When he finally talks, my skin jumps at the rich, deep sound.
“What’s your thing with old Siouxsie there?”
I don’t need to see him to know he’s gesturing with his chin toward the framed poster of Siouxsie Sioux, lead singer for Siouxsie and the Banshees, that hangs over my bed. With her exaggerated straight black brows, wild black bob, and tiny red bow mouth she looks like a deranged Betty Boop, a Goth flapper girl. She screams timeless beauty and “fuck off” all at once. I love her style.
“She’s not old,” I protest. Though I suppose she is now. Likely she’s in her fifties. I really don’t want to know. Up there, on my wall, she’s immortal.
“You didn’t answer me,” he presses. A soft rustle of noise, and I know he’s turned his head to look at me. I keep my eyes on Siouxsie. This doesn’t deter Baylor. “You seem to have a thing for her.”
We’re listening to her now, her haunting voice singing a cover of Dear Prudence.
I shrug, and my arm rubs against his. “Just look at her. She didn’t give a f**k. She led an all-male band, was part of a sound revolution.” I shrug again. “And she’s f**king cool.”
He chuckles. It’s a good laugh. Deep and infectious. Just hearing it makes me smile.
His laughter dies down, and we’re silent for a moment, just listening to music and lying there. His legs are so long that his bent knees rise at least five inches higher than mine. They are dusky blue hills beneath the backdrop of Siouxsie’s haunted eyes. I’m relaxed, I realize. And at the same time, tension, ever present when he is near, simmers low in my stomach.
“So you like old music, huh?” he asks.
I turn my head just enough to see his arm. His biceps is so big that I wonder if I can get my two hands around it. I’m tempted to try. “Yeah,” I say, my voice far too husky. “I guess I do.”
He nods, and his square chin comes into view. And his mouth. I’m in love with his mouth, and I’ve never even tasted it. The lower lip is wide yet full, a gentle curve that I want to follow with my tongue. But I won’t.
His upper lip is almost a bow, a cruel little sneer of a lip, and yet the effect is ruined because Drew is almost always smiling. He isn’t now, though. His lips are relaxed, fuller.
They move when he speaks. “I like Lynryd Skynryd, Zepplin, Queen.” He says this like it’s a confession. Like I’m going to sit up and point and shout, Ah-ha! Closet classic rock junkie! When he ought to know that I won’t, not when I listen to Brit-punk albums older than I am.
It’s his turn to shrug, as if my silence is agitating to him. “My dad used to listen to that stuff.” His body tilts toward mine as he reaches in his back pocket and pulls out his wallet. The picture held between his thumb and his forefinger shakes only a little as he hands it to me. “My parents.”
His parents are young in the picture. They’re hanging on to each other, arms slung over their shoulders as they ham it up for the camera. His dad is tall, dark, and handsome, in a fashion victim sort of way because he’s sporting a bad 80’s mullet and wearing skintight jeans and a black AC/DC tee. But his grin is wide and a dimple graces his cheek. Drew’s mom is kissing his other cheek, but she’s sort of smearing her lips over him as she turns to the camera, and she’s clearly laughing about her antics. She’s her own fashion victim, maybe more so than his dad, but she looks awesome doing it. Her blonde, curly hair is teased to epic proportions and brushes her shoulders. A floppy black lace bow keeps the mass of it off of her small face. She’s got on an honest-to-God black lace bustier and a shin length tight black skirt, paired with combat boots that I kind of covet when I see them. Black rubber bracelets engulf her forearms.
“So your mom was into Madonna, I take it?” I grin over at Drew, and he laughs lightly.
“Yeah, for a few months, the way she’d tell it.” His expression turns soft. “They called this their Hall of Shame picture. They were on their way to Live Aid.”
“No shit? I remember reading about that concert in my History of Rock and Roll class.”
“God, if my dad had heard you say that. He considered that concert the highlight of his young life.”
I’m smiling as I study the picture. But my heart aches. I can almost feel their joy, and their absence. “They look so young and happy. Beautiful, too.” Because they are. Drew has his mom’s nose and eyes, and his Dad’s sharp jaw line and smile.
