I'm so excited to share with you the cover for my next novel, Detour, the first in the Off Track Records series. Each book in the series follows a different band member as they find their happy ever after, and each can be read as a standalone (no cliffhangers).
To celebrate I'm having a HUGE giveaway. How huge? $50 gift card, signed paperback, and swag pack HUGE! Keep reading OR scroll for entry.
Also, as a bonus to my loyal readers you can read the first three chapters below before they're available for Kindle! Detour will be published exclusively on Amazon Kindle in ebook format (and free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers) on or before June 1st. To receive an email alert the moment it goes live, please sign up here.
I will have a limited number of paperbacks available for preorder (will ship approx. May 30) that will include a special swag item. Click the "Buy Now" tab to pay through PayPal. The cost is $16 and includes shipping within the US. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details, special requests, or international pricing.
Okay... Now what you've been waiting for. It's time to ROCK!
Trent Donavan is the golden boy of the rock world. As lead singer of Three Ugly Guys, he’s every fangirl’s dream, and with his newfound fame the women flow as readily as alcohol and drugs. There’s no doubt women are Trent’s preferred indulgence after a successful show.
That is, until the feisty little blonde joins the tour.
Lexi Marx loves music. It runs in her blood and flows through her soul. As the illegitimate daughter of a rock legend, she’s determined to make it in the music industry on talent alone. So when her agent scores her the opening act gig for the next 3UG tour it seems her hard work, hopes, and dreams have finally come to fruition.
Until she spends time with the band. More accurately, Trent Donovan. She’d feel better if that arrogant manwhore of a lead singer would stop hitting on her with his dreamy eyes, witty comebacks, and voice that melts the most jagged of hearts.
But Trent is determined to prove to Lexi he’s not such a bad guy, and as music binds their friendship, Lexi’s left with the most confusing of emotions. Could this be love or an uninvited distraction? She can still have it all, if only her heart doesn’t lead her off track.
Why does a young adolescent boy spend endless hours learning to play electric guitar, practicing covers of Nirvana, Metallica, and Green Day until he’s perfected them just so? Is he chasing a life of fortune or fame? No. Is it for the music? Maybe a little, but still not the main reason. No. He does it for the ladies. That’s the number one reason, and any little shit who tells you otherwise is lying. Sure, the music, fame, money, and recognition, it all plays into the equation soon enough. But the real motivation, the reason most of us ever even started was for one thing and one thing only. The chance that someday flocks of gorgeous women would gladly line up at the chance to become well acquainted with our cock.
In that respect, I’ve made my teenage self wildly proud.
We’re between tours, enjoying some well-earned downtime at our place in LA. Today is Tasty Tuesday, an endearment I’ve proudly bestowed upon every Tuesday while we’re between tours. I love Tasty Tuesdays because, when we aren’t on the road, I’m free to hit up a contact or two from my proverbial Little Black Book for some afternoon delight. Today I opt for double trouble—newbie LA beauties who moved here just six months ago after graduating from some Pacific Northwest junior college.
Actresses. Code for waitress, barista, and sometimes stripper, depending on the girl. These two are green enough that I’d be surprised if they’re working the clubs just yet. Though, one could argue coming over to fuck a rock star in the middle of the day only one week after meeting in a bar could be construed as selling out. Well, we’re not technically fucking. Yet. Only standing in the middle of the media room, engaged in some kissing and heavy petting before the opening credits have had a chance to roll through.
But these women aren’t innocent. No, these girls know exactly where this is headed and they can’t wait.
“Mmm, you’re so hot. Can I suck your dick?” The blonde one purrs into my ear while her friend nibbles my neck on the opposite side.
Uh? Isn’t that the point of me bringing you back here? Instead, I go with the anticipated response, “Yeah, babe. Suck me.” I kiss her hard and weave my fingers into her platinum locks. Work the lips. Suck her tongue. Nip the lip. She’s panting when I pull her head back a few inches and push her down to her knees. Her fingers go straight to my belt. See, not innocent at all.
“Your turn, sweet girl.” I twist and lower my chin to the friend.
