The cat’s out of the bag: my next book,聽A Disturbing Prospect, will be available January 29th!

This book is a lot different from my others. It’s a romance, but it’s much darker. Heavier. Steamier.

There’s revenge, vigilante bikers, and ravenous love.

I wrote this book in two weeks flat and then I sat on it for over a year. I didn’t know what to do with it. I toyed with the idea of making it into a series, but that didn’t feel right. Locking it up wouldn’t work, though.

You’ll see why.

You can read the official blurb and add it to Goodreads here.

Now Available: Just One More Minute


November has been a complete jerk so far. October too, if I’m being honest. But where last month I was able to keep up with everything, I’ve fallen completely behind this month. 馃檲聽Needless to say, between release day jitters, life-y things, the election, and chronic pain, I’m a blob聽of anxiety. Usually, pre-release, I sit down and write up an organized marketing plan, complete with deadlines. I kept up with everything until just about two weeks ago. I’ve barely promoted the Facebook release party and I’m honestly really bummed about that. Only Thursday night did I remember to email everyone who signed up for ARCs to remind them to post their reviews. Le sigh.

But the show goes on. That’s what we do. We pick ourselves up, find our place, and keep marching forward鈥攅ven if we need to take frequent breaks for rest.

The theme of聽Just One More Minute, in a nutshell, is that life blows up. It’s not pretty. Plans change. But there are always people around us who help us get back on our feet, and we always find more strength within ourselves. There’s always a chance to start over.

My inner strength reserves are kinda shot at the moment, but I’d like to give a shout out to, in no particular order: my husband Mike, my work wife and fellow author J.C. Hannigan, my crit partner and fellow author Molli Moran, and my best friend Sandy. I also want to thank my family for doing really nice things like showing up with groceries and helping wrestle my air conditioner out of my super scary 100+-year-old windows. And a major thank you to everyone who’s helped via my GoFundMe page. Thank you also to Sarah J., who read an ARC of聽Just One More Minute and told me it was the one bright spot in an otherwise crappy week. Honorable mention goes to Michelle H., a lovely reader and soon-to-be-published author who has lifted my spirits several times this week just by chatting with me on Facebook.

Even when life gets sassy, there are a lot of things to be grateful for.

My fingers, hands, and wrists are especially stiff and achy, so I’m just gonna end this with the聽Just One More Minute blurb and some buy links.

Happy release day to me鈥攁nd to you, my lovely readers!

Just One More Minute, by Elizabeth BaroneA down-on-her-luck waitress inherits a bakery with the man who stole her dream job鈥攁nd broke her heart.

Rowan left Connecticut to escape her indifferent family the second she graduated high school, but when her loving aunt dies, she drops everything to return for the funeral. All Rowan wants is to say her goodbyes and get back to her life鈥攗ntil her aunt鈥檚 lawyer tells her that she鈥檚 inherited Elli鈥檚 Bakery, the last straw that sent her running to New Jersey.

Even worse, her brand new business partner is Matt鈥攖he guy who stole her dream job at Elli鈥檚 and crushed her heart. Is she really supposed to just forgive him and run Elli鈥檚 by his side?

For Matt, Elli鈥檚 has been a safe haven, a way to take care of his heartsick mom and fatherless little brother. When the woman who took him in passes away, Matt has no idea what he鈥檚 going to do next. Until Rowan returns to their small town and becomes his new business partner. But after everything that went down between them, it鈥檚 clear that Rowan resents him.

Digging up the past will only be painful, and Matt needs to keep the bakery in business. Can Matt convince Rowan to stick around long enough to work things out between them?

Just One More Minute is a standalone small town bakery romance.

Buy Now

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I’ve decided to leave the book at $0.99 just a bit longer, so grab your copy now!

Still not convinced? Read the first two chapters here.

November 2016 News and Goals

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

Just One More Minute comes out in 12 days! You can pre-order your copy for only $0.99聽here. Books2Read will either automagically detect your favorite retailer, or you can choose from their list.

It’s a beautiful thing indeed.

This month is already proving to be a tough one, so I’m trying to take it easy. Easier said than done, of course. I’m flaring hard, so pacing and resting are important. But I also have a release, which means promotion! And of course I’m writing SOF4 (see my latest update here).

Goals for November

  • Write at least 50K for聽Twisted Broken Strings (South of Forever, Book 4). (My total goal is 75K, but I’m taking it slow.)
  • Release聽Just One More Minute. Thank goodness for pre-order. I don’t have to lift a finger on release day, other than to change the price to $2.99. I’m also looking for bloggers who’d like to share Chapter 1 sometime this month, and maybe even review an ARC. If that sounds like you, you can sign up here.
  • Finish beta reading for my CP. She is seriously a doll; I’ve been taking way longer than forever on this and she’s been nothing but patient. The worst part is, I love her novel! Time is not my friend.

There are a lot of other things I’d like to do, but I’ll be grateful if I can accomplish these three. I’ve been scheduling important social media posts so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook (plus I can get聽some extra rest). I struggled a lot with doing this鈥攊n my silly mind, I felt like scheduling them was disingenuous. But Rachel Thompson and all the wonderful people in #bookmarketingchat assured me that it’s all still me, and that it’ll make my life so much easier. They were totally right.

Speaking of chats, I’d聽really like to make more of these. Unfortunately, by the time they start I’m usually shot for the day. That’s typically the hour that all I’m good for is curling up in front of the TV and fighting sleep. There are some really good ones, too, so it’s a bummer. If this sounds like you, let’s high five and make matching #TeamTiredAuthor T-shirts.

I’ve slowed way down with my reading. I still have the rest of Claire Contreras’s Hearts series, and my pre-order of J.C. Hannigan’s聽Rebel Heart came in and I can’t wait to re-read it! Plus I have about a dozen books I’ve bought but have yet to read. Reader/writer problems, am I right?

However, I’ve started writing morning pages again! I’m beyond broke, so I picked up an $0.88 composition notebook. My pages are not usually in the morning; often I’m scribbling in them just before bed, to try to alleviate聽my mind. Not to mention it kills my wrist and fingers. But I get those three pages done anyway.

There are a few writing books I’d like to pick up, especially Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant’s聽The One with All the Writing Advice. I’m fascinated by the concept of cultural shorthand. I also realized I never finished Larry Brooks’s聽Story Engineering. I didn’t even make it halfway through, because there was so much to absorb. But I think I’m ready now.

So many books, so little time.

My GoFundMe page for donations and author services to help my husband and me聽catch up on bills is still up. I was able to pay a couple of bills thanks to your help, but we have a long way to go. We didn’t make our electricity bill, so we now owe that plus next month’s. I’m thinking of coming off the budget plan, because ours is set way higher than what we’re actually using, and keeping up with it is killing us. It’s only in the brutally cold January and February that we go over and it comes in handy. If you’re an author in need of budget-friendly services or would just like to help, you can donate here.

This month聽What Happens on Tour (South of Forever, Book 3) is part of Kobo’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend sale. It will be $0.99 from November 22nd to 28th, no code required! And the first book in the series,聽Diving Into Him, is forever free (everywhere). So if you’ve been eyeing the South of Forever series and are a Kobo reader (you can even use their free app), now’s a great time to start. I recommend getting the free Book 1, then the $2.99 Book 2. Then when the sale goes live, pick up Book 3 for only $0.99! Check out the series page on Kobo here.

A lot of people ask me when I’ll have paperbacks in stock again. I have a few on hand in my office that I’m using as rewards for the GoFundMe. Eventually I’d like to get all of my books back in print, but here’s the thing: it’s less budget-friendly than publishing an ebook. If you’d like a paperback, please consider picking up an ebook copy and telling your friends. My hope is, once I get ahead of my bills, I can finally get started on paperbacks.

