“You can let go now.”
Caden lingered for a moment before dropping his hand from mine, a mysterious smile growing across his brightened features. Our eyes remained fixed on each other, daring the other to speak. Time passed like molasses, but neither budged. After what seemed like hours, I finally gave in.
“So, friend, how’s life?”
“You’re kidding me, Nessie. Do you really have to be this difficult?” Caden sighed, rolling his eyes. I snickered.
“Why, yes, I do, and you’re avoiding my question.”
“I am not answering any of your questions until we leave this bathroom. There is no way I can take you seriously here.”
With a groan, I pushed on the door, sticking my tongue out at him as I held it open. Caden poked his head out the doorway, peeking around. For a moment, I watched him, transfixed. An invisible breeze seemed to brush his hair, the scent of his shampoo hitting my face. My eyes fell over him; through his shirt, I could see the definition of his back, muscular and smooth. Reaching forward, I took hold of his shirt, pulling him back to face me. Caden came back easily, his eyes dancing with questioning amusement.
“What the hell are you doing?” I stuttered, realizing what I had done.
“Um, looking for people. Do you know how much fun the tabloids would have if they saw me leaving a bathroom with you?”
My trance finally broken, I slammed the door on his face. He stumbled back, holding his nose.
“Ouch! I thought we had a deal!”
“I don’t think our deal including you and your ego sneaking me around. I am not something to be smuggled!”
Caden patted his nose once more, scrunching up his face.
“Chill out, Nessie, I just didn’t want to drag you unwillingly into the spotlight.”
I crossed my arms, but kept my mouth shut. There was no arguing with that.
“Fine, big guy, what’s your plan?”
He ran his fingers through his hair, his eyes covered in a focused glaze. Waiting, I tapped my foot to the rhythm of the sink’s drip, its echo filling the silence.
“Come on. I don’t have time for this.”
“Alright, alright,” Caden said, halting in his tracts. “You take the rear door and wait for me there. I’ll go first and sign a few autographs so it won’t look like I’m in a hurry, then meet you. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes.”
“It better not, rockstar. Now, move it!” I groaned, playfully nudging him toward the door. He smiled with gratitude before letting the door swing shut. I lingered, waiting for the shrill of female voices to reach my ears before gently opening the door. The sweet smell of syrup filled my nose mixed with the odor of strong, flowery perfumes.
“Typical.” I grunted, knowing the suffocating stench was undoubtedly from the girls surrounding what I assumed to be Caden.
My feet slowly tread across the restaurant, waiting for someone to question me. Oddly enough, no one even gave me a second glace as I slipped by the growing crowd and out the back door.
The cool breeze of an incoming autumn encircled me, blowing my hair in every which direction. Sighing, I slid down the brick wall onto the concrete below. Brave blades of grass struggled to worm through the cracks. A few birds chirped, dancing from tree to tree. My eyes scanned the parking lot; Willow’s car was missing as was the band’s.
“Great,” I moaned, “I’m stuck with him.”
“Stuck with me? Well, that’s not a very nice way to put it.”
My head jerked toward the voice to find Caden leaning nonchalantly over me.
“Of course you would think I was referring to you. This is exactly the reason why I hate every inch of your being.”
He laughed, sliding down beside me.
“I sure hope that’s not true, and, well, if it wasn’t me, who would it be?”
“Oh, I don’t know, my boyfriend?”
“You have a boyfriend?” Caden questioned, his expression sinking as he lowered his gaze.
“Nope, I’m just kidding. I haven’t had one since the end of last year.” I snapped, immediately regretting it once I saw the look on Caden’s eyes. He made my heart ache as he bit his lip, shutting me out. His eyes wandered as he contemplated.