The first scene of my next book, Wild Open, coming summer 2015 if all goes well.
The club was loud, crowded, and hot. Summertime in L.A.: the club’s air conditioning couldn’t keep up with the sweating bodies packed in close quarters, or the powerful lights shining down on the band on stage. Leah’s T-shirt stuck to her lower back, and a slow trickle of sweat worked its way downward between her breasts.
She was starting to regret her decision to come.
Mateo had sworn up and down that he would go with her, and then ditched her—of course—at the last possible second. Something about his girlfriend’s nephew’s birthday party. She had seriously considered bailing. But it was her very favorite band, the best one, the one she always went to see whenever they were in town, and that was why she had gone anyway, and that was why she was standing wedged in the crowd, wearing combat boots that stuck to the floor and a mini-skirt that kept riding up her thighs. The man behind her kept elbowing her in the back. The man in front of her was so tall that she had to crane her neck to the side to see the stage. A woman to her left kept flailing around and jostling Leah’s beer. And there was still another opening act to go before the main event.
“Fuck yeah! Yeah!” the flailing woman screamed, and slammed her body into the man in front of her, sparking a chain reaction that ended with Leah’s beer finally giving up the ghost and spilling all over her boots and the sticky floor.
“Okay,” Leah said to nobody in particular, holding her empty cup. The flailing woman moshed her way to the front. The man she had slammed into gave Leah a sympathetic look.
It was time for another drink.
She fought her way through the crowd toward the slightly-less-packed area at the back of the club near the bar. The man on stage was singing about heartbreak and a beautiful woman who had left him behind. The bass pounded through the floor. The crowd sang along, voices raised to join in the chorus. Leah sang along softly. She liked this song.
The relative peace and quiet at the bar was a relief after the intense heat and closeness of the crowd near the stage. Leah leaned against the bar and waited for the bartender to notice her.
The guy beside her was looking at her. She felt his eyes on her face, that subtle prickle of attention and awareness. “Hey,” he said, leaning in. “You look really familiar.”
Oldest line in the book. Leah managed not to roll her eyes.
“I know what it is,” he said. “You were in Rung, weren’t you?”
She drew in a breath. This was even worse than getting chatted up. “Yeah.”
“I saw you guys play at Largo last year,” he said. “I was sorry to hear that you broke up.”
“Yeah,” Leah said. This was what she got for coming to an indie show. She had forgotten how small and incestuous the L.A. music scene really was. “Me too.” She looked away from him and started rummaging through her purse, pretending to look for her phone.
The guy took the hint and went back to talking with his friends. Leah’s shoulders relaxed.
The bartender came over and said, “What can I get for you?”
She ordered a beer and drank it, and then ordered another one and drank that, too, perched on a stool with her elbows on the bar. The band finished playing, and the second opener took the stage. She wasn’t familiar with their music, but it was good. Catchy. The music caught her up the way it always did, a thick sonic blanket dampening the background noise of her restless mind, and she lost track of time.
A man sidled up to the bar beside her and leaned forward, searching for the bartender.
“He just went into the back,” Leah said, raising her voice to be heard over the music.
The man glanced at her and flashed her a quick smile. “Thanks.”
He was cute: scruffy, dark-haired, good shoulders. Worn jeans that rode low on his hips. Leah looked him up and down while he waited for the bartender, drumming his fingers against the dented surface of the bar.
The beer warmed Leah’s belly, making her bold. It had been a long time. Too many months of mourning and regrets. Maybe a little light flirtation was exactly what she needed. “Do you know anything about these guys?”
The man glanced at her again. “Not really. I’m here to see the headliners.”
“Me too,” Leah said. “I like these guys, though. Their drummer is doing some interesting things.”
He turned toward her then, supporting himself with one elbow propped on the bar. He was even better-looking from the front. His broad shoulders tapered down to a narrow waist, and his jeans strained across his muscular thighs. He looked like he worked out. “You know about music?”
“A little bit,” she said. She shouldn’t have opened with that. Now he was going to grill her about music theory. She took another sip of her beer.
His eyes shifted from her face to the bar behind her. “You’re here by yourself?”
She shrugged. “My friend ditched me.”
