10 March 1974, second stanza
|10 March, second stanza
Susie picked the last toy up off the floor and dropped it into the plastic bin she kept for Timmy and Mariah. Now that they’d gone home, she thought about catching up on some paperwork she hadn’t bothered to do yet. But she was tired tonight. So instead, she flopped onto her favorite corner of the sectional couch and pulled her legs in front of her.
Listening to the silence that was overwhelming after having the little ones there most of the day, she wondered if Evan would come back over tonight. Not likely, since his friend had just arrived. What would he be like in person? Of course, she’d heard a lot about him and knew how excited Evan was about him being here. She also knew Evan wasn’t sure he would stay. Well, at least she would finally get to meet him, and no matter what he was like, she would welcome him for Evan’s sake.
Even if the guy had pulled her best friend away from her today when they were finally getting to spend some time together. The show had kept her so busy recently, with extra rehearsals and planning meetings and ordering costumes, that she had hardly been able to say two words to him in the last two weeks. And she’d missed him.
Maybe she could go over and say hello. But, Duncan would most likely want to get settled in before being bombarded with company. She would. She still remembered feeling overwhelmed the first time she had visited Evan after he’d moved. Mike, Stu and Doug were constantly there. Well, Doug wasn’t so much, since he enjoyed the peace of having Stu out of their apartment now and then, but Mike and Stu were a bit overbearing. She liked them all from the start, but Stu was … just constant, and Mike … well, she still wasn’t always sure he wanted her around. Although, he acted the same with everyone else, too, except Evan. Evan just had a way of being welcome anywhere. She didn’t know anyone who didn’t want him around. Maybe it was his Libra calmness, or just because he was so … perfect.
His perfection was covered by humility, though. She had never known anyone else who was so sweet and gentle, and yet so strong. He was also incredibly smart and had a wonderful sense of humor. Not to mention his looks. The solid shoulders and expansive chest muscles, which she didn’t get to see often enough. His rich brown eyes and shiny, perfectly-layered brown hair. Okay, she preferred darker hair, but it wouldn’t look good on him. And she wouldn’t change anything about her best friend.
Well, maybe one thing, and maybe that could still happen.
She swallowed a sudden, deep breath, and stood. Maybe she needed to go work out, to her own music instead of the stuff she was using for the show. The long leggings she was wearing under her T-shirt, well, under Evan’s T-shirt that she’d borrowed and hadn’t returned yet, would be fine. And, she could pull the shirt off when it started to get in her way, since she had her stretch tank underneath. Stu always teased her about wearing dance clothes even when she wasn’t dancing. But they were comfortable. And she didn’t have to go change if she had a sudden urge to work out.
Rifling through her cassettes – she almost always bought cassettes now instead of the bulkier albums – she started to pick up a Mozart tape Evan had given her long ago. No, she wasn’t in the mood for classical. What was she in the mood for? Going past Elton John, she stopped at Jimi Hendrix. She’d forgotten to give it back to Stu. He’d be asking for it soon, but she could use it again first.
She grabbed her cassette player and her jazz shoes on her way out the door, slipping her flats on almost as an afterthought. There was music coming from the basement. She could just hear the drum beat from the top hallway, with guitars joining in as she got closer. That wasn’t Evan or Stu. Stu was on his keyboard. She could just start to make it out. They surely weren’t rehearsing with his friend already. Evan had said he was coming in on the bus and Chicago was quite a long ride. She got tired on their car trips to Pennsylvania, though Evan said it was just because she wasn’t used to holding still for so long at a time.
Reaching the basement door, she opened it slowly and was greeted with a blast of sound. She held still a moment, listening. The song was familiar, and Mike’s voice, and Doug, and Stu, but…. If that was Evan’s friend, he had under-emphasized his skill. She was thoroughly impressed.
Quietly, so she wouldn’t bother them, Susie stepped into the basement. She knew they wouldn’t see her from the far end of the room since it was dark on her end, and set her things on the floor against the wall, then stood, watching.
Evan was taking second string; having moved from his guitar to his bass. But she was watching his friend. He didn’t look the way she’d expected. His hair was very dark and hung a little ways past his shoulders. She couldn’t tell how far. From this distance, it blended in with the black leather vest he was wearing. Well, it could be imitation leather, but somehow, she didn’t imagine it was. He didn’t look fake in any way. His jeans were well-worn, with a slight tear above one knee, and the red T-shirt he hadn’t bothered to tuck in seemed just as old. It was faded to a very soft red and could’ve been painted to his chest. There was no extra material there. Susie had often wished Evan would wear his that way.
And he was good. But, he acted as if he knew he was good. The other guys were watching each other and Evan’s friend, but he was watching no one. Now and then he focused on his guitar, though as masterfully as he was manipulating the strings, he couldn’t have needed to concentrate on them. She supposed he had heard too often how good he was. Somehow, though, that didn’t fit the image she had of him from Evan’s descriptions. Evan had never been impressed with people who were too full of themselves. He would, however, want this kind of talent in the band if it were at all possible. His music was much more important to him than he ever let on. Would he befriend anyone for only that reason? No. She just couldn’t see it.
She crept closer, still hidden by the darkness of the large basement. The sound coming from the far end of the room was more intense than usual, more alive … hypnotic. They had talked about needing either a second guitarist or bass player, so they could always have one on each and still leave Stu on his keyboard without pushing Mike into playing bass while singing, which he didn’t like to do. And they had auditioned a few people, but none had fit in well enough. Well, Nathan had fit in musically, but, they hadn’t found anyone else since he’d left. And he couldn’t have begun to compare to this.
