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Dare Me

By:Joanna Blake



1





Kendall reached for the guitar. His arm was tan and muscular, with a tattoo of a coiled snake winding around the top of his arm, just below his shoulder. He'd taught himself to play so many years ago, in the back of tour buses, in hotel rooms, airports. They hadn't wanted him to play an instrument back then, or to write, just to perform what they put in front of him.

He'd hated it.

From day one, he'd had his own ideas about songs and dance moves. What to wear. The rest of the band had been much happier to go along. But for the five years of his contract, his hands had been tied.

Now he was free. He'd been writing and recording his own music for almost seven years now. He walked out to the deck overlooking the pacific ocean. He'd done this on his own. All of it. The gold records, the magazine covers, the world tours.

But it had started with them.

In Tempo.

It had been a cheesy boy band put together to churn out hits. Almost immediately he'd chaffed against the restrictions put on them. They weren't allowed creative input, or girls, or drinking. They weren't even allowed to pick out their own clothes. Try telling that to a bunch of teenage boys. Especially those with millions of fans.

Billions of fans.

It had been a fluke that made them the group that stood out above the rest. Well, maybe not a fluke. Most people said it was him. Kendall's looks, talent and charisma had made him the natural choice for front man. But he was the one who had ended the roller coaster ride for the rest of them when he quit abruptly after his 18th birthday.

Now he was 26 and an A list recording artist in his own right. The rest of the band had floundered, making club appearances for cash, starting clothing lines, you name it. They'd begged him to come back, year after year.

Every year he said no. Until now. When Davie called him telling him about the birth of his first born. About how hard it was to pay for the hospital, the doctors, everything. Kendall had offered him money, a gift with no strings attached. But Davie still had his pride, unlike the rest of the guys. He'd asked for one thing only: to do what they did best.

Kendall owed them. He knew it. So tonight, he was taking the stage with the band that had started him on his meteoric rise to fame. He sighed, staring out over the ocean.

Just a few concerts to get the guys back on their feet. Then never again. He'd just go back to his life, whatever that meant.





**********





Tonight was the night.

Jessica had been waiting to see her favorite band play forever. Ever since she was thirteen years old. Money for a ticket had been far out of her reach then, just like having a ride to take her, or a friend to go with. It had been so far from reality, the concerts might as well have taken place on the moon. By the time she was old enough to go someplace by herself, let alone afford the cost of a ticket, the band had broken up.

That was more than seven years ago. A lifetime. Time enough for her to grow up and finally move out, as far away from home as she possibly could.

Home.

That was a laugh. But there was no other word for the place you grew up in, no matter how dismal it had been. Anyway, she was on her own now. Just the way she liked it.

Either way, her chance to see Kendall, Davie, Gerald and Tom had long since passed her by. Well, some of the guys had solo careers now but it wasn't the same. She hadn't kept up too much with their newer stuff. She didn't have time to listen to music that much now. But back then, it had been a lifeline.

Jessica pretty much ignored pop culture these days, spending most of her time at work or volunteering at the Los Feliz Animal Shelter near her apartment. But when they'd made the announcement a few months ago, even she had noticed.

In Tempo was getting back together.

It was just for a limited reunion   tour, true. And probably just to make some money. Most of their careers were lagging, other than the lead singer Kendall Jackson. He was an even bigger star than he'd been before and always linked with one starlet or another.

Okay, so maybe she paid attention a little.

She grinned at herself. She knew she was being ridiculous. She was grown up now and over her school girl crush on the lead singer of In Tempo, the biggest boy band in the world at that time.

Mostly over it anyway. So what if she'd only dated guys who looked like him? Who could blame her for liking tall guys with sandy blond hair and green eyes? Nobody really came close to him in the looks department though. He looked like an old school movie star with his mop of wavy hair and impossibly green eyes. They practically glowed.

She shook her head at herself.

Things were different now. Much different.

This time she had friends to go with. And this time, she could afford the ticket. The good seats even. It had been years since she was that lonely, frightened teenager with nothing but lint in her pockets. Still, she could hardly believe it. She was finally going to see the band that had gotten her through those difficult years, hiding in her bedroom with her stereo turned up.

