Chapter 8. - Lavish
I was just heading out of my meeting with Arielle, Nikki and a few other members of the label’s management team, when my backpack started vibrating. Repeatedly.
Cursing, I crunched down, setting my little backpack on the ground as I dug through it, looking of the blasted device that just kept on ringing. When I finally got a hold of it and saw the number, I frowned.
The area code was familiar, but I was never the kind of person who could memorize one digit over her own phone number – that was all Ginger, with the photographic memory. “Hello?” I answered, hesitantly.
It wasn’t like anyone besides my parents, my two best friends or occasionally a job ever called me. And even the latest was rare, since the guy who ran my web shop was just as much as an introvert as me, and preferred to communicate via email. Besides selling an occasional art piece here and there, I was only working with Arielle at the moment, and this definitely wasn’t her number.
Nikki exited the building at the same time, and seeing me crunched down on the ground with my phone in one hand and my backpack in the other, she just gave me a quick conspiratory wink.
“Hey there, gorgeous! Made me wait until the fourth ring, did ya?” A very familiar voice, whom I have never given my number to, chuckled at the other end of the line. He continued on. “What are you doing tonight?”
I raised my brows, even though he couldn’t see me, and clutched my phone tighter to my ear, concentrating on breathing.
And while I was waiting for my shock to wear down enough that I could form a coherent sentence, he must’ve thought that I hung up. “Hello?” I heard him call out on the other side, followed by the sound of tapping. His voice was now distant in the back. “I swear, if this piece of shit breaks down right now-“
“Jesse!” I cleared my throat. “I can hear you. Well.”
“Oh!” He chuckled, and I heard the tell-tale shuffle of him raising his phone back to his ear. “Hey, London!”
“I was just… surprised that you had my number!” I said, as a way of an explanation for my momentarily brain-fart – which actually happened quite often. Not that he needed to know that.
“Nikki was kind enough to help me out with that one…” Then, Jesse added. “Fine. I bought her out with a weekend off with her man – approved by management and paid by me. So, you see, turning me down would be a gravely mistake, as you can tell by my exceptional character that I’m a good catch!”
I broke out in laughter. “You just admitted to bribing your band manager, and probably a bunch of other people too! Willingness for bribing is not considered an outstanding character trait.”
I could practically hear the smile on the other end of the line. “But I did it so I could talk to you – which shows determination and persistency. Creativity as well, which are all great character traits.” I loved the sly lilt of his tone, and the fact that he had quick wit. He was definitely the ball of energy that kept the group on their toes.
“I have to give you props for that, then.” I teased. “And I’m willing to overlook the method you used to get my number, as well. Just for this once.”
“Does that mean that you’ll go out with me?”
I smiled. I couldn’t tell if he was flirting with me, or simply teasing. And following that logic, I couldn’t tell which one I was doing either. All I knew was that I enjoyed his energy, and I needed that boost of confidence that came from Jesse Wolfhart asking me out. “Hypothetically speaking, if I were to go out with you – which is a very big if! What would it entail?”
Jesse laughed on the other end of the line. “Oh, baby, that is already a yes!”
More shuffling followed from the other end of the line. I heard movement, voice from the back, then a door closed, muffling all sounds. I assumed Jesse was now alone.
“It would entail great music, drinks, and amazing company at a very up and coming club!”
I shook my head – even though, once again, he couldn’t see me – then said out loud. “Yeah, no. Clubs aren’t really my thing.”
“Me neither!” Jesse replied too quickly, and I didn’t bother to correct him. Even if I wasn’t Hazmat’s biggest fan – which was a very big if – one simple Google search of his name would’ve shown me just how much clubbing really wasn’t his thing… “But! My friend is DJ-ing and we gotta support him.”
I hated the desperate way my heart tightened at the sound of ‘we’. I haven’t seen or spoken to Lukas LaBelle since that incident in my studio three days ago, and while I was probably well on my way of becoming a certified masochist, I really wanted to see him.
“Besides-“ Jesse went on. “-we’d be on a private balcony area, overlooking the club, not down there with the sweaty bodies. It’s much more relaxed and intimate up there.”
I got what he was hinting at, which made the next words rush out of my mouth without hesitation. “Let me just nip this in the bud right now…” I started, amazing myself with the confidence oozing through my voice. “I really am flattered that you asked me out-“
“And here comes the famous ‘but’.” Jesse sighed. “Let me guess, you’re gay.”
I gasped. “No.”