I think that’s it for now. To keep up with everything I’m doing, join my email list!

What Happens On Tour: Chapter 5

Exhaustion tugged at Poppy. She glared at Jett. She wanted to say something equally snappy. Instead, she brushed past Jett into the condo.

“Well?” Jett spun on her heels. She put her hands on her hips.

“To think, I actually missed you guys,” Poppy muttered. Her eyes met Griff鈥檚. Heat spread across her cheeks. Her eyes flicked around the room. The whole band was there. She nodded to Max and Perry in greeting. They each gave her nods back.

Jett tapped her foot on the floor. “Hello?”

“What鈥檚 the problem, Jett?” Griff asked, his voice low. The sound of it caressed Poppy.

She closed her eyes for a moment, bathing in that sound. She could listen to him talk all day. She wondered whether she was bordering on infatuation. Opening her eyes, she met Jett鈥檚 gaze.

“That thing out there.” Jett jabbed a finger at the conversion van. Cold air rushed into the condo.

“That thing is our transportation for the tour,” Poppy said. She folded her arms across her chest.

Jett鈥檚 eyebrows flew toward her hairline. “Our what?” Her voice took on a dangerous edge. Poppy wondered whether the band had spent the whole day rehearsing. They were probably just as cranky as she felt.

Keeping her tone light, she gestured toward the van. “It was the cheapest thing I could find.”

“Jett,” Griff said, standing. He put a hand on Jett鈥檚 arm. “We don鈥檛 exactly have the time or money to be picky.”

Whirling on him, Jett stopped within inches from his chest. Next to Griff鈥檚 tall frame, the band leader looked even smaller. It was amusing, Poppy thought, how someone so small could be so feisty. She knew exactly why Koty had fallen in love with Jett. The other woman glared up at Griff. “Do you not care about our image?”

Jett鈥檚 voice was laced with a dangerous tone that only a woman could inflect. Poppy glanced from Jett to Griff, positive that things were about to get ugly.

Rising lazily from the couch, Perry stretched. He ambled across the room and peered through the door at the van. “Boss,” he said, stretching the word out. “Are we really going to tour in that thing? King Riley is going to have a tour bus.” He turned to Poppy. “Why don鈥檛 we have a tour bus?”

Before she could respond, Griff slammed the door shut. “What are you all, a bunch of princesses?”

Max held up a finger. “For the record, I鈥檓 good with whatever is out there. Cheaper is better sometimes, anyway. Plus, now we鈥檒l be able to afford hotels.”

Griff shook his head. “No hotels.”

“We can take turns sleeping on the bench seats,” Poppy told them all. They stared at her. “Or not.” She put her hands behind her back.

“Hotels aren鈥檛 in our budget, guys. Things are really tight. We don鈥檛 have a label backing us, remember?” Griff spread his hands.

Poppy wondered whether he was coming to her rescue on purpose, or if he really didn鈥檛 care what they toured in. Her heart fluttered at the thought of him defending her. A smile touched her lips, despite the argument taking place around her.

“Hold on.” Koty held up his hands. “Let me take care of this.” He took Jett鈥檚 hands. “I can get us a tour bus and take care of the hotels.”

Jett wrenched her hands away. “Why do you always have to throw money at everything?” She ran a hand through her long, dark hair. “We鈥檙e an independent band. We don鈥檛 need big-label money.”

Though Koty鈥檚 eyebrow twitched, he said nothing. He stepped back, giving Jett room.

Poppy sat down on the couch, slumping back into the pillows. It felt good to relax, even with everyone arguing around her. Part of her felt like an outsider. She had come into the band late, and the relationships between each of the members were already formed. She wondered sometimes where she fit in.

Dating Griff鈥攊f it ever were to happen鈥攚ould mean, in many ways, dating Jett. His job often seemed to entail keeping the lead singer happy. Griff and Jett spent a lot of time together, ironing out details and haggling band business. She wasn鈥檛 sure if she would be able to handle that. Then again, she was probably getting ahead of herself. Besides, she reminded herself yet again, she needed to keep things professional. Straightening in her seat, she pushed a stray curl out of her face. “I already put a down payment on it. I drove it over here. For better or worse, it鈥檚 ours.”

Griff nodded in agreement. “Come on, Jett. Don鈥檛 be such a hard ass about this. We鈥檙e going to be up to our eyeballs, dealing with King Riley.”

To that, Perry muttered an “Amen.” He straightened his dreads, pulled back into a ponytail. “They鈥檙e not the easiest to deal with.” His eyes dropped to the floor.

“What do you say, Jett?” Griff asked, his voice gentle.

Jett sighed. “I guess it鈥檚 better than nothing.” She flicked a glance toward Poppy. “Thanks for bringing it here.” She jerked a thumb toward the window. “How were the roads?”

“Awful.” Poppy grinned. “It was kind of fun.”

Perry gave her a sideways glance. “Fun? Girl, you must be new.”

Ignoring his teasing, she stood from the couch. “I鈥檓 beat, though. I need to get back to聽.聽.聽.聽home.” She swallowed hard. She’d almost said “the dorm.” No one seemed to notice, though. They each mumbled in agreement. They had definitely been rehearsing all day, she decided, glancing at Max鈥檚 messy hair. “Get some sleep, everyone,” she told them. “I鈥檒l be back in the morning.” With a smile on her face, she moved toward the door. “We鈥檙e going shopping.”

Jett frowned. “What the hell for?”

“We don鈥檛 have anything left in the budget,” Griff said, the space between his eyes creasing.

“This one鈥檚 on me.” She still had a tiny bit of financial aid leftover. “You鈥檙e all going to need something to wear on stage, right?”

Jett raised her eyebrows. “We usually just wear our own stuff.” Koty wrapped his arms around her, and she melted into him, visibly relaxing.

As different as they were, Poppy mused, they were perfect for each other. “You guys need an image,” she said. “If you鈥檙e going to play bluesy, catchy rock, you鈥檝e got to look the part. I have some ideas.” She thought of the sketchbook on her desk in her dorm room. She would be up all night sketching outfits, she realized.

“That鈥檚 a great idea.” Griff stretched, yawning. From across the room, he winked at her.

“I think it鈥檚 ridiculous,” Jett said, “but I鈥檓 too tired to care anymore.” She stifled a yawn.

Poppy鈥檚 own eyes burned. “See you in the morning.” She lifted a hand in parting, then headed toward the door. As she stepped back into the frosty snow storm, she hoped that the band would like whatever she came up with.

* * *

“That one鈥檚 good. I like it,” Krista said, tapping the sketchbook with a finger.

Early morning sunlight streamed through the window. Poppy was positive they were the only ones awake on campus. “Do you think she鈥檒l wear it?” she asked, remembering the attitude Jett gave her over the van.

Her roommate nodded. “Based on what she wore when she was with Perpetual Smile, I鈥檇 say you nailed it.” Krista鈥檚 finger traced the camouflage green joggers, black heels, and loose white tank top that Poppy had sketched the night before.

“And what do you think about Griff鈥檚 outfit?” Poppy asked, her cheeks reddening.

Krista turned the page. She studied the blazer, plain white T-shirt, and jeans. “It鈥檚 definitely him,” she said, “but I feel like it needs something.” She flipped to Max鈥檚 page. “You鈥檝e got Max wearing a denim chambray shirt over a white tee and khakis, but his hair is styled. You鈥檝e got Jett鈥檚 hair in a pinup style. What about Griff?”

Poppy scrunched up her nose. “I didn鈥檛 even think of that.”

“That鈥檚 why you need me on this tour,” Krista said. She turned the page to Perry鈥檚 outfit. Color appeared high in her cheeks.

Poppy narrowed her eyes slyly, a smile tugging at her lips. “You like him,” she teased.