False lashes blink a few times and reveal tempting jade irises. Cherry lips. Her inky black hair falls forward in her face and her pink tongue darts out to wet her lips. I glance down, just as the blonde shoves my jeans down my legs and my cock springs forward, nearly slapping her in the face. With my left hand resting on blondie’s head, I revel in the way her wet mouth and soft hands expertly work my hard-on. I use my other hand to wrap around the friend’s neck and tug her to my side.
She’s petite and I’m tall, so she only comes to my chest. I lean down to capture her lips in a kiss, which proves problematic when trying to keep my dick aligned with the blonde’s mouth. Doesn’t work. We need to move this party horizontal. “Couch time, ladies. Clothes off.”
They grin at my demand and begin a little strip show. I relax into the soft leather, eyes transfixed on the performance taking place in front of the screen. I shed my remaining clothes much faster, but never drop my gaze from the dancing duo.
God damn, I love women.
Hips gyrate to a slow, imaginary rhythm. These chicks are beautiful in the way women envy, with the thin body, huge fake tits, and enough makeup to hide any imperfection. They’re as pretty as any other model or actress in LA, but these girls are nobodies. No connections, no training in acting, and they think they can ride their looks to a big break. Pretty young shells just vying for a slice of fame amongst thousands, and I’m no idiot. They see me as their fast track meal ticket to the good life.
It’s something I’ve grown accustomed to, but it wasn’t always this way. I’ve always done well with the ladies, but I used to have to work for it. That was before our band went on tour with Justin Hill, over a year ago. Since then, Three Ugly Guys have been flying high on success. After Justin, we did another short tour before settling in LA to record our next album. It’s unreal, going from wanting everything, working hard, and having almost nothing, to suddenly having anything I could ever want. Money, recognition, pussy. I have it all.
I nod to blondie and palm my erection in my right hand. “Kiss her.”
They kiss, sensual, slow, and I groan as their fingers skirt and skim across the other’s body. The perfect combination of erotica and tease. Licking. Sucking. Touching. This show’s all for me and these two deserve a standing ovation. Maybe they really have what it takes to make it in LA.
They start to finger each other, and that’s when I tire of the sidelines. “Enough. Come here. I want that pussy.” My demand only heightens their arousal and the room fills with the smell of sex.
“Who wants a ride first?” I say and when the black-haired beauty bites her lip, a momentary hesitation, I grab the hand of the blonde and tug her onto my lap. She straddles me and I grab the foil wrapped latex at my side.
“You don’t have to wear one. I’m safe,” she coos, reaching out to stop me from opening the package.
Ha! My mama didn’t raise no fool. I don’t mess around with sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancies. Even if she’s telling the truth, I sure as hell don’t need to be supporting a gold digging baby mama. I slide the condom on and catch the glimmer of disappointment that clouds her expression. Not for long, though. No, I’ll have her screaming with bliss in minutes. My fingers work her over, priming her, and then I slam her down onto my lap. “Fuck.” With my other hand I weave my fingers into the friend’s short hair, tugging her until our lips lock in a passionate kiss.
It doesn’t take long before the friend sheds her inhibitions and is as turned on as the blonde bouncing up and down my cock.
“Make me come, Trent,” the black-haired beauty whispers right before she licks and sucks my earlobe and sends a shot of lust darting through my body.
“Sit on my face,” I demand and scoot my ass down to the edge of the seat cushion. She stations herself over my face and my lips gladly lock on to her shaved pussy. Our new position gives blondie more room to ride my cock and she squeals when I meet her movements with thrusts of my own.
This is the good life.
“Oh, yes! Fuck me, Trent! Oh, Trent!” Blondie screams while Jet Black straddles my face. She’s limber, using the back of the sofa to keep her balance while grinding her cooch over my eager lips. I love eating pussy. I sincerely do. And I’m fucking good at it. I’ve never met a clit I didn’t like. But the one on my lap is extra mouthy. Her high pitch squeals collide against the mantra of “Fuck, Trent,” the one I’m tonguing won’t stop with.
