Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three) (16 page)

BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
3.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




The red carpet interviews were mostly the same three questions, over and over. 

Was I dating Tanner?  We both looked at each other awkwardly, and
promptly dodged the question.

Was I making an album?  Again, quite a bit of looking around awkwardly and dodging the question.

Who was I wearing?  This was, yet again, the easy one.  I named one of Lauren’s clients who’d sent me a rack of the most beautiful, feminine dresses and flirty, sequin cocktail gowns—perfect for New Year’s Eve. 

And if that was the only sound
bite they got?  Well, then Lauren was happy and so was I.  I had a feeling the photos of our kiss would probably get a little more attention than the interview, though.

The pink
-dress girl was right about the timing, and within fifteen minutes, we were tucked into a VIP booth waiting for Sophie to get back from the bathroom, complete with our own butler to take care of our drinks all night.  Tanner sprawled out on one of the banquettes, looking completely at home.

“Guess no one carded me,” I giggled, looking at the selection of liquor and mixers they’d already set out on our table.

Tanner grinned.  “Pretty girls never get carded.”

I let out a belt of laughter.  “I’ve heard that one before.  Somehow pretty girls never get carded, but Casey Snow
does.”  I blinked at him innocently.  “Except for lately.  So what am I to infer from that?”

Tanner cocked an eyebrow.  “You really want an answer?”

“I really do.”

He poured me a vodka-soda, which wasn’t my favorite.  I liked drinking better when you couldn’t taste the alcohol.  But he handed it over to me, and I sipped, delicately.

“Yum,” I said, half meaning it.  “What’s in here?” 

“Tom Collins,” he grinned.  “Vodka, seltzer, lemon syru
p.  Pretty good, huh?”  It’s a girly drink, but you can’t beat the taste.”

I took another sip.  “Thanks,” I said, brushing my hand against his arm.  “I like it.”

We paused for a second while Tanner poured himself a glass of scotch. 

“So tell me,” I said, my eyes sparkling with flirtation.  “Why
I don’t seem to get carded anymore?”

Tanner grinned.  “Snow,
there are a couple of key strategies for getting underage girls into bars,” he said, and then seemed to realize how that sounded.  “I mean, not
, you know, but just under twenty-one.”  He paused again.  “You are eighteen, right?”

I giggled.  “Stay on track, Tanner.  I’m almost nineteen.  On Valentine’s Day.”

Something passed across his face at that moment, an expression that wasn’t flirty or even sexy — it was tender, sweet.  “Of course you are,” he murmured.  “But even at nineteen, you’re going to need to get into bars, huh?”

“Every once
in a while.”

“So here’s my
foolproof plan.  See, here’s the thing: pretty girls don’t get carded because the clubs want pretty people inside.  They want girls who look like you drinking their booze and dancing on the dance floor, and showing all the wall street or entertainment industry douchebags that this is
the place
to be.  The club doesn’t care if you’re eighteen or forty, if you’ve got the right look.”

“Yeah, but they also can’t let underage girls inside.  Hence, my dilemma.”

Tanner chuckled, and pulled his arm around me, nipping at my neck.  “I love that you use the word ‘hence,’” he breathed.  “Say it again, Snow.”

“Hence,” I giggled, sticking out my tongue at him.  “Ergo.  Heretofore.”

He slipped his hand onto my thigh and leaned over to my ear.  “You better stop that, Snow.  That is, unless you want to make an early exit tonight?”

I threw back my head in laughter, turning my body towards Tanner.

“No,” I giggled.  “We’re staying.  I thought I was hearing your strategies?”

Tanner shifted in his seat.  “Ok, then,” he paused. 
“We can boil them down.  Number One, Be Hot.  Number Two, Be Carded by a Member of the Opposite Sex.  The bouncer scrutinizing your fake id and trying to get you thrown out?  Probably a girl.”

Is that it?”

“No, Snow.  There’s also the most important rule, the one that trumps all the others.
  This is why it works for you now, and it didn’t then.”

My eyes flickered to Sophie, who’d returned from the bathroom, and was watching Tanner’s speech with something between curiosity and horror.

“What’s that?” I asked him, egging him on.

He finally looked up, saw Sophie behind us and gestured for her to join.  She crawled into the banquette and Tanner threw his other arm around her.  She and I exchanged a look that was mostly exasperated fun.

“So what is it?” she asked, tilting her chin towards Tanner’s face.  “Don’t leave us hanging.”

He grinned, looking from her to me.  “The
ultimate rule—the one that gets you anywhere, any age, any time?”  He paused for effect, running a hand through his perfect hair.  “Be famous.”

