Once they had all showered and changed, the four headed down to the bar. As they walked in, they spotted the Minor Talent guys gathered at a booth against the wall. Dai jumped up, walking quickly towards them.
"Hey," he said. "What you guys drinking?"
They gave their orders without hesitation, thankful for the tab as they gathered at the bar.
"Flight okay? Room okay?" he asked, with barely a pause.
"Yeah, wasn't too bad. Met Dash," Scarlet explained, grinning at the energy rolling off Dai. He couldn't stand still, bouncing on the balls of his feet as they waited.
"Cool. They're meant to be good. Never heard them before, though." Their drinks were placed on a tray, and Dai grabbed it before leading the band over to the booth. "Come on. Need to introduce you to our new bassist."
They gathered around the booth. Wolf flashed a wide smile as he leant forward. "Beautiful as ever, girls."
"Such a man whore," Scarlet replied, grinning.
Wolf shrugged. "Drummer thing, ain't it?"
"Not our drummer!" Sapphire nudged Scarlet. "Long term relationship, now."
"No way!" Wolf gaped at her. "Aw, what happened to the free spirited young girl who used to drive us all wild?"
Dai coughed, and Wolf laughed as he leant back.
"Anyway. This is Wren." He gestured to the guy sitting between Andy and Wolf. His blond hair fell into a pair of baby blue eyes, as he nodded at them. "Our new bassist. Wren, meet the Fallen Angels. Scarlet, Sapphire, Rivers and Jade."
They shook hands. "You got a lot to live up to," Rivers said, fingers wrapping around his drink. "Up to it?"
Wren took a deep breath. "Hope so."
"Where you from, mate?"
"North. Scarborough. Moved down to London a few months back though. Old band broke up, figured I'd have a chance of finding something better there."
"He's good," Wolf said. "Not as good as…" He shrugged.
"Give him time," Scarlet said, grinning at Wren. "He's only a baby. How old are you?"
A blush crossed his face. "Twenty."
"See. Baby. Barely out of his teens. If he's good enough now to play with you guys, then imagine what he'll be like in a couple of years."
Wren shifted in his seat, glancing down at the drink in front of him.
"Shit. You can't drink here, can you?" Jade said, eyeing the coke. "Jesus. Bad luck, mate."
"Can you please stop making our bassist awkward?" Dai muttered, eyeing the Angels. "Yes, he's young. No, he can't drink on this tour. Not…technically." He grinned, eyes lighting up. "But we'll find ways around that. Moving on, swiftly."
Scarlet went to say something.
"If this is about Wren, then don't say anything. Just don't."
"No! No. I was just…well, maybe we should do a toast."
Dai leant back, watching her carefully. "To what?"
"To old friends, reunited. And to Robbie."
He grinned, nodding slowly. "Sounds good. All right. To old friends reunited, touring with the ex, and to Robbie. Both our dear departed friend who can never be replaced, and to the squealing delight my missus is currently putting to bed."
"Here, here!" Wolf cried, thumping the table with his fists.
They cheered, lifted their glasses up, and clanked them together.
"One more," Rivers said. "To the motherfucking US of A!"
Laughter followed his words, and they clinked their glasses again before proceeding to down the alcohol contained within. Wren took a sip of his coke, before placing the glass on the table and watching as those around him tilted their heads back and drank.
For a while, they talked, sharing their excitement about the tour. Eventually, they were joined by both Dash and Hell's Pain, and introductions were thrown around between them and Minor Talent. They pulled chairs over to the booth, squeezing in together, the drinks on the table piling up.
Someone managed to sneak a drink to Wren, and he seemed more than grateful for the alcohol entering his system as everyone slowly got more rowdy. Jokes bounced back and forth, and laughter rose from the table.
"Does anyone know the technicalities of this tour?" Devan asked, glancing around the table. His question was met with head shakes.
"Hazel's going to go through that," Dai explained. "When she gets here." He checked his watch, frowning. "She should be here by now. How long does it take a bloody babysitter to get to that room?"
They carried on talking, though Dai was clearly growing impatient. His eyes kept darting to the door, and worry crept slowly over his features.
"Dai," Scarlet whispered, leaning forward over the table. "Stop worrying. She'll be fine. Babysitter's probably late."
His head snapped around, eyes suddenly fixed on her. It was amazing, she thought, how little the years had changed him while making him a completely different person. The teenager she had known was still there, still staring out at her, but the selfish, cruel boy had been replaced by someone with a lot more love to give. She smiled.
He had always been a strange contradiction, and she was glad to know some things just never changed.
"Seriously. They'll be fine."
He nodded, slowly. "Yeah."
Finally, Hazel arrived, stepping into the bar in the middle of a conversation with a lanky man in a suit. He took off his sunglasses and carefully folded them, slipping them into his pocket as he smiled. The conversation at the booth came to a complete stop, as they gazed at the stranger. He said something to Hazel before glancing towards them. She nodded, gestured to the bar and smiled.
