"An open-hearted exploration of loneliness and love against the backdrop of the vibrant L.A. music scene."—Aiden Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of Cemetery Boys
This fun and flirty romance follows a teen rocker with a bad boy reputation and the aspiring journalist who’s determined to dig up the dirt on him . . . if they don’t fall for each other first.
Ever since Daniel moved to L.A. from Brazil to join the band Mischief & Mayhem, he’s become the tabloids’ bad boy. Paparazzi follow him and girls swoon over him . . . except for Sasha, who hates bad boys. When a chance encounter brings them together, Sasha sees an opportunity to get close to Daniel and write a story that will make a name for herself at the celebrity gossip magazine where she interns. But Daniel is surprisingly sweet and extremely cute—could she be falling for him?
The truth is: Daniel is hiding something. When Sasha discovers his secret, will she follow her heart or deliver the hottest story of the summer?
Underlined is a line of totally addictive romance, thriller, and horror paperback original titles coming to you fast and furious each month. Enjoy everything you want to read the way you want to read it.
An Excerpt fromBad at Love
These sunglasses were a major mistake.
My agent, Bobbi, gave me the shades so I don’t squint at the paparazzi flashes. With them, no matter how harsh the lights, I’ll still look good for the pictures. The downside? At night I can barely see an inch in front of my face.
To be clear, I didn’t even want to go to this party. I would’ve loved to be in bed by ten. But my bandmates, Sam, Wade, and Penny, wanted to par-tay after our jam session, and my sister, Helena, insists that I make friends. So here I am, at midnight, hardly awake and stumbling my way out of the Blue-Bearded Man in LA, after spending three hours pretending to drink at the club.
We step onto the dirty sidewalk and into the hurricane that is the public eye.
Oh, paparazzi, how I have not missed you.
There’s at least a dozen of them, plus a cluster of fans. Eight months after joining Mischief & Mayhem, I’m not surprised anymore when I see the M&M fans screaming and crying. Though it is weird when the fans scream, “Rotten! Oh my God, please take a selfie with me!”
That always takes me a moment. Oh. Yep. That’s right. I’m not Daniel anymore.
Luckily, we’re shielded by security people as we make our way to our car, two tall people in black suits with earpieces and serious faces. The woman in front of me is named Yasmin. As I found out a few weeks ago in the green room at a radio interview, she can break-dance better than anyone else I know, but right now she’s an impenetrable wall, and I love her all the more for it.
Yasmin and her partner clear the way for us, but there’s still some impromptu press to be done. Sam’s the best at it. I wish I had his smooth confidence. He’s about my height, with thick longish hair mussed back, and colorful clothes. He has a triangular face with a strong jawline, light caramel eyes, and a ridiculously charming dimpled smile. Sam’s so charismatic that even though he’s just gotten in front of me, stopping a fan from getting a sort-of-not-really selfie, the girl only swoons at him instead of getting upset.
Sam’s usually the fan favorite because he’s ripped and has a million-dollar smile, but somehow I have my share of fans. People who, inexplicably, chose me as their favorite M&M band member--who think that without my addition to the band, we wouldn’t be making the most anticipated album of the year.
They’ve got it wrong. I feel like I’m bullshitting my way through this, and anytime now, someone will find out. I’m most afraid it’ll be Penny, since she’s the only one in the band who seems to value my creative opinions.
A TMZ reporter, a woman with a high bun and a ferociously bright smile, elbows her way past the fans. “Mischief and Mayhem! How are we doing tonight?”
Sam greets her, while Penny and Wade take selfies with fans. Penny may lose the title of fan favorite to Sam or me, depending on who you ask, but she is definitely the press favorite. She’s pretty and fun, with her colorful locs matching her nail polish, and her big brown eyes, just a shade darker than her dark Black skin. The reporter eyes me like a hawk, but I stay quiet. “Rotten, word on the street is that you stole Trent Nicholson’s girlfriend. Is it true that you’re seeing Reese Brown?”
Trent Nicholson? Reese Brown? Who are these people?
I turn to Sam for help, and he chuckles. “Oh, a gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell. Do you really think Rotten would say anything, Martha?”
How does he know her name? We’re all just seventeen. He can’t possibly be friends with this woman. This whole interaction confuses me. I tuck my hands into the front pockets of my black skinny jeans, which is tough, considering how tight they are and how many rings I’m wearing. Scanning for the car, I spot someone dart past Yasmin. The girl is fast, and suddenly her phone is in my face, so close that I stumble back and fall spectacularly onto my butt.
