allied with many colleges nationwide.”
“Yeah? Never heard of something like that. Does it have a name?”
“HSTYP, or High Step as we call it. Your friend Andre thought you’d be a good candidate.”
“Oh, did he?” I glared at the poor guy. I was in a crummy mood and had no problem taking it out on him. “I’m not leaving Linford.”
“No matter, then,” said Vincent Rousseau, shrugging. “I am just a student at one of the local affiliates. I will leave you with my card in case you have a change of heart.” He smiled again, and despite myself, I felt my guard slip just a notch. Still, I wasn’t sure if I could trust someone who wore mirrored sunglasses indoors in the middle of
“Look, I’ve got to change,” I said, taking his card. “It was nice to meet you—Vincent.”
I was pretty sure I didn’t mean it, but if Vincent cared, he didn’t show it. He smiled, broadly and said, “It’s been a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Bethany Collins.”
I shook my head and watched him go. Strange guy. But polite. And oddly hot. I was going to have to chew out Andre for his well-meaning but lame attempt to shake me from my gloom. But first I had to get out of my ridiculous get-up.
Meet the Author:
Lisa Amowitz was born in Queens and raised in the wilds of Long Island, New York where she climbed trees, thought small creatures lived under rocks and studied ant hills. And drew. A lot.
Lisa has been a professor of graphic design at Bronx Community College where she has been tormenting and cajoling students for nearly eighteen years. She started writing eight years ago because she wanted something to illustrate, but somehow, instead ended up writing YA. Probably because her mind is too dark and twisted for small children.
BREAKING GLASS which was released July 9, 2013 from Spencer Hill Press, is her first published work. VISION, the first book in the Finder Series, released September 9, 2014 and its unnamed sequel will release winter, 2016. UNTIL BETH, a YA urban fantasy, will release September 2015.
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