CHAPTER 3

The sun had set by the time Reid called an end to rehearsals. Chloe rotated her shoulder and let out a grateful sigh as she packed away her things. She’d expected the rehearsals to be taxing, but the level of intensity Reid demanded from each of them was more than she’d prepared for. “You okay there?” Chloe looked at Drew and smiled. “I’m great. Although, with my long flight and adjusting to the time difference, I’ll probably sleep until I’m due back here tomorrow.” Drew nodded. “I bet. You did really great today, though. I think Reid’s just nervous about having such a significant change this late in the game. He should ease up when he gets a little more comfortable.” “Or he’ll continue to kick our ass,” Greer added. “He’s funny about his music. I have a feeling he’s going to be like this for a while.” Chloe looked between her bandmates. They were similarly built to Reid: tall, lanky, and sporting an array of colorful tattoos. But where Drew had long blond hair that fell just below his chin, Greer’s dark hair was buzzed close to his scalp. “Have you guys always played with Reid?” Drew gave Chloe a reassuring smile. “We were the session musicians hired when he cut his first album. God, he was a moody bastard. Hell, he still is. Only difference now is we have no problem telling him to go to hell.” Greer laughed. “Damn straight.” “Greer’s right, though. He doesn’t like letting people mess with his music. I think that’s the only reason he kept us around, so he wouldn’t have to find new musicians for the next album. We’re familiar. So don’t feel like you’re alone. When it’s all said and done, even though we’ve been around longer, we’re in the same boat.” “Thanks.” “Do you want to grab some dinner? I can answer any questions you might have about the tour,” Greer offered as Reid walked back into the room. “If Chloe has any questions about the tour, I can answer them,” Reid said. When Chloe looked in his direction, he appeared stiff, annoyed. “Are you going to feed her, too?” Greer challenged. The hint of mischief in his expression made it clear to Chloe that something was going on between them, and she had no interest in getting in the middle of it. “Thanks, but I’ll pass. It’s been a long day and I just want to crash.” Chloe smiled when she noticed Reid’s posture relax. “Do you have a place to stay?” Greer continued, undeterred.Chloe laughed and rolled her eyes. It was obvious Greer was flirting. Even though she wasn’t interested, his attention would help keep her focus off Reid. “I’m crashing with my friend Josie, who’s probably wondering where I am. If we’re done, I’m going to head out.” “We’re done for the day. Get some rest and we’ll see you tomorrow.” Reid grabbed his keys and held the door open for Chloe. As she stepped into the hall, he followed behind her. “Do you mind getting here about an hour early tomorrow? I wanted to go over a few things with you that I noticed today. I think it will be easier without any distractions.” Chloe looked over her shoulder at Drew and Greer before turning her attention back to Reid. Her throat tightened when she realized how close he was. Straightening her shoulders, she nodded. Surely with time it would become easier to be around him. “Sounds good. I’ll see you at eleven.”After sending a text to Josie that she was on her way, Chloe made a quick detour to In-N-Out Burger to grab dinner for the two of them. A surge of adrenaline hit Chloe as soon as she pulled into Josie’s driveway. Even exhaustion couldn’t curb her excitement about seeing her old friend. As soon as she killed the engine, the porch light came on and the front door opened. Grabbing the takeout bag, Chloe jumped out of the car and jogged up the front steps just as Josie stepped out to meet her. “I can’t believe you’re here! It’s been too long.” Josie wrapped her arms around Chloe and squeezed before taking a step back. “Why do you smell like In-N-Out?” Chloe laughed and lifted the bag. “I thought I’d spring for dinner. Have you eaten?” Josie dismissed Chloe with a wave of her hand and pulled her inside. “Doesn’t matter. I’m still eating whatever you have in that bag.” “I’m glad to see your appetite hasn’t changed.” Stepping inside, Chloe looked around the room. “Wow,” she exhaled. “Your place is amazing.” Josie shrugged and motioned for Chloe to follow her into the kitchen. “Thanks. I really lucked out with this place. It was in foreclosure, so I got it for next to nothing. It needed some work, but it was worth it. It’s a mess right now. I hate packing. Anders hates packing. Actually, Anders hates any kind of manual labor, but I refuse to have a bunch of strangers going through my things, so I’m sucking it up and doing a little bit at a time.” Chloe sat at the island and pulled the burgers and fries from the bag as Josie grabbed two glasses from the cabinet. “You’ve got so much space. I wouldn’t know what to do with it.” “It’s not that big. It only seems that way to you because you live in one of the most expensive cities in the country where the average apartment is the size of a shoebox. Do you want a glass of wine? I have beer, too.” “A beer would be perfect.” Chloe bit into her burger and sighed. “God, I missed these.” Josie grabbed a handful of fries and