All eyes turn to me. Cameras flash. That’s all I needed--further “evidence” that I’m drunk, even though I’m completely sober.
Great. Absolutely great.
I lower my head, clearing my throat and pressing the shades against the bridge of my nose.
Act cool, Daniel. Here you’re Rotten.
“Rotten?” Penny asks. Wade is behind him, thick black eyebrows raised in concern. I don’t hear what Sam says, something to try to distract the reporter, Martha.
I’m picking myself up off the pavement, and Yasmin is escorting the fan back, when all hell breaks loose. I barely have time to brush the dirt off my hands before the fans seize the opportunity to break through our security line.
Security breached. This is not a drill.
A dozen fans with a wall of security people between you and them is nothing. It’s easy-peasy. But a dozen people rushing straight toward you, with absolutely no barrier, feels like a million people. And you’re prey.
My eyes widen as I backpedal.
This is not bragging. This is contextualizing my downfall: they don’t come for Penny, Wade, or Sam, not at first. They all come at me. And so I run.
It’s like I’m suddenly in a zombie movie. I’m wearing a neon-green floral shirt, and I’m acutely aware that the Los Angeles night is not dark enough to hide me.
Am I going to die if they catch me? I’d rather not find out.
Making my way around the building, I duck into an alley. A girl my age steps out of the club’s side door, probably leaving the party we left too. She’s wearing a mustard-colored dress and holding a big black leather jacket. Her long brunette bob frames her face, her nose is hooked, and her eyes are so dark that they seem black. They’re the darkest eyes I’ve ever seen, and I want to look more closely.
I’m on a mission, though, so I ditch that thought. She’s my potential shield.
Attempting a smile, I approach her. “Please save me,” I beg, breathless.
She parts her lips; then her eyes flick over my shoulder and she notices the small crowd turning the corner to find me.
“Can I have your jacket?” I try again.
Her big round eyes stare up at me, but she doesn’t protest when I close the distance between us and reach over to pluck the jacket out of her hands. I swing it over my shoulders to hide my screaming shirt.
She seems to register the panic in my eyes, because she takes charge, saying “Act natural” in a low voice and pulling me into a fake embrace--to hide me in plain sight.
Okay. Good plan.
Both of my hands awkwardly brace against the brick wall behind her. It’s cold on my fingertips.
My adrenaline is still high, and my chest’s going up and down from running, so I hold my breath, staring at her. I wish I weren’t wearing these stupid sunglasses.
She’s examining me, like she’s trying to make up her mind about something. She frowns at first, studying me from head to toe but not pushing me away. Her jacket hangs from my shoulders, threatening to push both of us into darkness.
“Where did he go?” I hear a man ask from the sidewalk.
“Shoot, they’re coming,” I whisper.
“Shoot?” she echoes, cocking an eyebrow. “Shut up and don’t look their way.” Her warm hand touches the side of my face, directing me to look at her. Her lips are shaped like a heart.
I try to stand still.
Impatient, she rolls her eyes and pulls me closer by the front of the jacket. For a second I think she’s actually going to kiss me, but then I realize that her big dark eyes are still open, staring at me, a cross between annoyed and curious.
Her forehead is an inch from mine. We’re so close that I can feel her breath against my face.
She can’t feel mine, because I’m not breathing.
The people passing us only see a couple making out in an alley. A guy in a black leather jacket and a girl in a mustard dress. Not a rock star on the run. So they keep going. The paparazzi, the fans. They all keep going, and we become wallpaper, part of the background, like the distant music pounding from the club.
And the thundering sound of my own heart.
She drops her hands and walks around me like it’s nothing. “They’re gone,” she says.
I want to apologize for accosting her, but before I can, she looks past me once again. I pivot and see Wade with a security guard shadow.
Wade is a lanky Korean guy, a little shorter than me and Sam, and twice as stylish. He’s got bleached-white hair in a mess of curls, dark monolid eyes, a button nose, and a preference for all-black clothes. He’s wearing an oversized sweater full of awkwardly placed holes, with black skinny jeans and black Converse.
“Hey there,” he says, I suspect more to her than to me. He flashes her a smile.
She narrows her eyes.
