Kimmydon's Choice: both
Dino’s wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been expecting. True, it could use some repairs, but it lacked the dark aura that accompanied some of the smaller restaurants and pubs I’d been to. It was like the majority of the tiny restaurants I’d frequented, cozy. Three men and one woman were in the bar. The woman wore a small apron, naming her a waitress. One of the men smelled like a cook, greasy. Of the other two men, one rose to greet Dan and the band, while the other didn’t move from his stool, sipping his beer.
I was surprised such a small place had a kitchen, but it wasn’t impressive, catering to a menu consisting of chicken wings or burger and fries. We had passed through it, each member of Sonic Wave carrying a part of the drum kit.
“You’re here. Wasn’t expecting you for a couple hours yet. Hello,” he said looking me over. “New vocalist?” he asked Dan.
He snorted. “No. Just a friend. Jenn, meet Dino.”
I shifted the cymbal - I think Eric had called it the high hat - so I could shake his hand. Dan took it from me with another snort.
“Pretty friend,” Dino murmured. He was tall and round in the middle. His hair was gray in places, but still full on the top of his head. “You going to sit at the bar?” he asked grinning.
I had no answer. I’d never been used to being hit on. Keeping my nose in my notebook tended to avoid such advances. “Uh... I... thought I’d...”
“Give over, Dino. She’s half your age,” Dan said with another chuckle. “You like the older ones, don’t you?”
Dino’s face softened and his blue eyes blurred slightly. “Yeah, with breasts pushed up far higher than they can possibly sit normally any more, strutting for a young peacock and happy for any cock at the end of the night.” He trailed off, lost in his daydream.
“Let’s get out of here,” Dan whispered, pushing me out the front door. “Eric and John have the rest,” he explained once on the sidewalk. “I couldn’t leave you alone with him. Why don’t you get all gooey like that for me?” he asked, indignant.
“Because you never talk nicely,” I snapped back.
“I can talk nice,” he said, his voice dropping and becoming mellow. “I can tell you all sorts of things you’d like to hear.” A shiver ran down my spine as his lips approached my ear. “Seriously?” he asked, voice normal again. “That’s all it takes? Well, damn, I figured you for a harder catch than that.”
Shaking myself, I tried to steady my legs. “I can swoon without completely falling,” I complained.
“Oh?” He leaned in again. “I can melt those panties right off you,” he said in voice oozing sin. I jabbed my elbow into his ribs hard enough to make him double over. “Shit, okay. No panty melting. Got it.” For some reason, that made me laugh. Groaning a few more times, he straightened, taking my hand. I almost pulled it away, but his grip was loose, more guiding me than holding me.
“Let’s find food,” he said. “You like curry?”
I shrugged. “Depends. I don’t like it really spicy.”
“Why am I not surprised,” Dan muttered. “John and Eric will know where to find me,” he said a little more loudly. He pulled me into a small restaurant a little more than a block from Dino’s. The dark colours made it seem dim despite the good lighting. Dan nudged me and I looked at the cushions and low table. Slipping off my shoes, I sat, lounging slightly.
Dan leaned on his elbow behind me, his face around my hip. What was he doing there? His hand rose to hover over my bare leg. I bent my knee to aim a foot at his crotch. He smirked and I smiled.
“I like you, Chase,” he said, sitting up a little more.
I blushed a little and wondered why.
“Marla’s right, you don’t let me get away with shit.”
My grin broadened. “If I let you start, you’d never stop,” I pointed out.
He chuckled. “True.” The rest of Sonic Wave came in just as a woman in a sari approached to take our order.
So, full of curry and rice, I sat on a stool at the bar with Dino hovering a little too closely. I had my notebook out, scribbling away in it.
The knight sneered at the prince who was attempting to attract his princess. She was too clever to be caught up by such an obvious suit, but she was blushing and laughing far more than he expected.
He waited for the prince to go before stepping behind the woman he’d sworn to protect. “Are you so easily blind by jewels and favours? I have brought you some,” he murmured, reaching around her to touch the jewel hanging from her neck.
She stepped away, turning and laughing. “You thought he won over? Good, I want him to think so as well. And how dare you put your hands on me?!” she asked in a fury.
My head whipped up at the lyrics I was hearing.
“Luz Maria Diaz
Don the tights of justice
wear the cape of everyday man!
Luz Maria Diaz
Take that dog down...
That dog down there!”
I nearly fell off my stool. I was laughing hard enough that people were staring. Most them were chuckling at the ludicrous song, but only I laughed openly. Dan found me and smiled broadly. He was playing an intricate sequence on the strings of his guitar, not singing. He winked.
A couple songs later, they broke for ten minutes. He came to me and asked what I thought.
“They didn’t think it was ready?” I asked rather than answer.
He chuckled and nodded. “I think it’s fine, don’t you?”
“Perfect. Did you find any other words of inspiration in here?” I asked, tapping my notebook.
“Not yet. I noticed you writing again though. We that boring?”
Looking away, I felt embarrassed. “Not that. Just a good idea I needed to write down. The music is very nice.”
He rolled his eyes. “You really don’t like it?” There was a tightness to his eyes, his mouth. Had I insulted him?
“I really, just don’t... music is background to me.”
He sighed but nodded. “I guess I knew but had to see it for myself. It would have been easier if you just didn’t like it. You know you’re the first person I’ve met who actually doesn’t care for music?”
I pressed my lips, feeling affronted.
“Well, I should get back up there.” He looked to the stage before turning back and kissing her cheek very quickly. “Only another hour.”
I didn’t have a chance to say anything but could feel eyes on me that hadn’t been before. I sat a little straighter and didn’t open my notebook again. I listened to more of the lyrics and appreciated the poetry of them. I wondered how many Dan had written. I’d never thought of him as a writer before today. Were there other things we had in common? I doubted it.
