She patted at my back half-heartedly. There was nothing even remotely mothering about Kelsey, but at least she was trying. “You’re exaggerating, Bliss. The only thing I felt in the air was sexual tension. I mean, he didn’t look at you often, but when he did… Hello! Swoon!”
“There is no way I can survive a semester in that class.”
“That’s ridiculous. You’re an actor. Actors sleep with each other all the time, and then move on. Hell—don’t you remember Freshman year when you didn’t want to make out with Dom in that scene, and Eric sent you in the other room and told you to kiss until you guys were comfortable with each other?”
“Why would you bring up what is, as of today, the second most mortifying moment of my life?”
She rolled her eyes. “Because you got over it.”
“I will never get over having Dom’s tongue down my throat. I can still taste the douchiness.”
“You will be fine, Bliss. It’s five months. And you only have to see him for 3 hours a week. It will be over before you know it. Then you can jump his bones one more time before you travel the world with me.”
“There are so many crazy things in that statement that I don’t even know where to begin.”
“You will begin by eating, or we’ll be late for Directing.”
Grumbling, I shoved a few fries in my mouth to appease her.
She rummaged around in her purse for her phone, but her hands closed around something else. “Oh, I forgot. I have advil… you want some?”
I swallowed and said, “Why would I want that?”
She quirked her head to the side, “Aren’t you sore after… you know… getting your freak on?”
Stupid Bliss. So freaking stupid.
“Oh! Oh, right. No, no I’m fine. I took a bunch this morning. I’m good, thanks.”
“That a girl.”
I moved through the rest of the day on autopilot, ready to get home and crawl into the cocoon of forgetting that is sleep. I didn’t even bother taking off my clothes before I fell into bed.
My phone woke me a few hours later. It was Cade.
“Hey babe—you ready to hangout?”
I peered blearily at the clock PM. It was only 7 o’ clock.
I yawned. “Yeah… sure. What did you have in mind?”
“Well, I was thinking—“
“No drinking,” I cut him off. “I cannot handle any drinking.”
He laughed. “No hair of the dog for you? Fine… Lindsay’s playing tonight at Grind. How does coffee sound?”
I yawned again. Lindsay was a fellow theatre major. A night listening to her music would be simple and mellow. Exactly what I needed. “Coffee sounds perfect.”
When I walked outside 20 minutes later, my head swung from side to side, paranoid that I’d run into Garrick. When I was certain no one was around, I jogged into the parking lot and climbed in to Cade’s beat up old Honda.
He greeted me with a smile. I resisted the urge to glance back in the direction of Garrick’s apartment.
“I forgot to mention earlier that you looked great today. I mean, minus that lovely hung-over quality. You never wear skirts to class.”
I wanted to say, ‘Just drive already!’ But that would have sounded crazy even for me. So I answered, “Oh, I burned my leg, and I’m not supposed to wear tight clothing over it.”
“Seriously?” He asked. “What happened?”
I couldn’t exactly tell him the real reason. Because then he’d want to know whose motorcycle it had been and why I had been with them and yadda, yadda.
“Oh, I burned it with my straightener.”
“You burned your leg with your straightener? How long is your leg hair?”
You’d think after all the lying I’d done in the past twenty-four hours that I would be getting slightly better at it. You would be wrong.
“Ha-Ha. So funny!” I grimaced. “I knocked it off the counter, you punk, and it hit my leg.”
I fiddled with the air-conditioning vent even though it barely worked in his piece of junk car.
“Just don’t drop your coffee on yourself. Or better yet… get iced coffee.”
I said, “Aye, aye captain."
Grind was a cute little house on the edge of campus that had been turned into a coffee house a few years ago. Inside you ordered coffee, and outside there was a veranda where they hosted live music on most nights. The inside was packed. I sent Cade outside to find seats, and told him I’d get the drinks. I got an iced café mocha for me and a smoothie for Cade. He doesn’t even like coffee, but he comes here for me.
I stood in line for 10 or 15 minutes, so by the time I headed outside, I had no idea where Cade was. I strolled past the tables, nodding at people I knew, avoiding eye contact with those I didn’t. I caught Lindsay’s eye up on stage as she was setting up, and she grinned.
Finally I spotted Cade standing by a table up near the front. It was an awesome spot considering how packed this place was.
I came up behind him, and nudged my elbow into his back.
“Jesus, Cade, I thought I’d never find you out here. Couldn’t you have at least texted?”
Cade glanced over his shoulder at me, then wrapped his arm around my shoulder, and took the smoothie from my left hand.
“Sorry, babe, I was talking and got distracted. Look who it is!”
He pulled me forward, and there was Garrick.
This time, I wasn’t lucky enough to have already put down my coffee. So when I saw Garrick, it slipped out of my hand, and splashed all over my feet.
Cade, with his super fast reflexes, narrowly dodged getting it all over his Toms.
“Holy crap, Bliss. I was joking about the iced coffee, but I’m glad you listened. I swear you didn’t used to be this clumsy.”
I still couldn’t speak. My feet were cold and sticky. And my face felt way too hot.
