CHAPTER 2

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 enormity of the situation made her want to scream with excitement and vomit from nerves. While she’d toured with many bands over the years, this would be on an entirely different level. Bigger venues, more fans, and a lot more media attention. After all the negative press Reid had received in the last year, the tour had the potential to be a media circus. Chloe knew even though she wouldn’t be the one in the spotlight, the opportunity for disaster was high. She had so many questions, but her speed dial was sorely lacking in famous friends she could call for answers. There was one person in her contacts, however, who had firsthand knowledge of dealing with the paparazzi. Chloe’s childhood friend, Josie Bane, lived and worked in Hollywood. A year ago, Josie had found herself at the center of a tabloid frenzy when word got out that she was dating Anders Ellis, an A-list actor and all-around Hollywood heartthrob. She was exactly the right person to call for tips on how to avoid the media glare. Realizing she needed to start packing, Chloe crossed the room to her closet and pulled down her suitcase. After dialing Josie’s number, she placed the call on speaker and started pulling clothes from her drawers. “Hello?” Chloe bounced a little when she heard the familiar voice of her childhood friend. “Josie? It’s Chloe.” “Oh my God, Chloe! How are you? What’s new?” “I’m good. Great, actually. As a matter of fact, I’m in the middle of packing.” “If that’s something you enjoy, you’re welcome to come pack for me when you’re finished. I’m in packing hell. What are you packing for, anyway?” “You’re not packing,” a second voice chimed in, one Chloe recognized as Madison, Josie’s best friend and sister-in-law. “You’re talking on the phone while I pack. Who are you talking to?” “Let me put her on speaker and you can hear for yourself,” Josie snarked. Chloe giggled. “Hi, Maddie! I see you’re keeping Josie in line.” “Chloe,” Madison said, surprise clear in her voice. “Josie’s mom mentioned you the other day. I guess she’s been talking to your mom.” Chloe groaned. “I’m sure my mom called to complain about how much of a disappointment I am.” “Your mother is a witch,” Josie grumbled. “She’s going to wish she’d been nicer when you stick her in a shitty old folks’ home.” The thought made Chloe laugh. “True.” “You said you were packing. Where are you going?” “I’m coming to LA, actually! You’re not going to believe this. I can’t even believe it, but I was hired to tour with Reid Ryder on his Secret Visions Tour. I’m heading out to LA for rehearsals before it starts.” “Holy shit, Chloe! That’s amazing. I love his music, and Reid is hot.” “I’m going to tell Anders you said that,” Madison laughed. Chloe giggled when she heard Josie groan. “Oh no, you’re not. If you do, you’ll be stuck dealing with him. How long will you be here, Chloe? Where are you staying?” “I fly out day after tomorrow and will be there for about a week. I’m not sure where I’m staying. Tom, Reid’s tour manager, is supposed to book something for me.” “No way! Tell him not to bother. You’re staying with me. Maddie can come over, and we’ll drink tequila and be silly.” “Really? I’d love to! I also have some questions I thought you might be able to answer for me. Like, what to expect being around someone who has a less than stellar reputation with the media.” Chloe knew she didn’t need to elaborate. While Anders might have been a heartthrob to his fans, the media only loved to make his life hell. Josie sighed. “It’s definitely an adjustment, I won’t lie. It gets easier, though. I’d be happy to talk to you about it.” Chloe paused when she remember Josie mentioning packing. “Wait, didn’t you say something about packing? Are you going somewhere?” “I . . . um . . .” Josie cleared her throat. “I’m moving.” “She’s domesticating,” Madison added. “I think she’s insane, but she swears it’s what she wants.” “I’m sitting right here,” Josie deadpanned. “And yes, I’m moving in with Anders. I also think I’m insane. I blame my mental break solely on him.” “Wow,” Chloe exhaled. It still seemed unreal that her childhood friend was dating one of the hottest stars in Hollywood. “That’s awesome.” “It’s been a year since we stopped hiding. If I haven’t killed him by now, his chances of long-term survival are pretty good. Plus, it’s not like I’m running off to Vegas and getting married like Maddie and my brother.” The snark in Josie’s voice was clear.“I heard about that! Congrats, Maddie! I’m so happy for you and Holden.” “Thanks,” Madison said. “It was time, and neither of us was interested in a big wedding. Josie made me a kick-ass dress, and Anders didn’t act like an asshole . . . much. It was perfect.” “I want to see pictures when I get there,” Chloe insisted. “I have some great ones I’ll show you,” Josie promised. “Anyway, back to your trip. I’m only packing a few things right now. I don’t plan on making my address change official until next month, so you’re staying with me.” “Thanks, Josie. It’ll be like old times, except with tequila. I’ll text you my flight info later. I can’t wait to see all of you.” After exchanging good-byes, Chloe opened her laptop and pulled up a playlist of Reid’s first album. With the volume up, she let the beat of the music and the sound of his voice mute the jumbled thoughts running through her mind. Instead, she focused on