Kismet or Happenstance? Ch. 07byAugust_Bouvier©
Though no text from Kahlil Gibran's On Love—from The Prophet— appears in this chapter, it's an exquisite piece to read on the full experience of love. If you search online or find it on a bookshelf, you'll understand why Ana chose to quote it to a man she thought only dabbled in its shallower waters. My heartfelt thanks goes out to TangledinYou for helping me during a moment of tunnel vision, and to you for...you know.
* * * * * * *
Saturday, December 2, 2006.
A flood of adrenaline and nervousness twisted Sean's insides leaving him giddy and sick at once. He scanned the maze of faces moving inside the dimly lit space. The tension gripped tighter when his eyes landed on Noah Blake's wrist guard then jumped to the vacant seat next to him. In a few days Noah would take his rightful place in Wired for Sound just in time to start touring as the opening act for the rock gods he and his band mates worshipped half of their lives. But until then the kid intended to work that sprain for all it was worth. Ana had come into view, passing the beer she'd had in her hand to Noah. Sean might've been amused if he didn't feel like he was about to jump out of plane.
Noah leaned his ear to Ana's mouth. Lucky for Noah, he wasn't some Neanderthal who got all jealous and beat his chest screaming, "mine, mine" because some blond, lil surfer looking dude sat too close and looked at his woman ten seconds too long. Sean's gaze leapt to Ana and he smiled inside. The distracted look on her face as Noah's mouth wagged on and on, was where the kid's luck ended and his began.
The tension gradually loosened its grip; an eerie calm took its place. This always happened these last seconds before. His heart slowed down its breakneck pace. A cacophony of cheers, whistles and clapping hands pierced the sudden darkness. The curtains lifted slowly. Sean slung the guitar strap over his shoulder. It was time to rock the crowd.
* * * * *
While Ana's body sat in an armless chair, her mind drifted between watching Sean on stage and this afternoon at his house. There'd been no appropriate time to tell him about their shared online history. He didn't need drama when he had this performance to focus on. Besides she couldn't very well go: "Baby, you know that pseudo troll who implied you were shallow and a player? That's me! Ha-ha. Let's have a drink before we head down to the club."
She lied to Sean repeatedly for his own sake yet the justification opened a gulf of worry and guilt inside her. Still her mind recycled the hallow mantra so she wouldn't have to entertain the insidious voice in her head. The one that quietly read snippets of her year old online tome when she should be enjoying the show.
Sean had all but rounded his desk when she made a big production of asking him about the book sticking out from bookshelf like an indictment against her. "I was looking at this," Ana said, barely able to hear her own voice over the pounding in her ears, as she pulled Simon's latest book from the shelf. "It looks interesting." She marveled as if she'd never seen the book before, as if she didn't have the author's blood running through her veins.
He halted his trek to the incriminating computer screen and walked over to her. A wave of relief burst over Ana but that's when she stumbled into a sea of lies.
"It is," Sean concurred, "You can borrow it if you want. There'll be some good ideas in there on how to get yourself in the running for that promotion—" he winked, "—and manage your new boss."
She could've said something right then. Simon Garret's my biological father. That's why I was there that night we met. We've spoken online.
"I know him...a little," Sean amended before he continued, his head cocked to the book in Ana's hand, "I used to work for the same publishing company."
Say something! Tell him!
"Oh, right. When you lived in New York." Ana had swum too far from the shore to make her way back now. "Are you and Duncan done for today already?"
"No," he replied as if he'd suddenly remembered something. "We might have to special order some parts—can't find a pen that writes."
In Ana's guilty mind she must have sprinted to the desk with mach one speed. "Here you go."
Sean's eyes were warm and concerned as they scanned her face. If he noticed her weird behavior, he didn't let on. Would he look at her differently once he knew everything? How she wished she could go back to when they were just two people without history reframing the context of their relationship.
"Yeah," she said weakly as she returned the book to its place on the shelf. It slid home easily this time, mocking her previous efforts. "I'm not in the event planning mood right now." Those were the first honest words she'd spoken since Sean walked in on her. He pulled her back into his chest; his body blanketing hers in his warmth and strength. She felt his mouth at her neck, then her temple as he rocked her. His clean, masculine scent smelled so good. Ana wanted to lock the door and stay like this with him.