Her roommate鈥檚 blush deepened. “I just didn鈥檛 know what he looked like until now. You always talk about him like he鈥檚 a huge pain in the ass, but he鈥檚 hot.” She traced Perry鈥檚 broad nose and arched eyebrows. Covering his dreads with a finger, she giggled. “If he cut his hair, he鈥檇 be like a whole new guy.”

Poppy squinted at the page, trying to imagine Perry without dreads. “But they鈥檙e so him,” she said.

Krista nodded. “And that beard stubble,” she said with a dreamy smile. She moved her finger, exposing the bandana that Poppy gave him for the stage. “Does his face really look like this? Is he really that muscular?” She touched the rippling muscles in his arms.

“Girl, you need to get laid.” Poppy took the sketchbook out of her roommate鈥檚 hands. “I tried to get his features, but you better meet him before you set your sights on him. He鈥檚 trouble.”

“What about Griff?” Krista asked innocently.

Surprised by the sudden change in subject, Poppy turned away. “What about him?” She bent over the sketchbook.

“Is he trouble?” Krista鈥檚 voice was gentle. “He鈥檚 a lot older than you.”

“So what?” Poppy shrugged. “It鈥檚 not like I鈥檓 going after him.”

Her roommate leaned into her. “The look on your face says otherwise.”

Poppy pressed her lips together. She couldn鈥檛 be that readable. Besides, she had decided not to pursue him鈥攎ostly. Between the tour and juggling school, she had way too much going on to throw dating into the mix. Still, she was surprised that Krista had picked up on her thoughts.

“You were moaning in your sleep about him,” her roommate said.

Her jaw dropped open. “I was not!” She twisted in her seat, facing Krista. Her cheeks burned.

Krista nodded, an eyebrow quirked. “You tossed and turned for a good half hour, and you kept saying his name.”

Poppy鈥檚 eyes widened. She definitely didn鈥檛 remember having any sexy dreams about Griff. She wished she did. Her dreams were the only sex she was going to have anytime soon. “That鈥檚 not even possible.” The words caught in her throat. She swallowed hard. “Krista, you know I鈥檓 a virgin. How could I be dreaming about sex?”

“Your subconscious seems to know exactly what you want.” Krista winked. “Or need.” She gave Poppy鈥檚 hand a squeeze. “It doesn鈥檛 have to be a serious relationship, you know. It can just be for fun.”

Shaking her curls, Poppy stood from her desk. “No way. That would jeopardize the band.” She moved to her closet. Her eyes roamed over her clothes and shoes, looking for something appropriate to wear. Though the snow had stopped, the temperature was still low. She hoped she would remember to buy a pair of boots while they were at the mall.

Krista snorted. “Everyone else is dating in that band. Why not you?” Poppy turned to look at her friend. She put a hand on her hip. Before she could say anything, though, Krista grinned mischievously. “The first thing I鈥檓 doing when we go on tour,” she said, “is hooking up with Perry.”

Poppy grabbed a shirt from its hanger and tossed it at Krista. “You鈥檙e killing me.”

Shrugging, Krista held the shirt up. She studied it. “I might wear this today.”

“You鈥檙e more than welcome to,” Poppy told her, selecting her own outfit. She dressed quickly, casting aside her usual blouse and skinny printed pants for a sweater and pencil skirt. She wanted to look as good鈥攁nd professional鈥攁s possible for the band鈥檚 shopping trip. She picked through her shoes until she found a pair of ankle boots. They weren鈥檛 exactly made for winter, but they would work.

Turning away from Krista, she dressed quickly. After throwing on some makeup and touching up her hair, she grabbed the keys to the van. “Do you want to come with me?”

Krista shook her head. “I鈥檇 love to, but I need to update the blog with the tour schedule.” She smiled. “Thanks for letting me tag along, by the way.”

Poppy smiled back. “Thank you for coming. I have a feeling I鈥檓 going to have my hands full.” Lifting a hand in departure, she strolled out of the room.

The drive to Jett and Koty鈥檚 condo didn鈥檛 take long. She recognized Griff鈥檚 car parked out front. It seemed as if everyone was already there. Smiling and checking her hair a final time, she slid out of the van. She walked up to the door and rang the doorbell.

She expected Jett or Koty to answer. When the door swung open, though, Griff stood on the threshold. His gray-blue eyes met hers, and heat pooled in her belly. “Hey,” he said.

For a moment, she just stared at him. Her eyes roved over his smile, the crinkle at the corners of his eyes. Her gaze dropped down to his jeans, then whipped back up to his face. Maybe Krista was right. Maybe it wouldn鈥檛 hurt to pursue him鈥攆or fun, if nothing else. She licked her lips. “Good morning.” She eased past him inside.

Jett sat curled up on the couch under a throw blanket, her head resting on Koty鈥檚 shoulder. Three mugs of coffee sat on the coffee table, steam rising into the air. Jett yawned, wiggling her fingers at Poppy in greeting. “Morning,” she said, voice husky. Poppy wondered whether she had slept.

“Want some coffee?” Griff asked.

Glancing around for the rest of the band, Poppy nodded. “Please.” Just as she was about to ask about him, Perry emerged from the kitchen, a mug in his hands.

“Morning, gorgeous,” he said, leaning in close to her. He pressed a kiss to her cheek, his freshly shaved face caressing hers for a moment. He smelled like cool scented soap and cologne. He hadn鈥檛 spoken to her like that since she first joined the band, and he had definitely never kissed her.

Blinking her eyes, she took a step back. Heat spread across her cheeks.

“Easy,” Griff rumbled to Perry.

She held up her hands. “It鈥檚 okay,” she said, still flustered. Krista, she decided, was going to fall head over heels in love with Perry鈥攁nd she wasn鈥檛 sure whether that was a good thing. On one hand, her roommate could whip him into shape. On the other, he could just as easily break Krista鈥檚 heart. “Just don鈥檛 let it happen again.” She looked at Perry, eyes narrowed. “I鈥檓 your manager, not a contestant on The Bachelor.”

Though he nodded in response, a flirtatious smirk danced on his lips.

She glanced around the room. “Where鈥檚 Max?”

“Late, as usual.” Jett yawned again. She snuggled into Koty鈥檚 arms. “Why are we doing this so early?”

Trying not to glance at Griff, Poppy wished she had someone to hold her like that. “Because we don鈥檛 have a lot of time.” She thought of all the arrangements she needed to make with the college. Pulling her phone out, she tapped a quick email to her advisor asking what she would have to do to switch to online classes temporarily.

Someone cleared their throat. She looked up. Everyone in the room was staring at her, as if they expected her to say something else. “What?”

“I asked if you could help me with merchandise orders tonight,” Griff said. His eyes glinted, a smile curling his lips.

“Of course,” she said without giving it a second thought. She swallowed hard and sent the email before anyone could ask her what she was doing.

“Are you managing any other bands?” Jett asked, eyes narrowed at her suspiciously.

The front door opened, saving Poppy from having to explain. Max lurched inside, his eyes wide and his hair springing in all directions. That was nothing new.

“Sorry I鈥檓 late,” he blurted. The top two buttons of his plaid shirt were undone. He closed the door behind him and strode farther into the living room. “What did I miss?”

Jett glared at him. “Would it kill you to be on time?”

“Probably,” he replied. A grin burst from his lips.

“Looks like someone got lucky,” Perry crooned. He flashed Max a thumbs up. Griff snorted.

Poppy put her hands on her hips. Though she wanted to laugh along with everyone else, they had work to do. She exchanged eyerolls with Jett. “Can I remind you gentlemen that we kick off this tour in less than three days? Max, next time you鈥檙e late, we鈥檙e docking your pay.”

Max鈥檚 jaw dropped open. Jett nodded in approval. Perhaps Poppy could forge a bond with her, after all. She bounced the keys to the van in her hand. “First order of business,” she said, eyeing everyone鈥檚 tired faces. “Coffee.”

