I heard the song as soon as I moved away from the Flanagan table in Pat’s Irish Pub. The tray full of empties in my hands rattled and my breath shortened, stalling in my chest just like my old Toyota tended to in intersections. Pushing on the car’s gas worked about as well as me trying to goad my feet into moving.
I was frozen.
My past was serenading me with a two-finger salute. At least that’s how I saw it. The rest of the world thought it was the sweetest thing since Boston’s “Amanda”.
Tristan, my boss, knew not to play this stupid song.
Myles Vaughn had opened a vein, using the lead singer of his band to tell his story.
Well, our story, if you wanted to get particular. The one where we used to be best friends and confidantes. Proof that not all men and women who are friends fall in love. In the song, he begged for forgiveness.
He’d ruined everything. In one moment, we’d gone from platonic besties with an occasional side of what-ifs—mostly on my side, I’d thought—to sweaty, let’s-get-naked-and-find-out-how-carnal-things-can-get.
He’d ruined everything and left me so turned on I couldn’t see straight. Then to add insult to injury, he’d stared at me with wild, wrecked blue eyes and stammered out some lame excuse about how he couldn’t stay.
Did I mention he ruined everything and I didn’t even get an orgasm out of the deal? Yeah, if that part wasn’t highlighted, starred, and circled, then I’d like to do that now. No satisfaction on my part and no explanations, just that he had to go.
A year later, I got a rambling message on my voicemail asking me for forgiveness. Just when I’d thought I was getting over him. Nope. Now there was a song named “Felicity” because a song about me wasn’t bad enough. It needed a headline.
A whoop and crash of piano keys had me whipping my head around.
The white noise stuffing my brain wasn’t the radio. I knew that voice anywhere. Once upon a time, it had been one of my favorite sounds in the whole damn universe.
And now he was here.
Ruining everything again.
On my last day of work.
I set the tray onto the nearest empty table with a clang of glasses and ceramic before weaving my way around tables. I totally ignored patrons asking me for refills, or even just saying hello. I smiled distractedly at half a dozen regulars, but I had only one focus as I fought my way over to the small stage.
I wasn’t crazy. Well, no more than usual.
What the hell was he doing here? He was supposed to be somewhere in the Midwest.
There were too many people in the way for me to get a good look, but the rasp of his voice painted a picture. He always sang too close to the microphone. Kissing it, for God’s sake. I pushed aside the elementary teacher who had suddenly gone from a buttoned-up Oxford-shirt mom of three to a groupie wearing a slinky camisole that probably hadn’t seen daylight in half a dozen years. I rolled my eyes.
I shouldn’t be surprised. Women always had that reaction to Myles, the piano player in a world-famous rock band. Oh, and yep…former best friend to moi.
The closer I got, the more I was able to see. The way his fingers caressed the piano keys, the scrape of the bench as he kicked it back out of his way. He slammed the keys on the old upright that was stashed in the corner of the stage as the crowd lost their collective shit and Myles became the song.
This was the man I had few defenses against. When he was this real and his lyrics were so vivid and heartbreaking.
Inhaling a shaky breath, I finally got near the front. It was open mic night, and he’d obviously sneaked in while I was involved in debating the upcoming college basketball season with Mick Flanagan. Even if it was my last day, no one cut me any slack in here. Mick was a little sweet on me and gave me great tips, although he was a Duke fan and I wouldn’t cheer them on for all the coins in First Federal Bank.
Not that I was particularly motivated by money, which was another way Myles and I were different. He’d had big dreams to chase. One of his goals was to buy his mama a nice big Cadillac. It had to be that car. I guess Mrs. Vaughn loved them, and she’d spent so many years scrimping and saving as a single mom on a waitress’s salary—hello, déjà vu, though I didn’t have a couple of kids to support, twins no less—that she’d never had a chance to buy one. So Myles had been on a mission to go out to California and meet some important people and make all the money so his mother never had to struggle again.
He was nothing if not sweet. And impossible.
The guy could compose songs about me, but he wasn’t about to give me a head’s up that he planned on being in town.
Just one more day and I would have been gone.