“In an illegitimate, but very fulfilling relationship with your priest?”
I snorted. “What?!”
“Is that a no?” He shot back, but I sensed the laughter in his tone. Jesse was teasing me.
“That’s not an expression, baby, but I’ll take it.” He commented, the smugness returning to his voice. “That leaves only one explanation left, as of why you would turn me down so hastily.”
“And that is?” I teased him back, excepting him to come up with a ridiculous alien abduction theory next, or who knew what else.
But what came out of his mouth was very far from that. “You already have your eye on one of the other guys.”
“I just hope it’s not Brian, because you’ll be set for a bucket-load of disappointment.”
I slowly let out a breath I didn’t even realize that I was holding. Jesse didn’t know. Jesse didn’t know!
Which meant that after the incident, Lukas LaBelle didn’t go back and tell all his band mates about what happened – or even worse, a twisted other side of it. I didn’t take Lukas as the kind of man who went around bragging about conquest, and so far, I have been proven right. But that might as well could have been due to the fact that nothing really actually happened.
Or not! He just felt bad for me – I reminded myself. It was a good thing that I didn’t let things progressed further. Even though, Lord knows it has been so long…
“London, are you still there?”
Jesse’s voice brought me back to reality, and I scurried to answer. “No, that’s not it, either.” I lied. “You’re just not really my type.”
A loud snort-like bubble of laughter was his reply. “That’s a load of shit, London, baby! I’m everyone’s type.”
And just like that, we were back to teasing, smartass Jesse, not the surprisingly insightful man who could see through me. “If you can get over yourself, I’ll go. Strictly as friends.”
“We’ll see about that…” He shot back, but I sensed that he was just bantering with me, rather than trying to challenge the fact that we were destined to be just friends. “Fine. Nine o’clock, I can send someone to pick you up.”
“Can I bring a friend?”
“Is your friend hot?” I was just about to tell him off for his big mouth, when he added. “I’m kidding! Just kidding! Of course. I’ll add a plus one for you on the list.”
“Thank you, Jesse.” I said, meaning it. “I’ll see you tonight, then.”
I lowered the phone from my ear, when I heard. “Oh, and London?”
“Yes?” I asked, lifting the device back up.
“Wear something sexy.” And with that, before I could reply anything back, he hung up on me.
“Shit.” I cursed, shaking my head as I got into my car, and headed back to my studio. I’ve suddenly had a lot of work to catch up on if I wanted to take even a single night off, but somehow, I didn’t mind. I’ve had a lot to think about, and the conversation with Jesse was just a small fraction of it.
Even though I planned on working all afternoon, my session was cut short when Callie showed up at my studio, demanding to be given full control over my look for the night. “You are going out with the hottest band on the planet – you cannot go looking like you sniff paint all day long!”
“But that’s precisely what I do.” I informed her. “And they already know that, and Jesse still asked me out.” I said smugly, even though as far as the tabloids knew, Jesse wasn’t very picky in the ladies’ department.
“I’m not saying to change who you are, Londie.” Callie replied, with her hands on her waist. “But there’s a time and place for your overalls, and going to a hot club with a hot rock star is not it.”
“I wasn’t going to wear overalls!” I rolled my eyes, even though I did have a very cute pair I just bought that had a short skirt for a bottom… That wouldn’t be too far fetched to wear to a club, right?
“Whatever you say.” Callie huffed, knowing me well enough to know I was lying. “I picked out a cute shirt for you, and I already destroyed that cute pair of jeans you got last summer in the blowout. You are going to look like a million dollars!”
And with that, she dragged me out of my studio, out of my paint stained overalls, and into the shower.
“I’ll let you handle this on your own.”
“How very kind of you.” I murmured sarcastically.
But if she could pick up the irony in my voice, she didn’t react. “Shave everything! You have fifteen minutes, and then I’m breaking the door down.” And with that, she exited the room, no doubt to find other ways to torture me later.
I knew it was a mistake to let my best friend prep me for the night when she smudged on the third layer of mascara. She’s been going at my face for close to an hour now, applying product after powder after more product, until I had trouble blinking from the ridiculous false lashes she stuck on me.
But maybe it was because she always looked so incredible, or men always seemed to fall at her feet, that I thought if I let her dress me and doll me up, I’d have the same affect. My expectations weren’t as high though. I just wanted one man – and he didn’t even have to fall at my feet. I would’ve been content with him just admitting that he found me beautiful and that was why he felt the undeniable urge to kiss me.
