Mixed Feelings

Icon is the biggest boy band in the world. They're even more popular than One Direction at this point. Liza Nelson can't get enough of them, but Erin Frederick absolutely detests the band. What happens after a chance encounter with one of the band members? Erin's life definitely won't ever be the same.

*the guys are based on the boys in One Direction*

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10. >Noah<

 

So Erin has a kitten now.  I wonder if that was Joe’s way of getting her to like him, since he’s not flirtatious like Luke.  Then I have to wonder if he kissed her.

Stop thinking about that! I scold myself. She’s probably going to be with Lucas, and even if she almost kissed you, it’s doubtful she’d kiss Joe, too.

I hear the soft swish of a key card unlocking the door.  I turn to see Joe holding the door open and struggling under the weight of bags.  Erin enters.  She’s fawning over a little gray kitten and carrying a single bag.  It’s plain to see that Joe is smitten with Erin and would carry all her bags if she’d let him.

Erin looks up; our eyes meet, and she smiles.  In a few quick steps, she’s crossed the room and is sitting beside me on the couch.

“Noah, meet Dessa.  Dessa, this is Noah.  He’s very nice, so I better not hear that you’ve bitten him or scratched him, all right?” she says.

I cover a laugh.  Erin is just too cute when she’s talking to an animal.  Liza and the other guys join us.  They coo over the kitten.  I find it amusing to see Derek and Lucas cuddling a kitten, so I pull out my phone and take a couple pictures and a video.  Then I Tweet them for our fans to enjoy.

Lucas’s iPhone buzzes with an alert, probably the Tweet I mentioned him in.  He mock-growls when he sees the message.

“Nose, you put that picture out there for the whole world to see?” he exclaims, although he doesn’t look very angry.

“Hey, girls will love you even more,” I point out. “Most love kittens, so they find guys who fawn over the little creatures to be supremely attractive.”

Unfortunately, those words don’t work out the way I want them to.  Lucas turns a sly look on Erin.  She’s not meeting his eyes, though, so that’s good at least.  One by one, Jared, Liza, Derek, Joe, and Lucas drift away.  I can tell Lucas is reluctant to leave me with “his” girl.

“So how have you felt today?” Erin asks, once she’s shut Dessa in the little playpen-type thing she bought for her kitten.

“Absolutely fine,” I reply. “Yesterday was just a fluke, I think.  Still, the rest and relaxation have been nice.”

Out of the blue, she comments, “I think you know exactly why you got that stomachache.  Can’t you please tell me why?”

Finally, I whisper, “I overheard you talking to Liza.  I heard you tell her that you…made out with Lucas yesterday.  It just…it freaked me out, especially since I know Luke’s reputation.  He’s my best friend, but I can’t stand to see him hurt so many girls.  I started to worry about you, so I guess I got stressed out really suddenly.”

“That’s almost…sweet,” Erin says. “But I can take care of myself.  I’m going to trust my heart when it comes to Lucas.  You said last night I know the answer to if I’m the one.  And I do know.”

When she doesn’t continue, I give her a look.  She ignores it, though.  It seems Erin isn’t going to tell me her decision.  I assume that means she’s going to tell Lucas she’ll be his girlfriend.  No surprise, there.  Although, I’m very doubtful it’ll work out.  Within a month, Lucas will be spotted at some nightclub, flirting with another girl.  He’ll break Erin’s heart, and she’ll wish she had chosen me.  Or possibly Joe.  If there was any guy in the band I could stand to lose a girl to, it would be Joe.  He’s got a good heart, and he’s super sensitive to feelings.  You have to be if you’re the guy most picked on.  Yeah, believe it or not, there are some who send awful Tweets and letters to Joe, saying he doesn’t deserve to be in the band.  It’s always really hard on him.

“So, yeah, tomorrow’s your birthday,” I say, breaking the awkward silence.

