CHAPTER 6

“When are you leaving for the airport?” Reid held the phone against his ear with his shoulder as he carried his suitcases to the front door. “Soon. My car should be here any minute.” Reid fell silent, listening to the steady rhythm of Jess’s breathing before he sighed. “I’m scared.” “Reid,” Jess whispered, the pain in her voice clear. “You’re going to be fine. In six months, you’ll be done with the first leg of the tour and back on US soil. And I promise, I’m still working on arrangements to come for a visit while you’re touring Europe. We’ll be together again before you know it.” “I wish you could come with me. I know you can’t and I understand why, but that doesn’t change that I want you with me. What if I slip?” A shudder ran down Reid’s spine as he remembered the hell of cold sweats, vomiting, and cravings that had broken him over and over again. “You’re not going to slip. You’re going to channel all your energy into putting on the most amazing tour the world has ever seen. You’re going to blow their minds.” “I still can’t write. I’ve tried, but it’s like a giant wall is blocking everything. I see glimpses sometimes, but it’s gone as quickly as it appears.”“Everything will work out, but you can’t force it. Give yourself time; you’ll see.” “You’re right,” Reid whispered with a sad smile as he watched his town car pull into the driveway. “My car’s here. I’ll text you when I land in case you’re sleeping.” “Okay. Be safe. I love you.” “You too.” Reid hung up and made a quick sweep of his house before locking the front door and heading to the waiting car. Although his head was full of frantic, screaming thoughts, the ride to the airport was quiet. With his eyes closed, he pulled in deep, steady breaths and reminded himself how this tour would be different. He wasn’t concerned about groupies, alcohol, or even the pressure to perform. What he needed to remember was that Jess had given him a second chance. No matter how tired he was, no matter how great the temptation, he couldn’t fall back into old habits. His anxiety grew as the car turned into the terminal at LAX. He spotted Greer, Drew, Tom, and Inky as the driver pulled to the curb at his drop-off spot. They stood in a loose circle, chatting while they loaded equipment onto a luggage cart. “Reid! Are you ready to get this show on the road?” Greer yelled as he made his way over to the car. Reid nodded. “As I’ll ever be.”“What’s with you . . .?” Greer began before his eyes drifted over Reid’s shoulder and his words trailed off. Reid followed Greer’s line of sight, his eyes widening slightly before he schooled his features. “Dude, stop staring.” Greer blinked and grinned. “Right. I should totally go give her a hand.” “Greer, wait,” Reid hissed. He swore under his breath before following Greer, his own luggage forgotten. “This sucks. I feel like you just got here and you’re already leaving.” Reid’s brows furrowed as he looked between Chloe and the vaguely familiar girl speaking to her. “Hey, Chloe,” Greer said, moving to stand next to her. “Who are your friends?” Reid grinned when Chloe rolled her eyes. “Cool it, Casanova. These are my friends Josie and Maddie. They’re spoken for.” “Oh, good. I’d hate for them to feel jealous when you tell them stories about how awesome I am once we start touring.” “As opposed to how awesome you are now?” Madison asked with a smirk. Reid laughed as Greer grinned and said, “Touché.” “Josie, Maddie, meet Greer.” “Hi,” Madison and Josie said in unison.“And this is Reid,” Chloe said, flashing a smile in his direction. “Also known as Padawan.” Reid barked out a laugh and dropped his head as his laughter quieted. “It’s nice to meet you.” “I see Chloe hasn’t gotten over her Star Wars fixation. That makes me so happy.” Josie stepped closer to Chloe and slid her arm around her waist. “We didn’t even get a chance to watch any movies while you were here.” “Movies,” Greer muttered just loud enough to catch Reid’s attention. “What?” Greer’s head shot up, his eyes darting across the group before settling on Reid. “Nothing. We better get inside. Ladies, it was nice meeting you. We promise to take good care of Chloe.” Madison laughed. “Clearly you don’t know Chloe. She is quite capable of taking care of herself.” Madison stepped to the other side of Chloe and winked. “You’ll see. Take care and stay in touch. We promise to stalk you like proper friends, okay?” “You better,” Chloe said, her voice thick with emotion as she hugged Josie and Madison. “I’ll see you both this summer!” “We’ll be waiting with breakfast and booze.” “My favorite.” Reid reached for Chloe’s duffle bag and Greer grabbed her violin case as the girls said their final good-byes. “I know her,” Greer whispered when they got out of earshot. “Who?” “Josie. Although the redhead looks familiar, too. I can’t put my finger on it.” “Maybe that’s where you remember them from,” Reid joked. “You tried to put your fingers on them and they turned your sorry ass down.” “Ha-ha.” Greer used his free hand to flip Reid off before picking up his pace and leaving Reid to wait for Chloe. “What’s up with Greer?” Chloe asked. “Nothing. He’s just being ridiculous as usual.” Reid cut his eyes to Chloe and gave her a mischievous smile. “You look better today.” Chloe dropped her head in embarrassment. “I’m so sorry about that. Believe me, I suffered for my mistakes. All afternoon and twice after dinner.” Reid winced. “I suppose you did.” Murmurs started to build around them as they approached the sliding glass doors. “Shit. Chloe, let’s move it. The paps are coming.” With Chloe’s bag over his shoulder, Reid moved