Read Andre Online

Authors: V. Vaughn

Andre (2 page)

Chapter 3


N
essa
, please.”

I gaze at the pleading version of Ginny as I plop down on my bed. She’s offered to do my laundry for a month and bring me caramel lattes every day for life if I’ll help her out. Apparently the lead singer in Second Sound, the band she joined a couple months ago, just ran off with her boyfriend for LA, and they have a paying gig in two days. She wants me to sing until they find someone new.

My boot thuds on the floor when I yank it off and drop it. “God, Ginny. I suck.”

“You so do not suck.” She sits cross-legged on the floor in front of me. “You have that sexy jazz sound, and you know it.”

Okay, I do know that I have a unique voice, but being the lead in a rock band has never been my dream. I abhor all that goes with the lifestyle, like tattoos, drugs, and the thrift-store-chic attire.

“I’m not wearing spandex or sequins.”

“Got it.”

She has a puppy-dog look that makes me sigh, and I say, “Please tell me you have good back-up vocals.”

Ginny jumps up and says, “We do. Andre has a deep baritone that will offer depth and harmonize nicely with your alto.”

She walks over to my closet, and hangers scratch across the metal bar they hang from as she riffles through my clothes. Ginny takes out a sleek-fitting sleeveless black dress. The neck is high, and it’s elegant. She holds it in front of her body. “You can wear this. We’ll accessorize to make you hip. What do you say?”

I frown at her. “No ripped tights or black lipstick, right?”

She chuckles and says, “I’m so past that phase. Besides, you know our band is a bunch of geeks like me.”

I have to admit there is nothing quite like the thrill of people clapping for you when you perform. I think back to when I was in a high school musical and remember it was fun. “Okay. I’ll do it.”

Ginny throws her arms around me. “Thank you, thank you. Rehearsal is in a half hour.”

“Of course it is.” I get up and move to the mirror to fix my hair and apply some mascara. A stack of sheet music flutters as she sets it before me. My favorite song is on the top, and I grin. My sister knows how to play me almost as well as her keyboards.

Twenty-eight minutes later, we’re parked in front of an auto-mechanic shop. Ginny leads me through a waiting room done in wood paneling from half a century ago, and the faint scent of gasoline and oil floats in the air as we walk by a series of car bays. We end up in a large space that has tattered acoustic panels surrounding the area and a threadbare carpet on the floor. A guitarist is warming up, and he raises his head as we enter. Ginny says, “Jake, this is my sister Nessa.”

He’s in loose jeans and a flannel shirt that hangs on his thin frame. “Hey, thanks for helping us out.”

“Sure.”

A head pops up from behind the drums, and I’m surprised to see it’s a girl. Bleached-blond hair is in a high ponytail on her head, and I notice she’s a tiny thing. Her pixie appearance is completed with a high voice that sounds like a child’s. “Hi, Nessa. I’m Brita, like the water filter.”

During these exchanges, the low melody of a bass guitar has been playing, but the musician is hidden behind a stack of boxes, so I can’t see him. When the music stops, he steps out to greet me. I gaze up at a guy with hair that’s almost white. It’s loose around his shoulders, which are massive enough he might have to turn sideways to get through a doorway. My jaw drops when I realize who it is.
Andre is my security guard.

Ginny says, “This is Andre. The broody one I told you about.”

I think he smiles, but it’s such a small turn up of his mouth I can’t be sure. He nods at me, and I say, “Still saving those words for the right moment, I see.”

Now his lips do twitch as he steps back to retrieve his guitar. Ginny asks, “Do you know him?”

“He was my escort home from the library the other night. But since he doesn’t talk, I can’t say I know him.” Not yet anyway, because the silent man intrigues me, and I plan to find out more.
Oh, crap.
Tori’s words come to me, and I remember she told us about the Lindquist brothers, four polar bears who moved here. Figures I’m so distracted by the Nordic-god body that I forgot he might be a werebear. Yeah, well, he can stay mute for all I care, because I’m so not getting involved with that.

A random symphony of music plays as everyone warms up, and I sing a series of scale exercises when I join in. After a few minutes, Jake takes charge. Brita clicks her drumsticks in a beat, and we launch into a song. I know it well, and the words come easy for me as I lose myself in the melody. When I get to the chorus, Andre joins in. His tone is deep and rich. It captivates me, and I wish I could stop singing to focus on the sound. I adjust my voice to harmonize, and the moment we get it right, an electric current zings through me. It’s a weird sensation I’ve never felt before, but I like it.