Oh, shut the fuck up. The noises women make when they think they’re being sexy are fucking annoying. The pitchy screams. The whiny moans. The pouty baby talk. Sure, it made me hard the first twenty times—like it’s some twisted compliment or badge of honor for women who look and sound like porn stars to beg me to fuck them.
But this. This is distracting. In fact, I can almost feel my cock going soft at the sound. What the fuck is wrong with me? They continue the exaggerated squeals and I’m in serious danger of not keeping Mr. Trent up. Yeah, I named my dick, and I named him after myself because we’re awesome. Plus, it sounds official, and he’s the boss. A boss who’s taking an unauthorized vacation. Shit.
I grab the hips of little miss Cirque du Soleil and pull her from my face. “Your turn for a ride.” I wink. She grabs the back of the couch for balance, a giddy smile on her lips, and I turn to lay on the couch long ways.
Of course, blondie’s still screeching like a banshee while expertly maintaining her gyrations, but I’m about to rectify that. “Come here, sweet girl. I’m gonna make you come with my mouth.” I tug the blonde’s hips forward until she’s hovering over my face, and then bring her to my lips. I moan into her pussy when my cock’s squeezed by the tight wetness of her friend. Yes, that’s it.
My fingers work her clit, playing along the sensitive bare skin like the most precious of instruments. My other hand alternates between slapping both of their asses and holding the friend in place while I thrust up and pound into her pussy. It squeezes like a vice and I know I’m hitting just the right spot.
Blondie begins that scream again, but this time I reach up and shove two fingers into her mouth, holding them there for her to suck—and to shut her the fuck up. My ears fill with moans, slaps, licks, and wet kisses, and it’s a heady combo. So much better.
Mr. Trent approves.
The door clicks open, a stream of daylight pouring into an otherwise darkened room. A throat clears behind us but I’m not stopping now. With Thing One and Thing Two so close to falling over the edge of orgasmic bliss and myself not far behind, I can’t chance a glare over the shoulder to tell our cleaning crew to come back later to vacuum. At least, I think it’s cleaning day. God, who cares. The only sucking going down in this room is my mouth on pussy.
Speaking of life’s delicacies. I suck, groan, and flick my tongue over her clit, and am rewarded with a flood of juices. Her screams aren’t faked or forced this time, they’re every bit full of the orgasm that shakes her entire body.
“Trenton William Donavan. You put your pants on right this minute.”
Nothing kills a boner like Mom walking in—fucking shit—and I was so close, too. Blondie turns, meets my mom’s glare, and rushes to wrap her hands modestly over her tits and crotch. Ouch. In her haste she misses and slaps my face.
The one on my dick is still chasing her release and doesn’t seem to care we have a visitor. Not that I should be surprised. She was the one who gave me her digits with the promise of a threesome.
“Come on, ladies. Off you go.”
I slap the ass of the one still hovering over my face and she scrambles off the couch.
“Trenton, I expected so much more from you.” Mom tsks and shakes her head.
I reach for my pants to pull up over my hips. “I don’t know why,” I tease over my shoulder. “I’m assuming you interrupted my fun for more than just a scolding.” I shove my semi erect junk inside and zip up my jeans before turning to meet her stare.
“Bedo’s on his way. Band meeting downstairs in fifteen.” She blows out a breath and shakes her head, taking in the two women who are slowly righting themselves into a state of dress. When she meets my gaze again her eyes are hard, disappointed. But what’s new?
“Fifteen minutes. That’s enough time . . . Can you come back?” I bat my eyes and hold my hands together in mock prayer. She rolls her eyes because she knows I’m only joking—mostly.
“Trent, baby,” Blondie sidles up to my right and strokes her nails from my bare chest to the front of my jeans. She wouldn’t know I am joking and thinks she has a shot at getting back at it. My dick kicks painfully against the tight fabric of my pants with the tease.
“Trenton, so help me God, I will not wait outside while you get a blow job!” My mom scolds, and I almost feel a sliver of guilt. Sometimes I wonder how she puts up with my shenanigans. How she always has. She’s cool, a great mom, and I get my sense of humor from her. Maybe that’s how she survives in a houseful of idiot musicians.