The band members watched in silence as the two strode across the floor. They ordered their drinks and waited, still talking, as Dai lifted his beer to his mouth and drank deeply, eyes fixed on his girlfriend. None of them really knew what was happening, but all of them were sitting up straight, trying to remain still.
Scarlet's hands twitched. Wolf began to tap his knees, Kyle's foot bounced up and down and Bran's fingers rapped on the table.
Dai shifted in his seat as Hazel and the mysterious guy turned, drinks in hand, and walked towards the booth. He was smiling, his gaze fixed on them.
"Guys," Hazel said, as they arrived. "This is Neil Glaze, our tour manager."
"Nice to meet y'all."
The spell was broken. All at once, they let their shoulders drop and smiles break out on their faces. Each of them shook his hand, one by one, introducing themselves.
"Four bands, right?" he drawled, and despite her not having spent any time in the States previously, Scarlet recognised the accent from TV shows and films. Texan. "Get ready to spend a lot of time together, guys. And girls." He nodded curtly to Scarlet, Sapphire and Jade, bunched together, and gave a separate nod to Eve, sitting between the male members of Hell's Pain.
Two more chairs were dragged over, and the Texan rolled his shoulders back, before leaning on the table with his arms crossed. They watched him, waiting, as he surveyed them all.
"Now, this is important. Remember the main act on this tour is Minor Talent."
Scarlet resisted the urge to flinch, surprised at the words. They weren't exactly comforting, and she figured the others felt the same. She saw Kyle scowl.
"That means you three have to work extra hard. You need to make sure those kids walk away from those gigs remembering your faces. You need to make sure, when you come off that stage, they head straight for your merchandising tables to pick up their CDs, or download them when they get home. Y'all got them on ITunes, right?"
Eve nodded. With a grin, Devan mimicked the action.
The Angels glanced at each other.
Neil's gaze turned to them, and Scarlet felt like a kid who had just been caught doodling in class.
"Get it sorted," he said. "Two days, all right? You got an album?"
"So you've got the songs, and I assume you have a digital copy of them?"
"So get whoever has that copy to upload it online, somewhere. Even if it's Pirate Bay. Get it out there so those kids can access it." He paused, coughed and rolled back his shoulders, moving his head so his gaze was pretty much dead centre. "So, there's that. Secondly, you want at least a few of them to turn up to the gig to see you. Not just the headliners. Otherwise half of them are going to turn up just as one of you are finishing your last song. We don't want that. We want you guys to make money. We want you guys to make us money, understand?"
She bit back the urge to reply with yes, sir.
"So, here's the plan." The smile that crossed his face was a surprise, but not as much as what he said next. "You have a few days between each gig. Of course, some time will be taken up with getting from one place to another. We're not as small as your home country, so get used to a good few hours on the road, with each other. And no one but each other for company. I don't care if you start fucking to pass the time, just don't let it affect your performance."
Another pause, as Neil drummed on the table. His eyes moved from one to the other, forehead creasing.
"Can you feel that, Hazel?"
His smile turned into an outright grin. "That pure animal magnetism. Don't think that fucking line was a joke, guys. Before this tour is out, there's going to be a fair few cross-band sex stories."
Jade was clearly fighting to not spit out her larger. Rivers just gaped at Neil, while Devan laughed, a short burst that drew Scarlet's gaze.
He winked at her.
She snapped her attention back to Neil, trying to ignore the uncomfortable feeling bouncing off those gathered.
"So here's the plan," Neil continued, as if half the people in front of him weren't blushing. "You will each play a gig, every night before the main one. We've booked you into different bars across the country, and a couple of frat and sorority houses when we're playing college towns. You're going to be getting people pumped up, you're going to make them want to buy tickets to the main show. Some gigs you will play on your own, others will be with some of your fellow bands. And you will play as well as you will on the main nights. You understand?"
They nodded, some of the guys muttering, "Yes." Neil leant back, somehow managing to catch them all in his stern gaze. "Good. You'll all get your itineraries tomorrow."
He pushed back from the table, his smile still lingering as Hazel stood and firmly shook his hand.
"Get some decent sleep," he said, nodding his head towards the group. "Tomorrow's going to be a hard day."
X X X
The thumping at the door infected their sleep. Groggily, one by one, they woke. Jade was the first, her eyes opening slowly to stare at the ceiling. Her neck and back ached, the kind of pain that came from sleeping in an unfamiliar bed.
"Who da fuck iz that?" Scarlet muttered, her blankets covering her face, making her slurred speech muffled. Sapphire groaned, turned over on the sofa bed, and waved a hand at the door as if that would tell the knocker to disappear.
Sleep washed away from Jade easily. It always had. She climbed off the bed, wishing there was more time to relish the fluffy white carpet beneath her feet. Not caring that she was in nothing except a pair of baggy boxers and a long t-shirt, she made her way to the door.
Her first thought had been that it was Rivers knocking, for some ungodly reason. Most likely just because he was up and he was bored.
