Eight stories above the echoing laughter of children playing in freshly fallen snow, Chloe sat at the small kitchen table in her Brooklyn studio apartment. Huddled close to the noisy radiator, she blew the steam wafting from her coffee as the warmth of the mug seeped into her sweater-covered hands.
Wrapped in a blanket, Chloe stared at the contract on her lap. There was never any question as to whether or not she would sign. Her financial situation aside, this was the biggest career opportunity of her life. For the next year, she would be traveling with one of the hottest acts in the music industry.
The sun had set by the time Reid called an end to rehearsals. Chloe rotated her shoulder and let out a grateful sigh as she packed away her things. She had expected the rehearsals to be taxing, but the level of intensity Reid demanded from each of them was more than she had prepared for.
Greer, if you come in just a second sooner, you will nail the intro. Reid pushed his hair out of his face and took a deep breath. For the first time since he had received the call about Valerie breaking her arm, he felt like things might be okay.
Chloe closed her eyes and reclined in the tub, resting her head on the back. With a content smile, she let the warm water and swirling steam lull her into a relaxed state. It had been a good, albeit overwhelming, day. True to her word, she had arrived at the studio that morning with breakfast in tow.
When are you leaving for the airport?Reid held the phone against his ear with his shoulder as he carried his suitcases to the front door. Soon. My car should be here any minute. Reid fell silent, listening to the steady rhythm of Jess's breathing before he sighed.I am scared.
Chloe stared at her reflection in the mirror. Breathe, she whispered, pulling in a deep breath and releasing it slow and controlled. Reid and the others had already taken the stage, but since Chloe was not joining them until midset, she had a little longer to wait.
The following morning, Reid sat hidden in the corner of the hotel restaurant. With coffee in hand, he scrolled through websites on his phone, looking for reviews of the show.
Reid raked his hand through his hair and stepped onto the tour bus. He stood silently at the entrance, taking a moment to concentrate on what he needed to do now, and not what he had done the first night.
Sweat rolled down the side of Reid's face as the heat of the lights beat down on him. In long, slow strides, he paced the stage. The heels of his boots scuffed along planks of weathered and worn wood. The roar of the crowd smothered his thoughts, even though he was completely alone.
The small space off to the side of the stage was dimly lit and smelled of stale alcohol. Reid imagined to most it would be unpleasant, but he found the familiarity comforting. After a quick glance back at the stage, he shuffled his feet and motioned down the hall toward his dressing room.
The din of excited voices filled the small room backstage. Reid smiled for pictures and signed autographs. It was a familiar scene, normal; it was the same as always. For Reid, however, everything was different. He was different.
Lightning flashed across the sky and dark clouds stretched as far as the eye could see. Strong gusts of wind rocked the bus as it sped down the empty highway.
Chloe dug through her bag, pulling out what she needed for the show later that night. Using her shoulder to cradle her phone to her ear, she waited for Josie to finish with her rapid-fire questions.
The soft hum of the bus engine did little to calm Reid's slowly fraying nerves. His conversations with Jess had been strained since videos surfaced online of his performance in Finland. He had watched it more,
Reid grinned at Chloe. He loved how easy it was to rile her up. The last few weeks, since they had left Berlin, things had felt different. But not in a bad way. Usually, at this point in a tour, after being stuck in confined spaces with a group of people for three months, tension tended to grow, not lessen.
Reid paced the length of his hotel room. Over and over, he raked his hand through his hair, unable to tear his gaze away from the beautiful girl sleeping peacefully in the bed. With a frustrated groan,
Chloe blinked and lifted her head. When she was met with silence, she dropped her head back to the pillow and closed her eyes. Now she was hearing his voice in her sleep. With a heavy sigh,
Reid pulled his hat down low to shadow his face as he weaved his way through the mob of people. The venue was small, but everyone seemed too engrossed in the band on stage to pay him any notice.
The music was too loud for the late hour. Chloe did not care. They had one more show and then she was going to New York to pack all her things to move to Los Angeles. Drink in hand,
When morning arrived, it came with gray skies and rumbling thunder. The sun was nowhere to be seen. Chloe envied its ability to hide from the world. She wanted nothing more than to disappear.
Sleep came and went as Chloe took two long flights from Devon to New York. She did not attempt to distract her mind from the time she spent with Reid.
Reid groaned and rolled onto his back. Using his arm to shield against the bright sunlight streaming through the windows, he looked around the room, freezing when a figure came into view. He sat up quickly, the room spinning until he was able to focus his vision.
Chloe grabbed her violin case and wiped the sweat from her brow as she slammed her rental car door shut. Once she was back in LA for good, she was going to have to buy a car.
Chloe, you need to come in a beat sooner, Reid instructed.Chloe ground her teeth together. It was the fifth time she had messed up the intro. She was beyond annoyed. Reid eyed her before turning to the others and signaling to start over.
He smiled and pulled his guitar over his head, handing it to one of the stage crew. Yeah? he asked, breathless and charged with energy.
The jungle was loud. Birds called from the canopy and monkeys leapt from tree to tree above him. There was a constant ruffling of leaves from things he was glad he couldnt see.
Inky took a sip of her water and smiled. Fine. I will stop watching the slow-motion gifs all over the internet of you and Reid.Chloe swore under her breath and looked around the diner.
Jess smiled and moved to the chair next to Chloe. Like Reid, she had dark circles under her eyes and she looked like she had not slept. I stopped by the bathroom. Too much coffee this morning.
It was late afternoon when Reid climbed the steps onto the tour bus the next day. His body sagged with fatigue, and while his heart felt heavy, there was a lightness he hadn't felt in months. As much as he hated hurting Jess, he had only been prolonging the inevitable by staying with her.