When they started packing up a man in the bar approached me. “Hey, baby. You got a ride home?”
“Yes, thank you.” I looked pointedly away, toward Dan and the others.
“Ah, groupie. You know, they won’t mind if I steal you for the night.” His hand stroked my bare leg.
“Do not touch me,” I hissed in a low growl.
“Why not, sweet thing? You look like you could use some touching.” He brought his hand to my face and I turned away. “I’ll treat you nice.” His leering was truly repulsive, even more than the stench of stale beer coming off him.
“You will,” I said sweetly, smiling and putting my hand over his. Then I dug my nails into his wrist. “You will treat me very nicely and leave me alone.”
“I like them feisty,” he said, causing bile to rise in my throat.
“Back off,” Dan said, clapping the man on his shoulder. “She’s with me. With us,” he said, glancing behind him to Eric and John.
“Buck,” Dino groaned. “How many times do I have to kick you out of here before you listen when a woman tells you no. Get outta my bar.” He came around the bar to seize the man by the shoulders and hustle him out.
Dan held my hands gently in his, stroking the backs with his thumbs. “It’s all right. There’s only one load left. We can get out of here.”
I took a breath and grabbed my notebook and bag one-handed, not quite ready to let go. “Thank you,” I murmured as he put an arm around my shoulders.
“No problem. I’ll take you home.” It didn’t occur to me until we were in the van and on the road that he hadn’t raised my ire or made me uncomfortable.
“Thank you,” I said again into the quiet of the van. Eric was snoring, but John was still awake, tapping out rhythms to the music on his iPod.
“I don’t like guys doing that to you. I didn’t like Dino doing it, and he was harmless. Do you even know how pretty you are?” He took his eyes from the dark road long enough to look at me. “Do you?”
“N-no.” I didn’t. I mean, I knew I wasn’t hard on the eyes, but I had never been one to put a lot of attention into my appearance. I usually took any compliments I received as pure flattery.
“I didn’t think so,” he muttered, watching the road again. “I’ll make sure you don’t come alone to a show again. Even Marla with you probably would have kept that guy off.” His voice was gruffer than I’d heard it before.
“I think you’re right. That’s a good idea. I know she likes your band, at least a little.” She had bought their shirt after all.
He chuckled. “Yeah, she doesn’t hate us.” We drove in silence for a while. It was too dark to write in the van and I didn’t really want to, anyway.
“Practice,” I murmured, thinking to ask him something. “You said you could palm things by practice. Who taught you that?”
Dan smiled, looking at me from the corner of his eye. “Grandpa Danny. Yeah, I’m named after him. He loved to make coins appear from no where and cards disappear. He showed me how. Then, when Dad passed, it was handy on the street.”
I was stunned for a moment. That was more than I had expected. Certainly more direct than I
would have delivered such information. “On the street?” I murmured in disbelief.
“Yeah. It was tough. We moved between shelters a lot. Luckily the state never found out. They probably would have tried to take me away. Missed some school in there. Mom hated that part, but she didn’t always have the bus money. When I figured out how badly she wanted me to go, I started nicking change where I could. It’s actually pretty easy. Especially coins, no one pays attention to their quarters anymore. I bought myself lunch some days.” The headlights of an on-coming semi truck lit up his face for a moment, showing me his dazzling smile. “What, you mean to tell me your life has been nothing but roses?” he asked in response to my dumbfounded expression.
“Compared to that, yes.” I shook myself. “Dad lost his job when the market crashed, but Mom had something part-time. We almost lost the house, but didn’t.” I laughed suddenly. “They actually bought an RV last month, that’s how much better they’re doing. I don’t think me moving out hurt that.” I smirked and Dan chuckled quietly.
“Never hurts to have one less mouth to feed. Gotta feed your family; gotta feed yourself.” He said it like I should have heard it before, but I hadn’t.
One of the guys behind started talking in his sleep. “No, Ma, I don’t wanna haircut.”
Dan and I both erupted in laughter, waking John and Eric. We never learned which one it had been.
Dawn was on horizon when Dan dropped me off. “I’m really glad you came,” he said, holding the door open and offering a hand to help me down. The guys were asleep again already.
“I’m glad I did, too.”
He leaned toward me and I raised a hand to his lips.
“Let’s not ruin my impression of the night,” I teased.
“Whatever you say,” he whispered, breath curling in my ear and making me shiver. “You’ll wish you’d come with me. My wings really can take you to heaven.”
It was so cheesy and yet delivered so well, all I did was smile in reply. “I could break those wings...” I muttered.
He laughed. “I await that day. I’ll finish that song for you.” My notebook was in his hands again, but this time I wasn’t surprised. He tore out the page with his lyrics. “I’m glad you liked it. I’m going to actually borrow this one weekend, or maybe when you’ve filled it. Luchador Extraordinaire can’t be the only song hiding in there.” His grin was big again as he handed me the notebook.
“Here,” I pushed it at him. “I’ll start a new one.”
“Thanks,” he murmured and kissed my cheek quickly before walking back around the van.
Flopping down on my bed, I’m surprised at how light it has gotten. I could see the map clearly, all the places I’d never been, places I could go. With Dan? Would Dan ever fit properly into my life? Probably not.
”Princess,” the knight called. “I’ve learned of another dragon that needs slaying. Besides, it doesn’t do either of us any good to have me sitting around here.” He lifted a gauntlet covered hand, either in salute or simple greeting, the princess wasn’t sure, but she had to agree. Whether his absence made his presence more bearable, or simply because his reputation was vital to her protection, she was never sad to see him go.