War and Peace: Chapter 47

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Chapter 47

The pub had become a miniature concert hall.

Kanade and Sara were belting out a duet on the main stage. Casey was dancing on top of the bar, drawing every eye in the joint. Having displaced the flabbergasted DJ, Julia was manning the mixer and introducing an on-the-fly remix, working off her discomfiture through pounding beats. People were lining up out the door to watch.

James was getting a sore neck from trying to watch everything at once. He was no longer shocked by the talent level of Stars and Dreams, but to see even Sara up on stage and carrying a tune was mind-blowing. Her rhythm was perfect, and she probably knew the lyrics to every song ever written, but her movements were just slightly awkward in an endearingly human way. Her coffee complexion made it difficult to be certain, but she almost seemed flushed. And Casey was a little too eye-catching for her own good up on the bar.

James self-consciously directed his attention elsewhere, and in the crowd found another familiar face gazing up at the performers with a complicated expression.


She was completely absorbed in the song.

James edged his way through the crowd. "Hey," he said, directly into her ear.

"Gah!" Alicia almost jumped. "Don't do that."

"Sorry about before," he said.


Up close, in the intimate dim of strobing flashes and pounding music, James noticed for the first time how young and earnest Alicia was when she wasn't spoiling for a fight. The deep gray of her eyes was a dusky sea.

Just who was it that she reminded him of?

"What?" Alicia said, eyeing him warily.

"Nothing. I meant, sorry about the fight in the plant. I didn't want to hit you."

"Oh." Alicia scrubbed a hand through her boyishly short hair. "Fights are like that. Anyway, my modifiers are on."

They stood together, watching Kanade and Sara sing and Casey dance and Julia twiddle dials to produce indescribable sounds. Alicia's face gradually took on the same expression from earlier: a weird mixture of admiration and envy.

"Actually, I wanted to thank you," she said, not turning from the performance.

"For what?"

"Taking us seriously."

"I was never looking down on you."

"I know," Alicia said. "I know. It just irritates the hell out of me when I see people with awesome skills not living up to their potential."

The song switched to a bass-driven hip-hop beat. Sara took over the vocals, doing a credible impression of Leona Lewis. Kanade climbed up on the bar with Casey, triggering a roar of cheers and whistles as they started to bump and grind. When it came to music, they were like two bodies with one spirit.

"You're all disgustingly talented," Alicia said, looking over at James. "You know that?"

"Not me. I just hang around with amazing people."

Alicia turned back to watching the duo heat up the bar. "I can't believe it. My favorite musicians. Insanely talented musicians. And they also kick my ass at this stupid game, the only thing I'm good at." She shook her head. "Being an ordinary person is pretty craptacular."

"I know what you mean," James said.

Alicia raised an eyebrow. "How could you? You're as bad as they are."

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