Fighting for redemption . . .
I’ve lived most of my life in darkness, beneath the shadows of secrets and addictions. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt the only girl I’d ever loved—the one who brought me into the light. In my entire life I’d made one promise—a promise I’d intended to keep. I’ve broken that promise and now I have to live with the fallout. Dixie Lark hates me, and I have to tell her that I love her. I also have to tell her a truth that might destroy us forever.
Can she love me, even if she can’t forgive me?
Learning to move on . . .
Gavin Garrison broke his promise to my brother and he broke my heart in the process.I may never love anyone the way I’ve loved him, but at least I won’t spend my life wondering “what if.” We had our one night and he walked away. I’m beginning to move on, but my brother’s wedding and a battle of the bands are about to throw us together again.
Our band is getting a second chance, but I don’t know if I can give him one. How do you hand your heart back to the person who set it on fire once already?
“In the end, we are all just humans…drunk on the idea that love, and only love, can heal our brokenness.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
“I need a Michelob Light, two Jack and Cokes, a bourbon on the rocks, and a Sex on the Beach,” a waitress calls to me over the crowded bar.
“Yes, ma’am,” I shout over the din while filling the order quickly, tossing an umbrella into the fruity drink and briefly wondering what the hell kind of group orders such random drinks. It’s an odd number, so probably not a double date.
Once her tray is full, she takes off into the crowd and I take a few more orders from patrons sitting at the bar. The house band announcing that they’re taking a break and I’m grateful that the bar is full enough to keep it from being quiet.
Silence has always been my enemy. Hence why I play the drums, the loudest most deafening musical instrument in existence. They’re the only things that drown out the sounds in my head. Once my customers and waitresses have been taken care of, I do a quick wipe down of the bar and restock the highball glasses.
It’s in the brief moment when the pool balls knocking together and the raucous chatter die down that I hear it.
Someone is playing the piano, the old Wurlitzer that sits abandoned in the back corner of the Tavern. It’s not the music itself that stops me where I stand. It’s the way it’s being played. Effortless yet meticulous, a combination that I’ve only known one musician in my entire life to be capable of.
Glancing in the direction where the melody is drifting from I notice I’m not the only one mesmerized by the sound. Half the bar has made their way to the back corner to get a closer listen. My boss, a perpetually red-faced man named Cal, is going to kill me, but I have to see. I have to know if it’s her. My body propels itself around the bar just as a voice from my right calls my name, startling me out of my trance.
Turning, I look directly into a pair of gleaming green eyes beneath a perfectly even bob of blond hair.
Ashley Weisman stands across from me in her pencil skirt and oxford dress shirt with two too-many buttons undone to be here for professional reasons.
“You’ve been avoiding my phone calls,” she says evenly.
“Been busy.” Huffing out a breath, I place my hand gently on her elbow and attempt to steer her toward the exit.
Stilettos planted firmly on the liquor-sticky floor, she purses her full red lips at me and glares into my eyes. “You can’t ignore me forever. I’m your attorney. Besides, what’s the rush, Gavin? Not even going to offer me a drink? What kind of bartender are you?”
“One who doesn’t have time for this right now. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
I can’t explain it, but deep in my soul—if I have one that is—I know exactly who’s playing the piano behind me. I don’t know why she’s here, I don’t know if she knows I work here, and I sure as hell don’t know if she’ll want to see me. What I do know is that she and Ashley cannot cross paths right now. Not yet. Not before I’ve told her everything.
“I think I’ll take the drink now, thank you very much.” Twisting out of my reach, she hops up onto a barstool and steadily ignores the scowl on my face.
The music continues swirling around us and all I know is right now, I need to know who is playing that damn piano.
Clenching my fists, I walk around behind the bar and wait for her to tell me what she wants.
“I’ll have a screaming orgasm, please.” Her eyes gleam and I meet her interested gaze with a dispassionate one. “Multiples, actually.”
I barely suppress a loud sigh and grab the Bailey’s and a top shelf bottle of vodka. Once her drink is mixed I set it down in front of her.
“On the house. Feel free to take it and go.”
A frown mars her attractive face. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in such a hurry to get rid of me. You have a hot date later?”
I can’t help it, I glance over toward the piano. The music speeds up and so does my heart rate. The notes call to me like a siren song and I know I won’t be able to keep myself from barreling over there for much longer.
“The piano player? I saw her when I came in. She’s pretty.”
“You done?” I nod to a newbie bar back named Jake to come get her empty glass and he does.
“Oh, I see,” she says evenly, watching me carefully. “It’s her, isn’t it? The one you’re so eager to get your shit together for, huh?”
“I need to get my shit together regardless, Ashley. You know that. How about helping me do that instead of causing more trouble?”
She frowns as if I’ve insulted her. “I’m not trying to cause trouble. I’m curious. Pretty sure curiosity isn’t a crime.”
Closing my eyes, I inhale through my nose and exhale out my mouth like the meetings have taught me. “You know what they say about curiosity.”
Cal walks by and I call out that I’m taking my break. Without waiting for his response or approval, I move out from behind the bar and make my way through the sea of bodies separating me from the girl behind the piano. Once I’ve navigated the treacherous waters, I see her.
It’s smoky in here tonight and several women I’m not familiar with are surrounding her but I see her sitting there—playing her heart out—and all I can do is watch.
She doesn’t make music, or create it. She is music. It flows through her as she plays and it’s an incredible sight to behold.
There she is. My beautiful bluebird.
My stomach tenses and my throat constricts.
She shouldn’t be here.
I shouldn’t be here.
Seeing me here will hurt her and there is nothing I wouldn’t give to prevent that.
Before I can even begin to formulate the words in my mind that I should say to make this okay, to make it somehow hurt her less, the music stops and she turns as if she can feel me standing there. Applause breaks out around us but it fades into background noise.
There isn’t a name for the emotion that crosses her face, darkening her eyes and causing the fire in them to flare at me. It’s part shock, part betrayal, and complete pain.
My jaw clenches and I force my eyes to remain on hers even though they’d prefer to close and block out the sight of her wounds deepening.
“Taking requests?” Ashley’s voice calls out from beside me. Her expression says she’s genuinely impressed by Dixie’s talent but I can guess what my temperamental Bluebird will see.
Dixie Leigh Lark arches an eyebrow at her and then shoots me a scowl of pure disgust before answering with a short, “not at the moment.”
“Too bad,” Ashley answers with a shrug.
I step closer to Dixie just as she shoves the piano bench backward, scarping it across the hardwood floor. Before I can blink, we’re face to face and if looks could kill, someone would be performing CPR on me in a matter of seconds.
“Go to hell, Gavin,” is all that escapes her beautiful mouth. Her rage hits me with the force of a ten-foot plate glass window shattering over me.
I turn to watch her storm out, running a hand over my head and feeling the heat of several angry glares from other women around me.
Ashley smirks from behind her glass as she polishes off another drink I didn’t realize she was holding. “Well that escalated quickly.”
Yeah. It did.
I am so fucked.
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About the Author
Caisey Quinn lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her daughter. She is the bestselling author of the Neon Dreams series as well as several New Adult and Contemporary Romance novels featuring southern girls finding love in unexpected places. You can find her online at www.caiseyquinnwrites.com. She is represented by Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.