She drove them to the mall in silence. Parking crookedly, she jumped out of the van and led the way inside, straight to the Starbucks on the mall entrance floor. The members of South of Forever filed in behind her, Jett on her heels.

“Nice work, Hampton,” Jett said. “You shut them right up. You鈥檙e a girl after my own heart.” She nudged Poppy with an elbow, then took the lead.

Pride thrummed through Poppy. With Jett鈥檚 approval, her confidence bolstered. She didn鈥檛 even mind waiting behind Jett for her own caffeine fix. She hung back, letting the other members of South of Forever go ahead of her. She watched as they ordered coffees, glad that they were listening to her.

Griff joined her in line. “What are you getting?”

“Some frap or other,” she said, struggling to keep her tone light. “I haven鈥檛 decided yet.”

“Well,” he said, putting his hands in the pockets of his jeans, “I鈥檝e got it.” He stood so close to her, she could feel the heat from his body.

Swallowing hard, she lifted a shoulder. “It鈥檚 okay. It鈥檚 a business expense for me.” She gave him a wink, but her heart fluttered in her chest.

Griff nodded. “Okay. Maybe later we can get a non-business coffee, then.”

She blinked. “What is this?” she blurted.

Stretching his shoulders inside his leather jacket, Griff glanced at the others. They stood off to the side, sipping coffees. The barista watched him expectantly. He was next. He turned his gaze back to Poppy. “Well, I鈥檓 asking you out,” he said in a low voice.

She stared at him, unable to believe her ears.

“It鈥檚 a simple question,” he told her. “Yes or no?”

South of Forever’s first tour is about to begin, and so is Poppy’s career鈥攊f she can keep all her lies straight.


Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4 路 Chapter 5



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What Happens On Tour: Chapter 4

Poppy ducked her head into the hall and glanced down the staircase. Soft snores drifted up through the living room. Her shoulders lowered in relief. Both her mother and grandmother were in food comas. She could hear the slow drone of the TV in the background, punctuated by the women’s exhales. She couldn鈥檛 have planned it better herself.

She tiptoed back into the bedroom, shutting the door behind her. Plopping down on her childhood bed, she looked at her phone. All she had to do was tap Griff鈥檚 name, and she could tell him that she was in.

Her nerves sizzled. Biting her lip, she slapped the slim phone against the palm of her hand. She’d never called Griff for anything鈥攈e reached out to her, or she discussed business with him at practices. Sweat slicked her fingers, and she nearly dropped the phone.

She took a deep breath in through her nose. There wasn鈥檛 a shy bone in her body. There was no reason for her to be nervous. She straightened her shoulders and scrolled through her contacts.

Griff answered immediately, as if he had been waiting for her. “Hey,” he said. His voice was a cool purr against her ear, and she smiled. A tingle ran through her body, her limbs going soft. Her brain felt as if it were being stroked, fuzzy static buzzing through her head.

“Hey.” She pressed her lips together as she tried to think of something else to say.

“Hey,” he said again.

A laugh escaped her lips. They sounded like two kids in high school.

“You鈥檙e laughing at me?” His voice was playfully defensive.

Crossing her legs, she glanced out the window. Streaks of pink and orange trailed across the sky. She wished suddenly that she had invited him to stay for dinner. They could be sitting on the porch enjoying the sunset together. She pushed the thought away. She needed to focus on work. She was supposed to be a cool, composed professional鈥攏ot some starry-eyed teenager. Though she supported herself, to him she was just a kid鈥攅specially if he ever found out the truth about her age. They could never be together.

“I laugh when I鈥檓 nervous,” she blurted. She dipped her chin, fingers massaging her temples.

“Do I make you nervous?” His tone was light and teasing.

He made it so hard to focus. Scooting back on the bed, she leaned into the pillows piled against the wall. She stared down at the nail polish on her toes and willed herself to be as cool as the grayish blue color she had painted them. Instead, she couldn鈥檛 help but think how similar the color was to Griff鈥檚 eyes. She cleared her throat. “So, this touring business. Can I still get in?”

He hesitated, as if surprised by her question. “Of course,” he said, sounding slightly disappointed.

“Good,” she said. “Where do we start?”

“Poppy,” he said, his voice dropping.

Her heart did a somersault. Her resolve to focus on work withered, and she leaned forward. “Yeah?”

For a long moment, he said nothing. Her eyebrows furrowed. Heart slamming in her chest, she swallowed hard. She gripped the phone tighter, pressing it to her ear. The seconds stretched by. Her imagination ran wild. She saw him sitting in the apartment he shared with Perry. He ran a hand through his hair, bleached to a lighter blond. Her fingers tingled with the urge to run them through that hair, even if only in her fantasy. He took a deep breath. It was almost a sigh. “So, I have a list for you,” he said finally.

Disappointment coursed through her. Composing herself, she leaned farther back into the pillows. She wished they would swallow her. The silly teenage part of her needed to let go of the idea that maybe he liked her. He was professional in almost all of their interactions. In some ways, he was her boss. She needed to focus on being Poppy the band manager, not Poppy the lovestruck college student. She glanced around the room for a pen and piece of paper. Her old desk still sat in a corner.

Kicking off her wedges, she padded over to it. She opened drawers until she found an old notebook and a blue gel pen. Grimacing, she uncapped it with her teeth and poised it over the paper. “I鈥檓 ready.”

“Don鈥檛 hate me,” he said. “A lot of this is coming from Jett. If you can鈥檛 do it all, let me know and I鈥檒l see what I can take care of. It鈥檚 not like I have anything better to do.” She heard the smile in his voice. “She wants us to spend these next few days rehearsing but, Poppy, I really think we鈥檙e good. So if you need me, just let me know.”

Again, her fantasy wrestled with reality. There seemed to be so much more in his words. She couldn鈥檛 possibly be imagining all of it鈥攗nless she was totally delusional. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath. “I can handle it.” At least, she hoped so.

“I鈥檓 going to email you the tour schedule,” he said, jumping right back into business. “I need you to do whatever you can to get some publicity rolling. This is a super last minute announcement, and I鈥檓 not even sure we have fans outside of Boston. That鈥檚 being generous,” he added.

“Stop,” she told him. “We鈥檝e got plenty of regulars coming to our shows.” It felt natural, referring to the band and herself as a collective soul. “And I鈥檓 positive that a lot of Perpetual Smile fans have followed you and Jett over.” She smiled. “The blogs and social media are still buzzing about Max, but they do mention Perpetual Smile now and then.”

He considered her words for a moment, comfortable silence lapsing between them. “Yeah,” he agreed. He took a deep breath. “This next thing is big. Are you sitting down?”

A line creased Poppy鈥檚 forehead. “What is it?”

“Can you get us a tour bus?”

She blinked. “King Riley鈥檚 label isn鈥檛 providing that?”

“Not for us. We鈥檙e just the support. We鈥檙e responsible for our own travel and lodging.”

“Lodging?” she repeated.

“Don鈥檛 worry,” he said. “As long as we get a big enough tour bus, everyone will be comfortable.”

Squinting, she tapped her chin. “So we won鈥檛 be staying in hotels?”

He chuckled, a gentle sound. “Not this time.” He sighed. “If we were Perpetual Smile status, this would be so easy.”

Shaking her hair from her face, Poppy forced a bright smile. Even though he couldn鈥檛 see her, he could still detect her attitude. And, as Grandma Audrey always said, her altitude was defined by it. “Don鈥檛 worry,” she told Griff. “I鈥檒l take care of it all. What鈥檚 our budget?”

He made a sound halfway between a laugh and a cough. “Right. So, keep in mind that we鈥檙e going to need to overnight some merchandise, and since it鈥檚 a holiday weekend, we don鈥檛 have much to work with.”

