In case you missed it, Chapter One is here.
I stare at Jonathan, eyes wide, the words “former boyband star” echoing through my head.
I gasp. “Oh my God.”
That’s why I recognize him.
It’s been bugging me since he sat down. And there was a moment when he gave me a smile that tugged at my memories. He’s doing it again, and now I know why that smile looks familiar.
I had it plastered on my wall when I was in middle school. A younger version of that face, that smile. Those intense green eyes.
In case any doubt remained, Julia banished it completely when she finished my sentence. “Johnny B. Of Brash. I take it you were a fan, Gabby?”
I spare her a quick glance and a nod as I swallow hard, feeling stunned by this revelation. But I’m not so lost in my own surprise that I don’t catch the grimace that flickers across Jonathan’s—Johnny B’s?—face. He introduced himself as Jonathan. So I’ll keep calling him that. But oh my God.
My love affair with Brash started when I was twelve. They were my favorite band for longer than they were really around. I got their CD for my birthday and played it so much it started skipping. My brother, Lance, took pity on me and bought me the album on iTunes and gave me his old iPod so I could still listen to them as much as I wanted.
“Awww.” Emma’s voice cuts through my reverie, startling me out of my walk down memory lane. She continues in a stage whisper intended for everyone to hear, “I think our Gabby’s smitten.”
She’s right, but not for the reason she thinks. Or not only for the reason she thinks. After our conversation, I like him. This guy. Jonathan. That I’ve gotten to know, flirt with, discuss music and books with. The fact that he’s also my first celebrity crush isn’t the important thing here. It’s sort of an interesting side fact.
Jonathan shifts, looking uncomfortable. “Well, hey—“
I put my hand on his arm and turn to Julia and Emma, cutting him off before he can finish that sentence. His tone is too final sounding. Like he’s going to leave and never call me. “Why don’t y’all go ahead? I’ll catch up to you in a minute.”
Emma looks like she might protest, but Julia’s brown eyes bounce between me, Jonathan, and my hand on his arm. She nudges Emma, prodding her toward the door. “Alright. But don’t be late. I plan to raise your hand today and make a scene, see if I can get us to stick in Dr. Presley’s mind so he’ll quit looking on the opposite side of the room when he calls our names.”
I laugh at that. “Alright. I promise I’ll be there before class starts.” We’ve been sitting in the same spot since day one, and Julia’s last name, King, is right after mine, Kane, on the class list. But our professor can’t seem to remember where we are. She warned me on Tuesday that she was going to try to make us more memorable today. I guess now I know her plan.
She nods and ushers Emma away, leaving me alone with Jonathan again. With my hand still on his arm.
I let go of him as soon as I realize I’m still touching him and bring my eyes up to his.
He gives me that practiced smile again, but now his eyes are distant, shuttered, instead of interested and warm like they were before we got interrupted. Picking up his messenger bag, he settles it across his torso, making his T-shirt pull tight across his pecs, and clicks the pen still in his hand. “So you want me to sign something?”
The resigned, almost irritated quality of his voice makes me drag my eyes off his chest and back to his face. He has a nice chest. I was enjoying looking at it. His arms are nice, too, and I’ve noticed the way the sleeves of his shirt cling to his biceps when he moves. The way his forearms flex when he messes with the pen. I’ve noticed a lot about him, and I’d like the chance to notice it again. Which is why I didn’t mind him interrupting me doing my homework and claiming the empty chair at my table. And why I’m glad that the coffee shop was crowded when he came in.
But he seems irritated. And I’m not sure if it’s because of Julia and Emma or me. Or both.
I bite my lip and decide to pretend like what they said doesn’t matter. Because it mostly doesn’t. I was looking forward to seeing him again before they dropped that bomb. And that hasn’t changed.
With a deep breath, I give him my best smile. “Sorry about them. They’re kind of loud, but friendly enough.”
He crosses his arms, which distracts me again. Because, biceps. Forearms. Strong hands with long fingers, clicking that pen. “Oh, um, sure.”
I force my eyes to meet his again. “So, since you clearly need to expand your musical horizons, there’s a faculty recital tonight in the performing arts center. You should come. With me.” With great effort, I clamp my mouth shut, stemming the tide of babble that wants to erupt. When I’m nervous, I babble. And I just asked a guy out who’s really hot and I think he’s into me or I did until about thirty seconds ago and he was in the band that I loved as a young teenager and I had posters of him all over my room and memorized his answers in almost every magazine interview he gave and I kept those issues forever and they’re still in a box under my bed back home and oh my God oh my God oh my God.
He’s looking me up and down, almost squinting. “I’m sorry, what?”
Did I say some of that out loud? Oh God, I hope not. “What what?”
He places his hand on his chest. “I need to expand my musical horizons? Seriously?”
With a little shrug and a crooked grin, I adjust my backpack on my shoulder. “Well, you’ve never heard the Bach unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas. Obviously you need a more thorough musical education.”
His mouth moves to one side, then he rolls his lips between his teeth like he’s fighting a smile. But he doesn’t answer, just looks me over again, like he’s wondering what the catch is.
I give a dramatic sigh and put my hand on my hip, checking the time on my phone. “Well, I have to go to class. I promised Julia I wouldn’t be late. The recital’s at seven thirty. I would’ve asked earlier if I knew you’d take this long to decide.” I nod to the paper still in his hand. “You have my number. Text me if you decide not to show. Otherwise, I’ll meet you in the lobby at seven fifteen.”
With one last smile, I turn, being sure to flip my hair like I’ve seen my older sister Marissa do a million times, and flounce out the door.
I force myself to keep walking until I know I’m out of sight of the coffee shop. And then I stop, sagging against a tree for a second, letting the reality of the last few minutes wash over me.
My roommate Lauren is going to die when I tell her about this. Since she doesn’t have a class right now, I briefly consider skipping mine to find her. But I promised Julia I wouldn’t be late. And it’s only the second week of classes. Skipping now seems like bad form.
With a deep, steadying breath, I push thoughts of Johnny B—Jonathan—away. For now.
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