“I’m glad you guys were able to get everything worked out,” I say to Conrad after he tells me everything that happened at his meeting earlier today while we lie in bed. His arms are around me, and I snuggle my face into him.
“Me too. Things were just a little too tense, but now everything is on the table so we can move past it. I was just glad to hear that Jake didn’t have some grand scheme going on,” Conrad replies.
“I feel bad for him.”
“Because he’s so lonely. Now I understand what he did, it makes sense.”
“I suppose you’re right. He doesn’t want you, but he wants what you represent. He wants what we have, and I don’t blame him. In this business, it’s hard to figure out who’s genuine.”
We go silent for a little while, and I trace my fingers along Conrad’s chest, along the tattoo that bears my name. An idea forms in my head as I do, but I keep it to myself for now.
“So what’s on the docket for tomorrow?” I ask him.
“Well, Harrison said he actually had a few song ideas that he wanted to go over with me for the new album. He’s going to come to our room for a few hours at some point.”
“How about Jake and Kevin?”
“Jake said he’s going to the Met, and I’m not sure what Kevin has planned.”
“Maybe I’ll call Desiree to see if she wants to hang out,” I muse, remembering that she lives in the city and I hadn’t told her about the engagement yet, and I had hoped to do it in person anyway.
“That sounds like a great idea. Invite her here and maybe you two can go to the spa for some pampering or something.”
“Yeah maybe, she’d probably like that.”
The next morning, Conrad and I head to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Just before we’re seated, we spot Kevin, Harrison and Jake.
“Good morning. I’m surprised to see you guys up so early,” Conrad says to them with an amused smirk.
Harrison smiles broadly, “I guess that’s what happens when you actually turn in early for once.”
“Yeah, being well rested feels funny,” Kevin laughs then looks at me, “Good morning Sydney.” He wraps an arm around my shoulder and gives it a quick squeeze before letting me go.
“Do you guys want to join us?” Conrad asks them.
“Of course,” Kevin answers for them, “Now that we’re all reunited and at peace again.”
A waiter comes over and leads us to a large table in the corner by the windows. I notice several people take notice of the guys and even see a few cellphones come out to snap photos.
After the drinks are brought to us and we’ve ordered, Conrad excuses himself to go to the restroom, giving me a chance to talk to Kevin.
“Hey Kevin, can I ask you a question?” I ask him quietly. I glance over at Harrison and Jake, but they are deep in conversation about something.
“Sure sweetheart, what is it?” Kevin replies just as quietly.
“Um…you didn’t happen to bring your tattoo equipment, did you?”
Kevin’s eyebrows go up in surprise, but his lips slowly spread into a wide grin.
“I might have, why?”
“I think I’m finally ready to get one, and I remember you once said you’d like to be the one to do it when I was ready.”
“Wow, that was a long time ago, but I do remember. Does Conrad know what you’re asking me?”
“No. I actually want it to be a surprise.”
“I see. Well I think we could work something out…what do you suggest since you two are always together?”
“He and Harrison are working on music today, so I have a few hours free. I told him I would call Desiree to hang out.”
“Okay, I tell you what, bring Desiree with you so that you’re not actually fibbing, and you guys come to my room later. I’m assuming you have something in particular in mind?”
I nod, just as I spot Conrad making his way back to the table.
As soon as we finish breakfast, I call Desiree and she happily accepts my invitation to hang out since she has the day off from work. Harrison comes to our room just before twelve with his guitar and a notepad, so I grab my purse and leave them to their work. I go down to the lobby to wait for Desiree who arrives at twelve thirty.
She hugs me tightly, “I’m so glad you called, I missed you.”
“It’s only been a couple weeks since I saw you last, but I missed you too,” I say, “that, and I have some good news.”
Desiree pulls back and holds me at arms length to examine me.
“You’re not pregnant or anything, right?”
“Oh god no!” I laugh, “nothing like that.”
“Phew!” she fans herself dramatically.
I smile and fan myself with my left hand, “yeah, is it warm in here?”
Finally, she spots it and grabs my hand.
“Wait, is this…”
I nod, and she screams, causing everyone in the lobby to look our way.
“Oh my god!” she grabs me in her arms and squeezes me hard, “Finally! Congratulations! Okay now tell me everything.”
I proceed to tell her the whole story as we make our way back upstairs. I don’t tell her about the tattoo plan yet. We arrive at Kevin’s door and i knock. Desiree looks at me in confusion.
“Why are you knocking? Don’t you have a key?”
“This isn’t my room, it’s Kevin’s.”
Before she can respond, Kevin opens the door.
“Hey girls, come on in,” he greets us and walks into the room. We follow him in and as soon as we get farther in, I spot Kevin’s tattoo equipment set up like surgical tools on the desk. Desiree spots them at the same time.
“Who’s getting the ink?” She asks.
