Authors: Kay Harris
LOVE ON THE ROCKS
By Kay Harris
Copyright 2015 by the author
My co-workers practically dive into the back office, one on top of the other.
“Oh my God!” Kendra exclaims. “Dani, you have to tell us
I calmly place the money I’ve just finished counting into the safe. While I’m crouched in front of the steel door, Kendra steals the chair I’ve just vacated.
“Seriously, this is the most incredible thing that has ever happen to me. He talked to me!” Jessica shrieks, pacing the small office.
Just before we’d closed the visitor center, he’d walked in. He wanted to see me. He wanted to talk. So I’d sent him to my trailer to wait for me while I finished up for the day.
Now I’m feeling panicked. My co-workers, meanwhile, are in complete awe. I understand how they are feeling. I remember how it was the first time I saw him, too. He can be… overwhelming.
Jason perches himself on the edge of the desk and tries to look cool. “We just wanna hear the quick version, ya know.”
I decide that it won’t hurt to stall a little bit. The man himself is waiting for me now, and I have absolutely no idea what to say to him.
I settle myself on the opposite edge of the desk and look at the three of them. They’ll be the first ones to ever hear the story from beginning to end. And maybe, I decide, it’s not such a bad thing for me to tell it.
Two months ago…
I was sitting in a diner in a tiny town in southern Nevada minding my own business. The air was thick and slightly acrid, it reminded me of the smell in the basement storage room of the Grant Village Visitor Center. Perhaps the memory was so strong because I’d been in that storage closet just four days before, putting away wolf and bear skins for the season.
Right then I should have been sitting in the small room I rented in the off-season in an East Bay Victorian, sending in applications in hopes that I would get a permanent job, so I could leave my rootless existence behind. I could hear my mother’s voice in my head,
you are 28-years-old Dani, you need to settle down.
Instead of heeding my mother’s advice, I was sitting there in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, eating a cold cheese omelet and drinking what was either coffee or the floor cleaner. I was alone, stranded, and a little frightened after what had just occurred in the cab of an eighteen-wheeler.
A breeze hit me as the door opened with a heavy sigh. I looked up to see two massive men walk casually into the diner.
I knew who they were the moment they walked in. It was three in the morning in a town the size of a football field, so they felt no need to wear sunglasses or baseball hats. They were both in t-shirts and jeans, with scrubby black boots. I watched as the two men strolled casually through the quiet diner and took the table right beside me. I returned my gaze to my omelet.
I listened hard as chairs scuffed the linoleum floor and the table was shifted to accommodate their heights. Without looking, I could tell that they’d settled into opposite sides of the table. I could hear the flip, flip, as they paged through the laminated menus.
The minutes seemed to drag by as I resisted the urge to look up at them, my gaze concentrated on the yellow glob of egg and cheese on my plate.
My head snapped up in surprise.
Hank Tolk was tall, lean, and muscular. He wore his light brown hair short. He had a handful of tattoos on his upper arms. He was known for his severe sobriety, at least for the last ten years or so.
He was definitely looking at me, right at me.
“Um, hi,” I mumbled.
Hank grinned a playboy grin. He was, objectively, a beautiful man.
“I’m Hank, and this is my buddy Sean,” he pointed his thumb at the man across from him.
Sean Rush was even more terrifying-looking in person than he was on the album covers. He was absolutely massive, standing 6’6, and covered head-to-toe in muscles, which were deeply tanned and sported a variety of tattoos that ran from his wrist to his shoulder on both arms, as well covering the backs of both calves. On that night, his long black hair was tied back in a ponytail, but in the music videos I’d seen of him it flew wild and hung below his shoulders.
“I’m Dani,” I managed to squeak out.
It was strange that I even knew who these two men were. I was a died-in-the-wool classic rock fan. But I had the misfortune of being attracted to men who preferred their rock a little harder. And so, through my ex-boyfriends, I had learned of both men and their music.
“What brings a nice girl like you to the middle of nowhere at three am?” Hank asked.
I swallowed. My brain was trying to stall. I pulled myself together and formulated a plan. Just think of him as a guy you just met, a guy named Henry – a nice, very good-looking guy named Henry. Avoid looking at the scary one.
“That’s a line I’ve never heard before.” My tone was part sarcasm and part adorable innocence.
Henry chuckled. “Fair enough,” he conceded. “Let me start over. We’re on the road, touring with a band. That’s why
are here at three am.”
That was an understatement. They were both rock stars. And they weren’t ‘members of a band.’ Hank was a solo artist. But rather than being billed by his name, he called his band Bantham. He was the kind of musician that hung on through the years. His popularity ebbed and flowed, but he never disappeared, and he had a loyal following.
Sean too, was a solo artist that preferred to have a band name. He called his band Chrome. He was a few years younger than Hank, and his current album was topping the charts. It was well known that they are best friends who often toured together.
I still hadn’t responded to Henry, so he tried to engage me again. “Is the food good here?”
“Uh, yeah. It’s okay.” I shrugged. “It’s also the only food for at least fifty miles, so that makes it a little better.”
The man I was still trying to think of as Henry winked at me. It was making the fantasy of his being a normal, innocuous stranger harder to hold onto. Sean still hadn’t spoken. But he was examining me. I kept my eyes on Henry.
“Good, we’re starving,” Henry said. He turned to Sean. “I haven’t eaten anything since before the show.”
The waitress came by. She didn’t appear to have a clue who they were. Henry ordered coffee and the breakfast special for them both. He looked at Sean and said, “I think we might be anonymous in this little town. We should come here more often.”
And that’s when I blurted out, “I know who you are.”
