Chapter 6: Romeo

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 33

Keegan

Shirtless and with a guitar slung over his shoulder, Blue scrambles up the tree like frickin' Romeo climbing the balcony for Juliet.

And then he sits on the branch that extends toward my window, puts his feet on the roof, pulls the guitar to his chest and begins to sing.

It's absolutely ridiculous. 

And kind of hot.

His voice is like his smile, deep and warm, with a gravelly hint of mischief in it. I've never heard the song before, but it's one of those slow, poignant numbers that should set me on fire.

Instead, my eyes fill with tears. Again

What the hell is wrong with me?

Blue stops singing. "Not exactly the reaction I was going for," he says dryly.

And that makes me cry even harder. "I'm sorry," I blubber. "I'm really sorry. It's a beautiful song, and you sing it so well. It's just that..."

I wipe my nose on my arm and realize too late how disgusting that looks. "The song got to me," I go on. "I'm feeling kind of overwhelmed right now, I guess."

I snort a couple of times and fight back the urge to wipe my nose again. 

Why did I tell him how I'm feeling? 

I'd been just about finished writing in my journal when Blue called up to me. 

As always, when I write, the words coming out of the pen stirred up memories and emotions. I can never just set words on paper or type them in without a bunch of feelings being attached. 

Words are that powerful to me.

"You want to talk about it?" he asks.

Yes

"No."

From his perch in the tree, Blue shoots me an amused grin. Did I nod when I spoke just now? Do I look as confused as I feel?

I feel myself blushing. Again. 

He looks so good in the moonlight.

Jesus H. Christ. Something Virginia says all the time.

I take a deep breath, irritated to be imitating her. 

"Thanks, Blue. I really appreciate your concern. But I'll work through it." 

I use my grandmother's tone: cold, distant, in control. Probably too late to pull that out, but it's all I have.

Blue gives me an intense look, then shifts his eyes to his guitar, idly strumming the strings. 

I swipe my fingers under my eyes one last time. 

"The song you were singing," I say after a few seconds, regretting—a little bit—the way I'd spoken to him. "It's beautiful. I've never heard it before."

I clear my throat a couple of times and hug my knees to my chest. "Who sings it?"

"Frasier Bryson," Blue answers, like it's obvious. 

"Who?"

He groans at my blank expression. 

"It kills me that people don't know who Bryson is," he mutters like he's talking to himself.

Then he goes on. "He's the head of Ikana's music department, and one of the world's greatest songwriters and folk singers. He never got the recognition he deserved in the sixties and seventies. I don't understand why."

"Oh." My voice sounds small and silly. But seriously, who the hell has ever heard of Frasier Bryson?

"He dropped out of the scene for a long time and became kind of a hermit," Blue continues as I notice for the first time how loud the cicadas sound around us. 

"Then, about twenty years ago, he decided he wanted to teach. He's the one who started the program here at Ikana." 

Blue lets the guitar hang on his chest as he grips the branch above him and dangles his feet in the tree. 

"Bryson is the whole reason I'm here," he adds.

I nod. I've heard the college has a great music program and that it is hard to get into. 

We sit there for a moment without saying anything. 

From down the street, I can hear the deep bass of someone's stereo system. On the other side, I can hear people yelling at each other.

Almost all the shabby houses around us are probably rented out by hard-partying college students who aren't too picky about where they live.

I suddenly imagine what Virginia would say if she saw where I'm living. If she saw this house that she's paying for. It makes me smile.

"So Keegan," Blue says in a wheedling tone as I return my gaze to him, "you going to invite me up there? Or do I have to stay in this tree all night?"

Hmmn. 

I should probably tell him to go down the way he came up. I didn't ask him to climb the stupid tree. But what harm can it do? And what if he fell out of the tree trying to get down?

"Of course, you can come up," I answer. "I don't own this roof."

He laughs at that, then starts crawling toward me, the guitar hanging off his chest. When he gets close enough, I nervously grab one of his arms to help him up, breathing a deep sigh of relief when he finally settles down next to me.

"We could both have plunged off here, you know," I quip. "Maybe use the door next time. It'd be a lot easier on my nerves." 

He shrugs, then grins. "Nah. I wouldn't let that happen, roomie." 

He wipes a couple of leaves off the front of his white T-shirt. "Besides, I've done it before. I didn't need your help."

I shake my head, not sure if I'm impressed or alarmed by his bravado. 

We're quiet for a few minutes, listening to the night sounds. The wind has picked up, and the flimsy curtains on my window whip around.

I finally break the silence with one of the questions I've been wanting to ask. "So, Blue, how'd you end up here at Ikana? I mean, you were in the military, right? But you're not anymore?"

My change of topic seems to startle him. 

"Honorably discharged." His tone has abruptly changed; it's sharp and a little defensive. "I was honorably discharged...after an injury." 

He looks away. He seems to be struggling to speak for a moment. "You saw the scars," he adds. "I don't really like to talk about it."

"Oh." I feel bad for bringing it up. Kind of. "Okay. I'm sorry." 

I look up into the sky. I really am a douche sometimes.

"Yeah, so, Ikana is the only place I wanted to come." Blue changes the subject, his voice a little husky. "Because of Bryson, obviously." 

I just look at him, unsure what to say. I'm still thinking about his war wound.

"You really know nothing about him, huh?" He shakes his head in disbelief at what must be a blank expression on my face.

I decide to tease him a little. "My mom might have mentioned the name when I was growing up." 

I grin and lift one shoulder in a semi-shrug. "I mean, unlike me, she was into really old music. Bryson's sure not a household name, though. You have to admit that."

Blue doesn't seem to pick up on my teasing tone. A genuinely sorrowful look crosses his face. "I just don't get it," he murmurs.

