Stepping into the studio, Savannah guided Chloe to the sofa, without taking her eyes from Max and the new girl. She released Chloe’s hand and barely noticed as the preschooler climbed onto the couch. Eyes narrowed, she watched Max touch the woman’s arm lightly, a smile playing on his lips.
The men’s voices were a babble, drowning out Max’s conversation. But Savannah had learned to read lips along with her friends in middle school, when talking in class resulted in detention.
The young woman’s eyes never left Max’s. Savannah easily made out her next words: “It’ll definitely be a pleasure working with all of you.”
She gritted her teeth and started toward them.
Perry squeezed between Max and the beautiful woman. “Poppy, if you’re free after this, I’d love to take you to a great bar for a drink.”
“She doesn’t even look old enough to drink,” Savannah muttered.
“You can’t afford to take yourself out, never mind her,” Griff told Perry.
Poppy played with a stray strand of curly hair, full lips glistening with lip gloss.
Jett joined Savannah. “Isn’t it amazing, how men can be distracted so easily?”
Savannah nodded. “Who the hell hired her?” Her voice was nearly a growl.
Jett sighed. “I did.”
Poppy untangled herself from the group of men. “Excuse me, gentlemen, but I’ve got a list of shows that I’ve already booked for you.” She winked at Jett as she strode toward the couch. She clutched a binder to her chest. “I actually do have some shows booked, if you’re interested.” Her brown eyes met Jett’s again.
Savannah tightened her grip on the cooler and took a step away from the couch. A pang twisted her heart as she glanced at Max. She wished she could work with him in the studio. Jett got to work with Koty. Though Savannah sensed that Jett had initially tried to keep Koty at arm’s length, they now spent their days writing songs together and practicing harmonies. With no musical inclination, though, there was nothing Savannah could contribute to the band.
“Wait.” Jett tapped her shoulder, holding up a finger to Poppy. Savannah spun to face her, blinking her thoughts away. “I actually wanted to ask you something.”
Savannah followed her across the room. The table was cluttered with notebooks and sheet music. “What’s up?”
Jett slid her hands into the pockets of her jeans. “We’re almost done recording the EP. Your boyfriend’s been harassing me to just upload it somewhere, rather than trying to get a record deal first.” She nodded toward Max. “He even offered to handle everything. I have no idea how to do any of that stuff.” Jett shrugged, a sheepish grin playing on her lips.
A strand of hair escaped Savannah’s side braid. She tucked it behind an ear. “You want me to talk him down?” Max hadn’t mentioned anything. If he was that excited about the EP, he should have shared it with her. Something was definitely going on with him.
Jett waved a hand. “Nah. I think it’s great. He’s got a lot of energy.”
Savannah’s eyebrow shot up. The Max that she knew dragged himself around the apartment, alternating between ignoring her and snapping at her. If he wasn’t acting that way at work, then he definitely had a problem with her. Dropping the cooler onto the table, she started to turn away. She needed to collect Chloe and go home, figure out what she was going to do.
Jett caught her by the arm. “Any chance I can harangue you into designing a logo for us, and the cover of the EP? I’ll pay you,” she added quickly. “Eventually.”
Savannah’s mouth dropped open. “Oh.” Mind racing, she glanced at the group of men. Max and Koty sat at the mixing board, while Chloe bounced around her father trying to get his attention.
“I know it’s kind of last minute,” Jett continued, “but I’ve seen your work, and I think you’re fucking amazing.”
Fingers pulling at the hem of her shirt, Savannah struggled for a graceful way to decline. “I’ve never really designed anything for the internet.”
“You’d be great,” Jett said. “I know you can do it.”
Before she could say anything else, Poppy appeared at Jett’s elbow.
“Are you free to talk about the shows now?” Poppy asked. She held out the open binder.
Nodding, Jett sat at the table and indicated for Poppy to do the same.
“I started with a show here at The Den,” Poppy said. “I’ve got a distributor who can have CDs of the EP made in a few weeks, just in time for the first show.”
Savannah cringed. She would need a lot more time to draw up a logo and make the cover, especially if she was going to have to learn Photoshop.
Joy unfurled across Jett’s face, though, something Savannah had never seen from her. “Yes!” She pumped a fist in the air. “I knew I hired you for a reason.” She hugged Poppy with one arm.
Eyes wide, Savannah tucked the cooler under her arm and turned away. If she was going to work on the project, she needed to get started that afternoon. She wasn’t sure she wanted to, though. If Max was planning on breaking up with her, there was no point.
Chloe sat at Max’s feet, her lips twisted into a pout. He still hadn’t so much as acknowledged her. It was flat-out weird. Maybe his problem wasn’t just with Savannah. Maybe he was tired of playing house, period. The Max she knew lived for his daughter. Before she met him, he had been raising her alone.
Frowning, Savannah crossed the room. She tapped his shoulder. “Hey, Daddy, someone’s here to see you.”
Max swiveled in his seat. He flicked an annoyed glance at Savannah, then scooped Chloe into a hug.
Though Savannah’s heart leapt at the sight of him with his daughter, she wished that he would put his arms around her. She wondered what his deal was. He was acting so weird.
But Max released Chloe quickly, his attention already drifting back to the mixing board. The little girl’s shoulders drooped, a whine escaping her lips.
Savannah swatted at the back of Max’s head. “Your daughter misses you.” She shook her head, wondering how Max could so easily dismiss them.
It was as if he didn’t hear her. He slipped on headphones.
Koty glanced at Savannah, his eyebrows furrowed in concern. “Let’s take a quick break.” He jumped up from his seat and ambled toward the table where Jett and Poppy still sat.
Savannah held out the cooler to Max. “I made you lunch.” Even though she had done nothing wrong, she needed to make up with him.
Max glanced at the proffered peace offering. “Thanks.” He accepted the cooler and leaned in to kiss her. His warm lips met hers. His mouth moved against hers, his skin soft and warm. Tingles shot through her body, and she inhaled a sharp breath. Maybe he was merely distracted, overwhelmed with work. Dimples appeared in her cheeks. She would find a way to unwind him when he got home, that was for sure.
He pulled away and, nodding, turned back to the mixing board.
Holding her hand out to Chloe, she ducked out of the studio, back into the cool hallway. For a moment, she rested against the wall, her head tilted back. Her heart thumped in her chest, her body still reacting to the kiss and her doubts. Forcing her breathing to slow, she closed her eyes for a moment. The hushed whisper of cool air pumping through the vents eased her frazzled nerves. She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
“Na Na.” Chloe wriggled out of her grasp.
She opened her eyes. Sometimes, she wondered if Chloe was trying to say her name or call her Mama. She refused to take that title, even if Nicole—Max’s ex-girlfriend and Chloe’s mother—didn’t deserve it. She couldn’t remember the last time Nicole had seen her daughter. “Yes, nena?”
“Let’s go!” Chloe walked toward the stairs and pointed down.
Savannah took her hand and let the little girl lead the way back outside. Her thoughts swirled frantically. Maybe she had made a huge mistake in accepting Jett’s proposal. Aside from being rusty, she had dropped out of college before ever cracking Photoshop open. She had no idea how to use it for her old assignments, never mind create a logo.
It was nice that Jett believed in her, but if she couldn’t deliver, she might really mess things up for Max. The last thing she wanted to do was lose his respect.
Savannah’s forever has a secret that could destroy them—and the band.
Savannah’s Song, Book 2 in the South of Forever series, is now available.
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