“Here,” Cade said. “Sit down, Mr. Taylor said we could share his table.”
“It’s Garrick, Cade.” I’m sure he’d told Cade that half a dozen times already.
Cade ignored him and turned to me. “ I’ll run inside and get you some napkins. You want another drink?”
“No, no. I’m good, Cade. You stay. I’ll go clean up.”
“Forget it. You like Lindsay’s music much more than I do. All ‘be the change’ and ‘girl power’ stuff. I don’t want you to miss it. Sit.” This time, his hands pushed down on my shoulders until my butt hit the seat. Then he was off, and I was left alone with Garrick again.
“What are you doing here?” My question came out angry.
By comparison, he was sweet and calm, and possibly a little sad. “My Internet still isn’t hooked up at the apartment, and I needed to check my email. I can go, if you’d like.”
“No,” I sighed. “I’m not going to run you off. I just wish you hadn’t invited us to sit with you.”
“Well, Cade didn’t say he was here with you. I was just trying to be nice.”
“I’m sorry… I just … this is awkward. Cade doesn’t know—“
“—I’m not going to tell him, if that’s what you’re worried about. I’d like to keep this job, and besides, your personal life is none of my business. What happened between us is over. ”
His voice turned hard as he spoke. Over? Why did that feel like a punch to the stomach? His teeth were clenched, drawing my eyes to strong, smooth line of his jaw.
“You shaved,” I said. Clearly… no filter.
His jaw unclenched, and he looked at me in confusion. “Uh, yes, I did.”
We sat in silence, and I just couldn’t get myself to stop looking at him. His eyes were ocean water blue, and without the scruff he looked younger, less rugged sexy and more boy-next-door hotness.
His eyes dropped to my lips, and I realized I was biting down on the bottom one. God, I wanted to kiss him again.
I sprung up from my seat, “This was a bad idea. I’m going to go. Tell Cade I got sick or something.”
He stood, too. “No, Bliss, wait. I’m sorry. Don’t leave. I’ll… Shit, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ll just sit here quietly, and you two can ignore me completely. I promise.”
At that moment, Lindsay stepped back up onto the small makeshift stage, and the lights came on, and people clapped.
If I were going to leave, I needed to do it now. If I got up in the middle of the set, Lindsay would see and she’d be pissed.
So against my better judgment, I sat back down.
Garrick kept his promise, and kept his eyes glued to his screen. I sat quietly as Lindsay did her sound check, my neck strained tightly to resist looking at him.
Cade arrived back right as Lindsay was introducing herself.
“Hey.” He whispered. “Randy was busing, and he let me borrow a towel. I figured this would be better than a bunch of napkins.”
Then he lifted one of my sticky feet into his lap, removed my shoe, and started wiping down my leg with the damp towel. I giggled when he passed a particularly ticklish section.
I heard Garrick stop typing.
On instinct alone, I looked at him, but he was looking at Cade… and at my legs. I cleared my throat, and pulled my foot back. I took the towel from Cade and said, “Thanks, I think I can get this. I don’t trust you not to tickle me.”
Garrick went back to his computer, Cade focused on Lindsay, and I ducked my head down to get a closer look at my feet. When I was sure they weren’t looking, I clenched by eyes shut and let out a silent scream. A real scream would have felt better, but I would take what I could get.
I recognized Lindsay’s first few songs, having heard her play several times before, both on the stage and just in the greenroom during rehearsal and between classes. She had this great, raw, acoustic sound, and her lyrics were always some kind of social commentary, calling people on their bullshit. Which is why when she leaned into the mike and introduced her next song, I was so incredibly surprised.
“This next one is a little bit different for me. The lovely owner of this establishment,” She pointed off to the side. “Wave Kenny.” He looked under duress, but he waved. “Anyway… Kenny made a request that I play at least one song that wasn’t… how did you put it, Kenny? Bitter or Political, I believe is what he said. And since, I’m incapable of writing anything like that, I’m singing a song written by a friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous. It’s called Resist. ”
The song opened gently, with a simple progression of cords, similar to Lindsay’s normal sound. Then it turned, became mournful, passionate, almost desperate. She sang… and I wished I had left when I had the chance.
No matter how close, you are always too far
My eyes are drawn everywhere you are
The quiet conversations that had been happening before stopped. It was such a dramatic change that all eyes fixed on her. But I could swear that I felt one pair of eyes on me.
I’m tired of the way we both pretend
Tired of always wanting and never giving in
I can feel it in my skin, see it in your grin
We’re more. We always have been.
Think of everything we’ve missed.
Every touch and every kiss.
Because we both insist.
His gaze was this physical weight pressing against my skin. My heart thudded quickly in my chest, and my breaths came shorter. I didn’t want to resist. I couldn’t help it. I looked.
Hold your breath and close your eyes
Distract yourself with other guys
It’s no surprise, your defeated sighs
Aren’t you tired of the lies?
But he wasn’t looking at me. He wasn’t typing, but his eyes were fixed on his computer, and he seemed… unaware. Was it just me? Was I imagining it all?