28 - Tap Tap Tap

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I belted out the lyrics to Hailee Steinfeld's Starving, trying to hide a grin as Rian's mouth fell open.

As the song ended, the small crowd we'd amassed in the karaoke bar released thunderous applause. I even heard a few whistles as I stepped off the stage.

"Wow," Rian said, impressed, as I made my way back to our table. "I figured you could sing, but that was amazing."

I smiled, a little smug. "Thanks. Wanna tally up the score?" 

I was currently winning our little wager—as promised, I'd beat him at bowling, but he'd managed to steal a win on the race car track. We'd tied at the dart competition next door. This was the final frontier.

And I'd just brought the house down.

He smirked at me, not taking the bait. "The round's not over yet. It's my turn now."

I laughed. "You can't sing," I exclaimed. "You can barely carry a tune in a bucket!"

He wrinkled his nose at me. "What is this, 1984? I thought I was the one with the stilted language issues."

I scoffed. "Whatever. My point is you can't win, Haltie." I spread my arms tauntingly, already tasting victory. "Accept defeat. Singing isn't your style."

He chuckled darkly. "Who said I'd be singing?"

I frowned. What did he mean by that? But before I could ask, he was already walking towards the head of the room.

Instead of climbing up onstage, he veered to the left and sat down on a bench. I froze as I realized what he was about to do.

His fingers landed on the keys of the piano before him. He looked up and grinned wickedly at me. 

I glared back, but inside I struggled to smother my excitement. It'd been years since I'd heard him play, and I'd be lying if I didn't say he was the reason I loved classical music.

The first note resounded throughout the room, catching the attention of the bar's many denizens. It was already captivating, and he'd only been up there a minute.

As he continued, the pace picked up speed and became more frenzied. I listened in awe as he stitched together a fiery and wild melody that seemed to contain the soul of the devil himself.

By the end, I could barely breathe, having been completely swept away by the sheer emotion in the music. The fact that it wasn't positive emotion meant nothing—the crowd went wild.

He stood and took a bow. I managed to wipe the amazed look off my face just as he strode over and smirked at me. 

"Now we can tally up the score," he said smugly. I couldn't bring myself to scowl; instead, I grinned broadly at him. At the sight of my unexpected smile, he seemed to freeze up a little. 

"That was so good!" I said excitedly. "What was the piece called?"

He recovered from his stunned state enough to reply, but I saw the tips of his ears go pink. "It's called Fires of a Revolution."

I leaned back in my seat and shook my head. "I can't believe you pulled something like that on my birthday," I said teasingly. "Aren't you supposed to let me win?"

He raised his eyebrows, getting over his embarrassment. "I've never once 'let' anyone win, and I don't plan on breaking that streak just for you."

I feigned hurt. "Ouch. Playing to win, I see."

He smirked. "What, and you aren't?" Just then, an alarm went off in his pocket. He glanced down, pulling out his phone to shut it off. 

"Looks like our time's up," he said, and I detected what almost sounded like . . . remorse? But that couldn't be right. What could he possibly have had worth regretting?

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