This novel is a work in progress and is scheduled to be released later this year. Please keep in mind while reading that this is not the final draft, and there could be changes made between now and the book's release. This story as a whole is meant for readers 18 and older due to language and some rather steamy scenes later on.
This excerpt has not been professionally edited as of yet. Though I've spent loads of time combing over it to ensure there are no errors, they could still exist, so please keep this in mind as you read. Enjoy!
Fallout in small town West Virginia.
“Are you alright, Lila,” the soft voice of her grandmother asked as she knocked on the bedroom door.
“You haven’t left your room much since you got home the other night.”
“I’m still not feeling well. I think I have the flu,” she yelled from the other sideof the door. It was the only excuse she could come up with that would keep everyone away for the foreseeable future. No one would want to risk getting sick. She could keep this excuse up for another week if she wanted, and then maybe she’d take an impromptu trip to New York to buy herself some more time alone.
“Would you like me to make you some soup or something?”
“No, thank you, Edie. It’s late, and you need your rest.”
“You really should eat something.”
“I’ll make myself some toast in a little bit.”
“Okay. Oh, by the way, what should I tell your boyfriend the next time he calls? He said he couldn’t get you on your phone. He sounded worried.”
The word “boyfriend” ripped through her like a bullet, tearing her insides apart. “Don’t answer it if it’s him,” she barely managed to say without breaking down. She didn’t want anyone to know what had happened between them, especially Edie.
The pain in her soul had begun to rear its ugly head again, and the only thing that seemed to keep it at bay was sleep. When she slept and for those few seconds before reality sunk in when she awoke, she was free.
“Alright, sweetheart,” Edie said as she hobbled to her room, “but if you need anything at all, just yell.” She was relieved that her grandmother didn’t pry into the subject more.
She had been in bed for two days feigning illness. Wasn’t she though? Ill? Maybe it wasn’t the flu like she had claimed, but mentally she was sick. She had been unlucky in love, and was no stranger to jerks, but this time was the worst because she really trusted him. She had thought the world of him in such a short period of time. He had made her feel special again. He built her up and then damaged her beyond repair. She knew deep down that she would never trust anyone ever again, let alone fall in love. She was doomed to loneliness.
No one would look twice at someone as broken as she was, and, even if they did, how could she ever look past the most horrific experience of her life and learn to trust and to love again?
Nowhere special on any night of the week…
The crowd roared as the lights went down. Chanting of his name filled the airaround him. The crowd demanded more, but he was spent. Ferrum finished theirset for the night, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Living the rock starlife was not on his agenda tonight, though he’d started drinking vodka to steady his nerves long beforethe show began. He wanted nothing more than to get a showerand head to the bus for some much needed sleep. It sounded so simple, yet therewas no way in hell he would actually be able to accomplish his goal withoutpissing off the fans that had managed to get backstage and the ones he knewwould be waiting for him outside.
Trying to sleep on the bus while everyone else lived it up was damn near impossible.Sleeping around a bunch of people drunk or high on fuck knows what was never agood combination. He’d been on the receiving end of dicks, among other things,drawn on his face while he slept one too many times. It wasn’t uncommon forsomeone to wake up with no eyebrows or half their head shaved, though no onehad the balls to try and shave his head. They were too afraid of what his bigfists could and would do to their faces.
He stepped off stage to a throng of waiting fans, mostly women who were doing everything in their power to get close to him. Their screams were deafening,drowning out his own thoughts. His tech shoved a bottle of Grey Goose into hishand, despite his protest. It was his own fault, really. He could drink anyoneunder the table, mostly due to the tolerance he’d built up over the years, butbeing 6’5” and, well, huge helped, too.
He could have his choice of any of these womenif he chose to do so, but deep down he wanted something more. “Ash! I loveyou Ash!” A tall, skinny brunette yelled at him. Yeah, right. She didn’t knowwho he really was, how could she love him? She was in love with the person shehad made him out to be in her fantasies. The same thing happened night afternight, no matter where they found themselves. Same shit, different city.