the things she needed to do, like clean out her fridge, set up her bills for autopay, and contact her landlord about subletting her apartment. The thought of paying rent for an empty apartment was a hard pill to swallow, but unless she found a new renter, she’d have to buy out the entire twelve-month lease. These menial, yet necessary tasks would keep her busy until she left for LA. Once there, hopefully spending time with Josie would calm her nerves and give her the confidence she needed to keep from embarrassing herself in front of Reid. Heat sparked under her skin as she thought about how she’d reacted to him. It didn’t matter that he was one of the most attractive men she’d ever met in person, she could have blown the biggest opportunity of her life by acting like a star-struck groupie. It wouldn’t happen again. This gig was a gift and could be the beginning of all her dreams coming true. When she arrived in LA, she’d check her inner fangirl at the door, pretty face be damned.Just as Chloe expected, the days that followed served as an excellent distraction. By the time she landed in LA, she was too exhausted to be nervous about seeing Reid or meeting the other members of his tour. Crowds of people moved through the corridors of LAX, everyone rushing to or from somewhere. Chloe secured the strap of her duffel bag on her shoulder, and with her violin case in one hand and the handle of her small suitcase in the other, she made her way out into the balmy California air to pick up her rental car. She’d wanted to stop by Josie’s and drop off her things, but because of a two-hour flight delay, she would just make it to the studio for her meeting. By the time she pulled into the parking lot, a rush of excitement hummed along her nerve endings. She peeked in the mirror then looked away. For the next eleven months she’d be living on a bus with the people she was about to meet; there was no point in trying to look nice. They would see her at her absolute worst in a month. The thought made her stomach drop. Popping a couple of mints into her mouth, she grabbed her violin and climbed out of the car. Close quarters or not, halitosis was never acceptable. After a brief conversation with the girl at the front desk, Chloe followed her directions to where the others were waiting. The sound of laughter floated into the hall as she turned the corner and stepped into the doorway. Her eyes darted around the room nervously as conversations continued and her presence remained unnoticed. After a few moments, she straightened her shoulders and cleared her throat. The hum of voices silenced and all eyes turned in her direction. “Hi. I’m Chloe.” She lifted her violin case in the air and gave an embarrassed smile. “Did someone order a violinist?” A couple of guys chuckled as Reid stood and walked to Chloe. He was similarly dressed to how he’d been in New York, except a snug T-shirt replaced his Henley and his beanie was absent. She smiled when he reached out and shook her hand.“Hey, Chloe. How are you?” “I’m good. Hot. The temperature difference always throws me the first couple of days.” Reid laughed. “That’s how I felt when I walked out of JFK and realized it was snowing. February in California is definitely more appealing than February in New York for us Southern folks.” Chloe laughed. “I’m pretty sure most New Yorkers feel the same way.” Reid smiled. “Let me introduce you to everyone.” He turned toward the eager faces in the room. “Guys, this is Chloe Bennett, the violinist replacing Valerie.” Reid motioned to the guy sitting behind a drum set. “That’s Drew Simmons.” Drew lifted a drumstick. “Sup.” Reid turned to another guy and chuckled. “The lazy shit in the recliner is Greer Lawson, who also happens to play the keyboard from time to time.” “I also keep your ass in line,” Greer retorted with a middle-finger salute. “Nice to meet you, Chloe.” Chloe peeked up in time to see Reid roll his eyes before turning his attention to the last guy in the room. “And this well-dressed fella is Thomas Higgins, my tour manager, but we call him Tom. I think you two have spoken.” “We have,” Chloe answered, giving a small wave in Tom’s direction. “Hi, Tom.” Tom crossed the room and shook Chloe’s hand. “It’s nice to finally put a face with the name.Everything should be in order for the tour, but if you have any questions or need anything, just let me know.” “Of course. Thank you.” “Well, I have a ton of things to wrap up before we hit the road, so I’m going to leave you guys to it. I’ll see you again soon.” “Later,” Reid called over his shoulder as Tom disappeared down the hall. “Chloe, I know you just got in, but if you’re up for it, I’d like to play a couple of songs and see what needs the most attention. Have you had a chance to practice your parts?” “Damn, Reid, give the girl a chance to set her case down before you start cracking the whip.” Chloe looked at Greer. “No, it’s fine. Really. We don’t have much time before the tour starts, and I have a lot of catching up to do.” Chloe glanced at Reid when he blew out a breath. He gave her an apologetic smile and grabbed the back of his neck. “Sorry. If you need a little time to rest before we start, that’s fine. I’m just anxious.” “I don’t need to rest. I just need a few minutes to set up and maybe find a bathroom.” “Of course, the bathroom is the fourth door on the left. Take your time.” Chloe smiled and set her case on