Woods

Grant took Della’s seat when she walked away.

“I take it that means you two made amends,” Grant said as he put his beer down on the table.

“We’re friends,” I replied. Not real sure how that was going to work but I was going to make sure it did.

“Friends,” Grant replied and nodded his head as if he agreed. The look on his face though was amused though. “Good luck with that.”

His comment pissed me off, but he was right. I needed all the luck I could get. Keeping a straight head around her was going to be hard.

“Thanks.”

Grant chuckled. “Looks like you think that’s as impossible as I do.”

I started to respond when Bethy walked up on the stage. “It’s time for some karaoke. Now that you’ve all had some free liquor you can sing for your drinks. Don’t worry I won’t make you come up here, yet. You have an entire song to drink enough until coming up here sounds like a good idea. Della has agreed to sing first because she doesn’t have to be drunk to sound badass.”

I shifted my eyes to Della who was looking up at Bethy like she wanted to crawl under a table. I wanted to go save her from this but I sure as hell wasn’t about to go sing. I’d never live it down.

“I got this,” Grant said and jumped up. I watched him saunter over to Della and say something that made her beam up at him. Stupid fucker. What was he doing?

Della slid her hand into his and they walked up to the stage together. He was gonna sing with her. He hadn’t sung in front of a crowd since high school.

Della looked relieved not to be up there alone.

The lyrics to “Picture” by Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock came up on the screen. He was going with a Kid song. Not surprising; he always liked singing Kid Rock songs.

The familiar sound began pouring through the speakers. Grant’s voice joined it and I let myself watch Della. She was impressed with his singing. Most people were. Until they heard Rush Finlay sing. Rush and Grant were step-brothers once for a few short years. But it had been enough to bond them. I never understood why Rush didn’t sing anymore because it had drawn the girls for miles when he was younger. Maybe it was the fact he didn’t want to be his father. He didn’t want to be compared to him. Rush’s father was the famous drummer from Slack Demon.

Grant hadn’t minded using his vocal skills to attract the girls though.

Della began her part of the song and the room went quiet. She was amazing. I’d been completely floored when she’d opened her mouth to sing at the Delamar Ball. This was one of the things I wanted to know more about. She had to have been singing for a long time.

“I’m just throwing this out there. I’m making a move on her. Your ass is engaged. So, you can get all pissed and shit but I’m still making a move. She’s hot and completely worth the ass kicking.” Thad informed me. I glared at him as he sat down across from me and shrugged before looking back up at the stage.

She was too smart to get mixed up with Thad. He wasn’t her type.

“If she doesn’t end up in Grant’s bed tonight. He’s looking like he’s ready to move in on her.”

I watched Grant as they finished the song and he pulled her into a hug. My hands clenched tightly into fists. What was he doing?

“Bud, you look like you need reminding you got your stupid ass engaged,” Thad said standing back up.

Della’s hands were resting on Grant’s arms just a little too comfortably and long. Della’s gaze left Grant’s face and her eyes found me. Immediately her hands fell away and she stepped away from Grant after flashing him one more smile. Then she turned and left the stage.

I watched her as she made her way through the crowd. She was headed for the back hallway that led to the restrooms. I didn’t think about it too hard. I just went with it. Standing up, I followed her.

She had already disappeared into the restroom when I got back there so I waited. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. We’d just agreed to become friends so pushing her back into that small one stall bathroom and taking her up against the wall again wasn’t a good idea. I was positive she wouldn’t be so willing anymore. Which burned like acid down my throat. I’d had her. I could have had more.

Staring at the door, I decided this was a bad move. Another mistake. I shouldn’t be back here. I wanted to get to know Della and this wasn’t the way to do it. She’d push me away if I even attempted anything.

I stalked back down the hallway away from the temptation.

“Woods?” Della’s voice stopped me. I couldn’t go back there. I looked back at her over my shoulder.

“Hey. You did great up there. Sheryl Crow is hard to sing.”

She blushed. “Thank you. It was fun. I’d been nervous when Bethy had asked me to but I’m glad I did.”“I’m glad you did too.”She walked toward me. “How about that dance now?”I wanted to dance with her. I wanted that memory. That experience. I held out my hand to her and she placed hers in mine. I stared down at her small hand and my chest felt like it was stretching. The tightness that surrounded me only grew stronger as I closed my hand around hers and led her out to the dance floor.I could feel eyes on me but right now I didn’t give a shit. They could look. They could judge me. This was what I wanted and until I said “I do” I was going to spend time getting to know Della. If I didn’t, I’d regret it for the rest of my life.Jimmy had taken the mic and had just started singing “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes. I was thankful for a slower song. That meant I’d get to pull her closer.Della slid her hands up my arms and rested them there. She didn’t slip them behind my neck and press close to me.“You smell good,” she said softly. I almost missed it she’d spoke so quietly.“Not as good as you smell, trust me,” I replied and she tensed as my hands tightened their grip on her waist. “It’s the truth, Della. I’ve told you before that you smell incredible. Don’t get all uptight because I’m being honest.”She relaxed a little. “Okay, you’re right. No harm in thinking your friends smell good.” The teasing tone in her voice was cute.“Is there a rule that says since we’re friends you can’t wrap your hands around my neck?”Della paused a moment then her hands slid up and over my shoulders. They rested on my shoulders. “I’m not tall enough for them to go any further. Even in these boots.”“This is good,” I assured her and pulled her closer. “Where are you from Della Sloane?”She laughed. “You could easily look on the application that you had me fill out to find that information.”She was right. I could. “But I want to hear it from you. I don’t want to read it off your file.”Della tilted her head to the side and studied me a moment. “Macon, Georgia”I’d have guessed Alabama or Georgia. Her accent was thick. “Do you have brothers or sisters?”A melancholy look came over her face and she shook her head no. “No.” That simple ‘no’ sounded like so much more. She wasn’t telling me something.“You don’t seem like an only child. The carefree, travel the world choice of yours is more like something the baby of a family would do.”Della smiled but it was one that held secrets. I wondered if I’d ever know those secrets.“I’m not carefree. Not even close. But I want to be. I’m hoping one day I’ll know what that feels like. Right now I’m trying to find me. You know what you want out of life, I don’t. I have no idea.”What I wanted out of life? Did I know? Was it even the same anymore? “I know a lot less than you think I do.”She smirked. “Is that so?”Kissing those sexy little lips was tempting. Oh so tempting. “When’s your birthday?” I asked instead of responding to her remark.Della sighed and she looked away from me. “April sixth. When is yours?”“December tenth. What’s your favorite color?”She giggled. “Blue. Pale blue. What’s yours?”“A month ago I would have said red but I’ve changed my mind. I like blue now too.”“Why?” she cocked an eyebrow and gazed up at me.I wasn’t about to tell her it was because her eyes were blue. She’d get all tense on me again. “A guy can change his mind. I’m allowed to like blue now.” I didn’t give her time to think about that. “Who was your first grade teacher?” I asked quickly to distract her. Della stopped dancing and she backed away from me. Her eyes appeared almost glassy. Had I said something wrong? Had she figured out why I had said blue was my favorite color?“I need a drink,” she said with a wobbly nervous smile then darted off away from me.How could I upset her by asking her about her first grade teacher? There was something deep in her eyes that told a story I feared I’d never know.