“They are so good,” I say, finishing my drink. “I would never have pegged you as an EDM guy.”
“The thing about this music is that if you just stand here and listen, you’ll never appreciate it. You’re supposed to be part of it—part of the party. I think that’s why I like it so much.” He does a quick check of his watch. “Listen, it’s almost time for our set. Will you be okay here?”
“We’re playing three songs, so if you want to come down during the last one I can meet you backstage.”
I nod and smile up at him.
Am I really here? On a date with Calvin?
I’m momentarily light-headed. We’re negotiating getting married.
He wraps a hand around my upper arm and gently squeezes. “You’re sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah.” I pull a few strands of hair out of my face, and notice when he glances at my lips. “This is just sort of surreal.”
“I know.” He pauses, seeming to be on the verge of saying something more about this, but in the end just tells me, “I’ll give them your name and see you in a few?”
At this, he gives me a grin and leans in, pressing a kiss to my cheek that nearly annihilates me, before heading down the stairs.
Calvin’s band is on about twenty minutes later, and when he looks up while tuning his guitar to offer me a little wave, my knees grow rubbery.
He was right about the distinct lack of animal print. There are four guys in total, all of them in varying degrees of distressed skinny jeans and vintage band T-shirts, all of them hot. Calvin is playing a guitar I’ve never seen him use before—it looks acoustic but plugs into an enormous amp near his feet.
Within the first notes of the opening number, I can already tell these guys are good. The singer is a gritty baritone, but impressive on the higher notes, too. The songs are short and range from indie rock to a bit heavier, and each one showcases Calvin’s incredible fluidity on his guitar.
Unlike in the station, Calvin is playing to the audience here. He grins wickedly, lifts his chin in greeting to the screaming women up front, and steps into the spotlight during his solos. It’s such a starkly different version of him—and still so obscenely sexy—that I can barely drag my eyes away.
And I’m not the only one. A girl with platinum hair and a nose ring stands next to me at the railing, her gaze locked in on the stage. “Is that the new lead guitar?”
The girl next to her is equally impressed. “Jesus Christ. Is he going to be at the after-party? Because if he is, so am I.”
At this, I essentially sprint down the stairs and toward the backstage entrance.
“Um, Holland Bakker?” I tell the security guard. “I’m supposed to meet Calvin McLoughlin.”
He looks down at me—seriously, I think he’s seven feet tall—and then at his list. With a bored sigh he steps to the side, allowing me to pass.
Calvin is just coming offstage and spots me immediately. Having known Robert all my life, and worked at the theater for the last few years, I’m familiar with the adrenaline rush that comes with performing. It’s a high as good as any drug, and is the only explanation I can find for the way Calvin’s eyes light up when he sees me, the way he makes his way straight to where I stand and picks me up in a squeezing, sweaty hug.
“Could you see all right? How did it sound?” he asks, amped.
“It was amazing.” Being this close to him makes me legitimately dizzy. I now know how hard his chest his, how strong his hands are.
He sets me down again. “Yeah?”
I don’t even need to exaggerate my breathlessness. “You were amazing.”
Calvin turns to find the lead singer standing right behind him. “Devon, hey.”
“Thanks for filling in on such short notice. We would have been screwed without you.”
“No problem.” Calvin tucks an arm around my waist and pulls me closer. When my sweater rides up, I feel the rough press of his hand on my skin, making me grow as hyperaware of each of his fingertips as if he’s just brushed them across my nipples. “I appreciated being asked.”
Devon wipes his face on a towel and lays it over his shoulder. “Do you think you’d want to make this a permanent thing?”
Calvin takes a moment to consider before looking down at me. He blinks, and a beat of silence passes between us where I think he’s asking, Well? Are we doing this? His fingers rub my waist gently, as if to remind me there’s no pressure.
I swallow, giving him a smile that says: Fuck yes we are.
Calvin turns back to Devon. “Dev, this is my fiancée, Holland. Holls, this is Devon.”
And I die.
Devon’s eyes disappear into his artfully styled mop of sweaty hair before he reaches out, and I return the handshake awkwardly with my cast.
“Fiancée?” he asks. “Well done, man.”
Calvin laughs. “Thanks, mate.”
“So what do you think?” Devon asks.
Another glance in my direction before Calvin grins. “Thanks for the opportunity, Dev. I really appreciate it, but I’m going to be pretty busy for the next several months.”