Our Finest Hour
The Time Series #1
Sometimes broken hearts need whiskey. Sometimes they need music. Other times, only a night with a stranger will soothe the pain.
On the night Isaac and I met, we tried all three.
When it was over, we went our separate ways.
We planned to never see each other again, but I should really know by now that plans don’t work out the way they're supposed to.
It has been four years since that night, and it’s a bizarre twist of fate that lands me in need of help only Isaac can give.
I don’t want to be attracted to him, but I am.
I don’t want my heart to skip a beat when it sees him, but it does.
And I really don’t want him to look at me that way, but he won’t stop.
Because things aren't like they were four years ago. And this time? We don’t have the option of parting ways when the sun comes up.
Before I can rethink my decision, Isaac holds out his hand. “Do you want to find your friends and let them know you’re leaving? I mean, assuming you’ve decided to leave with me. A non-killer.” He laughs at his own joke.
I take his hand and pull him away from the bar. I’ve already made up my mind about him.
I find Britt line dancing with a different cowboy than the one who first asked her to dance. I think, anyway. It’s hard to tell what they really look like with their cowboy hats on. I wave at her, and she ducks out of the dance and comes to my side. She has a sheen of sweat on her chest, and her cheeks are pink.
“What’s going on?” she asks breathlessly, glancing from me to Isaac with excited curiosity.
“I just wanted to let you know I’m leaving.” I clear my throat, my nervousness getting bigger by the second.
Britt evaluates Isaac. “Leaving leaving?” She asks me without looking my way.
She sticks her hand out to Isaac. “I’m Britt, Aubrey’s roommate.”
Isaac shakes her hand. “I’m Isaac. Non-killer.”
Britt makes a face, and looks at me with worried eyes. “Inside joke,” I explain. “We've established he's not a murderer.”
She nods and walks to Isaac’s other side. She lifts her face to his ear, and he bends down to listen. I watch him nod as she talks, then he says something to her. I can’t hear him, and I can’t read his lips, because he’s turned his head to look at her.
Britt points a playful warning finger at him while she walks around him and pulls me in for a hug. Isaac still has a hold of my hand. “Have fun tonight.” Her voice is a whisper in my ear.
She steps back onto the dance floor and is reabsorbed into the dance.
“Do you want to dance?” Isaac leans closer, his words caressing the top of my ear.
Watching the timed twirling and foot stomping, I say “I don’t know how to do...whatever that is.”
“Me neither. But we can make our own dance.” Isaac pulls my hand, spinning me in to him. I grunt as I catch myself on his chest.
My hands move to his shoulders. The scent coming off his neck is dizzying. He smells sweet but also spicy, clean but a bit like a forest. He paints a design on the small of my back with his fingertips, making me shiver despite the heat of the bodies around us.
The longer we dance, the harder it is to remember where we are, and suddenly I wonder if we look like that couple I watched when I arrived tonight.
I lean in even closer, cupping Isaac’s cheek, and whisper, “I’m ready to leave.”
Isaac’s fingers trail over the back of my neck, across my shoulder, and down to my hand. His face is next to my ear. I listen for his words, but none come. He presses a cheek to my hair, and I barely make out a soft groan.
Isaac pulls back, my hand still in his, and leads me through the crowded bar. Outside, a line of cabs wait. He walks up to the first one, holds open the door, and climbs in after me. He gives the driver directions, then asks me for my phone.
“Why?” I ask, taking it from my purse.
“I told Britt I would tell her where I’m taking you. And give her my address.” He takes my phone.
“Why not from your phone?” I ask as he opens my texts. Britt’s name is my most recent conversation.
“I didn’t bring my phone with me tonight. I didn’t want to be reached.” His voice is strained, and I’d bet a million dollars it has to do with why he was there.
He types out a message and hands it back to me. The phone slips from my sweaty palms twice before I get it back in my purse. I’m not sure how to say what I’m thinking, so I blurt out, “Do we need ground rules?” I feel like an idiot for not knowing how these things go.
Isaac looks confused. It relieves me. If he’d known just what I was asking, it would’ve unnerved me.
I groan and push my hair out of my eyes. “Are we exchanging last names? Because it just occurred to me we never made it to that minor detail.”
He shifts so his body faces me. “Do you want to?”
“No…” I say slowly, but I’m still thinking. Knowing his last name might make him more real. Maybe the less I know, the better. “No,” I repeat, my voice confident.
“OK, then.” He smiles and takes my hand. “Aubrey with no last name, do you like ice cream?”
I lift a finger and shake my head. “Oh no no no. I’m not getting all Fifty Shades of Grey with you. Even if you are my second-best friend.”
Isaac’s laughter fills the back seat. “I’m not talking about that. I meant the question literally.”
“Oh.” I giggle. “Sorry.”
He pushes a strand of hair out of my face, his fingers running the length of my ear as he tucks it away.
My breath slams up my throat, thick and hot. All he did was touch your ear. Calm down. A change of subject is needed. Now.
“You didn’t say what brought you into the bar tonight,” I say. “Is there a certain female that caused you to seek refuge in a bottle?”
Isaac looks down, lightly punching the empty space on the seat between us. “In a sense, yes.” He winces, like he’s remembering the hurt.
“Do you want to tell me the ugly truth?” My voice is soft.
He shakes his head. “It’s not my ugly truth to tell.”
He falls quiet, and so do I. Questions pop into my mind.
You’re job is to help people? How so?
Do you have a roommate?
How old are you?
I ask none of these questions, because I’m not supposed to know the answers. That’s the point of tonight.