"Focus on what you have to get done and get it out of the way so you can enjoy yourself tonight. We'll have fun."
Ana burrowed into his embrace. "Yes."
Sean gave her a quick kiss on the temple. "I better go before Duncan throws a fit."
No, it wasn't the right time to launch into The Conversation while his brother stood waiting in the garage. They needed to talk in private with no interruptions.
"Check out that book. It's a good one," he called over his shoulder.
Ana mumbled something back in agreement and released a heavy breath. Saying nothing had been the considerate thing to do. That's what she told herself as she drifted further out to sea.
A feminine yell pulled Ana from her wistful musings.
Kelly leaned closer to Noah as she shouted, "He's good isn't he?"
"Yeah," Noah remarked distantly, so absorbed, his eyes stayed locked on the stage and ignored the redhead next to him. It was a testament to his replacement's guitar skills because the girl's kohl rimmed hazel eyes and do-me red lips were striking. Several jealous and lecherous eyes followed her when she first slinked to the table in snug black jeans and a black leather vest.
Noah brought his lips to Ana's ear. "It's hard to believe he's a suit."
All of Ana's attention traveled slightly to the left. She couldn't tear her eyes away. The stage provided the perfect outlet for Sean's energy and charisma. The duet told the story of a long drive into the night with one lover begging the other to leave their mistakes at the next turnoff. The song came to the bridge, with just the lead singer, Sean and his acoustic guitar. The two circles of white light and the people inside them blazed through a world of inky blackness.
Sean had disappeared into another world where only the song and the guitar existed. The arch of his head towards the mic and slight bend of his knee as he rocked back were pure sensuality. He gave his soul away while the intimate ache in his voice curled around the lyrics. His fingers called sharp, biting notes from the guitar with increasing speed and agility. Awestruck whistles and claps sliced through the pockets of respectful silence. Heads bobbed in time with the rhythm.
Everything in Ana's world narrowed in on the man with the guitar. Foggy ribbons swirled inside his halo. Sean was a star and an angel in blue jeans and a black t-shirt. He closed his eyes and repeated the chorus one last time in a breathy rasp. The sound sent shivers down her arms, the words stung her eyes. She'd been pulled from her body through an invisible link between them.
Ana gasped when everything vanished into a formless black cloud. When the lights came back on, she knew she had fallen in love.
* * * * *
The blue-eyed brunette zeroed on him the second his hand landed on the bar top. He'd just opened his mouth when she yelled to the bartender, "His drink's on me."
Ah, the perks of being a musician.
"I'm Katiya," she shouted over the voices buzzing around them.
He offered his name and his hand before wrapping his fingers around the chilled beer bottle. "Thanks." He winked as he tilted the neck in her direction and took a swig. "Hey, Mike!" he called out to the bartender then pointed to Katiya, "she's picking up my tab tonight!"
Katiya laughed then let her eyes wander speculatively down his frame before she leaned in closer "That depends," she quipped with a crimson pout.
Sean took a lazy sip while he challenged the femme fatale dare in her eyes with a mix of indifference and humor. He spoke when uncertainty caused the pout to fade. She was hot but not spirited enough to match the vixen persona she projected. Ana would've artfully dueled with him until she had him on his knees digging for his next comeback. "Just when I thought I'd made a new friend for life you went and blew it," he teased and pretended to hand the beer back to her. His remark put Katiya at ease but gave her ego something to play for. Everybody turned out a winner.
He gave her as much attention as he could while he got slaps on the back from friends of the band and hellos from patrons. While Katiya took his free hand in hers to praise its skill, his eyes wove through the crowd, looking for a dark head with upswept curls and a teal blouse. He found her...in the arms of an older man. He enjoyed seeing her smiling and having a good time after stressing so much earlier.
Katiya must have misread his sudden fascination with the dance floor because they were on their way there the next instant. She did her best to impress him with her slow undulating moves. Her black spaghetti strap dress clung to every sexual grind of her hips and jut of her breasts. There was something about it that undermined the sensuality she'd been going for; the desperate call for his attention undervalued the appeal of her other assets.
