I laugh hard then, coming far too close to snorting for my comfort. Keep it together, Fisher. I clear my throat and look down at my food, momentarily thinking it can save me. It does nothing to help, but does stare back up at me, looking tasty. I try to dig in, but seem to have lost my appetite. Ian doesn’t seem to be eating either.
“How do you know Jeff and Laila?” I ask, trying to lighten the air.
“Jeff is actually my third cousin. We just got back in touch a few years ago and have gotten a little closer. I stay with them when I come through San Francisco. They also have a house in L.A. I’m there a lot, too.”
“Do you come through here a lot?”
“Not San Jose, really,” he says. “I’ll be back in San Francisco next week, though. Laila mentioned you’re all coming out next weekend?” He nods his head toward me.
“Yeah, this whole clan,” his eyes twinkle. “You gonna bring Michael?” he whispers.
I ignore him. It’s the only way I won’t kiss him. “Where are you off to this week?”
“Dallas. I’m playing at the House of Blues a couple nights this week. Have a few rehearsals to show up to … I’m a musician,” he explains.
“I heard you play … four years ago,” I confess.
“Really! Where was this?”
“It was at a huge concert in Central Park.”
“Central Park? You saw me in Central Park four years ago and you’re just now telling me?”
“We just met.”
“Yeah, an hour ago. We’ve covered a lot of ground in that time, wouldn’t you say?”
I get flustered yet again. Shoot, just when I think I’m getting past the nerves a little. “Yes, I would tend to agree.”
He grins that smirky grin and I swear he’s thinking of me dressed as a librarian again … which doesn’t help me calm down at all. I raise one eyebrow and he runs his hand over his mouth, attempting to look serious.
“So Central Park … tell me about it.”
“I saw you before you played. I had no idea who you were. I was there with my parents. My dad was there for a crusade. Did Jeff tell you my dad is a preacher?”
“We really only had one free day and spent it at the park, listening to the music. At one point, I spotted you by the stage, and the next thing I knew, you were going up there. Your set blew everyone completely away. I’ve never heard anything like it.”
It’s his turn to be flustered. I’m touched that he seems a bit embarrassed by my flattery. I’m sure it’s something he hears all the time. He is truly amazing.
His phone beeps and he looks down, frustrated that our conversation is interrupted. “Oh, wow. I have to go. Honestly, I thought I’d be thrilled to have an excuse to leave, but I’d give anything to stay now that I’ve met you.” His eyes are so genuine, I actually believe him. “I have a meeting in a half hour.”
“Oh. Well … it was really nice to meet you,” I stutter. I am surprised by the emotion in my voice.
His voice sounds thick too. “Sparrow, the pleasure is all mine, I can assure you. You’ve made a forgettable day memorable. Hell, you’ve made it positively newsworthy.” He’s smiling, but there’s a sadness behind his eyes. He grabs my hand and kisses it.
In that gesture, I feel my childhood slip off of me like an old, worn-out cloak that has been barely hanging by a single thread. I know that something has shifted in me. It’s primal. I want this man.
I smile at him. He continues to grip my hand and leans around to see Michael. “Michael, I’m heading out. Take good care of this girl here.”
And with that, he stands up and leaves. I watch him walk past the window. He looks like he just lost his best friend.
What I didn’t tell Ian about seeing him the first time was that I cried the whole time he played. I had never heard anything so beautiful. I found his name on a program and thought it fit him perfectly. When I got home, I took out my journal titled Important Things that Happened in my 14th Year and wrote: I Saw Ian Sterling.
I’ve been looking for him ever since.
- 3 -
The hazy stupor of meeting Ian Sterling hovers over me all day. Playing and replaying every touch, every inflection and every word spoken, I come up with various theories on what it could really mean. My crazy mind plays a serious contradiction game with itself that goes a little something like this:
I think Ian Sterling fell for me today.
There is no way that Ian Sterling feels anything real for me.
I fell for him at first sight four years ago.
Of course, I don’t believe in love at first sight.
Okay, if not love at first sight, then I fell in love with him today, when we spoke … when he took my hand in his.
That was pure lust, not to be confused with love.
I’ve never felt like this.
I’m young and don’t know what I’m feeling.
I’m not an idiot; I know my own mind better than anyone.
He is a master flirt and it was meaningless.
I think I rocked his world.
I hate it when I do the girl thing. I’m sure Ian left lunch this afternoon and didn’t give me another thought. Why can’t I be like that?
Serious time with Tessa is what I need. She’s been my best friend since we were nine and knows me better than anyone. I texted her after we left the restaurant that I’d met Ian Sterling and she flipped, but I haven’t had a chance to talk to her yet. As far as I know, she’s the only one who isn’t completely gung-ho on Michael. I can’t get a straight answer on anything she doesn’t like about him, only that she doesn’t think he’s the one for me.
And Michael … I have a half hour before he picks me up for our date, and all I can think about is Ian. I have to pull myself together. Michael is perfect. Really, he is. My parents say it all the time. The guy is stinkin’ hilarious. He can pull out a random line from any movie and do all the voices. He kills me every time with that bit. And I know this is not everything, but he was the best looking guy I’d ever seen … until I saw Ian up close and personal.