fell onto the stool next to her. “If you lived here, you could have these all the time.” “Not all of us can eat like it’s the end of the world without consequences. I already work out far more than I’d like.” “Whatever. You look amazing. I love the purple hair, by the way. It suits you.” “Thanks, I did it a few months ago when my mother was being particularly annoying. I would have gotten another tattoo to get under her skin, but money was a bit tight at the time.” Chloe shook her head and took a sip of beer. “Now I’m going on tour with Reid Ryder. Funny how quick things can change, but I’m sure you know all about that.” Josie grinned. “You have no idea.” Chloe opened her mouth to speak when she realized something. “Where’s Maddie? I thought for sure she’d be here.” “Oh, she wanted to. She and Holden both, but they knew you’d be tired after such a long day. They decided to let you rest tonight, but don’t expect it to last. They’ll be here bright and early in the morning. Holden’s going to make breakfast, and Maddie’s going to help us eat it.” Chloe’s expression turned wistful. “Your brother has always made amazing food. I wasn’t surprised at all when he became a chef. Please tell me he’s making what I hope he’s making.” Josie lifted her brow. “Do you think he’d pass on the opportunity to make Mom’s famous apple pancakes with maple cream cheese sauce?” “Oh, God. I just ate and I’m already hungry again. Living next door to you growing up was so awesome.” Chloe squeezed Josie’s hand and blinked away the unshed tears blurring her vision. “Thanks for letting me stay here. I’ve missed you.” Josie stood, pulling Chloe with her. “I’m glad you called. I’ve missed you too. Mom said if we didn’t send her pictures, she’d disown us.” “Well, we certainly wouldn’t want that,” Chloe joked. “I like your mom more than I do my own.” “That’s because your mom makes the devil seem friendly,” Josie grumbled as the pair moved into the living room. “I don’t know what happened to her. She wasn’t always like this.” “Roller derby happened. The moment you wanted to do something other than what she deemed appropriate, a stick went up her ass and petrified.” “That’s the most disgusting mental image have had in a long time. Thanks a lot.” Chloe laughed through her yawn. “Don’t worry. Maddie will top that in no time.” Josie looked at her watch and grimaced. “It’s late. You have to be wiped out. Let’s get your stuff and I’ll show you where everything is. You’ll be here for a week, right? We’ll have lots of time to catch up.” “We leave in eight days. I still can’t believe I’m going on this tour.” Chloe followed Josie down the porch steps to her rental car and popped the trunk. While she heaved her bag onto her shoulder, Josie pulled her smaller bag from the passenger seat. “I can’t wait to hear about the tour. I love his music; I’m excited to see how you’re going to fit into his sound.” “I promise to tell you everything I know, which, unfortunately, isn’t much yet. I have to be at the studio by eleven tomorrow to go over a few things with Reid before rehearsal at noon. I’m hopeful that after a couple of rehearsals, things will settle down.” “I’m going to make you explain what you mean by that once you’ve had some rest. Plus, Maddie threatened to break the heel off the shoes I let her borrow last week if you revealed anything juicy while she’s not here.” Chloe laughed as Josie led her to the guest bedroom. “I know better than to ask if you’re kidding.” Dropping her things, she looked longingly at the bed before turning toward Josie. “As much as I want to fall face first onto that bed, I need to shower. I feel disgusting.” “I can imagine. Second door on the left. Everything you need should be there. Get some rest. I’ll see you in the morning.” Josie gave Chloe a quick hug and wished her goodnight before disappearing down the hall. With a tired sigh, Chloe pulled out her things and headed to the bathroom. Once she’d showered and brushed her teeth, she tiptoed to the guest room and crawled into bed. Not a single thought passed through her mind before she was fast asleep. In what felt like no time, Chloe woke to the aroma of apples and coffee. She rolled onto her back and squinted against the weak light filtering through the window. Muffled voices drifted down the hall, slowly rousing Chloe from the lingering traces of sleep. The familiar laugh of Holden, Josie’s older brother, caused a smile to break across Chloe’s face. She climbed out of bed, made a quick detour by the bathroom, and then walked into the kitchen. As soon as she stepped through the doorway, she was greeted by three smiling faces. “Runt!” Holden crossed the room and wrapped his arms around Chloe, lifting her into the air and spinning before setting her on her feet and stepping back. “You know I hate that name,” Chloe groaned, her face scrunched in displeasure. “That’s my fault. I think I’ve exceeded the number of times it’s safe to hit someone in the head with a frying pan.” Madison grinned before embracing Chloe. “It’s so good to see you again.” “You too,” Chloe answered, following Madison to the island where a steaming cup of coffee waited for her. “What about me?” Chloe looked at Holden and rolled her eyes. “How could I not be happy to