“How much is not much?” She had coordinated all of Jay鈥檚 touring expenses before he got picked up by L.A.B. Even on their tiny budget, she had made things happen for him. South of Forever had even more money, due to their EP sales. It would be easy to get a tour bus.

“I can give you five.” He sounded uncomfortable.

“$500,000, or five bucks?” She kept her tone light and teasing, but dread pitted in her stomach.

“Thousand,” he responded.

“What?” She laughed. “That might not even be enough for a down payment on a tour bus. Those things are as expensive as houses鈥攎ore, sometimes.” It had been a couple of years since she and Jay had looked into one, huddled in his slightly finished bedroom in the basement, the laptop they shared flickering as its battery died.

“I know,” Griff said. “Just do your best.”

She wanted to laugh. He was asking her to do the impossible. Even if she had more time, she didn鈥檛 have the line of credit needed to put down such a low deposit. She knew that without even calling around.

“I鈥檝e got to go,” Griff said suddenly. “Jett says break’s over.”

Rolling her eyes, Poppy put down the notebook and pen. In some ways, Griff seemed almost married to Jett. She wondered how Koty felt about them spending so much time together. It couldn鈥檛 be easy. She wasn鈥檛 even with Griff, and she was jealous. “Aye-aye, Captain,” she told him. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” he said. “I鈥檒l see you tomorrow?” His words held promise.

She licked her lips. Her heart fluttered in her ribcage. “Of course,” she told him, and hung up. She stood in the middle of her old bedroom, wondering how in the world she was going to get a tour bus in just one day, for such little money.

* * *

“What about that one?” Jay pointed to the screen of her iPad.

Poppy tapped the image. The product page loaded, showing a larger photo of the bus. It slept twelve and had a working shower. “We can even cook in it,” she said to her brother, pointing at a photo of a gas stove. The description said that it was used, which had to mean that it was a lot cheaper than the $500,000 tour buses they kept running across. She moved the page down until she found the price. Wincing, she sucked in her cheeks.

Jay whistled. “And that鈥檚 the cheapest one we鈥檝e seen.”

She did the math in her head. South of Forever couldn鈥檛 afford a $300,000 tour bus. Even if she could somehow talk the seller into accepting a $5,000 down payment, there was no way they would be able to afford the monthly payments鈥攁nd that was assuming that nothing happened to it. On the road, anything could happen.

“Too bad we can鈥檛 just rent one.” She sighed and pushed the iPad from her lap. It slid onto the futon that occupied what had once been Jay鈥檚 room.

Though her mother still mostly used the basement for storage, her brother used his old bedroom to crash occasionally, and to record demos. She glanced at the microphone on the stand and the mixing board in a corner. The small room wasn鈥檛 as soundproof as the studios that South of Forever used, and it probably wasn鈥檛 as fancy as the studios that L.A.B. provided, but Jay had a soft spot for it. It was where he had recorded his first EP, and was part of his journey as an artist.

“They don鈥檛 rent them?” he asked.

“For a disgusting amount of money, and there aren鈥檛 any payment plans.” She slid down from the futon onto the floor, carpeted by a large area rug. Resting her head against the cushion of the futon, Poppy sighed. “I鈥檓 screwed.”

Nodding toward the old digital alarm clock that still sat on a nightstand, Jay held out his hands to her. “Come on, little sis. It鈥檚 almost two in the morning. Maybe you鈥檒l have some ideas after some sleep and coffee.”

She snorted, but took his hands and allowed him to haul her to her feet. “If I come up with a solution that fast,” she said, throwing her arms around him, “it鈥檒l be a miracle. Goodnight.” Planting a kiss on his cheek, she turned away. She padded out of the room and up the stairs, avoiding the creaky spots so that she didn鈥檛 wake her mother or grandmother. She reached the main floor and closed the door behind her softly.

* * *

In the morning, a steaming cup of coffee in front of her on the kitchen table, she started making phone calls. Jay was right. There had to be someone that would give her a good deal on short notice. She Googled “tour buses” again and went down the list, calling dealers from all over Boston and surrounding towns. None of them would take less than $10,000 as a down payment, though one dealer did offer her a four-sleeper tour bus for $8,000 down. She wished she could use part of her student loan toward it, but she had already spent part of it on an iPad and most of the rest on tuition and textbooks.

She put her head down on the table and sighed, the sound of her voice echoing in the empty kitchen. Her mother was at work and Grandma Audrey had gone grocery shopping. Jay snored in the basement. He had always been the type to sleep in.

She was out of options. She closed her eyes, her warm breath bouncing off the wood of the table and hitting her in the face. It smelled like coffee. She stood and went to the counter, refilling her mug from the carafe.

The basement door creaked open and Jay stumbled into the kitchen. “Good morning,” he said, reaching for a mug.

Bad morning.” She moved out of his way so that he could make his own coffee. Returning to the table, she sat down, heaving into her seat.

“No luck?” He went to the refrigerator for cream.

“We鈥檙e out.” She lifted her mug of black coffee in a salute. “Join me on the dark side.”

Grimacing, he sat at the table with her. He took a small sip of his black coffee, the scowl on his face deepening. “Bad morning,” he agreed.

“All of these dealerships want too much money,” she complained.

“Maybe you鈥檙e looking for the wrong vehicle.” Jay ran a hand over his hair, patting his springy curls back into place.

“What do you mean?” She tapped her iPad. “It鈥檚 not like we can all pile into a Honda and hit the road.”

“Maybe not a Civic, but what about a van?”

She opened her mouth to tell him that was a ridiculous idea.

“Remember Grandpa鈥檚 stories of how he followed blues bands around in the sixties and seventies?” Jay lifted an eyebrow at her. “They traveled in those . . . What were they called?”

“Conversion vans.” She tapped her lips. “You might have something there.” Waking up the iPad, she went back to Google and searched. Her eyebrows knit together. She leaned forward. As she scrolled through the results, her hands shook鈥攚hether from nerves or low blood sugar, she couldn鈥檛 tell for sure. Swiping through the vans on one website, she stopped at a used one. “This one鈥檚 in our price range.” Her eyes scanned the listing. “But there鈥檚 nowhere to sleep.”

Jay scooted closer to her. He studied the page. Pointing at the four rows of bench seats, he said, “There鈥檚 your beds, and you can fit two more people up front. You鈥檇 have to take turns sleeping.”

Her eyebrows lifted. “Sleep on those? Are you crazy?!” She thought of her bed in her dorm room, piled with memory foam toppers and pillows. She wouldn鈥檛 be able to sleep on the hard bench seats, with seat belts poking up at her. No one would.

“It鈥檚 in your price range.” Jay held his hands up. “I鈥檓 just suggesting it.”

Tilting her head back, Poppy glared at the ceiling in frustration.

“At least call them and talk to them. Who knows? You might even be able to get it for less.” He brought his still hot mug of coffee to the sink. “You could even get air mattresses and sleep on those, on top of the bench seats.”

“Don鈥檛 pour that out,” she said, holding her hands out for his mug. “If I鈥檓 going to do this, I鈥檓 going to need all of the caffeine I can get.”

Jay passed her his mug. He ambled toward the stairs. “I鈥檓 taking a shower,” he mumbled.

She wondered how much later he had stayed up. L.A.B. was putting a lot of pressure on him to complete and release a full-length album right away. In some ways, she wished that he had never signed the deal with them. For the next five years, he would be almost completely out of her reach. She longed for the days when it had just been the two of them, drinking coffee to stay up late and strategize his next move.

Those days were over, though, and she had her own problems. Her insides felt coiled, a rope tightening around her neck. If she couldn鈥檛 get a vehicle for South of Forever to tour in, then she was finished. She wouldn鈥檛 be going anywhere but back to campus. Anxiety roiled in her stomach. Maybe she wasn鈥檛 ready. Maybe she needed to call Griff and call the whole thing off.

