Melody of my Heart

Been Here All Along

The place was packed. Rhonda stumbled her way down off the stage into Jeremy's waiting arms, threading her fingers through his shaggy black hair and pulling him into a kiss that lasted just a little too long. Wil smirked and turned her eyes back to the stage, taking a sip of beer. A pitcher stood in the center of their table, nearly drained, though she'd had little to do with that. The same could not be said of the others; Kate sat on Max's lap, who tonight had streaks of green and blue in his short brown hair (it was different every time Wil saw him), and Eve leaned into the arms of a man whose name Wil had missed in the introductions and looked like he'd walked out of a GQ photo shoot in a suit jacket and slacks. They both had put away a few, and Wil saw the telltale signs in each of them. Eve reverted to her Kansas accent when she was drunk, and Kate got surprisingly quiet. The latter was a nice change, one that let Wil fade into the background and watch the crowd around them.

She had expected a terribly painful evening, but this had turned out to be a good idea after all. With most of her time spent at the table, Wil enjoyed people watching, soaking up the laughter and enthusiasm around her. Six months ago, the sight of so many couples happily together would have pained her, but that had faded into a quiet jealousy that was entirely bearable. After all, she didn't want to join them – she had no interest in finding another – and if she couldn't be happy they might as well be.

Rhonda got back to the table just as the next poor sap was getting up on stage. She nearly fell into her chair beside Wil and gasped audibly.

"Hotness came!" she announced, pointing at the man on stage.

"Hey," Jeremy protested, settling behind her and leaning on her shoulders. "I've been here all along, baby."

Rhonda giggled, much to Wil's chagrin, and the two of them surveyed the man on stage. Knowing Rhonda's preference for tall and dark, Hotness surprised Wil. About average height, he had sharp features and wavy blonde hair. He was wearing a simple cream sweater and tight jeans, but he pulled the look off well, even if he looked a little stiff. He shot someone off stage a dirty look – someone didn't want to be up on stage – as the music started, then took the mic.

Love is a burning thing

And it makes a firey ring

Bound by wild desire

I fell into a ring of fire

He was good. Very good, in fact. Wil couldn't place the song, but the man's deep baritone was seductive. A few women squealed in delight behind their table, and the singer turned his smoldering gaze toward them, giving a cocky grin. His eyes, Wil noticed, were an incredible liquid amber color. She may have chuckled if they weren't so expressive; she'd always found eye dying to leave a person's eyes flat, but his seemed deep and soulful.

The taste of love is sweet

When hearts like ours meet

I fell for you like a child

Oh, but the fire went wild

By the second verse, a second man had made his way onto stage, much more what Wil would have expected Hotness to look like – easily over 6 feet, with cropped black hair and muscles like a body builder. He snatched up the second mic and the two of them sang together, the big one making kissy faces at someone in the crowd between lines. The first one rolled his eyes, and the big one elbowed him playfully.

The second had the same color eyes, again with none of the dull color of a typical dye job.

Must be rich.

The song ended and the crowd went wild. Two women climbed onto the stage, grinning wildly. One, a tall and absolutely gorgeous blonde, went straight for the taller frat boy while a tiny pixie of a woman with spiky black hair threw her arms around the blonde.

"Aw damn," Rhonda commented, raising her glass and draining it. "Guess I can't hook you up with the Hotness after all."

The girls shooed their men off stage and cued up a rather current-sounding pop song that got most of the crowd dancing. Someone tapped Wil on the shoulder, and she looked up to find Jeremy smiling down at her.

"Rhon and I are leaving if you want a ride home," he told her, holding up his car activator and shaking it gently. Wil shook her head; if he and Rhonda were going home this early, it meant they had other things planned, and she had no interest in listening in.

"You guys go on, I'll catch a cab later." Rhonda gave her a grateful look and Wil shooed them away, turning back to the stage. Rising from her table, she grabbed the pitcher and started for the bar, shaking her head with a forced smile. It quickly turned into a chuckle as she noticed both of the women on stage had the same eye color as their boyfriends.

"Pretty magnificent, aren't they?" a voice asked to her left as she reached the bar. The bartender gave a crooked grin as he took the pitcher from her, raising an eyebrow.

"Bud Lite," she told him, leaning both elbows on the bar. "And yeah, that's a lot of talent crammed into a small group of people." She watched as the man took a few steps down to the taps and started to fill her pitcher. His bleach-blonde hair was pulled back into a loose tail, bits of a deeper brown showing at the roots, and he wore an unassuming tee and jeans with a hole in one knee.

"They're here every week," he told her, setting the pitcher down and waiting as it filled. Turning to her, he added, "They sing a different style every time too, always one song each. Mac's tried to sign them a few times to do real shows, but they say they prefer just to come to open mic…doesn't bother me none. They draw a good crowd of regulars."

On stage, the shorter woman was bouncing up and down to the beat of the music, her black miniskirt starting to ride up. "Yeah, I can see that," Wil remarked, causing the bartender to snort as he topped up the pitcher.

"Certainly not hard to look at, those two. I prefer the blonde myself, but plenty of the guys like the shorter one – say she looks spunky." He drifted back toward Wil, setting the pitcher down. She pulled out a card and held it out for him.

"I guess they're students here?" she asked as he pulled a handheld scanner out from under the bar and scanned her card.

"Yup. The two blondes are juniors, the little one's a soph, and they say the big one's here on some kind of freshman football scholarship, but I've never seen him play."

"He's a freshman?" she questioned as she pocketed her card.

The bartender shrugged. "I get all my info second hand, if you know what I mean. They never drink anything."

"Huh." Wil grabbed the pitcher, nodding her thanks and making her way back to their table. On stage, the girls ad libbed their way through the end of the song, turning mics to the crowd – they certainly knew how to work it. As she settled back at her table, they flounced off stage, and Wil poured herself another beer. Kate, Eve, and their men were nowhere to be found, probably off in some corner having a bit too much fun, so she leaned back and went back to crowd watching as another brave soul climbed on stage.


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