Unexpectedly Yours (Page 3)
“Happy holidays,” I wink, taking the room key she slides across the desk.
Instead of going straight upstairs, I head to the bar instead. It’s still afternoon, so the place is almost empty. I pick a booth near the back, and settle in, ordering a double shot of whiskey to get me started.
I take a long drink, and feel the tension ease out of me. This last six months has been nonstop: an epic world tour with the band, and working on my solo stuff, too. For the last three weeks I’ve been holed up at a recording studio across town, laying down tracks for my first album. After spending so long with my bandmates, it’s scary and exhilarating to go it alone. There’s nobody to bounce ideas off the same way—and no one to call me out when I wind up obsessing over a single lyric or rhythm track.
Still, I’m happy to be taking that step. The Reckless will always be a part of my life, but it’s fun to challenge myself and try out new material, too. I’ve been drawn to quieter, more acoustic material for a while now. The band’s music is rock—driving, melodic, but hard. On my own, I get to dial it down and go back to my roots. Once a country boy, always a country boy.
I take another drink and scroll through my phone. With time on my hands now, I need someone to help pass it. “Anika, darlin’,” I call my on-again/off-again girlfriend, an Estonian model who I met on the set of one of our music videos. “What are you doing tonight?”
“Having dinner,” she replies cooly. “In Miami. Where I told you I’d be going.”
“Call it wishful thinking,” I answer smoothly. “Sure you don’t want to hop a flight?”
She snorts. “I thought you said we have nothing in common.”
“Nothing but chemistry. C’mon, baby,” I cajole. “It’s Christmas. Do you want to be naughty or nice…?”
She giggles, her voice softening. “Sorry, baby, I’m all booked up. But I’ll be back for New Year’s. Call me!”
I hang up. It’s probably for the best: Anika can be a high-strung diva when her blood sugar gets low, and since this is the holidays, she’ll be waging a constant battle against carbs.
I start scrolling through my address book. Becky. Brita. Caitlin, Carolina…
I smile at the memories. You can’t blame me: I’m a red-blooded male who’s hit a hundred different cities over the past five years. Yeah, we had some good times, the band and me. But lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m too old for the same playboy bullshit. Sure, it’s tough to keep up a real relationship on the road, but the truth is, I quit trying. After my first serious girlfriend and I flamed out over long-distance troubles and her jealous streak, I decided to give dating a wide berth. I was too busy rehearsing all day, and partying all night to care about anything real, but now, that party scene feels hollow and surface. I’m not twenty-two anymore. And seeing my best friend Dex settle down with the love of his life has reminded me that I haven’t met mine yet.
That’s irony for you: my new album is packed with love songs, but the lyrics I write are all for a girl I’ve never even met.
It’s why I’ve hung on with Anika for so long. Deep down, I know that we’re not right for each other, but it’s still nice to see the same face over the breakfast table in the morning, and have someone to call up to make plans for dinner the same night.
Even if she won’t eat a damn thing.
The empty seat beside me in the booth feels like it’s taunting me, so I find myself scrolling through the list and making calls. But every girl I talk to is way ahead of me: they’re either out of town with family or off the market for good.
“Sorry, babe. I’m at my parent’s place in Arizona.”
“I would be there in a heartbeat, but I’m at a yoga retreat in Peru.”
“You’re two months too late, Austin. I’m engaged.”
I finally quit around the Ks. This is crazy. Is everyone in the world except me spending this weekend with their nearest and dearest?
Maybe this is a sign to get your shit together.
I sit back and take a look around the room. There are a couple more people here now. Some middle-aged tourists poring over maps in the corner, and—
I stop. She’s perched on a stool by the bar, chatting to the bartender as he fixes her a drink. She’s dressed in a slinky navy dress that hugs her curves, her auburn hair gleaming under the lights. Every few seconds, she glances back at her phone, like she’s waiting for someone.
Whoever he is, he’s too late. I’m already here.
I slide out of the booth and head over. Up close, she’s even more beautiful: expressive hazel eyes and a sweet, glossy mouth curled in an excited smile. The bartender passes her a martini and she takes a sip, her pink tongue darting out to lick the moisture from her lips.
I feel a surge of lust. Damn. Five seconds in, and I could already write a song about that mouth.
I lean against the bar beside her and flash my best grin, the one Nashville Sound voted the hottest smile in music.
“Hey darlin’,” I drawl, “have you been waiting for me?
I wait for that flash of recognition on her face—for her eyes to brighten, and her breath to catch, and her to swoon right into my arms the way women always do.
Instead, she bursts out laughing.
“I’m sorry,” I splutter with laughter. “I can’t… I mean…”