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Chapter 23. - Thirdly

For our third date, Lukas picked a concert.

Unlike the concerts I’ve attended before, this was much smaller scale. It was an unplugged event, where the band was going to play for a few VIP fans, while recording themselves for their website. I couldn’t be more excited for it – two of my favorite things, live art and the man I was falling hopelessly in love with, all in one room.

Initially, Lukas was worried about me going public with him. He warned me about how people could get, and the gossip that would spread if we were to be seen together.

But the reality was that I’ve already had paparazzi following me around constantly. I’ve already received so many hate comments and threatening messages, that my head spun with all the creative ways women could be told off. I was already the topic of gossip blogs and drama channels, even though I’ve been doing my best to lay low and just go about my day.

If I was going to be in so much limelight regardless, might as well continue living my life. And the little devil inside me wanted to give these gossip blogs a real something-something to talk about.

Callie fussed over what I’d wear until my head spun.

She wanted everything to be just perfect, because it was going to be all over tomorrow’s fashion blogs - either tearing my choices apart, or wanting to know where I’ve purchased my outfit from. “You need heels. You’re way too short next to him, and it makes your legs look longer.” She murmured, mostly to herself as she rummaged through my closet.

Boxes and boxes of new clothes and accessories laid piled up in one corner, but I haven’t bought any of them. They were just sent to me by various designers and brands for publicity.

It was strange receiving packages of clothes and shoes in a size that fit me and my body type perfectly, and all for free.

Of course, Callie was used to it. Being an up and coming model, she scored complimentary things all the time. But she was a damn supermodel, and I painted for a living!

“Not those!” I pointed at the pair of red bottom heels she was currently holding. “I can’t walk in those. The last thing I need is a dislocated ankle in front of those piranhas.”

Callie sighed. “You need to practice, then!” She whined, but set the shoes back in their original box, and picked up another one. “If you’re gonna be seen with a rock star, you need to be chic. Plus, your height difference is too weird for the photos. If they want a close up of his face, they can only see you from the eyeball up. So not cute!”

Looking good in a close up was the least of my worries – but I didn’t want to crush my best friend’s spirit. She was just trying to help, and although she had a weird way of showing it, kindness came so rarely my way these days, I wanted to cherish it. “Ok. I’ll wear whatever you want.” Her grin was illuminating, but before she could grab the Louboutins she was originally holding, I waved my finger at her. “Except for that.”

“Fine, fine.” She groaned. “I’ll make do with something else.”

In the end, she picked out a thigh high pair of black, velvet boots, with thick heels. Thanks to the tightness of the material, they supported my ankles, so even though they were on the higher side, I felt safe walking in them. Callie paired them with a light burgundy sweater dress, that hugged my curves, but was thick enough to fight off the chilly night air. As for accessories, I didn’t let her go overboard. I was an overalls and t-shirts kind of girl, and the girl in the mirror already felt too much like another person. Callie picked a simple, black purse - but wound a cheetah print scarf around the handles -, and black stud earrings.

When I finally glanced inside the mirror after she spent half an hour on my face, I was surprised to see that I still looked like me. Just a more fashionable, put together, less exhausted looking version.

“Oh.” I said, at loss of words. “This is… Actually, really good.”

Callie stood behind me with her hands on her hips, and an ‘I told you so’ glint in her eyes. “I’ll teach you how to do your makeup like this. It’s easy, quick, and you can do it for yourself whenever you go out with him.”

To my surprise, I found myself agreeing. This time, instead of painting my face to look like a different person, she just highlighted the features I’ve already had. I loved it. “Thank you.” I said, turning around to give her a hug. I let her snap a picture of me to send to Ginger, and headed out the door.

Lukas was waiting for me downstairs, and instead of him, four security guards helped get me from the front door of my apartment building, to the blackened Escalade he was waiting in.

As soon as the door closed, Lukas pulled me against his long, lean body and pressed his lips to mine. He kissed me with such passion, it was no longer simple butterflies in my stomach. It was a wild flock of birds, wanting to tear out of me, driving me insane with a sudden flare of desire.

“You look fucking incredible, Sydney.” He grinned, his golden eyes shimmering with playfulness as one of his hands slid down to cup my butt. “I’m not sure I want my friends to look at you, after all. I want to keep you all to myself…”

I realized that he was only teasing, but I couldn’t help the way my heart sped up at his words. I wanted him to keep me! God knew, that was all I ever wanted.

