Authors: Rachel Van Dyken
Tags: #seaside, #rock star, #contemporary romance, #new adult
“Oh.” I nodded and forced a smile. “Right. Well, I’ll just see you… later?”
“Yup!” She walked past me and looped her arm with Stella’s.
I gave my best cool indifferent shrug and walked out of the room and down the hall, hating that the laughter from Pris brought more of a smile to my face than the promise of beer and more food.
“He sure seems like a rogue, that one.” Stella filed her nail and smiled. “He’s so… foreign.”
I rolled my eyes. “He’s British. He doesn’t count.”
“How so?” Stella stopped filing.
“Because…” I fidgeted with the top of the copy machine. “He’s been living in the States for a long time and he doesn’t say funny words.”
“Funny words?” Stella snorted. “Dear, what in heaven’s name are you talking about?”
“You know.” I slammed the machine shut. “Funny words like loo or…” Yeah, that was all I had.
“He’s quite handsome.”
“So was Satan, and look what happened to him.” I smiled sweetly.
“All men fall.” Stella took a long sip of coffee. “Remember that. It doesn’t matter if they’re fat, skinny, British, black, white, Chinese, German—”
“I get your point.”
“Do you?” She scooted away from her chair and examined the copier. “All I’m saying is that… every man has the ability to fall in love.”
“Not one who’s thinking with his pants.” I crossed my arms. “Okay, how many copies did you want?”
“Thirty.” She sniffled. “His accent is so nice too.”
“Thirty copies it is.”
“And that tattoo, well it’s positively sinful. Delicious, I always was a fan of tattoos.”
“Is this all you needed?” I said through clenched teeth.
“And did you see the size of his—”
“Hands dear, his hands. So masculine and lovely — an artist’s hands, that’s what I’d call them.”
“I’ll walk home.”
“I can take you!” Stella argued.
I waved her off. “Don’t worry about it. My house is only a mile away, I have my keys, I can just walk there then take my car up to the condo. Did you happen to get a hold of my parents for me?” Stella may be old but she was a texting machine, I’d texted her during the first stash of boxes to see if she would call them and give them details. The last thing I wanted was my mom and dad freaking out or crying on the phone over me. I was fine. Everything was fine.
I didn’t want to hear their sighs when they discovered how much the damage would cost.
The house was paid for; it was the church’s after all.
Our only job? To pay for insurance.
Insurance we didn’t have because my dad paid from month to month and often during the summer and fall months, chose not to pay because it meant putting more food on the table and putting my silly sister through cheer camp.
“Voicemail.” Stella’s tone was low. “I’ll try again, but you really should try too, dear, your parents will want to know you’re safe.”
“I’m safe.” Yeah, right. If safe was living next door to every girl’s fantasy, sure I was super-duper safe. “I texted him,” I offered lamely.
Her eyes narrowed. “Your dad will be fine. He always is, he’ll bounce back from this, don’t worry your head, sugar.”
I nodded. “I’ll see you tomorrow, ’kay?”
“Alright, dear.” Stella pulled me in for a hug then gently shoved me toward the door. I went back to the room and grabbed my purse and keys and made my way outside.
I was about halfway home when I felt like someone was watching me. Call it paranoia, but I almost started to run.
And then I heard honking.
I turned around ready to ram the car with my purse, when it pulled up alongside the sidewalk. It was Smith’s truck.
“Going somewhere, beautiful?”
“Home.” I bit my lip to keep from smiling like an idiot. “I was going to pick up my car.”
“Better idea.” He tapped his head with his finger. “How about I take you to dinner, then take you to get your car, and then you can go home to your freakishly nice condo and fairy tale next door neighbor?”
“Umm…” I shifted from one foot to the other. “I don’t know.” What did I really know about Smith? Other than he was hot and interested? Sure he was Evan’s brother, but did that make him safe?
“Please,” he begged. “I promise I’ll feed you really good food. How could you say no to food? Besides, the company isn’t so bad either.”
