Strung

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Chapter 9. - Cheeky

I froze, my body automatically going into fangirl mode. Lukas LaBelle looked better than he did at the night of the incident, if that was even possible. His golden skin practically glowed in the lights of the club, making him look like an exotic Greek God.

Thankfully, Jesse chose that exact moment of stunned silence to appear him, and push Lukas out of the way. “You made it!” He grinned, his entire face transforming into a warm, welcome smile. Jesse had that sort of personality that lightened the room, without even having to try.

I didn’t look over at Lukas, although, I could feel his gaze still on me. I was so strangely aware of everything he did, I just knew where he was in the room at all times, without having to look, and my skin tingled and warmed wherever his eyes wandered. My senses were heightened around him to the point where it was almost too much.

Jesse reached down for me, and helped me up the last few steps – one hand holding mine tightly, and the other around my waist as he pulled me into his embrace. “And you smell like fucking coconuts!”

I grinned. “Thank you for inviting us! I really needed a night out.” I told him, meaning it. As passionate as I was about my arm, it was nice to step away from my studio every now and again. And seeing my favorite band in real life was just a gigantic upside. “This is Callie.”

Both Jesse and Lukas turned to face my best friend, who was standing tall behind me. They gave her a nod as a greeting, and the jealous fangirl in me was actually watching the blonde guitarist to gauge his reaction. After all, my best friend was drop dead gorgeous, and much more popular with men than me.

But to my surprise, Lukas only said hello, then turned back to me. “I didn’t realize you were coming tonight.” My heart was still dancing tango over the fact that he didn’t proceed to check out Callie’s impressive assets, so I barely had any brain cells left to process that he was talking to me.

Jesse was right about the more intimate atmosphere thought. For some reason, the music wasn’t as loud, allowing room for conversation – which was what Lukas was trying to engage me in.

It really was too bad that I was busy watching the way his pink lips moved to remember what he asked…

Thankfully, someone did pay attention, and jumped in to answer for me. “That would be because she is my date.” Jesse replied, raising his brow casually at his band-mate.

I opened my mouth to correct him, and inform him that I had meant what I said earlier about us two being just friends, but then I saw the look on Lukas LaBelle’s face. He seemed positively shocked, and almost…fuming? My mouth snapped shut.

Lukas’ angry gaze dropped to my waist – which, I realized, Jesse was still hanging onto, with both hands. I stepped back quickly, and one of his hands fell away. The other remained – a movement that could appear to look much more than what it was from the outside.

“How was your day, baby?” Jesse cooed gently, turning us away as he guided me toward the bar at the other side of the terrace. In his hold, I turned my head just enough to look over my shoulder, and notice the gaping Callie and Lukas.

“What exactly are you doing?!” I whispered, once we were out of earshot. “I thought we agreed-“

“My day was good, too.” He replied, completely ignoring me, and chattering on as if I didn’t just accuse him. I had the deep, underlying feeling that all rock stars were batshit crazy – just each in their very own, different way. “Just a bit busy. We’re making a last-minute song change on the album, and it’s kind of a pain this late on. But that’s the life.”

I blinked. “What song change? Are you adding something on? What is it-“

I was so distracted by what Jesse actually said that I didn’t even notice the people we stopped in front of, until Jesse nodded towards the little crowd with a chuckle. “This is London Grey.” He introduced me to the people – among which were Hollywood actors and actresses that starred in the latest block busters, models, celebrities, and a few people I didn’t even recognize, but was sure were just as important. “She is an incredible artist, and is currently designing our entire venue for the release party.”

Once they realized I wasn’t a groupie – well, not really – their whole demeanor shifted.

“I’m sorry.” One actress who currently had a successful TV series on Netflix stepped closer to me. “Would you happen to be related to Adelaide Grey? The writer?”

I smiled, nodding. “She’s my mom.”

The actress sighed, dreamily. “Holy hell, her books have changed my life!” She went on. “The scenes she included in her last book with that hunky knight really helped my sex life. I would even say it helped me keep my boyfriend.”

My smile froze on my face. “How nice!” I blurted awkwardly.

“Have you ever thought about writing, as well?”

I shook my head. “I’m afraid I’m not very good with words.” In fact, I often found myself completely out of them. Like, when Lukas LaBelle stepped right next to me, so close that our shoulders were touching. I sucked in a small breath, keeping my eye on the actress instead, and ignoring Lukas.

If my discomfort showed, she didn’t notice. “So are you and Jesse a thing?”

Oh, hell. I shook my head, feeling that she wasn’t my only audience. “I’ve only actually met him like twice – very briefly.”

She tilted her head, not making a secret about checking said drummer out. “Well, he’s very cute, isn’t he?”

“Sure.” I agreed, but she was no longer listening to me, as she was too busy batting her eyelashes at the drummer. With the actress distracted, I had no other option but to quit ignoring Lukas, who was very blatantly staring at me.

I lifted a brow at him in question.

“Are you really on a date with Jesse?”

That was not what I expected him to say. But as always, he managed to surprise me. “I don’t see how that would be any of your business.” I replied, in my most polite tone.

Lukas’ brows furrowed. He was now scowling at me. “You freaked out when you had my tongue in your mouth, and yet you show up on a date with another member of my band.”

I sensed that he wasn’t finished yet, so I grasped his arm, and pulled him away from the little crowd, closer to the edge of the balcony. “Are you out of your mind?! Keep your voice down…” I scolded him, probably red as a tomato. Then again, maybe the pounds of paint Callie smeared all over my face hid my blush.

Lukas turned to face me, his body almost flush against mine now, as he bent down to be at eye level with me. “It is my business, because we don’t need another girl band-hopping right before the new album release and the tour. We are finally all getting along, and as cute as you are, Hazmat doesn’t need the drama.”