I smiled up at him. “I’m here with you.” I said, instead of the other little words that were dancing on the tip of my tongue.

Lukas winked at me. “Trust me, I know it.” He grinned, sounding cocky and alluring all at once. And I wanted to stay pressed against his side and inhale his captivating sandalwood scent, but I knew it wouldn’t be socially acceptable. “I’m glad you chose me over Cardboard Lukas tonight.” He teased, referring to the cutout of him I’ve had perched over my bed for the last three years.

“You are the bulkier version after all.” I shrugged, feigning innocence. “And a much better kisser…” My whisper trailed off, as I leaned closer to him, just in time to observe the shocked reaction on his face.

“Wait! You made out with the-“ Lukas stopped himself when he spotted my grin. “You almost got me there, Bruges.”

And just like that, I was granted another taste of the real thing.

We pulled up in front of a small venue.

Unlike with Hazmat’s concert, there was no line snaking around the building, or gigantic security guards at the door. There were two teens, wearing name tags and the band’s logo on their shirts, laughing away as we pulled up – a three blacked out car caravan.

That got their attention, and I watched as they strained their eyes to see who was inside.

Lukas’ details got out first, and walked around to his side to open the door for him. He hopped out with a grace and ease no man should possess, and turned back to give me his hand. I took it, and he helped me off the tall SUV. I landed right next to him, and he pulled me close to whisper in my ear, his lips brushing against my hair. “You are beautiful beyond words.”

His voice was so smooth and sensual, I wanted to bottle it up, take it home, and wrap it around myself on a quiet, lonely night. Lukas took a step back, his gaze remaining on me as he led us both towards the door.

“Holy shit…” I heard one of the teenagers mumble. I seconded that.

Lukas just looked that good tonight. All beige sweater, white, ripped jeans, and Timberlands. He had multiple small leather bracelets around his wrists, and wore his sweater tucked up to his elbows, revealing exquisite tattoos and patterns on his beautiful skin.

“Can I get a picture with you?!?” The other asked, his voice way too loud in the quiet night.

Lukas chuckled. “Sure thing.” He stopped, and both security guards from behind us stepped to the side, moving out of frame.

To my utter surprise, the teen who asked for the picture got next to Lukas, while the other stood to the side of me. The first held up his phone, snapping a selfie of all four of us.

I was dumbfounded and confused. “Erm… would you like a picture with just Lukas?”

The one with the phone shook his head, his long hair falling into his eyes. “No! I definitely want you in it.” He glanced back to look at my expression, his expression switching to hesitant. “If that’s ok?”

“Uhm…” I felt Lukas’ gaze on the side of my head, as he waited for my reaction. “Sure.” I replied, because at least these kids had asked me first. Unlike the rest of my candid photos floating around online these days, this was actually taken with my consent. I stepped between the younger guy and Lukas, and we posed for another photo. They thanked us profusely, and let us through without checking our tickets.

“How was that?” Lukas asked, once we were out of earshot.

I shrugged. “They were nice.”

His golden eyes filled with approval. “Not all fans are mean. Most are just protective.” He said in a serious voice, and I sensed that we were no longer talking about just the two boys outside. “They’ll get used to the idea of you with time.”

And there it was again.

With just a few words, Lukas LaBelle had my heart fluttering with hope. Because what he said could’ve hinted at his wish to keep me around long enough for his fans to get used to me. With time – I repeated in my head.

And his time was all I wanted.

The venue was small – much smaller than the concert hall I was expecting. It was basically a giant room, with regular chairs set around a main ‘stage’ in a circle. Except there was no stage, just five stools for the five members of the band.

In each corner of the room, tables were set up, piled high with food, sweets, and drinks. One bar served alcohol too.

The overall atmosphere was relaxed - as if it wasn’t a concert, but just a couple of musicians hanging out. The band was scheduled to come on, play a few songs, then mingle with the crowd, before going back to play some more. Fans could take their pictures, the band’s signatures, and they would actually get to talk to their idols in an informal, relaxed setting.

“We’re over there.” Lukas nodded toward a row of seats set at the very back of the room. There was a pair of stools on either side, with a long leather couch in the middle. Security sat on either side of us, leaving one chair free each. Lukas hopped down at the corner of the couch, pulling me down with him. “Let me know if you want to go closer, Brooklyn.”

I smiled, and shook my head. “This is perfect.”

