From the author of Behind the Masque and Enforce My Heart. Sydney is always a rule follower…until her BFF Desiree decides that she needs to have some fun. They buy fake IDs and get into a club, where Sydney hits it off with a sexy musician…only to find out that he’s also her new English teacher!
Age Rating: 18+
Unclassic Hero by Jessie F Royle is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
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“Come on, Syd, you’re not getting out of this one,” Desiree hands me the fresh fake ID she acquired for me this week.
“What makes you think I’m going to try?” I ask her, taking the card and scrutinizing it. “Jane Johnson? Could this be any more generic?”
“It has to be easy to remember, and remember the birth date, too. They’ll ask for sure if they think it’s a fake,” she instructs.
Desiree, my best friend, regularly likes going to clubs, but since she isn’t twenty-one, she relies on her fake ID. I study the birth date and repeat it in my head over and over.
I’m twenty-one, not eighteen, tonight.
“You always bail. Every time you agree to do this with me, it never happens,” she complains, “but not tonight. Actually, I’m surprised I got you this far, so that’s a start.”
“What if we get caught?” I ask.
“Worst-case scenario, they take your ID and cut it in half, that’s about it. I’ve had it happen a couple of times now. But, I’ve since got a new guy for my ID purposes, and his always pass. They’re flawless.”
“If you say so,” I sigh.
Desiree has been on a mission this whole summer to try and get me out of my safe little bubble, and I thought I could probably use a fun night out before school started back next week.
Senior year. This summer, I’ve been pretty preoccupied between my summer job at a day camp for underprivileged local kids and tutoring math at the Learning Center.
I’m on a mission to fluff up my college applications, so I thought these particular extracurricular activities would do just that.
“Ready?” Desiree asks, grabbing her purse off the backseat of her brand-new Jeep Wrangler, a generous gift from her dad for her eighteenth birthday.
An only child, Desiree has always been spoiled, even more so since her mother died when she was ten.
My car, an old black and grey Chevy Blazer, was a hand-me-down from my parents when they bought a new truck last year.
“Ready,” I confirm, grabbing my purse off the floor.
We exit the vehicle, and I follow close behind Desiree as we cross the street toward the end of a long line leading into a nightclub called The Wrecker.
“How’s my hair?” Desiree asks me, smoothing her hands over her long black hair that she spent an hour meticulously straightening.
“Great, as always,” I assure her. I fidget with my hair, twirling it around my fingers in a nervous gesture.
“Quit it, you’re going to ruin all the work I put in,” she swats my hand out of my long blonde hair that she had styled for me, although it felt more like an assault with all the teasing, curling, and hair spraying.
My hair now has more volume than I’ve ever seen it have, with the ends all perfectly curled.
Desiree made me trade my glasses for contacts tonight, and I’m wearing her clothes, too-tight skinny jeans, and a slinky black camisole.
I don’t look like myself tonight; I look more like her, which I suppose is not a bad thing. My usual style, as Desiree would say, is geeky chic.
I don’t know what that means, but I think it’s kind of like a hipster or something.
“So, have you finished your summer assignment history essay?” I ask her.
“Oh no, you don’t, Sydney, there will be no talking about school tonight. Tonight, we are twenty-one years old, and we don’t go to high school.”
“Fine. So what am I supposed to talk about?”
“I don’t know anything but school. We only have another week of freedom before we have to go back, so I’d like to forget about it.”
“I know, you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right. I’m always right.”
“No, you think you’re always right,” I laugh at her.
“Well, most of the time I’m right,” she argues.
“If you say so.”
We make it to the front of the line where a three-hundred-pound bouncer, covered in tattoos, right up to his shaved head, stands guard at the door.
“ID?” he orders in a deep, intimidating voice.
Desiree reaches into her purse and hands it to him. He glances at it, then at her. Desiree smiles and bats her eyelashes at him. He offers back a hint of a smirk and hands her back the card.
“Okay,” he nods and gestures with his chin for her to go in.
She steps aside as I hand him mine. He glances at it, then at me, then back at the ID.
“Jane Johnson, is it?” he asks, sounding dubious.