Ana's brown eyes found his. They were full of mischief but beyond that they held an easy confidence. The boldness and power behind it had a much more potent effect than Katiya's brand of forced sexiness. His brows met as Ana whispered something into her partner's ear and pecked him on the cheek. Maybe he had a strand Neanderthal DNA after all. She and the man parted ways and she walked up to Katiya, tapping the shorter woman on the shoulder.
"Hi, lovely, I'm cutting in." Ana didn't pretend to ask; she simply stated her intention then took what she came for. Hot.
Sean reached for her hands and pulled her close, making it clear to Katiya he more than approved of the unexpected handoff.
"You looked like you needed rescuing," Ana teased as she settled into his arms. Her left arm hugged his upper back while his right arm rested on her waist. He loved how her height allowed her body to fit perfectly against his, like she'd been made for him to hold.
He felt her slight jolt when his lips grazed her ear and his cock reacted to her responsiveness. "I'll have to find some way to show my gratitude."
Ana drew her head back to look at him. Her brown eyes darkened with seductive awareness. "Oh?"
She probably wouldn't have looked at him that way if she had any idea the effect she had on him.
"You have no idea how much I want you right now."
His words sent a spark of sensual excitement over her skin. He kissed the spot below her ear, the one that always drove her crazy. She breathed in his light citrus and sandalwood scent, noticing how his sweat sharpened its verbena notes.
"I was watching you dance with that guy."
Her perfect left brow lifted and her hand moved between his shoulders in slow sweeps. "Really? I thought you had your hands full," she taunted playfully.
He led them around the other bodies packed onto the dimly lit dance floor. "Just not the way I wanted," he said against her mouth.
He captured her full lower lip between his teeth and licked it with the tip of his tongue before easing inside. Her mouth parted for him, eager for the slow, velvet thrust that joined his tongue to hers. She moaned as Sean's flavor went straight to her head, erasing everything but the feel and taste of him. The kiss turned hot and greedy, and dangerously close to the way they kissed when they intended to do more than sample the erotic secrets of each other's mouths.
His thumb stroked the knuckles of the hand he'd been holding above his heart. "I'd have you right here, if I could."
The way his eyes searched the room got her nervous and titillated. Surely he wouldn't...
"Sean..." she faltered as they danced their way into a corner partially secluded by a column and heavy black drapes suspended from the ceiling. Excitement swerved out to race with her nervous sense of propriety. "We can't," she half-chuckled as their denim clad legs stopped rubbing over each other.
Ana had said the one word that didn't carry much weight in Sean's vocabulary. She saw it in his ravenous glare.
"Sean, we can't!" Ana reasoned as she felt his fingers sneak under her blouse. His fingers drew random patterns along her spine making her tingle and squirm. Then he kissed her half-assed protest right off her mouth.
"You like knowing you turn me on, don't you," he demanded. "I bet it gets you hot," he said into her ear. His wicked whisper turned into prophecy when Ana the pulse between her legs rivaled the one inside her chest. Heat and desire trickled to the juncture of her thighs. Sean cupped her there, rubbing her through the layers of fabric.
"Sean," she gasped, "st-o-op." But her pleasure began to build even as she tried to reign it in. It was like a balloon floating heavenwards, the string slipping through her fingers.
"What was that, baby?"
"You're going to make me come."
"Come for me then," he insisted while he nuzzled her neck.
Somewhere in the haze Ana heard his low words about how beautiful and sexy he found her, how he loved watching her come. His palm pressed against her sex in dizzying circles and Ana writhed against his hand until they'd found the perfect cadence. Sensation coiled within her core then expanded and expanded.
"That's it, love. Come for me...come."
The love word flooded her senses like an aphrodisiac, bursting through the walls of restraint. The room, the swaying bodies and dim lights spun around then exploded into flashes of darkness and light. She grabbed onto his arms as the rush came hard, fast and hot.
Sean took her halting breaths and tight, little sobs into his mouth. Watching her was one thing but he knew he couldn't listen to the sounds she made and not take her to a bathroom or outside, whichever was nearest. Her hips jerked and her nails dug into his biceps.
Ana looked drunk and dazed as his hands cradled her nape. His thumbs traced the faint blush staining her cheeks. She smiled as if she'd found a private happiness. He hugged her to him, his hands now soothing her as she recovered. She wrapped her arms around his middle and pressed her mouth to his jugular, leaving her mark on him again. His pulse sped up.
