Strung

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Chapter 30. - Coffee

Hazmat took the stage, and Arielle pulled me to the side. “Is everything ok?” She asked, concern shining in her grey eyes. “You seem a little pale.”

“It’s just… complicated.” I said finally, tired of hiding the truth. Arielle has warned me that having a relationship with a client could only complicate things, and while it felt wrong to admit defeat, I thought that perhaps she would understand.

I exhaled as she agreed. “Relationships aren’t always straightforward. And as you may know, I very publicly struggled with mine. But then one day, I woke up, and everything turned out to be alright.”

“I’m waiting for that day.” I said, sighing. “It’s stupid, isn’t it? A quarter of these stunning girls are here for him.”

Arielle shrugged. “Perhaps. But there’s only one London.”

I scoffed. “He hasn’t even looked my way the entire night.”

In the background, Hazmat was setting up. Lukas played a few test riffs, while Ash counted off on the microphone. Jesse beat a quick rhythm, while Brian stroke a couple chords.

But the whole time, Arielle seemed to be focused on me. “I’m going to tell you this, and it might sound very obvious, but it took me a long time to figure out, so listen up!” She grabbed my arm, demanding all my attention. “Men are simple creatures. They don’t always tell you about their feelings… They’ll show you in other ways. And if you’re waiting for them to consider how their lack of words might make you feel… Well, you’re in for a surprise! But!”

I smiled, as her huge eyes rounded even more with every word.

“They mean well. And I think deep inside your heart, your instincts will always tell you the truth.”

I bit down on my lower lip, feeling conflicted. Lukas has shown me nothing but patience, care, and he was even willing to put up with my mentally unstable family for one morning. He made me feel special any time that we were alone. And yet tonight…

“Look!” Arielle grinned, nodding towards the stage.

Instead of Ash standing in the middle of the stage at the microphone, it was Lukas LaBelle, his golden eyes shining even brighter than usual under the lights. “A number of years ago-“ He started, his fingers tickling his electric guitar in rhythm with his words. “-I had a strange encounter.”

The crowd clapped as he took a dramatic pause, giving them his most panty-melting half smile.

“We weren’t big back then. In fact-“ Lukas grinned, glancing back at Jesse who beat out a quick rhythm. “-that night we were there for free. I was going to grab a couple of waters for the guys, but instead-“ I took a deep breath, my head spinning at his words. “-I got scorching hot coffee spilled all over me.”

Holy fuck. My heart was beating out of my chest, my vision blurring as if I were in a dream as I listen to Lukas LaBelle recount the events of the night that we have first met.

“This super cute little lady dumped a tray-full all over me.” Lukas chuckled, and the rest of the crowd laughed along with him. “And I had to play the rest of the set soaked to my briefs.”

To those last words, the girls went insane, whooping and cheering him on.

“Turned out I got second-degree burns from her, along with a night I will never forget as long as I live.” Lukas declared, flashing his smile toward me. I knew that there was no way he could possibly see me through all the lights and the people between us, but my heart skipped a beat just the same. “But what I didn’t get-“ He went on. “-was her number.”

The crowd collectively let out a sad noise, mirroring Lukas’ speech, and the sad rhythm of his guitar.

“What do you think the chances are that I run into hear eight years later?” Lukas asked, pausing the melody he had been playing in the back as everyone yelled out their response.

Meanwhile, my stomach turned inside me, and I thought I grabbed onto something for support because suddenly my legs felt too weak.

“Well, I did.” Lukas winked at the crowd, earning further cheers. “And she’s here tonight, which is fucking wicked because I wrote a song for her!”

Everyone. Lost. It.

Including me. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to break down and cry from the song, his words, or the fact that he even knew who the hell was, or scream in frustration along with the rest of the girls in the room, who all imagined climbing that lean body of his like a tree.

Lukas grabbed the mic again. “Now you’ll know why this song is titled ‘Coffee’, and why I’m a little nervous to perform it for the first time in front of my girlfriend.”

Fuck. Me. Dead!

“See what I mean?!” Arielle yelled in my ear, shaking my arm in excitement. “Grand gestures! Ah! To be so young and in love!” She sighed. “Speaking of which, I’m going to go find my husband. I think you’re all set.”

I was too lost under Lukas’ spell to hear a word of what she was saying, but from the corner of my eye, I saw her leave.

My attention was on the stage, and the four men occupying it. The lights dimmed, with only the fairy lights and candles illuminating the place. The spotlight was no longer on the band, but that didn’t make them stand out any less. Every single head in the room was turned toward them as Lukas took his place on the right of Ash, who got in front of the microphone.

Jesse counted them off before the first chords started playing of a fast-paced rock song. Ash grinned at the girls in front of his feet, who all had their arms in the air, reaching for him. Jesse was lost in the rhythm in the back, sweat already forming on his forehead as he pounded away, with Brian supporting him.

Lukas joined in with his guitar, playing a slower riff than the rest of them, and my eyes nearly bulged out of my head as I watched his fingers beat the familiar rhythm. I was no musician, but I recognized the position of those chords as the one he so often drummed on the steering wheel or even on my naked back.

Ash began singing, his captivating voice pulling me in as he told a story of an unforgettable encounter fading into memories, and the smell of coffee that always seemed to linger in the air. He sang about a girl and a night, and the beginning of something neither of them expected. He sang so beautifully, his voice so raspy and scratchy, but sweet in all the right places, that combined with the rest of the band, I found myself with tears in my eyes.

He remembered. He knew who I was – and I was special to him. He called me his girlfriend.