“There you are.” Penny comes after him, gesturing for me to unglue myself from the brick wall. “We thought we’d lost you. The car’s waiting, and Yasmin’s not happy about what happened.”
I give them a curt nod.
Then I turn toward my savior, wanting to thank her--but I can’t force the words out, for the same reason that I don’t say anything in interviews. Will she even understand me through my Brazilian accent? It’s so much thicker when I’m nervous.
I offer her my hand to shake instead, hoping my eyes say Thank you.
She gives me a weird look before taking my hand.
Hers is soft and warm. I can’t help it--I smile.
The alley is illuminated by a flash, and I silently curse.
I never smile. Not on camera.
There’s a paparazzo in front of us with a manic grin, holding his camera like an award statue. After that, he runs. A breath later, Yasmin appears at my side, ushering me out of the alley and into the car. Before I know it, I’m in our black van, staring at my empty hand.
Sam and Wade flank me in the car, and Penny sits in the row in front of me, with Yasmin and her partner beside her. As the driver takes off, Sam turns to me and notes, “You weren’t wearing this jacket before.”
My eyes widen, and I take the girl’s jacket off from around my shoulders. “Oh. Crap.”
But Sam and Wade don’t pay me much attention after that. They start debating about which hidden VIP room is best for taking girls to make out, while the closest I came to making out tonight was technically fake. It’s like I don’t even exist. Penny turns to join in, scolding them in a playful way. Always the three of them, plus me.
Penny, Wade, and Sam--high school friends and bandmates who have known each other forever. And I’ve only known them for eight months. It’s like they never really see me. Not the real me, anyway.
Which is okay. I zone out, holding the leather jacket in my hands, looking at the strange pin of a coffee cup with a cloud drinking it, and think about its owner.
It’s nothing, I tell myself. These butterflies in my stomach will go away. But the girl in the mustard dress stays with me the whole ride home.
“What has the cereal ever done to you, Sasha?” Mom asks, with a hint of smile. She sits across from me at our small kitchen-living-room table.
I roll my eyes and turn my attention back to the cereal. I wasn’t planning on telling Mom about what happened last night when I was ambushed by Rotten in that alley, but I’m not sure if I can hold in my frustration much longer.
“It’s nothing,” I try. “Work stuff.”
“Don’t speak with your mouth full.” She checks her watch. “We have fifteen minutes before I have to leave to start my shift at the superstore. I’m not in cashier mode yet--I’m in mom mode. The sooner you start talking, the more time we have to come to a solution.”
Groaning, I slouch in my chair. She stares at me, and my willpower crumbles. “Ugh, okay. I was chasing a band for LA Now. I actually convinced a security person to let me in through the back door, and then lost them once we were inside. And then, when I had an actual shot at getting a photo while they were leaving the club, I missed my chance.”
“I saw that you got home really late.” She gestures for me to give her the elastic around my wrist, that I mostly keep there for her, and then she pulls her hair into an effortless bun that makes her look even younger than she is. “I know it’s just the beginning of summer and you’re enjoying your curfew-less life, but you know that ends in August, right? It’s going to be your last year of high school, and you’ll need to stay focused on getting into college.”
I love how she says this as if we have any money for college--as if my best bet after graduation isn’t getting a full-time job at LA Now or another tabloid that will pay me for photography. Often I feel like Mom lives in her own world, a world in which we don’t split most of the bills like roommates. A world in which she can pop champagne when my college acceptance letters roll in.
Instead of getting into it, I say, “But this is my job.”
“It’s an internship,” she corrects me.
“Aaaanyway.” I start again. “They were all there. Penny, Wade, Sam, and Rotten.” I pause, letting the ridiculous nickname sink in. “Why’s everyone so into him anyway? He’s a skinny giant. At least Sam’s, like, muscular or something.”
It takes less than a second for recognition to flash in her eyes as she registers the names of the Mischief & Mayhem band members. I sort of hate that she knows exactly what band I’m talking about. Then again, she does love Making Music!, the reality singing competition where the band initially formed.
“Sam’s too nice,” she explains, shrugging. “Rotten’s cute, Sasha. Isn’t that undercut or sidecut or whatever it’s called trendy right now?”
“He’s the worst,” I deadpan.
Mom tilts her head to the side, like she finds this amusing. “It’s not like you to have opinions about artists.”
“What are you talking about? I have plenty of opinions.”