CHAPTER 14

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. “Things are great,” Chloe said, answering Josie’s questions all at once. “Exhausting, but great.” Three weeks had passed since her impromptu heart-to-heart with Reid on the tour bus. In that time, they’d played thirteen shows and traveled more miles than Chloe could count. “I’ve watched some of the videos posted on YouTube,” Josie remarked, her tone holding a hint of mischief. “Oh?” Chloe didn’t have to guess where the conversation was going, but she had no intention of making it easy for Josie to prod her. “Don’t play coy with me. What happened to keeping things strictly professional? You guys look like you’re about to go at it in every clip I’ve seen! I won’t lie, it’s hot.” “Maddie, is that you?” Chloe joked, swallowing thickly. “Oh, you’re lucky she’s not here. I’m going easy on you compared to the kind of things she would say.” “True,” Chloe laughed then sighed again. “Well,you can report to her that there is absolutely nothing going on between me and Reid.” “What? Why not? Don’t tell me you’re still hung up on that whole, ‘staying professional’ thing.” “No, it’s not that. There was a moment when I actually entertained the possibility of there being something more between us.” “What happened that changed your mind?” “He has a girlfriend,” Chloe said simply. The line was silent for several seconds followed by a quiet, “Oh.” “Yes. Exactly.” “Well, that’s a damn shame. You guys really do have an amazing stage presence.” After a beat, Josie spoke again, her voice playful. “How serious are they?” Chloe laughed. “What has Maddie done to you?” “I think it’s Anders. Living with him is destroying my morals, one scandalous thought at a time.” “How’s that going?” Chloe asked, happy with the change in conversation. “It’s fine. He’s still alive,” Josie chuckled. “In all honesty, it’s amazing. I never thought I could be this happy with someone who drives me insane.” “I’m really happy for you,” Chloe said, her voice filled with sincerity. She jumped in surprise when there was a soft knock at the door. Pushing off the bed, she crossed the room and peeked through the peephole. “Thanks. It’s been an adjustment sharing a space with someone on a daily basis, but I guess you know exactly what that’s like living inside a bus with a group of people for months on end.” Chloe opened the door and moved to the side, motioning for Reid to come in. “Thank God for hotel rooms,” she laughed. “I think it’s the only reason some people haven’t killed others.” Reid flashed her a wide smile, well aware she was referring to him and Greer. “When are you coming back to LA?” “Our last show for this leg of the tour is the twenty-sixth of July. I’m not due in LA until the middle of August, so I’ll hang out in New York until then.” Chloe’s brows furrowed when Reid’s face twisted into a frown. She tried to get his attention, ask him what was wrong, but he was lost in whatever thoughts were running through his head. “Well, if you want to come here sooner, let me know. I still have my old place. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with it yet, so it’s empty if you want somewhere to crash.” “Thanks, Josie. I’ll think about it. In the meantime, Reid is here, so I’m going to run. I’m glad we had a chance to catch up.” “Me too. Take care. I’ll talk with you soon.” After saying good-bye, Chloe tossed her phone on the table and cleared her throat to get Reid’s attention. “What’s up?” Reid snapped his head in Chloe’s direction and shoved his hands in his pockets. “I . . . uh, I just wanted to see if you wanted to grab something to eat.” “Are you okay?” His defensive posture and the way he wouldn’t look her in the eye caused a sinking feeling to spread through her. “Is today a bad day?” Reid shook his head, but he still wouldn’t look her in the eye. During the last few weeks, he’d hit a couple of rough spots. London was the worst. He’d spent a lot of time there over the years and had made quite a few friends, many of whom were the types of friends he had no business associating with. On the opposite end of the spectrum, others gathered not as a show of support, but to voice their disapproval of the American legal system and Reid’s lack of criminal charges. It didn’t matter that they had no idea what really happened at his home in LA all those months ago. In their minds, he should be behind bars. “Just a little lost in my head,” he answered finally. “I see. Well, that makes perfect sense. I’d be a mess too if I had to spend very much time in your head.” Reid peeked up at her, a smile threatening to lift one side of his mouth. “Are you calling me emo, Chloe?”With a shrug, she grabbed the bag she’d put together for the show and slung it over her shoulder. “If the skinny jeans fit.” Reid barked out a laugh, his half grin turning into a full-blown smile. “I don’t wear skinny jeans,” he argued, his expression a mix of mock and genuine horror. “Yet,” Chloe taunted, turning toward the door. “Ever,” he insisted, following her into the hall. Once in the elevator, Reid shuffled his feet. “I was wondering something . . .” He fell silent, almost as if he was waiting for permission to ask his question. “Yeah?” He remained quiet for a beat before huffing out a breath. “What’s in New York?” he blurted out, causing Chloe’s eyes to widen. “Umm . . . what exactly do you mean?” “Why do you stay there? If you lived in LA, you’d never have trouble finding gigs.” Chloe laughed as they walked through the lobby and out onto the street. “I don’t believe that for a second. Sure, there might be more opportunities, but there’s also more competition. At least in New York I have connections with the recording studio close to my apartment. If I moved to LA, I’d be starting from scratch.” Reid disagreed. “You have connections in LA.” “Oh?”