Page 19 of Chaos (Mayhem 3)

I eat my fill of pizza, using silent moments to wonder if I would change anything, even if I could. Would I stay home that night? Would I give that night up?

Long after pizza, when Rowan finally runs out of questions and the sun has hidden behind the moon, I announce it’s time for me to head home, and Rowan insists Shawn walk me to my Jeep. The walk is quiet, without even music from the elevator to pierce the silence, until I’m sitting in my driver’s seat and Shawn is standing by my side. The parking lot lights cast harsh shadow over the planes of his face and stubble on his chin, and he parts his soft lips to say, “Sorry about Peach giving you the third degree.”

The night smells like city air and Shawn’s cologne, and I long to melt into him. To tell him it doesn’t matter if he broke my heart that night six years ago, because I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t have wanted my first to be anyone but him.

“Shawn,” I start, staring up into those dark green of his eyes. He’s close enough to touch, and yet he’s untouchable.

I should hate him.

I don’t.

“Yeah?”

I don’t know what I had planned to say . . .

Why didn’t you call me?

Would you still be able to forget me?

Why couldn’t you just love me?

“If I call you to run music stuff by you,” I say, “will you pick up the phone?”

Rowan gave me all the guys’ numbers tonight, insisting that they were idiots for not exchanging them earlier. The only number I had was Dee’s, and Rowan’s blue eyes dimmed when she told me that Dee has gone AWOL.

Shawn’s eyebrows turn in. “Why wouldn’t I pick up the phone?”

When my worried expression doesn’t change, his softens.

“Yeah, Kit . . . I’ll pick up.”

“You sure?”

“I promise.”

THAT NIGHT, WHEN I’m home alone in my own bed, I remember the way I practically begged him to answer my call and groan. My face is buried in my overstuffed pillow, and it’s not enough to get his scent out of my nose or his voice out of my head.

Just because I wouldn’t change what happened that night doesn’t mean I want to do it all over. I don’t want to fall for him again—not when the ground comes so quick, and not when it hurts so damn much.

I fell for Shawn Scarlett once.

And once was more than enough.

Chapter Four

THE NEXT FEW days are spent practicing music, listening to music, writing music, and doing whatever I can to go back to being the person I was before I reconnected with Shawn Scarlett.

Tough. Independent. Indestructible.

My hours are spent with a guitar pick between my fingers or between my lips, and food becomes an annoyance that nags at my stomach during songs and between songs and after songs. I live off of peanut butter crackers and coffee, and when I run out of the latter on Wednesday morning, I’m forced to change into real clothes and venture out of my apartment. In a black thermal, a tattered black skirt, a pair of star-print knee-high socks, and my trusty combat boots, I sit in my Jeep arguing with my phone until it gives me directions to the closest coffee shop: a Starbucks near the local college campus—one with no freaking drive-thru.

I somehow manage to keep my eyes open during the drive, and after reluctantly climbing out of my Jeep and into the real world, I cross the weather-beaten parking lot. Inside, I find myself in a mishmash of polo-wearing college kids who make me look like a neon blue sharpie in a box of ballpoint pens. Some of the guys stare at me like I’m contagious¸ and some stare at me like they want to catch whatever I’ve got, but most just stare at me like I’m a foreign food they want to taste but are too intimidated to try.

I scan customers gathered at tables and cozied on couches in the corner before my gaze drifts to the front of the line, where one guy is pulling at another guy’s shoulder to get him to place his order, but the latter is too busy smiling at me like I’m an adorable kitten with a “Free to a Good Home” sign hovering above my head.

He’s wearing pink Chucks, long cargo shorts, and a Strawberry Shortcake T-shirt that looks like it’s legitimately scratch-and-sniff. Dark shades are pushed up into a thick lick of ombré hair, making the guy look just as out of place as I do.

When he smiles at me, I furrow my brows at him, and he turns around and places his order.

There’s this weird dude staring at me in a Starbucks, I text Kale while I wait for my turn.

Oh, look who’s alive.

If he murders me, bury me in my boots.

Those boots have probably melded to your feet. We’d never get them off.

Good!

“Miss?”

“Oh, uh.” I pocket my phone and scan the board behind the barista’s head. “A caramel mocha, please. Extra salt. Extra espresso.” I glance around for Mr. Shortcake, but all that’s left is polo, polo, polo.

I hold back a laugh when I realize that if I called out “Marco” right now, every single guy in this entire joint would need to call back to me. And judging by the way a few of them are beginning to ogle, they wouldn’t mind if I felt around for them with my eyes closed.

I ignore the unwanted attention and move to the end of the bar to wait for my drink, pulling out my phone again.

Sorry I missed family dinner Sunday.

Where were you?

The writing cave. I’ll make it up to you.

Better make it up to Bryce and Mason too. All they did the whole time was whine about how they’ve been replaced.

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