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Authors: Andrea Randall

Tags: #Music

Bar Crawl

BOOK: Bar Crawl
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To all the readers of the November Blue series who asked for more CJ. This one's for you.
Frankie

H
is hair was shaggy. Not in a particular sexy way, either. More like you couldn’t tell if he’d just gotten out of bed or if he hadn’t been there since the day before last. Not the long, hippie type of shaggy, either. Okay, you know what? His hair looked like shit. It was an ashen brown. It looked soft, though, I had to give him that.

“You checkin’ out the drummah?” Bradley, birthed from the bowels of Boston’s South End, hollered in my ear.

“No. Are you?” I teased, sipping my vodka soda.

He pursed his understated glossed lips. “Please. Besides, you know I wouldn’t come
here
for men.”

I looked around, understanding his point. Finnegan’s, on the outskirts of Barnstable in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, wasn’t particularly a pulse point for the gay community. Bradley was here with me tonight because I hated going out for drinks in Hyannis, where we taught.

“Point taken.” I nodded and sipped my drink again, listening to the hard sounds of the rock band as they commanded the bar’s attention. I felt my eyes involuntarily scanning the room, looking for parents.

There were no rules at our school prohibiting teachers from patronizing local establishments. But, I’ve gotta be honest, the last thing I wanted to do after teaching fifty twelve-year-olds how to execute the English language properly was to chat up their parents on their date night. Or mine, just in case I had one. It was always awkward, each party feeling an obligation to acknowledge the other, though neither wanted to.

Above that, I didn’t need parents thinking they had a window into my private life. It’s
very
challenging for teachers to have such a thing—a private life—and I was bound and determined to keep mine sacred for as long as possible.

“Where are the girls tonight?” Bradley asked of my Spanish and Art teaching friends, Marissa and Lauren.

I shrugged. “You’re it.”

Bradley ran a hand through his spiky blonde hair as his playful smile creased the sun kissed skin around his brown eyes. “On dates?”

I rolled my eyes.

“No need to get testy.” He pinched my upper arm, earning him an elbow to the side.

I couldn’t blame the eye roll on any fresh wounds from a breakup. That breakup was a year ago and was no longer a valid excuse for my attitude. It was just hard to date.

When the tourists slip away, Cape Cod turns into a sprawling small town, no different than any other. And, for someone like myself who transplanted from Albany, I was as adapted as a foreigner. Sure, I spoke the language, but just barely. I may as well have wandered into the Outback of Australia the way I misunderstood the emotional subtext swimming around me. Everyone seemed connected somehow, and none of them to me.

My internal grumbling was interrupted by the loud applause springing up around me. “Last Call” was screen printed on the bass drum, and the band was good. While I hadn’t seen them perform in this incarnation before, I’d seen each member perform at Finnegan’s and other bars around Cape Cod for years. They were all locals of the peninsula, I’d gathered, by the way they always seemed to know everyone around them.

That drummer—the one Bradley liked to tease me about—was the most dangerous of them all. His forearms were massive, corded with thick muscles and veins which he attempted to camouflage under elaborate full-sleeve tattoos. His chest seemed like it was as broad as the set he sat behind. His shoulders strained against the cotton of his t-shirt. All of them. No matter which he wore. I doubted he had a six-pack underneath that fabric, but he was solid despite the gallons of beer he seemed to swallow between sets.

His physical monstrosities were the least of his warning signs, though, and before I had my guard up, I was caught up in the applause and made direct eye contact with him.

Damn.

His eyes were the clear blue of a winter morning sunrise. They were nothing to write books about, but my panties weren’t looking to write books.

Drummers are dangerous
, my aunt Lori always said to me.
You stay away from them.

She’d been burned by a drummer in her nearly twenties, or so the story goes. She had no basis to throw this caution my way. I’d never shown interest in anything other than book nerds. So, I’d had no reason to heed her warnings, which left me in this steamy-panty predicament.

“Here he comes,” Bradley whispered as the crowd died down to a normal chatter volume.

“Shut up,” I hissed, feeling the heat in my cheeks. “He’s not coming over here for anything other than beer.” I straightened my head and took a deep breath.

With sticks in his hand, the pumped-up percussionist drew his sweaty body against the bar and ordered a pitcher of beer. I doubted his intent to share it with anyone.

No sooner had he poured a full glass and put it to his lips, he spotted me—or someone—out of the corner of his eye. His eyes narrowed intently as his ears lifted with a smile. In my attempt to ignore him, I turned to Bradley, only to find that he had turned to speak with someone much hotter—and much gayer—than myself.

Sigh.

Shifting on the barstool, I attempted to lengthen my skirt to just below my knees. My thighs were not summer-ready. Not that they ever were, but I wasn’t about to do squats in the middle of the bar. My cover-up didn’t work at anything except drawing the attention of those clear blue eyes. Eventually, he brought his eyes to mine and smiled once more.

“From around here?” He dove right in as though we’d already greeted each other and talked about the weather. His rock of an elbow pressed into the mahogany bar.

I blinked what felt like three hundred times, trying to gauge if this was part of his act.

He ran his tongue slowly along his bottom lip—a move I’d seen from him before—which exposed a silver barbell in his tongue. “Are you always this quiet in a bar?” he continued.

I tilted my head to the side and sipped my drink. “You’ve hit on me before, CJ.” I grinned, thinking I’d caught him at his own trick.

Nothing.