“I know, right? My parents weren’t very creative,” I say with a dismissive shrug.
The bouncer man looks up at me.
“Birthday?” he asks.
“July 3, 1992,” I answer as quickly and confidently as possible.
He sighs loudly and hands me back the ID.
“Alright, in you go, then,” he says, waving me in.
I let out a breath of relief and join Desiree at the door.
“That was a close one,” she whispers as we go inside.
“Yeah, I guess I’m not as charming as some people,” I say dryly.
Too-loud music assaults my ears as we head deeper into the club. Desiree has a firm grip around my wrist as she pulls me along toward the bar.
“I think we should start with some shots to loosen you up,” she shouts in my direction.
“I don’t know, Des…” I begin my protest.
“Nope. Nope. Nope. I don’t want to hear it, Syd.”
Desiree pulls a twenty out of her purse and flags a bartender. I can’t hear what she orders, but I see her hold four fingers up. I sigh in defeat.
She’s not going to let me off easy tonight, I just know it. I take a moment to examine my surroundings.
The club is dark, and there are flashing lights swirling around the center of the room, over a large dance floor.
Dance music pounds from speakers that sound like they are in every corner of the room, giving no chance for quiet.
The place seems kind of grungy and smells of stale beer, but it’s packed, so people must like it here.
My eyes travel toward a large stage at the front of the room, set up with instruments just as I feel Desiree nudge my shoulder.
“Here, drink this,” she orders, handing me a shot glass filled with a sickly green fluid.
“Ugh, what is this?” I ask, scrunching my nose.
“It’s yummy, trust me. Just throw it back.”
I take a deep breath and tentatively raise the glass to my lips.
“Here goes nothing,” I mutter as I tip it back at the same time Desiree happily throws hers back.
Expecting it to be disgusting, I’m surprised to find that the drink tastes like key lime pie. I look at Desiree, who is smiling proudly.
“See? I told you it was yummy. Here, take the second one.”
After our shots, we order some girly cocktails and decide to try our luck at finding a table.
“I want one near the stage if possible. There’s a band playing tonight that I heard is excellent.”
“You didn’t say anything about live music,” I say.
“So? Why do you think this place is so popular? Every weekend they have a few bands play here. Some are well established, some are up and coming, some are…well some are terrible, but those bands never get asked back.
“Someone told me the band playing tonight has been playing here almost every weekend for the whole summer. Teagan said she was here last weekend and saw them, and she told me they were awesome.”
“What’s the name of the band?” I ask her.
She reaches into her purse and pulls out a flyer and hands it to me. Four guys that look to be in their late twenties stare back at me with their bestI’m a rock star and don’t give a shitlooks.
Their band name, Unclassic Heroes, is written over their heads.
“This one is cute,” I say, pointing to one of them.
“Which one? They’re all kind of cute,” she asks, leaning over to see whom I’m pointing at.
“This one,” my finger presses on a guy with shaggy dark brown hair that curls slightly under his ears, intense brown eyes, and a little bit of scruff dotted along his solid jawline.
“Cute? I’d call him downright hot,” Desiree agrees, “Wow, Syd, I didn’t know you had such good taste. The only guy you ever hang out with is Dane.”
“Dane is just my friend,” I say for what feels like the millionth time.
“Maybe he is to you, but he’s in love with you, and everyone but you knows it.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I shake my head adamantly.
“Yeah, you just keep telling yourself that,” she snorts.
Luckily for me, the lights on stage brighten, and the rest of the lights around the room dim, halting our conversation.
Desiree never believes me when I tell her what Dane and I have is nothing more than friendship. I’ve known him since fifth grade. He’s like a brother to me.
He’s been away all summer, volunteering with a charity called Homes for the Heart, building houses in areas that have been struck by hurricanes. I won’t see him until we get back to school.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome once again to The Wrecker stage, Unclassic Heroes,” a DJ announces loudly over the system.
Everyone starts clapping as the band makes their way onto the stage. My eyes quickly find the hot one, who appears to be on lead guitar.
“Ooh, lead guitar. Very sexy,” Desiree shouts.
