Today Kahlen Aymes shares something beautiful with all of us — part 1 of a brand new outtake from The Remembrance Trilogy!
Without further ado, let’s enjoy more of Ryan and Julia 😉
~A Night out at Stanford~
By Kahlen Aymes
Copyright 2013 – All Rights Reserved
I hated this fucking place! The music pounded in my ears and it was almost body-to-body packed. The sort of uncomfortably packed that was only okay if you were drunk off your ass, and you didn’t care if some other dude rubbed up on your date. The club was swanky, bordering on cheesy, but to me it felt like a throwback to a 1970s disco, circa Saturday Night Fever. Except not as cool and the sort of mind-numbing rhythm that was mostly a beat littered with grunts and held little resemblance to actual music.
Normally, I wouldn’t be caught dead here, but, my date, Leah, picked the joint, not me. It was dark, the walls deep burgundy with a dance floor in the back of the large room that was just a continuation of the wood floor. The DJ and the twenty or so couples bouncing up and down were the only things that set it apart from the rest of the room. Low couches were lined up around flat, square tables, and they were littered with women and men who were drinking too much and carrying on together. I almost visibly cringed.
Fingers tightened possessively around mine as I led my date through the throng, shouldering my way in between the crowd and toward a vacancy on one of the couches near the dance floor. I would have preferred a greater distance from the speakers, but as my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I realized that actual seats were hard to come by, and it was so busy that people lined up against walls and were stacked up two and three deep at the bar. The darkness was broken only by a few flashing lights that reflected off the mirrored ball above the dance floor. My brain fought back the urge to turn around and leave as I motioned for Leah to take a seat.
“I’ll go get drinks. What would you like?”
She lifted her eyes to mine. She was pretty with delicate bone structure and bouncy blonde curls that barely reached her shoulders. She was also model-thin and beyond wasting twenty dollars on a meal she hadn’t touched, it just wasn’t that attractive.
Her father was a bigwig in the California Legislature but, from what I gathered from her dinner conversation, her mother spent all day in the spa and did little else. My father might approve on the surface but my mother would raise a cynical eyebrow, especially after meeting my best friend. Substance; Julia had loads of it, and most of the women I dated weren’t worthy to stand in her shadow. I’d fucked my chances at ever getting my mother’s approval on anyone else after taking Julia home for Christmas last year. Maybe that was why I didn’t bother.
The woman in front of me looked properly primped and groomed, completely coiffed, even if her bones did poke out more than I preferred. I knew, all too well, that appearances could be deceiving, and while I’d hoped for depth, her personality was a little too narcissistic for my taste. Sure, my friends gave me shit about my looks all the time, and I played into it for fun. Mostly, because it made Julia blush, and I loved to tease her. I had a hard time admitting it, even to myself, but a part of me puffed up that she might find me even the slightest bit attractive. I suffered with a serious pull to her, and it was a much needed balm to let myself believe that maybe, just maybe, she might have to deal with the same bullshit I did.
I’d only known Leah since the semester began a couple of weeks before, but I’d already gathered that she detested being Mommy and Daddy’s perfect little princess and was looking to rebel in a big way. She might look fragile, but the beginning of the evening had shocked the shit out of my expectations. The suggestive expression in her eyes and the way she continually found excuses to touch me left me with little doubt the evening could end up between the sheets if that’s what I wanted, but intuition was telling me to keep my dick in my pants or I’d be sorry. My father had schooled both Aaron and I to be wary of women with little or no ambition.
Her red-tipped fingers wound around my bare forearm, below the rolled up sleeves of my midnight blue button-down—a shirt that Julia had given me this past Christmas. Already, it was one of my favorites. She had a blouse in the same shade, and I’d mentioned that I loved the color, but I meant I loved it on her. She said it matched my eyes, and my heart flopped a little at the admission.
Leah’s mouth moved, but I couldn’t hear her over the din or my wandering thoughts.
