Page 45 of Chaos (Mayhem 3)

“He dated her for like three years,” Shawn confirms. “He put her on a pedestal, but she dumped him right before we moved out here.”

“Because of the long distance?” I bunch up my trash and discard it in the basket my cheesesteak was in.

Shawn shakes his head once. “Because she was a gold digger who tried to force him to quit the band. She said he wouldn’t amount to anything.”

“What a bitch,” I scoff, and Shawn nods emphatically before taking the last bite of his sub. He gathers up our trash, and I follow him to the trashcans.

“Yeah. She broke his heart.”

“Do you think he wants a girlfriend now?”

“Maybe. But he’s . . . careful, you know? He deserves someone special.”

“Someone who deserves him,” I agree, and as we cross the street, Shawn flashes me an approving smile that ripens the pale apples of my cheeks.

When he opens the door of the Laundromat, I enter with the inside of my lip pinned between my teeth. I’m nibbling at the skin when I finally ask what I’m wondering. “What about you?”

I glance at him out of the corner of my eye as I open the dryer and start gathering the clean sheets into my arms. He used more fabric softener in the dryer, and the sheets are all as soft as the clothes he wears. I resist the urge to bury my face in them and breathe deep.

“What about me?” he asks.

“Ever want a girlfriend?” I walk ahead of him so he can’t see how red my cheeks are glowing. I don’t know why I’m even asking. I don’t care. Can’t care. Shouldn’t care.

“She’d have to be one hell of a girl,” he says as he catches up with me. The bells jingle as we leave the Laundromat behind, and I know I should close my mouth. I should stop asking questions. I should let the conversation drop.

“Like what kind?”

My question hangs suspended in the air between us, the inside of my bottom lip getting nibbled sore as what seems like an eternity passes in just a few hard thumps of my heart. My palms start to sweat and I think of a million jokes I could tell to make him forget the stupid, impulsive, stupid, stupid question I just blurted. But then he answers me.

“I don’t know . . . ” he says, his magnetic gaze pulling at me even though I resist the urge to meet it. “Maybe a girl like you.”

I DON’T SAY anything on block one, minute five, or step 152. My thoughts are traveling faster and further than my feet are moving, and each step of the way, Shawn is right beside me.

Maybe a girl like you.

A girl like me? Not me, but a girl like me . . . Why a girl like me? What the hell does that MEAN? Why is he always so goddamn confusing?

My mouth has opened and closed at least five times when my phone rings, tearing me from the eternal echo of Shawn’s words.

My twin’s face flashes onto the screen that I free from my back pocket, under letters that spell “Butthead.” He’s wearing a cowboy hat that I plopped on his head while we were Christmas shopping last year, and he has an unamused expression on his face that makes me grin every time he calls.

Well, almost every time. This time, I simply cast an uncomfortable glance at Shawn before handing off the sheets and telling him I really have to answer the call. My phone has been on silent all day, but I have it set so that if anyone calls twice within three minutes in case of an emergency, the call comes through.

“What’s wrong?”

“Aside from the fact that I’ve texted you like a million times since yesterday and you clearly aren’t dead?” Kale asks.

I feel bad for worrying him, but not bad enough to say sorry. “Should I apologize for not being dead?”

Shawn turns his head with his eyebrow lifted, and Kale answers gruffly. “For starters.”

“I’m sorry the bus didn’t crash and burn,” I offer, nearly snickering when I picture the way his brows probably just slammed down with frustration.

“Good,” he says. “You should be. Now tell me all the reasons you couldn’t pick up a phone.”

I finger-comb the loose strands of hair away from my face to prevent myself from glancing over at the reason Kale is asking for—a reason with messy hair, gorgeous eyes, and a smile that makes a girl forget to check in with her family. “The show was awesome, but the crowd was crazy, so we had to hang out inside for a while. And then we went out to the bus, and there was a crowd there too.” I add the last part with a lightning-quick tongue—“And some of them came on the bus and—”

“Wait, what?” Kale interjects. “They didn’t—they brought girls on the bus? Did Shawn—”

“Have you called Leti yet?” I interrupt, discreetly turning the volume on my phone as low as possible so Shawn won’t be able to hear anything Kale is saying.

“Nuh-uh,” my meddling twin counters, refusing to let me change the subject. “No way. What happened?”

“I can’t really talk right now, Kale.” I glance at Shawn again, wishing there’d be anything else on this busy street to steal his attention: a near car accident, a hot chick, a crazy homeless person throwing hamsters at people, anything.

“Why?” A moment of silence. “Is he with you right now? Can you not talk because he’s with you?”

“Something like that,” I answer.

“Fine, then just say yes or no.”

I hold the phone with one hand and rub a spot between my eyes with the other. “Can we not?”