“Oh yeah? You bringing someone else?” I joked.
His eyes narrowed but his smile never left his face. “Please?”
I looked down the road again, then nodded. “Fine, but I carry pepper spray, so don’t think you can kidnap me or anything.”
“Noted.” He laughed, then unlocked the doors and reached across to open the passenger side. “Now, let’s go on that date. I’ve been thinking about you all day and I can’t wait to see what you think about this new place.”
“Where’s it at?”
He didn’t answer right away. Smith made a turn in the truck then started making his way toward Highway 101.
“Canon Beach.” His smile was bright. “It just opened. I swear you’ll think you died and went to heaven.”
“Um, well, okay.” I needed to stop being so paranoid. He was nice, more than nice, and he was taking me to dinner. “I am kind of hungry.”
I lied. I wasn’t hungry. Jaymeson had fed me more food than I ate in two days combined, but still.
My finger hovered over my cell, guiltily I felt like I should let him know where I was. Friends did that, right? Ugh, but we were still on shaky ground and I just… it felt weird.
I pulled up Facebook really quick.
On my way to dinner. If I get kidnapped, I’ll be in Canon Beach.
Please don’t freak me out like that. I’m young but my heart is weak, real weak. Serious. I had heart surgery when I was six. Who are you with? Do you have someone with you?
Smith. He’s a…
Define friend. Is he a friend as in you know his most embarrassing moments and can tell me his favorite color? Or is he a friend in the sense that you know he has really pretty eyes and wants to feed you before he kills you?
Can it be a tie?
okay? Can you check in mid meal? Say you have to go to the bathroom or something.
I’m going to die an early death. Don’t choke on your food. Don’t let him touch you. If he tries to kiss you,
slap his face. And don’t leave your drink unattended.
“Who’s that?” Smith asked once I shoved my phone back into my purse.
“Uh, my dad,” I lied. I’m a total liar.
“Oh, cool. He’s a pastor, right?”
“Pastor’s kid. Wow, I never thought I’d see the day when I’d take a pastor’s kid out for dinner.”
“I’m not a kid,” I fired back.
“Believe me.” He winked. “I’m well aware that you’re all woman.”
I laughed nervously and self-consciously tucked my hair behind my ear. His compliment seemed superficial, and honestly, it made me uncomfortable. Like I was a piece of meat he was ready to chew on or something.
We pulled up to the restaurant around fifteen minutes later. Canon Beach was close but with the evening traffic it took longer than I expected it would. I checked my watch, it was only 4:45, kind of early for dinner but I wasn’t going to say anything.
Smith jumped out of the truck and slammed the door. I wasn’t sure if he was going to open mine or if I had to get out myself. I had my answer when he didn’t walk around the truck. Grumbling, I jumped out and joined him.
The building was really close to the beach and had a really tall metallic sign hanging above the entry that said Fork and Knives.
“Cool, huh?” He grabbed my hand and led me up the marble stairs into the dimly lit restaurant. Everything was blanketed in dark lighting. A huge waterfall flowed from one side of the wall, and trailed throughout the lobby.
“Dinner for two,” Smith said confidently to the hostess. She gave him a saucy smile that he actually returned and led us to the back corner.
“Enjoy your meal,” she said looking at Smith.
“Oh, we will,” he answered with a wink in my direction, then he laid a hand that was a little too friendly on the waitress.
Was he flirting? In front of me? What?
“Sorry.” The smile fell from his face. “I’ve just learned that it’s best to let ladies think that I’m interested. The service is always better that way, and then they don’t poison my food when I ignore them.”
“Wow,” I breathed. “Must be tough being so hot.”
“You would know,” he said quickly. “But I wouldn’t call you hot — gorgeous is more like it.”
Okay, so he was good with compliments.
“What’s good here?” I changed the subject.
“I’m not sure. I’ve only been here once and then it was only happy hour, order whatever sounds great though, okay?”
I nodded and ordered a salad.
He ordered steak and a martini.