“That sucks,” he said. “I can’t say I’m too sorry about it, though. You probably wouldn’t be talking to me otherwise.”
“Maybe you can be my friend,” Leah said, greatly daring. Was she flirting? Was that what flirting felt like?
He raised an eyebrow and gave her a slow and very obvious once-over. Leah’s face heated. “I would love to be your friend.”
God. He was definitely flirting with her. A flush of warmth spread through Leah’s body, and this time it wasn’t just the alcohol.
The bartender re-emerged, carrying a plastic tub filled with lemons. The guy—Leah’s guy, her mystery man—caught the bartender’s attention, and he came over, grinning. Leah watched as they slapped hands.
“Hey, man,” the bartender said. “Good to see you.”
“Yeah, likewise,” Leah’s guy said. “It’s been a while.”
“What can I get for you?” the bartender asked.
Leah’s guy glanced at her and grinned. “Three shots of Jack.”
“No,” Leah said. “Oh, no. Nope.” Terrible idea. She was already working on her fourth beer of the night. If they started doing shots, she would end up on the floor.
“Oh, yes,” the guy said, and the bartender had already turned away to pour the shots, and Leah accepted her fate.
Why did it matter? The music was playing loud enough that she could feel it shake her bones, and the guy kept looking at her with gray eyes like the ocean in winter, and she wanted it. She wanted him. She was going to have him.
They did their shots—two for him, and one for her—and then he ordered another round, and they did those, and then Leah said, “If I drink any more I’m going to die,” and ordered a glass of water. She felt a little spinny, a little blurry around the edges. She felt good.
“You’re not too drunk, are you?” he asked, looking concerned.
She laughed. She had spun to face him, and she placed one hand on his chest. His heart beat beneath her palm. She was a brave person now. The alcohol gave her just enough courage to do what she would ordinarily be far too embarrassed to do. Leah didn’t hit on strangers at bars. She wasn’t that person. Except after four beers and two shots of whiskey.
He was gorgeous, even by L.A. standards, and way out of her league. She didn’t care about any of that now. He was smiling at her, talking to her, touching her knee. He was interested. He wanted more.
He had asked her a question. “I’m not too drunk at all,” she said. “I’m exactly drunk enough.”
He grinned. “For what?”
“For this,” Leah said, and leaned in and kissed him in the one quiet moment between songs.
Then the next song came, an avalanche of joyous sound.
He slid his hands into her hair and kissed her back.
The first touch of his lips set a song humming through Leah’s body, and she vibrated in counterpoint to the music playing from the stage. He kissed her like he meant business. His mouth was soft yet firm, and his short beard prickled at Leah’s skin. His hands slid down her body to her hips. One big palm moved to her lower back and draw her closer toward him, and she went, letting him ease her forward until she was perched on the edge of the bar stool, her thighs splayed around his hips. He slid his tongue along her lower lip, asking permission, and she opened her mouth and let her in.
He felt so incredibly good that there was a good chance she would fall off her bar stool right then and there, dead from pleasure.
The song ended. It was Leah’s favorite band on stage, playing all of her favorite songs, and she didn’t care. She wasn’t even listening. All she wanted to do was keep kissing this man.
“Hey,” he said, murmuring the words against her mouth. “Let’s go outside.”
She grinned. “Really? What do you think is going to happen out there?”
“A little making out, a little hanky panky,” he said. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to try to screw you in an alleyway behind a bar. I do have some class.”
“Good to know,” Leah said, delighted by him and his big hands. Hanky panky. Nobody talked like that.
They went out back, past the disinterested bouncer and the smokers and row of dumpsters. Leah’s boot caught in a hole in the pavement, and she stumbled, but he was right behind her, one arm around her waist, holding her steady.
“Careful,” he said, laughter in his voice, and his other hand came around to slide beneath the hem of her t-shirt, splaying warm across her belly.
It was a warm night. They kissed, leaning against the brick wall. Leah couldn’t remember the last time she felt this happy. The guy’s hands wandered up her thighs. She reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck.
He pulled back and looked at her intently. “Are we really going to do this?”
She was smiling; she couldn’t help it. “Why not?”
His answering smile built slowly and kindled a fire inside of her belly.
He said, “Let’s do it.”