CHAPTER 28

“Oh my God,” Chloe groaned, covering her face. “Stop watching that.” Inky peered over the top of her phone and raised her brow. “Would you rather I go back on Twitter? Because I’d be happy to.” Chloe kicked Inky under the table and pursed her lips. “I thought you wanted to meet for breakfast to catch up, not mock me.” Inky took a sip of her water and smiled. “Fine. I’ll stop watching the slow-motion gifs all over the internet of you and Reid eye-fucking each other.” Chloe swore under her breath and looked around the diner. “I was not eye-fucking Reid.” “But you admit the same can’t be said for him?” Chloe rolled her eyes and grabbed her water. The truth was, that was exactly what he was doing. She would know; she’d watched the clip, along with their performance later in the show, nearly a dozen times. Even though it was her on the screen and she knew none of it was real, it still felt like watching an intimate moment between lovers. “Can we talk about something else?” she asked, annoyed and embarrassed. Until the night of the VMAs, Chloe had done well keeping her distance except for rehearsals. The problem was, with each passing day, it became harder to keep him at arm’s length. He made her smile and laugh. Like riding a bike, she slowly slipped back into their familiar camaraderie. The night of the awards show, the buzz of excitement was infectious. She was a ball of energy. When she saw Reid on stage smiling like a child while playing next to one of his musical idols, she couldn’t help but beam at him with happiness. She just hadn’t expected the result to look so . . . indecent. Five days had passed since that night. She still couldn’t get it out of her mind. “Sure,” Inky chuckled. “Let’s talk about the HBO Emmys after-party show.” Chloe sighed and fell back against the booth. “That was nothing like the VMAs.” “True. Although, it was cute of you to try to act like the night before was intentional by doing something similar. Did people actually buy that?” “Some did.” Chloe shrugged. “The truth is, to an extent, it was planned. Reid knew what he was doing. He just failed to share that information with me ahead of time.” Inky laughed. Loudly. “I’d bet my next tatt Reid didn’t fake a single thing about that night. I’m not saying it wasn’t intentional. I’m saying he took advantage of an opportunity. I’ve seen Reid on stage more times than I can count. He’s a good performer, but he’s not that good.” “He has a girlfriend, Inky. There’s no way Reid would act that way unintentionally. I’m sure Jess knew all about what he was going to do.” Chloe looked at her hands to avoid Inky’s disbelieving stare. Chloe knew her argument was laughable. “So I guess Jess flying out to LA yesterday has nothing to do with his little stunt. You know, because she knew all about it.” Chloe’s eyes snapped to Inky. “She’s here?” Inky raised a brow. “Yup. I stopped by the studio this morning to grab some inventory forms from Tom, and when I showed up, he was on the phone with Reid. It seems she flew out to surprise him.” “But we only have one show here before we go on the road. Is she coming with us?” The idea caused Chloe’s stomach to roll. She didn’t want to see Jess. Not because she didn’t like her, but because she was afraid Jess would see how Chloe felt about Reid written all over her face. It wasn’t something she could hide, even though she tried constantly. The reminder caused a pang of guilt to swell in her chest. If the roles had been reversed and Chloe were in Jess’s position, she would have been hurt and angry by the reaction of the fans after the awards show. She also would have kicked Reid’s ass. Inky shrugged. “I’m not sure. Maybe she’ll be at rehearsals this afternoon.” Chloe tugged on the piercing in her lip. “I guess we’ll see.”When Chloe arrived at the studio, Drew and Greer were lounging in the control room. She looked around, confused. “What are you guys doing here so early?” “Don’t you mean on time?” Drew asked with a laugh. Chloe smiled. “Exactly.” “A buddy of ours wanted us to check out a track he recorded, so we came in early to listen.” “That’s cool,” Chloe said, hopping up on the table. “Was it any good?” Drew nodded. “We thought it would be dope to have Reid add some vocals. We’re going to see if he’s willing when he gets here.” Just as Drew finished speaking, Reid appeared in the doorway. Chloe turned to say hello, but the greeting died in her throat when she saw his face. Dark circles shadowed his normally bright eyes. His clothes were rumpled and his hair was a mess. She’d never seen him look quite so disheveled. It was unsettling. “What’s up, guys?” He addressed the group, but his eyes darted to Chloe, the side of his mouth lifting into a half smile. “Damn, dude. Have you been on a bender? You look like shit,” Greer commented. Usually, Chloe avoided these types of exchanges between Greer and Reid, but this time she actually wanted to hear the answer.Reid sighed. “No, I