“He’s better looking in person,” I add.
“You should try and talk to him after the show,” she suggests, giving me an encouraging nudge.
“Are you nuts? Look at him. He’s at least thirty years old.”
“Des, I’m only eighteen.”
“That’s legal enough.”
“Also, someone that looks like him, probably already has a girlfriend, or a dozen groupies already forming a line in the back.”
“Ew, groupies. Come on, Sydney. You can talk to him. It doesn’t mean you want to do more than that, not that you’d give it up anyway,” Desiree giggles.
“Yeah, yeah. I know my virginity is so hilarious to you,” I snap.
“Oh, take it easy, tiger. It is not hilarious. I’m very proud of you for holding on to it. I wish I could say I did the same, but then Sean Harris came along and…well, you know the rest of that tragic tale.”
“Then Curtis, and John and…”
Desiree smacks me on the shoulder, and we both laugh. Despite our vast differences, Desiree and I have always just clicked. She came to our school in ninth grade and was instantly popular.
We ended up sitting next to each other in science, and I found out that she was a lot different than the other popular girls. She was kind, funny, and didn’t care about social cliques.
She just liked whom she liked, no matter what anybody thought of it. She instantly took me under her wing, and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
She can seem a bit brash at times, but my level-headedness evens us out. We complement each other.
The band starts to play, and Desiree and I soon find out what all the fuss is about. The band is really good.
“You know, the lead singer is pretty hot, too. Maybe both of us should try and talk to them when they take a break,” Desiree says.
“You think we’d even get close to them? How many other girls do you suppose are waiting to do the same thing?”
“I have my ways. Just you wait and see, we’ll be the ones leaving with them tonight.”
“How confident you are,” I say, shaking my head at her, “and I’m not leaving with anyone tonight, except you, when we go home.”
“Okay fine, but we’re talking to them anyway, maybe get their numbers.”
I realize this isn’t a scenario I’m going to be able to talk her out of, so I just go with it.
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The whole time the band plays, I find it hard to tear my eyes away from him.
Watching the way he so expertly works the strings on that guitar, the way his hair falls in his face and how he’d run his fingers through it to push it back.
“Wow, someone’s got it bad,” Desiree’s voice breaks through my daydreams.
“He’s just so…”
“Sexy, dark, mysterious, talented, not an immature high school boy? Yeah, I know.”
“I just don’t know if I have the guts just to go up and talk to him. He’s probably not interested in younger girls.”
“He’s got a dick, doesn’t he? Trust me. He’ll be interested, Syd. You look totally hot tonight.”
“Maybe there’s more to him than that,” I venture.
“Oh, look at you, already defending him, and you haven’t even spoken to him yet.”
“It’s mostly just wishful thinking. I’m expecting a brushoff.”
“Hey, cut that shit out, Sydney. You really need to have a little more confidence in yourself. You are beautiful, smart, kind, and a little of everything else. Any guy would be lucky to have your attention.”
I feel myself blushing at her compliment, but can’t find the words to respond. I don’t have to, though, as the music stops, and the room is filled with loud applause.
“Thanks, guys. We’re just going to take a break. We’ll be back in a half-hour,” the lead singer says into the mic.
The band sets down their instruments and starts heading toward the side of the stage.
“Come on, Syd, let’s go,” Desiree says, quickly getting to her feet. “Let’s beat the crowd.”
I stay seated, feeling very nervous. Desiree huffs and pulls on my arm impatiently.
“Come on, you chicken.”
I sigh in resignation and let her pull me along toward where the band is just coming off stage. Desiree lets go of my hand just as I bump into a passerby.
“Sorry…” I mumble to the person who is already long gone.
When I turn back around, I slam right into another person, the force strong enough that it knocks me right down onto my butt.
“Ouch,” I groan.
Hard concrete does not forgive.
“Oh shit! I’m so sorry. Here, let me help you up,” a voice from above says as I see a hand appear in front of my face.
My eyes travel up to see the cause of my pain. My eyes nearly bug out of my head when I see his face. It’s him! He’s taller than he looks on stage.