On such short notice, though, they could never go on tour without her. They needed her. “No pressure,” she told herself in the empty kitchen.

Waking up her iPad, she scrolled through the search results until she came to a dealer that was close by. It was about thirty minutes away from her neighborhood with traffic.

If she ever told her family that she chose Northeastern University because she knew she could easily find a job managing a band in the city, they wouldn鈥檛 know what to make of her.

She dialed the number slowly, fingers shaking. If the dealership didn鈥檛 have the van anymore or, even worse, they wanted more than $5,000 for a down payment, she was done.

“Ace Pre-Loved Auto,” a crisp male voice answered.

“Hi,” she said slowly, immediately wincing at her uncertain tone. “I鈥檓 interested in the conversion van that鈥檚 on your website.” She gave him the ID number.

“Just a sec.” He tapped the number into a keyboard.

“Is it still available?” She leaned forward and held her breath.

“I believe so,” the man told her. “I鈥檇 have to visually confirm, but the system says it鈥檚 still on the lot.”

“Great.” She stood from the table. “Hold it for me.”

The man laughed. “I don鈥檛 think that鈥檒l be necessary. It鈥檚 from the seventies.”

Blinking, she tilted her head. “What kind of a salesman are you?”

“I鈥檓 not,” he said, dropping his voice. “This is my uncle鈥檚 dealership. Since I took this semester off, he鈥檚 got me manning the phones for him.”

“Well, hold it for me anyway.” She hung up. Dropping her phone onto the table, she raced up the stairs. Her feet pounded up the steps. Skidding to a stop in front of the bathroom door, she pushed it open. “Jay, we鈥檝e got a van!”

Her brother shot her a cool look. He wore a towel around his waist and held a razor in one hand, his face covered in shaving cream. “You do know this is awkward, right?”

“Well,” she said, tapping her chin, “I don鈥檛 have it yet. I need a ride to the dealership.” She gave him her best little sister smile. “Please? I鈥檒l give you gas money.”

Shaking his head, he put the razor down. “Out, Poppy.” He shooed her out of the bathroom.

She backed up until her feet touched the carpet of the hall. “Is that a yes?”

Jay rolled his eyes. “Just give me a few minutes.” He closed the door.

“Yes!” Pumping both fists in the air, Poppy bent down and sprang back up. Her hair bounced with her. “You鈥檙e the best!” She darted into her room to get ready. As she yanked clothing out of her closet, though, she hesitated. Even though Jett and the guys were pretty laid back, there was a chance that they wouldn鈥檛 like the van. She didn鈥檛 even know if it would fit all of their equipment.

She bit down on her lip. “You can鈥檛 start down that path, girl.” She forced a smile onto her face. Even if she had to fake it until she made it, there was no way she was letting the doubts creep in. She dressed quickly, choosing a bright pair of floral patterned pants and a bright top to match. Cupping her curls, she flashed a smile at herself in the mirror. “You look good. You鈥檝e got this!” Still, as she said the words, doubt crept back into her conscious. She frowned.

The second Jay opened the bathroom door, Poppy sprang back into the hall. Anxiety thrummed through her system.

Jay raised his eyebrows at her. “You gonna make it, little sis?”

She started to tell him that of course she was, but bit her lip. She had never been able to lie to her brother. Swallowing hard, she led him down the stairs. “I鈥檓 just nervous,” she said as she reached the landing. She turned and forced herself to meet his eyes.

“What are you nervous about?” His tone was gentle, but he crossed his arms.

She could tell he was confused. She normally didn鈥檛 let anything get to her. “Well,” she said slowly, “if I don鈥檛 get this right, then they won鈥檛 let me come on tour with them.”

Jay nodded. He motioned for her to go outside to the car. “You can鈥檛 let yourself get caught up in that black and white mentality,” he said from behind her as they filed out. “It鈥檚 not all or nothing, here.”

“But it is,” she said, turning around. She forced her hands to stay at her sides. Tightness locked her shoulders, though. “They think I鈥檓 a professional.”

He snorted. “You are a professional, Poppy.” He slid into the driver鈥檚 seat.

Poppy got in on the passenger鈥檚 side and buckled up. “Not really,” she mumbled. “I鈥檓 just pretending.”

Backing out of the driveway, Jay slanted her a look. “You got me to where I am. How does that not make you credible?”

“Maybe it was luck.” She sighed. Before they got to the dealership, she needed to pull herself together. She had to think positively. Going in with a negative attitude would only get her a bad deal, and she needed the dealership to work with her. The more confident she felt, the more likely they would accept her small deposit.

They rode in silence, the cool whisper of air from the open windows caressing Poppy鈥檚 skin. Winter was fast approaching, but she couldn鈥檛 blame Jay for wanting the fresh air. She missed the simplicity of summer. It felt like ages had passed, when really only months had slipped away. She was no longer the confident seventeen-year-old girl fresh out of high school who lied about her age so easily and made South of Forever think that she was experienced. Somehow, in the short time that had passed since Griff told her about the tour, she had lost her edge.

The pressure was on.

She thought of the way Griff鈥檚 gray-blue eyes went far away to a bright future when he talked about the band, all of his hopes and dreams reflected in them. His confidence was sexy and infectious. If she could hold onto that, wearing his personality like she wore her clothes, she could handle a little tour.

Jay pulled into the dealership. Balloons bordered the driveway and sidewalk, a friendly cordon. Fresh, bright blue paint brought the building into bright focus. Most of the vehicles available were conversion vans. Poppy wondered how many people still used them. She couldn鈥檛 recall ever seeing any on the road. Then again, she rarely drove, and was usually oblivious to other vehicles.

“Want me to come in with you?” Jay navigated the car into a parking spot.

She wanted to tell him yes. Having her brother at her side would definitely alleviate some of her anxiety. It wouldn鈥檛 look professional, though, she decided. She needed to convince the salesman that she was all business. In order for that to happen, she had to stand on her own. She swallowed hard. “Keep the car running, in case I embarrass myself and we need to make a fast getaway.” The smile she gave her brother was wooden.

He squeezed her hand. “You鈥檝e got this.”

Poppy stepped out of the car. The autumn air swirled around her bare toes. Sooner or later, she was going to have to trade her wedges for boots. She shuddered at the thought of keeping her feet trapped all winter. Cold weather was coming, though, and she was going to have to dig out her winter gear soon.

She marched toward the building, squaring her shoulders. She forced herself to keep her chin up. As she pulled open the door, she put a confident smile on her face. She made herself walk up to the only salesman she saw without faltering. “I鈥檓 here about a conversion van.” She recited the number for him, her words crashing together.

The salesman鈥檚 lips tugged into a smile. “You must be the one my nephew spoke to.” He ran a hand through salt and pepper hair. “It鈥檚 still on the lot.” He waved for her to follow. “Come on. I鈥檒l show it to you.”

She hurried to keep up with his long strides, almost tripping in her wedges. She bit her lip, forcing herself to walk with more grace. She’d never been a clumsy person, and she couldn鈥檛 afford to start, ever.

The salesman led her back outside, holding the door for her. He bent his head against a gust of wind. Poppy frowned, shivering in her blouse. “They鈥檙e calling for snow,” he called over his shoulder. He led her around the building. The vehicles got older and older as they walked deeper into the lot.

The temperature had dropped in the few minutes since she had stepped out of her brother鈥檚 car. In Massachusetts, the weather was temperamental, changing attitude as quickly as the people who lived there. Poppy hoped that the weatherman, as her grandmother always said, was wrong.

The salesman stopped in front of a white conversion van. Pulling a key from his pocket, he unlocked the door, exposing four rows of bench seats.

