Tempt Me Like This
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Ashley never usually napped, but then again, she wasn’t exactly used to waking up at five a.m. every day after going to bed at midnight. After meeting with Robert’s assistant, Max had taken her back to the bus, where she’d planned on closing her eyes for only a few seconds before fleshing out her notes from all the meetings today. But the next thing she knew, the clock on the microwave read nine o’clock. Which meant the local opening band was through with their set and Drew would be going on soon.
She sat up so fast that she hit her head on the wood slats of the empty bunk above hers. She was rubbing her head when she finally saw the note he’d left for her. Which meant he’d come onto the bus and seen her drooling facedown into her pillow.
If you want to check out tonight’s show after you wake up, just text Max and he’ll bring you backstage. It’s a big crowd tonight and I’d feel better knowing you’re close by.
It was so tempting to read more into his note than there really was, to tell herself that I’d feel better knowing you’re close by meant more than simple concern for the safety of anyone on his crew attending a show in a 20,000-person venue.
But she wouldn’t let herself do it. Nope, she thought as she scooted out of her bunk, from this moment forward she’d force herself to be all about business. She’d refocus on her plan to get into the Stanford graduate program and stop thinking about kissing Drew.
Of course, that didn’t mean she shouldn’t change out of her terribly wrinkled dress. And maybe put on a little mascara and lip gloss. After all, just in case anyone she’d met at the label was there tonight, she wanted to keep making a good impression. On them, not Drew. Especially since he was unlikely to get the image of her drooling and snoring out of his mind anytime soon...
Fifteen minutes later, feeling slightly more presentable, she texted Max to let him know she was ready to head over to the venue. Seconds later, he knocked on the door and gave her a big smile when she opened it for him.
“Have a good nap?”
“I can’t normally sleep during the day, but I must have really needed that.” As they headed through the venue’s huge back lot and through a big steel door, she asked, “How do you all do it? The pace is so intense.”
“For us guys on the crew, it’s no big deal. We can rest when we need it. Drew’s the one who’s going pretty much twenty-four seven. I’ve talked to him about slowing down—we all have—but he says he likes to stay busy. Especially since...” Max shook his head. “Nothing’s been the same since his mom got sick. That was one great lady. And an amazing mother. You never saw anyone prouder of her children.” He paused, and with a frown he said, “Even before that, though, Drew was starting to look a little caged in, if you know what I mean. Speaking of cages, I heard you were fierce in the meetings with the label today.”
“Fierce?” She was hardly able to believe that anyone would have used that word to describe her. “I just wanted the people from Chief Records to understand how powerful Drew’s new song is and how much his fans love it.”
“You’re a good one, Miss Ashley. Sounds like he really needed someone in his corner today, even more than he usually does when he’s dealing with those label guys. They put on a ton of pressure at the best of times, but at the worst of times?” He scowled. “That kind of pressure can break a man when he’s already busting his ass on a tour that’s lasted years by now.” But then he brightened as he told her, “Drew also wanted you to know that they’ve separated out the meet-and-greet rooms for after the show, just like you suggested.”
Even though she was pleased that they’d run with her idea, the lump in Ashley’s throat grew even bigger. Clearly, Max thought Drew was running himself ragged in an effort to have no leftover energy to think about losing his mom. From what she’d seen so far on this tour—and from what Drew had told her—she wondered if Max was right. And what about his belief that Drew was feeling caged in by his label and their expectations about writing more “fun and sexy” songs?
There were so many things she wanted to talk about with Drew. Not just about what had happened in the morning meeting, but also about why he hadn’t been writing new songs, apart from “One More Time.” In the interviews she’d read over the years, it had always sounded like songwriting was a totally natural part of his life, unlike some other artists who really struggled over creating new music. But was that not true for him anymore? And if so, had it started even before his mom got sick?