Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three) (3 page)

BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
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“Casey,” a girl holding a clipboard smiled at me like we were best friends.  I blinked, trying to figure out if I’d ever seen her before.  “We’re so glad you could make it.”

“Hey,” I said, trying not to make it seem obvious that I didn’t know her name. 

The girl didn’t seem to mind, peering over my shoulder.  “Where’s your assistant?”

Oh, um—it’s just me,” I tried not to smile.  Who needed an assistant to go to a party? 

The girl looked confused.  “Hang on two seconds,” she said,
whispering something into a black headset and looking frantically over to a table of girls all dressed in black.  “We have an intern who’s running the door upstairs now, but she can take you around.  Do you have five minutes to do a couple of interviews?”

“Sure,” I said, smoothing down the dress that Lauren had couriered to my dorm room that afternoon. 

“Can I get you anything?  Champagne?  Cupcakes?”

I winced, remembering
the mountains of cupcakes that appeared at every Rush party that fall.  “I’m good,” I said.  Rush didn’t exactly bring up happy memories, and I’d had enough sugar to last me well into the summer. 

I had two exams coming up in a week, but Lauren insisted that I absolutely
to go to her fashion client’s spring preview party, and sure enough, a hair and makeup team had arrived at my dorm room at three o’clock on the dot, along with a town car outside the building to take me downtown for the party. 

“It’s an hour,” she’d said, conveniently forgetting the fact that with hair and makeup and travel from 125th Street, it was actually about four and a half hours.  “You’ll die.  The clothes are

I’d caved.  Truth be told, I was a little sick of the Columbia campus, and I needed a break from studying.  The prospect of getting my hair and makeup done and drooling over some designer clothes I couldn’t afford didn’t sound half bad. 

The elevator opened, and a tiny blonde girl who looked about my age got out. 

“Hi Casey,” she grinned.  “It’s so cool to meet you.  I just saw that video you did with Blake,” she grinned, her eyes shining with excitement.  “How cool is that?  You guys were just hanging out, and now you’re stars.  Or bigger stars. 
cool.” she emphasized. 

“Thanks,” I said, smiling at her.  I tried not to think about the fact that Blake hadn’t called me back yet.  No one had to know
about that except me.  “It’s no big deal.”

“Oh my gosh,” she grinned, gesturing for me to follow her into the elevator and hitting the button for the Penthouse.  “You are so cute.  Lauren told me you were, like, the most modest person, that
is so

I bit my lip to keep from laughing.  I was starting to get
why celebrities developed egos — I could kind of get used to everyone telling me how cool I was all the time.

“So, you have perfect timing,” she said, as I watched the elevator creep past the twentieth floor, the twenty-fifth.  “
Emma just did the step and repeat, and she’s talking to a couple of magazines now.  I’ll take you through the collection, and then they can squeeze you in right after.  We’ll have you out in about an hour.  Can I get you anything?  Champagne?”

The doors opened onto a long hallway, with a dozen or so people milling around.  Towards the end of the hallway, which opened onto an event space, a six-foot tall, pin thin model was being photographed, decked out in a fur vest and miniskirt. 

I took a deep breath.  A few months ago, I would have been so intimidated that I would have wanted to turn back into the elevator without a second glance.  On the other hand, a few months ago I would have had Blake or Sophie or even April as a distraction, so no one even noticed I was there.

This time it was just Casey Snow.

The photographer snapping photos of the model turned and focused on me, his eyes lighting up with recognition. 

“Casey, can I get a couple of shots?”

I used to hate the paparazzi, but like everything, it had gotten a little blurred around the edges.  I’d learned the hard way that photographers were a lot nicer when you just stood still and smiled.

“Sure,” I
said, trying not to blush.  No one in this room had to know just how far out of my comfort zone I really was. 

photographer snapped a dozen shots in succession, the camera fluttering almost continuously.  “Can I get one of you and Emma?”

I looked over at the intern
who’d led me upstairs.  She was nodding and grinning like it was the best idea she’d ever heard.

“Sure?” I said,
shrugging my shoulders.  The photographer gestured for me to follow him across the room, and I hung back to whisper to the intern.  “Who’s Emma?”

She opened her mouth to answer, but
just at that moment, I saw past the cluster of five or six other photographers. 

n the center, chatting with a girl in a pencil skirt, was the star of my favorite movie of all time. 

“Never mind,” I whispered shakily. 

“Can we get some shots of you guys together?”

took a small step forward, trying not to look completely intimidated.  Emma cast me a quick sympathetic look, and then walked through the throng and over to me, turning to the photographer with an expertly polished pose. 