The lights were dimmed low in the room, with only the center illuminated. There were large, flameless candles set between the couches and chairs, giving the place a romantic, sensual feel. It looked like someone’s fancy living room, with coffee tables lingering about for people to place their food and drinks.

I liked that Lukas and I were in the very back – the last thing I wanted was to be the center of attention. I just wanted to remain in the dark, unseen, and just be able to enjoy the show – an issue that would’ve been alien to me a few weeks ago.

“What do you want to drink?” Lukas asked, and nodded at one of the security details.

“Wine – if they have it.”

“Brent, could you get the lady some Tokaji, please?” He glanced over at me for approval, and I grinned, excited that he somehow seemed to know my taste. “I’ll take a whiskey – whatever they have.”

Brent went off, just as the band started setting up. Their name was Chemical Reaction, and they were what Hazmat used to be before they blew up. Young, and insanely talented – but with their privacies still intact.

Lukas was speaking to me in a hushed voice the whole time, explaining that the reason why he chose to see them tonight, was because Hazmat was thinking about bringing Chemical Reaction on as their opener for the upcoming tour. The band they originally had on experienced a fallout, and their lead singer was currently in rehab, while the other half waited in jail.

People were filling the room now, talking in quiet, but excited tones. No one yelled, no one was waving sings at the guys who were only a few feet away from them. People were just hanging out, looking around, and making themselves comfortable.

Brent came back with our drinks, and my wine was perfect, the atmosphere was indescribable, and I’ve had the best company a girl could ask for.

“Are you sure it’s ok that I’m here?” I asked, turning my head just enough to be able to look into Lukas’ golden eyes. “With you? People will make assumptions.”

Lukas rolled his eyes. “I haven’t exactly done a good job of keeping you a secret, have I?” He asked, raising his brows. “I’m not scared of people knowing we’re together, baby.” Sigh. “Are you?”

I sat up, angling my torso toward him. “Are you kidding me right now?!”

His sexy, pink lips pulled into a satisfied smile. “Are you finally admitting to your little crush on me from before?” Lukas was teasing me, I knew, but I couldn’t help swooning at his words.

I rolled my eyes. “I knew who you were, sure.” I blinked, giving away the slight exaggeration of my devotion to him, from before I really got to know him.

I felt Lukas’ long fingers slide behind my neck, massaging my tight muscles while pulling me closer. “I’ve had a crush on you.” He whispered, his lips brushed against mine, nearly making me lose my train of thoughts.

“Since when?” I was panting now, my eyelids growing heavy from the fluttering sensation inside my stomach. But I desperately hung onto his confession, hoping to finally get him to remember me from nearly a decade ago.

“From the moment I saw you, Istanbul.”

This was it. This was the perfect moment to tell him!

I cleared my throat. “Actually, we’ve-“

“Are we late?!” A tall shadow cast over us, and my eyes snapped to the source of it. Ash fucking Wolfhart stood in front of us, grinning from ear to ear. He had two girls on each arm – I couldn’t even make this up if I tried – with fake boobs ranging from huge to enormous.

I swallowed, insecurity slowly creeping in as I took in the girl ogling Lukas. Was this what he was usually into? How could I compete with the perfect, smooth stomach, fake, but generous curves, and pouty lips – especially since she was right in front of me?

These girls looked like Bratz dolls – and those were always sexier than Barbie.

“Good to see you, man!” Lukas stood, shaking Ash’s hand and giving him one of those man hugs that turn into back patting.

I sat back, watching as the girls fought over who would get to sit on the couch with Ash, and who got the empty stools. “Ladies!” Ash’s booming laughter sounded in the room, quieting the spiteful bimbos. “There’s enough room for everyone!” Grinning, he hopped down on the sofa next to me, spreading his long, thick legs.

All he had to do was pat his lap, and all four girls flocked to him like pigeons.

“Oh, fuck!” I swore under my breath, when someone’s elbow dug into my side. I was too annoyed to try to see who it belonged to.

Lukas wrapped his arm around me, pulling me into his side. “Just ignore them, baby. Ash’s always had the craziest girls.”

Crazy, indeed! A girl needed to be mentally unstable to be into someone like him.

“It’s fine. Let’s just enjoy our night.”

His pink lips widened into a breathtaking smile. “That’s my girl!” Lukas winked, completely unsuspecting of the way my heart sped up every single time he referred to me as that.

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