“Come on, you’re no fun.” I wink and my mother’s hard glare softens as if she’s considering a smile. “What kind of mother dooms her son to a severe case of blue balls?”
This time she lets loose her patronizing grin with a bark of laughter. “This mother does. Now say good-bye to your friends and get downstairs.” With that she turns and walks out of the room, leaving the door open and calling over her shoulder, “If I have to come back here I’m kicking you out!”
“Mom?” The blonde one scoffs, shoving her arms through the sleeves of her dress.
The friend places her hands on her hips, confusion knit across her brow. “Wait, you live with your mom? I thought you were rich. Aren’t you like almost thirty?”
Twenty-eight, and I don’t look that old. Bitch. It takes all my self-restraint to not roll my eyes this time.
“All right, you heard Mommy. Playtime is over.” I kiss the lips of each woman, a sweet, sensuous good-bye to ease the push out the door. Plus, I’ve learned it does wonders at keeping future cat fights or blowups from occurring when I run into them later on with a different woman on my arm. Which I most certainly will. It’s just how they work, all of them. These women think they’re different, special, or owners of magical pussy, when in fact they’re all the same. Hungry for money, fame, the lifestyle, and willing to do anything to get there.
For a second, a shred of sadness seeps into my being, wishing things were different. Wishing there was more. Stupid.
Probably just my blue balls disappointed at the lack of release.
I have no clue what’s so damn important that Bedo called an emergency meeting and Mom had to drag me away from my daytime extracurriculars, but now I’m pissed I didn’t get to finish. Gathered in the basement with Sean and Austin, I’m nursing a killer case of blue balls while our manager barks into his cell like he has all the time in the world.
We rented this property for the band to live in once our second album went double platinum. The four story hillside home in the Hollywood Hills is our oasis away from the Arizona desert we called home our entire lives. For so many years we struggled, touring out of a cheap rental van, before everything started to fall into place. Pieces of a puzzle we took years to build, all of a sudden just fit. Hard work, love of the music we created, and a fraction of luck landed us here in this place.
And I fucking love it.
It’s big enough we have all the privacy we desire and then some, and after converting the basement into a musician’s dreamland, we never have to leave or even get dressed to practice. Notably convenient after a long night of partying or fucking, which I often enjoy.
We’re leaving for our next tour, a three-month trek across the country, in only another week so my guess is Bedo’s here to go through last minute logistics. We’ve been practicing and planning all spring and we’d be one hundred percent ready if it weren’t for the slight problem of finding a permanent drummer. Okay, it’s a big problem. We can’t seem to keep one for the long haul, and it’s a cloud of gloom hanging over the band. We decided to let one of our roadies stand in for now, but I know Bedo’s not thrilled with the decision. And sure, it’d be nice to fill the spot, but I’m in no rush to make a rash decision and end up with someone who doesn’t jive with our band. I don’t know about Sean and Austin, but I’m anxious to get on the road again. Even if it is with our roadie filling in on drums.
Bedo pulls a chair over and flips it backward before straddling the seat in his red polyester pants. He slides the gold rimmed shades from his eyes and pockets them in the front of his T-shirt. “Here’s the deal. I’m not gonna beat around the bush. We’ve got a problem, or an opportunity—depends on how you see it. The label wants a woman on board to amp up the sex appeal for all genders and sexual orientations.” He pauses to pop his knuckles. “They want a woman drummer.”
“No fucking way.” Sean shakes his head.
I second that. “Dude. Bedo. No chicks. And not days before we tour.”
“Trent’s right, man. We’ve always been a foursome of bros,” Austin pipes in.
A chuckle leaves my lips before I smack Austin on the shoulder. “Speak for yourself, Austin. I’m not into fucking guys.”
His mouth opens to respond but Bedo cuts us off before we derail into a flurry of insults and comebacks. “Look, I’m just relaying the message. You guys gotta give me something. You love women as much as half your fan base. A woman drummer wouldn’t be so bad. I have a few lined up for you to interview.” It’s then he reaches down and pulls out three folders from his briefcase. Tosses one at each of us.
“Why can’t we have James back?” Sean grumbles and I have to agree with him. James was awesome.
