Our hopes and wishes won’t relight the flame

Just wait a bit longer

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You’ll find something you wanted

Something you needed

Something you want to have repeated

Oh, that feeling’s all right.

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When the song ends, I sit back up on the bed. I would ask him about the lyrics and the meaning behind them right now, but I’m not sure I want to. I want to listen to it again without him watching me, because it’s really hard to concentrate when he’s staring at me. He’s resting his chin in his hands, casually watching me. I try to hide my grin, but it’s hard. I see a smile spread across his lips before he looks down at his phone.

Ridge: Why do I feel like you’re fangirling right now?

Probably because I am.

Me: I’m not fangirling. Don’t flatter yourself. I’ve witnessed how evil you can be with your revenge schemes, and I’ve been exposed to your severe alcoholism, so I’m not as enamored with you as I could be.

Ridge: My father was a severe alcoholic. Your jokes are a little off-putting.

I look up at him apologetically and with a hint of embarrassment. “I’m sorry. I was kidding.”

Ridge: I’m kidding, too.

I kick him in the knee and glare at him.

Ridge: Well, sort of kidding. My father really is a raging alcoholic, but I don’t give a shit if you joke about it.

Me: I can’t now. You ruined the fun.

He laughs, and it’s followed by an awkward moment of silence. I grin and drop my eyes back to my phone.

Me: OMG. Can I have your autograph?

He rolls his eyes.

Me: Please? And can I have my picture taken with you? OMG, I’m in Ridge Lawson’s bed!

I’m laughing, but Ridge isn’t finding me amusing.

Me: Ridge Lawson, will you sign my boobs?

He puts his laptop down beside him, leans over to his nightstand and picks up a marker, then turns back to me.

I don’t really want his autograph. Surely he knows I’m kidding.

He pulls the lid off the marker, swiftly lunges across the bed, and knocks me onto my back, bringing the marker to my forehead.

He’s trying to sign my face?

I lift my legs and create a barrier with my knees as I try to force his hands away.

Dammit, he’s strong.

He puts one of my hands under his knee and locks my arm to the bed. His other arm grabs my arm that’s pushing his face away, and he pushes that hand to the bed, too. I’m screaming and laughing and trying to turn my face away from him, but every time I move, the marker moves over my face while he tries to sign his name.

I’m unable to overpower him, so I eventually sigh and hold my head still so he’ll stop drawing all over my face.

He hops up, puts the lid back on the marker, and smirks at me.

I reach over to my laptop.

Sydney: You are no longer my prank master. This has officially turned into a three-way war. Excuse me while I go Google my revenge.

I fold up my laptop and walk quietly out of the room while he laughs at me. As I head through the living room toward my bedroom, Warren glances at me. Twice.

“Should have stayed in here and watched porn with me,” he says, taking in the marker all over my face.

I ignore his comment. “Ridge and I just finished discussing TV rules,” I lie. “I get Thursdays.”

“No, you don’t,” Warren says. “Tomorrow is Thursday. I watch Thursday-night porn on Thursday.”

“Not anymore you don’t. Guess you should have asked about my television habits when you were interviewing me.”

He groans. “Fine. You can have Thursdays, but only if you wear that dress you had on earlier.”

I laugh. “I’m burning that dress.”

Ridge

“Why’d you give Sydney the TV tonight?” Warren signs. He drops onto the couch next to me. “You know I love Thursday night. I’m off work on Fridays.”

“I never talked to Sydney about TV nights.”

He glances toward Sydney’s bedroom door with a scowl on his face. “What a little liar. How did you meet her, anyway?”

“Music-related. She’s writing lyrics for the band.”

Warren’s eyes bulge, and he straightens up on the couch, turning to look at me as if I’ve just betrayed him.

“Don’t you think this is something your manager should know about?”

I laugh and sign back to him. “Good point. Hey, Warren, Sydney is officially writing lyrics for us.”

He frowns. “And don’t you think your manager should have discussed a financial arrangement with her? What percentage are we giving her?”

“We’re not. She feels guilty taking a percentage while she’s not paying rent, so we’re good for now.”

He’s standing now, glaring down at me. “How do you know you can trust her? And what if something happens with a song she helped write? What if it makes the cut on the album and she suddenly decides she wants a percentage? And why the hell aren’t you writing the lyrics anymore?”

I sigh. We’ve been over this so many times it’s making my head hurt. “I can’t. You know I can’t. It’s just for a little while, until I get over my block. And calm down, she’s agreed to sign over anything she helps with.”

He drops back onto the couch, frustrated. “Just don’t add any more people to our band without consulting me first, okay? I feel like I’m being shut out when you don’t include me.” He folds his arms across his chest and pouts.

