Page 58 of Chaos (Mayhem 3)

“I know,” Kale replies. He pauses and then adds, “Kit, no matter what happens with Shawn, you know I’ll always be there for you, right?”

I never doubted it, not even for a second. “I know. I love you, Kale.”

“Love you too, sis. Call me if you need me.”

I join the rest of the guys to walk back to the bus, asking Mike who Shawn is talking to.

“Van.”

One word, and I’m nearly tripping over my combat boots. The guys give me weird looks, and I blame an imaginary crack in the sidewalk.

Van Erickson, a name so big that the surname is optional. He’s the lead singer of Cutting the Line, one of the most popular bands around right now. I scored tickets to one of their shows last year, and even though my friend and I showed up three hours early, we still ended up being far, far back in line, and then right in the middle of the pit. I got clobbered, but it was one of the best shows of my life. Every single person there that night knew every single word to every single song, and we all screamed them at the tops of our lungs, hands in the air and chaos in our veins.

I shamelessly eavesdrop on Shawn while Adam, Joel, and Mike joke and carry on—like having Van Erickson on the other line is no big deal—but I barely catch the tail end of the conversation before Shawn hangs up and goes into business mode.

“Change of plans,” he says. “We’re heading back to Nashville.”

“When?” Adam asks between puffs of his cigarette.

“Now.”

Shawn’s ear is back to the phone in no time, and I manage to get only short answers from him while he simultaneously talks to Driver.

Apparently, Cutting the Line’s opening band came down with a nasty bug that’s putting them out of commission, and Van wanted to give us first dibs on filling in. Shawn said yes, and in a few hours, I’m going to be opening for Cutting. The freaking. Line.

WHEN WE GET back to the buses, the engines are already running. Driver pulls out of the parking spot practically as soon as the last man’s foot leaves the ground, and then we’re on the highway toward Nashville.

Joel chuckles as I pour myself a Red Bull and sip it while staring absently at the kitchen wall. “You nervous or something?”

My eyes drift to him, and I realize I’m as white as the T-shirt he’s wearing. “Aren’t you?”

He shakes his head and sits on the tabletop. “I’ve played with them before.”

“You’ve played with Cutting the Line?”

“Their bass player drank way too much at Manifest,” he explains.

I would’ve sold every last inch of my hair to go to that festival last spring, but tickets sold out before I could get my hands on any. “What was it like?”

“Loud.” His devilish grin gives me chills that stay with me the whole way to Nashville, and when we pull up to the venue, my eyes go wide in a window of the bus. The line for the show tonight stretches for blocks and blocks, kids with dyed hair and piercings and T-shirts even more faded than mine. I swallow thickly and peel my eyes from the window when Shawn sits next to me on my bunk.

“There’s only one thing you have to remember,” he coaches. He’s dressed for the show, in exactly what he wore this morning—faded, ripped jeans and a vintage Nirvana shirt.

“What’s that?”

“You’re the best damn rhythm guitarist these kids have ever seen.” He smiles softly at the look of doubt I give him and tucks my hair behind my ear before standing up to walk to the front of the bus.

“Shawn,” I call after him, standing up and facing him in the aisle. “How do I look?”

I’m wearing a cute black bra that’s peeking out through one of Dee’s creations—a cut-up purple top that hugs where it should hug and drapes where it should drape. It matches the highlights in my hair and sports a Photoshopped image of Marilyn Monroe on the front. She’s complete with heavy makeup and tattoos, both hands in the “rock on” symbol, looking just as badass as I hope I do. My legs are snug in shredded black skinny jeans, and my combat boots are laced up tight.

Shawn’s green eyes scan over me before he steps in close. We’re alone between the privacy curtains, and when he kisses me, it makes me forget. I don’t care about Van, or performing, or who might walk in on us. I only care about how warm his mouth is, how good he tastes—like dark-roasted coffee and sugar.

He pulls away first, my heart pounding hard when he purrs low in my ear, “You look like trouble.”

BY THE TIME I exit the bus, a second road crew is already outside helping ours rush things inside. Adam immediately lights a cigarette since he’s banned from smoking on the bus—even though half the time he does it anyway—and Mike stretches his arms toward the sky, growling a tired groan. When Shawn finishes shouting at the new road crew to be careful with our stuff, the rest of us follow him inside.

Seeing Van Erickson onstage—looking like a rock god in black jeans, a fitted black T-shirt, and a studded belt that’s hanging loose at the end—makes me feel two inches tall. He hops off the stage and immediately starts walking toward us, even his confident stride screaming “rock star.” His hair is black, shaggy, and dyed red at the tips, and he has tattoos crawling up both arms. His grin is completely confident as he approaches the guys of my band. His eyes scan over Shawn, Adam, Joel, Mike, and then they rake over me from head to toe. He smirks and then claps hands with Adam and Shawn, pulling each into a guy-hug.

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