I’m back! I didn’t give up! (No – the truth is that I really needed an excuse to post that picture again…kidding, kidding…only half-kidding)
Part 1 here – please read it if you haven’t already
Thanks to Evie as usual – love you!
Ivy is currently listening to (you thought I was going to stop doing this but I didn’t mwahaha): Drown by Twenty One Pilots
My morning headache was manageable. My eyes opened slowly and I inhaled deeply. The pillow smelled like Conner, that same sweet but forceful scent. It smelled like sweet skin and fresh breath. My hair smelled like chestnut wood with a hint of cinnamon. I hoped he wouldn’t mind.
I found a gym on the fourth floor and ran until my headache went away and I had a stitch in my side. I cooled down by walking around, then found a rowing machine and got to work again. A tap on my shoulder had me jumping out of my seat. I was so oblivious when I listened to music, I didn’t hear him approaching. Coincidentally, a Citizen Four song was being blasted into my ears at that moment. I could hear the music leaking from my earbuds as I let them hang out of my shirt.
“I didn’t think anyone else appreciated the gym anymore, especially after drinking,” Conner said. “How’d you sleep? How’s your head?”
“That was a pretty big pizza. I slept like the dead and my head’s better than I expected. Then again, I wasn’t drunk.”
“It still hit you pretty hard. That elevator ride was pretty interesting.” He paused and cocked his head. “Is that my shampoo? And Cold playing?”
“I accidentally stole it last night and yes.”
He laughed. “You smell good,” he said, his voice dipping into the oh-so-sexy range.
We did our own thing in silence for about fifteen minutes, when Josh’s voice came on over the intercom in the gym. “Guys, the car’s out front. You have fifteen minutes to be ready.”
“If we had more time, I was going to get you to see if you could beat the elevator up. Damn car.”
“Up twenty flights? I’d never make that,” I said. Conner just shrugged and winked.
Pushing the penthouse button in the elevator was still something foreign to me. “You know, a lot of weird things happen in elevators,” Conner remarked.
“Only in the movies.”
“Are you sure about that?”
I rolled my eyes. “Well, the only reason you’d know would be if you were the one doing the weird things in the elevator. You might as well own up to it.”
The elevator dinged as we got to the penthouse. “Looks like that’ll be a story for another time,” Conner said, a devilish grin on his face. My heart skipped a beat. Or two.
In the morning light, I was better able to appreciate the apartment. There was definitely a white theme going everywhere except the bedrooms. There was cool white tile, sleek white cabinets, and comfy white furniture. There were no outer walls, just glass. There was even a window seat, also made entirely out of glass, which gave one the illusion of being suspended in thin air. There was a door that led to outside. There was a patio, a fire pit and grill, and a pool – the sides of which were made entirely of glass.
“Whoa,” I said.
“It’s amazing, but I keep away from the sides, you know?” I turned my head to see that Austin had appeared behind me.
“This entire place is amazing. The bedrooms, the bathrooms, the windows, the view… Oh shoot, I have to get ready!” I heard light laughter behind me as I ran for the bathroom.
I only had time to let my hair down, brush my teeth, and grab some clothes to change into at the studio.
Now that I could look at it without blurs in my vision, I smiled at Conner’s room. It was simple, but somehow perfectly him. The bedspread was a deep navy blue, with curtains and sheets of a lighter shade to complement it. His nightstand was crowded with a phone charger, reading lamp, alarm clock, water bottle, and a small stack of notebooks. The rug was light gray.
The walls were off-white, but Conner made up for the blandness with the amount of stuff he’d taped up of them. The walls were covered with brochures of trails and pictures of him and friends at the top of many of them. Each picture was labeled with a date and the name of each trail, making me wish I’d gotten to hike as much as he did. I usually only got to take a trip to the mountains once a year.
The pictures made me smile wider. Carson ruffling Conner’s hair with a waterfall in the background, the brothers jumping into the pool at the bottom of a waterfall together, Conner with an arm around a friend on a peak glowing with the sunset, Conner climbing a trail with nothing but a backpack on his torso…
A knock at the door startled me out of my reverie. I stuffed all my things into a backpack I’d brought and opened the door. Conner’s head was turned, his neck exposed. A manner of unsuitable things went through my mind. I wondered how glorious it would be to kiss that soft spot where his jaw met his neck, to trace all those gorgeous lines of his body with my lips, fingers twined in his hair.
“Oh!” Conner said. “You always open doors so quietly.” He took my hand and raised it to his mouth to kiss it. Every millimeter of my skin he touched woke up in a way it never had before. “Shall we, milady? Our chariot awaits us,” he said, offering me his arm. Biting my lip didn’t do nearly enough to hide the grin on my face.
The muscle on his arm was deliciously hard. Maybe it was just genetics, but I knew my own would never match up. “I love how you’ve decorated your room. Particularly the walls.”
“I’ve been working on that collection for a while. I’m glad you like it.”
“I’m jealous, actually. You’ve done so many trails.” I sighed wistfully.
“You like hiking?”
I nodded. “Sadly, I hardly get to go.”
“Well, while you’re here, you’re going to get to see all the best places, whether you like it or not. Wait ‘till you see the LA skyline from a mountain peak. Oh, and the sunset – the sunset is glorious. I know it’s the same sunset everywhere, but there’s something about the air and the view and the adrenaline that just makes it a thousand times better than it is anywhere else. But that might just be me.”