“I am,” I tell her.
“WHAT?” she exclaims, “really?”
“Yeah. I’m ready to take the plunge.”
“Let me guess, Conrad doesn’t know, otherwise he’d be here right now.”
“It’s a surprise for him.”
Kevin takes a seat on a chair near the bed and proceeds to produce a drawing pad.
“All right Syd, we should get started. What do you want and where do you want it?”
I pull the sweater I’m wearing, off, so that I’m just wearing my tank top. I pull one strap off and go over to Kevin and sit down on the edge of the bed closest to him.
“I want it on my back, on my left shoulder,” I tell him.
“Okay can do. But we need to discuss what you want since we need to sketch it out. Do I need to remind you of the things that I don’t like to tattoo?”
“I remember. No butterflies, asian symbols or cartoon characters.”
“Correct. Good memory. so what will it be then?”
“Well, this might be another thing that tattoo artists suggest against but…I want Conrad’s name.”
Both Kevin and Desiree’s eyes go wide, then Kevin laughs.
“Have you seen the tattoo on his chest?” I ask him.
“Yes I have,” he nods, “let me guess, you want one that matches?”
“Yes please, with his name instead of mine.”
“Okay Sydney, if that’s what you want, I’m happy to do it.”
“Brave move,” Desiree murmurs, taking a seat next to me on the bed.
“I can’t think of anything else I love more. He’s got my name branded on his skin, now I want his branded on mine. It’s forever.”
I watch as Kevin slips on some black surgical gloves and then he rubs something into the area.
“Just preparing the skin,” he explains, “Try not to jump, but this next part will probably hurt a little bit Syd.”
“I’m ready, go for it Kevin.”
Half and hour into his work, once I’ve grown accustomed to the sting of the needle, I decide I need a distraction. Desiree has flipped on the television and is watching some trashy reality show.
“Kevin, can I ask why it wasn’t you that did Conrad’s tattoo?”
Kevin laughs and shakes his head.
“Yeah. It was the middle of the night, after a night of partying when Harrison got the brilliant idea to get new tattoos. He asked me to do it but when it comes to my artwork, I don’t do this drunk or tired, I take this seriously. So Harrison called up someone else. I’m just glad the guy he called was actually really good, so he didn’t mess up Conrad’s piece. I was impressed by how nice it came out.”
“I still can’t believe he got my name.”
“At the time, neither could any of us, but Conrad was so torn up, and he insisted that’s what he wanted. We couldn’t talk him out of it, but luckily for him it all worked out for the best right? Now here you are, returning the favor.”
“I hope he likes it.”
“I think he will…and if not, try not to let him kill me. I’m just the artist.”
“Wow, I think we might have done some real good work here,” Harrison says as we begin to wrap up.
“I agree, and it feels really good to be writing again,” I say.
“It has been too long. You know, I’m glad you decided to stick with us a little longer, Conrad. This band wouldn’t be the same without you.”
“Thanks Harr, I’m actually glad I decided to stick to it as well. Now that I have Sydney with me, and the fact that she’s agreed to marry me has totally refreshed me. I feel like I could do anything again.”
“You two really have it, don’t you?”
“You know…it. That thing that deep down everyone wants. Despite the odds against you two, you’ve managed to power through all the bullshit.”
“Yes well, I hope we’re finally done with all the bullshit drama that always seems to try and come between us. Once she’s my wife, that’s it.”
“Are you still mad at Jake?”
“No, I’m not. Jake was never my biggest problem. The real issue is Sydney’s ex, Dane.”
“Ex? hey, is that the guy that outed you two back in the day?”
“The very same one.”
“She actually dated him?”
“Unfortunately, and he could have given me a run for my money. Did I tell you he and I got in a fist fight?”
Harrison’s eyes go wide, then he laughs.
“Oh man, did you destroy him?”
“Not really. The kid packed on a load of muscle since his high school days. I got the better of him but he damn near had me. But, that’s not even the bad part. While Sydney and I were away, he broke into her apartment and left a threatening note. It was to her, but it was meant for me.”
“Threatening? Like how?” Harrison asks.
“Like basically a thinly veiled death threat in my opinion.”
“Holy shit Conrad. Did you tell the police or anything?”
“No. There’s not really any point. What could they do? Sydney and I are here now, and soon we’ll be back on the road.”
“Maybe you should consider hiring an extra bodyguard or two, just to be safe.”
“Yeah, I’ll probably do that, but mostly for Sydney’s protection.”
Harrison picks his guitar back up and leans back into the couch before strumming a few chords.
“Got my baby by my side
Gonna take her for a ride
Psycho killer after me
Will he get me, let’s wait and see…”
I laugh at his terrible song.
“Not your best work Harr.”
“No, but I think this story could make for an interesting song, don’t you think?”
“Then let’s get back to work.”