As usual, he stopped to sign a few autographs and pose for a few pictures.Generally, he would re-emerge to greet fans a little later once he was good anddrunk and wasn’t so sweaty. It was something he usually enjoyed doing, but hisheart and mind just weren’t in it this time around. He’d be going home soon toan empty house, and, as much as he looked forward to the impending silence and solitude,he dreaded it just as much. The more fame and attention he received, thelonelier he became.
The brunette pushed her way to the front of the crowd to get to him. She was verypretty, but he wasn’t interested no matter how hard she tried. She threw herarms around him, pulling him down to her so she could speak into his ear. “I’mfree for days in case you’re wondering. If you’d like some company. Youwouldn’t regret it.”
“No. I’m quite sure I would regret it,” he said as he freed himself from her arms and stomped to his dressing room. He was in no mood to flirt or sugar coatthings right now.
No-strings-attached sex was great, of course, but he wondered if he would ever find someone that could arouse all of his senses and keep his attention, someone who would love him for who he truly was and not who he was perceived to be, someone who didn’t just want to live out the rock star fantasy. He had begun to lose hope that such a woman existed. If he hadn’t found her by now, maybe he never would.
The deep, somber voice of the man I gave my whole heart to fills my ears. Lyrics of the lost love of his life assault my mind and pull me to a time when we were inseparable. I know undoubtedly those words are meant for no one but me, and I stand frozen in place as I see him for the first time in over a year. The stage where he stands is less than 100 feet away and the sight of him has turned me to stone. His fingers move up and down the neck of the bass he holds close to his body. That bass becomes a part of him when he plays, and I have never longed to be an inanimate object so much in my life. His touch haunts me terribly.
The music he makes finds its wayto me and wraps around me much like his arms used to. Each word that escapes his lips is like a hammer smashing my heart to bits again. Try as I might to repress them, warm tears begin to form at the corners of my eyes as I think back to what he did for me and how much he cared when no one else seemed to even notice that I was broken.
I thought I would be okay seeing him from afar, but I’m not. I want to run up on that stage like a mad woman, drop to my knees, and beg him to take me home and make the pain stop for both of us. I have to get out of here now…before I do something stupid…before Shane notices I’m coming undone over Ash London.
10 days earlier...
My foot taps impatiently as the train finally arrives. Patience is a virtue I no longer possess, though I never had much to begin with. I have had enough of the stench of urine and rats scurrying about on the tracks below. I’m ready to get above ground once more so I can get to a brunch date with mybest friend, Tori Tabor. Just my fucking luck, the train is running late when I have somewhere important to be.
I haven’t seen Tori in a few weeks, and am seriously anxious to get to her without wasting too much time. She’s been busy working on her dream of opening up a rock and roll night club. She dubbed her new endeavor “TNT”(her initials), and it fits well with the theme she’s going for. It’s to be thebiggest purely rock and roll club in the city.
As the crowded train nears my destination, I am ready to disembark and get to the restaurant. The guy next to me has been leering at me with a dead-behind-the-eyes stare the entire trip. This situation at one time would
have had me practically pissing myself with fear. Though I am much better now, I’m still a little freaked. I inched away from him as best I could, but it just seems like every time I look up, he’s that much closer. Why do I always attract the attention of weirdoes? Do I have a sign on my forehead that says, “Hey, nutjob! Come talk to me!”?
I rush off the train and up the steps, making sure I've left Mr.Weirdo far behind. The warm summer air greets me as I emerge, and briskly walk toward my destination. I have several blocks to go, and, as I finally approach the home stretch, I rush down 9th Avenue and into Pastis, where I’m meeting Tori. It’s close to TNT, so it’s the ideal spot. Of course, if we decide to do a little shopping when we’re done, which we tend to do, we’re in a prime location as well. Hell, practically anywhere in Manhattan is a prime locationfor shopping, but this happens to be a particularly sweet spot.
I glance into the restaurant window as I get closer to the door, and spot Tori sitting just inside. Waving to her, I enter and make my way to the table where she sits.
“I’m sooooooo sorry I’m late! The train was held up. Have you been here long?”
“Just got here. I was afraid I had left you waiting!”
