Peach - *Book Four*

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After a shitty couple of days, I’m more than glad it’s finally Friday night again. As usual, Paul, Henry, and I are going to play at O’Reilly’s tonight.

When I think back to yesterday, I inevitably cringe. First, because I was stupid enough to get an electric shock. Second, because I was even more stupid to go to the ER and agree to Emma doing an ECG. And third, because the only reason I was stupid was that I’ve been thinking about her instead of focusing on my work. How did I even assume this could be a good idea?

Paul is right, Emma is attracted to me. The way she was looking at me said it all, and because I should stop being stupid, scaring her off is probably the most sensible thing to do, and with my behavior yesterday, that surely is a safe bet.

So with all these thoughts occupying my mind, I’m thrilled to finally sit behind the drums again and play our songs so I can get lost in my own little world, shutting everything out.

After playing our last song, we leave the stage under roaring applause. As usual, we talk to some people, who I refuse to call fans, before we meet our friends. The usual gang awaits us with drinks. There’s Lauren, Tessa, and Ava, as is Ben and his brother Aaron. But tonight, someone else has joined them as well, someone I did not expect.

Emma is talking to Tessa, and when she notices me, our eyes meet and her lips lift in a smile.

For a second, I stop breathing because she looks so damn hot. She pinned her hair up in some complicated looking bun with braids and stuff, and she’s wearing well-fitting dark jeans and this tight burgundy top that displays her nice cleavage. But what’s killing me is her lipstick. Matching the color of her top, it accentuates her beautiful and surely very kissable lips.

It takes me a moment to stop staring at her, especially since that beautiful smile lights up her whole face. A smile I surely don’t deserve and that I shouldn’t return. But I do, even though I should know better.

Tessa falls round Paul’s neck, and I stand next to Emma. “Hey, Peach!” I say, even though - again - I should know better.

She looks at me with raised eyebrows. “Oh, so we’re back to being nice and friendly?”

I grimace. “I’m sorry about yesterday. I can’t help but feel tense in a hospital.”

Emma nods. “Apology accepted. So tonight we can have an actual conversation? With you talking to me and maybe even smiling?”

Of course, my lips lift in a smile after she said this, and she smiles back at me. “I’ll do my best. What brings you here tonight?”

“It’s my day off, and Tessa invited me. I’ve only heard Paul play at the hospital, and it was about time I came to one of his—your gigs. And I wasn’t disappointed. You guys are great!”

“Thanks.” By now, I can’t stop smiling, as if I was making up for refusing to do so before. And soon, that annoying little voice in my head, which tells me to stop this shit, fades.

As the night goes on, everyone is chatting happily. While the others are engrossed in a group conversation, Emma and I quickly carry on our own little dialogue, and again I can’t believe how nice and comfortable talking to her feels.

If only there weren’t this one thing that distracts me more and more: The top she’s wearing has a strap that won’t stay put. So whenever she’s gesticulating, which tonight she does a lot, that strap slips off her shoulder. With every time she readjusts it, it’s getting harder for me to concentrate on our conversation.

And while we are talking about my niece’s upcoming unicorn party—something that Emma would have loved to have as a kid—it happens again. And out of their own accord, my fingers touch the soft skin on her upper arm, slowly and tenderly stroking toward her shoulder to readjust the strap. I’m hardly aware that Emma stopped talking mid-sentence, watching the trail that my fingertips take.

Conflicting emotions rise within me. I want this, but at the same time, I don’t. I want to touch her, want to feel more of her velvety soft skin under my hands and have her run her hands all over my skin. But I know I can’t because that would end in something like a panic attack.

I feel my pulse in my throat when I see how my touch causes goosebumps to erupt all over her skin. Emma takes a deep breath, which makes her chest rise, and my gaze falls on the swells of her breasts, where her creamy skin looks inviting enough to make me want to run my tongue along it. I bite my lips, and before all my blood rushes south, I look up, and our eyes meet. While my fingers barely linger on her shoulder, we stare at each other—a stare that makes me feel things. Good things. Scary things.

Emma is the one to break eye-contact. She looks down and lets out a long, slow breath. While I finally remove my hand from her shoulder, my gaze lingers on her face with the flushed cheeks and the tiniest smile. “Sorry,” I whisper, not quite sure what I’m apologizing for. Touching her? Or not being able to touch more of her?

“No worries,” she whispers back, and I wonder if she knows what I’m sorry for. “So, um—that unicorn party–,” she continues as if nothing happened.

But something happened. Deep down I know I want her, all of her. While I can’t take my eyes off her, she averts her gaze more and more often, not able to keep eye contact.

And not too much later, she checks the time. “Well, it’s late. I gotta go. Thanks for a great evening.”

She seems a little flustered ever since that little incident, and I can’t blame her. It must be fucking confusing that I’m sending these mixed signals. I really need to make up my mind.

I nod. “I’m glad you enjoyed it. Maybe you’ll come again soon?” I guess that means I’m not trying to scare her off anymore.