“He was only subbing for the Justin Hill tour. He’s got his own band. You knew he was temporary.” Bedo points to my hands and the folder I still haven’t opened.
Austin flips through his folder and his eyes widen appreciatively at what’s inside. “Yeah, but he was fucking good. Dude, we’re like doomed with drummers. Ever since Derek’s hand got smashed by that psycho, we’ve been cursed.”
I meet Bedo’s stare, the folder still clenched unopen in my hands. “James was a sub. Derek checked out when he decided he’d rather settle down with his girl Carly and play daddy. We knew this day was coming. What I don’t understand is why you’re on board to invite a woman? And a week before we start the new tour? That’s not enough time to get anyone up to speed.”
Bedo rubs his palms down his face and blows out a deep breath. “I’ll go to bat for you on the drummer issue, but you gotta give me something, T. Your sponsors want a woman on this next tour.”
This is why I like Bedo. He’s fair. I know we aren’t in a place to call every shot, but he goes the distance when it’s something important. And as much as I’m all for equal rights, we’re three attractive guys with roaring sex drives. I can tell without glancing at the profiles in these folders that we’d bring on a hotter than fuck drummer, because sex sells. It’s a good reason we’re so damn marketable. Bringing a gorgeous woman into the band would breed nothing but trouble. Trouble we don’t need. “What about the opener? Get some pretty little thing to open and that gets them what they want but we don’t have to play with her.”
“Speak for yourself. If she’s hot, I’ll play.” Austin’s lips pull into his shit eating smirk. I slap my folder against him and push off the couch.
Bedo’s lost in his phone again, completely ignoring us, so I walk off some of my nervous energy by pacing the room. Sean and Austin admire the rack of one of the suggested drummers. Bedo’s laser focus remains on his smartphone. He’ll speak when he’s ready, but not before that.
“Dude . . . her rack needs its own zip code. My vote’s being swayed by tits.” Austin’s wide gaze snaps to mine but I cut him off.
“No way. We’re Three Ugly Guys! The name only works when there’s guys. Preferable four of us, because I’m sure as shit not the ugly one.”
“Shit.” Austin scratches his head, his eyes trained back on the folder, “But . . .”
Sean leans over and nods solemnly, “Trent, man. You need to see this one. Maybe we should consider her? Having her on tour wouldn’t be torture.”
“Yes!” Bedo shouts and for a moment I think he agrees with Sean and Austin until he looks up from his rapid fire messaging thumbs. “Opening act, it is! Brilliant, T. We’ll stick with Iz on the drums. He’ll be happy to have the star treatment. That work for everyone?”
Iz, one of our roadies and a long-time musician, knows how to play drums just fine. He’s actually pretty fucking talented. We’re not sure exactly how old he is, though. There’s a real possibility he played on the first Van Halen tour. His talents include knowing all our songs and playing exactly how we want him to, which are a great asset to the band. His other talent, his tendency to smoke anything you stick in front of his weathered lips, is not so great. Cigs, marijuana, crack—he’ll do it all. Yet none of us can tell him to stop for the same reason we can’t ask him his age. He’s a grown man, and our elder. Besides, his extracurricular activities aren’t a problem. He plays “Stairway to Heaven” better than John Bonham. As long as the drugs don’t interfere with his playing we pretend to look the other way.
“Iz is cool until we find someone permanent,” Sean answers and Austin and I nod our agreement.
“What about bringing him on for the long haul?” Bedo asks and I consider his question. I’m sure we could, but something holds me back. Maybe it’s my fear of commitment, or the fact Iz is so much older than the rest of the band. I don’t know, but I’m not comfortable putting a metaphorical ring on it. I’m sure Bedo would love to be done with it already. Maybe after this tour, if we still jive after months on the road together, we can bring him on permanently.
“Let’s see how this tour goes,” I suggest and Austin and Sean nod. They feel the same as me. We all like Iz, but he’s not family. Not in the same way the three of us are. Maybe we are eternally cursed when it comes to a drummer.
“Fair enough. For now. But the label wants a longtime fix. Fans, promotion, marketing, it all works better when we have four familiar faces. Let’s get through the next three months and re-evaluate. You guys better be ready. This won’t be like any of the other gigs. This is the big time. You’re front and center. That’s more of everything. Press. Responsibilities. Fans.”
