Just One Song
Author:Stacey Lynn

chapter Twenty





“Thanks for the song.” I take a deep breath to regain my own control. I look at Chase on my way out. He is still staring, un-blinking, at the empty keyboard.

“You guys were…wow….you can play.”

I roll my eyes at him. “You’ve heard me before.”

“You two practically melted the glass. I felt like a voyeur watching you have musical sex.” Zack’s hand smacks Garret’s head before I can.

“Garrett! Eww!” I look at Chloe who simply laughs, obviously not embarrassed by her boyfriend.

“Chloe? Seriously. Talk some sense into these guys.”

“You have to do this album. Garrett told me how great you were that night in Philly, but that was just...” She stops as if searching for the right word and shakes her head. “I can’t even describe how incredible that was.”

I glare at her. That was no help, whatsoever.

Zack’s arms wrap around my waist from behind and pulls me back to his chest. His voice lowers so only I can hear him. “That was the hottest moment of my life. Ever. You have to play more.”

“No. No no no! Get real Zack. I’m a girl. You are four guys in a rock band. I’m a mom – or …. whatever. I don’t play on stage anymore.” My tantrum is having zero effect so I change tactics and take a calming breath. “Nobody wants to come to a concert and watch the amazing Zack Walters play with his girlfriend.”

“So we don’t tell anyone you’re on the album.”

“Not you, too, Jake,” I groan and then turn back Zack. “And when you go on tour? What then?”

“You come with us.” He says this like it is just the easiest solution in the entire world.

“I already have a job that I love. I don’t want to do this.” I place my hands firmly on my hips. Except even as I say it, I’m not entirely sure I believe myself. It was fun, and intense playing in that little room. And I did love the thrill I got in Philly thinking of how it would feel to actually be playing in front of that many people. I can only imagine the adrenaline rush. And I always loved making music. But that was years ago, and now, I can’t even put my finger on what’s stopping me, except that I really don’t think it’s a good idea.

Jake stands next to Zack. “Seriously? We’d be stupid to pass this up. That was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Chase stands on the other side of Zack. I even watch as Garrett and Chloe come stand close to them.

“I think this could be good for our fan base, actually. With you on stage playing like that, guys will be drooling all over themselves.”

“Gross. That’s just what I want.” I can’t believe I’m getting quadruple-teamed by a pack of horny rock stars. And Chloe too!

I turn to Zack, hoping this will help him change his mind. “Is that what you want? Guys drooling all over themselves while watching me?”

“Would you still come home with me?” At my nod and ‘duh’ expression he just shrugs his shoulder. “Then let them drool away. I have no problems showing you off.”

“You’re impossible.” I throw in an eye roll and foot stomp for emphasis. “I’m not joining your band. That’s your life, not mine.”

His expression changes to much, much less amused. Angry. He wiggles his finger back and forth between the two of us. “It’s our life. Whether or not you play.”

My voice softens, knowing I’ve hurt him, even if it was unintentional. “That’s not what I meant. I don’t understand why you’re trying to make me do something I don’t want to do though. Just explain it to me, because this is the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard.”

“Because you’re amazing. And incredibly gifted. And selfishly, because I love you, and I just spent the last two weeks away from you and never want to be apart from you ever again. This is the perfect solution.”

I hear a click and look around. At least they were smart enough to know when to give us some privacy. I rub my forehead and sit back down in the stupid egg chair. “Zack, you can’t make me play in your band just because you don’t want us to be apart again.”

“I know that. I just… I just don’t want you to leave.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” I lean back in the egg and look at him. Really look at him. He paces around the small lounge room running his fingers through his hair. He’s not angry. He’s scared.

“What are you not telling me?”

“You rescued me.” He kneels in front of me. I think he’s trying to make me understand something.

I don’t. “What do you mean?”

“I never thought I would fall in love. I haven’t met anyone in ten years who just wanted me. Not Zack Walters, not the guitar player, not the celebrity, but just me. Everyone wanted something from me. Except you.”

“I wanted you to buy me a beer.”

He kisses me roughly and quickly. So quick that I don’t even know it’s happening until it’s over, but it leaves me panting and wanting more. Much more.

