Conrad and I get out of Desiree’s Jeep, and the three of us head towards the house. Desiree goes ahead with Conrad and me behind her. Just as we approach the door, I feel Conrad place his hand on the small of my back. His touch sends exciting shivers up and down my back, but all too soon, he removes his hand.
“About time you guys got here,” he hollers into the house where the rest of his friends are.
“Would have gotten here sooner, but we were down a hand,” Harrison hollers back.
“Yeah, yeah. I think it’s because Kevin drives like an old lady,” Conrad fires back.
“Hey, I do not,” Kevin, I assume, complains.
“Yes. You do,” Harrison laughs.
“Screw you guys,” Kevin huffs.
Conrad steps forward and leads Des and me farther into the house.
“Can I get you, ladies, a drink?” Conrad asks us as we head into a small but relatively modern kitchen.
For a bachelor pad, and band crash pad, the house seems surprisingly tidy. I was half expecting it to be dingy, smelling of stale beer and cigarettes or something like that; however, it’s just the opposite. The furniture seems new, the floors are hardwood, and it smells of linen-scented air freshener.
“I’ll take whatever you got,” Desiree speaks up first.
Conrad opens the stainless steel fridge, and that’s when I see the bachelor pad giveaway. The refrigerator is almost entirely full of beer and other assorted beverages, barely a scrap of food in sight. I’m smiling about this when I hear Conrad address me.
“I’ll just have a…” I examine the contents and spot a few cans of Coke, “Coke.”
“Really Syd, just a Coke?” Des furrows her brows at me.
I shrug in response.
“Hey, that’s cool. I’m going to have the same,” Conrad says with a smile, grabbing two and handing one to me.
This helps me feel a little more at ease, knowing that I won't be the only one not drinking anymore. I may like Conrad, but I don't know him yet, so I don't think getting drunk in a house full of strangers would be the smartest move.
“Thank you,” I smile back at him.
Just then, Harrison comes strolling into the kitchen.
“You guys joining the party or what?” he asks us, wandering over to Des and putting an arm around her shoulders.
Desiree smiles broadly at him.
“Lead the way,” she purrs, and with that, Harrison leads her away, back into the living room.
“Come on, you guys,” Harrison calls back to us.
“Come, I’ll introduce you to the other guys,” Conrad says.
He leads the way once again, and we join the others in the living room. Besides Harrison and Desiree, there are five or six other guys and four girls. Conrad leads me to where the other guys from the band are sitting, and one girl who sits on Jake’s, I assume, lap.
“Sydney, this is Kevin, our drummer,” Conrad gestures to the guy with longish blond hair, and light scruff dotting his face. He stands and extends his hand to me. He’s tall, but not as tall as Conrad, and looks slightly older than the rest of the guys.
“Nice to meet you, Syd, and don’t believe anything these guys tell you about my driving. I’m a regular speed demon,” he jokes.
He’s got a friendly face and bright blue eyes.
“Speed demon? Come on, man, you could drive Miss Daisy,” Harrison quips.
Conrad laughs and shakes his head, then gestures to the other guy, Jake. He’s the shortest of the four band members, has shaggy, jet-black hair that peeks out from underneath a hat, and a lot of visible tattoos.
“This is Jake, our bass player. Don’t let his gentle exterior fool ya, he’s an asshole,” Conrad says, but I can guess by his tone that he’s joking.
“Hey,” Jake lifts his hand lazily in acknowledgment.
The petite girl sitting on his lap clears her throat, obviously waiting to be introduced. Her hair is as purple as her name suggests, and she’s got way too much eye makeup on.
“Ah yes, let’s not forget Jake’s better half, Violet,” Conrad says, rolling his eyes so that she can see.
“Pleasure,” Violet says, smiling at me- but it’s not exactly a kind smile.
She looks away from me and looks at Conrad, a smug expression on her face.
“She looks a little young for you, Con,” she says to him, giving me another once over.
I’m instantly uncomfortable as I feel everyone’s eyes turn on me to examine me further. Luckily, and to my surprise, Kevin jumps in to defend me.
“You’re one to talk, Violet. She’s no younger looking than you. That purple hair of yours makes you look thirteen. If anything, she looks far more mature than you do.”
“Hey!” she protests, a pout forming on her mouth as she crosses her arms.
She shoots Jake a look to defend her, but he only shrugs.
“What? You guys don’t like my hair?” she whines.
“I liked it better the way it was before,” Jake murmurs.
“Well, I like it better this way, and I’m not changing it back,” she snaps.
“Do whatever makes you happy, Vi,” Jake says, sounding tired of the subject.
“Sorry about her,” Conrad says quietly in my ear so that nobody else can hear him, “she’s not very friendly with female newcomers, especially when she’s had a few to drink.”
“It’s okay,” I whisper back, but I’m still entirely uncomfortable.
I try and put my unease aside, though. I don’t want Violet to know she got to me, or at the very least- utterly right about my age.
Maybe an hour later, I finally begin to relax a little. Everyone besides Violet has been amicable, and Violet barely acknowledges Desiree’s presence or mine. I realize, quickly, that she prefers to have the attention of the band to herself. I’m now sitting on the couch between Conrad and Kevin. I find out that Kevin is twenty-nine, single, and a talented tattoo artist. The other guys all show me some of the work Kevin has done on them.
“Do you have any tattoos?” Kevin asks me.
I can’t help but blush at his question, but I don’t know why.
“No,” I squeak, feeling embarrassed.
“Hmm, a clean canvas,” He muses, “Do you want one?”
“I’ve never really thought about it. I’d maybe consider it if I found something I liked enough.”
“Well, if you ever decide to take the plunge, please come see me. I’d make sure you don’t end up in the bad tattoo Hall of Fame.”
