Authors: Kailin Gow
Volume 2 of the Never Knights Series
This is a YA-Mature/New Adult novel which may contain scenes not suitable for younger teens. Recommended age of reading is 17 years and up.
Never Land (The Never Knights #2)
Published by THE EDGE
THE EDGE is an imprint of Sparklesoup Inc.
Copyright © 2012 Kailin Gow
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For anyone who dare to dream.
London was burning. The sweat on my body and the lights that illuminated the club; the heat emanating from all of us in a single, nuclear force – all of these conspired to make the stage look like it was on fire. Steve's drums were deafening – powerful sticks hitting and throbbing against the center of the set, each clash echoing throughout the room. The guitar licks sent shivers up and down my body; I watched as the dancers moved and swayed and shouted in unison, singing along to our songs. Beautiful people – models, actors, socialites, all falling under our spell. All charmed by our power.
You said that you loved me/but I'm not sure
I've been burned by you before.”
My voice hardly sounded like my own. Eerily echoing out of the microphone, it was louder than I was used to. Stronger. Filled with a magic that seemed to transform it from the voice of a nervous, eighteen-year-old girl into something far greater. A voice that could affect each and every one of these people, a voice that could get inside their heads and hearts and make them dance like their lives depended on it. The sweat was pouring down my body and I could catch a glimpse of sweat, too, on the faces of my bandmates, who were rapt in concentration, lost in the music. And I was lost, too – wandering through a labyrinth of sound, trying to find my way out of this energy, this power, this beautiful music that at once belonged to me and yet was something wholly other, some great mystery I had only just begun to learn how to unfold. The song was catchy – mesmerizing, even – but it was more than that. Its beauty haunted me – now more than ever. I had written the lyrics – they were part of me, etched on my heart.
But the music...
I hadn't written that alone. Some chord changes, some waverings of my voice – those I had come up with on my own. Those seemed familiar to me, even natural. But every now and then I changed key, or switched to a minor chord, or the sound of an A diminished wailed over the amplifiers – and then I remembered. Remembered that I hadn't written this song by myself. That another voice, another mind, was here in the room with me, even though he was so far away...
My heart ached, even now. But I couldn't let myself think about that. Not when I had to put on a brave face in front of so many thousands – even tens of thousands – of people. Not when I had to convince them that I was more than just Keith Knight's protege daughter. I had to convince them that I was a rock star.
And from the wild sounds of their applause, it sounded like I was succeeding. When the song came to an end my voice was hoarse, husky. But even now it was filled with joy. Being onstage was exhilarating for me, for all of us. Only when I was singing did I truly feel as if I was home. And the audience picked up on that. They knew it as well as I did – that I was where I belonged, right here in the O2 arena, opening for My Bloody Valentine.
Six months ago we could never have dreamed this would happen. Six months ago, I was just starting college at USC, trying to fit in, trying to convince myself I wanted a normal life. But a lot had changed since then.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” I began, my voice hardly wavering. “I give you – the Never Knights.”
The crowd was riotous with joy. I recognized a few faces – celebrities I'd seen on the covers of British tabloids, aspiring reality stars and minor members of the Royal Family. But most of the crowd was full of strangers. A blessed relief, I thought, after LA – where the club scene was dominated by the same few faces, the same familiar smiles. Here everyone was new – the whole scene was wild, was different. Nobody knew us here; nobody had seen my pictures on TMZ or Gawker. They were willing to accept us on one thing alone: the music.
“I'm Neve Knight, on vocals.” The crowd responded almost immediately to me, a writhing mass of applause, of adoration.
You could get drunk on this
, I thought to myself, feeling myself bathed in the glow of their love. I felt dizzy just standing there before them. I was reeling – exhausted. And yet I wouldn't have given this up for anything in the world.
“And this is Steve Saint Clair, on drums...” I remembered how it had been only a few months ago, giving this same speech in a nightclub in Los Angeles. How much younger we had been then. Before the night everything changed. Before I'd met
. Shiny new stage name aside, Steve was still the same as ever. Muscular, but gawky, charming, with an indomitably goofy smile that made girls giggle and swoon at the same time. He was the most solid of us – the only one who had come through the latest drama unscathed. Steve had never worried about anything but the band – he was the only one, for all his one-night stands, who never let his relationships come between him and the band. Something I knew I couldn't say for myself.
“And Lucky Luc, on keyboards.” The girls went wild as Luc fixed his soulful chocolate-brown stare on the audience.
I thought. Our agent had picked the name – figured that a guy with killer looks like his had the luck of one in a million. But I knew that beneath Luc's movie-star good looks there lay a veneer of darkness, of sadness I was unable to crack. Luc hadn't been as violent as Kyle when he'd found out that Danny and I were dating. He hadn't threatened to leave the band overtly – as Kyle had done. But I'd seen the pain I caused in those deep brown eyes. I'd seen how hard it was for him to agree to stay, knowing that the girl he'd kissed in a moment of weakness, the girl he'd finally admitted his feelings to after so many years keeping it quiet, was in love with someone else. I couldn't talk to him about it, of course. We'd agreed to act like it never happened – to forget that kiss. But I knew that things weren't as they were between us. Whatever Luc felt for me, it hadn't gone away. And when he turned that classic, heart-melting stare upon me, it was getting even harder for me to catch my breath.
