He shook his head, “He got distracted. It’s a major record deal. She works for the record company. This is huge. Major. We’ll be doing tours and playing the Grammys and concerts worldwide. It’s what we wanted. This is our dream coming true. He got caught up in it.”

I knew then, Gerry would never be on my side. I didn’t want him there anyway. He was part of the band. He wanted to be on the ride with Lochlan, in more than one way. He wanted to sit at the cool kids table, the way I had. Lochlan made him feel alive, with the way he saw what he wanted and went after it. I’d liked it when the thing he wanted had been me. ‘Course that was yesterday. I gave it to him, and like with every other girl, he was done. I almost slapped myself, was that a fair thing to think about him? Was he really like that? Did I believe it or was I hurt-talking? I shook my petty, self-pitying head and smiled weakly at Gerry, “Congratulations. I’m sorry. I am happy for you, Ger.” I had to be happy for Gerry. His dream had just come true. It was huge and I was being whiny. Was it better that I saw the whininess or worse that I wasn’t stopping myself?

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He shook his head, “I can’t be happy and see you like this.”

I shrugged, “I just need a day. I’ll be fine. I never let it go that far.”

He gave me a dubious look. I smiled weakly, “Truly, I only let myself fall yesterday. I just didn’t know how far the fall was with him.”

He shook his head, “Take all the time you need. The spare room is ready for you. Danny slept there last night, but tonight he went home with some blonde.”

I made a face, “You guys are so nasty. You’ll fuck anything.”

He scoffed, “That’s bitterness talking and it’s not attractive, Erin. And don’t lump me in that group.”

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I gave him a cocky look, “Being gay doesn’t make you less of a man in a band.”

He stuck his tongue out at me. I walked down the hall to the bedroom. I didn’t make it all the way when the pounding started.

“ERIN!” Lochlan screamed into the doorframe. His demons had him. He rattled the handle. Gerry answered the door, “Loch, you’re going to get me evicted. Stop.”

“ERIN!”

Gerry’s soft tone changed, “Enough.”

Lochlan sounded desperate, “Dude, just let me in.”

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“I don’t think that’s a good idea. She’s upset.”

I leaned my face against the wall and closed my eyes.

He sounded like he was about to switch and let the beast out completely, “Ger, man, don’t get involved. Just let me see her. I just want to explain. I swear. I’m cool.” He sounded like a junky.

Gerry softened, “Come back tomorrow, when you’re cooled off for real. Okay?”

He raged, “NO!”

I jumped at the fury in his voice and quickly walked around the corner, before he hurt Gerry and then hated himself for it. His look was dark and crazed. His anger melted when he saw me, “It’s not what you think. The bouncer told me what you saw. It’s not what you think.”

I nodded, “I know.”

He swallowed, like he was trying to understand, “What do you mean?”

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I blinked the tears out of my eyes, so I could see again, “I know. Congratulations on the deal.”

He looked flabbergasted, “Who fucking cares about it? I want to explain to you. Don’t leave.”

I crossed my arms, “Go home, Loch.”

He grabbed my bags off the floor and gave me his black stare, “You come home, or I won’t be responsible for the things I do. I’ll end up trashing the fucking place and then we’re both homeless. Jesus.” He walked out with my stuff. Gerry gave me a look. It was exactly what he’d talked about. Lochlan was so close to his goal and he would shoot himself in the foot again.

I followed him but stopped beside Gerry, “I’m sorry I brought this here.”

He shook his head, “I don’t know if you should go.”

I gave him a weak smile, “He won’t hurt me. Not like that. Besides it’s better for the band if he calms down.”

When I got on the street he was there. He was holding my bags, “You can’t do this and not talk to me. This is about me too.” The veins in his arms were jacked, like he’d just worked out. They made his tattoos more ominous.

I nodded, “I was just mad. I’m sorry.” I felt myself shutting him off. I would help him calm down but my heart was gone. He didn’t see it on the floor of the bar, he probably stepped on it and didn’t realize.

He gave me a pleading look, I could see in the street light that the blue in his eyes was lightening again as his brow lifted. His anger was calming and the beast was leaving. “I would have stopped her, but she was in the middle of offering us a contract. I told you, it’s part of the act.”

“I get it.”

He looked torn, “I see you not getting it. This isn’t fair, Erin. You need to give me a fucking break here. I just won the God-damned lottery for musicians. You’re making this about you. You never see my side.”

