WITH NO HELP from Kale, and even less help from Leti, I finish my coffee, order another, and wait for the clock to tick down. I arrive back at the bus just before morning soundcheck, toting a carrier full of specialty coffees and giving them to the guys with the fakest smile I’ve ever delivered. They immediately ask where I’ve been, and I put on the performance of my life. I pretend to not be broken. To not be an absolute wreck inside. My brain wants to hate Shawn. But my heart . . . my heart is useless.
Where was I? A walk to find a coffee shop. Why? Because I wanted to bring back a surprise. No more questions asked, and even though Shawn’s eyes are curious, he says nothing that would make him seem any more or less concerned than anyone else—because we’re a secret he’s determined to keep. Or maybe because he just doesn’t care.
I still have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow, but for today, I have a plan, and that plan is to just get through it. I get through soundcheck, I get through lunch. I act normal. I play games with Mike, I make a casual phone call to my mom. I do whatever I need to do to avoid getting caught alone with Shawn.
That evening, I think about changing into something that will make his blood pump in all the right places and give him blue balls for the rest of his life. I could grab something from our boxes of Dee’s merchandise, guaranteed to flaunt my ample chest, my tight stomach, my long legs . . .
But then I just say fuck it and grab the first clean things I find, not caring in the slightest that I turn out looking much more grunge than gorgeous. My jeans are tight and worn to pieces. My tank top is loose and falling apart at the collar. Complete with an oversized flannel, I look like I’m ready for a night on the couch instead of a show on the stage. I look like I’m ready for a tub of ice cream and a marathon of Ice Road Truckers, and if I had just listened to Kale when I had the chance, that’s exactly what I’d be doing.
Instead, I drag my ass outside and sandwich myself between Mike and Joel to avoid walking next to Shawn. We haven’t shared more than a few words since last night, and the short stroll to the venue is no different. But inside, swallowed by the darkness of the balcony, he places himself beside me.
I can feel his gaze burrowing into the side of my face, searching for something that’s now missing between us, but I ignore it. And when he discreetly links his fingers with mine, one by one by one, I ignore that too. I silently stare over the railing, contemplating my next move. If I break this off between us—whatever this is—it will make things too easy for him. He’ll get over me as easily as he had before, and I’ll be the only one hurting.
He is the one who needs to hurt.
So instead of pulling away, I clasp my fingers with his, holding on tight and refusing to let go. I’m contemplating a million different ways to get even, each one threatening to destroy me just as much him, as I watch the crowd pour through the freshly opened doors. Red hair, brown hair, blue hair. Each one of those kids is already buzzing, ready for the best night of their lives, while I stand in the shadows with my hand trapped in Shawn’s. Blonde hair, purple hair, pink hair. And then . . .
Black hair, black hair, black hair, black hair.
My hand wrenches from Shawn’s when I suddenly gasp and grip the railing of the balcony, my eyes wide as I watch four extremely tall, extremely familiar, extremely far-from-home guys venture farther and farther inside. “Oh my God.”
My knuckles flash white as I lean farther over the rail to get a better look. And, as if Kale can sense me, his chin turns up and our dark eyes lock. He elbows Mason, and Mason looks up too. Bryce, Ryan. “Shit!” I back away from the railing, running my fingers through the thick mess of my hair as I try to figure out what to do. My brothers are here. All FOUR of my fucking brothers.
Doing a kamikaze jump over the railing is sounding better and better and better.
“What?” Shawn asks, but I’m already making my way toward the stairwell. I look over my shoulder to see every single one of my bandmates following me. I hold up a hand. “Stay here.”
Of course, they don’t stay there. When I get down to my brothers, who are already busy scaring the shit out of the security guard they’re dwarfing, four pairs of hard obsidian eyes skim over my face before stabbing a direct line of sight straight past me. They lock on the four pairs of eyes at my back—a rare gray-green, a boyish blue, a steady deep brown . . . and an enchanted, poisonous green.
Mason takes them in, his gaze sharpening before it challenges mine. “Outside. Now.”
To me, his growled order is just my pigheaded older brother being his pigheaded bossy self. But to anyone else—
“Whoa,” Shawn says, stepping past me defensively. “What’s your problem?”
“Was I talking to you?”
The warning in Mason’s voice triggers the sirens in my head, and instinctively, I grip Shawn’s arm to keep him from moving even another half centimeter forward. I may want him to pay for what he’s done to me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want him to die tonight.
Unfortunately, Mason’s black eyes narrow on my hand around Shawn’s arm, and I’m pretty sure I just signed Shawn’s death wish. I step forward in a hurry and do what I do best, throwing my attitude forward in an arrogant wave.
“Stop being an asshole, Mason. Say ‘please’ and maybe I’ll think about it.”
“Kit—” Ryan cautions, and I snap at him.
“Why are you guys even here?” I know it’s because Kale opened his big fucking mouth, but I have no idea how much he told them. Enough to get them to come here, yeah. But judging by the fact that Shawn is still on his feet instead of lying in a bloody pulp on the floor, I’m also guessing that Kale didn’t tell them about what happened six years ago, or about all of the confessions I made over the phone this morning.