CHAPTER 24

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. The thought caused annoyance to crease her forehead. She reminded herself of the things she would gain now that she was a resident of sunny California to help soothe the agitation of all the changes her life would undergo, many of which she was less than pleased about. As she crossed the parking lot to the recording studio, she let the memory of waking up in her new home wash over her. The quiet of her surroundings. No screaming kids as they raced down the hallway of her floor to make it to school on time. No blaring car stereos or constant yelling neighbors as they fought over the husband’s latest screw-up. Chloe knew that LA wasn’t some relaxing suburbia, but the location of Josie’s house was far more ideal to that of her cramped Brooklyn apartment. The bathrooms alone were reason enough to smile. Josie. It was going to be so nice having her good friends so close. Friends she didn’t have to explain herself to because they got her. Even her mother couldn’t hide her pleasure in Chloe moving so close to Josie and Holden. While it still wasn’t the path she would have chosen for Chloe, it was better than her living in Brooklyn and playing in bars to make ends meet. At least she felt Chloe had a real chance of success in LA. Her stomach fluttered with nerves as she approached the front door of the studio. She wasn’t certain why the schedule had changed, but when Tom sent her a text to meet at the studio two days earlier than planned, she didn’t question it. A part of her didn’t care what the reason was. She’d done her best to bury her feelings for Reid while she spent time with her mother. She pushed the memory of their kiss and the last time they’d seen each other to the back of her mind while she unpacked her things and settled into her new life. But try as she might, her chest still ached every day she didn’t hear his voice or see his face. With a final deep breath, she pulled open the door, the cool blast from the air conditioning doing nothing for her overheated skin. She gave a small nod to the girl behind the front desk, smiling when the girl waved her through, clearly remembering Chloe from previous rehearsals. It made her feel like a regular. Like she belonged. It relaxed her more than she’d expected. Moving toward their designated room, her steps slowed when the sound of Reid’s voice floated into the hall. The slight edge to his voice caused her breathing to falter. It was rough and filled with authority. It made her knees weak. Seconds later she heard Tom speak. However, the sound of his voice, angry and concerned, evoked an entirely different emotion. Holding her breath, she crept closer and strained to hear their muffled words. “Stop with the bullshit, Reid,” Tom said, his voice exasperated. “Tell me what’s really going on.” “I told you it’s nothing. I’ve got it under control,” Reid spat, the sound of a chair scraping across the floor echoing down the hall. “That’s what you keep saying, but your actions say something completely different. The last time we spoke, you sounded like you were going to crawl out of your skin if you didn’t get out of Memphis.” “I was restless,” Reid interrupted, angry. “I needed to get out of there. I just didn’t feel right.” “And the reason you decided to snort a bag of coke?” The moment Tom spoke, Chloe froze. She struggled to breathe as the words bounced around inside her head. Reid had relapsed. Taking a shaky step away from the door, she crept back the way she came and slipped into the empty bathroom. With her arms braced on the sink, she pulled in a deep breath and closed her eyes. A part of her felt guilty she hadn’t been there to help, the other part of her wanted to kick his ass. Chloe straightened her shoulders and stared at her reflection. This was the exact kind of situation she couldn’t become emotionally involved with. It wasn’t that Chloe didn’t care about his well-being, she did. The problem was, when it came to Reid, her feelings for him caused lines that should be bold and black to fade and blur. Her feelings went far beyond those of a concerned friend. After a quick pep talk, Chloe grabbed her things and walked back to the recording room. With a smile on her lips, she rounded the corner. “Hey, guys,” she said, making sure both men were aware of her presence. Reid fell silent and Tom gave her an uneasy smile before clearing his throat and standing. “Hey, Chloe. How are you?” “I’m good.” She set her case down and clasped her hands to keep from fidgeting under Reid’s intense gaze. He had yet to speak and it was making her increasingly nervous. It was like the first time they met all over again. She hated it. “When did you get in? I was surprised when I received your email about not needing flight arrangements.” It was Chloe’s turn to feel uneasy as her gaze darted to Reid then back to Tom. “I’ve actually been here for almost a week. I’m staying at my friend Josie’s place.” Tom hummed and looked from Reid to Chloe, suspicion coloring his features. “I see. So you won’t be requiring hotel accommodations, then?” Chloe tugged on the metal piercing in her lip and shook her head. She wasn’t sure exactly what kinds of thoughts were racing through Tom’s head, but she was certain none of them was good. Reid cleared his throat, causing Chloe to look in his direction. With a meaningful nod, he made it understood he was going to clear the air. “Chloe, maybe you should give Tom your new mailing address in case he needs to send you any paperwork. You wouldn’t want it going to your old address in Brooklyn.” Tom’s eyes widened and his mouth fell open. “What are you talking about? Did you move?” Chloe blew out a heavy breath and plastered a smile across her face. “I did. I’m renting Josie’s house.” A look of understanding crossed Tom’s face. He shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. “Here?” he asked needlessly. “In LA?” “Yeah. There are a lot more opportunities. I’m sure you remember I wasn’t in the best of situations in New York.” Tom nodded. “Well, if you need any help lining up gigs, let me know. I’d be happy to help in any way I can, Chloe.” The genuine smile on his face caused Chloe’s shoulders to relax. “Thanks. I’d really like that.” After she rattled off her address, Tom gave her a hug and