Authors: Rachel Van Dyken
Tags: #seaside, #rock star, #contemporary romance, #new adult
I felt a sharp elbow to the stomach as Priscilla laughed awkwardly. “Uh-huh, like a big brother. Right, Jaymeson?”
Oh look, my balls, they’re flying away.
“Right.” My nostrils flared so big with irritation that I actually saw them flare, in front of my face.
“That’s so cute.” Smith crossed his arms. Really, dude? Trying to show off the muscles? Too obvious.
“That’s me,” I said crisply. “Cute.”
Smith nodded then looked behind me. “Nice ride. Your dad buy that for you?”
“Thanks,” I said in an even voice. “And no, I work for a living. The last thing he bought me was a toy truck when I was three.”
Wow way’ta make it more awkward.
“So…” Priscilla clapped her hands. “My purse? Keys?”
Smith nodded, not breaking eye contact with me. “In my truck. I just assumed you’d be too shaken up to drive around today so I was going to offer my services, but since you already have a ride—”
“I’d love a ride to the church.”
I opened my mouth to argue but Pris hit me across the chest. “I’d have Jaymeson take me, but I don’t want him getting struck by lightning his first day in Seaside.”
They both laughed.
I, however, invented new curse words while Smith wrapped his arm around something that wasn’t his, and led her toward his truck.
“Thanks, Jaymeson,” Pris called behind her. “I’ll see you later.”
“Yup,” I yelled back. “You sure will.”
I didn’t miss the shit-eating grin plastered across Smith’s ugly face as he opened her door and gave me a small wave.
I flipped him off.
Not a proud moment.
He shook his head and laughed harder.
I had to get away from him. Everything about Jaymeson screamed sex, and considering I was turning over a new leaf and trying really hard not to think about him — I had to escape. Even if it meant getting into a truck with a guy I barely knew. At least he was hot. And Smith? He was a sure thing. An attractive local guy who actually looked at me with interest.
Jaymeson would eventually leave.
I couldn’t get close to him. My heart had about shattered when he left last time and we’d only shared one kiss. My mind couldn’t wrap around the pain that would take hold if we shared more than that and he abandoned me. I wouldn’t be able to take it. Some people are built for relationships. They’re strong, they learn from their mistakes, and they move on. I knew myself well — I wasn’t one of those girls. I was a lifer. I was the type of girl that put every part of her heart and soul into something and gave until it hurt. I knew that if I gave Jaymeson an inch, he’d take everything.
And I wasn’t sure if I would ever be the same girl if I took that risk — besides, he wanted a bed partner. I just wanted a date!
“So…” Smith turned down the main road. “You keep pretty famous company.”
I smiled. “Comes with the territory. Does that bother you?”
“No.” He shook his head. “I just don’t really care for arrogant pricks with fake accents. Plus his last movie blew.”
“His accent isn’t fake.” Right, that’s how I go about defending him? I didn’t want to admit that his last movie was my favorite.
“Whatever, let’s not talk about him.” Smith gripped the steering wheel, so hard his knuckles turned white. “So I was thinking…”
“We should hang out.”
“You mean when there isn’t a fire, right?” I teased.
“Yeah.” His gleaming smile made my stomach flip as we came to a stoplight and he turned his full attention to me. “How about dinner?”
“I—” Why wasn’t I jumping at the opportunity? “Just dinner?”
“Yes.” He gave me a lazy smile. “That is unless you would rather have lunch, I mean, lunch is cool too.”
“Stop teasing me.” I looked away as he shifted the car into gear again.
“Why stop?” He pulled to the next stoplight and reached for my hand. “When you’re so much fun to tease?” He leaned across the console.
Someone honked behind us.
I turned around and saw Jaymeson wave wildly into the air.
“Shit! Is he following us?” Smith looked in the rearview mirror and rolled his eyes.
“Doubtful.” I sighed. “He has more important things to do.”
Like find another girl to screw.
The truck pulled into the church parking lot. The good news was I only had a day’s worth of donations to organize and then I would be done with the entire drive!
“You need help today?” Smith asked turning off the truck. “I can come in on my lunch hour.”
