Page 28 of Chaos (Mayhem 3)

The silence that stretches and stretches tells me he took me up on my offer and I’m finally, really alone. I finish tying my second ass-kicking boot, let it fall back to the ground, and take another rib-straining deep, deep breath. Nervous invisible butterflies swarm in my stomach until I heave them out in a heavy sigh.

Tonight is the night. Every choice I’ve made—picking up the guitar, dedicating the past few years of my life to it, auditioning for the band, not quitting after I threw a guitar pick at Shawn’s chest and had my chance to get away—it all comes down to this.

When I slide open the door, Shawn pushes away from the hallway wall, his wide eyes traveling down, down, down. They linger on my bare thighs, which probably blush as pink as my cheeks, my neck, my ears.

“I thought you went inside,” I stammer.

His gaze is in no rush as it lifts back to mine. “Wow.”

“Wow?”

“I . . . ”

When he doesn’t finish his sentence, I say, “You?”

His eyes finally lock on mine, and he swallows and runs a hand through his hair. But then those eyes are dropping again, and when they catch my lips, I bite the bottom one between my teeth. It’s a nervous gesture that makes his eyes dart to the wall behind my head. “You ready to head inside?”

“Not until you say what you were going to say.”

I surprise even myself, and God . . . I don’t know why I want to hear it. I don’t know why I need to hear it. But the girl inside me, the one who never got a call from him, the one who giggled with him on the roof . . . she needs to know. She needs to know what he was going to say after “wow.”

“You look . . . ” Shawn’s eyes start to wander again, but he stops them short of diving into the cleavage peeking out from behind bright blue safety pins that Dee strategically fastened in the dress. He drags that fiery green gaze back up, his fingertips wearing at an already-worn spot on his jeans while my heart pounds pulse-by-slow-pulse in the hollow of my chest. “Dee made this for you?”

My inner rock goddess wants to take his fidgeting hands and fit them against my curves. Wants to suck his fingertip between my lips to make him think about other things he’d like to put in its place.

My inner girly-girl is a pussy.

“Yeah,” I say. “Do I look okay?”

Do I look okay? In lieu of mimicking oral sex on his finger, I opt for Do I look o-freaking-kay?

An amused smile touches his lips, and he answers with a slight shake of his head. “Yeah, Kit, you look fine.”

It isn’t until he starts walking down the bus hallway and I fall in step just behind him that I finally find my nerve again. “Is that what you were going to say?”

“Huh?”

“Back there, when I opened the door”—I’m on his heels as we descend the stairs of the double-decker—“is that what you were going to say? That I look fine?”

Outside, my combat boots hit the pavement, and we walk toward Mayhem side by side. “Does it matter?”

When I stop walking, Shawn takes a few more steps ahead of me before he stops walking too.

“What are you doing?”

I level a stubborn gaze on him. “Waiting.”

He steps closer so we can see each other in the dim orange glow of the parking lot, and it’s ridiculous what a perfect model he’d make for Goodwill—because it’s like every single T-shirt he wears beat itself up just to be with him. “I have no idea what I was going to say.”

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I don’t,” he argues. “It was like my brain stopped working for a minute, so I honestly have no fucking idea.”

Silence, and then giggling. From me. I can’t stop myself from doing it, and even though I feel dumb as hell, it does nothing to wipe the ear-to-ear smile from my face.

A smile teases at Shawn’s lips too, which only makes me feel even dumber. “Happy?” he asks.

I walk ahead of him to hide my goofy grin. “Maybe.”

He opens the door for me, his hand finds my lower back to usher me inside, and that smile on my face blooms to epic proportions. I’m escorted backstage to catcalls and whistles from the staff, and I flash them my middle finger even though my heart isn’t in it. Even when Shawn’s hand drops away as we approach the guys, my mood is indestructible.

Because I broke Shawn Scarlett’s brain. Shawn Scarlett thinks I’m hot.

Mike whistles louder than anyone, earning me the sudden attention of the entire band. Rowan and Leti are backstage too, and when all eyes turn to me, I brace myself for their ambush.

“Oh my,” Leti says, circling around me like I’m some kind of safety-pinned maypole. “Oooh my.”

“You look gorgeous,” Rowan praises, rubbing her fingers over a safety pin on my shoulder and admiring Dee’s work.

“That ass,” Leti admires from behind me, and I whirl around and smack him on the shoulder while he laughs.

“Did Dee make this?”

I turn back around to find Joel studying me, the rest of the guys gathered around. His eyes are for the dress and not at all for what’s underneath, and when I confirm that she did, his answer is blankness. No full smile, no half smile, no frown, no nothing. He nods and walks away, and everyone stares after him with no right words to say, because no right words exist. Shawn and I exchange glances, and when he replies to my worried expression with a slight shake of his head, we both let Joel go.

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