I give him the picture, handling it with the care that it deserves. He doesn’t look at it as he tucks it away. “They met in college.” His voice goes quiet, and he turns to stare back up at the ceiling. “And they were happy.”
His profile is tight, the corners of his mouth hard. “I don’t know, I guess… I guess I feel closer to them by listening to what they listened to.”
The pain, that sharp, dark pain buried deep in his words, the pain that he’s fighting to hide, hits me straight through the middle. I clear my throat, find my voice. “And who doesn’t love Queen?” I give him a little nudge, just the barest move of my elbow against his arm. “I mean, isn’t We Will Rock You like every jock’s anthem?”
My reward is his grin, and the way the corners of his eyes crinkle. A soft laugh leaves him. “Yeah,” he says quietly, and then with more lightness, “Yeah, suppose it is.”
I don’t know what else to say. I’m comforting Drew Baylor when I’m supposed to be f**king him. An uncomfortable knot begins to writhe in my stomach. I don’t deserve to hear about his parents. To even look upon their smiling faces. Suddenly I want him out of here. I can’t breathe.
I’m about to ask him to go when he talks again.
“So I guess you like those Emo type of guys.” He turns his head slightly, and our eyes meet. There it is, that low, hot hum within me that happens every time, as if his eyes have some freaking super power with a direct line to my sex. The bed groans beneath him as he rolls to his side. He props a hand under his head, and now he’s looming over me.
His voice slows, gets richer, lower, as if he too feels the hum. “Guys who dress in black and pluck out half-ass tunes on their guitars to show their inner torment.”
There’s a guitar in my room. A Gibson acoustic that my mom gave me on my eighteenth birthday. I’d seen his gaze land on it when he first entered my room.
“Maybe I’m the one who plucks half-assed tunes.”
Baylor’s grin is lazy, and those little lines that bracket his mouth deepen. There’s a knowing look in his eyes, as if he can read my mind. And maybe he can. Because his next words are, “I bet it pisses you off that you can’t play a whole song.”
I glare at him, but I can’t be properly pissed off. He’s right, after all. I wanted so badly to play, but I suck. My fingers are like drunken frat boys stumbling all over each other on the frets. A disgrace. “It does.”
As if my honesty needs a reward, his smile grows wider. That smile. It takes my breath, then gives it back. But now my breath is too fast and too light. His golden gaze slides down to where my br**sts are rising and falling in sudden agitation, and his expression turns serious, almost stern, as if he’s contemplating doing dark things to them. I’m up for it. I’m pretty sure he could bite me there, and I’d like it.
But he slowly looks back up at me. Color darkens his high cheeks, and though his voice is a bit rougher, he’s still in control. The bastard. “I can play,” he says. It isn’t a brag. It’s a statement.
“You? The guitar?” Skepticism stretches out my words.
White teeth flash. “Me. The big, dumb jock.” He says it mockingly, but not in anger. As if he knows that most people assume jocks are dumb, but he doesn’t really give a f**k.
“I don’t think you’re dumb,” I blurt out. It’s as close to a real compliment as I’ve ever given him. And we both know it.
He stills. And then his massive body, all that flat-packed muscle leans into me, pausing inches away, close enough so I feel the heat of his breath against my cheek when he whispers, “I don’t think you’re dumb either.”
Then, in that quick, effortless way of his, he rolls away and goes for the guitar.
I sit up, curling my feet under me, as he settles on my bedroom chair and fiddles with the strings to tune the guitar. It looks good in his hand. No, he isn’t reed thin or wearing skinny jeans—the mere idea of which makes me want to laugh; Drew Baylor was made for low-slung Levis and t-shirts that strain against defined muscles. But he holds the Gibson with authority.
“Mom said that I couldn’t just be about sports. So, if I wanted to play them, I had to learn an instrument too.”
“What a slave driver,” I tease.
“That was the gist of my protest.”
When he gets the guitar the way he wants it, he begins to play. The melody is complex and familiar. It takes me a moment to place it. Norwegian Wood.
“Now my mom,” he says as he plays, his attention on the strings, “she might have liked Madonna, but she freaking loved The Beatles.”