“Nah, the Chamber’s sending a volunteer. We’ll be fine.”
“Alright.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I uh, I’ll call you later tonight?”
“I’d like that.”
His smile was huge as he jumped back into the truck and took off.
“I’d like that,” a voice said behind me, mimicking what I’d just said.
Slowly, I turned.
There was Jaymeson, in all his glory. “Hi, I’m the hot volunteer. Make me your slave.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor, right?” He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and led me toward the church. “Best. Day. Ever.”
Priscilla rolled her eyes and unlocked the front doors to the church. She held the door open, waiting for me to walk through.
“You coming?” she asked in an irritated voice.
“Sure.” I stood still. “Just… preparing myself.”
Priscilla let out a heavy sigh. “God doesn’t smite whores. If He did, you’d already be dead.” She grabbed my hand and tugged me through the door.
I would be lying if I said I actually kept my eyes open. Instead, I squeezed them shut and waited for lightning to strike.
“See?” She released my hand. “You’re in one piece!”
A light fixture chose that exact moment to fall onto my head.
Priscilla screamed and stumbled backward.
“Holy shit!” I jumped out of the way and pressed my body against Priscilla’s, slamming us against the wall.
My heart damn near burst free from my chest as I hovered over her, still trying to figure out if that was a sign or just an unfortunate coincidence.
“You gonna be okay?” she whispered softly, her lips curving into a teasing smile. Damn, I wanted to bite those lips again. Correction, I wanted to bruise them with mine.
“Yeah.” My voice was hoarse, forced. “Californians… you know how we are with earthquakes.”
“Earthquake my ass.” She laughed.
My eyes widened. “Sinner. You just said ass in church.”
“You said shit and you’ve slept with at least half your Twitter followers. Pretty sure if there’s a choice of who goes to Hell the scale’s going to tip toward you, my friend.”
“Think you’re funny, don’t you?”
“Hilarious.” She stepped out from underneath my body and started walking briskly down the hall. “Come along, slave, we have work to do.”
“When you say work, you mean—”
“I mean we have boxes to organize.”
“Allow me a moment to reign in my excitement.” I paused for a minute and then lifted my hand in a lame fist pump. “I can’t wait.”
“I knew you’d be excited,” she called from up ahead. “Now keep up.”
“It’s not a race,” I grumbled under my breath as I jogged after her.
When the girl said she had boxes to organize, I’d somehow thought it would be ten.
The boxes ranged from diapers to shoes to clothes to books. And each one of them needed to be labeled and organized for The Goodwill.
After box ten I announced, “I’m bored.”
“Because you’re not drinking and having sex?” Pris fired back without looking at me.
“Yes.” I rolled my eyes and taped the box shut. “Because it’s humanly possible to have sex twenty-four seven while drinking.”
“What?” I snorted. “Nothing to say to that?”
“Oh sorry. I didn’t know you were being sarcastic.” She turned around and gave me another one of her silly grins, the ones that made me want to jump into her head and find out what about me made her laugh so damn hard. Was I that much of a joke?
“I miss work,” I said breaking eye contact. “I miss fake guns, jumping out of cars, saving the damsel, and working for the CIA.”
It was true. I did. But most of all? I missed the feeling of accomplishment that my job gave me. It wasn’t that I was against donating my time to fill boxes, I was just used to more going on. I didn’t do vacations. I didn’t do relaxation time. The last time I vacationed it was forced, because technically it was a working vacation here in Seaside.
Vacations made me feel insecure — they made me feel like I was going to fall off everyone’s radar. If I wasn’t seen and heard, how would I get cast?
“Hey.” Pris nudged me. I jumped a foot. “You okay? I asked you if you wanted to take a break for lunch and you completely ignored me.”
“Uh, yeah.” I taped the box she was holding and nodded. “Sorry, I guess I’m tired or something.”
“Box taping.” She winked. “Does that to a person.”
“Right.” I forced a laugh. “So does that mean I get to take you to lunch?”