“Oh, good, so we were both late, then.”
A tall, lanky waiter casually strolls over to our table, careful not to interrupt our conversation. He takes our drink orders and gives us a few minutes to look over the menu.
“Let me see the shoes. Did you go shopping?” Tori and I share a major shoe addiction that we cannot quit, not that either one of us would ever want to.
“No, I didn’t. I’ve had these for a year or so.” One foot adorned with a black Giuseppe Zanotti strappy sandal emerges from underneath the table.
“They’re quite lovely, Lila,” Tori says as she admires them like the shoe junkie she is. “Did you get the invitation to the opening yet?” Her raised eyebrows and wide eyes give away her excitement.
“I did, and can I just say that it looked fabulous?”
“Thank you! I designed it myself. .. Soooo?” Her eyes dart to the floor and back up at me. She drums her fingers on the menu nervously.
“So, what?” Did I miss something? She’s looking at me like I have.
“Soooo. . .please, Lila? I really want you to go! It’s my grand opening, and I want my best friend to be there. It could be your last big hurrah in New York if you decide to move, too.”
“I’ll be there,” I say with a sigh. “I’d be the shittiest friend alive if I didn’t show up to support you.”
“Not gonna lie, I was gonna say that next to guilt you into it if I had to.”
“I wouldn’t do it for anyone else,” I say as I lean closer.
“I know. It’s because you love me.”
We look over our menus in silence for a moment. I know exactly where this conversation is going, and, the bad part about it is, I’m the one who’s going to steer it that way. I can’t help myself. I’m a glutton for punishment.
“I haven’t laid eyes on him in over a year, and I don’t know that I want to now.” My stomach does somersaults at the thought of running into him, much like the night we met at a very similar event organized by Tori. “I’ve moved on, and I don’t want him to think otherwise. I avoid walking by his house even though it’s the shortest way to the subway, just because I can’t stand the thought of seeing him face-to-face. Shit, I even bought a car to avoid the whole thing. It just sucks that I can never find a good place to park so I end up taking the subway anyway. And you know yourself that I decline invitations, even ones from you, all the time when I think he might be there.”
“I know it’ll be rough for you being in such close proximity, but why don’t you bring Shane? Maybe it won’t be so awkward for you if you’re there with a date.”
“I thought about doing that. We’ve hung out a couple of times now, but how do you invite your potential love interest to an event featuring your physically imposing, larger-than-life ex-boyfriend, who just might want to kill the new guy just for the hell of it, and said ex’s band?”
“Well, you can try to avoid him. It’ll be hard, but I think you can do it. I doubt he would approach you when you’re there with someone no matter how he felt about it. I believe he still respects you and wouldn’t do anything to cause you any further grief. And you don’t have to tell Shane he’s your ex if you don’t want to. You haven’t told him who your ex is already have you?”
“No, he doesn’t know, but I feel kind of guilty if I don’t tell him. We haven’t really had the whole “ex”conversation yet. I’m just worried that someone will say something to me that will give it away, and then I look like the asshole who is trying to flaunt the new guy in front of the old guy. I don’t want to be an asshole. And with possibly moving soon, I don’t know that there’s even a point to having that conversation anyway.” I gaze out the window at a couple passing by who seem lost in each others' words and briefly reflect on my own romantic past to a time when I could’ve easily been part of a couple doing the same exact thing.
“That’s understandable, but I don’t think anyone would be that stupid to say anything, and you are NOT an asshole.”
I turn my gaze back to Tori and grin. “You’re underestimating the general stupidity running rampant at any given moment around those guys.” We share a hearty laugh over the general dumbassery of a good chunk of the band’s entourage.
“I’m just glad you’re going.” A wide, toothy smile spreads across Tori’s face. “I have worked so hard on opening this place, and it wouldn’t be the same without my best friend,” she says as she reaches across the table and places her hand on mine. “I really hope you decide to stay in New York. I know it’s selfish of me, but I really do cherish our friendship, and I will miss you tremendously if you go. I prefer meeting with my CPA face to face instead of through emails,” she says as she grins at me.
