Chapter 28

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The dim lighting inside the Italian restaurant gave the place a romantic glow, which would have been perfect if I weren't about to sit down for potentially the most awkward dinner of my life. Kevin, Vanessa, their bandmates, Alexander, and my parents all at one giant table. Oh, and let's not forget the several giant elephants following us around.

(I mean that figuratively, of course. Although having literal elephants would have been nice, especially if they had stampeded Alexander before I was forced to confess to him.)

Kevin fidgeted with his tie, looking thoroughly uncomfortable and out of his element. "You thinking this dinner is gonna tank, too?" he whispered, just low enough that my parents couldn't hear.

"Without a doubt."

He grunted. "They better have the best lasagna I've ever tasted in my life."

Dad conversed with the stocky, mustached manager about our reservations as soon as we walked in. This was quite a confusing process; at one end, Dad's thick Chinese accent butchered his English, and on the opposite end, the Italian manager's heavily accented English was just atrocious.

Forget the awkward dinner conversation. It looked like we weren't even going to make it to the food.

Just as I was about to step in and save the situation, Dad's message got across to the manager. The little man nodded fervently. "Ah, reservation. Sit, sit!" He grabbed a handful of menus and gestured for us to follow him to our table, where the others were already seated.

"Where're your band members?" I asked Kevin, noting that only Alexander and Vanessa were seated at the table.

"They took off. Can't blame 'em. I don't even wanna be here," Kevin grumbled.

It wasn't fair how perfect Alexander Lin was. Even the god of fashion smiled down upon him. Literally, nobody except he could pull off the red dress shirt and white bowtie combination without looking like a bargain hunter's idea of Santa Claus. The worst part--or best, depending on how you look at it--is that his shirt matched my red dress to a tee. It was like Amelia and Louisa had somehow predicted this would happen.

Alexander's eyes lit up as I walked toward the round table where he and Kevin's bandmates were sitting. He stood up and crossed the carpet in three long strides. Stuck out his hand in front of me. I start at it, confused.

"I don't believe we've had the pleasure of meeting before," he said, a little smile creeping around his lips.

"Yeah, okay, Alexander. I get it. I never look this nice."

"You look more than nice. You look breathtaking."

I blushed. Great. Now even my cheeks matched Alexander's shirt. "Thanks. You look pretty good yourself," I mumbled, which made Alexander's smile brighten. Hurriedly, I pulled out the chair next to him and plopped myself into it, before he could see how hard I was flushing (though I'm pretty sure people all the way across the room could see it). My face felt like it was on fire.

Vanessa, who was sitting on my other side, was also a bit pink-faced. She was dressed to the nines. Hair down in loose curls. Feet fitted in tall black wedge heels that complemented her slim-fitting but still modest black dress. Uncharacteristically, she kept her head down and didn't even look up when Kevin pulled up a chair and squeezed in between us. It was weird to see Vanessa behaving so shyly. It made me wonder if something had happened between those two after they'd gotten off stage last night.

Meanwhile, my airheaded older brother was marveling at the fact that he'd fit in between us.

"You know, a couple of months ago, I couldn't have done that," Kevin said proudly, as if this was some kind of feat. Kevin turned to Vanessa with a huge smile on his face, nudging her all buddy-buddy like. Somehow the tension in her posture went right over his head. It was kind of painful to watch. "I said, a couple of months ago, I couldn't have fit into that gap," he repeated.

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