Strung

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Chapter 20. - Flame

The food arrived ten minutes later. Lukas untangled himself from my arms and went to answer the door. It was strange to witness him doing something as ordinary as getting the delivery – but I had to admit, he pulled it off. His pink lips were puffy and slightly darker in shade, as a result of all the kissing we’ve been doing. And his blonde curls were going in each and every which direction, giving him this sexy, bedroom aura.

Lukas looked hotter than an August noon in the Saharan desert. And on top of that, he ordered everything with extra bacon!

My mouth watered from the delicious scent and heart-stopping sight. And the food looked good too… “Hmm.” I hummed, closing my eyes as my senses took over. Lukas set the food down on the counter in front of me, and I just about begun salivating over how incredible everything smelled.

When I opened my eyes and glanced over at him, he was staring at me with that lusty haze over his golden eyes I used to daydream about as a teenager. Of course, the effect was still very much there, but instead of a poster over my bed, now I was face-to-face with the real thing.

And it was a thousand times better!

“You’re fucking intoxicating when you make that sound.” Lukas LaBelle said, and I noted the way his voice dropped, lowering a few notes.

My dirty thoughts were right behind his, though. “Hmm.” I said again, my face breaking into a cheeky grin.

He smiled back. “Eat your food, San Diego. You’ll need your strength.”

We were a few slices of pizza, and a couple empty containers of take out food into dinner, when we spoke again. “Does your family know where you are?” Lukas asked, catching me off guard with his question.

My brows pulled together as I regarded him. “They know about you, if that’s what you’re asking.” I didn’t add that they have known about him since the coffee shop incident, back when I was just a sophomore in high school. “But no. Not that I’m with you right now.”

He nodded, his eyes scanning his food. I got the sense that he was curious, but also shy about asking the next question, which made me all the more interested. I sat up straighter, and waited patiently. “What did they say?” Lukas cleared his throat. “I’m assuming they’ve read some articles about us by now.”

“They found out about the articles before I did, actually. My brother nearly broke down my door the morning after our first da-“ I stuttered. “The night at the diner and everything.”

“And how did they react?”

I swallowed. “My brother thinks I’m an idiot, basically. Not because of you but… Just putting myself in this position. My mother is an idealist for the most part. She think it’ll pass.”

Lukas frowned at his plate. “She doesn’t think you’d want anything serious?”

She didn’t think you’d want anything serious, I wanted to reply, but found myself saying. “I meant the media frenzy. She thinks it’ll die down as time passes. You know, some other celebrity will go into rehab, or elope, or get into a public feud. And I won’t make headlines anymore.”

I was probably just imagining things, but I could’ve sworn I saw his shoulders sag in relief.

“And your brother?”

I shrugged. “He doesn’t think putting up with this public drama is worth it.” Of course, my brother never quite understood the obsession I’ve had with Lukas LaBelle either, but he has always been supportive. At the end of the day, after all was said and done, he was my brother. And he just wanted what was best for me.

Lukas put his fork down, and looked over at me. “Do you think it’s worth it?”

I chewed for a moment, which gave me time to think about my response. “I think you are worth it.” I said finally, deciding to just be honest. I think we were way past the point of playing the chase. He caught me, and now the ball was in his court, to see if he’d want to keep me or not.

His golden eyes softened, his expression morphing into a look I’ve never seen from him - and I’ve seen all of his looks. “You’re so sweet.”

I stuck out my tongue. “Ugh! Sweet...”

Lukas chuckled, picking up his fork again. “What’s wrong with sweet?”

“Remember that being called nice upset you?” I cocked a brow at him. “Well, it’s like that. I’m always sweet, or cute.” And quite frankly, I was tired of constantly being labeled as the sweet, reliable, fangirl. Sure, I wasn’t malicious by nature, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t more.

“I meant it as a compliment, Florence. You’re sweet, like the world haven’t roughened you up yet. You’re innocent and positive, and while it’s a fresh break from the women my world is surrounded with, it’s also an immense pressure on me.” Lukas sighed, and ran his hand through his hard. “I don’t want to break you. But that’s all my world knows how to do.”

His words were so sincere, his expression open and unguarded for a change. Lukas let his guard down long enough for me to know that he cared. Despite not being able to make any promises, and the whole non-girlfriend girl thing… He did care.

And for now, maybe that would be enough.