I leaned down, and her thick perfume wafted around me. It was strong and just like Leah; subtle when you observed it from a distance, but a little too overdone up close.
“What?” My words were just shy of a shout.
“Whatever you’re having is fine.” She echoed the volume of my voice.
I huffed silently and nodded with a fake smile as I turned toward the bar. She couldn’t even decide on what she wanted to drink? I was bored, if I was honest, and now I was pretty much guaranteed to end up with a pounding headache before the evening was over. I found myself wishing I’d stayed in and just invited Julia over for pizza and a movie instead.
Lately, it had occurred to me that we were spending way too much time together, and our comfortable friendship was beginning to mean more to me. But, Julia was who I wanted to be around. She was fun and funny and gorgeous and smart. The harder I tried to keep things on an even keel, the more I noticed her tight little ass or the way she used the tip of her tongue to lick hot chocolate off of her full lower lip. It was getting more difficult to be around her and not touch her. It felt natural, and she excited me more than any plastic Barbie doll-wannabe ever could. But that was just the problem. I needed to sort this out before I did something stupid.
I inhaled deeply and ran a hand through my hair on my way to the bar. It was at the back, opposite the door. I leaned in to get the bartender’s attention and ordered two bottles of Budweiser.
“Can I get a glass with one of those, please?” I asked loudly.
As I waited for him to bring the beer, I pulled out my money and unfurled a ten-dollar bill. A cocktail waitress was loading up a bunch of lemon drop shots to her tray before she returned to the floor. My mouth quirked as I handed over the money and prepared to take the beers, one of them with a glass resting upside down over the neck.
Of course, I berated myself silently. The corner of my mouth curled in a sarcastic grin. Another reminder. Lemon Drops were Julia’s favorite shot. Could I not get a fucking break?
I turned around, lifting my beer to my lips at the same time, ready to take a long pull on my way back to the table when I was stopped suddenly by a hand on my chest.
“What are you doing here?”
I looked down into Ellie’s wide grey eyes, one eyebrow cocked over her left one.
“Uh…” I began, bemused, but automatically my eyes began scanning for Julia. “Having a beer? Didn’t know you owned this shithole.”
Ellie’s hands rested on her hips and her jaw set. “You never come here. That’s why… Oh, hell!”
“Yeah, I hate this damn place. I’d never pick it. My date wanted to come. Is Jules with you?”
“She’s having a good time, and she doesn’t need you hovering.”
My brows knitted together in a frown as I looked down on the much shorter woman. “I’m not! I don’t.” I finally took a swig from the bottle, only to gaze around the bar.
“Yeah, sure you don’t.”
“What’s your problem?” I asked, irritated.
“Just let her be, Ryan. It would be better if she didn’t even know you were here. She’ll be too busy worrying about you to have a good time.”
“Whatever. Since when is hanging out with you guys off limits?”
“Since you started going all Neanderthal apeshit when anything male even glanced in Julia’s direction.”
I ignored the implications and flushed, uncomfortable from her shrewd observation and now worried that she’d said something similar to Julia. Or worse, that my feelings were obvious to everyone. I rewarded Ellie with a wry look. “Is there something that will freak me out?” The hair on the back of my neck was beginning to prickle.
“See, that’s just it. Nothing! She’s an adult. She gets to do what she wants, and as her friend, you should support her.”
“As long as she isn’t getting hurt, it’s cool.” I dismissed her with a roll of my eyes, but the very direction of this conversation had me feeling uneasy.
“It’s cool.” Ellie mocked, staring up into my eyes with a shake of her head, apparently waiting for me to slap a condition on what I’d just said. I was getting tired of the inquisition.
“Yesssss,” I hissed. “Can I go back to my date now, Ellie? Christ!” I began to move around her as she still stood in my path, but she grabbed my arm. “What?” I was starting to get pissed and wondered what the fuck she was trying to keep from me.
“Where are you sitting?”
I used my beer as a pointer. “Over there, on that couch near the dance floor.”