What a moron! I was doing so well up until that point, acting casual, pretending they were regular guys in a café in the middle of the night. And I blew it in five words.
“Are you a fan?” Henry asked.
They both laughed at this. Henry’s laugh was loud and jovial. Sean’s was deep and sinister.
“Why don’t you come join us?” Henry suggested.
Why didn’t I? Why not? I had nowhere to be. I was in a public place. It’s not like sitting at their table would lead to a kidnapping. I was just going to talk to a hot guy named Henry and his scary friend.
Without accepting the invitation verbally, I picked up my coffee and my plate and moved over so that I sat beside Henry and diagonal from Sean, whose ability to frighten did not improve with proximity.
“Not a fan, huh, Dani?” Henry asked.
“I didn’t say not, I said not
. I’m a classic rock girl. I like your Neil Young cover,” I said, gesturing to Henry. “And I really like your voice.” I somehow had the nerve to look at Sean as I said this last part.
Sean stared back at me with eyes so dark brown they looked black. He tilted his head toward me and looked as though no one had ever said that to him before.
Sean had one of those chiseled-looking faces that you never see on a real person. You didn’t meet men that looked like that in the supermarket or on a college campus, they only lived on television. Then again, from what I knew of Sean at the time, he lived in L.A., so maybe that made sense.
The whole thing was so surreal that it made me feel brave, like I could just say what was in my head. What difference did it make anyway? He wasn’t even real.
“Underneath everything, I think a lot of your music has a real oldies feel to it, you know, like old time doo-whop music. I like that,” I said.
Sean played very hard rock music, and this opinion that I held of his
musical style was something I had been warned by my exes not to reveal to anyone who was a fan. And here I was telling the man himself.
Henry laughed again. Sean simply stared at me for a long moment. I felt as though I was staring down a soldier on the opposite side of the line. But my bravery in the face of what was clearly some sort of hallucination or weird dream, held strong. My whole body was telling me to run from this scary-looking man. But I didn’t move and I didn’t flinch.
Sean winked at me.
Henry pointed at me and said, “She is fucking awesome!”
The waitress brought their coffee. I wasn’t interested in my omelet anymore, so I pushed it aside and focused on my own hot coffee.
“So, Dani, please, you gotta tell us your story,” Henry begged.
Henry’s blue eyes lit up. His features were softer than Sean’s. His hair fluttered above his brow. His smile was to die for. If he asked a woman to go with him, she would have no choice but to go.
I shrugged. “I’m a park ranger.”
“Like Smokey the Bear?” Henry asked.
“It’s Smokey Bear, not Smokey
Bear, and that’s the Forest Service. I work for the Park Service.”
He ignored my lecture on the nuances of governmental agencies and asked, “Do you carry a gun?”
“No, I’m not that kind of ranger.”
“You’re a naturalist ranger, right?” Sean asked, startling me a bit with his deep, smooth voice.
I nodded weakly and tried not meet his intense gaze.
“So you take people on hikes and show them bears and shit.” Henry said.
“Yes, I take people on hikes and show them bears and shit,” I said dryly.
“Where do you work?” Sean asked.
This time I couldn’t help but look up at him. His voice was literally mesmerizing. But he was still terrifying. His dark eyes were boring into me. His expression was neutral, muted.
“I just got done with the winter season at Yellowstone. I start my summer gig in Death Valley in a little over two months.”
“Girl, you are doing that wrong!” Henry exclaimed. “Negative 20 in the winter and 120 in the summer.”
“Actually, it can get more like negative 30 in the winter where I’m stationed. But at that point it doesn’t make much difference. Cold is cold.”
“You snowmobile there?” Henry asked.
“Yep. It’s the only way to get around in the winter.”
“A little thing like you?”
I took exception to this. So I pulled my shirtsleeve up to my shoulder, fully exposing my bicep, and flexed. “Hey, I ride snowmobiles, change my own belts, chop wood, and shovel snow. Don’t let my size fool you. Oh, and I’m 5’6, which is above average for an American woman by the way.”
“5’6 and 100 pounds soaking wet,” Henry said.
“Yeah, but she’s got guns,” Sean retorted.
“Yes, she does,” Henry said.
“You’re one to talk,” I said to Henry. “What do you do, work out from morning till night?”
“Was that a dig? Or admiration?”
“Neither. Just an observation.”
This close I could see the dimples on Henry’s cheeks as he grinned at me. I had to stop myself from moving closer to him.
“You wanna feel?” Henry asked, pulling his arm up and flexing it.
Yes I did.
I shook my head. “Keep your arms to yourself.”
Their food arrived. They had massive breakfasts, complete with sides of bacon, biscuits and gravy, and toast. I turned back to my coffee and let them dig in.
We sat in companionable silence for a while. I found myself relaxing into the chair. I really was tired, and other than Sean’s general scariness, I was feeling pretty relaxed in the company of these two strangers, who also happened to be rock stars.
“You never did tell us why you are in BFE Nevada.” Henry looked up at Sean. “Where are we, anyway?”
“Searchlight,” Sean said.
“Yeah, Searchlight. What the hell are you doing here, Dani?”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
“We just got started on a two-month tour. We did Vegas tonight and we’re headed to Phoenix for a show tomorrow, or rather later today I guess.”
“This is not the most direct route to Phoenix. Why didn’t you take 93 to Kingman?”
Sean chuckled. “We’re traveling with three busses. Our bus, which is referred to as bus one, is just me, Henry, Mike, and our driver Tony. The other two busses are filled with band members, our annoying tour manager, roadies, and groupies. So we sent them the other way and took the scenic route.”