“Yeah. I could make some calls. Help get your name out there.” Chloe shrugged. “Moving across the country is kind of a big deal. I don’t know if I’m ready to up and leave New York just yet.” Reid nodded, but he seemed tense. When he spoke, there was an edge to his voice that wasn’t there before. “If I made some calls, talked to some people, and got a few leads on some serious gigs, would you think about it? Unless, of course, there’s someone keeping you there.” Chloe snapped her head in his direction, her eyes wide. “Like a guy?” she asked, her tone incredulous. When Reid gave a sharp nod, she laughed. “Did you miss the whole horrible dating/tattoo story? Believe me, the last thing holding me in New York is a guy.” A frown twisted Chloe’s mouth and she looked away. For the first time in as long as she could remember, she wished there was someone waiting for her. Someone she could fall asleep talking to about her day. Someone to share her excitement and insecurities with. She cut her eyes to Reid through a curtain of hair, her frown deepening. The past few weeks she’d done all of those things with Reid, but it wasn’t the same. “Hey,” he whispered, his thumb and forefinger cradling her chin and coaxing her head up to meet his gaze. “What’s wrong?” Chloe gave him an embarrassed smile. Her eyes swept over his face, cataloging his features one by one. From the intensity of his piercing hazel eyes framed by thick lashes, to his strong jaw covered in scruff. Everything about him was so appealing, yet completely unobtainable. The thought was sobering and brought forth a level of honesty that neither was prepared for. “I wish there were,” she admitted, feeling silly and ashamed all at once. “You’re so lucky to have Jess. Some days I’m perfectly happy, and others . . . Well, other days, I’d give anything to have what you two have.” Reid smiled and bumped her shoulder. “Well, I could put an ad on Craigslist for an upstanding Leo. It’s that or clone myself. It’s really up to you.” Chloe smacked his shoulder and laughed, already feeling lighter. “What on earth makes you think I’d want a clone of you? Do you have any idea how difficult your Jedi training has been? Two of you?” Chloe blew out a heavy breath. “Even Yoda has limits, Padawan.” Reid sucked his teeth and playfully cut his eyes in her direction. “Maybe I should consider joining the Sith.” Chloe gasped dramatically and stopped abruptly on the sidewalk. “How dare you say such things?” With narrowed eyes, she pointed her finger in his face. “When karma comes and cuts off your hand or turns you into this gross, old, wrinkled guy, just remember you only have yourself to blame.” “Jesus,” Reid chuckled, grabbing her extended finger and tugging on it playfully. “Your Star Wars love is hardcore.” Chloe bowed her head and shook it sadly. “Sign of my failure, your doubt is.” Without warning, Reid wrapped his arm around her neck and pulled her to his side, laughing when she stumbled and grabbed his shirt to steady her steps. “Don’t ever stop being weird,” he murmured, hugging her close before loosening his grip but not letting go, as they continued down the busy sidewalk. “So what do you say? Will you think about it?” Chloe sighed and leaned against him. “Yeah, I’ll think about it.”The heat was nearly unbearable. Reid poured a bottle of water over his head and into his mouth. The audience screamed as the water cascaded down his chest and caused the thin material of his T-shirt to stick to his skin. He tossed the empty bottle into the crowd and turned toward Drew and Greer. Their hair was drenched, their shirts darkened with sweat. From the expressions on their faces, they were just as miserable as Reid. He looked to the side of the stage for Chloe. When he realized she wasn’t there, he decided to engage the crowd to buy her a little more time. “Had I known I needed to include air conditioning costs in the ticket prices, I would have done so,” Reid said into the microphone, causing the cheers to erupt. “Greer,” Reid called, moving toward his position on stage. “How are you holding up, man?” Greer shook his head, sweat flying from his face and hair. “I’m going to need a whole lot of alcohol to replenish my fluid loss.” “And you?” Reid asked, moving toward Drew. Drew smiled and yanked his shirt off, causing screams to pierce the air. “I think after this show, I’m going skinny-dipping.” Reid laughed at the suggestive smile Drew flashed the crowd. He had no doubt Drew would have more offers than he knew what to do with when the show was over. Reid looked around the stage, his brows pulling together in staged confusion. “Did Chloe bail on us?” At the mention of her name, the crowd went wild. “Chloe?” Reid called into the mic. “The show’s not over yet. Get your ass back out here and suffer with the rest of us.” Catcalls erupted seconds later. Reid smiled and turned toward the side of the stage, his smile slipping when he saw Chloe. She’d piled her hair on top of her head, revealing more of her colorful ink, but it was her outfit that caused his throat to tighten. Her top was the equivalent of a tank