“Why? What is it I’m not supposed to see? Is some asshole trying to get her drunk? I saw that tray of Lemon Drops head out a minute ago.”
“She’s having fun and dancing. Letting loose a little. If she sees you, just chill and let her be.”
My mouth settled into a firm line as I noted the line of Ellie’s glance. If she was worried over my reaction, then something was worth worrying about. I did a half turn, and my eyes narrowed until they finally landed on Julia.
She was standing near a table on the opposite side of the dance floor from where I’d left Leah lounging on one of the couches. My breath hitched as I looked her over. She looked stunning wearing a short, black sequined dress with miles of bare leg showing. I couldn’t see her feet from where I was standing, but I knew she’d have on some sort of amazing high heels. Her hair looked wild, as if she’d just been freshly fucked, and I nearly dropped my beer, realizing how many times I’d fantasized over that very image site. I lifted the hand still holding my beer and wiped at my mouth with the back of my wrist.
“Holy fuck,” I said under my breath.
“Yeah, this is not good,” Ellie muttered and shook her head again.
I watched Julia’s head fall back as she laughed at something the man next to her said, her hair tumbling down almost to her waist. Then he handed her a shot. Julia took it, clinked her glass with his, and threw it back before setting the glass back down on the tray.
“Ryan!” Ellie waved her hand in front of my face until I looked at her again. She pointed toward my date. “Go on! You’re being rude to that girl.”
My chest felt weird, tight, and my heart was thudding sickeningly in my chest, like a tennis ball that’d been caged inside a tin can and kicked down a steep hill. It was strangely painful and completely foreign.
I’d known Julia over two years, and this wasn’t the first time I’d seen her dressed up. I knew she was hot. I had eyes. But what was fucking me up was that she was here without me, and she was having a great time. In this steaming den of hormonal college guys just looking for their next conquest, all of them leering at her legs and soft curves swelling under the fabric that clung and sparkled softly in all the right places, she was a prime target. I glanced at the men near her and the ones lounging on the couches openly ogling her legs, and heat exploded underneath the skin of my neck and face. It would only be a matter of time before one of those jackasses tried to touch her in a way I wouldn’t like.
Ellie shoved me gently in the chest, and I dragged my eyes from Julia and back down to her face. “Can you just be cool? Ryan?”
“What? Who are those guys?” I didn’t recognize them, but the taller of the two, the dark haired one who’d bought the tray of shots, was leaning in to speak to her, and his hand settled lightly on her hip.
“They’re just guys to dance with. They’re students at Stanford, too.”
My eyes honed in on the one touching Julia. “I’ve never seen them before.”
“Whatever. So, we good?”
I cleared my throat. “Yeah. But if something happens… come and get me.”
“Ryan.” Ellie rolled her eyes in reproach.
“It’s either that or Leah and I can just join the party right now.” She looked pissed, and I didn’t give a fuck. “That’s the best I got. Take it or leave it.”
“I’m sure your date would appreciate that, Ryan. God!”
“I barely know her, Ellie. Julia comes first.”
She looked me square in the eye. “Would it matter if you’d known her for ten years?”
“Probably not,” I said without thinking, still watching what was going on at the table across the bar.
Ellie sighed, her chest visibly heaving. “At least that’s honest.”
I ignored her and turned away toward my date, who was bouncing around as she did some ridiculous chair dance. She’d probably drag me to dance, which would shoot Ellie’s request that I keep a low profile all to hell. I did a mental shrug as I handed Leah her beer. This place was small, so it was likely Julia would see me anyway. I wasn’t exactly sure that I didn’t want her to. I wanted her to know I was here if she needed me, but it felt strange to be around her when one of us had a date. It was uncomfortable, and I continually found myself wishing that it was just the two of us. I had an overwhelming urge to storm across the floor and make sure that dude knew he’d better keep it on the up and up with Julia, but that would only be awkward and embarrassing. I couldn’t do that to my date or to my best friend. Instead, I settled down and bored holes in his back with my eyes.
