He flashed me a sarcastic smile and leaned forward, “This is not going well, I mean, as far as first dates go. You seem really tense. Maybe we should have a couple shots first.” He waved the waitress back over.
“Two shots of Jack. Make `em doubles.”
She winked at him. I had thought he was being charming to me, but after seeing him lay it on thick, I realized the way he was with me was his natural state. With her, he seemed to be trying at it.
My mouth was hanging open, stuck on his comment, “This isn’t a date and I don’t drink shots. Look at that girl two booths over; she’s watching you like she hopes you might show up any second on her plate. She literally spotted you and then put lipstick on. You buy her shots and I guarantee, they’ll go farther than they will with me.”
He gave me a funny look, “I bet I can get farther than you think.”
I tried to stand but he grabbed me, “Don’t leave.” The way he said it made me sit, like I didn’t want to. It was real. He was being genuine. The charm and arrogance were shut off. He had the strangest effect on women, me included. He was like our own brand of kryptonite.
I sat back down and watched as he looked over his shoulder at the girls in the booth. He gave them a wave and turned back to me, as if none of it had happened, “You’ll drink these shots. You’ll like it, trust me.” He ordered for me, made me stay, and now was going to force-feed me shots.
I almost stayed, just to see what weird thing he was going to do next. His eyes were so blue suddenly, they took my breath away.
“Kryptonite,” I muttered.
He gave me a weird look. The server delivered the amber liquid shots. Instantly, my skin crawled.
He lifted his.
I frowned, “I’m lost. You want me to drink with you, and hang with you, and we’re vying for the same apartment? I don’t mean to be rude, but I really think you should go drink with those girls over there. I don’t want to drink. I’m being polite drinking this beer because you ordered it, and it’s not the server’s fault you’re an overly-confident piece of work. I don’t like to drink, but if I do, I drink red wine.”
He held the glass up, completely ignoring me, “Have a shot, Erin. It ain’t gonna kill you.” He said it keeeel with a laugh and a smile that melted a tiny bit of my hard exterior. He wasn’t going to relent. His eyes made me feel something I didn’t want to. He was force-feeding me my feelings too. Except dislike. I couldn’t dislike him. He could have sold me a shit popsicle, and I would have sworn it was my favorite flavor.
I relented after he didn’t stop holding his in the air. I lifted the other shot, skipped clanking it against his, and drank it back.
I shuddered, making him laugh, “See? That was easy. Now drink the beer. Jack makes it taste better. Maybe it’s not red wine, princess, but it’s better than just straight draft beer.”
His mocking tone was driving me insane. I slammed the glass down, “My name is Erin Benson. I’m starting school in a couple weeks. I’m studying law; obviously, I want to be lawyer. I’m from North Dakota. I am a Gemini and I do like long walks and romantic movies, but I prefer books. I like men who treat women with respect and have more than two brain cells making desperate attempts at a fire in their thick heads. I don’t like being called princess, and I hate people who presume to do things for me, like they know me better than I know myself.”
He winked and smiled, “Now, how hard was that?”
He was insufferable. I swallowed some beer and nodded, “You want to steal my house, it was hard. I don’t want to talk to you. I want to scream at you but that’s the wrong response. That’s not civil.”
He pointed at me, “It’s mine and I’ll tell you what, they find one just as nice, similar area and same rent, I will be the one to move out. Until then, we make the best of this and not be shitty to each other or mace anyone. Unless it’s a girl who won’t leave in the morning. You can mace them.” He offered me one of his big hands, “Deal? And I’m not kidding, if I end up with some clingy broad, I hope you’ll go as hard as you did today. Maybe even a little extra.”
I blocked out the annoying dribble coming from his lips and noticed how long and strong, but still slender, his fingers were. The ends were completely calloused. They didn’t look like they belonged on a movie star. But the waitress had asked him for his autograph? Maybe Thin Ice was a band or something like that.
I placed my hand in his and let him shake for us both, “Deal, but your clingy women are your problem. I might warn them before you get them down the hall.”
He laughed, “Fair enough.”
I felt the roughness of the fingertips and frowned, “So, you’re on a show or in a band called Thin Ice, or is that something else?”
He beamed, “I am the new lead singer of Thin Ice.”