After dinner, Lukas grabbed a blanket and the old acoustic guitar that stood against the couch, and we headed out to his balcony.

The walls on either side of us were high, and green bushes and vines ran up their sides, giving this place an eerie calm. From the distance, the shore line was barely visible - only the sound of the waves suggested that his home came with its own private beach.

We sat on a swing, which was made surprisingly comfortable by plush pillows and a thick mattress under. Lukas helped me on, and covered me with a blanket. It wasn’t exactly cold outside, but the wind from the water proved to be quite chilly.

He sat on the other side of the swing, facing me, with one knee pulled up, so he could rest his guitar on it. “This is my favorite part of your house so far.” I admitted, as we swung gently, in perfect rhythm with the waves of the ocean, and the slow lullaby Lukas played.

Absentmindedly, his fingers strung the chords, not playing a particular song, just sort of providing background music to this incredible night. “It’s mine too.” He admitted, with a little glint in his eyes.

It was hard to see, as the only light was coming from inside. I glanced over at the high, wooden railing.

“You’re in your head again.” Lukas observed, and I turned to him with a shy smile. “What are you thinking about?”

I bit down on my lower lip. “Just how nice this balcony would be with some fairy lights ran on the railing. Perhaps a lantern or two hanging from the corners - the kind that look like giant candles, but they’re actually flameless.”

Lukas laughed, his fingers halting for a second as he struggled to catch his breath. “Here I was, thinking how fucking perfect this moment is - and you’re mentally redecorating my house!”

My eyes flashed back to his. He thought this moment was perfect! “It would’ve been, if I was able to see your handsome face.” I said pointedly. “But it was pretty damn close to it.”

Lukas shook his head. “Unbelievable.” He muttered, but he didn’t sound offended. Just amused, which was good. Now that I have killed the mood.

I angled my body toward his. “What kind of songs can you play?” I nodded toward his guitar.

Sure, I’ve heard every Hazmat song ever, and I knew how incredibly talented he was. My question was regarded more towards the songs he knew to play by head, rather than insulting his abilities.

His blonde brows rose as he looked at me pointedly. “Any song I’ve ever heard, I can play it.”

“Without notes?”

“Without notes.” He nodded.

“Hmm.” I thought about it for a moment, wanting to push his limits by coming up with a song that was farthest from his norm. “How about ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Ch-”

I didn’t have to finish my sentence, because the famous chorus from the song started pouring out of Lukas’ guitar, in a beautiful, acoustic take that was so much richer than the original track.

“Wow.” I said, in awe, as I listened to him strum the last few notes. “‘Teenage Dream’, Katy Perry.” My grin widened as he flawlessly transitioned into the next melody. “‘Eternal Flame’.” I called out, and Lukas moved onto it.

My eyes closed, as I just relaxed, and enjoyed the melody and his indescribable talent. I’ve had no idea how he did it - I’ve seen musicians play songs, of course. But Lukas played by ear. The sound was so natural, so eternal, as if he was born with a guitar in his hand.

“Can you sing?” He asked, but the melody never stopped floating from his fingers.

I shook my head. “Not very well.” I said, honestly. I was on the school choir in middle school, and had a decent voice - but it was nothing compared to the talented musicians Lukas LaBelle hung out with. And that included his best friend, Ash too.

“Give it a try.” He encouraged me, and I felt his eyes on the side of my head, waiting expectantly. “Come on. I won’t judge.”

I took a deep breath, then just as he brought the chorus back, I started singing along with him.

A few lines in, I dared a look his way. And Lukas was smiling.

Encouraged, I kept going, finishing out the rest of the song along with him. It was incredible, like something out of a cheesy romance movie. No phones, no electronics. Just a boy and the girl, falling in love on the shore of the ocean, creating a beautiful melody between the two of them.

Our gazes held, as the last few of the notes graced the air between us. “This is different.” Lukas murmured, in a low voice, as if the silence was too great to disturb now.

But I knew exactly what he meant. Something has shifted in the air between us during the song. It was no longer teasing, or that awkward stage of getting to know the other person. Something has passed between us - an invisible bond I prayed he felt as strongly as I did. “Yes.” I agreed, breathless.

He set his guitar on the ground next to us, his eyes never leaving mine. “Come here, London.”

My heart sped up, my body moving forward on its own, answering the call of the love it craved. This, indeed, was very different.

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