Hiding My Heart (The Kidnapping of Devon Thompson)
Chapter 1: Movie Night
I have to get to him. I just have to. That's all Devon could think. Never mind that it was a mile to his house. Never mind that it was raining - raining in torrents in a way rarely seen in Southern California. Never mind that she was soaked and exhausted.
I have to tell him.
Nine months earlier
"Hot Fuzz?! That's your pick for movie night? I thought we agreed on The Notebook." Devon wrinkled her nose at she looked at the back of the DVD cover and then sank back into the pillows of her couch.
"Oh ye of little faith. Just give it a shot. You're totally going to love it. Besides, The Notebook is a total chick flick and it's my turn to pick." Ritchie walked into the living room carrying a couple of bottles of water and a bowl of popcorn. He placed the popcorn bowl on the coffee table and handed one of the bottles of water to Devon.
"We'll see." Devon stated as she watched Ritchie pick up the remote and hit the play button. Devon narrowed her eyes at Ritchie and pursed her lips in a look meant to convey skepticism. In response, Ritchie grinned and popped some kernels into his mouth before turning back to face the TV.
Although she liked giving Ritchie a hard time about his movie picks, in reality, Devon adored movie night with Ritchie. It had become their little tradition ever since she moved to Los Angeles six years ago to start her undergrad degree at UCLA.
While she would never have admitted to anyone but her best friend Gabby that she was apprehensive about moving to LA -- the indominatable Devon Lissette Thompson admit fear - forget it! -- she had been so nervous. At the biggest part of her nervousness had stemmed from the man currently sitting on her living room couch.
Back when she was 16, she and Gabby had kidnapped members of the Ritchie's band, 5LeoRise. In the course of that adventure, Devon had fallen for Ritchie and fallen hard. And she thought Ritchie had felt a connection with her too. But after the concert at her school, Ritchie and the rest of the band had been occupied with cutting another album (this time with them all playing instruments) and subsequent touring. The band's tour schedule and long distance had effectively stunted any real romantic relationship from forming between Devon and Ritchie. Sure they had kept up contact through email and MySpace. And they saw each other whenever the band was in her hometown on tour. But it wasn't enough to sustain, let alone start, a romance.
So when Devon moved to LA with Gabby six years ago, a small part of her -- actually a big part of her -- hoped that she would finally be able to start a real relationship with Ritchie. But when she arrived in LA, she found that Ritchie had a girlfriend. While the girlfriend lasted only five months, the romance never got off the ground.
In the years since, Devon told herself that it didn't matter. She had a real friendship with Ritchie -- aside from Gabby, he was her best friend. And she was friends with everyone else in the band.
Even so, looking at him sitting next to her, watching his dark hair fall into his pale blue eyes, made her stomach clench and her heart race. But ever practical Devon pushed those feelings down and turned her attention back to the movie.
A couple of hours later, Devon turned to Ritchie "As much as this pains me to say - you were right. It was funny. You actually picked a decent movie. Will wonders never cease?"
"I told you to trust me. You never learn." Ritchie grinned again. "I just hope that next week when it's your turn, you can live up to the high standard that I've set."
"Buddy - the bar isn't that high. Hot Fuzz is funny. But it ain't no Citizen Kane. And by the way, why are we always doing this at my apartment? You're the famous rock star with the MTV-worthy crib of a mansion? And the High Def TV? I'm just a lowly employee of the great 5LeoRise empire."
"Fine - my place next time. I just always figured it's easier for you if we do it at your place. And you don't work for me - you work for Hollis. You barely even do anything for the band anymore. Lately, all I hear about from you are all these new bands." Ritchie frowned as he recalled how irritated he'd been lately about Devon's increasing involvement with The Lepers, a new band Hollis had just signed. A couple of weeks ago, Ritchie had been in the Viper Room and had seen Devon sitting next to Garrett Worthington, the lead singer of The Lepers. Ritchie saw Devon throw back her head and laugh at something Garrett had said.
Ritchie had also seen the way Garrett looked at Devon. A part of Ritchie couldn't blame Garrett for thinking what he was obviously thinking. With her long blonde hair and lithe body, kept trim and fit by all the running that she liked to do, Devon certainly attracted attention. And her laugh was the best -- like everything else, when Devon laughed she fully committed. When Devon laughed at something you said, you felt like you were on top of the world. Ritchie knew this. And it irritated the crap out of him that she was laughing at something Garrett had said.
I just don't want her to get involved with the wrong guy. I just don't want to see my best friend hurt. Ritchie had thought - even as his insides rolled and his fists involuntarily clenched.
"Don't pout - I do plenty of stuff for you guys. In fact, Hollis is letting me take lead on planning out your tour. He even said that I'll probably go out on the road as assistant tour manager. So you'll be seeing me plenty. You'll see me so much, you'll be sick at the sight of me." Devon smiled and wiggled her eyebrows as she nudged Ritchie's shoulder with her own.
Ritchie laughed, "Good to know you haven't forgotten us. We'll always be your first band, you know."
"I know." Devon held Ritchie's gaze.
What is this weird lurching in my heart. Ritchie tugged at his T-shirt collar. "Listen, it's late. I should get going." He stood up and started walking towards the door. "Lock the door behind me, though."
"What are you, my father? I'll be fine." Devon reached out to hug Ritchie. Neither noticed that they held on a little longer than most platonic friends.
I'm just his friend. Devon thought.
She's my best friend. Ritchie reminded himself.