I turn to face Andre as I sing, and he stares into my eyes as we hold a note. Now the spark I feel becomes more, as if his voice is filling me with sweet music that dances through my veins. Ginny was right; we are good together. Neither of us breaks our gaze until the song’s over. The moment Andre and I stop singing, the spell is broken, and I glance away.

Jake asks, “Man, Ginny, where have you been hiding her? She crushed it.”

I smile at him. “Thanks.”

We run through the playlist, and Jake takes notes, even though he’s recording the session. I’m impressed with his organization and leadership. At the end of the session, he asks to talk to me. His hands are warm on mine when he grabs them, and his eyes twinkle with excitement when he says, “You’re like a gift from god, Nessa.”

I grin at him. “Thanks, but I’m only filling in.”

He releases me to place a hand on his heart. “No. Don’t say that. You and Andre are magic. Tell me you didn’t feel it. I dare you.”

I chuckle at his dramatics. Andre has come to stand near me, and my insides tingle as if we’re in silent harmony. Our voices together are kind of magic. I turn to him. “You’re really talented.” I smile at the silent man. “We were really good together, weren’t we?”

He opens his mouth as if he’s about to speak, but Ginny comes bouncing over, and she embraces me. “You were fantastic! You loved it too, I could tell.”

“I did.” I pull away to give my attention back to Andre but discover his back is to me as he walks away. His butt flexes in jeans that are snug on his hips, and I take a moment to imagine what it would feel like in my hands. I snap out of my daze to Ginny as she says, “I’m ready to go.”

“Me too.” The zipper of my jacket hums softly as I yank it up.

My sister is practically skipping her way out as we head toward the car. She asks, “Wasn’t that an awesome session? I can’t wait to do this again tomorrow. Oh gosh, I can’t wait until they hear us Friday.”

I smile as she chatters on, and the sound of Andre and I harmonizing plays in my head. I can’t wait to do this again either.

Chapter 4

T
he milk steamer
hisses and sputters as the aroma of coffee wafts toward me. I’m in the campus café, and the line is long, but I need a caramel latte with a double shot of espresso in the worst way. I have to get serious study time in before Ginny and I go off to meet the band. As I wait, I close my eyes for a moment, playing the music Andre and I made once again.

A heavy hand lands on my shoulder and startles me. “Were you sleeping?” asks Eric.

The guy I should be dreaming about.
I smile at him. “Kind of.”

“Can I join you?”

I frown for a second, because I really need to get to the library. But I’m willing to lose a little sleep later for brown-eyed sexiness, so I say, “Sure.”

“So can I be really lame and ask what your major is? Because I’m guessing it’s not science.” He combs his fingers through his hair quickly, and it stands on end, which explains the wild look he sports.

“Ah,” I say. “You mean I didn’t show the proper appreciation for my dead pig?”

“You and Diana never even named him. You lack the proper dedication.” He nudges me lightly with his shoulder.

“Not true. His name is R.K.”

“R.K.?”

We’re near the front of the line, and the register beeps as I say, “Yup. Short for road kill.”

Eric grins. “Cute.”

The girl asks me for my order. Eric adds his to mine and insists on paying. While we wait for our drinks, I say, “I’m majoring in English.”

“That’s kind of broad. What’s your end goal?”

I shrug. My end goal is to fall in love, get married, and have beautiful children. I’ll stay home and take care of them. In my free time I’ll play golf, volunteer, and socialize. I want to live the life my mother had. But one doesn’t share those kinds of aspirations with a potential boyfriend, so I say, “I want to write. Maybe be a travel journalist.”

“Adventurous. I like it.” Two hot coffees thump down before us, and we grab our drinks.

As we walk through the tables toward one in the back, conversations hum, and I say hello to a girl I know when she passes by. We end up at a booth, and I slither over the slick cushioned seat as I get in.

“So what kind of doctor do you want to be?” I ask.

“I’m not sure. I’m leaning toward surgery.”

I glance at his fingers wrapped around his cup. They’re long and make me think of my sister Ginny. “Looks like you might have the hands for it.”

Eric cocks an eyebrow at me. “My hands are capable of a lot of things, Nessa.”

Flirt.
“I’ll bet they are.”

He clears his throat, and I wonder if he was imagining what he’d like to do with those hands. “So, yeah.” He lets out a sigh. “You know I can’t date a student in my class, right?”

“I figured as much.” I pick at the cardboard sleeve on my coffee cup with a fingernail. While I’m enjoying our banter, the magic I felt when I was singing with Andre makes me want that with Eric too. But I’m being foolish; my fantasies of what love should be aren’t real life.

