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Can't Look Away
Author: Carola Lovering



Chapter One




Molly never would have gone to the concert in East Williamsburg if Nina hadn’t dragged her there.

It wasn’t actually a concert—not really—but one of those bars with a grungy back room where desperately-trying-to-make-it-bands played for free on the weekends.

Nina offered to buy Molly’s drinks if she came with, because Cash was going to be there, and Nina was dying to sleep with Cash for the third time. And if Molly was being honest with herself—which she almost always was—she knew she had nothing better to do, and that if she didn’t join Nina she’d sit at home in sweatpants and reheat Thursday’s pad Thai, twisting her fork into the limp noodles with the festering knowledge that, on this perfectly good and possibility-filled Saturday night—the first one of the new year—she should be somewhere else.

At the bar, Nina ordered two tequila sodas and pretended not to notice Cash at the other end, drinking Bud Heavies with his cohorts, their laughs open-mouthed and dramatized and, in Molly’s opinion, obnoxious.

“He texted, ‘Come hang tonight,’” Nina whispered anxiously, glancing toward Cash’s corner of the room. “And he texted me the address, but is it dumb that I showed, Moll? Is it desperate? Do I look okay?”

Nina’s chocolate hair fell in loose waves around her bare, bronzed-even-in-January shoulders—Molly would be forever jealous of her friend’s perfect Colombian skin. Dewy makeup smudged the apples of her cheekbones, and mascara lengthened her already-thick lashes. In a crimson silk top and dark jeans, Nina—as always—looked like a knockout.

“You look amazing,” Molly answered, ignoring her best friend’s first two questions.

The bar was filling up and getting louder, a rising drone of voices saturating the space and clouding Molly’s eardrums. She thought of the empty two-bedroom on Withers Street that she shared with Liz—they’d been roommates since sophomore year of college—and the pad Thai chilling in the fridge, and the twenty-five hundred words she hadn’t yet written that were due on Tuesday. Molly wasn’t into going out these days, not the way Nina, Liz, and Everly were. They’d all met at their small liberal arts college in Vermont, after which they’d migrated to New York together, the party vibe still very much their calling card.

Tonight, Liz and Everly were at some girl’s birthday thing in SoHo, and Molly hated to leave Nina without a wing woman when she knew her friend really, really liked Cash, even though Cash was, in her opinion, immature and uninteresting and not remotely good enough for Nina. And besides, Molly possessed the self-awareness to admit that she had been in a bit of a rut, and she needed to make herself go out more, if only because “out” was the place where life happened, where inspiration and possibility had the opportunity to strike.

Nina ordered another round and closed her tab, and the bartender watched her as she signed her bill—the way so many men shamelessly stared at Nina—and winked.

Nina handed Molly the full tumbler of ice and tequila—no soda this time, just lime—and Molly felt the first sip of the second drink spread through her limbs, dense and pleasant, anchoring her more decisively into the night.

“I always forget how much I like tequila.” One side of Molly’s mouth curled effortlessly as she sank back onto the barstool.

Nina tilted her chin forward and smiled. “You’re drunk off one drink?”

“I’m not drunk.” Molly twisted a lock of her wheat-blond hair, drawing in a breath. “I’m sorry I’ve been lame lately. I’ve been so in my head. With the writing stuff. I’m glad you dragged me out.”

“I’m glad I dragged you out so you could witness Cash ignoring me at the dirtiest bar in Bed-Stuy.” Nina drummed her freshly manicured nails—a shiny eggplant color—against the bar top.

“We’re not in Bed-Stuy, Neens.”

“This far from the river, we might as well be.”

Molly rolled her eyes as—suddenly—Cash appeared behind Nina. He slung one of his long, brawny arms around her delicate neck.

“Hey, girls.” Cash smiled widely. Nina beamed, her eyes blooming with delight as if she were five years old and meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World.

“You remember Molly? You met at Everly’s apartment a couple of weeks ago.”

“I think so?” Cash’s thick eyebrows knitted together. “You’re the writer?”

The question caught Molly off guard. “No, I’m just—I’m getting my MFA.”

“In creative writing,” Nina chimed. She knocked back the rest of her tequila.

Cash pursed his lips, confused.

“I’m just not sure what I want to do with my degree,” Molly added quickly. “Maybe teach.”

“This girl is my smartest friend,” Nina crowed drunkenly, wrapping her arms around Molly’s shoulders.

“What do you do again?” Molly asked Cash.

He opened his mouth to speak, just as the bar lights dimmed. Someone cleared their throat into the microphone.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” a male voice bellowed theatrically from the stage. “It is my absolute honor to welcome my dear friends—friends who are more like brothers—the extraordinarily talented Danner Lane to the stage!”

The crowd cheered, the bar quickly emptying as dozens of twenty-and thirtysomething Brooklynites pushed their way toward the back room, toward the stage.

“There are a lot of people here,” Nina observed.

Cash pushed his thick brown hair back from his forehead. “Have you heard Danner Lane’s stuff? Jeb, one of the owners here, the guy who just announced them, is old friends with the Lane brothers. But they’re honestly sick—they’re on iTunes and Spotify now.”

Three guys—all of whom appeared to be in their midtwenties—stepped onto the stage. One sank down behind a massive drum set, and the other two held guitars, positioning themselves in front of the drums.

“Let’s move closer,” Cash suggested. His friends were still at the bar, but he led the way toward the front, worming through the tightly packed crowd, Molly and an enchanted Nina in tow.

“They’re brothers?” Molly asked loudly, glancing up at Cash.

“Those two are brothers.” Cash stabbed his middle and index fingers in the direction of the stage. “Drums and bass guitar. The other one is Jake Danner. He’s guitar and vocals. They all grew up together.”

The Lane brothers looked similar, with wispy auburn hair and pale complexions, their frames lanky. But Jake was the one Molly couldn’t take her eyes off of.

He was the color of honey—honey skin, golden curls that fell in front of his eyes as his fingers expertly plucked the strings of his guitar. When he looked up, Molly saw that his eyes were pale blue, and clipped right to hers, and she suddenly felt glad to be twenty-three and single, living in the greatest city in the world. Her mind—which had felt a bit dark and crowded lately—cleared.

Jake smiled broadly, and Molly felt a drop-kick in her gut. Keeping his eyes fixed to hers, he spoke into the microphone.

“Hey, East Williamsburg.” His voice was clear and perfect in pitch, edged with the slightest twinge of a Southern drawl. “It’s Saturday night, and we’re Danner Lane, and we’re gonna play some music.”

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