I woke up the next morning to Conner and Lea singing a duet in the shower. Laughing, I padded my way into the kitchen in my fluffy bear slippers. In my opinion, Conner was definitely living here now, and they sounded so happy.
Shane looked up at me from the kitchen table with an innocent look on his face. “Morning, Sunshine!”
Skimpy little tank top, boy shorts, floppy bear slippers and bed hair is not the way I wanted someone like Shane to see me. I was betting on at least two weeks of insults to follow, but, he didn’t even look at my outfit and he didn’t give any snide remarks.
I poured myself a cup of coffee and stirred in some sweetener, waiting for him to start with the teasing. “Good morning. Um, do you come here for coffee every day?”
Shane got up from the table and ran his hands through his hair. “We were going on a run, but he slept late. I’ll be out of your way in a minute, unless you feel up to running with me?”
I eyed him curiously.
“Why the hell are you looking at me like that? No strings attached. I’m seriously just asking if you want to go running with me. Nothing else.”
“And you’re not going to start joking about me standing in front of you with this on,” I pointed to my outfit.
His eyes never left mine. Never looking at where I pointed. “Well, I’m sure you’ll change if you want to go running.”
I smiled at him. I think he’s trying to be on his best behavior. “Who are you and what have you done with that male chauvinist pig Shane?”
“Har, har, har. You coming or not?”
“Sure. Just let me change.” I turned to walk back to my room, and immediately regretted giving him that view of me with my short boy shorts on. There was an audible sigh as soon as I did. When I got to my room, I realized I was smiling. Oh, that’s not good.
We ran for a good two hours, not once speaking to each other. It was the most comfortable silence I had ever experienced.
We ended up back at my apartment. I took a shower, leaving Shane sitting in the living room watching television. The thought of Shane being in the next room and me in the shower made my mind go wild. I tried to focus on Tucker and about how I could get out of our date on Wednesday, but Shane’s beautifully sculpted shoulders kept taking center stage in my mind. What the hell?
I tried to relax myself under the hot water, but nothing helped wash away the images of Shane. I blasted the cold water on and stood under the stream shivering. Why do people say this works? It doesn’t.
I leaned my forehead onto the cool tiles and closed my eyes. There was always one thing that I could focus on, one thing.
I let my mind open up and go back, remembering. Pale blue colored eyes. It hit me like a slow roar of thunder, my skin could still feel his touch and my body shivered. My knees felt weak; I sat under the icy cold stream. I could still feel his breath on my neck; the way those eyes looked at me; I was his everything.
I didn’t know how long I sat there. I only got up when my skin looked a funny shade of blue. I wrapped myself in a towel and cursed out loud for not remembering to bring my clothes in the bathroom with me. Doubtful that Shane had stayed so long, I just wrapped the towel around myself tighter and walked out into the hallway.
I was still concentrating on those pale blue eyes when I noticed Shane was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, eyes wide and sparkling.
“I made lunch, if you’re hungry.” He voice was no more than a whisper.
Standing there like a deer caught in headlights, I felt the heat rising to my cheeks. “Yeah, sure. I’ll be right there.”
He said nothing more and walked back into the kitchen.
I dressed in a pair of black yoga pants and a plain purple tee shirt. I ran a brush through my hair and let it air dry. I put on my slippers and made my way into the kitchen.
Shane was grabbing water bottles for us from the refrigerator when I walked in. Two plates were on the table filled with turkey and lettuce wraps with a delicious looking olive salad on the side. Wow.
“Sorry, I took so long. I really didn’t think you were going to stay,” I said.
Shane shook his head, chuckled softly and looked up to the ceiling, as if he was searching for some divine intervention. “Is that why you took so long, so I’d leave? All you have to do is ask me to leave, Grace. I just thought after a two hour run on an empty stomach that you’d like some food.”
I gave him a smile. “No, ass. I didn’t stay in there because of you. Not everything in this world revolves around you, you know. And thanks, I’m starving,” I said, sitting down.
