Home > Once Upon a Sure Thing (Heartbreakers #2)(10)

Once Upon a Sure Thing (Heartbreakers #2)(10)
Author: Lauren Blakely

A hint of a smile appears. “Yeah?”

“Also, for the record, you can pull tricks on me any time because it will literally never bother me.”

She laughs lightly and takes a deep breath, then swallows and meets my eyes. “Sorry I took off. Everything hit me when we finished singing, and I needed to breathe.”

I narrow my eyes and study her, as if I’m conducting a full appraisal. “Chest moving up and down. Air coming in and out. Check. Your oxygen intake system seems functional now.”

“Did you hate it?” Her voice rises as she asks the question, laced with nerves.

I scoff, surprised she’d even think that. “No. I thought you were incredible. I was just kind of shocked that it was you. And I was shocked that we actually sounded decent together.”

That smile of hers widens, occupying as much real estate as it possibly can on her face. “You thought we sounded good together?”

“We had chemistry out the wazoo. Hell, we had it out the kazoo. But what did you think?”

“Of our ’zoos?”

I nod, laughing.

She shakes her head, her sunshine-blonde hair moving perfectly in tandem with her. She shrugs then nods.

“Yes, no, maybe?” I ask, trying to translate her sign language.

“It was hard for me to focus on anything but staying in character. I didn’t think you’d even want to listen if it was just me.”

My brow creases. “Just you?”

She stares me down. “You’ve made it clear you thought we sounded terrible together.”

“It wasn’t unfounded. You’ve heard the way we sang ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.’”

“That’s why I wanted to show you I could sing in another style. I wanted to show you what I’m capable of. That’s why I had to audition as someone else—for you to take me seriously.”

Understanding flicks on like a light bulb. It blares so brightly, I nearly squint. Ally doesn’t want to sing with me for kicks. She needs this gig.

My heart goes heavy as concrete in my chest. I want to help her, but I don’t want to lose her. I don’t know how to have both Ally the friend and Ally the bandmate. The first band I played with after the Heartbreakers broke up was a disaster. I started Candid Bandits with my best buddy from college on guitar and me on keyboards. Craig and I knocked out three good tunes before we started butting heads on everything. And I mean every-damn-thing: the style, the practice schedule, the distro plans. We could never get on the same page. I kept making suggestions, but eventually, he let loose and said I was a know-it-all. “You think you know everything because you were in a band before. So what? Things are different now.”

And they were different two weeks later, when he quit and ditched our friendship too.

From Craig to Tiffany, the writing is on the wall. I don’t play well with friends.

“Ally,” I say softly. “Of course I take you seriously, but do you really think we should form a duo together?”

Her expression falls, morphing from adrenaline-fueled excitement to fresh disappointment. “You don’t? I thought you liked how I sang as Honey.”

“I loved it. But I don’t want to lose you as a friend.”

She stares at me as if I’m speaking Turkish. “How would you lose me as a friend by singing with me?”

“You know what happened with Craig?” I ask, reminding her, since I’m pretty sure Ally knows all my stories. She knows about the Tiffany debacle too. “That’s what worries me. My best bud from college is persona non grata. The drummer I dated slaughtered my Xbox. It seems easy to play or sing together with a friend, but then you have to agree on so many things that are more important than whether you want to see Love, Simon or Ready Player One.”

She whispers, “Love, Simon.”

I whisper back, “Ready Player One.” Then I sigh. “That’s my point. It’s like going into business with your bud. Everyone thinks it’s a good idea on the surface. But what happens when you disagree? Or you want to go in different directions?”

“How did you deal with it when it was your brothers?” she asks, with an earnestness that nearly breaks me.

Because they’re my brothers, I want to say. Because we’re family. That’s the difference—they’re stuck with me. She has the choice to ditch me anytime. “Because when I was a dick, they couldn’t disown me. I can’t bear the thought that you’d realize I’m really an asshole to work with. And I am. I’m a total asshole as a bandmate.”

She quirks up the corners of her lips, but it’s not a smile. It’s more like she’s trying to make sense of me. “And you don’t want me to be exposed to the butthead side of you?”

“Yes,” I say, pleading. “If we play together, something could happen to our friendship.”

She seems to fasten on a smile. “I get it.”

“I’m sorry.” I reach for her shoulder, squeezing it.

She side-eyes my hand. “Miller,” she says, in that voice women use when they’re going to put men in their place. “This isn’t an I’m sorry moment. We’re all good.”

“I feel bad though.”

“Don’t worry about it. I don’t need apology balloons or even an apology at all.”

I snort, when she mentions the lame-ass gift her ex-boyfriend Tyler gave her last year when he was two hours late to see Matilda with her and Chloe, and they’d missed the show. Ally won’t tolerate hurting, disappointing, or just plain dismissing Chloe. “As if I would ever get you apology balloons.”

She smiles. “Good. Balloons are bad for wildlife. Besides, you didn’t do anything wrong. Also”—she purses her lips then casts a glance down the street—“I really do have to go.”

This time I don’t chase her down.

Because I lied.

I’m not an asshole. Please. I’m a cuddly teddy bear.

But I also know how business works.

It works best with family. It works best with acquaintances. I’m jonesing to play again in a band, but that’s because I miss working with other musicians. I miss being part of a business team.

But a business team isn’t a playground for friends. Or for lovers.

If you get too close to either, the next thing you know, your Xbox is splattered on Fifth Avenue.

I can buy a new Xbox fifty times over, but I can’t buy a new friendship.

Chapter 9

Ally

Macy: Give me the 411. Was he so blown away by Honey Lavender that he said, “Please, play sweet music with me now”?

Ally: Hardly. He’s freaking out. He thinks we can’t be friends and sing together.

Macy: Well, that may be true. Look what happened to the White Stripes.

Ally: Could you have picked a worse example than a husband and wife team that had all sorts of issues?

Macy: I’m just saying even the Righteous Brothers split up.

Ally: And one of them died of cocaine-related heart trouble. What else could go wrong?

Macy: You could be Sonny and Cher. Or worse—Ike and Tina.

Ally: I feel super uplifted right now.

Macy: Even Simon and Garfunkel can’t stick together. Those guys keep doing reunions then breaking up.

Ally: Why don’t you make a list and put it in an email?

Macy: Who has time for that? Taylor Swift and John Mayer, Katy Perry and John Mayer . . . wait. You’re fine, as long as you don’t sing a duet with John Mayer.

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