Authors: Pamela Sparkman
Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance
They all got quiet and waited for me to answer. I took a breath and looked at all three faces, stopping at Joe’s. “Get me another shot of tequila.”
Cooper looked at me. “Liquid courage?”
“Yep.” I rubbed my hands together and then because I was still wearing my red dress from this afternoon, rubbed them on Cooper’s jeans.
He laughed. “What are you doing?”
“My hands are sweaty.”
“Relax, Lily,” Cooper said. “It’ll just be us. Keep your eyes focused on me. Concentrate on me, and you’ll be fine.”
“You do realize that
make me nervous, right? I had to close my eyes and not look at you the last time you made me sing, remember?”
“Would you rather sing by yourself?”
“No. I want you up there with me.”
He kissed me on the forehead and wrapped his arms around me. “What song do you want to do?”
“Do you know ‘Just a Kiss’ by Lady Antebellum?”
“Okay,” I said, and then exhaled. Joe handed me my shot and I downed it without the salt or lime. “Thank you,” I said, handing him back the glass.
Joe had put the closed sign on the door and locked it after the last patron left. “We’re all set,” he said, looking at me and Cooper.
“Wait,” I said. “Where did you get the guitar?”
“It’s mine. I keep it here. I’ve got another one at home.”
“Oh, okay,” I whispered to myself.
“No excuses, sweetheart. You got this.”
Hayden and Joe sat at one of the tables close to the stage and Cooper placed two stools side by side and then two microphones. “Take a seat, Lil.”
I walked over and sat down on one of the stools, questioning my sanity.
Before sitting down, Cooper leaned in close to my ear. “You have no idea how good you are. Do you trust me, Lily?”
He moved to face me. “Look at me, and keep your eyes on me. Only me.” He sat down next to me, adjusted his mic, and counted off…1…2…3…and just like that music was playing.
I focused on Cooper. Only him. I fought to keep from closing my eyes, allowing the melody he strummed to flow through me. I let him take me with him, to that place where you get lost in the hum of the rhythm, the soothing sound of the vibration of the strings, and the rich tone it makes when set in motion. Each note he played was distinctive and individual, yet combined beautifully like the flavors of a fine sauce. I’m not sure exactly when I realized that I was singing, but by the time I did I was no longer nervous. Cooper had the ability to soothe away my deepest fears and cover me with confidence like a warm blanket. The rich textures I was hearing were coming from his voice and mine, and blended together it was almost indescribable – like trying to dance to architecture.
The song finally came to an end, and I was unable to take my eyes off of Cooper. He never once took his eyes off of me.
“Do you guys have any idea what you sound like together? Oh. My. God. Y’all. That was amazing!” Hayden said.
Joe spoke up after a few seconds of silence. “Seriously, that was insane. I don’t know what that was just now, but, Lily, I better not ever hear you say you’re too shy to sing again, because I’ll drag you up there myself. Cooper, my man, I think I’m in love with your woman.”
Cooper blinked and instantly looked at Joe. “You can’t have her.” Then his eyes were right back on me. “She’s mine.”
The drive home was quiet, yet comforting. It gave me some time to sort out my thoughts and feelings towards Cooper, a man I’d only known for a few days. Well, we met a couple of months ago, but we were just now getting to know each other. Yet, I felt so completely attached to him, as if we’d known each other our whole lives. I felt closer to him than I felt toward people I’d known all my life. In part, that may have something to do with Ms. Sophie and the fact that she practically took me in as her own family from that first day on the plane. Even she didn’t feel like a stranger to me. It was bizarre, and also amazing. Some things were simply unexplainable.
“My friends adore you, you know,” Cooper said as he helped me out of his car. We somehow managed to drive all the way to my house without me noticing or having the slightest memory of the trip.
“Oh yeah, without a doubt. I knew they would. Who wouldn’t?”
I looked down at my feet, studying the red color on my toenails. “I’m glad. I really like them too.”
Cooper laced his fingers with mine and we quietly trailed up the front walk.
“Do you want to come in?” I asked, unlocking the door once we made it to the porch.
“No. I can’t.”
“Oh. Is it because you need to be up early?”
“No. That’s not it. I can’t because if I go in there with you…” He sighed, and ran his hands through his hair, then exhaled deeply. “I’m going to say good night to you out here.”
There was a bit of awkward silence between us so I was trying to think of something to say. “Cooper, I—”
Cooper slammed his lips against mine with such intensity that it shot a wave of tremors straight down to my toes and I suddenly had a feeling of vertigo. The sensation from his hands on my face and neck caused me to tremble beneath him. I heard a guttural moan before he pulled away.
He rested his forehead on mine. “I need to go. I’ll call you in the morning, okay?” he said, breathing fast, heavy breaths.
I nodded my head to say
because I tried to speak but couldn’t find the air.
He pulled me in for a hug and wrapped his arms around me, squeezing tight. He took in a big whiff as he smelled my hair. “You smell like lavender,” he said. “You always smell so good.”
“So do you,” I said trying to find my balance. Was I even standing? My legs felt like cooked spaghetti.
He gave me a kiss on the forehead and turned to leave, but then turned back around. “Lily?”
“Nothing. I just needed to see your face one last time before I go.” He stared at me like he was committing my face to memory. And I understood, so I let him. “Good night, Lil.”
