The fifth story in the new adult series that began with the New York Times bestseller REAL.
A ripped rock star with attitude. An ex-girlfriend with a reckless plan.
Pandora assumed getting her heart broken by her bad boy ex could only happen once—until Mackenna Jones comes back to town for the biggest concert of his career. They say girls are getting pregnant just thinking about the Crack Bikini tour and it’s destined to be a huge hit.
Oh, it’ll be a hit alright—when Pandora comes out swinging. She and her friend Melanie are determined to humiliate him onstage. But when they’re caught by security and her ex is summoned, Mackenna decides not to press charges if she’ll join him on tour and follow certain conditions—rules designed to give him the upper hand and keep her in close contact with him once again. Soon, the passion they once shared is reignited, and no matter how much Pandora wants to hate him, her hard exterior starts to crack.
And worse: Mackenna knows it, too. But even Mackenna doesn’t know everything…
Read an Excerpt
I’m the only person in my apartment building that still gets a newspaper. It sits on my doorstep this morning, and I love the way it smells. I love the crackling noise when I drop into my dining room chair and slap the sucker open. This sound, this smell . . . they remind me of lazy Saturday mornings reading the paper with my dad, his cologne scent engulfing me. By the time I was seventeen, he was gone. As was his morning rumple of my hair and his cologne—but not the smell of the paper. It’s been almost a decade and I still find an incomparable little joy in the smell of this freshly printed newspaper. Until now . . .
Now . . . when the headline of the entertainment section stares back at me, mocking me.
Mackenna Jones Is Back in Town! the headline says, and just reading that feels like a punch in the gut.
I squeeze my eyes shut and open them, my stomach trembling uncontrollably.
Mackenna Jones is back in town!
Fuck, I really need to stop reading that.
Mackenna Jones is back in town!
God. Still reads the same.
The name curls around me like smoke in my insides, and butterflies I didn’t even know I still carried crash into the walls of my belly. I thought it impossible that a single one of these butterflies had survived Mackenna Jones.
He’s coming to town, Pandora. What are you going to do about it?
The thought of him being in the same state makes me scowl bleakly. “Seriously, asshole? You had to come here?”
I begin reading the article about Crack Bikini, how the band has revolutionized music. How even Obama has openly said this band is responsible for turning young kids back to the music of the masters—Mozart, Beethoven. But it doesn’t end there. It’s just getting started turning up the schmooze. The reporter keeps going on and on about how this tour has sold out Madison Square Garden faster than Justin Bieber’s first show, and how it will be the concert of the year, if not the decade.
Briefly, the band’s breakout song flits through my head. For a time, this song played on every radio station in the country, and it made me loathe music with a passion—hell, the mere thought of it angers me all over again.
My hands shake as I set down the newspaper, fold it, and try to move on to another section. I live with my mother and my cousin, and I’ve always had an appreciation for my quiet time on Saturdays, when Magnolia has ballet and my mother has errands. But now, my precious Saturday—time I get our apartment to myself—has officially been ruined. Not only my Saturday, this just ruins my entire fucking year.
Mackenna. In Seattle.
My hands tremble as I go back to the entertainment section and slowly scan for the date of the concert. I find myself clicking open Internet Explorer on my phone and navigating straight to Ticketmaster. Yep, the show is already sold out. So I head to eBay, where I discover the staggering prices the best tickets command.
I don’t know why, but for a moment, I imagine myself in one of those pricey seats, calling him the world’s greatest asshole from up close so he can hear through all the noise he and his band members make.
I don’t know what I’m doing. Or maybe I do know. A cold chill is settling in my body. The show is sold out. The tickets cost a fortune. But no. I won’t miss this opportunity. It’s been almost six years since I last saw him. Almost six years since seeing that hard, perfect man-butt as he jumped into his jeans.
The first time he took me, I could almost see my V card nicely tucked into his back pocket. He told me he loved me and asked me to tell him that I loved him. He was still inside me when he asked if I wanted him to be with me. I cried instead—because something is wrong with me, and I couldn’t. I couldn’t say it back. But I know that he knew.
He kissed me harder than ever when I started to cry, and our kiss tasted of my tears. At the time, I thought it all so painful and raw, the way he kissed me. So beautiful. I trembled as he held me. I couldn’t seem to piece myself back together after breaking for him the way I did during my orgasms. I could hear his breath mingle with my breath as he soothed a hand down my spine, telling me over and over that he loved me.
And that wasn’t the only time he took me. For days and weeks and months, we made hot, fevered love. I was seventeen and he was my everything, and when he took me, I thought he wanted everything I had to give. He left anyway. Bastard.
Mackenna was a secret, you see. He was the closest I’ve ever been to a person in my life—but he was a secret nobody could find out about. Especially not my mother. He knew it. I knew it. But we always managed to see each other anyway. We lied, hid, stole out of our homes and into the night, meeting at the docks and hijacking some unsuspecting family’s yacht until sunrise. We didn’t care who our families were, or what was “best” for us.
As far as I was concerned, he was it for me, and I for him.
He was my best friend too.
My world broke when I heard he left Seattle.
He didn’t even say goodbye.
The last thing he’d said to me was that he loved me.
Now. I. Hate. Love.
I thought that with his absence, the wound would heal. But the wound is still there. It’s festered and bubbled up and grown.
I gave the motherfucker everything that was in my young, stupid heart to give, and he ruined me.
Well, fuck him.
Next week he’s in Seattle. He and his mashers are in town and everyone is going. I call them mashers because there’s no other group like them. They mash their songs to someone else’s—to real music. Bach, Chopin, the masters. The result is a rock band symphony that runs through your body and curls your toes. And if you add in his vocals . . .
Hell, I don’t even want to talk about his vocals.
People choose to fall in love because it makes them feel good. Love makes them feel protected, safe. Not me. I choose hate. It makes me feel good. Protected and safe. Hating him is all that keeps me sane. Hating him means what he did to me doesn’t matter. I can still feel something. I am not yet dead, because I can feel this hate corroding me. He’s ruined me for other men. Stopped me from being the woman I could have been. He’s broken every dream of a future with him I had. He was my first love and my first everything, including my first heartbreak.
Even after he left, all I’ve been aware of is him, and what he left me with, and what he took from me.
The tickets are expensive. I spend most of what I make helping my mom care for Magnolia. But three little clicks on eBay is all it would take. Three little clicks and I can go up that last notch of debt on my credit card and see this asshole again, in the flesh.
Totally worth it, I decide, and go online and buy two of the most expensive tickets eBay has to offer.
Opening my calendar, I find the day and mark it with an X.
Get ready, asshole. Your Seattle concert won’t be considered a success. Not if I can help it.
♥ ♥ ♥
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Pandora & Mackenna’s Mashup
(This is a mix of songs that the characters sing in RIPPED).