Eric nudges my foot with his. “I guess I’ll just have to keep flirting with you for the next few months and hope you’ll wait around until we can.”

His words make me smile. “Coffee is okay, right?”

“Did you just
friend zone
me?” He winks in case I don’t get the implication.

I grin at him. “I sure did. So friend, tell me more about Eric.”

We spend the next hour telling stories of our past. I discover he in fact does come from money, and we led very similar childhoods. Eric’s parents divorced when he was an infant, and his mother didn’t remarry until he was a teen too. He did the prep-school summer-camp circuit, and we even have a few friends in common. In short, Eric is the kind of guy I’m willing to wait for.

When we walk out of the campus café, snow flurries are swirling along the pavement, indicating a storm is just beginning. We part ways at the bottom of the steps, and the icy wind stings my cheeks as I brave the cold. The metal of my zipper is icy on my chin when I snuggle into the tugged-up collar of my coat. The temperature earlier was mild, and I didn’t bother with a hat, but I’m regretting it now. Focused on the pavement just ahead of my feet, I’m startled when a pair of extremely large boots appear in front of me, and I jerk my head up.

“Andre.” I place my hand on my chest. “You scared me.”

“You should try to be more aware of your surroundings, Vanessa. Campus isn’t as safe as it used to be.”

His voice dances around my head.
How does he know my name is Vanessa?
I flash to the guy in my dreams calling me that. When I gaze into Andre’s eyes, I want to swim in the depth of their pale color. My body wants this guy. Bad. “Yeah. Is it really as dangerous here now as everyone wants us to believe?”

Andre shrugs, and I suppose I should be grateful for the two sentences he gifted me. “Right. Well, I’ll see you tonight.”

I begin to walk again, and Andre falls in step with me. After a few yards, I notice he’s matching my step again. I glance over at him and fight a strong urge to trace the cheekbones on his face. He purposely changed his direction to walk with me.
Does he feel the attraction too?
I ask, “What are you doing?”

“Keeping you safe.”

The library is a short distance away, and my desire for this guy is kind of freaking me out. “It’s daylight, and besides”—I point at the building ahead—“I’m almost where I need to go.”

Andre stops without a word. I continue on, and an ache squeezes my heart, as if I’m leaving a loved one for a long trip. I turn back to discover he’s standing with his feet spread apart and arms crossed as he watches me. He looks like a movie-poster version of a hot bodyguard a heroine would fall for. His voice rings in my head.
“Keeping you safe.”
I turn forward again, and my boots tap out an erratic beat similar to my heart as I jog up to the library door.

Chapter 5

W
hen I learned
we were playing for a frat party, I decided skinny jeans and tall boots with a sparkly top was a much better idea than the black dress Ginny picked out. This will be a rowdy crowd, and I plan to work them, since many are students I know. I dressed so I’m able to move easily when I move around the dance floor to get people to sing with us.

I expected to be nervous, but once I saw the kegs lined up, I realized nobody is going to judge. They just want familiar dance music, and a flat note or two won’t even register. Jake starts the mic check, and I glance over at Andre as he says, “Check one two.” He’s wearing a tight black T-shirt and faded jeans that are loose and low on his hips. I grin at him, hoping to get a reaction. He gives me his economical version of a smile in reply, and my heart flutters, which is kind of ridiculous since I’ve decided he’s off limits.

The conversations buzz as I gaze out at the party that’s happening. I scan the faces and wave at a few people I recognize. Diana, my lab partner, sees me and comes over to talk. She says, “I had no idea you were in the band.”

“I wasn’t until a couple days ago. My sister Ginny is keyboards for Second Sound, and I’m just filling in until they get a new lead singer.”

“Did you see Eric’s here?”

I raise my eyebrows. “Really? You’ll have to get him to dance with you.”

“I bet he’ll be too busy gawking at the hot singer.”

I smile at her and wonder why this doesn’t make me blush. What happened to my crush? I say, “I’ve got to get to work. Have fun.”

A few minutes later, Brita’s drumsticks click out the beat, and we open with a classic tune that gets people dancing. As the night progresses, I slide into my role comfortably, and I enjoy myself as I belt out the songs. It’s late when the night winds down, and I’m grateful when it’s time to go.

The van door slams shut after Brita gets in, and she drives off with Jake and the equipment we packed up. Cold winter air chills my sweat-slicked skin as I turn back to go inside and get my coat. Ginny hugs my shoulders. “They loved us, and
you
were awesome.”

