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Riven (Riven #1)
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Theo Decker might be the lead singer of Riven, but he hates being a rock star. The paparazzi, the endless tours, being recognized everywhere he goes—it all makes him squirm. The only thing he doesn’t hate is the music. Feeling an audience’s energy as they lose themselves in Riven’s music is a rush unlike anything else . . . until he meets Caleb Blake Whitman. Caleb is rough and damaged, yet his fingers on his guitar are pure poetry. And his hands on Theo? They’re all he can think about. But Caleb’s no groupie—and one night with him won’t be enough.
Just when Caleb is accepting his new life as a loner, Theo Decker slinks into it and turns his world upside-down. Theo’s sexy and brilliant and addictively vulnerable, and all Caleb wants is another hit. And another. That’s how he knows Theo’s trouble. Caleb can’t even handle performing these days. How the hell is he going to survive an affair with a tabloid superstar? But after Caleb sees the man behind the rock star, he begins to wonder if Theo might be his chance at a future he thought he’d lost forever.
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“Theo Decker: Reluctant Rock Star.”
That was the headline that accompanied the cover of Groove magazine that came out today, and it was the reason I was hiding in my dressing room from the rest of the band. I could already imagine Ven, nostrils flaring, voice tight with anger: Lead singer standing in for the whole band again, awesome!
And that was before you even got to the photo, which was about fifty percent me.
I pulled the magazine out of my bag to glare at it and my stomach dropped again. Ven, Coco, and Ethan hovered in the background, eclipsed by me. My arms were wrapped around myself like a straitjacket or a hug and I was gazing up at the camera in what had been an awkward plea for the shoot to be over, but looked coy. I cursed myself for the hundredth time for believing the smarmy editor who’d assured me that of course all the band members would be featured equally.
Reluctant rock star wasn’t precisely accurate. More like, Rock Star Who Loves Performing with a Fiery Passion but Hates Being Famous More than He Ever Expected. Only that didn’t make for a very snappy headline.
I cast one last look in the dressing room mirror. Staring back at me wasn’t a rock star of any description. It was a scared kid who’d gone from no one caring about him to everyone caring about him in the time it would take most people to clean out a garage. My black hair was wild around my face, just like it always was, gray eyes ringed in days of overlaid black eyeliner, just like they always were, lips bitten raw, as had become common lately. My black jeans were tight, permanently sweat-creased behind the knees, and hanging a little low on my hips, since I hadn’t been able to stomach much lately. The white T-shirt hung on me, making my arms look skinnier than they were, and my shoulders sharper.
It wasn’t even a costume. These were my own clothes, my own aesthetic, just as I used my real name. Which made it feel even weirder to see it all turned into a persona. Theo Decker: Reluctant Rock Star.
I smeared on some lip balm so my mouth wouldn’t crack and bleed onstage, hitched my jeans up, and patted the lucky pick I wore on a string around my neck, hidden under my T-shirt. The one I’d been using the night Ethan had heard me at Sushi Bar’s open mic night and changed my life forever. I hummed a few lines of our opening song. My voice was on its last legs, but this was the end of the tour, thank god, and I’d have time to rest it.
I swallowed hard, pushing the sick feeling of alienation from the rest of Riven down into the pit of my stomach.
“Okay, go,” I ordered Theo Decker in the mirror, and pushed through the door to join my band.
Blinded by floodlights, shaky with exertion, and high on adrenaline, I closed my eyes as the lights changed for our final song. It had been a great set, the rest of the band coming through despite their anger at the cover, just like I knew they would. They always did. We were magical together. That’s what everybody said. Synergistic. Nearly psychic.
Coco plucked the first, haunting notes of “No More Time,” our newest single, as the stage was washed in eerie blue light. They reverberated, striking like a gong in my chest. Ven came in with the bass line, then Ethan counted in, and the rhythm went to double time. I pounded the drumbeats with my foot, needing to wring every last bit of energy out onto the stage.
There was this moment, before the first note left my mouth, when everything changed. There was the before and the after; the quiet and the noise; the off and the on. It was the moment when I felt like I appeared, pushing everything that I was out of myself like the notes I sang were a strong-currented river, able to disgorge me.
I’d written this song in about twenty minutes. It had fallen into my head fully formed, like something in a dream. It swooped and soared from the bottom of my register to the top, and there was a moment after the second bridge when the instruments cut out and I hit a note that blasted through the sudden silence like a wrecking ball.
Tonight, since I knew it was the last show of the tour, I sang it with everything I had left, let it pull me to my tiptoes and to the edge of the stage, sweat flicking off my hair as I threw myself open before the screaming crowd.
The crowd. They thundered around me, their stomps and screams like my own heartbeat, their energy coursing through me like blood. These were the moments I lived for. These were the moments that made every other miserable bit of fame worth it.