I pulled my hand from his, “Singer?” I said it with a boatload of distaste.
He lifted the glass and nodded, “Yup. I play guitar, piano, and bass too. I’m learning the fiddle right now.”
I bit my lip, watching him, “For a living? This is your job that’s paying your half of the rent?” I asked and sat back more.
He scowled, “If you want, my job can pay all the rent, and you can pay me back with massages and fetching me beers.”
I shuddered, of course he was in a band. The carefree attitude, calloused hands, girl in his bed, charming smile and ridiculous good looks. Of course he was a singer. Only something that perfect, could be so flawed as to be creative, chaotic, and an artist. Had he been a businessman, I would have told him to try out for the Fifty Shades movie casting call. He looked just enough like David Beckham with his strong, athletic body and tattoos and cocky attitude. I could see him as someone as smug as CG in a movie.
I ignored his taunting and mocked him back, “So a singer in a band, what made you do that?”
He shrugged, “I’ve never been in a band before and I thought, why not?”
The waitress came with out burgers. They were massive. I ignored her, not intentionally, “You’ve never been in a band before?”
He shrugged and pointed at my plate, “No. Don’t worry. I’ll eat what you can’t.”
I cocked an eyebrow, “I can eat it all.”
He rolled his eyes, “Yeah, okay.”
Still unable to comprehend him or his ‘career’ choices, “How do you know it’s going to work with this band, and you’ll be able to pay rent and live?”
He gave me the sparkly smile from before, “Princess, don’t worry about me. Worry about that plate, because if I’m done before you, my hand may creep across the table for whatever is left.”
I laughed and lifted the burger, “I’m not paying your rent and you’re not eating my burger.” I watched him take the first bite and inspected mine. It was bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, double patties, and slathered in a sauce that seemed like it might be mayonnaise based.
I took the first bite and moaned unintentionally, “Oh my God.”
He laughed and took another huge bite. We chewed in silence.
My grandpa always said the sign of a good meal was the conversation not being had. And we were not talking. The fries were crispy, the burger was juicy, and I was dying. The beer made the meal so much better. He was fucking right, damn. It was the best meal I’d had in years.
I drank a big swig of beer and smiled, “So you’re going to have to keep it quiet at the apartment when I’m studying and stuff. You realize that right, Mr. Rock Star? I maintain a very strict study schedule.”
He laughed, “I’m indie, not rock, and yeah—it’s cool. I won’t be there much. We’re on a circuit. We’ll be bar hopping and playing five nights a week. Plus, I need to get to know the new band and the fans.” He gave me a look, “What’s up with you wanting to be a lawyer? You don’t seem like the type.”
I frowned, “What type?”
“Strong and mean like the ones on CSI and SVU. Those are some spicy ladies. You seem like you’re scared of your own shadow. Like a small dog with a big bark.”
He grabbed my hand, “Wait, that came out wrong. I meant like you’re soft, like a lady. Not like you’re a dog or weak. You’re obviously prim and proper and raised with garden parties and the country club. I just mean that maybe you shouldn’t be around hardened criminals and bad things all the time.”
I scowled and dragged my hand away, “You don’t know me.”
His eyebrows knit together, making his eyes do the dark burning thing again, “Fair enough.” He was flexing his hand.
I drank a gulp of beer, “When did you decide to take up the music scene?” We needed a new subject.
He shook his head, taking a monster bite, “I’ve always been in music. The band came looking for me this summer. I agreed and here I am.”
I was mystified, “You came here because some dudes were putting together a band and looking for a singer… in a random band. Boston must be more expensive than Tennessee. Weren’t you worried about paying rent and stuff?”
He laughed at me, “No. They were making killer money last spring when they had to fire the last lead singer. It’s a huge risk for them, not me, but the old singer’s a junky. What could they do? It was either break up or find a new singer. They saw me singing and asked me to join. I start this week with them. First show is tomorrow. You should come.”
I glanced at the server, “How did she know who you were, if the first show is tomorrow?”
He chuckled, “I was doing alright on my own. I had a good following.” The darkness left and he was sparkly again. “So what kind of lawyer?”
I watched him for a second, like he had done to me, “Prosecutor.”
He shook his head, “Why on earth would you want to do that, be surrounded by that negativity?”