see the brother I never had or wanted, but ended up with anyway?” “Maybe if you and Josie hadn’t made a habit of sneaking to parties you had no business at, I wouldn’t have been forced to threaten half the school.” Chloe opened her mouth to argue but shrugged instead after looking at Josie’s not so innocent expression. “I’m so glad I avoided the protective older brother zone,” Madison sighed. “It would have made the fantasies I had so inappropriate.” “Maddie!” Josie laughed and covered her face. “We’ve talked about this. You aren’t allowed to talk about my brother like that when you’re within a three-mile radius of me.” Chloe giggled when Madison waved her hand dismissively. “When have I ever listened?” “Never.” Josie dropped her hands in defeat and wrapped them around her coffee cup. Holden turned from the stove and placed plates stacked with pancakes in front of each of the girls. “How about you girls dig in so you stop talking? Please.” The girls laughed quietly and nodded in agreement. “This is so much better than the instant oatmeal I had for breakfast yesterday.” Chloe shoveled another bite into her mouth and closed her eyes. “Careful, you’ll cause Holden to have a stroke saying things like that.” Madison patted Holden’s back and poked out her lip out, mock pity coloring her expression. “I’m completely outnumbered,” Holden mumbled. “Where the hell is Anders?” Madison gasped and Josie’s mouth fell open. Chloe looked between the two of them, wide-eyed. She had no idea why they seemed so shocked by Holden’s comment, but Chloe was more concerned about the possibility of meeting Hollywood royalty in her pajamas. “If I didn’t know better, Holden, I’d swear you sounded annoyed by his absence,” Madison said, her expression suspicious. “But that’s impossible,” Josie added with a smirk. “Can you blame me for wanting him here? His ability to go tit for tat with the two of you is what makes him tolerable. What good is he if he’s not around now that you two have multiplied?”Josie flung her napkin at Holden. “You make us sound like Mogwais.” “I wouldn’t feed any of you after midnight,” he grumbled as he stood. “I feel like I’m missing something,” Chloe said, her face colored with confusion. “Well, these two can fill you in. I have to get to work. Chloe, it was great seeing you again. We’ll get together for dinner before you leave for the tour.” Holden leaned over and gave her a hug before moving to Madison’s side. “Sounds great.” “Try to behave,” Holden said as he gave Madison a quick kiss. “See you later, Josie.” As soon as the front door shut, Chloe turned toward Madison and Josie. “Does Holden not like Anders?” “No one actually likes Anders,” Madison answered. “Well, I suppose Josie likes him, but I’m not sure even that’s on a consistent basis.” “Shut up, Maddie. I like him just fine. When I don’t want to kill him, that is.” “We have so much catching up to do,” Chloe sighed. “You’ll meet Mr. Wonderful soon enough. I promise all your questions will be answered the moment he opens his mouth.” “Don’t be mean, Maddie. Anders is—” Josie paused and scrunched her brows before shaking her head. “Never mind. I want to hear all about Reid and the tour.” Chloe smiled then groaned when she looked at the clock. “I need to shower. I have to get ready and be at the studio by eleven. How about later tonight?” “How about we plan for tomorrow night? Maddie and I will be on set this afternoon, and we might be late. Here.” Josie pulled a spare key out of the kitchen drawer and handed it to Chloe. “Take this in case you’re home before me.” Chloe reached out and took the key. “I know I’ve said it before, but it’s so cool that you guys work together. Being costume designers is badass.” “It pays the bills,” Josie laughed. “Hopefully by tomorrow night, you’ll have more details about Reid for us.” Chloe laughed at Josie’s and Madison’s exaggerated smiles. “We’ll see. I’ll have to stop staring like an idiot if I plan to have an actual conversation with him.” Madison backed out of the room and cut her eyes to Josie with an expression that could only be described as devious. “Well, you’re in the perfect place if you want to know how to get over feeling shy around famous hot guys. No assembly required, just a sturdy wall.” “Maddie!” Josie’s face turned bright red, but it was obvious to Chloe that she was fighting back a laugh. “Bye!” Madison yelled, laughter trailing behind her. Chloe looked at Josie and lifted her brow. “A wall, huh?” Josie groaned, the blush slowly fading from her skin. “Don’t ask.” “Oh, I totally plan to ask. For now, though, I have to get ready, so you get a pass.” “I’m going to kill Maddie,” Josie grumbled. “You wouldn’t last a day without her. You two are a package deal.” “Yeah, yeah.” Josie moved to Chloe and gave her a hug. “I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve missed you so much.” “I’m sorry I disappeared. Life got in the way.” “I understand. Go get ready. I’m going to track down Anders. If I don’t see you tonight, we’ll catch up in the morning.” “Sounds perfect.”During the drive to the studio, Chloe tried to prepare for the hour she would spend alone with Reid. She reminded herself that, aside from his fame and insanely good looks, he was just like everyone