So it was odd to find myself deep in a Tuesday without having seen Ruby once since she’d left my room early that morning. I’d been in an endless loop of discussions and conference calls to wrap up the first phase of the summit. From here until we left for London, my days would be far more relaxed than they had been, since I would essentially just be on call. I both feared and welcomed it. On the one hand, I wanted more freedom in my daytime hours to ponder everything that was happening between us. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure that I needed more time in my own head thinking about this new relationship, its stark difference to my life before, and how I would manage this abrupt change in my life when we returned to London.
Finally Ruby found me in the hall, talking to one of the city’s head engineers. In my peripheral vision I could see her waiting to talk, and it seemed to me she was practically vibrating where she stood. When I said goodbye to Kendrick and he’d stepped away, she lifted her hand from where she’d hid it behind her back.
Clutched in her fist were two tickets.
“What is this?” I asked, pulling one loose from her grasp.
“What is this?” I asked again, looking up at her enormous grin. Surely she didn’t expect me . . .
She turned to start walking toward the lift, pushing the down button. “It’s the concert I was telling you about. By huge coincidence, it is also what we’re doing tonight.”
I winced a little, already imagining a roomful of sweaty bodies, rocking and swaying next to me, pressing into us as loud, screeching guitars assaulted our ears. “Ruby, I really don’t think this is my thing.”
“Oh, it’s definitely not, and it’s every bit as bad as you’re imagining,” she said, tapping my forehead with a laugh. We stepped into the lift, and I was happy to note we’d enjoy this quiet ride alone together.
“Worse maybe,” she continued. “The club is small for such a big band and it’s going to be packed. Sweaty, drunk Americans everywhere. But I still want you to go.”
“I confess I find your sales pitch to be somewhat lacking.”
“I’m going to get you liquored up, because you don’t have to work tomorrow, and,” she stretched up to kiss my chin, “I bet you a hundred dollars you have an amazing time and want to reward me with orgasms afterward.”
“I want to reward you with orgasms now.”
“Consider the concert motivation, then.” She gave me a look, one that I knew said, This is exactly what we talked about. Do this with me.
I sighed in mock annoyance, stepping out after her into the lobby. As much as my skin burned to feel her sliding under the sheets beside me sooner rather than later—and as odd as it was to admit it—it was nice to think about going out. “Will I know a single one of their songs?”
“You’d better,” she said, turning to glare playfully at me over her shoulder. “And if you don’t, you will soon. This is my favorite band in the world.”
As I moved into step with her, she looked up at me, singing a few lines from a song I did actually recognize from the general popular music osmosis one gets in public settings. Ruby’s voice was thin and off-key—bloody awful, really—but she didn’t care at all. Lord, would there be a single thing about this girl I didn’t find endlessly endearing?
“You’re thinking right now that I’m a terrible singer,” she said, poking me in the side.
“Yes,” I admitted, “but I have heard that song. I’ll tolerate the evening’s activity.”
She threw me a mock exasperated look. “How noble of you.”
The exterior of the Bowery Ballroom reminded me of an old firehouse: simple sandstone, wide central arch, with a green neon sign illuminating the entrance to the side. As we emerged from the subway station just outside the venue, Ruby bounced beside me, pulling me toward the entrance. Inside the space expanded into a much smaller floor than I’d been expecting, positioned less than a meter below a narrow stage lined on the sides with heavy velvet drapes. I could see in an instant why Ruby was so excited for the tickets: in a venue such as this, she would be closer to her favorite band than she’d likely ever been.
Upstairs, a balcony lined the sides and back of the room, looking down on the action, and had begun to fill with a few people holding cocktails. Already the floor had started to fill, and the humid air created by over a hundred bodies tripped my claustrophobic wire. As if sensing my impending panic, Ruby tugged my sleeve, pulling me to the bar.
“Two gin gimlets, tons of limes!” she yelled to the bartender. With a nod, he grabbed two glasses, filling them with ice. “I mean a lot of limes,” she added with a charming smile.
The oily hipster bartender smiled back at her, eyes stalling at her mouth before glancing at her chest and lingering.
Without thinking, I reached an arm around her shoulders, jerking her back against my front. The move surprised her. I could tell in the way she caught herself by wrapping both hands around my forearm, by the way she broke into a delighted laugh. Arching into me, Ruby slipped her hands behind her and around my lower back to hold me closer.
She turned her head, leaning against my chest and I bent so that her mouth was closer to my ear. “I’ve been crazy for you for months,” she reminded me with a small bite to my jaw. “Seeing you jealous like that just completely made my life.”