Unexpectedly Yours (Page 25)
“OK, OK,” I agree, wanting to change the subject. “Whatever you say.”
As Tegan chatters about her plans for tonight, I can’t help but think of Austin, and the way he looked standing in the snow that night. As much as I want to curse him for being a lying, cheating charmer, I can’t forget the tender moments we shared; the way he made my Christmas dreams a reality, just to see me smile. Careless playboys don’t get up early to set up a cookie-baking station; they don’t take you ice skating, and break into a secret park for a midnight stroll. Everything Austin did during our time together said something about what kind of man he is: someone thoughtful, and spontaneous; someone playful, but sincere.
The kind of man who would make life an adventure.
My throat gets tight, and I realize I’m on the edge of tears. Not just for the memories that are tainted by his girlfriend, and the betrayal that I can’t understand, but more than that, the future we’ll never have together. It may seem crazy to feel this way after barely spending a day with him, but I believe what Tegan says.
Sometimes you just know. And with Austin, I knew.
His are the only arms I want around me, his kiss is the only thing that could make me feel alive.
But he’s a hundred miles away right now, and I don’t even know his last name. Even if I wanted to find him, and try to get some kind of explanation, there’s no way to track him down.
I stare at the wintery landscape slipping past outside the window, and realize. It’s over.
I turn back to Tegan. She’s looking at me with understanding, and a determined glint in her eye. “Sorry?”
“I was just saying, I’m going to do your hair and makeup later, you’ll knock them dead. The guys of Beachwood Bay won’t know what hit them.”
I smile along. Maybe Tegan is right. Wallowing over a man I can never have won’t get me anywhere. I check the clock on the dashboard. Midday.
OK. I get twelve more hours of pining over Austin, and that’s it. When the clock strikes midnight tonight, I need to try and move on.
The party is loud enough that you can hear it halfway to town. By the time the cab drops me off at the end of Beach Lane, the house is blazing with lights and classic eighties music is blasting out across the bay. Hundreds of people are crammed inside, lit up though the huge glass windows: dancing and talking and having the time of their lives. The Callahans always did know how to throw a party, and with this incredible house as a setting, right on the water, they’ve raised the bar for another year.
I stop on the front driveway and let my duffel bag fall to the ground. Laughter filters out, excited cries as old friends greet each other, but something stops me heading straight inside. I’ve been holed up in the studio all week, but I figured a party would help snap me back to life again. Some drinks, a few friends, some adoring fangirls to make me forget all my troubles… It sounded like the perfect New Year’s Eve to me. But standing here now, celebrating is the last thing I want to do.
The only thing I want is Sophie.
“Austin!” I hear a shriek of delight, coming from the upstairs window. Tegan waves down, then hurries away. A moment later, she comes bursting out the front door and attacks me with a hug. “Where have you been? You were supposed to come days ago!”
I stagger back, laughing. “Sorry, I got sucked into recording.”
“You guys and your muses.” Tegan pulls away and pouts. She’s all dressed up in a sparkling black dress and heels. I ruffle her hair, and she ducks away. “Hey! We spent an hour on our hair tonight, trying to show you savages some class.”
I smile. I’ve been in the band with Dex for years, and Tegan is like a little sister to me now. She grabs my arm and pulls me into the house, talking non-stop as she goes.
“…And Sophie’s here too, it’s like a big reunion.”
I stop on the threshold. “Sophie?” I echo, feeling my chest clench.
“My friend from LA,” Tegan turns. “But don’t get any ideas,” she adds, warning. “She just had a wretched breakup with a total asshole. She can’t handle any of your games.”
Someone calls to her, and she looks away, distracted again. “Dump your bags in any of the rooms, get a drink, I’ll talk soon!”
She bounds away in a shimmer of sequins. I catch my breath, adjusting to the mass of noise and party chaos. Sophie’s a common name, I tell myself. I can’t keep flinching every time I hear it.
Pull it together, Austin.
I find a place to stash my bag, and go grab a beer from the overflowing bar. I take a gulp, and wander the party, but now that it’s planted back in my mind, I can’t shake the thought of Sophie.
There’s no way it could be her. I’m being crazy and stupid, I know. But I can’t help scanning the crowded rooms, hopefully looking for her familiar face.
I catch myself, and stifle a groan. Man, I’ve got it bad.
“Hey you.” Dex finds me in the main room. He slaps me on the back in greeting. “I heard the album is wrapped, I can’t wait to hear it. How about a listening party this week?”
“It’ll have to wait a little while longer, I went back to the drawing board,” I admit. “I spent this week locked in the studio laying down new tracks.”
I give a rueful grin. “Something like that.”
The truth is, after Sophie left I needed something to pass the time. All I could do was think about her, a dozen mournful melodies that slipped into my sleep and demanded to be written. At least something came from my wretched misery. The songs I had before were good, but these ones are great.