The thumping came again.
She yanked the door open, just as Eve was raising her hand to knock again. Jade stepped back, eyeing the girl's long, sleek, jet black hair. She wasn't wearing make-up, and without it she looked a lot less menacing.
"Err..hi," Jade said, glancing over her shoulder to see Scarlet peeking out from over the blanket. "Can I help you?"
Eve smiled. "Morning!"
"Oh, God," Scarlet muttered. "She's a morning person."
"Get thee away, spawn of Satan." Sapphire's voice was clear, but the effects of sleep were still there. When Jade looked, the guitarist was burying her head back in the pillow.
Eve laughed. "You got two hours," she said, holding up two fingers. "Glaze wants us all in the bar at ten. On the dot."
Jade sighed. "All right. Thanks."
"No worries. See you later." She waved, wriggling her fingers.
"Did you knock for Rivers?"
She pulled a face. "If he's anything like the guys I know, he sleeps naked. And I do not want to see that first thing in the morning." With a shrug, she turned and, practically skipping, disappeared around the corner.
Jade pushed the door shut and turned to look at the other two. "Did you hear what she said?"
Scarlet waved her hand through the air. "No. Who cares? Sleep now."
Taking a deep breath, Jade threw her shoulders back and strode forward, grabbing the blanket and yanking it off Scarlet. The drummer squeaked, throwing herself towards the blanket.
"Nuh uh." Jade stepped back, pulling it out of Scarlet's reach. "You take longest in the shower. So go. Now!"
Scarlet shook her head. "No."
"We have two hours to get ready. We have to be in the bar by ten."
She gaped at Jade. "Two…ten…it's eight o freaking clock? Are you serious?"
"It's practically the middle of the night," Sapphire grumbled, but Jade was glad to see she was getting herself up. Sapphire was sitting on the sofa bed, stretching her arms up. "He just wants to torture us, doesn't he?"
"I'm sure he has his best interests in mind." From where she was standing, Jade could see the goose bumps prickling Scarlet's legs, leading up to the pair of knickers worn under one of Nick's t-shirts. She reached forward, stretching out her fingers, ready to tickle.
As her fingers met with flesh, Scarlet squealed and leapt out of the bed.
"Do not tickle me," she growled, glaring at Jade.
"Shower." She pointed at the bathroom. "Glaze already thinks we're not taking this seriously. We need to prove how much we want this, Scar."
Something flickered across Scarlet's face, a look Jade knew all too well.
"We do deserve to be here, don't we?" she said, glancing from Jade to Sapphire. "We're not just here because…"
"Because you dated Dai?" Sapphire finished. "No. But they're going to think that until we prove them wrong. Jade's right. You should get ready."
Scarlet disappeared into the bathroom, and Jade sat down on the end of the large bed, turning her gaze to Sapphire.
"Dash wouldn't be thinking that if Chrissie hadn't mentioned it."
"I know." Sapphire shrugged. "But they were bound to find out at some point. Hell's Pain, too. I'd rather them find out before they see us in action, you know?"
Jade nodded, before throwing herself back and stretching out across the bed. "We'll prove we deserve it."
"Who's going to get Rivers up?"
Jade groaned, pushed herself back up and got to her feet. "Shit. Guess I'd better."
X X X
Rivers was scratching his bare chest when he opened the door. His eyes were half closed with sleep, but he'd answered fast enough that Jade didn't think she had woken him.
"Who was banging on your door?" he asked, stepping back to let her in.
"Hot Goth chick?"
"Thought you hated Goths?"
He shrugged, yawning as he lowered himself to sit on the bed. "Doesn't mean they can't be hot. What did she want?"
"We got to be down in the bar at ten."
"What's the time now?"
"Not long gone eight."
His eyebrow shot up. "And you woke me up now? Jade, babe, you could have left me until at least nine and I'd be there on time."
"We all need to get ready. We're going to be busy for the next two hours."
"Fair point." He fell back on the bed, put his hands behind his head and closed his eyes. "Go grab your stuff. You can use my shower and wake me up when you're done."
"Yeah. Go for it. Those two take forever. And like I said, I can be ready in well under an hour. No point in you hanging around waiting."
"All right. Thanks."
He nodded, before rolling over and turning his back to her.
"Key's on the table."
Jade swiped up the key, before slipping out of the room and heading back.
She knew they were good enough. Dai wasn't the type of guy to hand out free passes. But none of the others knew that.
She stepped into the room. Sapphire was sitting up now, staring out the window.
They would just have to prove themselves, that was all.
And, Jade hoped, they'd do it well enough that even Kyle would shut the hell up.
A/N: As always, your thoughts and feedback are very much appreciated. I'm trying to stick more to POV, trying to separate the characters a little, so let me know if you think it's working or not. Little bit more of Minor Talent in this chapter; what do you think of them? Also, there's a poll on my profile page which currently has no votes what so ever, so please have a look and cast your vote. Thanks very much, as always.