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Beauty from Pain, Page 2

Georgia Cates

Page 2


  I watch a lovely blond approach my table. “What can I bring you?” Hmm. A waitress—not at all my usual taste.

  I have a type. Attractive. Mature. Refined. This barmaid meets the attractive requirement well enough, but she’s void of refinement or maturity as displayed by her choice of apparel—a white, barely there tank top and frazzled cutoff denim shorts. She doesn’t do it for me. Plus, my last two companions were blond. I want a different flavor this time, but no redheads. I want a brunette. A beautiful one.

  I remind myself I’m not in Sydney where I have an endless variety of sophisticated women from which to choose. My choices are more limited in the small town of Wagga Wagga, but that doesn’t mean I have to settle for the first attractive woman I see.

  “I’ll have a Shiraz. ”

  I’m prepared for a more prolonged relationship this time—three whole months instead of the usual three or four weeks. I’m looking forward to keeping this one around a little longer, and that’s all the more reason to be certain I make a wise choice.

  I begin my search of the club with the first table toward the front of the room. A brunette beauty sits with a group of women. I watch her for a while, but decide she’s too friendly with the woman sitting next to her. Lesbians aren’t in my repertoire.

  I spend the next hour scanning the club and come up empty-handed. I’m discouraged. No one stands out as the one and this club is by far my best bet for meeting single women in this town. Maybe I should consider coming back another time when it’s not open mic night. Tonight, the place is crawling with boozed college students.

  Tonight’s search has been a failure, but at least the karaoke was entertaining.

  I’m finishing off the last of my wine before I leave when an announcer from the club takes the stage and asks for the next singer to step forward. A small group of people across the room nominates one of its own. My view of the poor bastard is blocked by the crowd of intoxicated kids standing between us, but I’m certain this is going to be another delightful train wreck.

  The club erupts into cheer and chants. “Do. It. Do. It. Do. It. ” A young woman walks onto the stage and stands with her back to the crowd as she takes a guitar from its stand. She lifts its strap over her head and then tosses her long brown hair over one shoulder. When she’s finished settling the guitar into place, she circles around and sits on the stool in the middle of the stage.

  She’s beautiful. And somehow overlooked during my search.

  She’s wearing a short ivory dress and a denim jacket with brown cowgirl boots. She bares her thighs as she lifts her feet to rest on the bottom rail, but she’s careful to push her dress between her legs so she doesn’t provide a peep show to the crowd.

  She strums the borrowed guitar a few times and then leans into the microphone. “Is everyone having a good time tonight?”

  She’s American. I think. Her accent sounds different—not like what I’ve heard in the past.

  The crowd erupts into a drunken cheer and I hear a man’s voice yell over the crowd, “It’s better now, sweet thing!”

  She smiles and adjusts the mic. “I’m not from around here. It’s my first night in Australia. ”

  “Leave with me and I’ll make you feel right at home!” a man shouts from the back of the room.

  She ignores the fat, ugly bastard yelling at her. “I don’t know what kind of music Australians like, but this has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. ” She strums a few more chords. “This is ‘Crash Into Me’ by the Dave Matthews Band. ”

  She sings it slower than the original, putting her own twist on it. Her voice is raspy and sexy, her eyes closed. She oozes eroticism. She tilts her head and opens her eyes when she begins to sing the chorus. I swear it feels like she’s looking right in my direction, singing to me. “Oh, and you come craasshh … into me. And I come into … you … And I come into you … in a boy’s dream … in a boy’s dream. ”

  The stage lights shine in her face and common sense tells me she can’t see me sitting in the dark corner at the back of the club, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping.

  She finishes the chorus and shuts her eyes again. Her long legs bounce against the rail of the stool to keep rhythm and I fall victim to her siren’s song. She has bewitched me. And I want her. She’s the one.

  She opens her eyes and looks in my direction again. “Oh, and you come craasshh … into me, yeah … baby … And I come into … you … Oh, hike up your skirt a little more … and show the world to me … Hike up your skirt a little more … and show your world to me … In a boy’s dream … in a boy’s dream. ”

  The waitress returns to my table, but I don’t glance in her direction when she speaks. I can’t take my eyes from the beautiful brunette on stage for even a second. “Can I bring you another Shiraz?”

