I was about to defend Gerry when a huge smile crossed Lochlan’s lips, “Dude, my brother’s gay. I should tell him to come up. He always complains about Nashville and the haters.”


Gerry sighed, “Fortunately, I’m from Seattle; I’ve never had an issue. But I know a guy who’s from Texas and his parents won’t even see him.”

Lochlan shook his head, “That’s sick. How can you judge someone for being who they are?” He gave me a look and continued to drive.

I somehow turned out to be the bad guy in Lochlan’s eyes. Had I been judging people, besides him? He deserved every bit of judgment he got.

Gerry laughed, leaning forward, “If I had to be straight, I would be asking you for dinner.”

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I looked back at him, “I would have asked you first. I can tell you have manners. You’re probably a great dancer, have incredible taste in red wines, love picking up after yourself, and bringing home fresh flowers. I bet you’re even on time, all the time.”

He smirked at me, “Me to a tee.”

I grinned, “Me too. I bet you’d even let me order for myself.”

I scowled at Lochlan who rolled his eyes, “Yeah, so I don’t like red wine and other snooty shit, and I don’t pick up crap in the living room. It’s a living room. It’s for living, princess.” His grin turned into the smile that made the world stop and take notice of him, “Besides, you like it when I order for you.”

I gave Gerry a knowing look, “This is what I deal with.”

Lochlan snorted as he parked and we went inside. Gerry took his own cart, “I’m going to wander.” He winked at me and walked off.

I poked Lochlan, “Ha, told you he’s gay.”

He nodded, “You called it.”

I frowned, “Is your brother really gay?”

He gave me a weird look, “Yeah? Why?”

Shaking my head, I followed him to the protein powder section, “Just curious.”

He glanced at the label of the huge container he was holding, “You don’t think I’d be cool with a gay brother, or you just think I lie a lot?” His tone tugged at me.

I answered casually, “What?? No… I never meant that. I just thought, maybe you were being open-minded… or trying to make him feel good, what with being a rock star and… nothing,” I stopped. I was starting to sound prejudice or tolerant, which I wasn’t. I didn’t believe in tolerance. That meant you saw the difference in you and someone else.

He stared for a second, “I love my brother and I hope no one ever tries to make him feel accepted for who he is. That makes him different. He’s not. My sister and I are straight and my brother is gay, and honestly, I think my parents love him more for it. He’s the better kid for sure.” The way he said it, I could hear a small amount of admiration in his voice, like his parents were amazing for being cool with whoever their kids turned out to be.

I smirked, “They probably just don’t love the starving-artist path you’re choosing.”

He cocked a dark eyebrow, “Starving? Least I’m making money and not just costing.”

I sneered and crossed my arms. He continued reading until I finally had to say it, “I’m not one of those people. It came out wrong. I don’t believe in tolerance.”

The cocky grin slowly crept across his face, but he kept his gaze on the nutritional information.

I shook my head, “Asshole.”

He put it in the cart and pointed to the one next to it, “You want this one? It’s for women trying to lose some weight. The girl on the ads is tight.”

My jaw dropped. He put his hands up fast, “Joke! Don’t mace me.”

I sighed and hated the fact it was in my pocket. He glanced at it, “It looks like a cock. Everyone is gonna see Gerry in his burgundy pants, and then you with the mace cock, and think we’re all gay. How am I supposed to pick up with that going on?”

I laughed, brushing off the challenging look he was giving me, “You’d make a sexy lady.”

He chuckled, pushing the cart to the dried food, “I did it once for Halloween with my brother, he wanted to actually dress up as a girl, and if I did, no one would pick on him. So I did and let me tell you…” His grin grew, “It was bad. It was like knock-kneed, hairy, tattoo-on-the-bicep bad. I looked like Wesley Snipes in To Wong Fu. Alex, my bro, looked like John Leguizamo. He was sexy as hell and I was all muscled and gnarly looking.”

I liked this side of him. I’d didn’t often see him put someone above himself. In front of other people he was so self-important but in that moment, Alex was more important.

Looking past him, I thought I saw someone I knew. I looked at the guy and tilted my head for a second. He turned around to face me but I didn’t know him. I looked back at Lochlan to say something. He was so handsome and funny. I had to give it to him. The weeks we’d spent hadn’t been at all, like I’d expected them to be. Just as the sweet smile crossed my lips, I caught him bending his head, staring at the ass and tramp stamp of a girl about my age. His eyebrows rose as she bent to pick something up.

