CHAPTER 26

“Chloe, you need to come in a beat sooner,” Reid instructed. Chloe ground her teeth together. It was the fifth time she’d messed up the intro. She was beyond annoyed. Reid eyed her before turning to the others and signaling to start over. Chloe adjusted her violin and pulled in a deep breath. Drew banged his drumsticks as he counted to four then began to play. One measure passed then Greer joined. Reid jumped in on the next. All she had to do was count to four. She closed her eyes and, just like the time before, she missed her intro. “Damn it!” she hissed, dropping her violin from her shoulder. “I’m sorry, you guys. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Reid pushed the hair from his face and waved to the sound guy to take a break. Pulling his guitar strap from his shoulder, he walked over to Chloe. “Are you okay?” “Clearly, I’m not,” she snapped before dropping her chin to her chest. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m just having an off day.” “Why don’t we take a break? The lighting guys want to walk through some things for my song with Jack. Go back to the lounge or the dressing room I’m using and take a breather.”“I’m sorry,” Chloe said again, feeling terrible for screwing up rehearsals. Reid gave her a half smile, his eyes filled with concern. “Are you sick? Do we need to have a doctor look at you?” Chloe sniffled, suddenly overcome with emotions. “No. I just need a minute to get my head right. I’ll be back in a few.” Without waiting for Reid to say anything, she scurried off the stage, nearly barreling into Josie. “Whoa!” Josie yelped, twisting out of the way. “Where’s the fire?” “Shit,” Chloe gasped, her hand flying to her heart. “I didn’t see you!” Her surprise melted into confusion when she realized who was standing before her. “Josie? What are you doing here?” “The movie I’m working on is filming a scene at the Inglewood Cemetery right down the road. We broke for lunch, so I thought I’d pop over and say hi.” Chloe pressed her palm to her forehead and gave Josie a shaky smile. “Hi.” Josie looped her arm with Chloe’s. “So you wanna tell me what all that was about?” “God,” Chloe groaned, pinching her eyes shut at the thought of Josie seeing her repeated screw-ups. “Let’s go back to Reid’s dressing room and see if there’s any alcohol.” Josie agreed and followed Chloe down the hall.Once inside, Chloe grabbed two sodas from the minifridge, frowning at the lack of booze. Passing one to Josie, she fell onto the sofa and threw her arm over her face. “I have no idea what my problem is.” Josie laughed and sat beside her. “My guess is that it’s about six feet tall with brown hair, wicked tattoos, and a face that any mother would love. Daughters, aunts, and nieces, too,” Josie mumbled as she took a sip of her drink. Chloe lifted her arm on one side, her narrowed eye burning a hole into Josie. “Don’t one-eyed pirate bitchface me, Chloe! You know I’m right.” Josie tugged on Chloe’s arm until it fell by her side. “I’ve watched far too many YouTube videos of you two then I care to admit, and I can tell you this—what I saw just now? It’s a wreck. Whatever is going on with you is totally screwing with your onstage chemistry. And not with just Reid. The entire band is like this bumbling, awkward mishmash of strangers. I’m assuming since you’re the one missing your cue that whatever has thrown everyone into a funk has to do with you. Now, I only have about forty-five minutes before I need to get back on set. Don’t make this difficult. Spill it now, or I’ll give Maddie the rest of the day off and send her your way.” Chloe groaned and turned to face Josie. “You want to know what’s going on? I’ll tell you. I have spent this entire break mentally distancing myself from Reid. I have repeated in my head over and over again that my feelings for him are superficial, that I feel the way I do because of the amount of time we spent together over the last six months. But you know what? The moment I heard his voice, it set off a million butterflies in my stomach. When he touched me, I felt hot all over and still I lied to myself. Then he showed up at your house, my house, with a housewarming present, and I felt like such a freaking girl because I was so happy to see him. Do you know that I peeked out the window nearly twenty times before he finally showed up? You know why? Because I knew he would come. I knew the moment I gave Tom the address in front of him that he would show up. And I shouldn’t have wanted that, but I did. I wanted it and I hated myself for it. Then he tells me something that I can’t repeat and I felt so close to him, until I found out he didn’t tell his girlfriend. That might make most people feel better, but it only solidified that the feelings I have for him are one-sided. He didn’t tell his girlfriend because he didn’t want to hurt her and because he didn’t want to disappoint her. His good pal Chloe, though, the one he kissed after one too many drinks, well, he had no problem telling her. Nope. Because she doesn’t matter that way. Jesus, I’m a fucking idiot.” Chloe scrubbed her hands over her face before giving Josie a blank stare. “I think that about sums it up.”“Holy shit,” Josie exhaled, looking from her can of soda to Chloe. “No wonder you wanted alcohol. That’s was one hell of an unload.” “I know,” Chloe sighed. “I needed to get it off my chest. I’m the reason we’re not gelling on stage and I’ve got to fix it. I’ve never played on a scale like this. I’m performing with Reid Ryder at the MTV Video Music Awards, for Christ’s sake! This will be the biggest performance of my career. I can’t screw up. This is my chance to really be noticed. I can’t screw this up,” Chloe repeated, her voice breaking. “I’ve wanted this for so long; now it’s finally here and I’m acting like a damn teenager over a guy.” “Then don’t,” Josie said simply. “When things were a mess with me and Anders and I wanted to act like a girl and just cry, Maddie called me out. I’ll tell you what she told me. You have to put yourself first. You have to go out there and show the world what you’re made of. The stage chemistry between you and Reid is something special. I’ve never seen anything like it and you have to remember where I work. I’ve seen actors show chemistry so strong you would swear they were soul mates, but once that camera stops rolling and the director yells cut, those same actors part ways and go home to their significant others. Chloe, you are a performer, so that’s what you need to do. You go on stage and you let all of the other shit fall away, and you give in to whatever it is you feel and ride that wave until the curtain falls. And then you go home and you let it go.” Chloe sniffled and wiped away the tears sticking to her lashes. “But it isn’t fake. Not for me. That’s what’s so hard.” Josie leaned forward and covered Chloe’s hands with hers. When Chloe didn’t meet her gaze, Josie squeezed gently. “I don’t think it is for him either. I listened to what you said, but I’m not sure you did.” “I don’t understand,” Chloe hiccupped. “I feel like I’m losing my mind.” Josie looked to her side when her phone vibrated. She and Chloe laughed when the name Asshole flashed across the screen. “I understand more than you know,” Josie said with a smirk. “But being with Anders has made it easier for me to see things that others normally wouldn’t. And I’ll tell you this,” Josie grunted, pulling Chloe with her as she stood. “This thing with Reid isn’t nearly as simple as you think it is.” “I don’t think it’s simple at all,” Chloe argued. “Look at me. I’m a freaking mess.” Josie smiled and hugged Chloe. Pressing a soft kiss against her cheek, Josie whispered, “You may be a mess, but you’re not the only one.” Taking a step back, Josie grinned. “I just moved in with Anders ‘Issues’ Ellis. Trust me when I say, things are not always as they seem. But don’t worry about that right now. Everything will work out like it should. If nothing else, being with Anders has taught me that.” “You guys are really going to make it, aren’t you?” Chloe asked with a smile, her eyes glassy. Josie grinned and lifted her phone when it began to ring again. “You’re damn right, we are. Now go, I’ll call you soon.” Chloe waved and took in a deep breath. Josie was right. She couldn’t let the mess going on in her head affect the one thing she’d worked so hard for. With her shoulders thrown back and her eyes clear of the turmoil she’d felt less than an hour ago, Chloe made her way to the stage. It was game time.