the floor. “I’ll be right back.” The moment she stepped into the bathroom, she released a huge breath and dropped her chin to her chest. Try as she might to keep her cool, Reid intimidated her. Everything about him felt overwhelming. He even seemed taller than she remembered. At 5’4”, she was used to feeling small, but it wasn’t Reid’s six-foot frame that made his presence overshadow everyone else. It was the way he carried himself. From the alluring pull of his hazel eyes framed with thick lashes, to the disarming smile hidden behind his full lips, everything about his face was aesthetically pleasing; captivating. Shaking her head, Chloe yanked open her bag and pulled out a clean shirt. She had to get a hold of herself. She had been hired to do a job, not daydream about how the scruff covering his jaw would feel against her palm or how much of his skin was covered in ink. No, she hadn’t been hired to do any of those things; she just needed to remind herself of that fact. Repeatedly.“You’ve been holding out on us, bro.” Greer threw his empty cup at Reid, hitting his shoulder. Reid turned from the door Chloe had disappeared through and looked from the cup on the floor to Greer. “Excuse me?” “Don’t play stupid,” Drew laughed. “She’s smokin’ hot. You could have at least warned us. We assumed she would be more like Valerie.” “And that girl,” Greer cut in, “is no mousy Valerie.” Reid shook his head, his annoyance clear. “Listen, guys, I didn’t hire Chloe so you two would have new spank bank material. I hired her because I was running out of options, and she happens to be really damn good. I don’t need you two assholes playing a game of who can get in her pants first, so get that out of your heads right now. I have a lot riding on this tour. I won’t let anything screw it up.” Silence lay thick in the air as the three stared at each other. Drew was the first to speak. “All right, man. I feel you.” Reid cut his eyes to Greer, whose face twisted into an incredulous expression. “So, wait, you’re not going to hit that?” “What the hell, Greer? What’s the matter with you?” “What’s the matter with me? What’s the matter with you? Did I miss something?” Reid scrubbed his hands over his face before taking a step back and peeking down the hall. The last thing he needed was Chloe walking in on a conversation revolving around having sex with her. When he made sure the coast was clear, he turned back to Greer, and when he spoke, his tone left no room for argument. “I get that y’all are used to a different version of me, but I can’t be that person anymore. Not after what happened.” Reid balled his fists as memories of the night that changed his life surfaced. He could almost hear the blaring music and manic laughter. Almost see the soft white lines, the red and blue flashing lights, and the vacant green eyes that haunted his dreams. With a sharp exhale, Reid relaxed his shoulders. “I need to focus on the tour. The last thing I need is drama if one of you hooks up with her and things turn ugly. There will be more groupies than you know what to do with if you need to get laid. That will need to be enough.” Drew and Greer nodded in agreement. The tension faded from Reid’s body until a sly smile crossed Greer’s face. “What?” Reid asked with narrowed eyes. “So, just to recap, you’re not going to hit that?” “Oh, Christ,” Reid groaned just as the sound of approaching footsteps alerted him someone was coming. “Not another word.” He turned toward the sound as Chloe appeared in the doorway. The moment he saw her, he knew his entire conversation with Greer and Drew was shot to hell. Her long blond and purple hair had been pulled into a ponytail, offering an unobstructed view of her face he hadn’t seen in New York. However, it wasn’t her wide-set blue eyes, the slope of her upturned nose, or the plump arch of her full lips that caused his mouth to dry. The culprit was a tank top that revealed a colorful sleeve covering her right arm and creeping up her shoulder before disappearing beneath the fabric. Various patterns swirled over Chloe’s skin, creating a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of colors. Ashamed for staring, Reid cleared his throat and looked away. “You ready to get started?” “Sure. Just let me set up and we can jump right in.” Reid exhaled and turned toward Drew and Greer, who were clearly not ashamed. He discreetly snapped his fingers, letting them know to stop gawking. Drew looked away and began adjusting the drum pedals, but Greer remained unmoving. When Reid followed Greer’s line of sight, he noticed more ink peeking out from under the hem of her shirt as she retrieved her violin from its case. With a quiet groan, Reid crossed the room to his guitar and yanked the strap over his head. “Greer, you all set?” The sharp bite of his tone was enough to command everyone’s attention. “Yup,” Greer answered distractedly. Reid flexed his jaw and cut his eyes to Chloe, who gave him a sheepish smile as she tugged the metal piercing in her lip with her teeth. He let out a humorless chuckle and moved into position before instructing everyone what to do. When the music started and the seductive sounds of Chloe’s violin saturated the air, Reid didn’t dare look in her direction. Instead, he watched Greer, who seemed transfixed by Chloe. Returning his attention to his guitar, Reid realized Greer’s new fixation might not be such a bad thing after all.