Never mind, he was scum.

It stung to watch him do it. I walked away. I needed frozen veggies and fruit anyway. Mentally, I coached myself. I was repeating that it didn’t matter that he wasn’t into me. It was better. If he was hitting on me and being sweet, I might have been fooled by his sweet brother stories. I might have taken the bait and let him in. God knew I wanted to. I couldn’t deny the attraction, regardless of the fact that ninety percent of what he said was disturbing. The other ten percent was the best and that was all my brain focused on. Not the good brain though. Not the one in my head.

I caught up to Gerry in the book section. He flipped up one with some hot, young actor on the cover. I wagged my eyebrows at him. He laughed, “Crackers in bed would go unnoticed.”

I tossed my veggies in the cart.

He gave me a look, “You okay?”

I nodded, “Yeah. Just getting stressed, you know. School starting and stuff.”

I grabbed something with a sexy cover from the table and read the back of the book. Instantly intrigued, I tossed it into the cart. He gave me a look, “Why read those, when you have the real thing in your house?”

My eyes almost rolled on their own, “Yeah, right.”

He gave me a serious look, “He talks about you an awful lot.”

“Talks shit about me and then sleeps with everything he sees, no thanks.”

The grin on his lips was infectious, “Maybe he sleeps with them to make you jealous and he doesn’t talk shit. He talks about smart, and clean, and organized, and Erin says this, and Erin says that. Erin doesn’t like mushrooms unless they’re minced really small, and Erin thinks she’s so brave, but I see the way she brushes her hand against her mace. He likes you. You should give him a chance. He’s sweet when he’s not trying to be the lead singer.” His words burned my insides with fluttering and the hopeful possibility.

I glanced over at the tramp stamp on the girl he was with and scowled, “Not going to happen, so quit. He has a better chance with you than me.”

Gerry scoffed, “Please. I don’t do baggage. I don’t date anyone in the band anyway. I can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.” He pushed the cart over to where Lochlan and the girl, with the tight ass in the skinny jeans, were laughing.

I snatched my things from Lochlan’s cart and shoved them into Gerry’s. I passed him the cash, “I have to go to the bathroom.” He gave me a look but I ignored it. I walked away and hoped Lochlan would get a ride home with the tramp stamp girl.

I was just sliding the lock when two girls started to talk from other stalls.

“Did you see Lochlan Barlow is in here? He’s with Gerry Ronson. Like oh my God!”

“Oh my God girl, I know. He was so hot on America’s Most Talented Stars. Seriously. I voted for him every night. I couldn’t believe when he got kicked off the show.”

Had I been under a rock? He was on a show? That was how everyone knew him.

They continued to natter on, “He beat the crap out of some guy backstage one night.”

“I don’t give a shit—that makes him hotter. What were they thinking? He’s smoking and unruly. I heard that he’s single. I am so glad he joined Thin Ice.”

“I know, right. He’s been with them for like a couple weeks. We should go one night to one of the bars. My cousin Mandy went and said Lochlan kissed her after a show.”

My guts were burning. I felt nauseous. He was such a pig; why did they care what he was doing? Chasing celebrities made no sense to me. They were just people. Usually sleazy people.

I flushed and walked out of the stall. I wondered if he was an actual musician, like a good one? If he was, that meant it was his first time in a band because he was an actual singer …who could do the show alone. He was famous and I was mocking him constantly and calling him a starving artist. Oh God. How had I not known?

I hated nothing like I did reality TV. I hadn’t watched anything since the first season of The Bachelorette. I liked crime dramas better. I washed my hands and looked up at the perplexed look on my face.

I left quickly before they saw me. I didn’t even know why. I just didn’t want to be the girl with the guy in the band.

When I got back up to Gerry and Lochlan, the sexy chick was gone and Lochlan had a weird look on his face. He scowled at me and pushed the cart out to the car. I looked at Gerry but his expression didn’t help either. They were quiet.

Had I done something?

We drove in silence. I didn’t even dare to try to make conversation; something had clearly gone wrong.

When we stopped at Gerry’s apartment, Lochlan got out and helped carry everything up to the door. I climbed out to help but Lochlan had it all in his huge arms. Gerry gave me a hug but looked at Loch first, “Lochlan, the hide-away key is under the mailbox.” He turned back to me “It was lovely to meet you. I suppose we’ll see you at a show then?”

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