He plays on and a flush rises to my face. After all, it’s a song about a woman using a man for sex. Did he pick it specifically for me? Or was it just to show off his skill? I’m not going to ask and, all too soon, it’s over. His eyes meet mine, and there’s a playful glint in his. “Or maybe an old open-mic standard?” He eases into Dave Matthews’ Crash Into Me. “Emo guys love playing this one.”
The blush of annoyance within me rises. Hayden, my old boyfriend, used to play this song. On open-mic night. All the f**king time. But he never achieved the quick, flowing ease with which Drew’s fingers coax the melody from the guitar.
Worse, Drew sings. He isn’t perfect, his voice drifts off key and is rough, but it doesn’t matter because he sells the song. I can hear my Grandpa Joe’s voice in my head telling me that this boy could sell ice in Antarctica.
Drew doesn’t finish the song, and I know it isn’t because he can’t, it’s because he’s not trying to show off. He’s just messing around. He proves this when he catches my eye and grins wide. I’m in his thrall. I grin back when he stops and begins to thump on the side of the guitar and belt out the words to We Will Rock You.
And I laugh. Because he gives it his all. Makes an ass of himself, and clearly doesn’t care. And suddenly I don’t care either. I join him, shouting out the words along with him.
“You dork,” I say when we finish.
“Look who’s talking.” Drew begins to laugh, and I do too. We feed off each other, laughing until I’m holding my side. It isn’t really that funny, what we’re laughing over. Maybe it’s just a way to break the tension that always pulls tight between us. Or maybe it’s because he, like me, hasn’t really laughed just for the hell of it in a long time. I don’t know. I don’t even care. It’s good not to care about anything for a while.
As if by some silent, mutual agreement our laughter dies down as one. And we’re left staring at each other, both a little breathless. His gaze goes molten. It’s like he’s flicked a switch, leaving me in the dark, and he’s my light. He’s all I can see.
The chair creaks beneath him as he slowly lowers the guitar. I can’t move. I can’t catch my breath. I’m so hot my skin hurts. There’s an ache between my legs and in my br**sts. A throbbing beat that matches my heart. I can only pant and watch him rise.
His mouth is hard, his eyes glittering darkly beneath half-lowered lids as he comes for me. I find myself leaning back, like I’m afraid of him, when really it’s all I can do not to beg him to hurry up and touch me. He stops at the foot of the bed and looks me over, an insolent, languid perusal that I should find insulting but only makes me burn hotter.
When he speaks, his voice is rough, quick, sharp. It scrapes against my heightened nerves, shouts in the quiet room, even though it’s a near murmur. “Lift your top.”
Oh, God, I’m dizzy. My head goes light and then heavy, my breath chuffing out in strangled half-gasps as I fumble with the bottom of my sweater. Cool air kisses my skin as I expose my belly.
He merely watches, waiting. My br**sts ache so bad that when I ease my sweater over them, I whimper. I’m not wearing a bra. He had to have expected as much; my br**sts are too big to hide the fact. Even so, his nostrils flare on a sharp breath.
And then he’s coming for me, the slow, rolling stride of a lion. He crawls over me, a veritable mountain of testosterone and intent. One thick thigh shoves between my legs, pressing there, giving me sweet relief and soft agony. When his hot, wet mouth closes over my nipple, I groan so loud it scares me a little. Not him. He sucks me harder, and we fall back into the bed. I don’t have another coherent thought.
ANNA’S TITS, NAKED and in the full light of day, drive me out of my mind. I can barely think, I’m shaking so badly. Her tight nipple fills my mouth, and I flick my tongue over it, loving the way she arches into me, her breath coming in quick pants. I let her go with a loud pop, then lean back to look at her again.
Holy hell, she’s perfect to me. Firm and teardrop-shaped br**sts so full they spill over a bit on the sides of her narrow frame. A smooth, luminous cream color, they quiver with each breath she takes. Her ni**les, one of which I’ve sucked to a wet peak, are a dark, rosy-brown. Brown sugar topping vanilla ice cream. I want to eat her up. With a grunt of impatience, I tug off the sweater that’s bunched around her neck, and her wild red curls tumble about her face. Then I tear off my shirt; I’m too hot to breathe with it on.