moved to the door. “I’ve got a few calls I need to make. Everyone should be arriving any minute, so Reid can bring you guys up to speed on the changes for the awards show. Welcome to LA, Chloe. I really think you’ll be happy living here.” “Whoa, what?” Greer yelled as he shoved past a stunned Tom. “You moved to LA? When? How? Why the hell didn’t I know about this?” Chloe laughed at Greer’s outraged expression. “Surprise,” she muttered with a shy shrug. Greer wrapped his arms around her waist and spun in a circle, causing Chloe to yelp in surprise. With a cocky grin, he set her back on the ground and winked. “Surprised? Nah. It was only a matter of time before you realized you were madly in love with me and decided to move across the country to pursue me properly.” “Oh my God,” Chloe giggled, smacking his chest. “You’re a mess.” Greer lifted his brow and grinned. “Mildly infatuated?” “Rehearsals haven’t even started yet and you’re already hitting on Chloe. This must be some kind of record,” Drew commented, moving next to Reid and bumping fists. “How’s it going?” Drew asked Reid, his voice low. Chloe looked in their direction, not missing the meaningful look that passed between them. It caused her stomach to drop. Cutting her eyes to Greer, she noticed that his playful mood had deflated as he looked from Drew to Reid. The exchange made it clear they knew about Reid’s relapse. A million questions flooded her mind. Were they with him when it happened? Did they encourage it? Try to stop him? What else had they done? Nothing had surfaced in the papers, but that didn’t mean anything. Chloe dropped her eyes to the floor as the feeling of awkwardness washed over her once more. She felt like an outsider all over again. “I’m good, man,” Reid answered, breaking the silence. “Did you hear the news?” Greer asked, throwing his arm around Chloe’s neck. When Drew lifted his brows in question, Greer smirked. “Chloe has finally accepted that we’re meant to be and up and moved to LA.” “Shut the fuck up,” Drew laughed, his eyes wide. “He’s half right,” Reid said, his tone flat. “While we were on break, Chloe packed up and moved to LA.” “Well, I’ll be damned,” Drew exhaled. “You shoulda told us. We could have helped you unpack or something. Where did you get a place?” “It’s okay. I wasn’t really sure if I was going to do it until the movers showed up at my door. And I’m renting my friend Josie’s house since she moved in with her boyfriend.” Chloe could feel the heat of Reid’s gaze burning into her skin, but she couldn’t force herself to look at him. He didn’t get to make her feel bad about second-guessing her move when he’d fallen off the wagon. “You realize Greer is going to drive you batshit crazy about your friend and her boyfriend,” Drew said with a chuckle. “That’s right,” Greer boasted. “My girl’s got the hookup!” “Well, if you’re finished with your ‘never gonna happen’ fantasy,” Reid ground out, the hard edge to his voice causing everyone’s eyes to snap in his direction. “I’d like to explain why we’re all here.” “Jesus,” Greer laughed, the sound harsh and lacking even a trace of humor. “So much for you working your shit out while we were on break. You’re still the same asshole I left in Devon.” Chloe’s eyes widened and she moved away from where Reid and Greer now stood face-to-face. The tension in the air was stifling. If someone didn’t do something, the situation had the potential to explode. “Come on, guys,” Drew said with a sigh. Reid clenched his jaw, his eyes locked with Greer’s. “Do you have a fucking problem with me?” “Are you kidding me?” Greer threw his arms out wide. “I’m so beyond having a problem with you. I’m sick to fucking death of your shit.” Chloe sucked in a sharp breath. “You boys have fun,” she snapped, loud and mocking. “I didn’t come here for this shit. The last time I was around a fight, I ended up with an elbow to the face. I have no interest in caking on makeup to cover up bruises a second time. Call me when you guys are ready to rehearse.” The moment the words left her mouth, she could feel the tension deflate from the room. She didn’t dare look at Reid or Greer as she angrily grabbed her case. It was a low blow to bring up that night. She knew they felt terrible about what happened, but it was the only thing she could think of that would defuse the situation. “Chloe,” Greer called, apologetic. Chloe ignored him and continued into the hall. She felt like a drama queen, but it seemed the only way to get their attention was to act like a bigger baby than they were. Reid swore under his breath before she heard his hurried steps catching up to her. “Hey,” he murmured, the tips of his fingers resting on her shoulder, coaxing her to a stop. When she felt the warmth of his touch, her skin tingled. Until that very moment, she’d been in complete denial about how much she’d missed him. It only angered her more. “What?” she barked, spinning around and pinning him with an angry glare full of the warring emotions simmering just below the surface. Reid flinched, his expression anguished. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m sorry. You know I’d never do anything to hurt you.” He reached toward Chloe’s face, the slight tremble of his hand making Chloe’s eyes burn with unshed tears. “Not intentionally,” she answered with a slight shake of her head. With a featherlight touch, Reid pushed the hair that had fallen from her ponytail behind her ear. The look in his eyes, the way they begged for something they could not voice, the way they swam with emotions he could not express caused Chloe’s heart to ache. “It’s good to see you.” He dropped his eyes to her lips then slowly dragged his gaze back to hers. Each second felt like an eternity in hell. “I missed you.” Chloe tensed. “Don’t do this. Don’t make me regret coming here.” Reid dropped his hand as if she’d burned him and took a step back. He shoved his hands in his pockets and dropped his chin to his chest. “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” “Good,” she sniffed, not feeling the relief she should. “Will you please come back inside? I swear we’ll cut the shit. Greer and I are just . . .” Reid exhaled and raked his hand through his hair. “There are some things I need to tell you.” A bubble of anticipation trickled through Chloe. “What things?”