“Is sweet little Warren pouting?” I lean forward and wrap my arms around him, and he tries to shove me off. I climb on top of him and kiss his cheek, and he starts hitting me in the arm, trying to pull away from my grasp. I laugh and let go of his face, then look up at Sydney, who just walked into the room. She’s staring at us. Warren slides his hand up my thigh and lays his head on my shoulder. I reach up and pat his cheek while we both stare up at her, straight-faced. She shakes her head slowly and walks back into her bedroom.

As soon as her bedroom door closes, we separate.

“I wish I hated Bridgette a little more than I do at night, because Sydney definitely needs me,” Warren signs.

I laugh, knowing Sydney is more than likely swearing off guys based on the week she’s had. “That girl doesn’t need anything other than the opportunity to be alone for a while.”

Warren shakes his head. “No, that girl definitely needs me. I wonder how I can pull off an elaborate prank that involves her agreeing to have sex with me.”

“Bridgette,” I remind him. I don’t know why I remind him. I never remind him about Bridgette when he talks about other girls.

“You’re a dream crusher,” he signs, falling back against the couch at the same moment I receive a text.

Sydney: Can I ask you a question?

Me: As long as you promise never again to start a question off with whether or not you can propose a question.

Sydney: Okay, asshole. I know I shouldn’t be thinking about him at all, but I’m curious. What did he write on that paper when we went to get my purse? And what did you write back that made him hit you?

Me: I agree that you shouldn’t be thinking about him at all, but I’m honestly shocked it’s taken you this long to ask me about it.

Sydney: Well?

Ugh. I hate writing it verbatim, but she wants to know, so . . .

Me: He wrote, “Are you fucking her?”

Sydney: OMG! What a prick!

Me: Yep.

Sydney: So what did you say back to him that made him punch you?

Me: I wrote, “Why do you think I’m here for her purse? I gave her a hundred for tonight, and now she owes me change.”

I reread the text, and I’m not so sure it sounds as funny as I thought it did.

My eyes dart up to her bedroom door, which is now swinging open. She runs into the living room, directly toward the couch. I don’t know if it’s the look on her face or the hands that are coming at me, but I immediately cover my head and duck behind Warren. He doesn’t really like being used as a human shield, though, so he jumps off the couch. She continues slapping at my arms until I’m curled up in a fetal position on the couch. I’m trying not to laugh, but she hits like a girl. This is nothing compared to what I saw her do to Tori.

She backs away, and I reluctantly uncover my head. She marches back to her room, and I watch as she slams her door.

Warren is now standing next to the couch with his hands on his hips. He looks at me, then looks back at Sydney’s door. He puts his palms up and shakes his head, then retreats into his bedroom.

I should probably apologize to her. It was just a joke, but I guess I can see how it would piss her off. I knock on her door a couple of times. She doesn’t open it, so I text her.

Me: Can I come in?

Sydney: That depends. Do you have any bills smaller than a hundred this time?

Me: It seemed funny at the time. I’m sorry.

A few seconds pass, and then her door opens and she steps aside. I raise my eyebrows and smile, attempting to look innocent. She shoots me a dirty look and walks back to her bed.

Sydney: It wasn’t what I would have wanted you to say, but I can see why you said it. He’s a jerk, and I probably would have wanted to piss him off in that moment, too.

Me: He is a jerk, but I probably should have responded differently. I’m sorry.

Sydney: Yes, you should have. Maybe instead of insinuating that I was a whore, you could have gone with “If I could only be so lucky.”

I laugh at her comment, then offer up another alternative answer.

Me: I could have gone with “Only when you’re being faithful to her. Which is never.”

Sydney: Or you could have said, “No, I’m not. I’m madly in love with Warren.”

At least she’s making jokes about it. I really do feel sort of bad for saying that to him, but it felt oddly appropriate at the time.

Me: We didn’t really get any work done last night. Are you in the mood to make beautiful music together?

7.

Sydney

Ridge puts down his guitar for the first time in more than an hour. We haven’t texted at all, because we’ve been on a roll. It’s pretty cool how well we seem to work together. He plays a song over and over while I lie across his bed with a notebook in front of me. I write down the lyrics as they come to me, most of the time crumpling up the paper, chucking it across the room, and starting over. But I’ve laid out lyrics for almost an entire song tonight, and he’s only crossed out two lines he didn’t like. I’d say that’s progress.

There’s something about these moments when we’re writing music that I absolutely love. All my worries and thoughts about everything wrong in my life seem to go away for the short times we write together. It’s nice.

Ridge: Let’s do the whole song now. Sit up so I can watch you sing it. I want to make sure we have it perfect before I send it to Brennan.

He starts playing the song, so I begin singing. He’s watching me closely, and the way his eyes seem to read my every movement makes me uneasy. Maybe it’s because he can’t express words through speaking, but everything else about him seems to make up for that.

As easy as he is to read, it’s only that way when he wants to be read. Most of the time, he’s able to hold back his expressions, and I don’t know what the hell he’s thinking. He holds the crown in the nonverbal department. I’m pretty sure that with the looks he gives, if he could speak, he’d never even have to.

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