Poppy peered inside. She squinted into the darkness, the gloomy light from the threatening sky seeping in. Even with the seats, there was plenty of room in the back for South of Forever鈥檚 equipment.

“The seats fold down,” the salesman explained, “so depending on what you鈥檙e hauling, you should have plenty of room.”

Straightening her shoulders, Poppy pulled a business card from her back pocket. “I鈥檓 the manager of a band.”

The older man took the card, glancing at it. He slipped it into his pocket, and produced his own card. “Tony Vaccarelli,” he said, offering his hand.

She shook it. His grip was firm but gentle. “Is the online price still good?” she asked.

Tony gave her a nod. “I鈥檓 a man of my word.”

“And you鈥檒l take a $5,000 down payment?” She flashed him her best smile.

He scratched at his hairline. “Well,” he said, drawing out the word, “it鈥檒l depend on your credit report.”

Poppy鈥檚 shoulders slumped. “How long does that take?”

“Depends on whether our system wants to cooperate. Sometimes we get it back right away. Other times, it could take a few days.” He spread his hands. “We鈥檙e a small business.”

Her mind raced. She needed that van, right away. “What if I tell you that I have $5,000 on my debit card?” She would have to check to make sure that Griff had transferred the money, but he was usually good about sending her funds for the band quickly. Getting Jett to pay her just as fast was another story, sometimes.

“Well,” Tony said again. He tapped his chin. “If the transaction goes through, I don鈥檛 see why not.” He lifted a finger, his eyebrows furrowing. His voice grew stern. “But you鈥檒l have to make your payments on time. I charge twenty-five percent interest.”

Her eyes widened. She swallowed hard. “Yes, sir.”

“Well then,” he said, “let鈥檚 go back on inside. It鈥檚 getting cold out here.”

By the time they finished the formalities, the sky was dark. Poppy bounced the keys in her hand as she walked toward the van. Griff would have to arrange monthly payments but, for the time being, the van was theirs.

Jay pulled up alongside the van. He rolled down a window and nodded to her. “Do you want me to drive it?”

Shaking her curls, she put the key in the lock to the driver鈥檚 side. “I鈥檓 going to have to drive this thing on the road. I might as well get used to it.”

The ride home was smooth, and ended all too quickly. Poppy eased the van to a stop in front of her mother鈥檚 house, swatting at one of the hundreds of air fresheners swinging from the handle above the van鈥檚 door. The van had to be the site of many parties back in its heyday.

She packed quickly. She hadn鈥檛 brought much with her from her dorm. After saying her goodbyes, she rolled her suitcase out to the van. As she loaded it into the back, the first snowflake landed on her nose.

She scrunched her face up at the sky. Though she had her driver鈥檚 license, she hadn鈥檛 driven since before leaving for college. Jay had made sure that she passed her test, but she definitely hadn鈥檛 driven in the snow. She swallowed hard. Of course it had to snow on her first solo drive.

Taking a deep breath, she hopped up into the driver鈥檚 seat. She found the switches for the van鈥檚 defroster and four-way flashers. Hoping that the tires were as good as Tony told her while they filled out her paperwork, she eased forward.

The van glided over the slick pavement, but never faltered. She kept a tight grip on the steering wheel until she reached Jett and Koty’s condo, though, and her shoulders didn鈥檛 relax until she shut off the engine.

Her heartbeat thudded in time to the ticking. “Okay, girl,” she told herself. “It鈥檚 show time.”

Griff鈥檚 car was parked next to Jett and Koty鈥檚. She wondered if the entire band was inside. She closed her eyes for a moment, then steeled herself.

Poppy opened the door and scooted out. Cold snow enveloped her toes, and she swore, cursing herself for forgetting her boots at home in her excitement. She slipped and slid all the way up the front walk. Before she could ring the doorbell, the door opened.

Jett鈥檚 eyes met hers, then slid past her to the van.

“What the hell is that?”

South of Forever’s first tour is about to begin, and so is Poppy’s career鈥攊f she can keep all her lies straight.


Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3 路 Chapter 4 路 Chapter 5



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What Happens On Tour: Chapter 3

Krista sucked in a deep breath. “Okay, can I scream now?”

“No.” Poppy glanced at the door to the room she used to share with Grandma Audrey. At any moment, her grandmother could walk in鈥攁nd it wasn鈥檛 like she could demand privacy. She didn鈥檛 have the heart to, anyway. Since she had gone away to college, the room had metamorphosed into her grandmother鈥檚 personal heaven. Floral curtains covered the windows, replacing the electric blue ones that Poppy had hung. Her old bed still occupied one side of the room, but her grandmother had turned it into a sofa of sorts with plush, extra-large pillows. Poppy had to admit the room looked cute, in a country sort of way.

“When, then?” Krista giggled. “You鈥檙e going to go on tour with Griff.” She sighed, a long and dreamy sound.

“I can鈥檛,” Poppy said. “That鈥檚 the problem.” If her grandmother knew, she would say that Poppy just didn鈥檛 want it badly enough. She licked her lips. “I鈥檓 going to lose this job,” she said in a low voice.

“No, you won鈥檛. We鈥檙e going to figure something out.”

She could imagine Krista sitting in their room, legs crossed as she sat on her purple bedspread. “Are we? I don鈥檛 think it鈥檚 going to work.” Scowling, she jumped up from her grandmother鈥檚 bed and paced the room. “Unless I drop out. My family would never forgive me, though.” Jay would understand, but she would need her whole family鈥檚 support. She loved her brother, but he flew back and forth between New York and Los Angeles practically every week. His support was strong, but it wouldn鈥檛 be constant.

“Hmn.” Krista clicked her tongue ring against her teeth. “I don鈥檛 think that鈥檚 the best idea. I mean, you鈥檙e already almost done with your first semester. Why stop now?”

“I know.” Poppy moaned. “But what other choice do I have?” She bit down on her lip. “I鈥檓 just going to have to give up South of Forever.” The second the words were out of her mouth, she knew it was the right choice. Her mother and grandmother were right. Without an education, she wouldn鈥檛 get very far in the world. Even if South of Forever did really well, if something happened and she had to get a new job, her new employer would expect some kind of degree.

Krista gasped. “Don鈥檛 do that. You鈥檒l regret it for the rest of your life.”

“I鈥檓 tired of playing the game, though, Krista.” Poppy sat down on her old bed and hugged a pillow to her chest, cradling the phone between her face and her shoulder.

“You鈥檝e come so far, though. You turned that band around.”

“They鈥檙e talented. They have Jett and Griff. They鈥檒l be fine.” She lifted her chin. She had to stand by her decision, even if it meant saying goodbye to Griff forever. Her heart twisted at the thought. She had known him for barely six months. It seemed crazy that saying goodbye should be so hard, but there it was. She would even miss Perry and Max, as crazy as they made her. She would miss the guys鈥 banter and Jett鈥檚 poise in the studio. She’d miss hanging out with Max鈥檚 girlfriend Savannah during practices. She couldn鈥檛 call them friends, not yet, but she was close. Give her another six months and they would all be tight. She sighed. Letting go felt like losing a second family.

“Are you trying to convince me, or yourself?” Krista asked gently. “I know you鈥檙e really attached to this band.” She snapped her fingers, the sound traveling to Poppy through the phone. Krista must be wearing her earbuds, or had Poppy on speaker. “I have a crazy idea.”

Switching the phone to her other hand, Poppy drew her knees to her chest. “Yeah? I鈥檓 open to anything at this point.”

“What if,” Krista said, “you took school on the road with you? Admissions told me that you can switch back and forth between online and regular classes. They鈥檙e super flexible.”

“What?” Poppy squinted. “That is crazy. It鈥檚 kind of genius, though.”

“Right?” Krista laughed. “It鈥檚 not too late to add/drop. You could even make up a family emergency if you needed to. I鈥檓 sure they鈥檒l be understanding, though. From what the admissions counselor told me, it鈥檚 pretty common.”

