MORE THAN EXES (Chasing The Dream #0.5)

He wants to win. She wants to win him back.

Keyboardist Kyle Cross may look like a bad boy with his tattoos and piercings, but he’s really the good guy who’s always stuck fixing his band’s problems and never gets the girl. His band is competing in a Battle of the Bands, but when their bassist doesn't show, Kyle must track her down with the help of the person he least expects: his ex-girlfriend Alexis Monroe.

Kyle hasn’t seen Alexis since she dumped him in high school, and she’s dropped her preppy image for fiery red hair and a bold new attitude to match. With only hours before his band goes on stage, Kyle has to be a little bad if he wants to win both the Battle and the girl he's never gotten over. But when their old problems resurface, the good guy might just get his heart broken all over again.

A stand-alone novella that launches the Chasing The Dream series! 

Named as the 2014 Read of the Year by New Adult Book Reviews!

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If there was one thing I’d learned, it was that good guys never got the girl. Even if the good guy was covered in tattoos and piercings and wore an old Joy Division shirt with the sleeves cut off. Nope, the ladies would still recognize him (or in this case, me) for what he was and ditch him for the guy who practically screamed, I’ll break your heart. Usually that guy was my brother, Jared.
My Saturday night had just begun, and I’d already had the lesson drilled into my head. We’d unloaded all our gear and stashed it backstage but had hours to spare before we were scheduled to go on. It seemed pointless to arrive at the club so early, but the organizers of the UCLA vs. USC Battle of the Bands had told us to show up at 6:30 PM, and Jared would sooner slit his wrists than be late.
With so much downtime before our 10:30 PM set, I headed for the bar to grab us a couple of beers. On the Rocks was a small club in Hollywood that held a few hundred people. The place was almost empty now, but we were the last band to perform and I figured it would fill up by then. The few who’d arrived early stood around in the big, dark room either at the bar along the back wall or in front of the small stage where the first band was setting up. I didn’t recognize them, so they must have been from USC.
At the bar, a girl with a red plastic cup in each hand nearly crashed into me. She took a quick step back, but one of the drinks slipped from her grasp. I managed to catch it without even a spill. Not bad, if I said so myself.
“Wow, great save,” she said, taking the drink from me. “Thanks.”
“No problem. Sorry I almost knocked you over.”
“Totally my fault.” She looked me up and down, checking out the ink on my arms. “Hey, you look familiar.”
The girl was hot, with bleached hair and a low-cut, black dress showing off a small butterfly tattoo between her breasts. Definitely my type. I didn’t want to get too excited, but damn, it had been way too long since I’d gotten laid. Or gone out with anyone. Tonight might finally be my lucky night.
“Do you go to UCLA?” I asked. I didn’t recognize her, but it was a pretty safe bet most people at the show either went to my school or to our rival. “Maybe we have a class together.”
“I do.” She cocked her head and studied me again. “Are you in Villain Complex?”
A fan of the band? This was getting better and better. “Yeah. I play keyboard.”
“That’s how I know you!” She laughed a little, and her chest bounced, making it look like the butterfly was flapping its wings. Must not stare, must not stare. “I saw you play last week at that parking lot show. You guys were amazing! I went home and bought all your songs from your website.”
“Thanks.” I offered her my hand and smiled. “My name’s Kyle, by the way.”
She juggled the drinks into one hand and slipped the other into mine. “Tiffany.”
She liked our band, she seemed interested in me, but now what? I couldn’t offer to buy her a drink since she had two already. Why did she have two? Was she going to meet someone? No, she was giving off that single vibe so probably here with a friend. I needed to make a move but had to keep it cool, too. Think, think, think. Man, I sucked at this pick-up-line stuff. Oh, I could ask her about her major. That was always a pretty safe bet.
Before I got the chance, she asked, “So I guess you know Jared Cross?”
And just like that, any hope I had of getting some action suffered a swift and violent death. Womp womp. “Yeah. He’s my brother.”
“Really?” She glanced around, like she hoped Jared would pop out from behind me. I could tell the second she saw him because her breath got fluttery and her cheeks turned pink. What was he doing? Serenading random strangers with his shirt off? It wouldn’t be the first time.
I turned and spotted him leaning against the wall, talking to our drummer, Hector. Not half-naked, thank god, but even fully clothed Jared had this crazy effect on women. As if to prove my point, he looked over and gave us that lazy smile that girls could never resist. And then, to top it off, he winked.
I hated it when he winked.
I rolled my eyes and turned back to Tiffany, but she was a goner already. She made a little sound like a gasp, and her eyes flitted back to me. “Could you introduce me?”
I should have seen this coming. Why would I think she would ever be interested in me when my stupid brother was only feet away? I didn’t get it. We shared a lot of the same DNA, but I must have been missing the “come-hither” gene. Even though Jared looked like a toned-down version of me—fewer tattoos, natural hair color, and no piercings—girls somehow had this radar that honed in on him. It’s like as soon as they heard him sing they decided, Yes, this guy is trouble. I must go after him. And they all thought they could fix him, like they’d be the one girl who could make him settle down and change his ways.
Keep dreaming, ladies. I guaranteed that tomorrow morning I’d be patting Tiffany—or some other girl—on the back as I walked her to her car and wished her a nice life. Jared didn’t do relationships, and no girl was going to “fix” him because he wasn’t broken. He just liked women. Lots of women. All the time.
Like I said: good guys never got the girl.