“Um…uh…thanks,” I manage to say as I take his hand.
He pulls me to my feet with what seems like no effort at all. I can feel my cheeks burning in humiliation. Of all the times to be a klutz! His hand is warm and slightly calloused.
It causes the skin on my hand to tingle.
“I’m so sorry. I wasn’t watching where I was going,” I blurt.
His eyes are warm, and he’s smiling at me, then he chuckles softly.
“It’s no problem, I wasn’t really paying attention either,” he says, though I’m sure it’s only to make me feel better.
I stare back at him, I don’t want him to go, and so I try and think of something to say before he does.
“Hey, you’re in the band,” I say, grasping at straws.
He nods once.
“Yeah. Are you enjoying the show?”
“I really am.”
Okay, maybe I can make this last a little longer.
“I haven’t heard of you guys before tonight, but my friend said that she heard you guys were terrific,” I add.
“And do you agree with that assessment?” he asks, smiling at me.
“I thought you guys were awesome. I feel like I should have heard about you before tonight.”
“Well, thank you. We’re pretty new to playing here, just the past few months. I joined the band in May. Apparently, before that, they were only playing small pubs, that’s probably why nobody really heard of us before this summer.”
“It seems like you guys have built a pretty big fan base already, though, so it won’t be long before you book bigger gigs.”
Sure Syd, fawn a little more, could you? Luckily, he laughs in response.
“We hope so. That’s the goal.”
I just nod. I don’t know what else to say. Where’s Desiree, anyway? I look around and spot her just a few feet away, chatting with the lead singer.
“So, what’s your name?” he then asks me, taking me by surprise.
Nice, good one, duh!
“Yeah, I’d like to know who I’m buying a drink for.”
He laughs. Oh man, it’s such a sexy sound.
“My name is…”
Do I tell him Sydney or Jane?
“Sydney,” I decide.
“Nice to meet you, Sydney. I’m Conrad.”
“Nice to meet you, Conrad,” I say, and smile brightly at him.
“So, about that drink.”
He gestures for me to lead the way toward the bar. I start walking, and I can feel him following close behind me, really close. My stomach is doing little flip-flops.
I can’t believe this is happening. We take a seat side by side at the bar, and Conrad flags down a bartender who promptly makes his way over.
“So, Sydney, what can I get you?” he asks me.
“Whatever you’re having is fine,” I tell him.
I don’t really want to order the frilly drinks that Des and I were having earlier.
“All right. Let’s see…”
He furrows his brow like he’s really thinking about it before grinning and turning toward the bartender who waits patiently, despite the crowd.
“Jimmy, we’ll take two tequila shots, then two beers, please.”
“Coming right up,” Jimmy the bartender nods before getting to work on the drinks.
Conrad turns to me as we wait, an inquisitive look on his face. I can feel my face heat under his stare.
“So Sydney, how old are you, anyway?” he asks.
“Twenty-one?” I answer him, and he laughs.
“Is that a question?”
“No…no, I’m twenty-one.”
He nods, but something on his face tells me that I haven’t done the best job at fibbing.
“So you said you’ve never seen us play before? I guess that means you don’t come here often?”
“No. This is my first time here.”
“Yeah? Where do you usually go out to have fun?”
I don’t know if he’s testing me now, or if he’s inquisitive. The problem is, I don’t have a good answer.
“I don’t go out very often, to be honest,” I admit, “I’m not much of a barfly.”
“I guess that’s a good thing. So what is it that you do for fun, then? If not the bars…”
“I spent most of the summer working. When I wasn’t doing that, I spent a lot of time reading. I’m not a great deal of fun, I suppose. That’s why my friend Des dragged me out tonight.”
“Reading, huh? That’s refreshing. I spend a great deal of time doing that myself. What are you currently immersed in?”
Just as I’m about to answer him, the drinks are set down in front of us. Conrad hands Jimmy some cash and places one of the shot glasses in front of me.
“Can you do it straight up, or do we need some limes and salt?” he asks.
“I’m not much of a drinker…”
“Limes and salt it is,” he chuckles and reaches over the bar, and produces a salt shaker and two limes.
