CHAPTER 29

Reid was in hell. He was certain of it. Leaning against the counter, he scrubbed his hands over his face. “Jess, come on. We need to go.” “I’m almost ready,” she yelled from the bathroom. “Jesus Christ,” he groaned. When she’d shown up in LA, he wasn’t surprised. He expected it. They’d fought for days after the VMAs. He couldn’t even blame her for being angry; she was completely justified. The truth was, that night changed something inside Reid. For the first time in months, his mind was finally silent. The disjointed and erratic thoughts that normally robbed his sleep and tore at his conscience had faded. “Okay, we can go,” Jess said, interrupting his thoughts. With a nod, Reid turned for the door. The ride to the venue was filled with silent tension. He hated the way things had changed between them, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get back to the place they once were. He didn’t want to. Once they arrived at the venue, they walked in through the back, ducking between the bouncers positioned by the entrance to keep the fans at a distance. Jess clutched his hand as they moved down the hall. His entire body hummed with anxiety. “Why don’t you hang out here for a bit?” he said once they were inside his dressing room. “I have a few people I need to talk to. I’ll be back soon.” Jess acted as though she might protest but then seemed to change her mind. “Okay. I’ll be here.” Without another word, Reid disappeared into the hall. There was only one person Reid needed to talk to, and this time he wasn’t going to be blown off. Ducking into a couple of rooms, it didn’t take long to find her. He watched her from the hall, not wanting to startle her in the middle of doing her makeup. When she paused to grab something off the vanity, he made his presence known. “Hey.” He noticed her shoulders tense before dropping. “I was beginning to wonder if you were just going to stand in the hall like a creep.” The side of Reid’s mouth quirked up in amusement as he casually walked into the room. As nervous as he was to talk to her, time was not something he had a lot of. So he didn’t mince words. “Why did you lie to me yesterday?” Chloe dropped the brush in her hand and turned around. Leaning against the vanity, she laced her hands in front of her lap. “Because I didn’t want to talk to you.” Reid’s brows shot up in surprise, not expecting her to answer so candidly. “And now?” “Now I just want to get it out in the open so I can move on and let it go.” Something about the way she said “let it go” caused a knot to form in his stomach. “Okay.” Chloe tugged on her lip ring and shifted her weight. After what looked like a moment of indecision, her face cleared. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going back to Memphis at the end of the tour?” “What does that have to do with anything?” Reid didn’t understand where her question was coming from. His parents lived in Memphis. He would always go back there. Chloe’s face twisted with hurt and she looked at her hands. “I guess nothing. I just thought . . .” “Thought what?” Reid asked, taking a hesitant step forward. There was something else going on, and he wasn’t sure what it was, but he knew he wasn’t going to like it. With a shrug, Chloe swiped her hand across her cheek. “That you would have told me your plans to get out of the business and move back to Memphis.” Reid froze. He replayed her words several times, certain he’d misunderstood. When he realized he hadn’t, he said the first thing that popped into his mind. “What the fuck are you talking about?” Chloe’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open before she snapped her jaw shut. “Are you going to deny it?” Reid nodded furiously. “You’re damn right, I am.I have absolutely no idea what the hell you’re talking about, but I can tell you in no uncertain terms that I have not made, nor will I be making, any plans to move back to Memphis. Ever.” Chloe opened and closed her mouth several times, seemingly at a loss for words. Reid, however, was not suffering from the same problem. “Chloe, I need you to tell me exactly what you’ve been told, and I need to hear it word for word.” Pressing her palm to her forehead, Chloe blew out a heavy breath, her eyes darting to the door. Reid thought he was going to have to push her to tell him what he wanted to know, but after a long pause, she began to speak. Anger wasn’t an emotion Reid felt often, but as Chloe recounted her conversation with Jess, it spread through him with such burning speed that he could hardly breathe by the time she finished. He shoved his hands deep inside his pockets to keep them from shaking. “None of that’s true. I don’t know why she told you that, but it’s not true. I’m not quitting my band, and I’m not moving back to Memphis.” “Then why would she tell me that?” Chloe asked, but the moment the words left her mouth, a look of understanding washed across her face. “Because of me.” “Not you,” Reid argued. “Me.” As quickly as it came, the anger drained from his body. He had no one to blame for this mess but himself. “I’m sorry I was short with you yesterday.” “Don’t be,” Reid sighed. “Thank you for not giving me the silent treatment for the next few weeks before blowing up about something that’s not even true.” Chloe laughed softly. “I considered it, but the silent treatment doesn’t work very well when the object of your anger is your boss.” As much as Reid wanted to object, to tell her that he was more than her boss, he didn’t. That was a conversation for another time. Instead, he nodded in agreement and backed out of the room. “I’ll see you on stage.” With a weak wave, Chloe turned back to the mirror and Reid disappeared the way he came. He wanted to confront Jess, but it wasn’t the time or the place. Taking in a lungful of air, he pushed everything that happened and would happen to the back of his mind. He had a show to do. Throughout the remainder of the afternoon and well into the evening, Reid focused on the show. Every step, note, and verse played through his mind in great detail. It was exhausting, but it served its purpose. When the final song ended and the lights came on, however, Reid felt like an elephant was standing on his chest. Pushing his way through the people crowded around the stage, he found Tom. “Great show.”“Thanks.” Reid shifted his weight, his eyes darting to Jess. “Listen, I need you to cancel the meet-and-greet. I can’t do it tonight.” Tom’s face colored with surprise. “Why’s that?” Reid’s eyes dropped to the floor and he swallowed thickly. “I’ve got something I need to do.” When Tom didn’t respond, Reid looked up to find Tom studying him with narrowed eyes. After a beat, his face relaxed. “So you’ve finally figured your shit out.” ”Yeah.” “Good.” Tom clapped him on the shoulder. “It’s about time. Don’t worry about the meet-and-greet; I’ll take care of everything.” With a deep breath, Reid made his way over to Jess. He couldn’t worry about the possibility of Chloe rejecting him. He couldn’t worry about the possibility of losing them both. It was time to man up. It was time to finally do the right thing.