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Chapter 3

“That witch Bridgette. Sh-she cornered me in the parking lot with her goon squad.” Amber tried her best to calm down but all she could do was sob. “She said such horrible things to me, I can’t even…” her voice trailed off as the tears began to roll down her cheeks again. I brushed them off her cheek with my thumb. The more she talked, the gentler my touch became.

While she relayed the events to everyone, she hadn’t realized she’d wrapped her arms around my waist and was snuggling into my embrace. I took her hand and led her to the table pulling out the chair next to me. She turned her tear stained face toward me. It was all I could do not to crush her to me. “Why did she do that, Brock? Why would she say all those horrible things to me? Is it because they’re true?”

“No, baby girl,” I said gently, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “She is just a crazy bitch and you shouldn’t believe anything she says. She’s insanely jealous because you have everything she doesn’t.” I was rubbing soothing circles on her back. I had no idea why I was doing what I was doing but damned if I was going to stop.

“What do you mean?” Smiling softly, I reached up and brushed the last of her tears away with my thumb. Looking deep in her eyes, I held her chin.

“You are seriously gorgeous, Amber, the most gorgeous girl I’ve ever seen. You’ve got a rocking body and the voice of an angel. Put all that together in that hot little tight package of yours and you are fucking amazing.” She stared at me as if she couldn’t believe what I was saying, then shook her head. I leaned down and whispered in her ear. “I happen to think your curves are sexy as hell, girl and I love your hair.” I could hear her heart rate pick up.

“You are really good at this soothing thing,” she giggled, trying to calm her racing heart. Laying her hand on mine, she gave it a gentle squeeze. “I’m gonna stop thinking about that trollop and enjoy pizza with my friends. My real friends.” She snatched a piece and took a big bite. She couldn’t help but blush at the smile on my face.

The rest of the afternoon passed with laughter and food. We all decided to go back to the Gundersen house to hang out. Amber had gotten her emotions under control again, surprisingly with my help. She seemed to be struggling with the fact I was caring for her, comforting her as I would a child.

“So I have big news!” she squealed. The room went silent as everyone waited for her to spill the beans. “I qualified for the California State Vocal Solo and Ensemble competition!” She waved the letter above her head. “So take that Bridgette Witchandra LaChance!”

“Wow girl that’s amazing!” Thyra gushed. Miranda was jumping up and down, fist pumping the air.

“Aw yeah! That’s my GIRL!” she yelled. “You got that competition in the BAG, bay bay!”

“That’s huge, Amber,” Ryder said, smiling brightly. “If you win that competition, you get a free ride to Berkeley College of the Performing Arts. Your college education will be paid for.”

“I know!” she squealed again. Then her breath hitched and she stumbled a little. “Oh gosh, what if I lose? What if my performance isn’t good enough? I mean, I’ve got a college fund but it will only pay for the first two years at BCPA. I’d have to quit after that.”

“Well let’s hear what you got, girl!” Thyra said. “What are you singing?” Amber thought for a minute, chewing on her bottom lip. I barely contained the groan that tried to escape my throat.

“I’ve been working on this piece for weeks…well for years really and something just told me this was the year to sing it. It’s a song my JuJu used to sing when she toured with the USO. Grandpapa said it was the one song the troops always went crazy for so I thought I’d try it.”

“I have got to meet your JuJu,” Thyra giggled. “She sounds like a firecracker!”

“Oh honey you have no idea,” Amber laughed. “She’s even smaller than I am and way more feisty. And Lord honey can she sing!” You could really hear Amber’s accent as she talked about her grandmother. And I fucking loved it. “OK! I’ll do it! But I’m not sure how it’s gonna sound a capella. I’ve never sung it without a piano.”

“Good thing there’s a piano player with a piano right here,” Ryder winked at her.

“Do you know any Ella Fitzgerald? Or I guess I should say Gershwin since he wrote the song.” Ryder just grinned and began tinkling out a couple of well known Gershwin hits. Amber smiled and strode to the piano. “Ok then big man, let’s see how you roll with Man I Love. Here try this.” She tapped out a syncopated rhythm and Ryder began to play and Amber began to sing. The notes were crisp and clear but full of the soul of the song.

“Can you guys help me record it? I wanna send the video to JuJu.” There were four phones with video running almost immediately. “Well I reckon y’all can!” she giggled. “Ok Ryder, let’s do it again. Maybe add a little intro?” Ryder did as he was asked, swinging a jazz feel to the opening. Amber began to sway back and forth to the rhythm as she sang. She embodied the very essence of the song. And it made me want to lay her on top of the piano and devour her. Down boy.

“You tapped that yet, man?” Aaron elbowed me. I was watching every move she made, totally lost in her. “Yo dude! Hello!” Aaron waved his hand in front of my face.

“Wha-what?” I stuttered, never taking my eyes off Amber. Shaking my head, I glared at Aaron. “Dude are you serious? Does she look like a slut to you?”

“Wow, man,” Aaron grinned. “I think you really like this girl as in like-like her.” I rubbed a hand over my face.

“Drop it man,” I growled. Sighing, I crossed my arms over my chest. “She’s different, ok? And I mean look at her. She screams ‘protect me’. How can you not want to?” Aaron chuckled.

“Yeah she does. It’s insane how adorable she is.” Placing his hand on my shoulder, he leaned in. “Not to mention she’s got wicked curves. That tiny waist and those hips that were made for grabbing. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it.” I huffed and smiled behind my hand.

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