When the song ended, Stu’s voice rang through the basement. He was just as impressed as she was, and despite his nonchalant attitude, he wasn’t at all easy to impress. Doug agreed, though more quietly. Evan was watching Mike. Susie knew it was his opinion that Evan most wanted. And he wasn’t saying anything. She imagined he didn’t like the look of the new guy. Mike could really be a snob when he tried. And he seemed to be trying.
She ventured closer yet, quietly, watching the scene.
“Well?” Evan finally pushed Mike into saying something.
“What do you mean, what? Do we offer him a job if he wants it?”
Mike was silent again.
The new guy pulled the strap from around his neck and finally looked over at Evan. “Man, if he does no’ want me in, he is no’ about t’ say so in front of me. And I was no’ askin’ for a job.”
Susie’s stomach fluttered. Evan hadn’t mentioned his accent. Gorgeous, not American, but she couldn’t quite place it. She didn’t remember Evan bothering to tell her he was foreign.
He returned the guitar to its case, and she watched him bend down, the skin of his knee pressing against the torn denim, long fingers pushing hair back out of his way. From this distance, he emitted a feeling of sensuality, not only because of his bronzed tan and slender, muscular build accenting a sculpted jawline, but also because of the way he moved. Rhythmically, gracefully.
“Well, hell, I don’t know what you’re waiting for.” Mike’s voice drew her attention. “We all knew he was in as soon as you said he was coming.”
The guy stood again, holding onto his guitar case. “No’ if you do no’ want me here. I never stay where I am no’ wanted.”
Where he wasn’t wanted? Susie couldn’t imagine any band not wanting him. And he would be very good for them – maybe the finishing touch they’d been needing.
She moved into the glow from the light over their heads. “He didn’t seem to want me here when I came, either. But he still puts up with me.” She smiled at Evan, ignoring Mike, then forced herself to appear calmer than she felt when meeting the stranger’s eyes. “Of course they want you. Evan wouldn’t have asked you to play with them if they didn’t. That’s what he meant.”
He was watching her intensely. Maybe she should have stayed out of it, but she always had trouble staying out of the band’s business. And she didn’t want Mike chasing him off, for Evan’s sake as well as for Raucous.
Her friend propped his bass against its stand and came over to join her. She used the excuse to pull her eyes away from his buddy, who had continued staring silently.
“Been here long?”
Susie relaxed with the feel of Evan’s hand on her back. She loved the way he touched her. “No, but long enough. He’s even better than you said.” She spoke softly, so the man whose eyes she could still feel wouldn’t overhear.
“Come on, let me introduce you.”
She nodded and walked beside him, doing her best not to let her nervousness show. What was wrong with her? She hadn’t been nervous meeting the other guys; well, not very. And she was twenty now – too old to act this way.
His focus remained on her face, finally allowing his eyes to drill into hers. They were gorgeous. Deep blue, and so shockingly direct. She generally didn’t like stubble on a man’s chin, but his accentuated his ruggedness. Maybe that wasn’t the right word. It was … more … a sensual aura. As she’d felt at a greater distance, the man truly emitted pure sensuality.
“Suse, this is Duncan O’Neil. Susie Brooks.”
She barely heard Evan, but she already knew his friend’s name.
He extended a hand without releasing her eyes. “It’s nice t’ meet you.”
She could feel the calluses on his fingers as he gripped her hand firmly, but carefully, as though trying not to hurt her. “Thank you. You too. I’ve heard a lot about you.” Good. She had managed to keep her voice from shaking.
He glanced at Evan with a slightly raised eyebrow; just one. It was adorable.
“I know you remember me talking about Susie.”
Duncan released her hand and returned his gaze to her, silently.
Evan obviously hadn’t talked about her very much, if his buddy didn’t remember.
“My friend from Pennsylvania. I wrote that she’d moved out here.”
Now, a sign of recognition. “The one your mum took care of?”
He tilted his head just slightly. “He did no’ describe you well. I was picturing a young girl, which you are no’.”
She looked at Evan. A young girl? Was that how he saw her?
“I can no’ imagine why anyone would no’ want you around.”
His friend drew her attention again, just for a moment until she pulled her eyes away, hopefully hiding the warmth she could feel crawling into her cheeks. Why was he getting to her? It wasn’t as if she had never received a compliment from a guy. She’d received plenty, but most had just been … lines, or … empty.
“I am sorry. I did no’ mean t’ embarrass you.”
She forced an imitation calm and grinned at him. “No, it’s … I was thinking the same thing … about you…. I mean….” Cursing herself silently, she shook her head and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. It’s been a long week. What I mean is … Mike was just giving you a hard time. You fit in with the band well. I hope you’ll stay and give it a try.”
“Hey, that IS a compliment, coming from Susie.” Stu had moved in during the conversation and nudged Duncan’s shoulder. “She’s the one who’s always had an objection for everyone we’ve auditioned.”
Duncan had barely glanced at Stu and his eyes were back on her. “D’ you hang with the band much?”
Band talk. She could handle that. “Pretty often. Whenever I’m not working.”
He nodded. “In that case, I migh’ just stick around a while.”
Shivers consumed her inside. Was he hitting on her? Why would a guy like him have any interest in her? Or was he another who hit on every girl he met? Somehow, she didn’t think so. He was completely wrapped up in her, at least for the moment, and they’d just met. How wrapped up would he get if they actually…
Evan touched her back again and she vaguely heard him invite her over for pizza.