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Page 40 of A Beautiful Mess (Beautiful Mess 1)

Less than ten minutes later, Martin pulled in front of Johnny D's and Alexander ran inside.

Carter saw him almost immediately and stood up from his chair. “Sir, is everything alright?”

“Carter, pretend I’m not even here please. Just go on with what you were doing and I’ll be over at the bar. If Miss Adler or Miss Murphy gets up from their table, please intercept them and get their drinks for them.”

“Yes, sir. Oh, and just so you know, she hasn’t performed yet.”

He smiled. “Thank you, Carter.”

Alexander walked over to the bar and sat at a stool that hid him from most of the crowd sitting in the lower dining area that housed the stage. He still had a great view of the actual stage and that was all he cared about.

“Let’s all give it up for the lovely Laura!” the M.C. shouted into the microphone. The crowd’s response was mediocre at best, although Olivia cheered enthusiastically. She knew how difficult it was for anyone to get up on the stage and pour their hearts out to the audience. And anyone who had the courage to even get on that stage deserved an enthusiastic response.

“Next up. Well, looky here. Miss Olivia Adler has graced us with her presence! Libby get your cute butt up here!”

Alexander shot daggers at the M.C., a decent looking guy in his mid-thirties with a shaved head and a short beard. That cute butt belonged to Alexander. The thought of anyone else commenting on it made him wild with rage. He had never felt so possessive before and it was a strange feeling.

Olivia walked up to the stage, carrying her guitar and waving to the crowd as she made her way through the room. Alexander smiled as he took in her appearance. She kept her long dark hair straight and chose to wear a tight yellow halter tank with a pair of dark jeans and giraffe print heels. She looked hot. A guy followed her on stage and sat behind a set of congas. He was about the same height as Olivia and had very similar features. If Alexander didn’t know better, he would have thought they were related.

She sat down at a chair positioned center stage and adjusted her microphone as she checked the tuning on her acoustic guitar.

“How’s everyone doing?”

The crowd cheered.

“Awesome. Well, I’ve brought some backup with me today. My good friend Mo, oops, I mean Jack Distanzio, is going to help me out. Incidentally, his band, Groove Delay, is performing tomorrow night at MacFadden’s in the Financial District, so come on by. And I’ll be doing a few songs with them as well.” The audience clapped. “This is Sleeping to Dream by Jason Mraz.”

Alexander was transfixed on the woman holding the guitar and interacting with relative ease with the audience. It brought back so many memories of all those years ago.

And then she started playing, plucking at the guitar strings, a sweet melody amplified through the bar. As she sang, Alexander looked over the large audience sitting captivated by the woman on the stage. Her normally strong voice sounded sweet and light, matching the mood of the song.

Alexander listened to the lyrics of the song; a song he had heard many times before but had never paid much attention to. He absently wondered whether Olivia had realized that the boy she saw in her dreams was him. Whether she knew that he pulled her out of that car. Whether she knew that he swore he would always protect her. And whether she knew that he let her down.

Olivia and the guy playing the congas, Mo, as she introduced him on stage, were good together. It was clear they had been playing together for a while. When they reached the bridge, the back and forth between Olivia and Mo mesmerized Alexander. Olivia belted out the words leading to the final chorus, the audience cheering wildly as her strong voice hit a high note, the sound filling the bar and sending shivers through Alexander’s body. She was good, he thought to himself. She looked so at ease in front of the large crowd.

He thought back to all those years ago, spending time with Olivia and her family and learning how to play piano and guitar from her mother, who would always sit in the great room at their beach house, playing for the kids. Olivia loved having the spotlight back then, singing and dancing to a pretend audience that consisted of mostly stuffed animals. And there she was, performing to a real audience. Alexander’s heart swelled with pride.

The song ended and the crowd cheered. Alexander sat at the bar, clapping loudly for the girl on stage. The girl he knew all those years ago. The girl he loved all those years ago. The girl he never stopped loving. And the girl he was falling back in love with all over again.

“Thank you,” Olivia said, walking off the stage and back to her table, the thunderous applause still going strong throughout the entire bar.

Alexander paid his tab, trying to get out before he was caught.

“Miss Olivia Adler everyone!” the M.C. shouted. The crowd went crazy. “Hey, Libs. How about one more? Have anything else ready?”

Olivia stared at the M.C., thinking about what she could possibly pull out of her hat. She conferred briefly with Mo before they both walked back to the stage. The crowd erupted in cheers again.

She sat down in the same chair, still holding her guitar. Pulling up a seat next to her, Mo took his guitar out of its case and checked the tuning. He nodded to her when he was all set.

“Okay. Here’s one we’ll be doing tomorrow night, so make sure you come and see it when it’s the full band. It’s a new one,” she said into the microphone, smiling. “There’s this guy that’s kind of captured my heart these past few days and this song says it for me right now. This is Brighter than the Sun by Colbie Calait.” Olivia glanced at Mo and he counted them off. Alexander stood motionless, not wanting to miss a minute of her performance. She was singing that song for him, although she didn’t know he was even there. Maybe that was a good thing.

Olivia and Mo sat next to each other, strumming their guitars in near perfect unison. The crowd was getting into their performance, many people standing up from their tables and dancing along to the upbeat song. Olivia had heard it at the gym earlier in the week as she worked out. She immediately downloaded the song and listened to it repeatedly. She couldn’t help but to think of Alexander as she listened to the lyrics.

She had never expected to meet someone like Alexander. Olivia thought she would go through life having one short-term pseudo-relationship after another, never wanting to get close to anyone. But now, she wanted to have that. She remembered her mama telling her when she was a little girl that she would know when she was with the right person by the constant butterflies. Now, all these years later, Olivia wanted those butterflies. And she had them.

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