He watched me closely as I took my first mouthful of food. Delicious. “Will you be joining me or are you just here to watch me eat? It’s pretty good, by the way.” I teased, motioning to his untouched plate.
Shane made no move to eat. He just sat and stared intently at my eyes. I stopped chewing and swallowed my food. I should have chewed more, because I immediately started coughing; my eyes tearing.
He jumped up and moved in front of me, “Are you okay? Is it that bad?”
I burst out laughing, and wiped my teary eyes. “Oh God, Shane. It’s delicious. I’m choking because you’re sitting there staring at me like the taste of your turkey wrap depends on your life.”
Shane laughed too and sat back down.
“Man, you made my eyes tear up,” I complained.
Leaning his elbows on the table, he moved closer to me, “Those are such gorgeous eyes, there should never be tears in them,” he said. “Your purple shirt is reflecting into them. It’s making them look lavender.”
I smiled. “No wonder you were staring at me like that. Yeah, I can change my eye color if I wear certain colors, but most of the time they’re dull gray.”
It was his turn to burst out in laughter, choking, “Grace, there nothing dull about those eyes, and you’re right, this shit is delicious. You’re welcome.”
After we finished, I helped him clean up and we made our way into the living room.
He grabbed his coat and his bag and turned to me. “Have anything planned today?”
“No, not really.”
“I was just going to play around at the studio, wanna come?”
“Yeah, we have a sound proof studio apartment. That’s where we practice every day.” Yes. Yes. I want to bring my guitar and play those notes that make you sing like that.
“How many apartments do you guys have?” I wondered out loud.
“Tucker’s father owns the building, so they’re reasonable. So, do you want to hang out?”
I grabbed my coat, put on my shoes, and nodded. “Tucker and his family seem like they have it all, huh?”
Disappointment flashed across his features. “Yeah, Tucker has it all.”
We stepped out into the windy February day and walked down the street towards his building. He glanced at me sideways, “Did you have a good time with Tucker last night? I saw you left the bar with him.”
I looked at him and shrugged. “Yeah, he took me for a drive.”
We stood on the corner waiting for the light to change, hands in pockets. “So, do you like him?”
“What? Why are you asking me these questions?” I asked. No. He disgusted me and broke my favorite pair of jeans. We walked across the street.
“I was just wondering. That’s all. You just didn’t look too happy with him sitting at the bar last night. I was surprised when you left with him.”
I stopped walking and looked up at him. “What do you mean?”
“It was the way you responded to him,” he replied.
“Shane, what the hell are you talking about? How did I respond to him?”
He looked up at the cloudy sky and squinted down at me. “He put his hand on the small of your back and you squirmed away from him every time he did. It looked like you were going to drink the whole bottle of Jack when he started rubbing his thumb on your back. The worst was when he touched your face and you cringed. Yet you left with him.” He sighed and looked down, “I just didn’t understand it at all.”
“Strikes me as strange that you would notice all those things that you say I did. But, really, who I go home with isn’t any of your business. I don’t ask you about all the girls you take home.”
“You can. I don’t hide anything.”
“Shane, I would probably get pregnant from you just telling me the things you do,” I laughed.
His smile tightened.
We continued walking and at the end of the block, entered a narrow three-story apartment building. He guided me along the first floor and down a back stairwell into an enormous basement that had been turned into a fully equipped music studio. Whoa.
Ethan was sitting behind his drum kit. He gave me a huge smile and jumped up to kiss me hello. “Hey, Grace. Here to listen to us?”
I nodded smiling.
Ethan’s smile got wider, “That’s great. Shane never lets chicks come down here.”
I glanced over at Shane, who was holding an acoustic guitar, and lowering himself onto the floor. “Girls shouldn’t be allowed down here. I can’t find my muse if some chick is trying to suck on my neck,” he laughed. “Besides, it’s Grace. She’s just one of the guys.” He never looked up at me when he said the words. Nevertheless, I felt there was something more to him asking me to come here. A single butterfly fluttered somewhere deep in me, in a place I thought was long dead.
A soft sad melody whispered through his guitar, slow and addictive.
Behind him, Ethan sat motionless, listening.