Sophie and I both burst out in loud groans, so in sync that the girl
in the pink dress turned around to see if anything was wrong.

“Damn it, these pillows don’t come off,” Sophie said, trying to throw one at Tanner. 

“I’m half-convinced I should dump my delicious new drink all over your shirt.” I said, trying to hold back my smile.

“Come on, guys, you know it’s true.  But for tonight, let’s just enjoy.  Without destroying the banquette or my shirt.  Please.”

Sophie and I locked eyes, both of us halfway through a Tanner Cole-induced eyeroll.  And then finally we were giggling, settling into our seats and sipping excitedly at our drinks. 

“See anyone good before we got here?” I asked, peering around the room to see if I recognized any faces.

“Eh,” Sophie said, following my gaze.  “Khloe Kardasian’s over there with some friends, but they’re everywhere.  I mean, Tanner was right—everybody who’s anybody is probably in Vegas or Miami tonight.  

“I’m sorry,” I looked at them apologetically.  We’d had to cancel the Vegas idea because my photoshoot was the following morning
—New Year’s Day.  It was the only way the brand could shoot it on my schedule and get it ready for production for spring. 

“No worries, Snow,” Tanner said, running his fingers up my arm.  “We have the whole place to ourselves
—could be worse.”

“Tanner, there are probably two thousand people downstairs.”

He laughed like I’d made a joke.  “But we have the whole
section to ourselves.  It’s basically its own separate club.  Anyone feel like dancing on some tables?”

smiled again, and gulped down the last sip of her drink. 

But Tanner’s cell phone interrupted him.  Looking down for a second, he held up a finger and walked a few feet away to answer it.

“If it’s Jesse, tell him to come out,” she yelled over the music.

“Hey Soph,” I said, realizing this might be my only opportunity.  “Remember that friend of mine, from high school, who came to that Moving Neu
tral show in L.A. this summer?”

Brett was one of my best friends growing up, but he’d moved to Los Angeles at the start of high school
and I’d hardly seen him in person since then.  But over the summer, when the Moving Neutral tour concluded in L.A., he’d come out to meet me at one of their shows. 

“He’s one of my best friends from growing up, and I thought, since we were all hanging out, and he’s hom
e on Christmas break,” I paused.  “I invited him tonight, is that okay?”

“Sure,” she said,
taking a sip from her champagne glass.  “The more the merrier, right?”

For a second, both of us smiled.  “It’s good to see you,” I
murmured, realizing that I hadn’t said it yet. 

“You too,” she grinned.  “And I know
—well, we shouldn’t go into it now, but…. Tanner’s great.  Even with all the stuff that’s going on with the band.  He’s a good guy.  I’m glad you’re seeing that too.”

I felt myself blushing, and even in the dark club,
it was probably pretty obvious. 

“We’re just—” I started, and then didn’t know how to finish the sentence.  “I don’t know what we are.”

“Come on,” Sophie smiled, reaching across the table for my empty glass.  “Let’s get another drink.”


Chapter Forty


One drink turned into three while the music swirled around us, a pulsing, techno beat that shook the walls and made your teeth clatter.  Over the balcony, I could see hundreds of people on the dance floor below us, a handful of waitresses in dominatrix gear pouring out rounds of shots and carrying oversized bottles of champagne to the various tables. 

I’d been to clubs before, but New Year’s Eve?  In one of the hottest clubs in Los Angeles?  This was something else.

I found myself moving closer and closer to Tanner as the night progressed.  He didn’t seem to mind, sliding me closer until our hips were touching on the seat, my back resting on his chest.  His fingers twirled in my hair, the way Blake had always….

I stopped myself. 
None of that, Casey.

As I was contemplating one of the candy-colored
mixers that had just arrived at our table, the girl with the pink dress reappeared, a photographer behind her.

“Do you think we could just get some shots of you guys, just for a second?”  She looked almost apologetic to be asking, but wasn’t that what they were paying us for? 

“Sure,” I smiled at her, moving to stand up, but Tanner clamped his hand firmly down on my side. 

“They want them from here,” he whispered.

“That’s great, Casey,” she moved to the side so the photographer could snap a few pictures, and I was instantly blinded by the flash.  I blinked once or twice, trying to re-adjust to the dark lighting. 

“Could you, maybe, grab a glass of champagne or something?”

Tanner stepped in, reaching over to the table and deftly pouring me a club soda.  “Casey’s in college,” he explained to the hostess.  “Let’s try to keep up the good-girl reputation as much as we can.”

