“Have you been to Mayhem yet?” he asks from his place across the table from me at the college’s closest café. We’re sharing a large order of French toast bites while we wait for Rowan to get out of class.
I shake my head. “Just for my audition. Rowan invited me this past weekend, but I turned her down.”
She said everyone would be there, and I told her I couldn’t go because I promised my brothers I’d go home for the weekend. But really, I’d just had my fill of Shawn. I was pretty sure any more would kill me. Or turn me into a fiending addict.
“Probably for the best,” Leti comments while he checks out a Polo who just walked through the door. “We weren’t there long. It turned into a dram-o-rama.”
“What kind of drama?”
He gradually gives me his attention. “I didn’t ask. Just another chapter in the ongoing Dee-and-Joel saga.”
I frown, remembering what a mess Joel was at the last practice. “He seems pretty wrecked.”
Leti just shakes his head. “I don’t get those two. Never have, never will. What about you, Kitten? Ever been smitten?”
I nod enthusiastically with my mouth full of bready, cinnamonny goo. “Mhm. He was gorgeous. Put together like you wouldn’t believe. And old-fashioned too. They don’t make them like him anymore.”
Leti eyes me for a long while, his golden irises getting clearer and clearer. “You’re talking about a guitar, aren’t you?”
When I burst out laughing, he laughs too, and we’re still chuckling when Rowan slides onto the stool next to him, her head swiveling back and forth between us.
“What are we laughing about? And um . . . ?” She gestures to me, him, me, him. “When did you two meet? And suddenly become best friends?”
“Third-best friends,” I correct, and Leti laughs some more.
“We ran into each other at Starbucks this morning,” he says, “and it was third-best friends at first sight.” With his chin on his hand, he swoons at me, and Rowan unapologetically steals one of our French toast bites.
“Weird. How’d you know who she was?”
“How could I not know who she was?” Leti asks. “You said she looked like a rock star. And”—he uses a cinnamon-covered pointer finger to gesture from my head to my toes—“I’ve never seen a more rocking-looking rock star in my life.”
I remember the way he smiled at me in line, the way he approached me outside, the way he knew everything about me . . . including about my crush on Shawn.
“Did you tell Leti I had a crush on Shawn?” I blurt, and Rowan’s blue eyes flash wide. I knew it couldn’t have been Shawn, because Shawn doesn’t remember. And the guys in the band are guys—they wouldn’t notice, much less gossip. That left a girl. That left Rowan.
Leti yelps when she kicks him under the table.
“I just said you two acted weird around each other,” she stammers. “It just kind of seemed, at the apartment, like maybe . . . ”
“Like maybe what?”
“Like . . . ” Rowan is stumbling over words she isn’t saying, and Leti cuts her off.
“If you don’t think Shawn is hot, you’re blind. Or gay.” He points a French toast bite at me. “Are you surfing the rainbow?”
I cock an eyebrow at him.
“Then you think Shawn is hot. Stop denying it.”
Rowan waits patiently for my response, but I just roll my eyes. “Okay, sure, yeah, I think he’s super-duper hot.”
Leti grins at my sarcasm, but Rowan just looks confused, or disturbed, or . . . curious. I’m praying she lets it go—and then she does.
But Leti doesn’t.
“What do you like best about him, hmm? Those sexy green eyes? That wind-swept black hair? The way he touches his guitar like he wants it to scream his name?”
When I blush, Leti’s grin is triumphant.
“So all of the above then.”
I roll my eyes as hard as I possibly can, kind of hoping I give myself an aneurism or something else to get me out of this conversation. “Sounds like you have a crush of your own.”
“Oh, I so do.”
“I just think he’s really talented,” I lie. “And yeah, maybe I had a little crush in high school, but that was six years ago. If I wanted Shawn now, I’d just have him.”
Damn, that came off cocky. Confident and cocky and awesome. Leti turns to Rowan and smiles wide.
“Have I told you I love her?”
I manage a grin I don’t quite feel, wondering if it would really be that easy—if I could make Shawn like me, if I’d even want Shawn to like me.
And then I kid myself into believing that I wouldn’t.
That I don’t.
It’s another lie I tell myself, one I force myself to believe.
THE FIRST FAMILY dinner after meeting Leti, my brothers give me four tons of shit for not showing up at the last one. My mom does her best to save me, but attempting to derail my brothers is like trying to stop a stampede of obnoxious shithead elephants.
“Forgetting about us already, huh?” Mason chides.
Of course, every single elephant is sitting on his lazy ass while my mom and I set the dining table, with Mason reclined in his high-backed wooden chair, his arms crossed over a shirt that’s too small for the muscles bulging in his chest. With his dark eyes, buzzed hair, and bad attitude, most people know not to mess with him, but if he thinks I won’t crack him over the head with one of the spoons I’m setting on the table, he’s dumber than I thought.