“Shut up and listen, woman. I have spent the last several years being used and only being wanted when I could do something for someone else. I had almost given up hope of ever finding someone to share my life with. The real life of normal everyday things. And then you showed up and rocked my damn boat. You not only were unimpressed with me. You’re brave, and strong, and sexy as hell and half the time you don’t even realize how sexy you are, which just makes you even sexier. You challenge me to be better. To do better. You’re hilarious and confident, and a thousand other things that I could mention. You are everything I ever imagined in someone I would fall in love with. And then more. Much more. You’ve shown me what it is to love, to really love someone. Even through hearing about Mark and Andrew, you’ve taught me so much.”

I watch him take a deep breath. I need a deep breath after all he just said. It is just so much to take in.

“I don’t want to lose it. I want you to stay here. With me. Move here with me, Nic. Stay in L.A. Do the recording and the album, or not. I think you’d be way more incredible on it than you can even imagine, but I won’t make you. Just stay.”

“Zack.” I’m too speechless to say anything more. Move in with him? Move to L.A.? He must have taken some kind of crazy pill this morning when I wasn’t looking because the man has been acting insane ever since we got here today. It’s too soon. Even without my baggage, that I am trying so hard to not let it affect me, it’s too soon. We’ve known each other three months. And most of that time has been apart.

“It’s not too soon.” How does he do that? Of course the rock star is the one with the superpowers. “You wear your emotions and your worry all over your face, love. I know what you’re thinking. It’s not too soon. You love me. I love you. And if you love me even half as much as I love you, it’s more than enough. I know you’re about five seconds away from freaking out and having one of your adorably crazy emotional breakdowns…but don’t. If anything, I know you’ve learned over the last year that nothing is a guarantee, and while we have the time, I just want to make the most of it. Just tell me you’ll think about it.”

I nod, because there isn’t another option. “I’ll think about it,” I whisper.

“Great. Now, let’s go play.” He stands up like we’ve solved all the world’s problems in the blink of an eye and is ready to party.

“I don’t want to.”

“Just for fun, I promise. No pressure. But since you’re here, let’s just go play and make some music with our friends.”

“Fine.” I can do that, no problem. Playing with friends; it’s what I did for years.

We play for hours. A few new songs, mostly old ones I’m familiar with. By the time we’re done, my hands are cramped from so much playing. I don’t want to admit I’m having fun, and I certainly won’t to them, but the whole afternoon is incredible. I catch myself laughing thinking about how Mia would have acted at this scenario just a few months ago…me playing with the rock-god she had sitting on her nightstand. The thought makes me snort more than once during a song. Luckily the music is loud and no one notices. We leave the room when we’re done and I see Aaron sitting on one of the couches.

“Well, well…looks like we have our new keyboardist.”

I smile as friendly as I can. He, after all, missed all the drama earlier. Lucky guy. “Nope. Just having fun, today, that’s all.”

“So you admit you had fun,” Zack says as he enters the room with us and looks to Aaron. “She’s perfect, right?”

“Absolutely. The heat between you two will have the fans melting in their seats.”

“See….told you.”

“Shut up, Garrett!”

He holds up his hands in defense. “I’m just saying.”

“I’m not joining the band. You have to know a dozen players, or more, better than me.”

Aaron replies, “Yeah, but none have the heat or chemistry you would add. Just think about it, Nicole. This is a chance of a lifetime.”

I nod, again, simply to end the conversation. I would have thought out of everyone, Aaron would be the most sensible.

***

I don’t want to get out of bed. It’s warm and next to me, sleeping, is the man who showed up in my life when least expected and turned everything upside down. I look at him sleeping next to me, so peaceful and calm, and hot.

Dang, he is so sexy.

And he loves me. It’s almost too much to take in. I gently brush some of his dark blonde hair out of his eyes and move closer. He asked me to move in with him. And I want it, badly. And the thought terrifies me. We dropped the conversation after leaving the studio and went to dinner followed by a night out at Dray’s.

It’s a trendy nightclub where I had felt completely out of place one minute and completely in place the next when Zack’s arm draped around my waist. That was how the last couple weeks have been. Fancy dinners, paparazzi shots, clubs, the whole celebrity life thrown at my feet.