“I’ll miss you, too. If I move, I can always visit, and you can come and visit me, too. It’s only an hour flight and an hour drive once you land. We can discuss your financial information then.” I smile back at her even though a feeling of sadness creeps over me.
“Well, this baby is going to need a cool, kick-ass aunt so you better visit us!”
Tori is almost 5 months along and her fair skin and strawberry blonde hair possess the radiant glow of pregnancy. She is just beginning to really look pregnant with the cutest little bump on her petite frame.
“I can’t wait for your ultrasound so I can start buying cute outfits! I hope it’s a girl so I can buy her shoes!”
“Yeah, she’ll have two shoe addicts in her life.”
“A little shoe junkie in training.”I laugh. It feels good to have something as positive as the birth of a child to look forward to. Being an only child, I never really thought about having a niece or nephew, but I am really excited at the possibility of hearing “Aunt Lila” come out of a small child’s mouth.
The waiter returns to take our order, and we both opt for pancakes and a side of fruit. What the hell, I’m going to splurge and have a mimosa as well. I need it badly. I’m not much of a drinker, but sometimes you just need to indulge a little to take the edge off.
“TNT really is going to be a huge success. You know you can get Ferrum to play anytime, and pretty much any other bands they have connections with.”
“Being married to a famous musician does have its perks.”
“That it does. Oh, wait…I wouldn’t know about that one.”
“Oh, come on, hun! You haven’t been hung up on him in like six months. Don’t let seeing him get you down. You could run into him at any time, ya know, and I’m actually surprised you haven’t since you live so close to each other. You’re just spazzing because it’s been so long. After it’s over with, you won’t even remember why you were worried.”
“I hope you’re right.”
I truly do hope Tori is right. I haven’t seen or spoken to Ash in almost 13 months to the day. Leaving him ranks pretty high on my list of hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. He’s the first and only man I’ve ever absolutely loved in every sense of the word. I thought I knew what love felt like before him, but was wrong, terribly wrong. He taught me what it felt like to really be in love, and, I hate to admit it, but I miss that feeling.
I miss being beside him. I miss his smell, the touch of his skin. I miss the softness of his dark hair. I miss how he used to wake me up with a kiss to the forehead when we slept in late. I miss how he would call me in the middle of the night when he was on tour just to say goodnight and that he loved me. I miss it all…I miss him.
I regretted leaving him almost instantly. The past year has been a roller coaster of emotions for me. I only recently have become a bit more emotionally stable, though I still falter more than I’d like. Of course, Tori, along with everyone else I know, thinks I got over him a long time ago. As far as he knows, I was over him immediately. I never let on otherwise.
That’s a secret I have to keep to myself. If I admit out loud that I’m not over him, then I end up fighting a war with myself to stay away from him. I have always prided myself on being strong and have to put on a façade to keep my emotions at bay so my secret and my heart continue to be safe.
When I first left him, I had to practically lock myself in my bedroom to keep from running back to him. I cut myself off from the world, my business suffered, and I lost people who I thought for sure were truly my friends. The pain I felt was unbearable. Every day felt like a knife pushed further and further into my gut, finally delving so deep that it sliced open my soul.
He wouldn’t just let me go, either, which didn’t help things at all. Every time he would show up at my door or call, another piece of my heart would break and I would question if it was all worth it or not. I dreamed of going back to him, but knew what our life had become and knew it would never go back to the way it was, not without both of us fighting for our love.
I am no longer the optimistic girl who believes love is all you need to survive once you find the person you’re meant to be with. I’m not the girl who went through one of the worst things that could ever happen to a person or a relationship, but still managed to hold out hope that I would find my Prince Charming someday.
I have no faith in love anymore. I don’t believe everyone is entitled to a happily-ever-after, and I know in my heart that I won’t get one. I amforced to put on a show to reassure those around me that I’m a strong,optimistic woman and that I’m just fine and ready to love again. It’s only whenI’m alone that I’m able to remove my mask and accept my fate.
I desperately wish I could go back to being the girl I once was, butthat girl is gone and she’s never coming back.
© 2013, Stephanie Summers
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author.
This novel is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.