She frowns. “I work a lot of Friday nights, but I will come as soon as I can. You guys are great!”

I smile at her. “Thanks. Okay, so see you soon I hope. Bye, Peach.”

“Bye, Jack.”

And after saying goodbye to everyone, she’s gone. I look after her when Paul shows up next to me. “Could I talk to you for a minute?”

I look at him with narrow eyes. “About what?”

“You’ll see. Come on.”

I groan but follow him, nonetheless. We walk toward the back exit, down the hall, where Paul probably hopes to talk to me without being interrupted. Even though I can guess what’s coming, I’m a little surprised when he suddenly turns to me, cornering me so I can’t escape.

“So, Jack,” he says, “you had quite the moment there with Emma, didn’t you?”

I roll my eyes. “Ah, come on. Stop pestering me. That was nothing.”

“Nothing?” Paul huffs. Yeah right, I wouldn’t buy it either.

“You think this a good idea?” he goes on. “I ask you again, how do you think this will ever work? She will want to touch you.”

“I let her touch me for the ECG.”

Paul snorts. “And how was that? Did you enjoy that?”

I roll my eyes again and probably not for the last time during this conversation. “Fine,” I admit. “I endured it.”

“Wow, you endured it. Are you gonna endure physical closeness with her as well? This is not how this kind of thing works.”

“Maybe I can do it. Maybe I can feel comfortable being close to her.”

“Jack, you can’t stand being close to anyone. Why would it be different with her? Now tell me, does this feel comfortable?” He comes even closer, bracing himself on the wall with his hands next to my shoulders. “Didn’t think so,” he says as I cringe.

Another eye roll from me. “Maybe that’s just because I don’t like you pressing your privates against my leg.”

Paul groans. “Damn, Jack! I don’t want either of you getting hurt. She doesn’t know. She has no idea. Tell her or stay away from her.”

“I can’t tell her! That would change everything. I hate it when people know. I hate how they treat me differently. They always do.” I fucking liked the way she looked at me. It’s been so long since a woman looked at me like that. And she will look at me differently once I tell her the truth.

“What the fuck are you guys doing?” We turn our heads and look at a dumbfounded Henry who must wonder why Paul and I stand so close together in a dark corner. “Sorry to interrupt this obviously romantic encounter between you two, but I gotta say, I am a little puzzled.”

Paul groans without taking a step back. “I’m just showing Jack what a bad idea it is to go after Emma.”

Henry nods. “Oh yeah, I noticed that. Paul’s right. Bad idea.”

I push Paul off me with a frustrated groan. “Get off my back, both of you. Fuck, I need a drink.”

So I get a drink. And then another, and another. Because when I’m drunk, I feel numb, and when I’m drunk enough, I don’t have to endure. I can enjoy. And I can stop thinking about the woman I can’t have.

I drink some more and say goodbye to my friends and hello to that blonde chick at the bar.

What a fucking stupid idea this was. I’m not exactly sure how I ended up in this bed with this girl underneath me. I have a faint idea, but things have been a blur ever since I got pissed off at my friends and started drinking, trying to forget about Emma, which worked just fine until a few moments ago. It seems I’m sobering up way too quickly.

“Ah, yes, harder, Jack, harder!” That girl urges me to move faster, digging her fingers in my ass. Her loud moans ring in my ears and start to annoy me.

No, this isn’t working. I slide out of her and get up from the bed, and she gives me a confused look.

“Turn around, on all fours,” I say.

She does as I tell her, and without hesitation, I grab her hip with one hand, my other guiding my cock back inside her. But as soon as she moans my name again, I groan, and not because I’m oh so enjoying fucking yet another girl whose name I will have forgotten in the morning.

Shit, I’m definitely not drunk enough for this.

I thought I could do what I usually do: Get completely hammered and hook up with a random girl and finally tolerate some kind of physical touch or intimacy. If you call fucking a girl from behind intimacy. No, this is just letting off steam.

I close my eyes, and at once, I see her face again. Emma’s beautiful blue eyes and those full lips. I have no idea what she is doing to me, and as hard as I try, I can’t get her out of my head.

Surprisingly, I can concentrate long enough to feel this girl, whose name I have already forgotten, tighten around me, and when she climaxes, I let go, too, groaning unintelligible words. Losing no time, I slide out of her and get rid of the condom.

When I turn back to her to say my usual goodbye, she sits on her bed, leaning against the headboard with her arms crossed in front of her chest and a glare directed at me.

“What?” I ask her.

She rolls her eyes. “I knew this would be a one-time thing, but you could have at least remembered my correct name.”

“What are you talking about?”

“My name is Melissa, not Emma.”

I tilt my head to the side and narrow my eyes.

“When you came, you called me Emma!” she finally explains.

Well, shit.

I take a deep breath. “Sorry. That was... I... I gotta go,” I stammer.

With a heavy sigh, I grab my clothes, get dressed, and make my way home with the fresh night air sobering me up completely and remorse as my new companion.

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