When our drinks came, my diet Coke and his alcohol, he shoved it toward me. “You want some?”
“Um, no, I’m good.”
“I can take you somewhere where you can drink and not get carded, if you want. It’s pretty close to here.”
“No.” I gave him a polite smile. “I’m fine, really. I mean, I’m only eighteen.”
“Stop making me feel old,” he grumbled. “I’m a damn cradle robber.”
“Nah.” I took a sip of water. “Plus, I don’t see any wrinkles yet so you’re safe.”
“Oh well, as long as I’m wrinkle-free.” His grin was wide, electric. Dark blond hair fell over his forehead as he leaned forward and reached for my hand. “Thanks for agreeing to come to dinner, Priscilla, I really want to… I don’t know, spend time with you. Is that okay?”
“Are you asking permission?”
“I’m asking your permission.” He lifted my hand and kissed it.
“Smith?” A girl approached our table. “I haven’t seen you in forever! How are you?”
She was gorgeous, like super-model gorgeous and she looked vaguely familiar. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I could have sworn I knew her.
“Angelica.” Smith coughed into his hand. “Yeah, wow, you look great” He stood and pulled her in for a hug.
“Thank you.” Her eyes lingered on him for a bit before she turned her attention to me. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. I’m Angelica.” She held out her hand. I took it and smiled.
“You look familiar.” She bit her lip. “Do I know you?”
“I don’t know?” I laughed nervously. “I’m from Seaside, born and raised.”
“Ah.” Some of the color left her face. “Seaside.” She shook her head.
“She’s Alyssa’s cousin,” Smith explained.
Angelica snapped her attention to me. “Demetri’s Alyssa?”
“How sweet,” she said through clenched teeth. “Anyway, I didn’t mean to interrupt. Smith, sweetie, give me a call when you’re free, we should catch up on old times.”
A muscle clenched in his jaw, he gave a nod and smiled. “Sounds great.”
She waved goodbye and left.
“Why does she look familiar?” I asked, still watching her tall slim body make it’s way through the crowd.
“Angelica Greene, actress,” he bit out. “She knows Evan and Alesha, worked with them while she went through rehab.”
“Ahh, and the world makes sense.”
“Right.” He looked at his water glass like it held every secret to the universe and then stood. “I’m going to use the restroom, I’ll be right back.”
Why was I the only one who never went to the bathroom on dates?
I pulled out my phone and typed in Jamie’s name.
Oh good b/c I’ll probably die before I reach thirty. Thanks for that. How’s the date?
It was good until we were interrupted by a girl.
You work in the film industry, you probably have heard of her. Angelica Greene.
Are you being dramatic?
FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF (I just censored all my F-bombs, and yes I said that many) RUN!
What? She carries a knife with her?
I’m not being dramatic, and no.
She has talons instead of a knife. If your boy knows her? I don’t know, Priscilla. Just be careful. And message me when you’re safely in bed, without a man and without Angelica effing Greene breathing down your neck.
I clicked out of the message and placed my phone on the table. Smith still wasn’t back yet; it had been at least eight minutes.
I took another drink of water and waited.
Fifteen minutes later. Smith returned. Wow. He looked way too happy to be just returning from the bathroom. “Hey um, are you done eating?”
“Sure. Are you okay?”
“Of course!” He laughed. “I just, I know it’s getting kind of late, and thought I should take you home?”
“Okay.” It wasn’t late. It was six-thirty, but I followed him out of the restaurant anyway and didn’t fight it when he paid the bill.
I stared at the damn phone and envisioned it crushing in my hand. How the hell did that tool know Angelica? That woman was poison. Pure and simple. Dating her was like playing with the switch of a nuclear bomb. Eventually it was going to go off, eventually you would die. And it would be slow and painful.
I was already halfway to crazy town when I found out that Priscilla got in the damn truck with Smith and let him take her on a date. What the hell was she thinking? Did she even know him that well? What if he was a serial killer? Why didn’t I have a damn tracking device on her?