I gasped. “You think I’m cute?” I whispered, then as soon as the words left my mouth, I wanted to slap myself. “I mean… There was a band-hopper? When?”

Lukas took a step back, and ran a hand through his blonde curls. The soft strands twisted back into the exact same position as they were in as soon as his fingers combed through them. It was fucking sexy and almost funny at the same time, in a way that I wondered if it would happen if it was my hand running through it.

As if in a daze, I lost control of my mouth. “I thought you were angry when you saw me, because maybe you wanted me for yourself.”

Lukas raised his brow as he turned back to face me. “Are you always this honest?”

I shook my head.

His lips pulled into a small smile, all traces of anger vanishing as his golden eyes shined down at me. “You’re fucking adorable.” His voice dropped a hoarse whisper, as he leaned closer. “Would it bother you if I wanted you for myself?”

I sucked in a sharp breath. My mind was a fuzzy mess, my heart beating out of my chest as I processed his words. No! My brain screamed. That’s all I ever wanted… But out loud, I said. “You can’t answer a question with a question.”

Lukas let out this sexy little amused chuckle. He opened his mouth to say something-

-but then a hand clasped down on my shoulder, pulling me back and away from him. “There you are!” Jesse’s head came into my peripheral vision, as he effectively stomped all over the moment I shared with Lukas LaBelle. “I got this for you.” He handed me a glass of pink champagne, with a strawberry stuck on the side. “I wasn’t sure what your drink of choice was.” He explained, shrugging.

“Jesse, I-“ I wasn’t sure what I was going to say to him exactly, but I knew that I wanted a little more time alone with Lukas.

Sadly, I didn’t get to think of an excuse, because Lukas cleared his throat. “I’m going to check out the bar.” He announced, then added. “Nice speaking to you, Budapest.” And just like that, he walked away from us.

Jesse turned to me with raised brows. “Did I interrupt something?”

Yes! I wanted to scream, but instead, I shook my head. “Nothing important.”

“Blink.”

I frowned. “What?”

“You blinked.” Jesse added, helpfully.

“Yes, I tend to do that sometimes.” I replied, sarcasm lacing my voice.

Jesse laughed. “No, baby, that’s your tell. You blink.”

I turned to him, with one hand on my drink and the other on my hip. “Excuse me?”

“Your tell.” Jesse said, slower this time, like he was spelling out something to a complete moron. “When you lie, you do this huge blink-thing. Watch!” Then, he took a sip of his drink. “I was right about you having the hots for a band-mate of mine.”

“No!” I protested, then felt my eyelids flutter. Damn!

But Jesse just laughed – the kind of victorious laughter, as if he just figured out the answer to the universe’s biggest mystery. “You want to bang Lukas.” He pointed out.

“No, I don’t!” And then I blinked again. Focusing on keeping my eyes wide open, I repeated. “I don’t!” I said, with more conviction.

But he only laughed harder. “And now you just look like a crazy person!”

I couldn’t help it, I laughed along with him. “Is it really that obvious?” I asked, a while later, once we were both out of breath, and hoarse from chuckling over my pain. “Not that I would want to ‘bang him’-“ Blink. “-but that I… kind of like him?”

Jesse nodded, without skipping a beat. “Oh, yes!” He snorted. “I noticed it the first time we met. But, I thought, ‘what the hell’, might as well try.”

My heart sped up. “The first time we met?” Jesse turned out to be surprisingly insightful, behind his jokester persona. Could it be that he actually remembered me? From the coffee shop?

“Yeah, at the venue. You were gaping at him like he was something out of your wet dream – which, he probably was, right?” He chuckled, and after a moment, I pretended to laugh along with him. I have had dreams about Lukas that I wouldn’t necessarily share with the general public. “I thought he might have been your favorite – because let’s be real, there was no way you didn’t know who we were.”

I shrugged. “Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.”

Jesse rolled his eyes. “So have you made a move on him, yet?”

I took a large sip of my champagne. “I’m not sure if you’re the person I would want to talk to about this.”

“Why not?” He shrugged. “I know him better than anyone. Well, except maybe Ash and Brian – they’ve been friends longer. But still, I’m probably your best bet.”

“Because-“ I said, taking another sip of my drink, in hopes of the bubbly loosening my tongue. “-you were just flirting with me.”

Again, he rolled his eyes. “I flirt with everyone – don’t take it personally. And without me, you would’ve never known that he actually prefers brunettes.”

I swallowed. He was right. I didn’t know that.

“Take me on as your confidant, and I can make this happen for you.” He offered, wiggling his brows.

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Jesse Wolfhart, I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you.” I said, poking his chest. “And you know I’m telling the truth, because my eyelashes didn’t even flutter when I said it!” I waited for him to object, but he didn’t. “Lukas LaBelle is an incredible musician, and-“ Blink. ”-I – as a fellow artist – appreciate his-“

“Lie.”

“I’m just a fan of his mus-“

“Lie, again.” He grinned. “Tsk-tsk, Miss Grey. Who knew you were quite the storyteller?” He teased. “My offer still stands.”

“And what would you get out of it?”

Jesse’s face stretched into the widest – and probably scariest – grin I’ve ever seen. He wiggled his brows. “I think you will find that it’s a fair deal.”

I suddenly pictured the drummer with horns and a wicked red tail. Yes, I was basically striking a deal with a cheeky devil. “I already know I’m going to regret this…” I sighed, but accepted his outstretched hand.

“Nonsense. I’m an excellent matchmaker.” Jesse said, seriously. “Besides, I have a lot of free time on my hand at the moment, and you’re cute as hell. This is going to be so entertaining!”

I noted that this was the second time I’ve been called cute that night, by two different members of Hazmat, and I was starting to think that wasn’t a good thing at all. Still, it was too late.

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