We sit in silence for a moment. The nearby argument from the neighbors has gotten louder.

"I wanted to get here before Bryson retired," Blue goes on. "Or died. He's an old man now. 

"I had to finagle an audition in front of him because I missed the deadline to apply. Turns out he has a soft spot for soldiers. It was awesome. I'll have to tell you that whole story sometime. If you want to hear it, of course."

His face has softened; for a second, he looks like a hopeful little kid. 

"I would like to hear it, I say. And I mean it. 

Something inside me does a little flip.

"Hey," I say, playfully, wanting ti lighten the mood, "you should sing at the house parties instead of that guy you said was a douche." 

Even though I don't want to encourage more partying, I'm thinking I've come up with a great idea.

But Blue doesn't answer. He just sits there, staring at my mouth. 

Before I even know what's happening, he draws his thumb across my lower lip. 

It's just a quick gesture. But it definitely turns me on. I think I might even have moaned. I'm not sure if the sound came out of my mouth, or I just heard it in my head.

He is about to kiss me. And, the truth is, I'm down for it, whether I want to admit it or not. 

My eyes flutter closed in anticipation.

And then Blue chuckles, and my eyes fly open. 

"I was talking about myself," he says. "I'm the douche. It was my band playing last night."

"Oh." I've barely gotten the word out when he does kiss me. I'd describe it as an exploratory kiss. It's soft, tender, exquisite.

And I want more. Oh. Dear. God. Do I want more. Part of me does, anyway.

But that's not how I react. 

I pull back and twist my head away, then slap my hands on my thighs in a gesture of dismissal. 

I'm irritated by how much I want to follow the kissing wherever it might lead.

I just met this guy. I do not want to end up in bed with him. 

Well, okay, maybe a part of me does want that. But it's not going to happen. It absolutely is not going to happen. 

And really, Blue is out of line. We literally just met. 

It's too soon for him to be kissing me. I mean, he shouldn't assume he can kiss me at all. Who does that? 

He's kind of pushy. More than kind of.

I'm mad at him. Sort of. I'm definitely mad at myself.

"Okay, well, that's not..." I start, then try again, "...this is not what I'm here for and, you know, I have to be at the newspaper very early tomorrow so..." 

I sound harsh and businesslike, which is exactly how I want to sound.

Blue doesn't move, just sits there with his hands draped over his guitar, looking bemused. 

"Newspaper?" he asks, a little squeak in his voice. 

"I'm trying to get a reporter job at The Daily," I explain with an exasperated sigh.

"The campus newspaper," I add when it's obvious he doesn't know what I'm talking about.

"I didn't know we even had a campus paper."

"Really?" I sputter. "Ikana's journalism program is known all over the country, and you didn't know we had a newspaper? It's only one of the top college newspapers in the U.S. You mean you never read it?" 

I sound outraged. I am outraged.

I've been a news junkie ever since I can remember. It always amazes me how many people don't bother to keep up with what's going on.

But puts his hands up in a mocking defense. "Hey, no need to get upset over it." 

He barks out a short, harsh laugh. "I try to avoid the news. I don't really want to know what's going on in the world anymore." 

He looks away, but not before I see a flash of pain cross his face. 

"Well," I say, starting to inch my way back to the window, "I really need to finish setting up my room." 

This conversation's gone as far as it probably should.

I've put my journal and phone in one hand, and I'm using the other hand to steady myself on the roof.

"So you're a journalism major?" Blue asks, as if I'm not obviously trying to leave the scene. "And a freshman?"

I've almost reached the window, but I pause and turn back to him. "Yeah."

Then, for no good reason, I go on. 

"I waited 'til the last minute to accept a spot here, and all the reporter slots were already assigned. But I know I can do a great job. So I'm going to show up in the morning and try to convince the editor."

Hearing myself explain my strategy, I realize it sounds lame and childish. But I've left out the part about having decided to use my family connections to get the job. 

For months, I promised myself I would not do that. But apparently, my principles only go so far. Which makes me not much different than the woman I despise.

I shake my head, again trying to clear the troublesome thought.

"Um, Keegan, is it okay if I go through your room?" Blue asks as I'm sliding my feet through the open window. "Or do I have to go down the way I came up?"

My eyes slide to the bed I haven't even slept in yet. It's sitting there, probably still smelling of the disinfectant I sprayed all over it before making it up. 

Blue has already kissed me, already made clear what he wants. Put all that together with my mutinous body parts, and the bed right there as an invitation, and it could be dangerous.

Maybe dangerous is just what I need. 

I can't believe I'm even thinking that.

"Don't worry, Keegan." Blue sounds like he's about to burst out laughing. 

He can probably tell there's a war going on in my head. 

"I'm going right out the door. You're perfectly safe."

And again, I am goddam blushing. "Of course you can go through my room," I snap. 

I've pulled out the impatient tone again. I need to stick with it. I need to use it every time I'm around Blue.

He follows me inside and quickly heads to the door, turning just before he leaves the room.

" 'Night, Keegan," he says softly. "And, um, sorry if I did something I shouldn't have. I thought. . .never mind. I was out of line, and I am sorry. Really. It won't happen again."

"'Goodnight, Blue." 

I sit on my bed, trying to ignore the fact that I'm a little disappointed he's leaving and that he's pledged not to try kissing me again. 

"Hey, Blue?"

The door is almost closed. He sticks his head back inside. "Yeah?"

"Would you sing that song again to me sometime?"

He pauses as that impish smile—the one that lights up his eyes—rolls across his face once more. Every time it does, I get the tingly feeling again. 

I like it, and I don't like it. It's definitely starting to freak me out.

"Count on it," he responds. Then he quietly closes the door.


Submitted: December 29, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Emily Blaze. All rights reserved.

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