Good Girl Page 3

Let’s just say that publicist isn’t around anymore—I haven’t completely sold out.

Don’t be too impressed with me, though.

I mean, I did let my agent talk me into taking a bit part in a movie, although admittedly, I sort of had fun with that.

But then I let my agent convince me that a temporary relocation to Los Angeles might freshen up my sound and save me from the dreaded sophomore slump.

The funny thing is, the album I’m working on now—correction, the album I’m supposed to be working on now—isn’t my sophomore album.

The one that went double platinum, the one that won record of the year, the one that had six number-one singles—that was my sophomore album.

It’s just that nobody remembers the first.

I know twenty-two is probably too young to say this, and ask me again when my albums are numbering as many as Madonna’s or Dolly Parton’s or Garth Brooks’s. But I’m saying it anyway, because it’s my reality: I don’t have favorites among my albums. And while I’m not resentful that the second did better than the first, I am resentful of the fact that people pretend like Just for Now never happened.

Anyway, point is, I think we can safely say I escaped the sophomore slump. It’s the third-album slump I should be worried about.

And worried I am.

Secret time: I’ve been living a lie for the past three months.

Everyone thinks I came to Los Angeles to write my next album, and that’s true.

Everyone also thinks it’s going well and that I’m nearly halfway done.

That’s the part that’s not true.

I haven’t written a single note or a single lyric since I’ve moved here. Or rather, I have, but not anything that I intend to use.

My biggest fear isn’t that the world thinks I’m pregnant, or that Stunning magazine thinks my favorite pink lip gloss washes me out, or that anonymous comments on entertainment sites say that because I took my best friend to the Grammys instead of a guy, I must be a lesbian or completely unlovable.

My biggest fear is that all of those things have gotten into my head so thoroughly that they’ve destroyed the one thing that’s always mattered: the music.

My biggest fear is that I’ve lost the music.

I pause in stroking Dolly’s velvety ears (and yes, you’ve probably guessed by now that my dog is named after the incomparable Ms. Parton) as I realize that Amber’s fallen silent both in chatter and in her quinoa chewing.

Either it’s finally sunk in that her salad tastes like crap or whatever it is she’s found on her celeb gossip site is bad news.

“What is it?” I asked resignedly. “Is it twins? Am I having burrito twins? They run in my family, you know.”

“Sweetie…,” Amber says in a gentle voice that has me tensing.

I love Amber to death, but she’s not usually one for sweet-talking. She’s more the type of friend who will actually tell you that a certain pair of jeans absolutely makes your butt look big.

I go very still, wondering if I’m going to need more chocolate chips for this. “What? Tell me.”

“Have you ever hooked up with Shawn Bates?”

I make a face. “Yuck, no.”

“But you’ve hung out?”

“No. I’ve met him, like, twice. Maybe three times.”

“When was the last time you saw him?”

My heart is pounding now, because there’s an urgency in Amber’s voice that I’m not used to hearing. “I don’t know. The Grammys, I guess. We had our picture taken together, I think.”

Shawn Bates is one of those ridiculously good-looking guys who’s also been blessed with a decent voice. He won best pop vocal album three years in a row.

He was up against me for album of the year. I can’t imagine he was thrilled about losing, but he was friendly enough. A little skeevy, but maybe that’s because I only know his reputation. And I, of all people, know not to believe everything you hear.

“Do you have your laptop handy?” Amber asks in that scary quiet voice.

Oh, crap. Instinctively I know this is bad. Really bad.

I stand, heading into the kitchen, where I left my iPad, Dolly trotting along at my ankles, happy and oblivious with her little chipmunk in her mouth.

“Which site?” I say as I turn on the tablet.

“Any of them.“

As it turns out, I don’t even need to go to a celebrity gossip site. I was reading Google News this morning with my coffee, and it’s still up on my browser window.

Only this time…

This time I am the news.

I stare blindly, clicking on the top article, my eyes reading the headline about a dozen times before my brain finally registers it: “Does America’s Favorite Good Girl Have a Secret Seductress Side?”

Below the headline is a picture of me and Shawn at the Grammys, both of us with awards in hand. My head is tilted back in a laugh, and even though I know my happiness comes from winning the award rather than my proximity to Shawn Bates, I have to admit that I look semi-smitten with the guy.

His eyes are locked on my cleavage, his smile far more intimate than it has a right to be considering that our conversation lasted only a split second longer than the picture itself.

At the time, I’d thought the shimmering pink dress the perfect combination of sweet and sexy, but looking at it now, with this headline, it seems garish. My smile’s too wide, my posture too open, my smoky eye makeup too much…

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