“Yup,” Erin replies. “And for three weeks, I’ll be older than you.”  She grins at that, and I just stick my tongue out at her.

“I’ll be in New York City over Christmas, so I’ll be spending my birthday there,” I tell her. “What are you doing for Christmas?”

She shrugs.  “Not sure at the moment.  I probably won’t go to my parents’ house.  Liza and I might hang out.  Otherwise, I’ll probably spend it at home with Dessa.  Maybe I’ll be able to get a lot done on my latest novel.”

I open my mouth and then close it.  I can’t do it.  I want so badly to invite Erin to come on tour with us, but she can’t leave her job.  I also want to simply fly her out to New York for the holiday, but I doubt Erin will go for that.

“So do I get to know what we’re doing tomorrow for my birthday?” Erin asks slyly.

“We?” I say, raising an eyebrow.  Does she know I get to hang out with her before the party?

“Yeah, we.  You, me, Liza, and the other guys,” she clarifies.

“Oh, well, um…the party involves cake, and a restaurant, and fancy clothes,” I tell her. “But you’re not going to get any more information out of me.”

Erin makes a faux pouty face.  “It’s a good thing I brought a nice dress,” she says cheerfully.  She stretches.  “Man, I’ve just been going this whole weekend.  I’m going to go take a nap.  What’s on the itinerary for tonight, Noah?”

“Last I heard Jared and Liza were going out to dinner.  The rest of us will probably just hang out here and order room service,” I reply.

Erin nods and stands up.  She gives me a quick hug.  I start to pull her back to kiss her, but she’s already out of my reach.  A little while later, Liza exits Derek’s room; she was hanging out with him and Jared.

“Where’s Erin?” she asks.

“She went to take a nap,” I reply, looking at the girl Jared has fallen so quickly for.

“Mmm, a nap sounds good,” Liza replies. “I think I might join her so I’ll be refreshed for dinner tonight.”

She heads off to my room, too.  Once again, I’m alone with my book.  Suddenly, I remember something Erin said in passing reference that first night when she was talking with Lucas and me.  I know all of us guys chipped in to buy her Dessa, but I’ve got an even better birthday present for her.

I shove my feet into my high-tops and grab my beanie, sunglasses, coat, and wallet.  Thankfully, none of those things were in my room so I didn’t have to disturb the girls.

Then I head out.  I don’t leave a note because I want my shopping trip to be a secret, and I want Erin’s gift to be a surprise only she knows about.

The giant group of fans that have been surrounding the hotel has dispersed, so I easily slip out to one of our cars.  I drive to the downtown area.  There are several gift shops along these streets, including one right next to the bookstore where Erin works.  I head in there first.

“Excuse me, do you have music boxes?” I ask the first male employee I see.  I figure if I speak to a female employee, she’ll recognize me and freak out.  Guys are less likely to do that.

“Yeah, bro, follow me,” he says.

We head to the side of the shop.  There’s a whole shelf of music boxes, ranging from big to tiny.  There are some with snow globes and some that look super old-fashioned and have hand cranks.  I take my time trying to find just the one.  I know what song I’m looking for, and there’s got to be a music box somewhere that plays it. 

I’ve tried practically every single one at this point.  Unless I missed one, this is the last music box at this store.  It has a tiny hand crank that can really only be turned with two fingers.  It’s a creamy white with gilt trim.  A tiny pearl rests in the top.  I turn the crank, and it begins to play.  I smile.  This one has the right song, and it’s beautiful.  I’ve found Erin’s birthday present.  I hope she loves it and knows that there’re no hard feelings between us.

I take it up to the front counter to make my purchase.  It looks sort of like an antique, but I’m still shell-shocked when I hear the price.

“How much?” I say.

The cashier repeats the price.

I stare down at the small music box.  How could something that small cost one hundred dollars?  I pull out my credit card, though.  Erin is completely worth it.  Soon, I’m heading back to the hotel, a small bag containing a small box on the passenger seat.

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