just didn’t get much sleep. Jess flew in yesterday.” Greer waggled his brows and leered at him. “I see, I see. You were busy.” Reid threw a cautious glance in Chloe’s direction, but she looked away. She didn’t want to see his face. She didn’t want to think of the reasons he hadn’t slept. It made her feel sick. It made her feel like an awful person for feeling that way at all. Reid let out a humorless chuckle. “Not in the way you’re thinking.” “Hey, man,” Drew cut in. “Tony had us listen to a track he recorded earlier. It’s pretty good. We wanted to see if you’d give it a listen and possibly lend some vocals. It won’t take but a minute then we can get started.” Chloe breathed a sigh of relief and smiled at Drew. “I’d love to hear the song!” After a moment, Reid nodded. “Yeah, sure.” “Let’s hit the sound booth. Chloe, I’ll pump the music in here. Cool?” “Yup.” She moved to the chair Greer vacated and pulled her knees to her chest, her feet planted on the bottom of the seat. The guys moved into the sound booth, and after a few moments, their voices flooded into the room. “Can you hear us?” Drew asked. Chloe gave him a thumbs-up since they couldn’t hear her. The music started playing, and for the first time since talking to Inky that morning, she began to relax. She laughed when Reid smacked Greer’s hand away from one of the controls. They acted more like brothers than either of them would ever admit. “Those two are something else, huh?” Chloe jumped in surprise, her head whipping to where Jess stood in the doorway Reid just vacated. “Jess,” Chloe squeaked, her hand flying to her chest. “I didn’t know you were here.” Jess smiled and moved to the chair next to Chloe. Like Reid, she had dark circles under her eyes and she looked like she hadn’t slept. “I stopped by the bathroom. Too much coffee this morning.” Unsure of how to respond, Chloe turned back to where Reid, Drew, and Greer were bobbing their heads along to the music, wide smiles on their faces. Chloe couldn’t even hear the music because of the loud ringing in her ears. Jess sighed and Chloe chanced a look in her direction. She’d expected Jess to be looking at her. Instead, she was focused on the guys in the booth, an unreadable expression on her face. Chloe followed her gaze, content to sit in silence as the guys did their thing. Just as she started to relax again, Jess spoke. “Are you guys all set for the second half of the tour?”Chloe let out a shaky laugh. “As ready as anyone can be when they’re about to spend months at a time with Greer.” Jess snickered and covered her mouth with her hand. “I don’t know how you did it. I would go crazy being trapped with that man-child as long as you were.” “Who said I’m not crazy? The fact that I’m getting ready to do it again should tell you about my mental state. Clearly, I’m not capable of making rational decisions.” Chloe wasn’t sure what to make of Jess’s attempt at small talk. It seemed normal enough, but there was a weight hanging above them and Chloe knew it was going to come crashing down sooner or later. “Very true.” Jess grinned before her face fell. “Reid’s really going to miss you guys once this tour is over.” A cold feeling crept up Chloe’s spine, causing her to shiver. She wasn’t certain why, but she felt like wherever their conversation was going, it was nowhere good. “They’ll see plenty of each other, I’m sure. Reid will be writing and recording songs again in no time.” Jess turned to Chloe, surprised. “Didn’t he tell you? He’s finally broken through his wall. He spent nearly his entire time in Memphis writing song after song.” Chloe swallowed around the lump forming in her throat and tried not to let her hurt show. “No, I didn’t know,” she whispered. “Other than rehearsals and shows, I haven’t talked to Reid. But that’s amazing news. Looks like he really won’t have time to miss the guys.” Jess shook her head. “He’s not going to record them. I honestly don’t know what he plans to do with them. Sell them, maybe?” Chloe’s eyes widened. “What? Why on earth would he do that?” “Because after the tour, he’s done.” “Done?” Chloe’s brows pulled together in confusion. “Done with what?” Jess shrugged. “Singing. Recording, Touring. Living in LA,” she said with a relieved sigh. “I’ll be so glad. I can’t wait to have him back in Memphis for good.” Chloe’s head swam as she tried to process what Jess was saying. The problem was, none of it made any sense. Reid would never give up his career. He loved music as much as anyone she’d ever met. He was born to be center stage, not living a normal life back in Memphis. “I don’t understand. Reid is giving up music?” Jess laughed. “Oh God, no. He’d die. He’s just switching gears. Songwriting and whatever else he can do without having to live in LA and be on the road all the time. Who knows, maybe one day he’ll record another album, but it won’t be any time in the near future. We’ve already lost too much time.” Chloe nodded but couldn’t speak. She