Good Girl Page 4

“Jenny. Talk to me,” Amber says.

“It’ll pass, right?” I say, still unable to look away from the photo to actually read the article.

Amber doesn’t reply, and Dolly lets out a sad little whimpering noise before sitting on top of my foot as though trying to shield me from what’s to come.

“It’s just another stupid rumor,” I say. “The tabloids are getting exceedingly bold. I can sue, right? And Shawn can sue, and we’ll—”

“Shawn confirmed it,” Amber says.

My ears buzz. “What?”

“This morning. Coming out of the gym, the vultures were all over him. Instead of keeping his mouth shut, Shawn said, and I quote, ‘Look, I’m not proud of my actions, but I can’t be the first guy to get pulled into Jenny Dawson’s vortex, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. At this point, all I can do is look forward and try to make amends.’ ”

“What is he talking about?” I squeak, my eyes closing as I pull hard on my ponytail in frustration. “Make amends for what? My vortex? Is that a thing?”

“It gets worse,” Amber says, her voice miserable.

“I don’t know how that’s even possible.”

“He’s not the only one who’s confirmed the story.”

I blink. “Someone else is also delusional?”

“Yeah. His wife.”

“Oh my God,” I whisper.

I don’t know much about Shawn Bates’s wife, but pretty much everyone knows their story. Childhood sweethearts who started dating in middle school, they got married right out of high school, shortly before Shawn got famous.

There are always rumors that he’s cheating, but like I’ve said, I don’t put much faith in rumors.

One thing I know for sure is that if he is cheating, it’s not with me.

“She posted a tearful selfie on every single social media platform along with a big old statement about how she and Shawn are going through a rough patch, but their love is stronger than any country-singing home wrecker.”

“I’m not a home wrecker.”

“I know that, J. But you have that song, and there’s that picture—”

“The song was euphemistic!” I say, referring to my first hit single, a song I wrote about all the things that can come between a couple once the honeymoon period’s over: the TV, bills, iPhones, work. Those are the home wreckers.

Not me.

My phone buzzes with an incoming call, and I pull it away from my face to check the name. When I see who it is, I decline it.

“Candice is calling.”

“As she should be, as your publicist.”

“I don’t want to talk to her,” I say, my voice panicked. “I don’t want to talk to any of them. I want this all to go away.”

“And it will,” Amber says in a soothing voice as Dolly licks my shin. “But J, this one’s going to have some staying power, I think. It’s not just the tabloids, and you know everyone loves a good cheating scandal.”

“I didn’t cheat,” I whisper as tears threaten. “I don’t even know this guy. I don’t understand why this is happening.”

“I know. But it is.”

See what I mean about Amber being the tough-love kind of friend?

“It’s happening, honey, and here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to bring in the cavalry. You hang up with me and call everyone. Candice, Barb, the label. Have them bring in the attorneys who can start screaming defamation, and—”

“I don’t want to play the game,” I interrupt.

“What game?”

“The he-said/she-said game,” I say quietly as I scroll through the rest of the article with a new sense of calm…until I find the tearful selfie of Shawn’s wife.

She looks sweet. That’s the crappy part. Kayla Bates looks sweet and heartbroken, and my heart aches for her too, even though she’s sort of just ruined my life.

“You have to,” Amber argues. “You can’t just let them walk all over you.”

“You know how this works,” I say. “People like to believe the worst. It won’t matter what I say.”

“Okay, true, but you can’t just ignore this, Jenny. This one’s not going away on its own. Not for a long time. You saw the headlines…America’s good girl just went bad.”

I wince. I hate that label. I hate that a halo’s been thrust atop my head simply because someone somewhere decided that I have an innocent-looking face.

I hate even more how easy it is for that halo to be knocked off.

“Los Angeles will eat you alive,” Amber says, trying again with that unfamiliar gentle tone.

“I know,” I say as I turn off the iPad screen with quiet purpose as the reality of what I need settles in. “I’m not staying.”

“Thank God,” Amber says with feeling. “Come home. Stay with your folks or with me or with Kelly—”

“I can’t go home to Nashville,” I interrupt. “They’ll find me there. Heck, they were camped outside my parents’ house after the burrito baby incident, and this is bigger.”

“Where will you go?”

I smile grimly as I begin to formulate a plan. “Let’s just say that it’s off the grid. Like, all the way off the grid.”


“Dude. Are you holding a wrench?”

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