in front of her and pushed through the sea of travelers. Tension filled his body when the camera flashes started firing in rapid succession. Memories of the last time he rushed through LAX to escape to Memphis came to the forefront of his mind. Sweat broke out across his forehead and his steps faltered as the image of flat, lifeless green eyes stared vacantly up at him. He pulled in a gasp of air, a chill running down his spine when Chloe pressed her hand against the middle of his back. “You okay?” Reid looked over his shoulder and felt the tightness in his jaw relax. “Yeah, thanks.” He wasn’t sure why her small gesture of concern made him feel better, but he wasn’t going to question it. After security, the others found seats at the gate, but Reid lingered off to the side. He kept his eyes on the floor and his back to the passing travelers. “Mr. Ryder, you’re welcome to relax in the first-class lounge until we begin boarding.” Reid looked at the airline employee and shook his head. “No, thanks. I’m fine.” The truth was, he didn’t want to separate himself from the group. He cast a glance over to where Chloe and the others were sitting around chatting. Almost like she could feel his gaze, Chloe looked in his direction. Her brows pulled together as she mouthed, “Are you okay?” He nodded and gave her a small smile before turning his attention back to the airline employee. “There is something I would like. Could you upgrade Chloe Bennett’s ticket from business to first class? The seat next to mine? I know it’s available because it was secured when my seat was booked.” “Of course. I’ll take care of it now. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you need anything else.”Once alone, Reid pulled out his phone to text Jess. He stared at her picture, the soft edges of her smile and her dark hair and blue eyes. Before he could type out a message, he was distracted by the sound of Greer yelling. “Holy shit! I knew she looked familiar! Chloe, you’ve been holding out on us!” Reid moved quickly to the group and took a protective stance beside Chloe. “What’s the matter with you? Why are you yelling at her?” Seemingly undeterred by the sharp bite in Reid’s voice, Greer continued. “The friend Chloe was staying with, the one she kept casually referring to as Josie—” “But her name is Josie,” Chloe giggled, causing Reid’s stance to shift from protective to curious. “Don’t be cute,” Greer scolded. “Josie Bane. Your childhood friend is Josie Bane. Total hottie and girlfriend of Hollywood superstar Anders Ellis.” “Whoa,” Reid said, surprise causing his eyes to widen. “See? You’ve even stunned Reid, and he’s a big shot in his own right. Look at these pictures.” Greer shoved his phone toward Reid as the others crowded closer to get a peek at the screen. Reid cracked a smile and looked at Chloe, whose expression was far too innocent. “Was this tequila night?” “Maybe.”“What the hell is tequila night?” Greer paused. “Wait. These were taken the other night, weren’t they? This is why you looked like a bus had run you over yesterday!” “Thanks a lot,” Chloe snarked. “Who are these other people?” Reid asked as he scrolled through the pictures. A strange feeling made his skin tingle when he saw a picture of Chloe smiling at a guy who had his arm wrapped protectively around her shoulders. “Well, I’m sure you know which one is Anders. The redhead is Maddie, who you guys met earlier, and the other guy is her husband, Holden. He’s also Josie’s brother and the owner and chef of one of the hottest restaurants in LA.” “Well, hell. Who needs Reid? Chloe’s the one with the hookup,” Inky joked. “Believe me, other than a possible free appetizer, I’m useless. You better stick with the one signing our checks.” Chloe grinned at Reid. Greer sighed. “Looks like we’re right back where we started, then. But I want some details about Mr. Movie Star. You’ve got to have some dirt.” Chloe looked around with a conspiratorial gleam in her eyes and leaned forward. “Well,” she whispered. “There is one thing. That night, after we all went back to Josie’s place . . .” Pausing for dramatic effect, Chloe did her best to keep a straight face.“What did he do?” Reid asked. He had a feeling whatever she was about to say would be completely insane. “He ate three slices of pizza . . . and didn’t throw them back up.” “What the fuck?” Greer’s faced twisted with confusion. “How is that dirt? Or interesting?” Chloe tsked. “Well, clearly he’s not human. No one can eat like that and stay as fit as him. Duh.” Reid agreed. “It’s true. I haven’t had pizza in months and I still can’t get rid of these love handles.” “You both suck, bro.” Greer rolled his eyes but smiled nonetheless. “I’ll get something out of you.” Chloe popped a Starburst in her mouth. “I’m afraid you’re barking up the wrong tree. I only just met the guy, and he certainly wasn’t divulging his deepest, darkest secrets.” “I see you’re getting a head start,” Reid commented, motioning to the bag of Starburst sticking out of her purse. “The tour starts the day after tomorrow. We’re close enough.” “I get the feeling I’m going to have to monitor this Starburst situation. I can’t have my violinist in a sugar coma.” “Pfft. I have a high sugar tolerance.” Reid fell into the chair beside her and eyed the bag. “Do you at least share?”Dropping a few candies in his hand, Chloe pursed her lips. “I don’t make a habit of it.” Reid laughed, but before he could respond, a voice came over the speaker announcing first-class boarding would begin soon. Reid cleared his throat and looked from Chloe to the others in the group. “I hope you don’t mind, but