“Women.” Austin grins.
“Yeah, that too. So, don’t be a dumbass. Think with your brain, not your dick.”
“I can’t promise that, but we’re ready, Bedo. This is everything we’ve worked for,” I say.
“Damn straight.” Austin nods.
“I know you are.” Bedo’s smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “So don’t fuck it up for everyone else.” He stands and points at each of us. “That’s my advice to all of you. Now. When do you want to meet your opening act?”
“You booked one already?” Austin’s brows twist with surprise.
“Sure did. I’m the best goddamn manager you could ever ask for. That’s why you pay me the big bucks.”
“Who is it?” Sean leans forward on his elbows, his hands clasped together.
“You’ll find out when you meet her.” Bedo goes back to his phone. “Tomorrow. Four o’clock. Right after practice. That work?”
“Here?” I ask.
“Yeah. That a problem?”
“Works for me,” I say but for once a little nervousness about our impending headline tour works its way into my belly. I’m not quite sure why, other than I want everything to be great. Perfect. And we’ve worked so hard that our opener better not suck. “She better be good, Bedo.”
He stops, a smile plays at his lips, and he slides those gold rimmed shades over his eyes before he nods. “She’s good, T. Oh, don’t you worry. She’s fucking good. See you tomorrow.”
“Is it just me, or does it feel like we just got played?” Sean says the minute Bedo’s up the stairs and out of earshot.
“Not just you.” I chuckle and run my fingers through my hair, pushing it away from where it always falls into my eyes. “So, what’s on tap for today?”
“I think the keg’s empty, man.” Austin frowns.
Sean rolls his eyes and walks toward the stairs. “I’m hitting the gym and calling it an early night.”
“You’re no fun off tour!” Austin launches one of the tiny couch pillows at his retreating form and nails him right in the head. We both fucking laugh.
Sean stops to pick up the pillow and throw it back. “You guys are assholes.”
“Fucking hilarious.” I fist bump Austin and Sean tries to leave again. “Come on, don’t be a pussy and leave.”
Sean doesn’t turn back or acknowledge the comment when his feet hit the spiral staircase.
“Come on, Sean. Come out with us tonight!” Austin shouts.
“I’d rather not.”
“What’s your problem, man?” Austin calls out before meeting my smirk. “He’s probably just pissed you’re having threesomes in the theater room again.”
“I can’t help it, the two for ones love me. Sean just needs to get laid.”
“I get plenty of pussy!” Sean shouts from the top of the stairs.
“Oh, yeah, who?” I call up.
“Well, I’m about to have dinner with your mom!” he calls down. Now I’m the one wearing the scowl while Austin and Sean laugh at my expense.
“Take it back, Willis!” I shout but I’m already taking the stairs two at a time. “You know that’s fucked up!”
Austin’s laughter follows from close behind, and when I reach the top of the steps to find Sean gloating, I tackle him to the ground. He’s shorter than me; stronger too, but I’m fueled by the need to defend my mother’s honor. I try to pin him to the floor, but every time I’m close he hits me in the ribs and gets the upper hand.
“Take. It. Back,” I grind out as we roll around in the hallway.
“What? We all love your mom,” he taunts and throws me off. My body slams into the wall and the two paintings hanging above fall to the ground beside us. I charge him again.
“Boys! Boys! That’s enough!” My mom’s stern tone suspends our wrestling match. “What in the ever loving hell has gotten into you boys? So help me, I’ll send you both to your rooms.”
“He started it!” I point at Sean.
Sean puffs and shakes his head, “No way! I was just walking up the stairs. He tackled me!”
“Enough. Apologize.” She glares, hands on hips, and I can’t help but mumble a sorry. Sean does the same. “There. Now go wash up for dinner and try to act like grown-ass men! It was bad enough when you were teenagers. I’m too old for this shit.”