“Thanks, but so were you. Actually, everyone was. Man, that little Brita can play. Did you see all those guys drooling over her during the break?”

“I know,” says Ginny. “She’s so adorable, they all just want to pick her up and put her in their pocket.” I lift my damp hair up off my neck as my sister asks, “Did you have fun?”

“I did.” I glance over at Andre, and the fasteners on his guitar case snap shut. My body still hums with the electricity we seemed to generate tonight, and I let a quick fantasy of kissing him play out before I add, “I forgot how much I like to sing.”

Ginny elbows me and whispers, “You are boring holes into his back.”

I slide my jacket on as I turn my gaze to her. “I am not. I just find him mysterious.”

She snorts. “There’s nothing mysterious about the way you look at him. Admit it, you want him.” She pulls the hair out of her coat with a flip.

I shake my head at her. “Not going to happen, and
you
know why.”

Ginny pulls out her phone and says, “I’ll call security.” She glances over at the few guys left, who are having a drunk conversation only they can understand. “I don’t think any of them would make me feel safe.”

I grin at her, and a deep voice behind us makes us both turn. “I’ll walk you,” says Andre.

Ginny gushes. “Thank you, we’d love that.”

I do a mental eye-roll at my sister the matchmaker as we make our way out of the frat house. Ginny chatters away as we walk on the snow-covered sidewalk. I gaze up at the stars that twinkle in the charcoal-black sky. In just two weeks, it will be Christmas, and I gaze at the holiday lights strung up in the trees.

Tori invited Ginny and me to come spend the break with her. She and Keith are engaged, and my werebear sister wants to spend the holiday with him instead of going to Connecticut. I don’t like the idea that our triplet bond is already fading. Christmas should be about family, and I begged her to come with us for a couple days. But I think she’s worried about being around Mom.

Apparently when our biological father discovered Mom was pregnant, he wanted nothing to do with us and suggested she get an abortion instead of having half-breeds. Tori said Mom was livid when she found out that Tori changed into a werebear, so I understand why my sister doesn’t want to go.

I return my focus to Ginny when she says to Andre, “My sister Tori told us you have three brothers who moved here with you. Do you all live together?” Tori said that a polar bear clan had relocated to Maine and that the life they led before they got here was difficult. I think Ginny is letting Andre know we are aware of what he is.

He says, “Yes.”

We’re close to the front door of the dorm, and I pull out my keycard. The plastic slips out of my hand and clatters on the ground. I crouch down to pick it up, and when I do, Andre joins me. We reach out at the same time, and his hand lands on mine. Intense warmth seeps through the wool of my mitten as I gaze into his face. He’s so close that I detect his musky odor, and I swear it makes me a little dizzy.

Andre grabs both of my hands and helps me stand. When he doesn’t release me, I glance down at our connection before I return my gaze to his face. A loud twang of metal sounds as the door of the dorm opens, and I break my gaze to see Ginny went ahead of us. She winks at me before stepping inside to leave us alone.

Awkward.
Andre says, “Would you like to rehearse a few songs with me tomorrow, Vanessa?”

My heartbeat is erratic as the sound of my given name reverberates through me, and I discover I’m holding my breath when I nod.
Now who won’t speak?

Andre steps closer and asks, “Saving your words?”

I grin as I regain composure. “Someone has to.” He’s so close, all I’d have to do is step up on my tiptoes and yank his head down for a taste of that plump lower lip. The dorm door clicks open again as I say, “Yes.” When I turn to see who’s exiting, I discover Eric, and he glares at me as he walks by.
Damn it.

Andre must sense my discomfort, because he releases my hands, and my stomach drops. I try to salvage the situation and ask, “Where and when?”

“Garage. Two?”

“I’d like that.” I step backward and say, “See you then.”

I turn to focus on swiping my keycard, and when it works, my arm muscles flex to yank the door open. I glance over my shoulder at Andre, and he gives me the biggest smile I’ve seen from him yet. The grin I give back practically cracks my cheeks. But the moment the door slams with a solid thud, my smile falls.

I picture the disapproving scowl Eric gave me. I sure know how to screw things up. He’s the one I should be holding hands with. I’m scowling too by the time I get to my room, and when I get inside, Ginny’s expectant face makes me say, “Don’t ask.”

She says, “Wasn’t going to. I know love happening when I see it.”

I plop down on my bed and punch my pillow. “I’m not falling for Andre. I have a thing for Eric, the TA, remember?”

“Right, Nessa.” Ginny tosses her shirt into the laundry basket, and it lands with a soft thump. “Whatever you say.”

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