wasn’t certain why, but she felt betrayed. Lied to. For months, all Reid talked about was his love for writing and recording music. His love for being on stage and feeling the energy of the crowd. To find out he had no intention of continuing smarted. He pushed so hard for her to move to LA. He set her up with contacts, and after their performance at the VMAs, he made certain she would be noticed. Her lips parted as everything slowly came into focus. He had set her up so she would continue to be successful after he left. While she was grateful, she couldn’t deny the sting of disappointment burning under her skin. “Chloe, what did you think?” Drew asked, snapping Chloe out of her thoughts. She blinked, her eyes moving over to the guys. When she locked eyes with Reid, his expression was fixed with a deep frown. “It was great,” Chloe lied. She hadn’t heard a single note. “Cool. We’re done here, so grab your stuff, and if Reid wants, we can get started.” Drew looked to Reid, who nodded but still had yet to take his eyes off Chloe. Looking away, Chloe stood and faced Jess. “Looks like it’s time to get back to work.” “Of course.” Jess smiled. “Maybe we can catch up later. Grab a drink or something.” “Absolutely.” Chloe slid past Jess and grabbed her case. While Jess hadn’t said or done anything that Chloe had any right to be upset over, she’d rather wear Greer’s dirty underwear on her head before enduring another awkward conversation with Jess. As soon as she entered the rehearsal room, Chloe pulled out her violin and set about going through her checklist. She turned her back to the others in hopes of making it clear she wasn’t interested in chatting. Reid didn’t seem to get the message. “Are you okay?” he asked, moving in front of her. Chloe glanced at him before returning her attention back to her violin. Distracted, she answered. “Me? Yeah, sure. I’m fine.” Reid leaned closer and lowered his voice. “You don’t seem fine,” he pressed. Chloe shook her head. She couldn’t look at him right now. She felt raw, exposed, but most of all, she felt like an idiot. Her eyes started stinging and she had to blink several times to clear the evidence of her emotions. She could feel the tension building in Reid as he released a sharp exhale. “What did she say to you?” The sound of his voice, taut with anger, caused Chloe’s eyes to snap to his. His face was hard lines and thin lips. She couldn’t help but wonder if his anger was out of fear that Jess had spilled the beans about his plans to leave LA. Once the idea hit, it pushed away every other thought racing through her mind. “Nothing,” she assured, her hurt fading into something darker. She started to question so many things he’d said, things he’d done. Maybe he was a better actor than Inky gave him credit for. Maybe he wasn’t the man he claimed to be at all. Reid’s brows dipped as he searched her face. After a moment, he shook his head. “Why are you lying to me?” Chloe let out an incredulous laugh and grabbed her bow. “Are we ready to get started?” Reid’s jaw ticked. “Yeah. Let’s get this over with.” Chloe turned and walked over to her spot near Drew. “What the hell was that all about?” he whispered under his breath. She looked at Drew and shrugged, a small smile on her lips. “It’s nothing. You know how Reid is.” Drew returned her smile and lifted his brows. “I wasn’t talking about Reid.” Chloe didn’t respond and Drew didn’t push. It was one of the perks of working with guys. They rarely pressed for conversation when it wasn’t wanted. After a couple of hours, Reid called the rehearsal to an end. “All right, guys. I think that’s enough for today. I’ll see you at the venue tomorrow at five.” Everyone agreed and started putting away their things. Chloe reached for her case, but Reid lifted it from the floor before she could wrap her hand around the handle. “Are you ready to tell me what’s going on with you?” Chloe sighed. “You know, I could ask you the same thing.” “What are you talking about?” Before Chloe could respond, Jess stepped beside Chloe and bumped her shoulder. “That was amazing, Chloe. I don’t know how you do it. Reid tried to teach me to play his guitar years ago. It was a disaster.” Chloe shrugged and smiled softly. As much as she hated what Jess told her, Chloe had no reason to be angry with her. “Thanks. It’s just in my blood, I guess.” “Are we ready?” Reid asked, his posture rigid. “Yeah,” Jess exhaled. When Chloe looked over at Jess, she seemed exhausted. Not wanting to stand there a moment longer than necessary, Chloe pulled her case from Reid’s grasp. “You guys get out of here. I’ll see you tomorrow night.” For a moment, Reid stood unmoving before combing a hand through his hair. “See you tomorrow, Chloe,” he said, turning to leave. Chloe didn’t budge until the sound of their footsteps faded into silence. When she was certain they had left, she fell against the wall and exhaled. The next six months were going to be a nightmare.