“Sorry, Mom.” I say but she just pinches her lips and shakes her head before walking back into the kitchen. She’s the only person outside of the band who lives here year round. Even though she’s my mom, she’s kinda the band’s mom, too. With her being single, and me an only child, we’ve always lived together. She’s right, though; we act like big kids sometimes.
“That was fucking funny. You went from fight club to momma’s boy the minute she yelled at you.” Austin slaps Sean on the back before reaching a hand down to help me off the ground.
“I was defending her honor,” I say. But remembering the scuffle, I can’t help but give in to a grin as we walk toward the succulent smells wafting from the kitchen.
“’Your mom’ jokes never get old. Don’t take it personal, T,” Austin says.
“Yeah, I know. It’s funny, just not with my mom, okay?”
“So damn sensitive.” Sean bumps my shoulder. “And winded, too. You need to hit the gym with me more, instead of the bottle with Austin.”
“I’m an equal opportunity employer when it comes to hitting things. Gym. Bottle. Ass.”
“Yeah, yeah. You hit that and then some.” Sean wraps his arm around my shoulder. “No hard feelings, T.”
“And no more jokes about my mom.”
We step into the kitchen and my mouth salivates at the piping hot trays of lasagna and garlic bread waiting on the counter. My mom looks up with a smile before she cuts the pasta into squares with a spatula and a collective groan leaves all of our lips. Damn, she can cook. And she’s right. We aren’t any better than we were as teenagers.
“Spank me and call me Daddy. With food like that, who needs pussy?” Austin whispers at my right. I sneak a punch to his balls when Mom’s not looking, Sean grabs the plates, and all is back to normal in our house. It may be unconventional, but this right here—this is family. My belly fills with good food, and my face stretches with a smile and laughter that nearly hurts, and I can’t help but feel goddamn lucky. Only I don’t completely agree with Austin’s sentiment. Dinner is phenomenal, but at the end of the night, I’ll still want pussy.
My life is no cake walk. Rejection coupled with the struggle to make ends meet, and what do I have to show? Nothing really. But I have to believe everything I’m doing now paves my way to the life I want. Lately, though, it’s been more of a drag. What if this is all for naught? It’s beginning to wear on me. The grind. Bus fare. Shifts at the coffee shop. Rent for my room. Food. Shampoo. Tampons. School loans. Phone calls from Mom. It all adds up.
But today; today is different. When my eyelids flutter open with the morning sun, I’m filled with hope. Promise. Expectation. It’s a frightening thing to hope too much, because my track record shows it’ll only end in bigger disappointment.
No. I shake my head against the pillow and peel my body off the twin mattress. Today I’ll let myself hope. Angel, one of my roommates, is completely into yoga, healthy food, and astrology. She would say I should put my hope into the universe, to let my goals be spoken, and eventually the earth will return them to me. Maybe she’s full of shit, but I’d really like it if she were right. So, instead of my usual morning routine of a run, coffee, and writing, I walk to my most prized thrift store score, a full length mirror, and stare back at myself.
“Today’s the day I get signed with a record label.” I whisper the words aloud. They feel damn good so I say them again, louder. All the while my reflection distorts, making my shoulders tiny and my calves appear huge where the mirrored glass is bent just slightly. Hey, that’s what you get for ten bucks. I’m honest enough to admit my vanity requires I have a full mirror in my room. My look is part of my act. It’s how I sell my music. I’m not an idiot. Half the guys who drop tips in my guitar case on Saturday nights at Leo’s are probably doing so just to get a closer look up my mini skirt. Fishnets and combat boots, it’s a combination that drives men wild. Add in my heavy eye makeup and red painted lips—they’ll cough up fives and tens for that shit.
God, I should’ve been a stripper.
Laughter and a real smile escape my lips even though I’m the only one home. My cell rings with the alarm that lets me know there’s no more time for self-reflection. It’s go time. The next hour is spent in a rush as I shower, get beautiful, and warm up my vocals—just in case—in preparation for my meeting at ten. When the alarm goes off again, this time to catch the bus, I give myself one last glance in the mirror.
“Today’s the day.”
Using my fingers, I tap out an anxious beat on the mahogany armchair and match the pace of my bouncing knees. All the while, my eyes follow Amie—a friend from college and hopefully my future agent.