I watch him curiously, and he catches me.
“They know me here, no worries. Okay, Sydney, you know what to do, right?”
“I don’t drink often, but I know how a tequila shot works,” I smile back at him.
“Just checking. Shall we?”
He licks the side of his hand and sprinkles the salt on, then hands the shaker to me, and I do the same.
“Okay, ready? Go,” he says loudly.
We take the shots at the same time; however, whereas he keeps a straight face, mine twists in disgust.
“Oh! That’s terrible,” I groan, shaking my head.
Conrad starts laughing at me, something he’s done a lot since I’ve met him.
“I told you I wasn’t a big drinker.”
“I can see that, but you know what? That’s not a bad thing.”
The way he’s staring at me right now sends an electric tingle up my spine, and my palms start to sweat.
I’m having trouble maintaining eye contact with him, because every time I look him in the eye, my cheeks go warm. Conrad pushes a beer toward me.
“Here, chase it with this,” he suggests.
I take the bottle and take a sip. It’s not too terrible, but it still wouldn’t be my first choice. Oh well, I’ll drink it because Conrad was kind enough to buy it for me.
“You don’t have to drink it if you don’t like it,” he suddenly says as I lift it to my lips for another sip.
“No, I like it,” I fib.
“No, you don’t. I can tell. Just tell me what you like, Syd,” he insists.
I know he’s talking about the beverage, but the words coming from his mouth feel like they have a hidden meaning, and I like it.
“No, really, it’s fine.”
“When a girl says it’s fine, she rarely means it.”
Suddenly Conrad reaches out and takes the bottle from my hand and sets it down on the bar. He doesn’t pull his eyes away from me as he flags Jimmy again.
“Jimmy, the lady needs something a little…easier to swallow.”
“I think I can do that,” Jimmy responds.
I watch as the bartender starts grabbing some random bottles, mixing a little of this and that into a tumbler before shaking it with ice and pouring a now purple fluid into a glass.
He brings it to us and sets it down before me.
“Try this,” Jimmy says.
Conrad watches me with a smirk as I take the glass and pull the straw into my mouth. I take a sip, then another.
“Good?” Conrad asks.
“It tastes like a Jolly Rancher,” I say, taking another sip.
“Thanks, Jim,” Conrad says, handing him another bill.
“You really didn’t have to do this.”
“I wanted to.”
I meet his gaze then and hold it for a second. His eyes are so deep and dark they practically hypnotize me. Afraid that I’m staring too much, I turn away first.
A sound comes from the stage, and we turn to see the rest of the band coming back on stage.
“Well, I guess that’s my cue. Are you sticking around for the rest of the show?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” I answer him, feeling disappointed that our time together has ended.
“Great. Come see me afterward, then, will you?”
What? This I’m not expecting.
“Really?” I blurt.
“Yeah. Why not?”
“I promise,” I assure him, trying to hide my growing excitement.
“You better,” he says, flashing me a wide grin before picking up his beer and heading off toward the stage.
I stand there, watching after him like an idiot when I see Desiree coming toward me. Her face is lit up.
“Oh my God, tell me everything,” she practically shrieks.
“There’s not much to tell. He bought me some drinks, and we had small talk.”
“Bullshit. From where I was watching, it looked like there was some major flirting going on.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Please Syd. You’re either lying, or you really don’t know how to read signals very well.”
“Okay, maybe a little. I don’t know.”
“So that’s a yes, then.”
“He wants me to find him after the show,” I admit.
Desiree smacks my shoulder.
“If that wasn’t a big fat signal, then I don’t know what is. That works out great, because I was chatting with the lead singer there, Harrison, and he asked me to do the same. It looks like we’ve both scored.”
“I’m nervous. I mean, God, Des, they are so much older than us. Where could it go? Conrad thinks I’m twenty-one.”
“Oh, so his name is Conrad? I like it. It suits him. Anyway, so what if they’re older? We’re just having a little end-of-summer fun.
“We’re not talking a long-term thing here, Syd. Next week, we’ll be back in school, and we probably won’t even see them again.”
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