else. Once she got to know him, she was fairly certain he would be like every other artist she’d met. Clutching the handle of her violin case, she walked inside the studio. The girl at the desk gave Chloe a fleeting glance before instructing her to go to control room number two. Chloe took a deep breath and headed in that direction. Through the glass, she saw Reid seated behind one of the mixing consoles, wearing a pair of headphones. When she entered the room, she dropped her case by the door and moved as quietly as possible to the chair next to him and sat down. “Shit,” Reid gasped. “I didn’t hear you come in.” Chloe smiled and pointed to the headphones still covering his ears. “I suppose those have something to do with that.” Reid chuckled and removed the headphones. “Nope. I didn’t have anything playing.” Chloe shrugged. “Then it’s from years of sneaking past my friend’s overprotective brother when we were in high school. Once a ninja, always a ninja, I suppose.” “You’ll have to show me your tricks when the tour starts. Sneaking past fans gets harder every show.” “Show you my stealth moves, I will,” Chloe said, her expression devoid of emotion for only a moment before she covered her face and laughed. “Oh my God. I can’t believe I just said that.” “Did you just use Yoda-speak on me?”Chloe nodded, her face still hidden. Reid chuckled, pulling her hands away from her face. “Being a Jedi Master is nothing to be embarrassed about. Hell, maybe I should put you on security detail too. With a ninja slash Jedi Master on my team, I won’t have anything to worry about.” Embarrassment heated her skin, but Chloe decided to suck it up and make the most out of the situation. She wanted to get to know him, and there was no better way of doing so than having a completely random conversation about ridiculous things. “I hate to break it to you, but I’m afraid my combat training consists of a very short career in roller derby and four wrestling matches before my mother pulled me from the team.” Reid stared at her with a blank expression. “You’re shitting me.” “Nope. She always ruined my fun.” “That’s not what I meant,” Reid said, shaking his head. “How were you on a wrestling team? Unless it was a midget wrestling team, then of course it makes perfect sense.” Chloe’s mouth fell open in shock. “My dad was a midget.” Reid opened and closed his mouth several times, his eyes wide. “Shit. I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to offend you. It’s just that—” The sound of Chloe’s laughter cut off Reid’s apology. He stared at her with narrowed eyes before the side of his mouth lifted into a smile. “Okay, I walked right into that one.” “You did,” Chloe agreed. “But to answer your question, yes, I was on the wrestling team. I never said I was any good—same with roller derby—but I did it because it pissed off my mother. She hated anything that could injure my hands. It was more an act of defiance than anything else.” “I can’t say I entirely blame her for wanting to protect your hands. You’re very talented. It would have been a shame for you to be injured doing things you didn’t even enjoy.” “Oh, I love wrestling. My dad watched it almost every night when I was a kid. It didn’t matter if he’d seen the match or not. It was kind of our thing.” Chloe looked at her hands, not interested in having a conversation with a virtual stranger about her dad. “A fan of wrestling and Star Wars. What are you, an alien?” Chloe peeked up at Reid and grinned. “Only on my mother’s side.” Reid grabbed an extra set of headphones and passed them to Chloe. “Here, let’s listen to some of the music we recorded yesterday before I start believing you.” A rush of excitement caused Chloe’s leg to bounce and her thoughts to shift. “Okay. I’d hoped to listen to the recordings this morning. I know I pulled a few notes yesterday. I just need to know how much so I can taper back.” Chloe sat with her headphones in place and her attention focused on the mixing console. When the music didn’t start, she looked at Reid in confusion. “You okay?” Reid blinked. “You noticed? I only caught it this morning when I listened to the tapes. How would you even know the notes were too long?” Chloe shrugged. “It’s my job to know. It didn’t feel right. The sound. I can’t explain it. I learned to play by ear before I ever read a note of music.” “Wow. That’s impressive.” “Music is everything to me. It’s the best job in the world because it never feels like work.” The expression on Reid’s face as he slid on his headphones seemed almost wistful. “I hope it stays that way for you. Okay, let’s run through these songs so you can hear where you pulled the notes. Once the guys get here, we’ll go into the live room and get back to playing.” “Sounds great.” “If you’d like, we can do this before the next few rehearsals or until you feel more comfortable.” “I’d really love that, as long as you don’t mind. I can’t thank you enough for giving me this opportunity, but I can start by making sure I don’t miss a single note.” “It’s not a problem at all. Are you ready?” “Ready,” Chloe said, a smile stretched across her face. He was just as attractive now as he’d been when she walked through the door, but she’d succeeded. She’d humanized him. For now.