Block after block, crosswalk after crosswalk, my combat boots gain the distance I’m so desperately in need of. The city is buzzing with people heading to their day jobs, dressed in suits and formal wear that stand in stark contrast to my shredded jeans, my band tee, my black-and-purple hair. I don’t even know where I’m going—I only care that it’s away. Because I can’t think around him. I end up kissing him or biting his fucking lip off, or both.
When my phone buzzes and Shawn’s face flashes onto my screen, I don’t slow down. I don’t turn around. Instead, I toss a few choice curses at his face before making it disappear. My contacts get pulled up. My thumb hovers over SEND. I make the call.
“Hey,” Kale answers, the sound of his voice lifting an invisible weight off my chest.
I take a deep breath and say the three words he’s probably been dying to hear. “You were right.” My voice is firm—loud enough to make the confession real even to my own ears.
“Of course I was right,” Kale agrees. “What are we talking about?”
“Shawn’s an asshole.”
“O . . .kaaay . . . ”
With the phone pressed tight against my ear, I wait for Kale to cuss Shawn out or rub it in or say anything, but my twin is silent for so long, I end up pulling the phone away from my head just to make sure I didn’t lose the call.
“Hello?” I prompt with it back under my hair.
“Sorry . . . He remembers?”
“Like . . . He remembers you from high school?”
My heart twists in my chest, the writhing of a million jagged pieces that will never be put back together. “Everything, Kale.”
“He told you that?”
A single laugh escapes me, cutting into the morning air of a city much too far from home. “No, Mike told me.” I slip inside a random coffeehouse, the jingling bells on the door taunting me as my choice attire earns stares from the patrons. I dare them to give me a look, or say something, or breathe the wrong way. “But two nights ago, before I found out,” I say as I approach a wary barista, “he asked me to be his girlfriend.” I make a noise at the end, something between a scoff and a choked-out laugh. “I’ll take a large coffee. Black.”
“And what happened after that?” Kale asks as I hand the barista my money.
I laugh again, the wry sound a cruel reminder of just how much he hurt me. “Trust me, you don’t want to know.”
Long seconds pass, and I try to block out the memory of all the sweet things he said to me that night, and all the dirty things he did to me the morning after. “You said yes?”
“I did a lot more than say yes.”
I woke in his arms and let him pin me to a wall. I let him kiss me, touch me . . . I let him drop to his knees. I let him—
My skin heats from the memory of what we did on that roof, and my fist clenches with the urge to punch myself in the face for the way my body betrays me. Even after everything, part of me—an untrusted, carnal part of me—still floods hot for him, and probably always will. He’s still gorgeous. Nothing can change that. And he’s still talented and smart and funny. And my heart . . .
My heart can’t be trusted either.
“You slept with him?” Kale asks, worry seeping through the phone from hundreds of miles away.
“No. Almost . . . but no.”
His sigh is heavy, and the weight of it bears down on me as I move to the edge of the counter to wait for my coffee.
“Kit . . . ” Kale says after a while. “Are you okay?”
“No.” My anger resurfaces with the admission. “No, I’m not fucking okay, Kale. He’s been lying to me this whole time.”
“Start at the beginning,” Kale orders, and I collect my coffee and find a table. I sip at the rim of my recycled-paper cup, welcoming the way the scalding liquid burns away any last traces of Shawn’s lips. And then I tell Kale everything, even though I swore to myself I never would. I tell him about the kiss in Mayhem before the tour, about the way Shawn pretended nothing happened. I tell him about the kiss the night I met Victoria, and the way Shawn pinned me against the bus. I tell him about sober kisses and drunk kisses and secrets—all of them, every single one.
“I feel like a fucking idiot,” I finish. “I feel like I don’t even know him. I guess I never did.”
“What are you going to do?”
I press my knuckles into my eye. “I don’t know.”
“How do you not know?” Kale snaps. “Come home, Kit. Fuck him. He’s not worth it.” My twin’s voice is stern, and there’s no mistaking that he’s related to Bryce, or Mason, or Ryan—or me. He’s repeating the exact words he said to me that summer after our freshman year.
He’s not worth it. He’s not worth it. He’s not worth it.
“Do you even know what the worst part is?” I ask, not waiting for an answer. “He told me not to tell anyone about us. He said I wasn’t even allowed to tell you. I guess he just wanted me to be some dirty little fling again.”
I can feel my brother’s anger radiating through the phone during the silence that spans between us. I don’t even hear him breathe, and in the quiet, I stare out the coffee shop window, watching the nine-to-five parade pass me by. Pantsuit, pantsuit, pantsuit, pantsuit. My eyes swing to the mismatched bracelets on my wrist and the chipped black polish on my nails, and I know with absolute certainty that I could never do what the people outside are doing—wake up at the same time every day, do the same job every day, come home at the same time, eat at the same time, go to bed at the same time. This band is my shot, my one big shot. And I want that, even if I don’t want Shawn. Even if Shawn doesn’t really want me. Even if he never did.