Read That Girl's the One I Love Online
Authors: Alana Lorens
Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance
Thank you for purchasing this publication of The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
the One I Love
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
That Girl’s the One I Love
COPYRIGHT © 2012 by Barbara J. Mountjoy
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Champagne Rose Edition, 2012
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-438-9
Published in the United States of America
Praise for Alana Lorens
SECRETS IN THE SAND
“Alana Lorens' descriptions of storms in New Mexico plop the reader down into the experience in a way that assails the sense. As she deals with some of the less-than-noble aspects of humanity and with modern society's less-than-noble enterprises, she captivates with her ability to reveal the innermost needs and fears of the characters as they rise above adversity and find that happy-ever-after that had seemed so out of reach.”
~Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
For all those who find that
good things come to those who wait...
Leyla Brand leaned against the rough bark of the tree trunk, her eyes squinted against the over-bright light of the midday Saturday sun, soaking in the rock-and-roll notes of the Copper Moon band. Feeling the sizzle of summer on her skin, she sipped her frozen strawberry margarita, then held the tall, cold, plastic cup against her forehead.
Ooooh, yes. Blessed relief.
Out of the sea of humanity all around her, an overweight guy in a red tank top two sizes too small and shorts that showed way too much of his chunky legs stumbled close enough to nearly step on Leyla’s outstretched foot. She pulled it back just in time.
“Hey, watch it!” he yelled at a young kid who ran past, but he said nothing to Leyla, just lurched on, drink in hand, shoving his way through the crowd at the corner of Battery Park and Heywood. And it was a crowd, this July Saturday in downtown Asheville, North Carolina: the Bele Chere festival, 2005. The TV news had estimated there’d be 250,000 people in attendance. Leyla had eyes for only one.
She’d been a fan, almost a groupie, of the Copper Moon band for the past several months, after she’d heard them play in a local bar. Their covers of other artists’ tunes were all right, but their originals, written by lead singer Arran Lake, spoke directly to Leyla’s heart. He was easy on the eyes, too. He stood about five feet ten, with Scandinavian-blond hair that curled around his ears, soft blue eyes that seemed to caress Leyla when they made contact with hers, and a casual vibe in his choice of clothing that let her know he was perfectly comfortable in his own skin.
I’d be pretty comfortable next to his skin, too.
They’d look good together. She was sure of it. She, too, was tall and slender, with baby-soft blonde hair and gray eyes. She, too, preferred a laid-back relaxed look. Now all she needed was a real introduction.
Arran finished the song to a smattering of polite applause and a couple of wolf whistles. Almost time. Leyla drained her margarita for courage.
“We’re gonna take a break, y’all! Stay thirsty!” He raised a tall glass of something brown, and the crowd cheered. It could have been bourbon or scotch, but Leyla bet it was sweet iced tea, otherwise known as the house wine of the South. Arran wasn’t a big drinker, even in bars, as far as she’d been able to see. She’d made it her business to notice everything she could about him in the two dozen times she’d seen him perform. She’d interrogated waitresses, managers, anyone she could see had meaningful contact with him, gathering bits and snips of information. Most importantly, that he wasn’t dating anyone at the moment.
Since she’d also been single for the last year, she felt safe to ask him out. All through the last month, she’d rehearsed different approaches, what she might say to gain his personal attention.
She got to her feet, on the move toward the low stage. The group would take fifteen minutes to duck out of the sun, get something cold to drink, and mingle with fans. Well, she was a fan. She intended to mingle—or maybe a little more. If she could arrange it.
She shoved her way through the crowd, drawling polite apologies. Two other women, their hair inartfully bleached and their apparel almost as slutty as streetwalkers, had cornered Arran against the storefront behind the stage, gold hoop earrings flashing in the sun as their lips flapped in an incessant flood of words. Leyla slowed her approach, disappointed they’d beaten her to the objective.
But, to her surprise, Arran looked right in her face and broke into a great big smile. “There you are, honey,” he said, pushing past the women to take her arm. Dragging her with him, he walked away toward the street vendors. “Want some fried veggies?”
Leyla thought she’d dropped her breath behind her on the sidewalk. She really didn’t want any. But she’d be damned if she’d turn him down. “Sure.”
Arran let his arm slip down around her waist. His eyes forward, that smile stayed on his face. “I hope you don’t mind that I ambushed you. I can’t stand women like that.”
Heck no, she didn’t mind. She felt her own lips curved in a dizzying smile. “Funny thing. I was hoping to finally meet you today. Came out early on purpose to score that seat.”
“That tree trunk? Awesome.” He leaned closer to study her bare shoulders. “At least it didn’t scratch you all up.”
He’d noticed where she was sitting? That was a good sign. “I was careful.”
“You came down just to meet me? Really?” He took a place in line, not taking his arm away. Under droopy bangs, his forehead had a sheen of sweat. Ninety-degree heat made all the people on the street “glow” just a little. His sweat activated his body spray, and whatever scent he had on made her want to rip his blue shirt right off.
“I did.” She looked up at him, just a couple of inches’ difference between them. “You might have noticed I’ve been several places that you played. I love your music.”
“You look familiar. Do I know your name?” His eye contact flickered, and he got a sheepish grin. “I mean, have you ever told me your name? ’Cause I think I’d remember it, if you had.”