The couch was too low for me. The thing was maybe 18 inches off of the floor, and my legs felt cramped between the edge of the seat and the table. Leah smiled and rested her hand on my chest in an awkward attempt to re-establish my attention on her. I smiled weakly and pulled out my cell phone and fiddled with it, fighting the desire to send Julia a text. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d been out with a woman and sought out opportunities to check up on her. Right now, I didn’t stand on pretense or formality. My fingers itched to type out a text.
“Ryan, do you want to dance?”
My brows furrowed at Leah’s words while my thumbs hammered the keys of my phone. “In a while, maybe,” I threw out offhandedly, distracted between my phone and watching what Julia was doing. Ellie was seated at the table, and Julia was still standing next to it. Her companion leaned in and whispered something into her ear. It was way more intimate than I wanted to witness, his hand skirting up her bare thigh toward the hem of her dress. I hesitated half a second before I pushed send. I pulled at the front of my shirt as my chest tightened painfully.
What are you doing?
When she found out I was here and already knew exactly what she was doing, she’d be pissed that I’d ask, but I wasn’t thinking much beyond needing to see if she’d tell me the truth.
The music changed to a slow pulse with more of a melody. I watched him take Julia’s slender hand in his and tug her slowly toward the middle of the dance floor, closer to me. My eyes roamed over them both, jealousy taking a tighter hold on my chest. At the bar, I’d barely glanced in his direction, but now he had my undivided attention.
“I really like this song,” Leah murmured, her fingers now worming their way in between two of the buttons on my shirt to scratch lightly on my bare chest. “Mmmm… you feel nice.” Her voice was beguiling, and I realized she was still trying to get me to pay her some attention. I chugged the last couple ounces of beer in my bottle and waved the empty bottle at the cocktail waitress. I held up two fingers, and she nodded in understanding.
It took every ounce of strength I had to pull my eyes away from Julia, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from doing something I had no right to do. I turned to Leah, pulling her fingers from my shirt to enfold them with my own. I smiled at her, trying to concentrate on her dark brown eyes and not the asshole wrapped around Julia less than 20 feet away. Leah was babbling on endlessly about a trip to Europe she took with a group of friends over Christmas break when the waitress brought our beer. The waitress set them both in front of me, and I grabbed the closest one, wanting to get hammered but knowing I wouldn’t. How could I take care of Julia if I was wasted?
The music changed again, and I raised my head away from Leah, letting myself glance toward the dance floor and the table where Julia had been. She wasn’t there. The guy wasn’t either. My breath left in a rush as panic washed over me, and I sat up straighter, trying to unravel Leah, who was halfway draped across my chest by now.
“Ryan, let’s go back to my place,” she said, her voice low and dripping with sex. Too bad it didn’t do a Goddamned thing to distract me. Her hand roaming high on my thigh was only pissing me off when I wanted to be free of her. Her fingers squeezed suggestively, and her lips nudged my jaw.
My beer slipped from my fingers, and I scrambled to catch it but it was being lifted by another set of slender fingers without the blazing red nails. By the time my eyes shifted up and focused, Julia was leisurely taking a drink from my bottle. Her hooded green eyes appraised me, sitting there watching her and then transferred 12 inches to Leah. She hated beer, but still here she was, stamping her ownership with something as simple as a pull on a beer bottle. She probably didn’t even know the effect it had on me at such a base level. Something tightened down deep inside my gut.
“Ryan! Are you gonna let her do that?” Leah demanded indignantly, her eyes flashing haughtily up at Julia.
My lips raised in the slightest smirk. Julia echoed it when our eyes locked.
Ryan, seriously, I love you more and more everytime!
Thank you, Kahlen, for sharing this outtake here on Bookish Temptations with all of us!
Don’t forget that part 2 will be posted on The Sub Club Books today.
If you haven’t read The Remembrance Trilogy by Kahlen Aymes, what are you waiting for? It’s one of my favorite series ever. Oh Ryan *happy sigh*
You can purchase A Love Like This, the third and last installment, here.