“And, on bass guitar, Kyle X.” The other boys had changed their names for reasons of fame and fortune – because they wanted to re-invent themselves in the manner of their rock icons, taking on stage names that meant something to them. But in changing his name, I knew, Kyle Jostens was doing more than playing a part. He was running away from something. Running from the father whose name he bore, the father who had shot his mother and was serving twenty to life in a federal penitentiary in California. But then again, Kyle was always running. From the pain – from the terror of abandonment, that had set in the day he lost the only family he'd ever known in a single, fell swoop. For years I'd been Kyle's family, his confidante. Like a sister to him.
But no more. He'd admitted his feelings for me – more than that, he'd let his desire for me get between the band. Threatened to walk out if Danny Blue stayed another day. I'd done what was necessary to make him stay – I'd apologized, cried, bitten down my pride and my anger and admitted I was wrong to fall for Danny Blue, even as my heart still told me I was right.
He'd agreed, in the end, to stay. Slowly, grudgingly. But he'd agreed nonetheless. But on one terrible condition.
“Geoff Galaxy, on guitars.” It was hard even to form the words. Once upon a time, Geoff had been a true part of the band, one of our best friends. But for a few years now, drugs and alcohol had worked their way into Geoff's system, making him a mere shadow of the man he was. Geoff was still heart-breakingly beautiful; his shaved head and glinting earring still gave him the appearance of a dissolute pirate. And now that his hand had healed, he played guitar as well as he ever did. But something about him didn't sit right with me. It wasn't just the way he looked at me – smirking, predatory, as if he knew the real reason we invited him back into the band. It was the knowledge that cocaine and – no doubt – heroin had burned away some portion of humanity in his brain; the knowledge that the dangerous, devil-may-care persona he projected onstage was more than just an act.
Geoff was a ticking time bomb, and everybody knew it.
But in the absence of Danny Blue, he was the only chance we had. My heart sank as I remembered how Danny had once stood where Geoff was standing now, his smile genuine, his face unscarred by the ravages of drugs and drink. It had been a month since Danny had graciously stepped down from the band, knowing it was the only way to reconcile me and Kyle. And during that month I hadn't stopped missing him.
My heart skipped a beat as I remembered.
Tonight Danny's semester ended – his TA-ing gig at USC over for the semester. Tonight he was coming to London to celebrate Christmas and New Year's with me. I'd taken the year off to go touring – meaning that both of the obstacles between me and Danny had been removed in one fell swoop. He was no longer my band mate and no longer my TA.
That should have made things easy. Instead, we had an ocean between us. And hadn't seen each other in a month. Until tonight...
“Well done,” a gorgeous black woman with long, curly hair and a killer smile approached us. She was Cassandra Curry, the PR machine RRR had appointed for us shortly after signing us to their label. But she looked every inch the rock star. “A great start to your touring season. But the press is going to want photos. Look candid, okay guys?” She looked me up and down. “White leather dress,” she assessed my clothing. “Vivienne Westwood?”
I nodded, stunned at the breadth of her knowledge.
“Not a bad choice,” she smiled. “Shows off your skin. And the spikey boots are a nice touch, too. Although normally I avoid Cavalli's winter collections.” She nodded. “I'll put them both on the label's tab. Fashion's part of marketing, after all.”
She led us across a red carpet. The crowd passed over us in a blur – a whirl of screams, applause, autographs, blown kisses – and then we were safely backstage, digging into an enormous cake the venue had provided for us.
Kyle looked utterly exhausted. His bright blue eyes shone with joy – but I could see the melancholy within. Things hadn't been the same with us since our fight. He'd shown me a side of himself I'd never wanted to see – a crazed, obsessive darkness that I could forgive, but not forget. Kyle did more than love me – he
me. And it was this need, a need I could never fulfill, that made things so terrible between us.
“Congratulations, Neve,” he said in a small voice. “We've always dreamed about this, you know. Ever since we were kids. Performing in London. Birthplace of punk rock. And at the O2 arena, no less, opening for My Bloody Valentine...”
We'd made it.
We'd lived the dream. In that moment I wanted so badly for things to go back the way to they used to be, for Kyle and I to be normal with each other again. I couldn't resist it. I let my arms surround him, hugging him tightly, the way I'd done in the old days.
Wishing it could be the way it was in the old days.
I pressed his head to mine. “We did it.”
I felt his body tense up. I felt his breathing grow shallow. No sooner did he turn his baby-blue eyes to mine then I knew it had been a mistake. Our faces were close – painfully close. And I knew then that I'd given him hope.
“Neve...” he said hoarsely, his voice ragged with emotion.
I immediately stepped away. “Kyle, I'm so sorry...” I said as quickly as I could. “Was that weird? I didn't mean to be weird...”