I changed your ticket.” “That depends. What did you change it to?” “First class. I hate having a stranger sit close to me for extended periods, so I always book the seat beside me to keep it empty. I thought you’d appreciate the complimentary champagne.” Chloe reached into her bag then dumped a handful of Starbursts in Reid’s lap. “I’m definitely getting the sweeter end of this deal. You can have as many as you want.” Reid laughed. “So you’re not mad?” “Are you crazy? Who the hell turns down first class?” The look on her face left no question she meant what she said. “Cool. The guys are going to be jealous.” Chloe frowned and looked at the group. “Jealousy is an ugly thing. I hope they learn to cope while I’m sipping champagne.” “You sure are feisty today.” “I blame being around Josie and Maddie. Those two are a force to be reckoned with. I’m also really excited about this tour. Once I calm down, my bravado will fade.”“That’s a shame. I like it.” Reid blinked and pulled in a shallow breath when he realized how close he’d moved to Chloe. He shifted away and looked toward the gate as the attendant called for first class to begin boarding. “You ready?” he asked, feeling awkward. “Let’s get this bird in the air.” Chloe jumped to her feet and bumped his shoulder. The carefree smile on her face made the awkwardness vanish as quickly as it appeared. Reid smiled and grabbed his bag. “After you.”One layover and nearly fourteen hours later, the group landed in Dublin, Ireland. It was early morning when they stepped off the plane, and even though Reid was anxious to get to the venue, he agreed a stop by the hotel was necessary. Reid wasn’t surprised to find fans and paparazzi lined up outside the hotel when they arrived. He was, however, a little surprised by the number of them. “Get used to it,” Tom said, clapping Reid on the shoulder as they walked into the hotel lobby. “This isn’t going to be anything like the last tour.” Reid eyed a group of people who seemed less than thrilled by his presence. They held signs that mocked the American legal system and its special treatment of celebrities. He looked away, unwilling to let them see how the words on their signs affected him. “That’s what I’m afraid of.” Tom followed Reid’s line of sight. “Fame attracts all types. You’re going to have your fans, but you’re also going to have those who will never let go of what happened. It doesn’t matter that they don’t know the facts or that it doesn’t concern them. For some people, nothing makes them happier than pushing their unwanted opinions on others.” “The thought of being reminded of that night over and over . . .” Reid let out a tired breath. “It’s going to be difficult.” “It will. You just have to be strong. Remember why you’re here and what’s important.” “I’m here because of my music. To the fans, that’s what’s important. I still can’t write. It’s like whatever place I used to get that inspiration from is gone.” “Give it time.” “And if it doesn’t come back? Then what?” Reid knew how whiny he sounded, but his frustration was mounting by the day. The thought of having angry fans attack him for something they knew nothing about only heightened that frustration. “Why don’t we head to the venue? Let the others relax. It’ll give you a chance for a little breathing room and to meet with your opening act, Modern Misery, again.” Reid agreed, pausing when his gaze landed on Chloe. “Maybe we should bring Chloe. She doesn’t really know these guys, and I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable her first night.” “She looks okay to me,” Tom observed as the group across the lobby chatted while waiting for room keys. “Unless there’s another reason you want to bring her.” Reid looked at Tom, his confusion clear. “What other reason?” Tom shrugged. “You tell me. First with the private sessions before rehearsals, then upgrading her seat to first class. Now you’re being weird about leaving her alone with the others. Is there something going on between you two?” “I’m with Jess.” “That’s not what I asked.” Reid flexed his jaw in anger. “I wouldn’t do that to Jess. But, to answer your question, no. There isn’t anything going on between me and Chloe. I like being around her. She’s funny. She doesn’t have negative memories attached to her like my other friends. Nothing more.” “So she knows about Jess?” “Of course.” Reid paused as he tried to remember if Jess had ever come up in conversation with Chloe. He pushed his hand through his hair and grunted in frustration. “Shit. I don’t remember. I don’t see why it matters. We’re here to work, not share our thoughts and feelings.”“Strictly professional, then?” “Absolutely,” Reid affirmed. Tom let out an amused chuckle. “You’re so full of shit.” “I mean it.” “Then you’re not friends?” “I—” Reid grabbed the strap of his bag and threw it over his shoulder. “I need you to not make this a thing. I’m already stressed about everything else. This is an aggravation I don’t need. She can stay here. It’s no big deal.” “Hey, Reid. Tom.” Both men jumped in surprise at the sound of Chloe’s voice. “After we check in, Greer and I are going to run out for food. Do you guys want to come with or have us pick something up for you?” Reid cut his eyes to Tom, who watched him expectantly. Shaking his head, Reid looked back to Chloe. “Nah. We have some things to take care of. You guys go ahead. We’ll catch up later.” “Okay. Just leave a message with the front desk if you change your mind.” Once Chloe disappeared into the elevator, Reid turned and headed toward the car waiting out front, ignoring the smirk plastered across Tom’s face.