Get it together, Casey
, I said to myself.  These photos were probably going to be splashed all over the internet by tomorrow morning, and I didn’t want to look like a total starstruck dork (even if it was true).

I held my breath, plastering on a smile and an
gling my body the way the way that Lauren had taught me for photos.  We stood still for a few seconds while the group of photographers snapped away, and then Emma smiled at me. 

“Cute dress,” she said. 

“Th—Thanks,” I said, trying to act normal.  “It’s, um—” I gestured to the center of the room, where the designer had placed a dozen or so models on a raised platform. 

“I figured,” she giggled.  “You’re
—” she looked at me like she was trying to place me.  “You’re with Blake?”

I felt my eyes go wide. 
She knew about me and Blake?  “Yeah.  Well, um, we’re—um, I’m…”  I didn’t have an answer for that question when I was on top of my game, and I certainly didn’t have one now.  I decided my only option was to change the subject.  “You know Blake?”

“A little,” she looked at me conspiratorially, a hint of a smile flashing across her face.  “I know Tanner, actually.”

Of course she did.  I gave her a half smile.  “Tanner’s a good guy.  None of that stuff in the tabloids about us is true, but, I mean, you probably know that already.”

“Naturally,” she winked at me. 

The photographers were finally done, and I picked up a glass of champagne and tasted it.

“Casey, do you have a second for an interview with Seventeen?”  The intern who’d brought me into the party cut in, and I smiled apologetically. 

“It was so nice to meet you,” Emma said, seeming genuine.  “I’m sure we’ll run into each other again.”

“For sure,” I said, wondering when I started leading a life where A-List actresses ‘ran into’ me on a regular basis. 

I smiled again, and turned back to the intern, who was leading me towards a girl with a notepad, who I guessed was the interviewer. 

“Two seconds,”
I said pulling out my cell phone, and hitting the button to type a text message.

  I typed to Tanner, feeling my lips curl into a smile. 

My cell phone buzzed b
ack an instant later. 


I rolled my eyes, smiling involuntarily at the phone.

Worried about her sanity
, my thumbs spelled out the letters. 
Tell Sophie I say hi





The driver was waiting for me outside, but I wasn’t ready to go home quite yet.  Madison had an audition in the morning, so she was going to bed early, but I consulted my phone and gave the driver an address in the East Village.  Ten minutes later, we pulled up to a bar. 

“Thanks,” I said.  “
You don’t have to wait.” 

Inside, the band was just finishing their set.  I looked onstage to see Liv, a girl I’d met earlier in the fall at a concert with Blake, playing bass guitar. 
I’d gone to a few of her shows in the fall after she’d given me her band’s CD, and earlier in the week, she’d texted me they were playing again tonight.

spotted me in the audience almost immediately and grinned — the venue wasn’t that big, and there were maybe about thirty people watching their set.  When the last song ended, she gestured for me to meet her at the bar, and I headed that way.

“Thanks for coming,” she said, once she’d greeted the friends surrounding the stage.   “I thought you had exams?”

“Two more weeks.  I should be studying, but I needed a break.”

“Tell me about it.  It’s finally
almost Christmas, and you guys are stuck in the library missing all of it.”

“I know.  Sometimes I think if I have to write one more paper, I’ll actually throw my computer out the window.  But things’ll be better ne
xt semester.  I just have to get the hang of everything a little more.”

otally,” she grinned.  “By then, you’ll be at every single one of our shows.” Her voice turned mischievous.  “Maybe we could even get you onstage.”

rolled my eyes, and took a big gulp of the drink that the bartender had brought us.  “I take it you saw the video?”

“Half of New York has seen the video at this point, and maybe three-quarters of L.A.”  She smiled.  “It’s a really good song.”

I sighed.  “It’s a great song,” I
said carefully.  “But it’s Blake’s song, not mine, you know?  People keep asking me what I’m going to do now, but they don’t get that it’s up to him, and he’s not even talking to me.”

Liv knew that Blake and I weren’t together anymore, but she didn’t pry
— it was one of the reasons I trusted her to talk about stuff like this.  I had to believe that anyone looking for a story to tip off the tabloids would want more details. 

She frowned.  “What if
— ”


She grinned slyly.  “What if you guys did a show together?”

I narrowly avoided snorting rum and coke through my nose.  “Never gonna happen,” I said, a little sadly.  “We’re barely even on speaking terms at this point.”