“I would love that,” I said as we reached the elevator, where the guys were waiting. He didn’t let go of me until I shooed him away when he tried to help me into the van. The van had the Citizen Four logo painted on the sides in the eerie-looking font they always used. The extra passenger made the interior cramped. Conner sat next to me, and our entire sides were pressed together. His musculature was doing strange things to my breathing and wherever his bare skin was touching mine, I was on fire. Definitely not a normal reaction.
“I think we should pick a song to cover with you today. Also, I’ve got a few questions for you – you know – artist to fan,” Josh said, immediately getting down to business. It was a relief to not have to think about Conner’s presence right next to me for a minute.
“Of course,” I said.
The ride was mostly silent, the guys taking the time to be on their phones.
“Gotta give the fans a bit of the life. May I take the lovely lady’s picture?” Conner asked. I rolled my eyes, but I smiled anyway. Then he got the camera rolling for his Snapchat story. “What’s up guys? I’m here – stuck in traffic – with our newest act. Give it up for Vera Maxwell!” He gave a quick description of what I’d be doing with the band before the time ran out. I stuck my tongue out at the last moment.
“Your turn,” I said, pulling out my phone. I sent my friends a picture of us. I could gloat a little, right? He stole my phone for a second and held it out of reach. A minute later I got a Snapchat of him making an atrocious face, which I screenshotted. I sent him a picture of my shoes with the message: “Your parents should have named you Crazy. Maybe Crazy Conner.” He lifted an eyebrow and sent back a sad face.
I put my earbuds in and closed my eyes. The traffic was incredibly slow – we would have likely gotten to the studio faster if we walked. After a while, the whole side of my body started to get numb. His probably was too.
“Here,” he said. He readjusted me so that my back rested against his shoulder and my legs could stretch out further. He put his arm around me, making me nervous, but in a good way. The air conditioning went blew cold air straight into my face, which was nice – maybe it would help with the growing blush on my cheeks. I still shivered a bit, both from the cold in my face and the heat from his body. “Are you cold?” he asked. His concern was endearing.
“No, I’m fine,” I replied. Soon, the heat of him was all I could feel. It was the kind of warmth that made you sleepy. I slowly and unsurely began to rest my head on his shoulder, not certain if he’d want me to. His hand gently pushed my head down the rest of the way.
“Thanks,” I said. His hair tickling the side of my face told me he was nodding. I tried not to dwell on how he was the perfect height for me to lean on and that my neck seemed molded to his shoulder. Or vice versa. Occasionally he’d steal my phone to see what I was listening to. His hair would tickle me when he nodded approvingly. Suddenly, I didn’t mind the traffic anymore.
I could feel the warmth of him on my back even as we climbed the stairs to the studio. I fell into a window seat and lounged with an arm behind my head. I saw Josh opening the Notes app on his phone. He’d written down his questions and was getting ready to write my answers.
After he was ready, I sat down on the couch next to him. “Wow. You could be a reporter if you wanted to, Josh,” I commented. He chuckled.
Conner came to rest on the arm of the sofa next to me. His thigh pressed against my elbow. I stared for a second before forcing my eyes up and looking him in the eye. He promptly winked at me, and I rolled my eyes at him before turning back to Josh. Conner pulled me over so that my head rested on his leg and I was half-sitting up. I wanted to move away, but my muscles seemed to be working against me. All I could do was position myself more comfortably. Conner’s leg didn’t have much potential for a pillow, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, not at the moment.
“Wow. We forgot to ask you to ask you to tell us about yourself,” Carson said.
“That’s rather rude of us. Apologies. So, Vera, what do you like to do? Who are you?” Conner asked.
“Oh. Well, there’s nothing really interesting. I play tennis, I have a music addiction, and I’m kind of a cat lady. I love to exercise. It usually doesn’t matter what I do as long as it gets my heart going. I like to sing, if that wasn’t obvious. My name means ‘bringing victory’ and my nickname means ‘faith’.”
“What is one thing you really want to do before you die?” Austin asked me.
“Besides meeting you guys?” I paused to laugh at myself. “I’d want to fall in love.” I was surprised at how honest I could be in front of them.
“That’s a good one,” Austin said.
“Are you any good at writing songs?” Josh asked.
“Well, I haven’t really tried it before. I used to write, well, um, poetry and things like that, if that helps.” My response was one of the most awkward things I’d ever said.
Their only responses were a quirked eyebrow from Josh, a grin from Austin, and a quiet laugh from Carson. Except for Conner, of course.
“I can see that. You in the corner, hunched over your phone with your earbuds in, writing poems,” Conner said. He had no idea how close to home he’d hit. “A mysterious poetry-writer and cat lady. Intriguing. Is your poetry good?”
I could feel my cheeks turning an unattractive shade of red. All I could think was God, no, God, no, God, no over and over. That was something none of them ever needed to see. Thankfully, Josh cleared his throat loudly.
“How did you find out about us?”
“It was an accident, honestly. SoundCloud was playing random music it thought I might like and Testify came on. And from that point on, I was obsessed, really.”
“A modern love story – teenage girl meets music,” Austin said.
I nodded earnestly. “You just described my entire life right there. I probably spend too much time on music,” I said, smiling. “What’s next?”