Wicked White Page 1

ACE

This place is a fucking circus. Sure, on the outside it may appear to be a well-oiled machine, but to someone who lives it every day, the music business is a crazy ride.

My band is headlining Summerfest tonight. One of the biggest music festivals in America, held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for eleven straight days. It’s pure insanity here.

I sit on display like a monkey in a cage under a white-topped tent in the blazing ninety-degree weather while a line of fans as far as the eye can see wait to get my signature. I’ll give the fans one thing—they’re dedicated, because this heat is miserable.

Jane Ann, my road manager, hovers behind me as the fans come through one by one to get their thirty seconds with me while I sign whatever crap they just bought from the merchandise booth with my band’s name on it, Wicked White. I hate it when she does that—monitors my behavior. It’s times like these when she’s a thorn in my side. If she wasn’t so damn good at her job, and the reason the band gained the notoriety it has, I’d tell her to take a hike.

“Ohmygod! Ace, I love you,” the busty blond wearing a too-tight tank top squeals as she approaches my table. “Will you sign my chest?”

I fight the urge hard to not roll my eyes at this chick. This is the part of my job that I absolutely loathe—signing another human being’s skin. Most of these women have no shame and will flop their tit out on a dime for the thrill of me touching it with a Sharpie. It kills me that I can’t refuse. Jane Ann has made it perfectly clear to me what my role is as a rock star—I’m to smile and sign whatever they ask me to.

“Never refuse a fan. The media is everywhere. One negative video posted to the Internet can ruin your career and the brand we’ve worked so hard to create for Wicked White,” Jane Ann told me last time I complained.

As much as it pains me, I smile at the blond and wave her in closer. “Sure, babe. Just point to the spot.”

The woman giggles and her friends shove her forward, almost daring her to approach me. She grabs the front of her shirt and yanks one side down along with her bra, far enough that half of her nipple is exposed. She runs a finger slowly over the mounded flesh and licks her lips. “Right here.”

I know it’s an act of seduction, and on most men I’m sure this would get the girl noticed, possibly gaining her backstage entrance from a horny motherfucker looking to score with a groupie. That shit don’t work on me, though. I want a nice girl. Someone who I could take home to a mother—if I had one.

The groupie sighs happily as I etch my name with a black Sharpie across her warm skin. It’s completely illegible, but that’s irrelevant considering she’ll more than likely sweat it off before the day’s end.

The rest of her friends, following suit, have me sign their bodies in different places as well.

“After these three, wrap it up. We’ve got to get Ace backstage,” Jane Ann tells the guy in the yellow security shirt standing next to my table.

Great. Nothing like pissing off a couple hundred fans after they stood in line for an hour to meet me.

Jane Ann needs to implement the ticket idea that I suggested earlier this year, but I know she’ll never do it. Limiting tickets limits merch sales, and there’s no way she won’t squeeze out every penny that she can, so that’s out.

After I finish with the last woman, the guard says, “All right, folks, Ace has to go.”

A collective sound of boos flows through the air as I stand and turn away from the table. Jane Ann waits for me with her flaming red hair tossed casually over her shoulder. The bright red leather pants she’s wearing are about two sizes too small, and the low-cut blouse shows entirely too much skin, but that’s her normal, everyday gear. She threads her arm through mine and stares up at me with her blue eyes as she leads me out of the tent toward the backstage area. “The women are really starting to take notice of you, Ace. You’re well on your way to becoming a true sex symbol. Soon Ace White will be a household name.”

I shake my head, not caring a bit if the world knows the stage name the record label gave me. “I could give a shit about that. You know all I care about is the music. Speaking of . . . did you tell the label I plan on writing the songs for the next record?”

She sighs and rolls her eyes. “I did, Ace, but you know how the bigwigs are. They want to make sure the songs appeal to the mass market, so they want to bring in the same producers you worked with on the last album. Johnny Moses has some terrific songs picked out that really fit your voice.”

I pull back, halting her in place. “Hold up. You’ve heard the writers’ demos already and didn’t send them to me?”

“You’ve just been so busy making appearances that I figured you wouldn’t have time and would be happy with what I chose. Don’t you trust my judgment anymore?” She raises a perfectly manicured eyebrow. “Remember, it was me helping you change your style that took you to this new platform. This is the level we’ve been dying to get to.”

I shake my head, my dark hair falling into my eyes. “My music would’ve eventually gotten me there.”

She pats my chest as a look of pity crosses her face. “Keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better, but we both know it was me and the choices I made for you that pushed you to this level, not those sad little acoustic songs you sang to bar crowds of twenty people. This is the big leagues, kid. You’d do best not to throw a fit over something as simple as a song choice. You need to give the fans what they’ve grown to expect from you. They’re what bring in the money. Trust me.”

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