Liv’s smile didn’t waiver.  Her eyes sparkled as she looked at me.  “What if he didn’t know it was with you?”

I smiled sadly—Liv had clearly lost her mind
.  “I think after two million YouTube views, Blake’s not coming near me with a guitar in his hand any time soon.”

“No, Casey, you’re missing the point. 
What if I invited him to play a few songs with Pretty Twisted, just for fun?  He wouldn’t even have to know you were there… until it’s too late.”

I hesitated. 
It wasn’t the worst idea I’d ever heard.  But I had no idea what Blake’s reaction would be — was I really prepared to ambush him into a surprise concert with his ex-girlfriend? 

On the other hand…
he still wasn’t returning my calls.  I was running out of options fast. And maybe this would remind him how good we were together.  I bit my lip. 

The idea, unfortunately, was pretty tempting.
  When I’d finally convinced Blake to listen to Liv’s CD earlier in the semester, he’d been pretty impressed.  And their shows were small enough that it wouldn’t be a paparazzi event… it was the kind of thing that Blake might actually enjoy.  I felt myself warming to the idea.

Do you think he’d do it?” Liv pressed, looking at me excitedly. 

It felt like the bar had suddenly gotten quieter.  I took a deep breath, looking at her nervously
.  “I don’t know,” I answered.  “He hasn’t played any shows since we moved to New York, but I know he misses it.”

Liv grinned.  “So maybe… I could ask, at least?”

I wanted to tell her no.  I didn’t want to get Blake back by tricking him, and I didn’t want to do anything that would push him away any more than I already had.

But I
want him back
, a nagging voice in my head reminded me. 
And if it took a trick to get us there, wasn’t it for the best?

At the end of the day, I wanted Blake back more than anything.  There wasn’t any line I wouldn’t cross, not really.  Deep down, I knew I’d do whatever it took.

“Okay,” I said, nervous but decided.  “You could ask.”

I watched the grin spread across Liv’s face
, trying to convince myself I’d made the right choice.               

Make it somewhere low key, okay?” I said.  “Like this.”

If anything, I’d lessen my humiliation at a smaller venue. 
Thirty people could watch my heart get broken if things went wrong, but I didn’t want to do it at Madison Square Garden.

“Totally,” Liv said
, nodding.  “Don’t worry, Case.  It’ll be great.”

I tried to soak up some of her confidence, scribbling B
lake’s cell phone number down on a piece of paper. 

“Say you got it fro
m the guys from Fall Guy, ok?  Seriously, don’t mention me until we’re there.”

She grinned, a genuinely excited expression that made me feel a little better.  If Liv was this thrilled, it couldn’t be a total disaster.

Could it? 

Here goes nothing,” I said, taking another big gulp of my drink.  I thought about Lauren’s advice.  Recording an album?  Meeting with a record label?  Blake was never going to go for that, not after leaving Moving Neutral.  But a low key show with a quality off-the-radar band?  Maybe that

“It’ll work,” Liv said, nudging me with her arm.  “Besides, it’s basically self-interest on my part,” she grinned.  “If you guys are going to record an album, you need a bassist too, right?”

“Easy, grasshopper,” I smiled
, trying to banish thoughts of my imaginary future band from my head.  “That’s not exactly on the radar at the moment.”

“Sure,” Liv clinked her drink against mine and downed the rest of it in one gulp.  “But who knows?” She paused, still smiling.  “Actually, Case, we should probably start cleanup—” She gestured back to the stage, where some of her bandmates were already packing up their equipment and carrying it to the back of the venue. 

“Yeah,” I sighed, sleepiness starting to take over already.  “I should probably go home, I have an 8:30 am class in the morning.”


“Tell me about it,” I paused.  “But keep me up to date, if you
make any progress with Blake.”

“Will do,” she smiled at me, and
I didn’t miss the hint of sympathy.  Scorned girlfriend wasn’t an easy role, even if you sort of deserved it.  But the more Blake punished me, the further we grew apart.  It had been weeks already, with no end in sight.  I had to do something, and if this was my only option, then it was worth a try.

I said goodbye to Liv and walked outside the bar.  The driver was still waiting for me, parked across the street and sitting with a jacket and hat.

“You didn’t have to wait,” I smiled, grateful that he had.

“This isn’t a neighborhood I’d want a little girl to wander alone in.  Besides, I have strict orders to get you back to your dorm tonight.”

I rolled my eyes.  “I’m not a little girl,” I muttered, feeling like I was always trying to convince someone.  Shaking the snow off my boots, I climbed into the backseat anyway. 


BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
10.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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