I shook my head as the pain started to surface, “What if some guy came up to me and started grinding against me, rubbing his cock on me?”

He looked crazed instantly, “Did that happen? That fucking bar is a pit. I don’t want you coming there anymore. We won’t be playing the bars much longer anyway.”

I shook my head, taking patient breaths, “Hypothetically.” My tone was showing the signs of my anger.

“Hypothetically, I’d break his arms and then mace him with your little friend there.” He said it so matter of fact, that I had to shake my head at him.

I pointed at him, “You winked and gave her the smile you always give me. You let her press her tits all over you and kiss you. So should I go mace her?”

He sighed, “You drive me insane. I told you—it’s the act. Why can’t you be happy for me, instead of jealous and insecure?”

I lost it, the snapping sound in my brain was so loud, I figured he must have heard it too. I was breathing like fire would come out of my mouth any second, “Fine. I was thinking about getting a job. I’ll apply to Hooters and a few strip joints and we’ll see how you feel, when I give strangers lap dances.” It was petty and only making him worse, but I was angry. I couldn’t stop myself. He’d called me out on my being insecure.

He laughed, dropping the bags. He took a huge step towards me, cupping my face in his hands, “Look into my eyes, princess. There’s no one there but you. You’re jealous of yourself. There’s no one else in my eyes.” He pressed his lips against mine, but all it did was seal the fate of our day-old relationship. The kiss felt like a goodbye. He felt it too. He tried to force it to be something it wasn’t.

“It can’t work, Loch,” I whispered into his lips.

He stepped back, “Just don’t leave. I won’t touch you, please just don’t leave.”

I nodded, “Okay.” It was like winning the lottery. He wanted to be friends again… maybe. Maybe we would just torture each other. Either way, I didn’t want to be the reason he blew the whole record deal for everyone else. He was gripping to me because of the stress of everything in his life. He was so close to success, and the last time he blew it was with a moment just like this one. I nodded against him, “I won’t leave.” Even if he had called me jealous and insecure. I had no argument for that. The proof was there.

We walked to his car. He threw everything in the back seat and drove with no words. When we got back to the apartment, I covered my mouth, looking at the mess he’d already made.

He stood beside me, overshadowing me and spoke flatly, “I panicked. I thought that guy from North Dakota came for you. I thought I’d left you vulnerable and you wouldn’t answer your phone. So yeah, I got mad,” he muttered. “I went back to the club to find out who had seen you last. Jimmy, the bouncer told me what happened.”

My insides burned, looking at the mess everywhere. “I’m so sorry.”

He shook his head, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said all that shit to you. I’m making you insecure.” He carried my stuff to the bedroom and walked back out, as I closed the front door and locked it. He looked rough, “I’ll quit.”

I laughed on the verge of tears, “Quit what? Quit being you?”

He shook his head and knelt in front of me. I was only slightly taller than him with him on his knees, “Quit the band.”

I ran my hand down his cheek, “You can’t quit being you. That’s you up there on the stage, winking at the ladies and having fun. You’re alive up there. It’s me that’s taking something amazing and rare and ruining it. It’s like dating a God. I’m bringing you down to my level, with my problems and flaws and ruining you.”

He ignored me as usual and changed the subject, “Can we give it time?”

I sighed, “Loch, we had sex and we live together. Time for what? We fucked up, just like I said we would.”

His eyes glistened, “Slow it down. Take it back to the flirty place we were yesterday.”

I shook my head, “No.”

“Can we be friends?”

I kissed his forehead, “Of course.”

“Same deal as before?”

“Yup.”

He looked a bit relieved. He took a breath, “I want to take it all back. I want to take it back.”

I sighed, “Me too.”

Chapter Nine

Cold feet

Classes dragged on. I always wanted to text him. Even worse, I wanted him to text me, but he’d done the friendship thing perfectly. He hadn’t overstepped his boundaries once. He was worse than before.

We laughed and joked, and he ordered me food and plated my food. It was blissfully normal in the fakest way imaginable, and I seemed like the only one who saw how awkward it was.

All I could do was wonder, if he was fucking other girls when he wasn’t at home, or if the reason he didn’t meet my eyes with his, was guilt. He signed boobs and kissed cheeks whenever we left the house. He posed for pictures. I got to the point that I never left the house, except for class and groceries.

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