Authors: Marion Croslydon
Published 2013 by Carlux Publishing
Copyright © 2013 by Marion Croslydon
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form or binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
First Edition: December 2013
Cover art by Claudia McKinney @ Phat Puppy Art
Photography by Teresa Yeh
Typography by Ashley Dungan @ Bookish Brunette
eBook formatting by
Mayhem Cover Creations
This book is dedicated to the readers and bloggers who gave Cassie and Josh a second chance.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.” Boris Pasternak
“You’re going to show those rock-gods how we jam in Kansas.”
I tore my gaze away from the entrance of The Blast Room, where Shawn and his agent waited. I shifted my body sideways toward Josh, bringing a squeak from the leather truck seat.
If my stomach were Irish, it’d be dancing a jig right now.
“Champ, I don’t
. And these guys”—I pointed at the dark door of the bar—“don’t
either. What music did you Ivy-Leaguers listen to anyway?” My mouth curled into a smile for the first time that morning. The knots torturing my guts loosened. A tiny bit.
“Nothing I’m going to admit to now…” He shrugged and smiled back. “But it doesn’t matter because whatever cool I retained in school, getting into politics is gonna kill it.”
“When have you ever been cool, MacBride?” I gave him a slap on the chest. “But thanks, I get the idea. I’m still fighting to keep my breakfast down though.”
Josh had on a well-worn pair of jeans and the same washed-out T-shirt I’d given him for his seventeenth birthday. It was a bit too tight for him now because he wasn’t a boy anymore, but I still loved seeing him in it. His short hair was the same mess as it’d been when he got out of bed earlier that morning. No more preppy Oxford snob.
His hand rested on the nape of my neck. Soon his fingers were lost in the mass of my hair. Hair I’d wasted a silly amount of time arranging into a rock-friendly look. At least I
it looked that way. Any more of Josh’s massaging and I’d end up a Dolly-Parton lookalike.
But I didn’t mind. Not really. I only cared for Josh and the fact that he was back in my life... for good.
I leaned forward and rested my hand on his thigh. His leg muscles tightened and I enjoyed the effect I had on him. I kissed his cheek. Faint stubble tickled my lips. He turned, our foreheads touched, and he twitched his nose against mine in what I secretly called ‘our kiss without a kiss.’
when it came to Josh MacBride, I could turn into a total cheese ball.
“It’s going to be alright, Cass.”
I straightened up and nodded. His hand slid along my neck and down my shoulders. One last squeeze and he broke his touch. “You should go.”
I should definitely go. The meeting was at ten and it was now five past.
“This is only a trial run,” I said. “They’ll probably hate my music.”
For the first time ever, I saw Josh roll his eyes. “Damn, if you keep putting yourself down, I’m going to strangle that sweet little neck of yours.” His fingertips brushed my cheekbone. “And you might totally suck anyway.”
I forced the air out of my lungs, and then inhaled deeply. “Okay. Let’s do this.”
“I’ll be waiting for you, Cass. Always.” The warmth in his eyes told me he was telling the truth.
I got out of the truck and began to miss Josh instantly, but I forced myself to cross Broadway. The first thing that struck me when I entered The Blast Room was the staleness of the air. It was that familiar, decaying smell of music venues when no one was playing and no one was listening. Soulless.
My fingers tightened around the handle of my guitar case. It weighed more with each step I took down the stairwell leading to the bar.
I recognized Shawn’s husky voice before I saw him. Shawn was the lead singer of The Libs. I’d met him in Oxford a few weeks back when they performed at The Turf, where I briefly bartended before my life—and Josh’s—twisted into unknown territories. Shawn was Sam’s friend from The Big Easy and Sam was… well, who was Sam to me? A friend who had gone the extra mile? If you could even consider a marriage offer to get my child back an ‘extra mile.’
Shawn’s arms around my shoulders chased the memory away. He dropped a kiss a little too close to the corner of my mouth and I stiffened. The guy was the
type. He was also the smoker type. Judging by the red rims of his eyes, he’d already smoked half of the prairie in Kansas.
He dragged me toward his agent, an older guy with streaks of grey in his hair, who gave me a once-over. Not in a sleazy way though, but a cool, professional appraisal.
Shawn climbed onto a bar stool next to his agent. “That’s Will. I’ve told him so much about you that he’s about to throw up.”
I gave Will a fragile smile and glued my gaze on the tips of my boots. Shawn was doing me a huge favor but I was definitely more into ‘under-promise’ and ‘over-deliver’ than bold self-confidence.
“Wanna drink?” Shawn nodded towards the shelves behind the bar lined with Maker’s Mark, Gordon’s and Captain Morgan. Just the thought of alcohol so early brought an acrid taste to my mouth.
“I’m good, thanks,” I mumbled. Did all musicians get wasted at ten in the morning? Maybe I wasn’t cut out for the rock scene.
“Let’s get on with it, Cassie.” Will was all business. I knew, without a doubt, this would be my first shot at the big league… and maybe my last.
“I’ll help you set up. Terry’ll be here soon.” Shawn got back on his feet and I followed him to the small stage. It was littered with flyers from previous shows. Terry was the tour manager and he’d be deciding if I could fill in for the next weeks. Will was there to see if I had any star power and,
, sign me sometime down the line.
Shawn adjusted the microphone to my height while I got out my guitar, threw the strap around my neck and started strumming. I adjusted it to make sure it was tuned to perfection. The feeling of the chords underneath my fingertips woke a familiar, secret part of me. The part that didn’t fear anything.
Shawn winked at me and walked off the stage, back to Will’s side. “Can you play that song about the boy? The one you sang back in Oxford?”
My heart sank because it was painful to sing those lyrics. The words had come to me on a dark day when I’d lost hope that I’d have any part in my son’s life. I looked around the room, at all its dark corners. The venue was empty, but bright lights were aimed at me. They burned my skin. The raw feeling of exposure lasted only a minute or two. I began to sing and I knew I was home.
Not long after, when I walked out of the venue, the bright rays of the sun made me wince. Josh’s truck—our truck—was still parked in the same place. Josh was leaning against the passenger door, his arms and ankles crossed. I checked the traffic and strode toward him.
“They want me,” I simply said.
Sparkles brightened his pecan-colored eyes and the familiar dimples appeared when he smiled. His hand circled my neck and he pulled me against him. I breathed in the lemony scent of his aftershave.
He snuggled in the hollow of my neck and said, “Of course they do, baby.”
But his smile didn’t match his voice.
“Of course, the fact that you only filed for divorce last June won’t work in your favor.”
Sawyer Curtis had suddenly veered from his usual dull tone to one with an unfamiliar accusatory edge. I tilted forward on my seat. The small body of our newly-appointed attorney hid further behind his desk. “I was studying in Georgetown, then Oxford, and Cassie had to care for her grandmother. But we’re now back together, Mr. Curtis. That’s what should matter.”
Curtis stared at me over his dark-rimmed glasses. The man reminded me of a wet and pitiful owl with his dull hair around his flat, round face. His appearance didn’t match his reputation, though; and certainly didn’t match the small fortune I was paying him. A fortune I’d reluctantly borrowed from my mom.
“I am perfectly aware of the predicament you’ve found yourselves in. I am only drawing your attention to the obvious. Even though you may be the child’s natural parents, have a bond with him and his adoptive grandfather—well, at least Cassandra does—you’re still without a permanent address, permanent jobs and—”