I smiled hesitantly.  Was that all it was, now?  A façade? 

“But I—”  Tanner winked at the girl, giving her his most convincing style.  “If we’re going to be photographed with drinks, I’ll take a Mac 25, if that’s ok?”

She lifted an eyebrow for a second, and then recovered, murmuring something into a bluetooth headset I hadn’t realized she was wearing.

Thirty seconds later, Tanner’s drink was on the table.

“Ok, guys, could you just sit the way you were, and just pretend to be talking about something?”

I sat back, suddenly very aware of Tanner’s hand on my thigh.

I exhaled nervously as the photographer snapped.  “So
how’s your drink?” I asked.

smiled widely, taking a small sip.  It was about the slowest I’d ever seen him consume alcohol — he held it in his mouth for a moment, and then swallowed.  “Delicious.”

—” I smiled, trying to pretend the photographers weren’t catching every moment.  “What makes it better than, say, my drink?”

Tanner smiled,
his eyes focused on me.  “You really want to know?”

He leaned closer, until his drink was almost to my lips.  “Smell it,” he said, and I took a little breath.

I wasn’t much of a liquor drinker, especially not straight — but this was rich and aromatic.  It was strong, but the smoothness took the bite away.  I could see what Tanner found appealing.

“It’s grown on this tiny estate in Scotland, by fa
rmers who’ve been trained for generations.  It’s made from a certain type of grain, that breaks down into sugar.”

I wrinkled my nose.  “It didn’t smell sweet to me.”

He chuckled.  “That’s because you’re used to drinks made from corn syrup, Snow.  This is from natural sugar, so it doesn’t make it sweet, just adds flavor.  The water comes from the same estate, and then it’s milled and mashed and distilled, and after all that, only the tiniest portion of the final product makes the cut for this bottle.  Then it ages in pristine oak cases for twenty five years.”  Tanner paused, his voice low and sensual.  “This drink was sitting in a case before you were even born, getting ready for this moment.”

I felt my voice
shake.  “And here we are.”

The glass was
still between us, but Tanner’s lips were inches from mine.  “You want a sip?” he whispered.

My breath was
suddenly shallow.  I nodded, not trusting myself to speak.

As if he realized my hands were shaking, Tanner brought the glass up to my lips and poured it gently, filling my mouth with the cool, smooth liquid.  I held it in my mouth for a second, tasting it, and finally swallowed. 

Tanner grinned.  “What do you think?

I licked my lips.  “It’s, um…” I struggled for a word.  “It’s exceptional.”

Tanner looked at me for a second, his eyes intrigued and predatory, and then pulled me closer for a kiss, parting my lips with insistence, and wrapping his hand around the back of my head, pulling me to him so I couldn’t let go.

As he lifted his lips from mine, he moved to my ear, and whispered, “it’s also a thousand dollars a bottle.  I order it every time it’s free.”

I felt my shoulders shake as I started to laugh, nudging my shoulder away from his and running a hand through my hair.

“I bet that works on all the girls,” I said, still a little shaky. 

“I save it for special occasions.”

We sat in silence, half smiling, until the photographers finally moved on
— probably realizing they weren’t going to get a better shot than those.

I looked down at Tanner’s hand

“Tanner Cole,” I looked at him, trying to be stern.  “If that drink is older than I am and cost a thousand dollars, you’re drinking every last drop if I have to funnel it into you.”

Tanner laughed so hard he almost spit out his sip.  “There’s the college attitude,” he grinned.  “So what do I have to do to get you to play Never Have I Ever?”

My phone buzzed, and I looked down to see a text from Brett’s number.   “It’s my friend,” I said, holding up the screen.  “He’s probably stuck trying to get in downstairs.  I should go get him.”

Tanner groaned.  “Come on, Snow.  Get with it—you don’t have to beg the door guy to get your friends in anymore.  Just send Bambi, or whatever her name is.”

I looked at him exasperatedly.  “I’ll bring Bambi with me, ok?  But I haven’t seen him in six months
—I don’t want him to think I’m tossing him off on some fembot.”

shrugged his shoulders.  “Sophie should be back any minute, I guess.”

I looked at him, making my eyes wide and innocent.  “I’m sure you’ll have no
shortage of company,” I teased.

He grinned, and then shook his head as if to say, ‘no thanks.’ 
I felt myself smile.

I took off into the throng of people downstairs, Bambi (or whatever her name was) made her way to my side.  We headed down to the entrance, where poor Brett was probably waiting two blocks down the street.

BOOK: Moving Forward (Moving Neutral, Book Three)
3.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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