Falling out of Hate with You by Lauren Rowe



One





Savage





Hollywood Hills, California





Music is blaring around me as I wade through the packed party, precariously balancing six shot glasses filled to their brims. I come to a stop when I reach my four bandmates—Kendrick, Kai, Ruby, and Titus—plus, our manager, Eli.

“Grab ‘em, quick!” I call out over the loud music, and, thankfully, my friends immediately relieve me of the tequila-laden Jenga tower in my palms. Once all glasses have been distributed, I raise mine to our band’s drummer and beat-maker, my best friend in the world, Kendrick Cook. “Happy twenty-fifth!” I shout. And, of course, everyone joins me in wishing Kendrick a great one.

According to Reed Rivers’ party invitation, we’re at his hilltop mansion tonight to celebrate an upcoming issue of Rock ‘n’ Roll magazine—a special issue that’s going to feature nothing but the top artists from his record label, an elite group that thankfully includes our band, Fugitive Summer. But since nobody throws a better bash than our label owner—or, as my band has dubbed Reed Rivers, “The Prick”—and since most of the people we would have invited to a separate birthday party for Kendrick are here, anyway—we decided to hijack Reed’s fancy shindig to celebrate our boy’s birth.

“Do I have drool on my chin?” Kai Cook, our bass player and Kendrick’s older brother, shouts above the music, as one of the most head-turning women at the party, a reporter for Rock ‘n’ Roll named Georgina, walks by and waves as she goes.

Our other guitarist, Titus, nudges my shoulder. “The reporter winked at you, Savage! Go get her, Player!”

I roll my eyes. I hate that my bandmates still call me “Player,” the same way they’ve been doing since the beginning, when I was admittedly drunk on all the attention our band—and especially me—had started getting. But these days, the nickname isn’t nearly as accurate as it once was, not since an “influencer” in Barcelona made my dick the top trending topic on Twitter last year.

Immediately after sex with that spicy little Spaniard, I hopped into the shower in my hotel room, thinking she’d fallen asleep. And that’s when she snagged my wallet, snapped some surreptitious photos of me cluelessly washing up, and then promptly posted the shots, along with a detailed play-by-play of our night together. And off she went, into the Spanish night, while I continued singing a happy tune, literally, in the shower. And I swear, I haven’t been the same “player,” ever since.

It wasn’t that I was upset about the wallet. While on tour, I barely ever have anything in it. Condoms, a credit card that was easy to cancel, and my ID. Also, I wasn’t all that bent out of shape about the world seeing my naked dong or finding out, through the Spaniard’s posted commentary, that I’m a rabid fan of oral sex.

No, as cliché as it sounds, the thing that threw me for a loop was the shocking breach of trust. The realization that nobody out there is trustworthy, no matter how much it feels like they might be, in the moment. It was the realization that anything I might say or do in private, no matter how intimate it might feel in the moment, could end up as a meme on the internet.

In that moment, I knew whatever genuine connection I’d thought the woman and I had shared that night was an illusion. Or worse, if it had been real, she was willing to sacrifice it on the altar of snagging my wallet and her fifteen minutes of fame.

It was the first time I truly understood the downside of this crazy life. The loneliness and eternal separation from normalcy that’s inherent in the gig. And it changed me. I’ve never been a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, anyway. I don’t trust easily and never have. But after that experience, I felt even more closed off and determined to keep myself under wraps.

Kai grabs my arm, like he thinks he’s keeping me from chasing after the hot reporter, Georgina. But I’m not even tempted to run after her. Kai yells above the blasting music, “I call dibs on the reporter! And you know I never do that, dude! So, you’d better respect The Dibs!”

I’m offended. Why does Kai feel the need to say that to me? I always respect The Dibs, more than anyone else in the band, other than Kendrick. Kai should know by now I don’t give a fuck which gorgeous woman I wind up with, if any. There are far too many of them in this world, and, certainly, at this party, and I’m far too good at getting whoever I want, to chase after someone who’s caught the eye of one of my best friends. Especially when I barely know the woman in question.