Harrison and I don’t finish until five. It felt good to sit with him and write and reconnect. Things between us had been so strained lately, we needed to get back on track.
“You wanna go grab a drink or something?” Harrison asks me.
“Let me see what Syd is up to first, maybe we can all go,” I tell him and check my phone to see if she had left any messages. I find two from her. First one came just after one, and the second one came at four.
*Sorry to bother you while you write, just letting you know that Desiree and I are just hanging out at the hotel if you need us.
*Hey Mr. Riley. Desiree, Kevin and I are at the hotel lounge having a few cocktails before dinner. When you’re done, come join us. xoxo
“She’s down at the bar with Kevin and Desiree,” I tell him.
“This should be interesting.”
Harrison and I make our way downstairs to the hotel bar, and find Kevin and the girls seated at the bar. Kevin is saying something to them using a lot of hand gestures, and the girls are doubled over in laughter. I’m happy to see them having a good time while I was busy with Harrison. I had felt a little guilty leaving her for most of the day.
“What’s so funny?” Harrison asks loudly, alerting them to our presence, “Hello Desiree, it’s been a long time.” Harrison looks Desiree up and down, not even trying to hide it.
“Yeah, it has been,” Desiree smiles stiffly at him.
“I hear that you’re a married woman now?” he asks her.
“You heard right, and happily at that.”
“That’s too bad.”
“For you it is.”
Harrison huffs and tries to act unaffected by Desiree’s comment, but I can tell she’s bruised his ego. He turns to talk to Kevin and I go up behind Sydney and wrap my arms around her.
“Hi babe,” she says, smiling sweetly, “I missed you.”
“I missed you too,” I tell her, “did you have fun today?”
“What did you do?”
“We just hung around,” she grins with a mischievous gleam in her eye. Instantly I know she’s up to something, and that she’s already had a few drinks too.
“What did you do?” I repeat with a smirk.
“I’ll tell you later. Come on and get a drink. Kevin was just telling us funny band stories.”
“Uh oh, that could be bad,” I chuckle.
“Don’t worry, you’re safe.”
A couple hours later, I put Desiree in a cab then take a very buzzed Sydney up to our room. She’s giggling to herself as we enter the room.
“What’s so funny?” I ask her.
“I did something today, and I’m not sure you’re going to like it,” she tells me, still smiling, which is confusing.
“Is that right?” I raise an eyebrow at her and tug her toward me.
“Uh huh,” she nods and backs away from me slowly, then peels her sweater off before tossing it away.
“Come on, out with it Miss Chase,” I warn her, keeping my tone playful.
She then pulls off her tank top and tosses it away.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to show you what I did,” she says.
“And it involves enticing me the way you are right now?” I smile and pull my t-shirt off and toss it into the pile of her clothes.
She nods and bites her lip before slowly turning around. I see a white bandage on her shoulder, and I recognise it immediately.
“What did you do?” I ask her carefully.
“Will you help take this bandage off? Kevin said to not leave it on after I got back to the room,” she tells me.
I suck in a deep breath and step closer to her. Carefully I peel back the bandage, giving me a view of the new ink that marks her beautiful soft skin, and I can barely believe my eyes. Expecting to feel anger at Kevin, I instead feel moved. Moved by the fact that the girl I love has branded my name on herself to match my own tattoo.
“Do you like it?” she asks me softly, I hear the worry in her voice.
“Syd…” I breathe.
“Please don’t be mad. You have my name on you, now I wanted your name on me, forever.”
“It’s gorgeous,” I whisper, brushing the skin underneath the tattoo, careful not to touch it.
“You like it?”
“I love it,” I say.
“So you won’t kill Kevin?”
“Not this time.”
She giggles at me and turns around to face me.
“He gave me some stuff to clean it with because he told me not to use any hotel products or perfumed stuff…oh and some stuff to put on it after that.”
“I’ll help you do it,” I tell her, “You can’t have a hot shower for awhile, just warm and quick.”
“Yeah…he gave me a list of dos and don’ts,” she nods.
“So how was it getting your first tattoo?” I ask curiously. I try and picture her face the first time Kevin put the needle to her skin.
“It hurt a little, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”
“My brave girl. What made you decide to do this?”
“I don’t know…I got the idea last night when I was looking at yours. It made me want to return the gesture.”
“Getting somebody’s name on you is a pretty risky choice.”
“Maybe for some people, but I’m not worried, are you?”
“No. Granted, I got mine while we were broken up, so I can’t really talk now can I?”
“No, I guess not,” she smiles, “So, how about you finish getting undressed, so you can help me.”
“I think you’re the one that needs to be naked, Syd.”
“Okay, let’s both get naked then,” she says as she begins walking towards the bedroom. I watch after her as she removes her bra and drops it to the floor before disappearing into the room. I grab her purse which I assume has the products we need and quickly follow her.