Maybe it was a line, but if it was, she was going for it. “I’m not one of those who write their names on bikinis and toss them on the stage, if that’s what you mean. My name’s Leyla, with an E. Leyla Brand.”
“Nice to meet you, Leyla.” He leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek, his lips brushing like feathers against her skin. She was about to reply when it became their turn to order. He turned to the young man behind the makeshift counter and ordered a sleeve of fried zucchini, cauliflower, and mushrooms, paying for them with a ten-dollar bill from his wallet. Leyla noted that wallet was pretty thin, particularly in the bill-holding compartment.
That’s all right. I’m not after him for his money. I like him just the way he is.
He shook salt onto their golden-fried treasure before they walked away down the sidewalk looking at the craft and art displays in front of the shops, talking about the Clapton song that was an obvious reference even though her name wasn’t spelled right. Hungrier than she’d realized, Leyla ate her fair share of the tasty treat, then mumbled through the last of the crunchy crust, “Don’t you have to get back to the stage?”
“Stage?” He looked blank a moment. “Oh! Yes, I do.” He laughed, his eyes sparkling with embarrassment. “You distracted me. And you have crumbs on your cheek.” He reached out and brushed them off with one finger.
Leyla’s well filled with disappointment, ready to bubble over. She’d gotten her introduction; then she’d ruined everything by bringing them back to reality. “Sorry,” she said, and she truly was.
“Come on.” He took her hand and they ran lightly through the crowd, him pulling her, weaving in and around people till she was out of breath and laughing. Just behind the stage, he drew her close, whispering in her ear.
“I’ve got a day pass to the Biltmore Estate. Ever been?”
“Sure. Well, I went on a field trip to the garden once. When I was a kid.”
“Want to go with me this afternoon after the set? We can grab a bite at the Bistro, or the Stable.”
A rush of adrenaline pumped through her. No problem calling off her shift at the Italian chain restaurant for such an opportunity. A giddy rush filled her head.
What are you thinking? It’s not like you to jump into…well, whatever this could be.
“I think I could make time for that.”
“All right then.” He grinned, sunshine seeming to come right through him. His bandmates called to him, more than a hint of frustration in their voices as they demanded he get back to work. He ignored them and held her hand. “Don’t run off. I want to know you’re out there.”
“You got it.”
He slowly let her hand go, and climbed back up on the stage. After a hurried conversation with the other three guys, he came to the front of the stage, settling the guitar strap firmly across his shoulders. His eyes searched out Leyla’s location, and he gave her a broad smile. “This song’s for my newest friend,” he said, and the band broke into an acoustic cover of Clapton’s “Layla.”
It was the first time she’d heard them play that song, and it hit her like a shot of adrenaline. She danced in the shade of a pear tree, her smile wide enough to crack her face. Not only was Arran singing a song just for her, looking into her eyes, but he’d asked her to lunch. Or dinner. And a tour of the Biltmore, such an awesome place, from what she remembered—which wasn’t much, all the way back to grade school. She vaguely recalled the odd little bedrooms, and a giant banquet hall with two separate tables, one for a whole raft of people and the other right by the fireplace, just for the family. Oh, and a giant greenhouse outside, and one inside, too! Any of the rooms inside the house the Vanderbilts called their own were pretty much the size of her whole tiny one-bedroom apartment in North Asheville.
Well, she could dream, couldn’t she?
Copper Moon finished their song to a rousing round of applause, and Arran looked to her for approval. She gave him a thumbs up. The band launched into another song, and her hips seemed to move of their own accord to the rhythm. She let herself go, her mind not on what was going on around her but what was yet to come. She could hardly wait for the performance to be over so she could get to know Arran better.
How much better? That, she didn’t know yet.
So many possibilities.
She was no prude; she’d had her share of intimate relationships in her twenty-three years. She’d never been the one-night-stand kind of girl, though. Never. But Arran appealed to something particular inside her, had from the very first time she’d seen him, something more than just his outward appearance. If she had a chance to really connect with him, she wasn’t about to pass it up.
What seemed like hours later, she returned to the back of the stage and helped Arran and his friends pack up their equipment and stash it in the drummer’s black SUV. She and Arran went down a side street to where his car was parked. Before she even saw it, he started to apologize.
“Now, don’t expect too much. Me and the boys, we’re living on a shoestring while we’re waiting for the demo to circulate. It’s a Ford—”
“Is that a Pinto? They haven’t made those things for years.” Leyla studied the faded red vehicle as he got his keys out. She couldn’t imagine why he locked it. He’d be ahead if it was insured and someone stole it…
“Hundred and fifty thousand miles,” Arran bragged.
“I believe it.”
He opened her door and waited for her to get settled, as proud as if he’d been driving a Mercedes or a Ferrari, then whisked them along back streets to the huge Biltmore estate.
“Are you a local boy?” she asked. “You sure know your way around here.”
“Reasonably local. I’ve lived over in Hendersonville for the last couple years. Grew up in south Florida.”
“You left Florida for this? Unbelievable.”
“Florida isn’t all beaches and palm trees, you know.” A mischievous light came into his eyes. “They got alligators the size of small dragons, and sharks, and—”
She gave him a sidewise look and shook her head. “Right, right.”