“Good night, Cooper.”
“When you go to sleep tonight I want you to remember the words I’m about to tell you.”
“Your dad would be proud of you. I just felt like you needed to hear that.”
He turned to leave, and a single tear fell down my cheek.
The next morning I was awakened by my cell phone vibrating on my nightstand. I looked at the clock: 6:00 a.m. Ordinarily, I would be annoyed by the early wake up call. This morning, however, I couldn’t kick the covers off fast enough to reach it. I was tangled up in the sheets like a burrito and with each vibrating sound I become more anxious that I wouldn’t answer it in time. Struggling with the white feather down comforter that had somehow managed to twist itself around my torso, I finally released myself from its death grip.
“Hello?” I answered breathlessly and maybe too eagerly.
I smiled into the phone and brushed my hair out of my face. “Hey.”
“Did I wake you?” Cooper asked with the most soothing morning voice I’d ever heard.
Debating whether or not I should admit that he had, I finally decided I would be honest. “Yes, but it’s okay. I would rather hear your voice than that annoying alarm clock any day.” The truth was, I hadn’t slept very well. The last time I looked at the clock it was four-thirty in the morning. My mind wouldn’t settle down long enough for me to sleep.
“Sorry for waking you… I needed to hear your voice and couldn’t wait any longer. I’ve been lying here for an hour talking myself out of calling you sooner.”
“You’ve been lying there for an hour? Did you get any sleep?”
“Yeah, me neither.”
“Now I’m even more sorry that I woke you.”
“Don’t be. I’m glad you did.” Cooper’s phone voice was heavenly and just hearing his voice in my ear was making the butterflies in my stomach flutter.
“Listen, are you working today?” Cooper asked.
“I’m working the lunch shift.”
“I would like to pick you up when you get off work if that’s alright.”
“Sure. Aren’t you working today?”
“Yeah, a half day. I decided I wanted to spend the afternoon with you,” he said. “We can leave your car there and go back and pick it up later.”
“That’s fine. I get off at two o’clock.”
“I’ll be there at one-thirty.”
“Um, wait. I’ll need to change clothes.” No way was I going anywhere with Cooper still wearing my diner uniform.
“Bring a change of clothes with you and you can change at my house. I thought we could hang out here today. Is that okay?” he asked as if I might say no.
“That’s fine. I would love to see where you live. It’s only fair since you know where I live.”
I heard a chuckle and then he said, “I was thinking the same thing.”
“Alright then. I’ll see you at one-thirty.”
I walked into work smiling. I hadn’t even realized that I was doing it until I saw Beth and she immediately asked, “What’s with the new you?”
“Huh? What do you mean?” I asked, certain that I would regret the question.
“This,” she said, waving her finger up and down at me. “You seem so happy. Does it have anything to do with Cooper Hudson?” The last part of her question came out almost like a squeal, like we were at a teenage girl’s slumber party.
“Oh,” I said, attempting to sound nonchalant. “Yes. I mean,” I paused trying to choose my words carefully, “we have been spending some time together. He’ll – uh – he’ll be picking me up today at the end of my shift.” I tried to make it sound like it wasn’t a big deal, but my excitement was overflowing, so despite my best efforts she saw right through me.
“Oh my God! Are you being serious?” She sounded overly excited. “Will I get to meet him?”
“Sure, I’ll introduce you. By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you how you knew him.”
“Lily, he’s a local star. Well,
may be too strong of a word, but he has fans around here.”
“Yeah. A bunch of my girlfriends go see him every Friday night at Joe’s. I’ve gone a couple of times myself. I’m so totally jealous of you,” she said, nudging my shoulder with hers. “He’s swoon worthy for sure.”
“I had no idea he was so well known around here.”
I had only been back in town a couple of months and most of that time was spent being by myself with very little interaction with the outside world. Cooper was probably used to women falling all over him. I wondered if he reciprocated the attention they gave him. That thought alone made my stomach churn. I suddenly felt very nauseous.
I didn’t know if Beth could sense what I was feeling or if she could see my face turning green, but she lost the school girl squeal and said very seriously, “Lily, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I may not know Cooper, but I do know you, and you are probably one of the prettiest and sweetest girls I’ve ever met. He would be stupid not to recognize that. And he doesn’t strike me as being dumb, so don’t over think it.”
I wanted to ask her if she knew his reputation with dating and such, but I wasn’t sure I really wanted to know so I didn’t ask. Instead, I offered her a smile. “We should be getting ready before the lunch crowd gets here.” With that I turned to go put my things away and forced myself to concentrate on the work ahead of me.
The rush of the lunch shift was pretty much the same and I was getting used to it. It went from quiet to loud in a matter of minutes and I was way too busy to think any more about Cooper and his
Ugh, I refuse to be that girl. The girl that gets jealous if her boyfriend is seen talking to the opposite sex. I’ve never been the jealous type.
At one-thirty, Cooper showed up and he sat down at the end of the counter. Beth noticed immediately and tapped me on the shoulder when I was taking Jim his usual grilled cheese and tomato soup. Looking over my shoulder and seeing him sitting there I couldn’t help but smile knowing he was there for me.
“Here you go, Jim. Can I get you anything else?”
“No honey, this is good. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” I said, setting down some extra napkins.