  My plans have changed. “Yes, please. ”

  The American girl finishes her song and the crowd is all cheers and whistles. She smiles as she pulls the guitar strap over her head and then leans forward to the mic. “Thank you. ”

  I watch her leave the stage and return to a table where she is sitting with a blond woman and two blokes. Damn! A boyfriend, perhaps?

  My waitress returns with my wine and places it on the table in front of me. “Excuse me, do you know the girl who just performed?”

  “No. She said it was her first night in Australia. ”

  I take my wallet from my interior jacket pocket and remove a hundred-dollar bill. I slide it in her direction across the table. “What about the people she’s sitting with?”

  She sees the money on the table and picks it up to deposit in the pocket of her black apron before turning to see who my songstress is sitting with. “The blond guy is Ben Donavon and his friend is Zac Kingston. They’re regulars in here, two or three times a week. ”

  Why is this American here with those blokes? “She sounds American. Do you know why she would be with them?”

  “Ben is a Yank. His family owns a vineyard in California and he’s here to study wine at the uni. I think she’d have to be someone he knows from home. ”

  I hold up a second hundred-dollar bill between my fingers. “See this? It’s yours if you can find out what she’s doing here and how long she’ll be in Wagga Wagga. And find out if she’s dating either one of the blokes. ”

  She smiles and I see she’s interested in playing my little game. “I’ll be back to collect that in a minute. ”

  I sit back and enjoy my Shiraz while the waitress does my detective work. A visiting American couldn’t be more perfect for my next companion. Once our relationship is over, she would be on an entirely different continent, which ensures we won’t have any accidental future run-ins.

  My stay in Wagga Wagga is becoming more promising.

  I finish my glass of Shiraz as my waitress returns. “Her name is …”

  I cut her off before she can finish her sentence. “No, I don’t want to know her name. ”

  I can see this stumps her, but money is money. “Ben’s sister is her best friend and they’ve come to spend the summer with him. She met Ben and Zac for the first time today. ”

  Good. That means she isn’t dating either of them.

  If the guys are students in the wine science program at the university, I’m guessing they will be at the vintage dinner at the school on Friday night. They’ll be anxious to showcase their wines. I wonder if she’ll be there as a guest.

  I pull another bill from my wallet and hold it up for Blondie to see. “This is yours if you can find out what their plans are for the vintage dinner at the university on Friday night. I want to know if the brunette will be there. ”

  She smiles again. “I could play this game all night. ”

  Ten minutes later, she returns with another Shiraz and an update. “The guys will be presenting their wines at the dinner, and both girls will be guests. ”

  I slide the
well-earned bill across the table. “Perfect. Thank you. ”

  “It’s been my pleasure. Would you like me to keep the Shiraz coming?”

  “Yes. ”

  I spend the next hour stealing glances at the beautiful American through the crowd of people between us as they shift. I’m disappointed when the foursome gets up to leave, but I see the perfect opportunity for a convenient face-to-face encounter when she moves toward the restrooms.

  I migrate in that direction and wait for her to emerge for our chance meeting in the hallway. When the door to the ladies’ room opens, I walk toward her, but she’s looking down into her purse. She attempts to dodge right, so I move with her. “Pardon me. ”

  Her accent is so unusual. And endearing.

  She steps to her left and I move with her like a mirror image. “So sorry, Miss. ”

  Look up at me.

  “Wanna dance?” she laughs as she lifts her eyes from her purse.

  “I’d love to. ” Her smile spreads with my reply. We lock eyes and I try to identify the color of hers, but I can’t. It’s too dark in the narrow hallway.

  I was right. She is the one.

  She seems embarrassed. “I’m sorry. Asking someone to dance is an expression we use where I’m from. You know? Like when two people try to get around one another as we just did. ”

  “I’m familiar with the expression, but one can always hope. ” I step around her toward the door to the men’s room. “I think I would have enjoyed a dance with you. ”


  Laurelyn Prescott

  How do you decide what to wear to a vintage dinner at an Australian university when you aren’t really sure what a vintage dinner is?

  I stand at the sink brushing my teeth while Addison showers. Man, this sharing a bathroom with two other people is no joke, especially when one of them is as high maintenance as Addison.

  I rinse and wipe my mouth. “You never told me what this thing is that we’re going to tonight. ”