Not because, you know, that was what he did with all his adoring female fans.
Callie stuffed me into these black fishnets, that essentially no one would see – aside from the holes she cut on my favorite pair of jeans. She somehow managed to make the denim look old and flailed, and the holes looked purposeful, not like I tripped and skinned my knees on accident.
She picked out ankle high black boots for me – a rare pair of heels I could actually walk in, thanks to the way they held onto my legs. And finally, she completed the look with a black string, which she nicknamed a shirt.
“These are so in right now.” She informed me, as I frowned at the little bandeau looking thing that barely covered my already not impressive rack. “You can definitely pull them off better than me. My tits even fit in these!”
I snorted. “You really know how to flatter a girl.”
But I had to admit, when she was done with me and I glanced in the mirror, the girl who stared back at me looked like she belonged on the arm of a rock star.
“You look like a doll!” Callie cheered, as she fluffed my hair and applied one last layer – I hoped – of hairspray. “You are going to make him worship the ground you walk on.”
I wasn’t sure about that… I just wanted to look like the girl who could make him forget that I pained not one, not two, but a whole shelf-full of nudes of the guy. That would’ve been enough for me.
On the other end, Callie looked every bit of the blonde bombshell model she was. She wore a burgundy lace top, which just had to be lingerie, because it left very little to the imagination. She completed her look with a tight leather miniskirt, with giant zippers on the side, and heels higher than Ginger’s college GPA.
Her long, blonde hair fell straight down her back, now reaching to her perk butt, which she shook elegantly with every step.
“You should’ve invited Ginger. I am just dying to do her makeup!” She sighed, dreamily. “Can you imagine how beautiful she would be if she let me get at her for a few hours?!”
“Ginger is beautiful.” I corrected her. “And you know she would essentially rather stick her hand in a toaster than go to a club.”
Callie agreed, although the absence of our third best friend made us both sad.
That was, until the phone rang, letting me know that the driver was ready for us. Callie practically bounced down the stairs, while I took every shaky step slowly, like a graceful little newborn gazelle, that was just learning how to walk.
Our driver was idling by the curb, and held the door to the blackened car open when he spotted us. “I sincerely hope he is the driver Jesse sent. Otherwise, this going to go from A Cinderella Story to Taken in a matter of seconds.”
Callie laughed. “You sound like Ginger now.”
I shrugged. “Somebody has to represent common sense in her absence.”
We could see the club from blocks away, and it wasn’t due to our impeccable vision, but because of the giant line snaking miles down the road.
“He did say it was very up and coming…” I admitted, shocked by the number of people willing to wait in line just to start having fun, when in this party of the city, there was a club or bar in every corner.
Our driver slowed, and very illegally parked right outside the doors. He helped both of us out of the car. I realized how ridiculously pretentious we looked, when a few people took photos of the scene, no doubt wondering if we were celebrities. They would be in for a disappointment.
Callie, being Callie, actually waved and posed for the pictures, while our driver talked to the bouncers. The pictures quickly turned to booing and questions being thrown at us as the gigantic men let us cut in front of the line, and lifted the ropes for us, allowing both of us to enter right away.
I was in such a haste to get away from the annoyed crowd, I forgot to even thank our driver for getting us here.
“This place is so cool!” Callie grinned, looking around the club once we were inside. We were no sooner stepping onto the dancefloor, when a guy walked up to us, in a black shirt that said ‘security’ on the front.
“This way, ladies.” He yelled over the music, walking toward the back of the crowd. I was looking at the ground, trying my hardest to not fall over my own feet, while the guy kept looking back, making sure we followed.
We got to a staircase I didn’t even spot before, with two other bouncers parked in front of it. Without any questions, they removed these ropes as well, and led us through. “All the way up. You can’t miss it.” The guy who took us here grinned, before disappearing into the crowd.
“Go!” Callie urged me, slapping my butt playfully. “What are you waiting for, Londie?”
I was, as always, watching the ground, when a pair of tan boots appeared on top of the stairs. Slowly, I let my gaze rake over the tight, black jeans he wore, with holes strategically placed over one knee and the other thigh, over the tan shirt that hugged his big, toned body like a second skin, into the crooks of his muscled neck, with golden curls framing that handsome face… And finally, ending it shimmering light brown eyes, staring right into mine.
A slow, lopsided grin spread over his angled features. “Nice to see you again, Copenhagen.”