Chapter One

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It starts when I'm getting ready for sound check. I expected the text, if I'm honest. My boyfriend Bowie's schedule for bailing on me runs like clockwork these days.

I can't make it tonight. Something came up.

He tacks on a sad-face emoji and a "c u tomorrow?" in a separate text that arrives a few seconds later. It's an afterthought—something to make it seem like he cares when he knows he's being a jerk.

I shove my phone in my bag and wonder what the "something" keeping him away from my concert is this time. A date with some weed, maybe, or too many beers at rehearsal with his band. He's seventeen like me and too young to buy either of these things himself, but his band's drummer, Luke, is twenty-one, and Luke is Bowie's main supplier. Luke also offers me whatever drugs or booze he has on hand whenever I pop by one of their rehearsals or am backstage with Bowie at a show. I decline every time. My so-called significant other never does.

But Bowie's text is readable this time, so he might be sober. If it isn't partying keeping him from my concert tonight, I don't want to think about what is. Or, if recent tabloid rumors turn out to be true, who she is. Endless speculation about Bowie cheating on me has run rampant across social media and the entertainment sites lately, but he claims it's nothing but lies.

I should know better than to read anything the tabloids put out and that it's a fixture of our lives now, for better or for worse. I'm Cayden Indigo, after all, and Bowie is Bowie Nelson. We're the two hottest teen pop acts out there, and both of us have had back-to-back singles in the top 10 on the charts this year. I try not to pay much attention to the chatter and media swirl, but it gets hard to ignore the thousands of social media shares per minute when both my fans and Bowie's are tagging me.

Some fans are concerned, and some want me to dump him. Then there's the group of Bowie's followers who can't stand me and are just plain vindictive. Some days it's the bright pink, blue, or purple wigs I wear at shows and in public that bother them. They would probably also find fault with my natural dark brown hair, if they ever saw it. Other days I'm too pale or too tan, too short, or have eyes that appear either too aqua or sea-blue, depending on who's complaining. I have what sometimes seems like a million haters. It's kind of impressive for someone who isn't even old enough to vote yet.

"Will Bowie be missing in action tonight?" my best friend Sawyer asks. He takes the seat between me and his boyfriend, Carter, his shaggy hair flopping in front of his eyes. Either his bestie radar is pinging, or I made a face at my phone while reading Bowie's message and he saw it.

"What's the rule for this in your game? Two drinks of water?" It's more sad than funny that Bowie's transgressions are now the basis of a water-drinking game.

"Three," he replies, raising his bottle of water to his lips. He takes three gulps. I remove the cap from my water and do the same.

"I'll be hydrated for my set, anyway." I examine a strand of hot pink hair from the wig I'm already wearing for tonight's show.

"Again? It's time to kick that one to the curb, Deni." Carter puts his phone down and sticks his hand out for Sawyer's water. He also takes three drinks.

Breaking up with Bowie has crossed my mind more than once lately, but I haven't gone through with it. I came close a couple weeks ago, even practicing what I would say. Then Bowie showed up at my house, surprising me with take-out from my favorite Chinese restaurant, flowers, a plan to watch a rom-com, and apologies for how busy he's been with rehearsals and interviews about his new album.

The problem with Bowie is how attentive and charming he is when we're together. The problem with me is I fell for the attention and charm in the moment. I talked myself out of dumping him between that and the thought of dealing with my publicist and some of the people at my record label. None of them have any say in my personal life, but I'm well aware of the millions of dollars riding on Bowie and me right now.

I signed up to co-headline a summer concert tour with him before he asked me out, back when he was nothing more to me than someone I ran into at record label events and award shows. In hindsight, both of us should have known better than to get involved before we'd be together twenty-four seven on the road. If we break up now, that's a whole lot of awkward for the next couple of months, especially since we're supposed to perform a song together for the encore of each show.

"Maybe after the tour." My words lack enthusiasm. Carter frowns, but I don't know if it's in response to me putting off the inevitable, or the reminder that he and Sawyer will be apart for two months. Sawyer is hitting the road with me this summer as the tour's opening act, while Carter is staying in L.A. to shoot a film.

"Do you really want to be tied to this mess on the road?" Carter asks.

He has a point, but all three of us sitting here are aware of reality. Our summer tour sold out stadiums and festivals within minutes of tickets going on sale. Even if I did end things with Bowie right now, we would still be on tour together. I can only hope being on the road and having to travel and perform almost every day will force him to focus.

"I'll have your back on tour, whatever you decide," Sawyer assures me.

He will, because he always has, since the day we met at our performing arts school. And we'll have a blast together during days off from the tour, hitting up beaches and water parks, or exploring whatever city we're in. It's up to Bowie if he hangs out with us or parties with Luke and the rest of his band.

"We're ready for you, Cayden." The sound engineer's voice carries across the room.

"Looks like I'm up." I hop out of my chair and make my way on to the stage, happy to pause on the conversation and turn my attention to something else.

I wait while one of the crew lowers my mic stand and take the opportunity to look out at the club. The scattered chairs that are out now will be put away after sound check, and the empty floor will be packed with concert-goers in just a couple of hours for my one-night-only performance here at The Domino. It's been a while since I've played somewhere that holds less than a few thousand people, and I'm excited for tonight's show. It's the second-last one before the summer tour, here in my hometown of L.A., and I'm looking forward to something smaller and more intimate before the weeks of stadiums, arenas, and festivals ahead. Tonight I'll get to see actual faces in the crowd and connect with some of the fans who have gotten me to where I am. For a few hours, nothing else will matter.

Bowie, and whatever apologies and excuses he has this time, can wait.

* * * * *

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QUESTION: What's your impression of Deni and her relationship with Bowie and her life in the spotlight so far?

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