God, she'd been a disaster.

Jessica tugged the neckline of her top up. She rolled her eyes. When was the last time she had worn the thing? College? She wore scrubs so much of the time that she hadn't been shopping in forever. This top must be five years old at least.

And she was falling out of it.

The bright blue V neck fit well everywhere else. Plus it looked great with her light blue eyes. It was just… her boobs. Her big, gigantic boobs were drawing attention to themselves. As usual.

Ugh.

Well there was no hope for it. Her other clothes were all in the laundry. Unless she wanted to wear the scrubs with little bunnies on them to a concert on a Friday night…

Yeah, no. Not going to happen.

She pulled on her favorite pair of tight fitting jeans and a pair of ankle boots with a medium heel. She was short so heels were her one concession to vanity.

In fact, she wasn't just short. She was tiny. Until her boobs had made an appearance, Jess was often mistaken for a child. Even now, her new clients often reacted with shock when they found out that yes, she was the doctor who was about to treat their precious pets. Each time they quickly realized she was a damn good doctor. Her clients were very loyal to her after just one visit. Still, it was annoying as hell.

It also kept her from dating too much. She tended to attract creeps with little girl fetishes. Well, lately she'd been getting asked out a lot, by all kinds of people. But she had to keep her guard up. God knows, she'd learned early not to trust men.

Not to trust anybody really.

She applied a thin line of black liner to her upper lids. A little mascara, some lipgloss and she was done. There was no use in trying anything with her hair other than running a brush through it. It was naturally big. She'd tried everything over the years before giving up. Serums, gels, you name it. She pressed her hands down on it briefly but it was no use.

She'd been born with the hair of a country western singer.

Jess grabbed her bag and was out the door into the warm LA night.





**********





Kendall was circling in his convertible, looking for the best way into the backstage parking area behind the Hollywood bowl. He passed the back entrance again and sighed. There was a big crowd back here already. He pulled over and raised the convertible top, mentally preparing himself to face the hoards. He didn't really want anyone to touch him while he drove by.

He didn't mind the fans, exactly. He thought they were kind of sweet for the most part. And of course, he owed his success to them. But in a crowd, something happened to them. All their frenzy, their emotions, everything was amplified by a thousand.

No, a hundred thousand.

Hell, one time he'd had a hunk of his hair torn out. He ran his hand through it. Yep. Still missing a little bit of hair back there. He grimaced. It was weird to have people put him on a pedestal the way the fans did. Certainly not a basis for a relationship, other than a one night stand. And even those could go horribly awry. One time a girl had locked herself in his bathroom and refused to leave. That was almost four years ago and the last time he'd brought home a groupie. It had just been a hotel room but still, he'd learned his lesson.

Rule number 1 of being a celebrity: keep your distance from people who aren't in the business.

It was just too risky.

They always expected too much.

Of course, his family and childhood friends were exempt from that rule. Basically, anybody who'd known him before he was famous was a safe bet. He loved hanging out back home in Split Rock, Colorado. Fuck, it almost made him feel normal.

Kendall Jackson was not normal.

He'd been catapulted to fame at the tender age of fourteen. A cute face, killer dance moves and a good singing voice had landed him the lead spot in a boy band. He was still living in the shadow of In Tempo.

He probably would forever.

It was hard to complain about something that made all the cool things he'd done in his life possible. He'd travelled extensively. Bought his mom a car and a house. Bought both of his grandmothers houses. Paid for his sisters and brothers to attend private colleges. Dated some incredibly beautiful women, even though it never seemed to last.

It was a good thing.

Mostly.

He pulled his baseball cap lower and locked the doors before making a u-turn and heading for the gate.





**********





"Come on… don't be a wuss!"

"Yeah, Jess, do it!"

Jessica was doing her best to ignore Cathy and Lisa, her two best friends from the Animal Hospital. Cathy was a vet tech and Lisa was the assistant to the owner Dr. Pendleton, which meant she basically ran the place. No small feat for someone who'd dropped out of college sophomore year. She was street smart though. They all were. That's part of the reason they were friends.

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