The song ended, and all I could do was stare at the man with golden hair and eyes, whose fingers were still softly humming out the last few chords. Without the spotlight on him, he could see the crowd, and I watched as his gaze lifted up to meet mine, his curls tilted to the side as he sought my approval.

I nodded and a huge grin spread across his handsome face.

Ash introduced the next song, giving us a little backstory, but I didn’t hear a single word. Our gazes were still intertwined as I held my breath, waiting for their set to end. As excited as I was to hear Hazmat’s newest songs, now I could barely contain myself. I desperately wanted to run up to Lukas, and-

I didn’t know what. But suddenly, the enormous distance between our bodies was killing me.

Ash begun singing again while the other two guys played. But Lukas LaBelle was still frozen in place – until Brian walked up and nudged him and he picked up the rhythm too. His hands begun dancing on his guitar, his golden eyes still flashing to me every now and again. I found myself getting increasingly wet at the sight, the sound, from the feeling of the entire evening – and I had to press my thighs together to create some friction.

The four of them looked breathtaking on stage – gods among men, playing their ethereal melody, manipulating their instruments just as much as they were working the crowd. And I had very indecent thoughts about one of them.

The second song ended, and for the life of me, I couldn’t recall what it was even about. Brian was next to speak, as he announced their last song for the evening, which would become their first single from the new album. I was faintly aware of cheering around me, and a couple of women yelling inappropriate things we were all thinking toward the stage.

Their third song began, this one a tad slower than the other two, but just as captivating and beautiful. I focused on breathing, basically counting down the seconds until it would be over and I could – perhaps – have a chance to speak with Lukas. Preferably, in private, but I would’ve taken anything at this point.

My palms began to sweat, my chest tightening as I watched the four of them move in synch, playing in perfect harmony.

I felt someone nudge the side of me, and I twisted my head to look up at a tall waiter. “If you don’t go and jump tackle that man, I will do it for you.” He said with all the seriousness in the world, before disappearing between the guests.

I glanced back over to the stage, and sure enough, Hazmat was wrapping up their set. Assistants and crew members ran up on stage to take their guitars, and start disassembling the drums, while Nikki said a few closing words about the events for the rest of the night.

I spotted him, standing just to the side of the stage, already surrounded by admiring fans. But this time, I wasn’t going to let them get all of him. After all, Lukas wrote a song for me, about me, and dedicated it to me.

With adrenaline fueled by that sudden knowledge, I began to make my way through the crowd, dodging people who now seemed to have the interest to strike up a conversation with me as well. I zigzagged between the guests, coming closer and closer to my goal.

This time, he did meet my eyes as I approached. In fact, Lukas didn’t seem to be able to look away, which was just as well, because neither did I.

As I approached, Lukas excused himself, sidestepping the next couple of girls in line to chat with him, and suddenly, there was no more space between us. His arms were around my middle, lifting me up, holding me against his solid body as he spun me around. I let out a little squeak of surprise, but wound my arms around his neck, letting him take me wherever he wanted to go.

I tilted my head to the side, watching him mirror my movements, our lips connecting in a beautiful, sensual kiss that stole my breath away. His mouth was gentle and smooth, opening my lips without any resistance and tickling me with his tongue. He tasted of mint and cigarettes, and I nearly lost my mind as I tightened my hold on him.

Lukas broke away with a groan, his golden eyes now a deeper shade of unique brown as he set me down on my feet. “Come.” Was all he said, before taking my hand and dragging me up on stage, and off to the side of it.

I wasn’t familiar with this part of the building, as there was no decoration that needed to be done here, but from the minimalistic setup and the overwhelming amount of cables and equipment, I guessed this was – the so-called – backstage. Lukas pulled me through one door, shutting it firmly behind us. I heard the tell-tale sound of a lock, before he turned to me, his golden eyes mirroring my own need.

“I can’t decide if I love you in this dress, or if I want to tear it off you!” Lukas groaned as he stepped closer, spaying his long, talented fingers along my sides.

His lips came down on my neck, and I angled my head to give him better access. “You remembered me.” I breathed. “This whole time…”

My eyes rolled to the back of my head as he kissed a particularly sensitive spot. “Second degree burns, London.” Lukas reminded me. “You’ve made quite the impression on me.” He pulled away slightly to look into my eyes. “Ash had to apply aloe cream over my chest for a week. He would never let me live that shit down.”

I chuckled at that mental image but bit my lip. “Then why didn’t you say so?! I’ve been beating myself up trying to tell you, it just never seemed like the right time.”

Lukas shrugged. “I wasn’t sure at first. Fuck, you didn’t look like this back then.” He nodded toward my body – his eyes lingering over my cleavage. “By the time I was certain it had been you, it didn’t matter anymore. You changed – and I like the confident young woman you grew up to be. The girl who got so upset over some jerk not appreciating the unique person that you are is gone, and it would’ve felt wrong to bring her back.”

He planted a soft kiss on my lips.

“Besides, I wanted to surprise you.” Lukas grinned. “Did you like the set?”

My cheeks were flaming bright red by the time he was done talking, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted the ground to swallow me up whole because he remembered that awkward encounter from nearly a decade ago, or celebrate – for the exact same reason.

“I didn’t really hear your other two songs.” I admitted. “I was a little preoccupied.”

His lips stretched to a slow grin as he stepped forward, backing me into something. “And what kept your mind so busy?”

I fought the urge to glance away. Instead, I held his penetrating gaze as I took a deep breath. “Lukas, I’m in love with you.”

He blinked. Once. Twice.

And whatever he did next, I had no chance to see, because I already rounded him and bolted out the door and into the night.

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