“That’s reassuring,” I can’t help but giggle.
“But please, no butterflies, cartoon characters, or Asian symbols- unless you're Asian. You wouldn't believe how many times someone has brought in a picture of what they thought said something profound and spiritual only to find out it meant something like soup or goat or whatever."
“Easy Kev, don’t pressure the girl to mark up her beautiful skin,” Conrad chimes in.
His compliment about my skin makes me feel things, and I find myself wishing he would touch me.
I realize I haven’t seen Des in a while, and look around the room for her, but I don’t see her.
“Are you looking for your friend?” Violet asks from her spot on Jake’s lap.
“Yes,” I answer without looking at her.
“Well, good luck. She disappeared somewhere with Harrison. I doubt she’ll reappear anytime soon if you catch my drift.”
“Everyone always catches your drift,” Kevin grumbles at her, and he shoots me a sympathetic look.
I sigh loudly, a little irritated that Desiree just went off somewhere without telling me. I pull my phone from my pocket and check the time. It’s nearly three in the morning, and I’m starting to get tired. We are both staying at her place tonight because her dad is away for the weekend.
“Do you want to go home?” Conrad asks me quietly.
“I’m just really tired,” I tell him.
“I can walk you home if you like,” he offers.
I’d love nothing more than to have him walk me home, but I don’t want to leave Desiree here.
“I can’t leave Des.”
“I understand. Counteroffer, do you want to go for a walk to wake up a bit? Maybe by the time we’re back, she’ll be uh…finished, and I can take you guys home.”
I look into his eyes, and nothing in them makes me feel uneasy, in fact, it’s the opposite. I feel like I can trust him, even if he is practically a stranger.
“You know what? That sounds perfect,” I tell him.
“Great!” He smiles broadly at me and stands up, offering his hand to me.
“Ooh, where are you two off to now?” Violet sings loudly, clearly trying to embarrass me further.
“You know what, Violet, how about you just shut your mouth for once?” Conrad says to her, his voice smooth.
Her mouth drops open, and then she quickly shuts it again.
“Jake, are you going to let him talk to me that way?”
“Yup,” Jake snickers.
She smacks him on the chest before getting off his lap and storming into the kitchen.
“I'm sorry bout her, Sydney. I don’t know what crawled up her ass tonight. She’s not usually this bratty,” Jake says as he gets up from his seat and follows her into the kitchen.
“Is that all you have for a jacket? It’s a little chilly out there,” Conrad asks, taking in my black blazer.
“Yeah, I wasn’t expecting to be outside much tonight.”
“I think I can find something better to wear. Hold on one sec,” Conrad says and disappears down the hallway.
He reappears two minutes later, but now he’s got a leather jacket on and is carrying another in his hands.
“Here, put this on,” he says, handing the jacket to me.
I took it and put it on. It’s nearly my size and appears to be a lady's jacket, and I find that I like it. I look at him in question.
“It’s Violet’s. She leaves all sorts of clothes here. She won’t notice if it’s gone for a little bit.”
I nod in response as he gestures to the door. We go outside, but Conrad stops as we reach the driveway.
“I just had an idea,” he says.
I turn to look at Conrad, and he’s got a mischievous smile on his lips. He goes to the garage door and punches a code into the keypad. The door opens, and he steps inside the garage.
“Come here, Syd,” he calls to me.
I follow him into the dimly lit garage, and he’s standing next to a sleek, black Harley Davidson motorcycle.
“Remember when you said you were willing to try new things?”
“Y-yes,” I stammer, looking nervously at the bike.
“Ever ridden on a motorcycle before?”
I shake my head.
“Yeah, why not? It’ll be sure to wake you up. I promise I’m a safe rider, and I won’t get us killed.”
“Reassuring,” I giggle through the knot in my throat.
The thought of being on the back of his bike with my arms wrapped tightly around him thrills me, but it’s still scary. Come on, Sydney. Be brave.
“Okay,” I finally say.
“Yeah. Why not? I did say I was willing to try new things. This is definitely new.”
Conrad walks over to a workbench and comes back holding two helmets. He puts one on and holds the other one out to me. Oh man, does he ever look sexy. I stare at the helmet in my hands, and Conrad steps closer to me. I put the helmet on, and before I can, Conrad reaches forward and does the chin strap for me.
“It suits you,” he says quietly, his fingers lingering on my chin.
“It doesn’t look funny?” I ask, staring up at him.
“I think you could make anything look adorable.”
“It looks better on you, I’m sure.”
“I disagree. I think you are quite beautiful.”
Eep! I feel my face heat, and I’m sure my face has just turned beet red. I just hope that in the dim light of this garage, he can’t see it.
“I think I just discovered my new favorite thing,” he says, moving another step closer.
“And what is that?” I ask my voice nearly a whisper.
“The way your cheeks go pink every time I pay you a compliment. Hasn’t anyone ever told you how pretty you are before?”
Ack! So he did notice. They go even warmer. Conrad chuckles softly, and he brushes his finger lightly against my flushed cheek.
“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll tire of seeing that.”
I think he’s going to kiss me then, and I try to prepare myself for it, but then he steps back instead.
“Shall we?” he gestures to the bike and throws his leg over it.
I can’t help feel a little disappointed and strangely, slightly relieved too. Was I ready for that yet anyway? I take a deep breath and approach the bike. Carefully, I throw my leg over and sit snugly behind him on the seat.
“Put your feet on those pegs there,” he instructs.
I do as he says as he starts up the bike. The rumble of the bike underneath me makes my heart beat a little faster, with excitement. Slowly, he eases us back down the driveway between the cars until we are on the street.
“Alright Syd, hold on tight, we’re going for a ride.”