All of this is.
This new job. This new life. This fresh start I needed like nobody’s business.
Shutting the door behind me, I head for the elevator that will take me down to the garage. It’s Friday night and after the long weeks spent here, I intend to celebrate the completion of this album with a steady flow of margaritas, pajamas, and Netflix. I’m also contemplating making a spread of enchiladas to go with it.
How’s that for trouble?
Bounding toward the elevator, my finger a hairsbreadth from hitting the down arrow, I stop dead in my tracks at the sound of voices. But not just any voices. Familiar voices. Familiar voices that belong to my brother and his friends.
Crap in a jar of mustard. He can’t find me here.
Frantically, my head swivels left and right, and for a fleeting second, I debate hitting the down button and taking my chances. But those voices… they’re close. Growing louder. And I’m out of time.
Something tall and green catches my eye and I rush behind it, practically knocking the freaking plant over in the process. It sways dangerously and I have to grab it by the thick stalks, yanking it back before it goes crashing to the floor. As it is, some dirt spills over onto the pristine carpet and the flimsy fronds sway.
I can only hope no one notices that or me as I cower behind it like the coward I am, hiding from my brother. Well, and Henry too, since I’m sure he’s with Keith. But let’s be real here, he’s the last man I want to see. I’d take Keith over him any day.
Just as I get myself settled in a position I hope renders me invisible to human eyes, my brother, Jasper Diamond, Gus Diamond, and Henry Gauthier step into view, flanked by their manager Marco Morales. They’re all laughing and shooting the shit as they head for the elevator I was so nearly on.
I thought they were still on tour.
I must have miscalculated my days. Dammit.
If they catch me here, the jig is up, and I do not want the jig to be up. At least not yet. It will change everything. And not in a good way.
Since I started working at Turn Records last month, I’ve been avoiding my brother and his bandmates like the plague. Between my overprotective brother who does not see me as anything other than his baby sister that he partially raised and freaking Henry who had to go and ruin me the last time I saw him, this duck and cover routine is a necessary one.
I know I’ll have to face Keith eventually.
I know I’m being childish about that.
But this is not the moment for it with Henry right beside him.
I hate the gorgeous bastard. Hate him more than I hate crab, and I’m deathly allergic to crab. My main problem with Henry is not that he screwed me or even that it was only going to be a one-and-done deal. I had accepted that when I accepted his crude offer. The problem was that I thought he finally saw me.
And he didn’t.
Childhood crushes are a nuisance like that, and mine stems back a long way. The one good thing my brother’s asshole best friend did by fucking me in a public place like the nameless side piece I was to him was to finally cure me of my lifelong, insufferable obsession with him. Silver lining, right?
Random bits of conversation and laugher flitters over to me and I slink down farther, wedged between the plant in the wall in the most uncomfortable of ways while doing my best to be silent and unobservable.
And forcing myself not to look at Henry.
Not to feel the same, familiar swarm of butterflies I always feel in his presence.
Not to notice his simple white tee that clings like a second skin to his large arm muscles and smattering of colorful tattoos, making him look deliciously, dangerously bad ass. To ignore the way his dark, low-slung designer jeans fit so stupidly perfect it’s beyond annoying. To pretend his face isn’t cut from stone, sculpted by God, and sent to Earth from the hottest depths of hell.
They hit the button for the elevator, all of their backs to me and I watch with bated breath as the doors open and all five men step on, turning to face the front of the elevator—and me—at the same time.
I scan their faces, one by one, hoping, praying I remain undetected. But just as the doors begin to close, I catch Marco’s eyes narrowing, his head tilting as if he’s trying to discern what the dark mass behind the plant is.
Our eyes meet and his searching expression morphs into one of puzzled amusement.
Raspberry-tinted lips curve in an amused smirk, and I violently shake my head, holding my hands in supplication, silently begging him to keep quiet. He subtly shakes his head in return like I’m too much, but he doesn’t say anything, mercifully, and returns to conversation with Jasper, effectively ignoring me.
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