I had an itinerary and tickets, for sweet fuck’s sake. I was going to explore my way across the country and maybe surprise him during his break on the tour. I’d memorized the stupid website. Heck, I’d even fancied a show or two on my trek across country. Then I was going to face him.
Maybe finally repair our friendship.
You want more. You’ve always wanted more.
I pushed away that stupid voice. I could usually stamp it down to a mumble or a whisper. Add in the memories of our one and only kiss that still left my brain cloudy from the unexpected passion and demand. Most of the time I could push all that away, but not with his voice soaring into the rafters of the pub.
Being a rockstar on the rise was every dream he’d ever had, and none of it included a spot for me. I understood that. Hell, it was one of the main reasons I’d never even thought of asking him for more than friendship. Even when there had been moments of what-ifs, I’d understood what my role was. Support. Same as he’d done for me for years. It had always been us against the world.
Until he’d crossed the line. Actually, he’d torched it.
Seven minutes to kill seven years of friendship. And just like the game, it had been seven minutes of heaven. The kind of kiss that had ruined me for all other men. And on certain nights, the memory of his touch infiltrated my dreams, leaving me straining and aching with his name on my lips when I tore out of sleep.
Dammit, why was he here now?
And oh God, I was going to throw up before I took that last step that would put me into his line of sight.
Woman up already, would you?
I finally got a good look at the guy crouched over the keys. It sounded like my Myles, and his signature frenetic style of playing the piano was so familiar my chest ached. But the long hair that dusted his shoulder blades and the dense, dark beard hiding part of his sweet face were new. As were the sleeves of tattoos climbing his forearms and disappearing under the wrinkled cotton of his shirt.
Nothing that reminded me of the guy who’d run from me that rainy night.
That was probably even more dangerous for me right now.
A shout from my left as a basket was made on TV by my beloved team got me moving again. I smiled at customers as I should and bustled between the tables with a grace only found on the floor of this bar. As soon as I approached, Myles glanced up. He didn’t miss a note as he continued to play, singing right to me as if we were having a conversation. Which we were not. Could not have been, because I was fairly certain my vocal cords had seized.
It didn’t help that he was singing the song that was my namesake.
I flipped my braid over my shoulder and nodded toward the bar to let him know I had to get back to work. Yep, I definitely wasn’t ready. Two years should be long enough, and yet…nope.
Stall tactics? Who, me? Never.
I ducked under the pass through at the end of the bar. “Sorry about the tray.” I nodded toward my discarded tray that was now behind the bar.
Tristan Collins, one of the owners of the pub, waved it off. “Don’t worry about it.” He sighed as he built two pints of Guinness. “I had no idea he was going to sing that song. I actually barely recognized him with the beard.”
I hated the flush that climbed up my throat and burned in my cheeks. I ducked my head and started pulling taps for the beers I’d let go flat while freaking out. “It’s fine.”
“That song seems a bit more than–”
“Tris…” I gave him a warning glance. My boss was a great guy, but he liked to tease, as friends did, and I was feeling altogether too sensitive at that moment regarding one Myles Vaughn.
“So who is this guy?” Phoebe, one of the other waitresses, asked as she entered the pass-through to the bar after me.
“An old friend,” I said as I headed back out from behind the bar. “No big deal,” I said to Tristan. He was leaning against the sink next to the cash register, his arms crossed with a crooked smile.
I really didn’t like that smile. I leaned forward to snag the tray I’d refilled.
“Old friend, is it?” The warm, low voice behind me made me stop. “Did you find a new best friend while I’ve been away?”
My tray rattled again and Tristan rushed forward to save all my new drinks from certain peril. “I could never.” Oh, how I wished I could.
I turned to face Myles. Up close everything was even more intensified. My lungs seized and my breath backed up. I hadn’t been this close to him since that night. My gaze lingered a shade too long on his full lips, somehow more prominent when surrounded by that sexy dark beard. It was scruffy and nearly on this side of unkempt, yet somehow he was even more gorgeous.
Which made my response sharper than I intended, but he had no right to ask me that.
No right to be here making me crazy with that freaking song.
I crossed my arms. “What about you? Can you say the same?”