“Huh.” Poppy tapped her chin. “What would I do?”

“Just talk to your advisor. I bet she could do it really quickly.”

“I don鈥檛 know.” Poppy tossed her hair over a shoulder. “I鈥檓 already struggling.”

Krista snorted. “Oh, stop. Your GPA is like a 3.9, you perfectionist.”

Twisting her lips, Poppy nodded. “I did buy the iPad with my student loan money, and I鈥檝e already been using it for school and work. It wouldn鈥檛 be much of a change from what I鈥檓 doing now.”

“You would just pop in whenever you need to, rather than showing up for a physical class. My brother did online classes for a while.”

“You have a brother? Is he cute?” Poppy smiled.

“Ew, keep your pants on. He鈥檚 an asshole, anyway,” Krista said. “We really shouldn’t waste time talking about him.”

Poppy considered her options. It was either drop out or go digital. She could handle it. She had to. Not only was her career at stake, but everything she had ever dreamed about was on the line. Once, not so long ago, she and Jay had planned on being a team, with Jay performing and Poppy managing him. When L.A.B. came into the picture, though, they made it very clear that they didn鈥檛 want someone still in high school managing their new star. It didn鈥檛 even matter to them that she was a senior, about to graduate. She ground her teeth just thinking about it.

“What do you think?” Krista asked. “Are you going to do it?”

“I don鈥檛 know. It鈥檚 a little crazy. Plus it鈥檚 a holiday weekend. No one will be in the offices until Monday, and Griff said that鈥檚 when we’re supposed to be leaving.” Poppy squinted, thinking. Remembering the way that Griff had looked at her while they talked, her cheeks warmed. Dipping her chin, she smiled. She couldn鈥檛 pass up a chance to find out what might happen between them. It was entirely possible that, during this tour, she would find more than one kind of success.

“I have another idea.” Krista paused. She blew out a breath into the phone. “It鈥檚 another crazy one, but you tell me. What if I go with you?”

Frowning, Poppy jumped off the bed. “What do you mean?”

“I can be your assistant!” Krista snapped her fingers again. “You know that music blog I鈥檝e been working on, right?”

“Wait, wait.” Poppy paced the room. “You would do that for me?”

“Of course. You鈥檙e my favorite friend.”

“I鈥檓 getting the feeling I鈥檓 your only friend on campus,” Poppy said.

“Stop. You know I鈥檓 your only friend at school, too.” Krista laughed. “We鈥檙e freshy besties.”

Groaning, Poppy wished that she was in the same room so that she could throw a pillow at her. “You鈥檙e the worst.”

“Seriously, though,” Krista continued. “I can help you with all of your manager stuff and build up my music blog in the meantime. Do you have any idea how much it would help to document a new band on the road? It鈥檒l be like reality TV. People love that shit.”

“That is a good idea.” Poppy tilted her head back. “Okay! Let鈥檚 do it.” She clapped a hand over her mouth. If she was any louder, her mother and grandmother would have a lot of questions for her. She glanced at the door, and lowered her voice. “This may be the craziest thing I鈥檝e ever done.” It would surpass sneaking into bars at seventeen to watch her brother鈥檚 shows, or the time that she had skipped school to drive to New York with him to meet with L.A.B. She would have to be extremely careful. With Krista by her side, though, nothing could possibly go wrong. At least, she hoped not. “Do we have a deal?”

“Hell yeah.” Krista laughed. “Oh, this is going to be fun. The two of us, a bunch of hot guys, and the open road?”

Poppy giggled. “I think Perry is single.”

“Oh, hell no!” Krista sounded shocked. “From what you鈥檝e told me about him, I鈥檇 be better off alone.”

“He seems pretty popular with the ladies. He must be doing something right.” Poppy glanced at the clock. She had been on the phone for over an hour. Jay was probably in the basement, working on his song and dying to know why Griff came to their house. “Okay, let me go,” she told Krista. “We鈥檒l draw up a formal contract when I get back tomorrow.” She giggled, letting Krista know that she was kidding.

“You鈥檙e coming back tomorrow?”

“As long as Jay is willing to drive me back.” Poppy grimaced. She was going to owe her brother big time.

After they hung up, Poppy sat down again and pulled a throw pillow onto her lap. With Krista in her corner, she should be able to relax a little bit, but her nerves were as tightly wound as her natural hair. The tour was a huge deal for the band, and her career. If they pulled it off without a hitch, everything would change for the better. Should they fail, though, it could send them back several steps. With Max fresh out of rehab, he might have a hard time being away from his family鈥攅specially his daughter Chloe.

She took a deep breath. Things would work out. She would make sure of it.

They had to. There was no other choice.

South of Forever’s first tour is about to begin, and so is Poppy’s career鈥攊f she can keep all her lies straight.


Chapter 1Chapter 2 路 Chapter 3 路 Chapter 4 路 Chapter 5



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Happy Release Day to Me!

Usually by now I’m shot, crawling into bed and popping on a podcast that I always fall asleep halfway into. Not tonight.聽It’s the middle of the night and I’m聽wired. The underbelly of my skin is tingling with anticipation, because today is a holiday like no other.

Today is release day.

What Happens On Tour鈥攖he third book in my rockstar romance, the聽South of Forever series鈥攊s live, baby!

For a long time, I didn’t think this day would ever come. A whole year, to be exact. I wrote this book in a haze of panic. Fear that I wasn’t good enough, that I was fizzling out only halfway through my first full-length series. My characters weren’t speaking to me and I wanted to quit so badly.

But I didn’t, mostly because I went onto the porch, smoked a cigarette, and let my husband talk me back into being an author.

And now release day is here.

I’m already checking sales and rankings, because habit, but none of that really matters because holy shit, I did it. Again. And I’m going to keep doing it, even when my joints ache and depression and anxiety whisper to me that I’m not good enough. Because I’m a writer, and this is聽what I do.

What Happens On Tour is still $0.99, and I’m going to leave the sale price up a little bit longer.

Aside from the fact that Griff stood in her childhood home, he was also complimenting her baby pictures. Her life couldn鈥檛 be real.

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Cover Reveal: What Happens On Tour

Untitled design

Drum roll, please鈥攊t’s time for the official聽What Happens On Tour cover reveal! You may have seen my puzzle over on my Instagram profile, but there’s nothing like seeing this baby in HD. Designer Starla Huchton needs some serious applause.

Are you ready? I’m tingling, I’m so excited.




What Happens On Tour (South of Forever, Book 3), by Elizabeth Barone

South of Forever’s first tour is about to begin, and so is Poppy’s career鈥攊f she can keep all her lies straight.

Poppy Hampton may be rock band South of Forever’s new manager, and she may have successfully launched her brother’s music career, but she sort of lied about her credentials. She also may have aged herself up a bit in her resume. It’s no big deal.

All she has to do is make sure they don’t find out.

Until the band’s sexy drummer鈥攁nd the guy of her dreams鈥擥riff tells her that it’s finally happened: South of Forever has been invited to go on tour with the fast rising rock band, King Riley. She’d be thrilled if such an exciting opportunity didn’t mean choosing between her career and her education鈥攐r if dating Griff didn’t mean lying to him about the ten-year age difference between them. Can Poppy launch her career without destroying it before it’s even started? And if she risks everything to follow her heart and be with Griff, can she keep her secret safe?

What Happens On Tour聽is the third book in the聽South of Forever聽series, a steamy contemporary New Adult romance that follows a fledgling rock band on its way to the top.

Available August 19th.


Pre-order now for only $0.99!


What Happens On Tour (South of Forever, Book 3), by Elizabeth Barone

Catch up on the South of Forever series:

Buy Diving Into Him and Savannah’s Song now聽禄