"Hey, man!" Noah shouted, interrupting much more than a couple sharing a few kisses. "We've been looking all over for you."
Sean dropped a kiss onto Ana's nose. Ah, the perks of being a musician.
* * * * *
Ana shot him a quick glance after she merged Sean's Range Rover onto the interstate. "I've been meaning to ask you...you love performing and you're really good. So how come you didn't pursue a career in music?"
"Can you imagine the look on Dominic and Clodagh's faces if I said: 'Hey, this law school thing isn't for me—I'm dropping out and going to be a musician instead.' They would've shit a brick after everything that happened with Duncan."
Granted she'd only met Sean's parents that one time at the hospital, but they seemed to be supportive parents, especially his father, and they didn't come off as perfectionists or image slaves.
"Did they put a lot of pressure on you?"
Sean pressed his head into the headrest and looked over at her. "They weren't down our throats to be perfect but they definitely expected us to finish college and get good jobs. Look at Duncan," he said with admiration, "even with all the responsibilities of being a husband and father he went to school and got his business degree."
"I can't imagine how hard that must have been for him. But wouldn't your dad have been okay with you giving it a try after school though?"
"I think if I wanted it bad enough I would have done it with or without my parents' support. Don't get me wrong I love everything about music and the whole process but it's not something I had to do back then. Those guys in the band tonight, they never thought of doing anything else. I wasn't like that at their age."
"What about that band you were in Boston? You said there was a story there but you haven't told me."
Ana peeked over when Sean didn't answer right away. He wore an unreadable expression.
"We almost had a record deal," he said quietly.
Ana turned into a groupie for a minute. "Really? That's a big deal right?"
His faint smile didn't quiet touch his sky blue eyes. "Yeah, but it's not as glamorous as you'd think."
"So what happened?"
"A talent executive saw us play a few times and approached us about submitting a demo. We were all licking it up. We all thought it was a dream come true because you hear about artists who spend years trying to get a record label to even give them a chance and there we were getting it handed to us."
"Then the business side kicked in." Sean's exhale replicated the air being let out of a balloon containing a treasured dream. "We had people making suggestions on what we should write, how we should sound, what image we should project. It started to feel like we had to turn out backs on almost everything we were about. They had definite ideas on how the band should be marketed, which meant putting the focus on the front man."
She imagined him rebelling against being dictated on how things should be. "Was that you?"
Sean made a sound, almost a laugh. "No, but thanks for the vote of confidence."
Ana smiled over at him.
"His name was Brian and I think all the attention went to his head. All of a sudden he was cool with us getting signed to make music we used to think was nothing but prepackaged shit. And it didn't help having him strut around like a peacock when egos got bruised."
"So what happened to the band?"
Sean paused again. "Brian hooked up with some girl who worked at the label and I started going out with his ex after they broke up. Only he tried to play it off like I stole his girlfriend and wanted the other guys to take sides. Everything tanked from that point on. It was kind of a rock 'n roll cliché. "
"And what happened to the girl?"
Sean didn't see that question coming—at least not from Ana. Talking about ex-girlfriends wasn't his thing. And if there ever was an ex he never wanted to think about or talk about, Lauren Emery owned that title outright.
"We dated on and off after the band broke up."
He thought that would satisfy her curiosity and they'd close the history book. Then they'd move onto much better things like getting home and finishing up what they started at the club. But he thought wrong, Ana wanted to stop and check things out instead of flying on through.
"How long did you date?"
What was it with women and their fascination with ancient history?
She must've noticed something because she asked, "What?"
"It's kind of weird talking about your ex-girlfriend with your current girlfriend."
"You know that's the first time you referred to me as your girlfriend?"
He would've given into the temptation to make a joke about Ana's remark if it didn't come at him like a missed jab. What about all the things they'd done together, all the ways he'd showed her he wanted her and cared? Didn't that speak for itself much more than any label could? But the tone in her voice set off some weird signals in his gut. He let the moment pass wondering if he should have said something but his mood had soured too much for him to find the right thing to say, whatever that was. But honestly did she need a billboard?