Page 14 of Chaos (Mayhem 3)

He looks more than a little uncomfortable as he scratches the hair at the base of his scalp. “I don’t know . . . ”

He doesn’t know? Doesn’t know?

All the insults I’d lost come back in such a rush, I’m not sure which to settle on. Fuck off. Get bent. Kiss my ass.

“I didn’t trust you,” Shawn adds, and my eyebrows slam together.

“You didn’t trust me?”

“I thought maybe . . . ” He shakes his head and stares down at the console between us. “I’m not sure what I thought.”

I’m so angry, the hair on my arms is standing up. “What, because I’m a girl or something?”

Dee thought I was a groupie when she opened the door of Mayhem before my audition, and I guess Shawn did too. And why, just because I’m hot? Just because I have boobs and a fucking vagina? His eyes flash back up to mine.

“Huh?” His head starts shaking back and forth, the crease between his eyebrows digging deeper and deeper. “What? No!”

“Then why, Shawn?”

He stares at me for a long moment, but my gaze is as hard as his is soft. Finally, he nods and says, “Yeah, fine . . . It was because you’re a girl, okay . . . but I said I’m sorry.”

“It’s about time,” I mutter under my breath.

“Huh?”

“Nothing.” My teeth snap back together after I bark at him like a temperamental pit bull. “Why are you still here?”

Adam pokes his head out of the garage, takes one look at Shawn and me sitting in my Jeep, and disappears back inside. The chilled April air is wrapping itself around me, sending a trickle of goose bumps up the back of my neck, but even though I have a hoodie in the back, I’d sooner freeze to death than get it. As far as Shawn needs to know, I’m indestructible. Impenetrable. Even the cold can’t touch me.

“Look,” he says, immune to the cold in his black T-shirt and jeans, “I said I’m sorry, and I meant it. You were off your marks today, but I was a jerk.”

I cross my arms tightly over my chest. “I was off because Joel—”

“Joel just got dumped by his girlfriend,” Shawn interrupts. “And he’s spent the last week and a half putting himself through hell because he doesn’t know how to handle having his heart broken like that.”

The explanation hits so close to home, I immediately feel like a bitch for lashing out at Joel in the garage. The guy looks like a mess because he probably is a mess. But at least he’s up and dressed and attempting to function, which is more than I would have been able to say for myself six years ago . . . “I didn’t know—”

“It’s fine,” Shawn insists, his expression full of as much regret as mine. “We should’ve given you a heads-up or something. You’re one of us now.”

Another grass-scented breeze lifts my hair away from my pierced right ear, and I slide a hand up my neck to warm the cold metal. “One of you?”

Shawn’s gaze tracks my hand before slowly swinging to meet my eyes. “Unless you still want out . . . ”

“DID YOU KISS and make up?” Adam teases as soon as we reenter the warmth of Mike’s garage. All six foot three of him is sprawled out on the dusty garage floor, like he was going to literally pass away from boredom if we took even two seconds longer before coming back inside.

Shawn helps him up—and then knocks him a step back with a hard punch to the arm. Which is good, considering I’m too busy blushing fire-engine red to form a snarky reply.

“Shut the hell up,” Shawn scolds while Adam laughs and rubs his arm. Mike chuckles at them while I turn to Joel.

“Hey . . . I’m sorry for being such a bitch.”

He gives me a small shake of his head, his sad blue eyes making me feel even worse than I already did. “Don’t be.”

I frown at him, but he simply replies with a weak smile and tosses me my guitar pick. I catch it and, knowing he doesn’t want to talk about it, turn to Adam and Mike next. “Sorry I acted like such a girl.”

“You?” Adam says while he continues rubbing his bruised arm. “Shawn was the one whining all morning.”

He smiles and jumps away from the look Shawn gives him, and Mike interrupts the impending violence to ask if we can get started.

Shawn is already strapping his guitar back around his neck, but I don’t bother following his lead. Instead, I shake my head. “I don’t learn like this. I can write songs like this, but I can’t learn them without seeing them written first. And I’m guessing none of you write music—”

“I can,” Adam offers, stepping into the open doorway of the garage and lighting a cigarette.

His back is to us when I say, “You can?”

“I got the same degree you said you were going to school for. So yeah.” He turns around and blows smoke out of the side of his mouth so that it doesn’t drift inside. “And Shawn can help you practice. Which we can do at our place.”

Our place? He told me earlier that he and Shawn are roomies, so . . . Shawn’s place?

My voice almost squeaks when I say, “Your place?”

“Yeah,” Adam answers, oblivious to the frantic beats my heart is skipping. He looks around the room at Joel, at Mike, at Shawn. “Who’s coming?”

THE ENTIRE WAY to Adam and Shawn’s apartment, it’s easier to pretend I’m just on a casual drive. Just driving for no reason to no place in particular—definitely not to Shawn Scarlett’s apartment six years after I let him inside me and never heard from him again.

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