Shane’s eyes closed and his voice drifted through the guitar notes; rising and reaching through my ears to the tips of my toes. It ached with a longing and a need. The words were pain and desire.
I watched as his whole body changed. His face twisted in agony and desolation, yet his body swayed gently to his music. It took every fiber of my being to not reach out my hand and touch his perfect face, to wipe away his sorrow.
I lowered myself to my knees where I stood. I couldn’t trust my legs to hold me upright any longer.
He gazed up at me through impossibly long lashes, his eyes a scorching icy blue locked on mine. I couldn’t tear myself away from looking at him.
Then at all once the music stopped, his voice holding a note for a single beat more; then silence. His torn expression stirred a fire in me. I felt warmth thunder through my veins under his intense glare.
His eyes tore away only when Ethan’s voice cut through the room, “That was the most intense song I’ve ever heard, dude! That was crazy! Play that again and lemme find a good beat.”
Shane looked back at me with no expression on his face. “Yea, sure, Ethan.” They composed the song right in front of me. Shane hadn’t looked at me again for the rest of the time. The strange personal moment he shared with me was over.
Sometime later, Brayden and Alex arrived and smiled at me. Brayden walked up behind me and hugged me, “Hey, Grace, it’s nice to see a pretty face down here.”
“Dude, I resent that. I have a very pretty face,” Ethan chimed in.
Band practice turned out to be both entertaining and relaxing. An unfamiliar feeling of contentment settled over me. I stayed until my hunger overtook me, having not eaten since that morning. I said my goodbyes and walked out quietly. Shane never looked up from his guitar; just gave me a low, “Night Grace.”
As I reached the stairs, I heard Shane call from behind me. He jogged over to me, hands running through his messy hair. “Sorry, I get really involved in there.”
“Why would you be sorry? Listening to you guys play was epic. The music sounds even better without all the screaming half-naked girls,” I teased.
His smile was amazing. We walked up the stairs to the front door. “I’ll walk you home.”
“That’s not necessary, go back to practice,” I insisted. Oh, but I want him to take me home. Shut up, shut up. Do not think about Shane like that!
“I’ll walk her home for you,” a voice said. A cold wind whipped through the front doors that Tucker was just coming through. His hair was slicked back and he was dressed in a long winter overcoat; unbuttoned it flaunted his Gucci suit. His briefcase matched. I didn’t even bother to look at his shoes, no doubt they’d be made of gold.
“That’s okay, it’s only a few blocks.” I said.
“Well, it’s dark out and a beautiful girl like you should have someone to protect her,” Tucker replied. His smile was genuine. Protect me? This was coming from the guy who ripped the button off my pants? “I’ll get her home, Shane. You can go back to practice.”
Shane’s smile tightened; again. “Great. Thanks Tuck. Night, Grace,” he said walking back down the stairs.
Tucker held the doors open for me and I was blasted with icy cold air. He ushered me out, “So, funny meeting you here,” he smiled down at me. “Are you cold? Come here.” He lifted his arm and wrapped it around my shoulder.
“Oh, that’s okay. I’m fine,” I said sliding out of his grasp.
Tucker didn’t miss a beat; dropping his hands to my waist. “I don’t mind. It’s not every day that I get to walk down the street with a beautiful woman.”
I stared straight ahead. “Thanks.”
“So what were you doing here with Shane, anyway?”
“I was watching the guys practice. Why?”
“Oh, shit! I’m supposed to practice with them after work, which is now! Why the fuck is it every time I have something I want to do, these assholes have to depend on me to do other things!” His anger seemed extremely misplaced. He even threw down his Gucci bag. Holy crap, he’s having a tantrum!
I tried to smile, “Tucker, I live like two blocks away. You go help them, I’m fine.”
That made his pouting stop. He kissed me on the cheek. “I can’t wait to take you out on Wednesday, but more than that, I can’t wait for you to see me play on stage on Friday!”
“So go practice!” I pretended to be excited. You insane psycho! I think I need to get a very contagious stomach virus before this date.
I walked home alone; my small glimpse of contentment gone.