And then, I get my first glimpse of Shawn Scarlett just before the door closes behind him. My eyes fight to adjust back to the dim lighting, and when it does, he’s all I can see. He has that same dark hair, that same scruffy jaw, that same look about him that makes it hard for me to breathe.
“Guys, this is Kit,” Dee says while Shawn continues stealing the breath from my lungs. “She’s up next.”
They all look me over as they gather close, with only Adam and Joel managing to contain their ogling. When I see the way Shawn is raking his eyes over me, a satisfied smile sneaks onto my face. After six years of not being able to forget him, this single moment is making it all worthwhile. Whether he remembers me or not, he’s staring at me like I’m the hottest chick he’s ever seen.
These pants were so worth it.
“We thought you were a dude,” Joel says, wrapping his arm around Dee’s shoulder and giving me an excuse to play it cool.
“Yeah,” I say, withdrawing my gaze from Shawn even though I can feel his green eyes still tracing over the curves of my exposed skin. “I gathered that when your girlfriend tried to close the door in my face.”
“Have we met before?” Shawn asks, and a laugh almost bubbles out of me. Have we met? Yeah, I guess you could call it that.
He’s staring at me with a slight squint to his enchanted forest eyes, but I refuse to let them charm me. Instead, I meet them with a smirk and say, “We went to the same school.”
“What year were you?”
“Three under you.”
“Didn’t you used to come to our shows?” Mike asks, but I stare at Shawn for a moment longer, waiting to see if my smile, my eyes, or my voice jog his memory. The rejected teenage girl in me wants to claw his face off for forgetting me, but rationally, I know he’s given me the upper hand in a game I wasn’t aware I’d be playing. One I’m making up the rules for as I go along.
When Shawn stares and stares and still can’t place me, I turn to Mike and answer, “Sometimes.”
As the guys continue asking me questions—have I been in a band before, were we any good, why’d we break up—and I continue giving them answers—in college, we could have been better, because they wanted nine-to-five jobs—I wonder what would happen if Shawn would remember me. Would I be happy? Would he laugh it off? Would he apologize for breaking my teenage heart?
Any apology now would be too little, too late. It’d be meaningless—and so infuriating that I’d have to use my combat boots to do just what Kale told me to.
“And you’re sure this is what you want to do with your life?” Mike asks me, and I nod.
“More than anything.”
Satisfied, Mike turns to Shawn. “Anything to add? Or should we have her play?”
Shawn, who hasn’t said another word since asking me what year I was, rubs the back of his neck and nods. “Sure. Let her play.”
Taking my dismissal for what it is, I walk away and grab my guitar, sliding it onto the stage before hoisting myself up behind it. I force Shawn from my mind and get set up in record time, strapping my Fender around my neck and stepping up to the mic. As I adjust it to fit my height, the guys are all sitting at the tables, laughing and carrying on. All of them but Shawn, who is too bored with my audition to laugh along with the rest of them.
“What do you want me to play?” I ask, ignoring the way he’s staring at the table in front of him like it’s far more interesting than anything I could possibly do onstage.
“Your favorite song!” Adam shouts, and the butterflies in my stomach fade away as I concentrate on the music in my head. I think about my options for a moment before chuckling under my breath and stepping back. As soon as I position my fingers and pluck the E string, all six American Idol judges start to groan and I can’t help laughing.
“Just kidding!” I say into the microphone, knowing they must have heard “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes a hundred times by now by amateur guitarists. When I step away from the mic again, I smile down at my guitar, thinking about it for another brief moment before I begin playing “Vices” by Brand New. My fingers slide over the strings, the harshness of my chords assaulting the very foundation of the building we’re in and reminding me how much I’ve missed being onstage. With my old band, I played small venues to small crowds, but a stage is a stage, and a show is a show. Performing is in my blood now—like being A positive or B negative. I couldn’t forget what it feels like if I tried.
When Adam’s hand lifts, I reluctantly stop playing.
“Do you write your own stuff?” he asks before my heart can sink too far. When I nod, he asks me to play something, and I play one of the new untitled songs I’ve been working on just because it’s the freshest on my fingers.
Again, I don’t get far into it before he stops me.
I wait for him to tell me I suck and order me to leave, but then the guys share a few words and all stand in unison, their chairs screeching against the floor as they get slid back. When Shawn, Adam, Joel, and Mike walk toward the stage, my heart beats hard, climbing inch by inch into my throat. I try to play it cool as Mike sits at the drums, as Joel and Shawn collect their guitars and hook them up, as Adam takes his place at the mic.
Adam names one of their songs and asks me if I know it, and I nod in a daze. My chin is still moving when Adam’s thumb goes up and Mike’s drumsticks tap together. Three taps, and then I’m swept up in a performance with The Last Ones to freaking Know.