top cut off just below her breasts and her midthigh, gauzy skirt sat low on her hips, the loose material swaying with every step she took. His eyes roved over the curve of her waist, following the intricate pattern of a tattoo he hadn’t known existed. When they’d taken a small break earlier to switch out instruments, Chloe looked as though she was going to pass out. Her clothes stuck to her body and her face was bright red. Unlike the guys, she couldn’t start yanking off clothes to combat the sweltering heat of the stage lights. Tom had called Inky to find Chloe something cooler than her floor-length skirt and off the shoulder long-sleeved top. When Tom signaled Inky was back, Chloe dashed off the stage to change. Reid hadn’t realized that something cooler was the equivalent of nearly naked. Chloe held her violin at her side, her bow propped against her shoulder as she moved to stand beside Reid. She smiled and shrugged one shoulder. “Sorry, guys. I just needed to slip into something a little cooler.” Whistles and cheers of approval rang out as Chloe lifted her violin into position. With a sly smile, she turned her head in Reid’s direction. Reid swallowed then matched her mischievous smile with one of his own. “Well, Chloe, you might be cooler, but you just made things a hell of a lot hotter for the rest of us.”Chloe laughed before tapping her bow against the strings of her violin, the small motion causing a thumping sound to flood through the speakers. A beat later, Drew joined in, then Greer. Reid moved his guitar into position, his eyes never leaving Chloe. The lights flashed, bright streams of colors slicing into the dark, smoke-filled stage. The sound of Reid’s voice permeated the arena, husky and honeyed. He turned toward Chloe and she mimicked his position. It was a move they had done time and time again, but this time it felt different. Reid stepped to the left and Chloe to the right. With each step they took, their circle became smaller and smaller. It looked as though Reid was a predator luring his prey. His heart thundered in his ears and he struggled to remember the lyrics of his song. The sight of Chloe’s playful smile, her lip pulled between her teeth, and the drop of sweat slipping down her neck to the valley of her breasts made it hard to concentrate on anything other than her. Without warning, he stepped forward, causing Chloe’s smile to morph into a look of surprise. Reid grinned at her wide-eyed confusion. He leaned forward until their noses nearly touched as he crooned the bridge of the song. For a moment, she stood stone-still before closing her eyes and leaning into her violin. When she opened them again, she smiled before mouthing the word trouble. Reid gave her an easy smile and shrugged before nodding for her to move into position. Chloe turned and pressed her back against Reid’s. In perfect harmony, they played in tandem, their bodies swaying with the beat of the music. When the final chord faded, the applause was the loudest it had ever been. In the midst of the deafening roar, Reid and Chloe turned toward the crowd and joined hands, lifting them high into the air before sprinting to the side of the stage. “Shit,” Chloe gasped as the rest of the band joined them. “Water. I need water.” A crew member rushed over, passing out bottles to everyone. “We tried to get the stage fans working, I swear. We have no idea what happened.” “Nice improv out there,” Greer remarked, his eyes sweeping over Chloe in a way that made Reid’s jaw tick. “Good luck convincing people there’s nothing going on between you two now.” Reid shrugged even though a sinking feeling bloomed in his chest. He hadn’t considered the consequences of his little stunt. “You heard the way they reacted when she walked on stage. I took advantage of the situation and played it up. Chloe knew what I was doing.” Chloe swallowed and smiled, but something about it seemed off. “Yup. Why not make the most of the fact that Inky dressed me like a gypsy stripper?” Greer laughed and threw his arm over her shoulders. “Inky should dress you more often.” Chloe lifted her water bottle and flicked her wrist, splashing Greer in the face. “Shut up,” she giggled. “Encore?” Tom asked. Reid dragged his hand over his face. “No fucking way. I’m zapped. Turn the lights on. I’ll stay longer and sign autographs, but I can’t stand one more minute under those lights without fans.” “Fair enough.” Tom signaled for the crew to hit the lights; the disapproval from the fans was evident. “Reid, your dressing room is all set up. Guys, you can head to the signing room now unless you want to change.” Greer tugged on Chloe. “Come on. You don’t need to change, gypsy princess. Let’s go find a beer.” Reid’s eyes narrowed, and for the first time since the beginning of the tour, he broke from his routine. “I’ll come with you guys.” Everyone froze in shock and stared at him openmouthed. Reid rolled his eyes. “I said I was going to stay longer to sign autographs since we didn’t play an encore. I might as well go now to get in as much fan time as possible.” His explanation was plausible. To an extent, it even held some truth. But deep down, Reid knew the real motivation for skipping his dressing room had nothing to do with the fans and everything to do with staying close to Chloe. In the back of his mind, Reid knew the way he was beginning to feel was a dangerous path to travel, but even that knowledge didn’t deter him from taking step after step.