Zack doesn’t even like that normally, but he’s been trying to show me a good time so I let him. The entire time last night I thought about what it would be like to actually record an album, or go on tour, or be in a band.

Crap, I could be in a rock band! Mark would have flipped out, and called me ten shades of crazy to turn it down. But I’m still not sure yet if it is me. At all. But I do know I’m not ready to leave Zack either. A deep longing in my heart stirs every time I look at him, as I am doing now.

I am getting my second chance at love. It’s a life so different than the one I had, but an exciting life, nonetheless. One that has a spot carved out for me, right next to Zack. And I know what I feel for him is forever, or however long forever can last, anyway. I can’t leave him. He brought me into his world, and suddenly, I simply don’t want to leave it. But do I have the courage to join it the way he wants?

I need my girl.

Without waking Zack, I quietly roll out of bed, throw on my robe and grab my phone on the way out the door to make coffee. After filling up my coffee cup, I sit down on a lounge chair on the deck gazing out past the infinity pool into the ocean. Mia answers on the second ring.

“Hey there celebrity hotshot. I see you had a night out at Dray’s.”

I roll my eyes, but smile. “I see you’re still spending too much time reading gossip blogs and drooling over my boyfriend.”

“Yes, yes I am. And Chase, too.” My smile gets bigger hearing it. As much as Mia is adamant it’s nothing serious, I saw the looks they tossed back and forth last week. They’re both falling, hard and fast, and I know it’s only a matter of time before Mia gives into her independent ways and let’s go with him.

“I need to talk to you. It’s serious.” I take a sip of my coffee wondering how to start, but the blunt truth is easier. “The guys want me to play the keyboard on their next album.”

“Hot Damn! Seriously?” I move the phone away from my ear to prevent my ear drums from exploding at her high frequency squeals.

“I’m on my first cup of coffee, can we keep the screaming to a minimum?”

“No way. Not with that news. What did you say?” I imagine her dancing around her office doing her happy dance that she always does when she’s excited.

“I said no. Again and again. But no one listened. Even Aaron wants me to do it.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

“Seriously, Mia? You have to ask me that?”

“You’ve been playing since you could walk practically, you’re talented and never put it to use. You’re dating the guy every woman under the age of forty-five in America dreams about, he loves you like crazy, and he wants you in his band. What exactly is there to debate about this?” She continues without even taking a breath although my mind is already reeling from everything she just said. “You have one life. And you’ve had a crappy couple of years, I say you do this and make the most of it and have some freaking fun with it while you have the chance. Besides, isn’t this what we dreamed about when we were fifteen?”

“There’s something else.” I take a deep breath before letting out the most important news I have to share. “Zack wants me to move here with him. As in move in with him.”

“Wow. And you’re thinking?”

“That it’s too soon. And it’s absolutely too crazy to even consider. And that I want it more than anything and the thought alone makes me so terrified I want to jump off his infinity pool and just end the madness by slamming into the jagged rocks on the cliff. And that I don’t want to leave him for a single second, but I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not to get so caught up in all this madness.”

“So you’ve given this some thought.” I snort. She’s such a smart ass. And then, the phone is completely silent. I wonder if she hung up until I hear a deep sigh come through the other end.

“I have something to tell you.” Her voice loses all excitement and becomes serious. Mia never sounds serious so I know this isn’t good.

“And?” I ask hesitantly.

“I’m up for a job promotion. It’s been offered to me for a while now, but I never took it. But now, I’ve been thinking of accepting.”

“This is great news!” I almost feel like doing my own happy dance for her, but I know there’s more coming and I’m sure it’s the part that I won’t like. “So, why do you not sound happy about this?”

“It’s in management….managing in the International department.” And before she finishes the thought I know what it means. You can’t be in an international department in the heart of the Midwest. She will have to move to New York. She doesn’t have to say the words for me to understand. And she also doesn’t have to tell me, and won’t tell me because she’s too damn nice, that the reason why she turned it down in the past is because of me and my issues for the last year.

I had held her back, my best friend, from her dream career. Damn it. That stings.