There was neither a flash of horror nor one of recognition in his eyes. A poker face I’m certain he was born with, and one he’d perfected once he took notice of skirts and low-cut tops somewhere in his early teen years.

No more than two seconds passed before he gently swiped his index finger across my cheek. “You think I’d forget these freckles…Frankie?”

I couldn’t tell if he was questioning me about his memory of my skin pigmentation or my name. He wasn’t giving anything away as he pulled his hand away and set it on the back of my stool.

“Lucky guess.” I played along, doing my best not to blush. His hands were still warm from gripping his sticks during the set, and I felt the heat his finger had left on my cheek.

He ignored my sarcasm. “I haven’t seen you in a while. Where’ve you been?”

I shrugged. “I don’t live in Barnstable. Been busy.”

CJ shifted so he was leaning against the bar, staring at me as his dark denim-clad leg rested against my bared knee.
Oh, the heat
.

“I remember. Hyannis, right?”

Shocked, I quickly replied, “Yes.”

I squinted, studying his face. His eyes darted around the room every few seconds. Maybe a bit of his obvious ADHD shining through, but that would be the logical reason. In my mind, he was sizing me up to every other girl in the bar, calculating if this little conversation was worth his time.

I went to the gym, and I ate right—respecting my body was a daily meditation. Still, I wasn’t meant to be tiny with big boobs. More the reverse—I was 5’8”, wore a size 12, and sported a yawn-worthy B-cup in between my broad shoulders. Well, they weren’t as broad as I saw them in my head, Bradley always said, but I reckoned I’d need to be at least a C to make the proportions right.

Still, any time I’d seen CJ in the bars around the Cape, he always left—no matter how briefly—with exactly the kind of girl the magazines tell us get the guys like that. I have no idea—nor do I care—if they were nice people. They bleached their hair, wore spray-on tans, and paraded around in skirts short enough to highlight everything they hadn’t eaten. Just to get a guy like that. A bizarre chicken-and-egg cycle, if you ask me. That’s why I turned him down when he’d hit on me two months ago. I wasn’t his type. And, rather than make me feel good that he’d poured his attention on me that evening, it made me hellaciously insecure, wondering, perhaps, if he’d already slept with everyone else in the bar.

“Did you see the whole set?” he asked when his visual grazing ended and his attention was back to me.

“I did. You guys are great.” I set my drink down and crossed my arms across my waist as I leaned back. “Last Call, though…is that a new name?”

CJ shrugged, his shoulders so big I wasn’t sure how he lifted them at all. “A friend came up with it.”

“I mean, I haven’t seen you perform with these guys as a
band
before.” I’d seen CJ play off and on across the Cape for at least a year. I don’t remember a time, actually, when I had seen a band play who had a drummer that
wasn’t
CJ. It seemed he got around in more ways than one.

It was hard to read CJ’s face in the dim lighting of the bar. “There are some festivals and competitions coming up this summer. I want to play in them, but I need a band. So,” he gestured to the stage, “Last Call.”

I nodded approvingly.

“Anyway,” he continued, “I don’t want to talk about music.”

I chuckled. “I figured.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He smiled until tiny lines formed at the edges of his eyes. His face was structured much like the rest of his body—rough and angular, but the skin was soft and virginal looking. False advertising was what it was.

“Nothing. You just don’t seem like that kind of guy to chat up girls about much other than your address,” I teased.

His eyes widened at the challenge. “Oh really?”

“Really. You don’t even have a girl in your band, for God’s sake.”

He rolled his eyes. “That’s because girls complicate everything.”

I twisted my lips. “Somehow, I don’t think it’s
them
.”

CJ put up his hands and threw his head back. The thick ropes of veins in his neck pulsed against his laughter. “All right, all right, I get it. Just tell me one thing.” His eyes held the smile no longer present across his suddenly serious lips.

“Shoot.”

He bit his lip as he seemed to consider his words. “Why’d you turn me down last time?”

I rolled my eyes and swallowed the rest of my drink before tapping Bradley on the shoulder. “Time to go,” I said when I finally got his attention.

“Come on!” CJ playfully blocked my exit. “It’s just a question.”

Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I sighed. “I’m not your type.”

His mouth swung open. “I don’t have a type.”

My eyes widened at his perverted honesty. “You’re a pig.”

I waded through the humid bar, Bradley next to me and CJ on our tail. “That’s not what I meant. Frankie. Frankie!” CJ called in animated angst. “Ah, man. Whatever. I’ll get your answer one of these days. See you next week!”

Before I’d even reached the door, Bradley had convinced me to stay at the bar. It was only a little after ten, and he said we weren’t allowed to be old people.

“Fine. We’ll stay for a few more drinks.” I tossed my bag onto the stool next to me, and kept my back to the stage.

Bradley grinned and shook his head. “I don’t get you women sometimes. You’d claw each other’s eyes out to get a guy to notice you, and then one does, and—”

“Shut up.” I held up my hand and arched my eye brow at him. Well, tried to. I’d never been proficient at it. “First of all, I don’t clamor for guys’ attention. Second, he wasn’t even paying
me
attention. It was more my tits, ass, and whatever else his sick little brain could come up with.”

“What’s the difference?” Bradley shrugged and guzzled some of his beer. His impish grin saved him from a swift smack.

As Bradley and I enjoyed the rest of our evening, complete with meeting up with a few of our coworkers from a sister school, I worked diligently to keep my back to the stage and my eyes far away from the misogynist percussionist who showed little interest in anything but his drumsticks or his…stick.

BOOK: Bar Crawl
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