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When Hope scores front row tickets to see her favorite band, she never expects the lead singer, Johnny Scott, to stop singing halfway through his first song and ask for her name. And she definitely never expects him to request her presence backstage after the show.
Johnny has forgotten why he loves music. Thankfully the rock gods have sent him a beautiful muse who breathes new life into his world with one word, one touch. He’s never met anyone like Hope and he’s not letting her go.
But when Johnny wakes up alone after the best night of his life, he has no idea how to find a missing Hope. Did he dream her? His heart refuses to believe it and he’ll tear the town apart to prove she—and their love—is real.
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Hope Wilder pressed a hand to her stomach in an attempt to still the butterflies.
Tonight was the night. After a full year of saving her waitressing tips, she’d purchased tickets to see Citizen. It was a huge extravagance. The money could have gone towards more practical things, like rent on the apartment she shared with her brother. Or food. But living on ramen and tap water would be worth it when she heard that first guitar lick. Besides, she was well used to going without, wasn’t she? What was another twelve months of stale noodles compared to seeing Citizen up close?
They weren’t even inside the arena yet and electrical currents were already racing up and down her arms, so intense she couldn’t stand still.
“Easy, Hope,” her older brother, Wyatt, rumbled, humor evident in his voice. “If you keep bouncing around like that, you’ll exhaust yourself by the time the show starts.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t help it!” Hope covered her mouth with both hands when the girls standing in front of them in line turned around at her outburst. “We’ve been listening to Citizen since we’ve been living on our own,” she continued, much quieter. “Remember the day the state finally approved you as my guardian? You were playing their album when I climbed into your truck. The songs…I don’t know, they just hold good memories for me. Hearing them live is going to bring everything full circle.” She extended her fingers up toward the night sky and wiggled them around. “I can feel it.”
Wyatt patted Hope on the shoulder with his big paw, before shoving it back in his pocket and going back to observing the milling crowd with his typical quiet suspicion. Her brother always humored her when she spouted off with what he called her hippie speak. Wyatt was a realist while Hope had always been the dreamer of their two-person family. Even when she’d been a ward of the state and having dreams seemed pointless, she’d never been able to contain her whimsical fantasies of fate, happy endings, magic moments. Magic within people.
Everyone was capable of making magic, they just needed to believe hard enough, right? When she’d been living in the shiny, disinfected cinderblock walls of the home, she’d almost been drained of her faith that good things were possible. And then Wyatt had shown up with the paperwork that sprung her free of that concrete prison. That day, as they’d accelerated onto the interstate with Citizen blasting at full volume, the tears had streamed down her face and she swore she’d never doubt the power of keeping the faith again.
Nor would she doubt magic.
After all, look where she was. Mere minutes from standing in the front row at a concert given by her favorite band. Hearing songs that had gotten Hope through the darkest, scariest moments of her twenty-one years.
Some nights, she swore those songs had kept her alive.
When she’d heard Citizen was coming to their little South Carolina town, an hour outside of Charleston, she couldn’t believe it. They were hugely famous and played all over the world. Amsterdam, Paris, Prague. But when tickets for tonight went on sale, best believe Hope didn’t question her luck. She’d clicked fast enough to nearly break her computer’s mouse.
Anticipation climbed Hope’s spine when they were waved forward by security. She opened her fringed, cross-body bag and smiled brightly at the guard, inviting him to inspect the contents of her bag with a flashlight. Finally, he smiled back and sent Hope on her way and she squealed, hooking her arm through Wyatt’s to guide him toward the general admission, standing section in front of the stage. Also known as The Pit.
“Remember,” Wyatt shouted, as they entered the area and the opening band’s set surrounded them in noise. “Stay close to me, in case people start pushing.”
Hope forced a solemn expression and carved a crisscross over her heart. “Promise.”
Wyatt grunted, his furrowed brow proclaiming his skepticism.
They wove through the crowded general admission area, Hope’s brother using his size and general grumpiness to create a pathway. As they passed through the groups of college students, Hope noted they were the only ones without beers in hand and nudged Wyatt in the ribs. “Do you want to go get a drink? Citizen probably won’t come on for a while.”
He hesitated, one hand stroking down his beard. “Nah, I’m good.”
“Go, brother bear.” Hope smiled up at him. “I promise not to be crushed by a mosh pit in your absence.”
“Not funny,” he grumbled, before poking the air in front of her face with a finger. “Stay right here, Hope. I mean it.”
She nodded and pushed him back toward the general admission exit. As soon as Wyatt was out of sight, she turned to face the stage, squared her shoulders and let out a shaky breath. It was time to admit why her stomach continued to flip every five seconds.