“You have to take it, Mia.” I try to sound brave and courageous. I think my words come out sounding like an injured cat. I’m just barely holding in my shock at her news, at my chance with Zack, and the fact that I had held her back, and she’d done it willingly. It’s too much to process before I finish my first cup of coffee.

“I’m thinking about it. But if you stay here, I don’t know if I can leave you here alone.”

“I’m thinking you’ve put your life on hold for me long enough Mia.”

“I’m thinking you’ve put your own life on hold long enough. What are you going to do about the album?”

“Crap, I don’t know. It sounds fun. Insanely stupid at the same time. What if I totally suck?”

“You won’t. You’re too damn good.”

“What do I do?” I turn my head to the left towards the house as I hear the sliding door open right after I ask the question. Zack stands in the doorway, in cotton pajama pants hanging low on his hips and white tank undershirt, bare feet, messed up bedhead hair, holding a cup of coffee. He leans on the door frame and cocks his head at me. He looks delicious. He belongs in a museum for the whole world to admire his sculpted muscles and perfect physique. I take a moment and look him over, from head to toe unashamedly, relishing that it’s all mine. I smile and mouth ‘Mia’ while pointing at my phone. He nods and sits down on the chair next to me.

“Do you love him?” She asks me quietly.

“Yeah…” I let my voice trail off because I’m talking to Mia, but my mind is completely on the man in front of me. The same man who loves me and wants me and wants to live with me.

“And you want to be with him?”

“Yeah, I do.” My lips turn up in a slow smile as I continue watching Zack. He looks at me with a raised eyebrow, silently questioning my conversation.

“And you want to do the album.”

I frown. “That’s not a question.”

“No. It’s a statement because I know you, and I know that even though you’re afraid, you want to do it because you’d love it. And I know once you get over your initial fear, you’ll be great and you’d kick yourself in the butt if you turned it down.”

“I…how do you….yeah….you’re right.” And darn it. She is. We’ve known each other since we were twelve. Thirteen years of friendship leaves little unknown between the two of us. Maybe I haven’t called her to talk me out of taking this enormous stupid leap of faith. Maybe I really just called to tell her what I was doing, but nonetheless, I need her approval.

Zack watches me as he drinks his coffee. I’m undressing him with my eyes because he just looks too good to be covered up like that. The way his lips twitch a bit tells me he knows exactly what I’m doing. He doesn’t seem to mind.

“And you want to move in with him. You’re just – again - scared.”

I sigh and smile lazily at Zack. Who is still staring at me with his head cocked to the side trying to figure out what we are discussing.

“Yeah. I think I do.” I say it so quietly I’m not even sure she hears me. But I’m still being stared at and it’s distracting me. Zack is distracting period.

“You’re staring at him aren’t you?”

“How do you know that?”

“Because you’re breathing heavy and I have a feeling you’re not breathing all sexily because you’re suddenly lusting after me.”

“You’re such a snot.”

“I know and you love me.”

“When do you move?” Zack’s eyebrows raise up.

She sighs. “I’m not sure. I have to accept it first. I’m thinking about trying to delay the start until the first of the year.”

Zack sets down his coffee mug and leans forward with his elbows on his knees, just staring at me. I can tell he’s slowly putting together the conclusion of what I’m asking Mia and I’m pretty sure he’s predicting another one of those crazy emotional freak outs on my part. Little does he know, I think I may actually be okay. The thought surprises even me. I’m a little scared of the album and moving, and all the changes this monumental decision will bring, but I love Zack. And this time, I know, it will be enough. It is more than enough.

Thick silence hangs between Mia and I for several minutes. I take my eyes off Zack and stare out into the ocean. So much is changing and it’s all happening so quickly. I wipe away a tear and refocus on Mia. “I gotta go. We’ll talk more this weekend when I get home, okay?”

“You think you’ll actually come back this time?”

“Yeah…you know…” I look at Zack and wink. “I need to pack and all that fun stuff. Bye, Mia.” I flip my phone shut without waiting for her reply.

I stand up and look at Zack. “I’m getting more coffee. I’ll be back in a minute.”

I need a few minutes to think to myself without the distraction that is Zack to process mentally everything I have just learned.