She tucked a few pieces of dark hair behind her ears, as a blush stained her cheeks. “Well, I mean, we can just go grab something really quick or—”
“Or you can stop trying to think of an excuse to not spend time with me, and let me take you to lunch. All things considering, I probably owe you a lifetime of meals after the way things went down a few months ago—”
“Let’s not.” She lifted her hand. “Let’s not go there, okay? Just leave it.” Her shoulders slumped just slightly — enough for me to know that the subject was that hard for her to talk about.
And it was my fault.
“Alright,” I said slowly. “Let’s go, I know a place.”
“Oh yeah? The great Jaymeson knows a place? In Seaside?”
I smiled and wrapped my arm around her shoulder. “Just you wait, love, just you wait.”
Instead of getting into my car and driving somewhere, I decided it would be way more fun to walk and talk. Right, I know, you heard it here. Jamie Jaymeson had just grown ovaries.
I wanted to talk.
The last time I actually voluntarily talked to a woman without intentions of getting her into bed: Kindergarten.
“I love this place!” Pris touched my shoulder and then walked up the stairs ahead of me.
My damn shoulder was in heaven. Seriously, I could feel the heat from her fingertips, and I was convinced that if I stripped right then and there — a mark from her touch would make itself known on my skin.
“Come on!” she yelled ahead of me.
The waitress met us at the door. “Just sit wherever you want! I’ll bring you some menus.”
“Seaside Brewery,” I read the sign. “Best beer in town.”
“Oh yeah?” Pris tilted her head. “What’s it like?”
“What’s what like?” I leaned forward, you know to hear her better, it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I was trying to smell her perfume, or kiss her, or you know, touch her face. Bloody freaking hell, her lips were pretty.
“Beer,” she whispered.
It was adorable.
I probably had the dopiest grin on my face, but I couldn’t help it. Her innocence wasn’t just shocking, it was invigorating. It made me wonder what else she didn’t know about, and it pissed me off that anyone else would dare introduce her to new things. It should be me. Only me.
“Like shit,” I answered honestly. “It’s kind of like coffee. An acquired taste, but once you get used to it, you can discover the different types of wheat and grain used in beer as well as flavors used to make it.”
“Really?” Her nose scrunched up.
“Really.” There went that damn grin again. Hold it together man!
“So, it tastes like… wheat?”
I laughed aloud. The waitress brought us two dinner menus and placed them on the table. “No, love, it doesn’t taste like wheat.”
“Grain?” Her nose scrunched even more.
“It tastes like…” I paused. “Tell you what. I’ll let you taste it.”
“No!” She put her hands out in front of her and whispered, “That’s illegal.”
“Holy shit.” I covered my face with my hands and laughed. “I seriously want to take you home with me, and not in the way you’re thinking — I mean, yeah that’s crossed my mind several times.” Her eyes narrowed. “Oh please, I’m still me. I’m just saying, you’re so damn adorable. Remind me why we can’t live together?”
“You’re a whore.”
“It’s a sin.”
“You’d die without sex.”
“I’m not that weak.”
She gave me a saucy grin and picked up her menu. “So what’s good?”
“Everything.” I licked my lips. “Every damn thing. And I’m getting you beer. Actually I’m getting me beer and praying I don’t get arrested for letting you taste it. And if I were you, I’d go for the fish and chips. You can never go wrong with fish and chips at a pub.”
“Sold.” She dropped the menu and reached for her water. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t watch her lips squeeze around the straw and feel that particular squeeze all the way down to my pinky toes.
The waitress walked up and took our orders. As promised, I ordered one of their Oktoberfest beers for Pris to try.
When it came she stared at it.
“Love, it’s not going to bite.”
“No, that’s your job, right?” She rolled her eyes and smirked.
While I gripped the table so hard I’d probably wake up with splinters in each finger. Bite. Why the hell did I have to say bite?
My laugh was lame.
My body was tighter than a drum.
I released one claw from the table and scooted the beer over to her. “One sip. I don’t think you’ll like it, but everyone should try it once.”
“Okay.” She picked up the beer and sniffed it, then sniffed it again, then looked into the cup.
I rolled my eyes. “It’s not a date. You don’t have to check it out first, just drink.”