Home > Painful (Thoughtless #2.5)

Painful (Thoughtless #2.5)
Author: S.C. Stephens



Chapter 1






The summer sun pounded on me as I waited in the backstage area with my bandmates, Evan, Matt, and Griffin. The merciless rays made sweat form in every nook and cranny on my body, but I didn’t care. It could have been twenty degrees hotter, and I wouldn’t have cared. I was about to perform at the largest venue the D-Bags had ever played at—Bumbershoot. And while that fact filled me with adrenaline, it wasn’t what was giving me an almost giddy sense of euphoria. My girlfriend was going to be in the crowd. Girlfriend. Just the word made me feel like I was floating. Kiera Allen was now mine, wholly and completely. She loved me, a fact that was still hard to grasp sometimes. I’d gotten so used to no one giving a shit. But Kiera did, and my band did, and that was more than enough for me. More than I ever thought I’d get out of this life.

“Fucking hell…I’m so nervous.”

I turned to see Matt clutching his guitar case, looking for all the world like he wished he could hide inside it. Matt was the brains behind the band. He handled our schedule, made sure we were all where we were supposed to be, basically kept us on track. While Matt pushed for our success, he had always been a little apprehensive about performing. Not because of the music—he loved that part—but because the stress of being in the spotlight was something he struggled with every time he went on stage. It made me appreciate him doing this for us even more. But for him, the D-Bags playing at Bumbershoot never would have happened; we’d probably still be playing out of a garage or something.

“You’ll be fine,” I said, clapping the thin blond on the back. “It’s just like Pete’s.” Matt smiled, but there wasn’t any humor in his pale eyes.

Matt’s almost identical lookalike, his cousin, Griffin, slung an arm over Matt’s shoulders. “Yeah, do what I do, cuz…picture ‘em all naked. And screwing. Hot and heavy, all getting it on with each other…Yeah…”

Griffin closed his light blue eyes as he imagined the orgy, then he started gyrating his hips, like he was joining in on the fun. Griffin was the…comic relief of the band. Or the annoyance that we put up with. Depended on the day.

Matt cringed away from Griffin’s antics and knocked his arm off him. “Dude, go have pretend sex with the audience somewhere else, please.” Thinking of something, he fisted Griffin’s shirt before he started walking away. “Griffin, I swear, if you include my girlfriend in that fantasy, it will be the last fantasy you ever have.” Matt had never been one to date before, since the band kept him so busy, but he’d started seeing Rachel a few months ago, and they were still going strong. Kiera constantly told me they were adorable together. I supposed they were. All I really cared was that my friend finally seemed happy with someone.

A slow smile crept over Griffin’s face. “Too late, man.” He tapped his skull. “Rachel has already satisfied me several times. For being so shy, she’s damn feisty. You’re a lucky guy.”

Matt’s face went bright red, and he immediately lunged for Griffin. Luckily, Evan and I had been prepared for that reaction—keeping Matt and Griffin from killing each other was kind of our job in the band. We both grabbed one of Matt’s arms right before he could assault his cousin.

Griffin laughed as we held Matt tight. “Dude, lighten up…I was joking. I’m fucking Anna on a near-daily basis. I don’t need to fantasize about your little gal pal.”

I could tell Matt was still annoyed, but he rolled his eyes and relaxed in our arms. “Not funny, Griffin. At all.”

Not agreeing with his assessment, Griffin laughed even harder. “You should have seen your face, man. Oh God, classic.”

Releasing Matt, I smacked Griffin across the chest. “Don’t be an ass right before a show,” I told him. If he’d said that about Kiera, I probably would have attacked him too. And I’d have nailed the fucker.

Griffin rubbed his chest, an offended look on his face. “Dude, I was helping him get over his anxiety. You still nervous, cuz?”

Matt frowned as he shook his head. “No, now I want to go out there just to get away from you.”

Griffin’s face shifted into a satisfied smile. “See…helping.”

Closing my eyes, I inhaled a calming breath. “Griff, do me favor…” I cracked an eye open. “Never try to help me.”

Griffin winked and gave me finger guns, and I knew, without a doubt, he’d be “helping” me in the future, in his own special, Griffin-like way. I barely contained my sigh.

One of the crew let us know it was time, and Matt and Griffin disappeared onto the stage. Screams from the boisterous crowd pierced the air, and pulsing energy radiated through my body, gathering strength like a coiled spring waiting to be released.

Evan clapped me on the back. “See you up there, Kell.” He had a warm, easy smile on his face, and his dark eyes were eager but untroubled. Evan was probably the most laidback person I knew. Nothing much seemed to rile him, a fact I appreciated since I wasn’t always the nicest guy. Especially when I was mad. Or in pain. Hopefully, those days were behind me.

Evan turned to follow Matt and Griffin onto the stage, and my eyes drifted to the colorful mosaic covering Evan’s arms. All of my bandmates were littered with tattoos. I only had one, and it was all I would ever need in this lifetime—Kiera’s name, right over my heart. Closing my eyes, I put my hand over the tattoo, bathing myself in her warmth, even though she wasn’t physically near me. Let’s do this.

When I reopened my eyes, I couldn’t hold back my grin. It was showtime, and aside from being with Kiera, being onstage was my favorite place to be. I felt different the moment I stepped onto a stage—calm, in control, more at peace, less…moody, as Kiera would put it. Even when my life had been falling apart, performing had given me comfort. They probably didn’t realize it, but I owed my fans everything.

When I stepped onto the stage, the screams went from ear-piercing to brain-liquifying. I smiled at the fans’ never-ending devotion, then raised my hand in a wave. Damn. There were so many people here…Matt must be freaking out. I secreted a glance his way, but he seemed fine…if fine meant ignoring the crowd and remaining steadfastly focused on his instrument. He’d be truly fine once he started playing. Griffin was being his typical self, flirting with the crowd in such an obscene way that we might not be invited back next year. Evan was settling down at the drum set, getting comfortable for the upcoming workout. While performing was relaxing for me, it was the complete opposite for him. He was often drenched when we were done.

Getting to my appointed spot at the front of the stage, I looked around for my girl—she was out there in the clamoring crowd…somewhere…and even though I hadn’t spotted her yet, I could feel her eyes on me. Knowing she was drinking me in electrified me more than the buzzing energy emanating from the crowd.

Shifting my eyes, I spotted Kiera instantly. She was standing with Jenny, a few rows back. Tuning out everyone and everything else, I focused on my girl. God, she was beautiful. Even in this heat, she’d left her long, brown hair down around her shoulders, and her hazel eyes sparkled with joy as she smiled at me. Her cheeks flushed red as our eyes locked, and I reveled in the fact that I could still do that to her. I hoped she never stopped blushing around me.

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