Her footsteps pace back and forth, and back again, eyes closed as my demo plays into the headset covering her ears. Her eyelids lower and focus solely on the manila folder in her perfectly manicured fingertips. God, I wish I knew what she was thinking. My eyes follow the trail she’ll wear into the hardwood if she always works this way.
My music is everything. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. But breaking into a flooded market where women are still largely in the minority, and refusing to do it any other way than my own way . . . Well, that’s posed a large problem for me up until now. I’m hoping our shared past of Calculus 101 will gain me a little more attention than the thirty other agents who’ve listened to my three song album and passed. Honestly, there’s a good chance they never even listened before issuing a big fat rejection.
But I’m no stranger to disapproval. No. I thrive on it. Tell me I can’t do something and I’ll do it, ten times better. I’ve heard all the don’ts and it’s not worth its. I get it. But I don’t care. I want this. I want to make music. But more than that, I want to earn it.
Amie’s steps falter and her gaze snaps to mine after she pulls her smartphone from the desk and presses a button.
“You know this would be so much easier if you’d call in a favor—”
“No.” I shake my chin and purse my lips.
She sucks the bottom corner of her lip into her mouth and holds my stare. “At least, let me name drop—”
“No.” I interrupt again.
“Lex . . .” She groans and slams the folder on her already cluttered desktop before dropping into the chair beside me. “You get that I’m a nobody, right? I’m as green as you here. You sure you want me representing you? I’m not even sure what I can get you, let alone—”
“Wait!” I almost squeal, and I never fucking squeal. I flick my lip ring once with my bubbling elation. “You’ll represent me?”
Amie’s eyes widen as she relaxes into her seat. “This is good. You’re fucking brilliant, but you already know that. Of course I’ll sign you. I’d be a fool to not.”
My cheeks hurt, my smile’s so huge.
“No. Don’t do that. Don’t get excited. This is only the beginning. I’ve got my fucking work cut out for me, you know that?”
“I know, I know.” The grin’s still there. I can feel it but I can’t seem to right my face. “I’m not afraid of hard work. Thank you. Thank you so goddamn much! You won’t regret this.”
“Thank me later.” She pops off the chair in a blink and her heels click over the floorboards as she walks behind her desk. “Okay, I’ll run the standard contract through legal, should only take a couple days, but in the meantime I’m going to get you on the road. That a problem?”
“I’m ready. Tell me where to play and I’m there.”
Amie’s gaze snaps to mine and her lips tug with silent laughter. I don’t understand what’s funny, but that’s okay. I’m a signed—almost—solo rock artist with Off Track Records. They may be a small indie label, but they’re a label.
“You’re my first client! Well, besides the portfolio of nobodies they gave me. You know how fucking cool that is?” A giggle escapes her lips. “I can’t believe I just signed Richie Sa—”
“No.” My excitement fades, the smile completely wiped away with her words, and my gut churns with apprehension. “Don’t do that. No one can know. I’m a nobody. Just add me to your portfolio like the rest of them. I will not use his name and you won’t either. I want it in the contract.”
“Sorry, just the excitement of it all. Of course. We’ll write it in.” She waves dismissively before retrieving another folder from her desk.
“Huh?” She blinks and stills at my command.
“I need you to swear you won’t use his name. Ever. I want to earn every bit of this. This is all me. He doesn’t deserve a damn ounce of anything I do, and I don’t want one fucking thing from him.”
She nods and understanding softens her normally sharp features. “I won’t. You’re good enough on your own.”
Her words affirm more than they should and I fight the sentiment that threatens to spill out of the corners of my charcoal lined eyes.
“I believe you have what it takes. That’s why I want you. And we’ll do this your way. Just makes my job a hell of a lot harder.” She chuckles and lifts her chin to the door over my shoulder. “Now, get outta my office so I can start pimpin’ your music.”
I nod with a grin. “Thanks, Amie.”
“No. Thank you. I’ll be in touch when the contracts are ready, but keep your phone close and bags ready. I have a few favors myself I’m gonna see if I can’t cash in on. Once people hear your voice, my job gets a hella lot easier.”
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