Authors: Kathryn Andrews
Tags: #Horizons Series
an Horizons novel
Copyright © 2015 Kathryn Andrews
Published by Kathryn Andrews, LLC
Cover design by
Indie Solutions by Murphy Rae
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To My Husband . . .
Thank you for always dreaming about what’s beyond the blue horizons. Our life together has been and is an amazing adventure, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I love you.
SWEAT DRIPS OUT from underneath my black Stetson and rolls down the side of my face. My eyes squint to see through the blinding stage lights and past the crowd. It's almost eleven thirty, and I know the stars are out there somewhere, but between the lights and the heat, one would never know.
Taking a deep breath, the smell of damp dirt and cattle slams into me, and my stomach rolls. For months, we’ve been following the pro rodeo across the country, closing down their last night in each city with sold out shows, and tonight I can't help but think this is mine. My last night.
The truth of the matter is, I just don't care anymore. All I ever wanted was to be somebody. Somebody to someone and somebody to myself, and ten years later, I feel more lost than found.
Just the thought sends an overwhelming sadness coursing through me. No one would understand. After all, over the last five years, we’ve had three albums go double platinum, won seven Grammy’s, continue to sell out sixty thousand-plus stadiums, and are now considered to be one of country music’s greatest bands—The Will Ashton Band.
I hate this name.
Yes, it’s my name. But naming the band after me implies that the music is all about me, and it’s not. Originally we were called Blue Horizons, but since it’s my voice—and only my voice—the change was required to sign with the label. Not a day goes by that I don’t regret this and feel bad for Clay, my best friend and lead guitarist, and the others who put so much of their heart and soul into it.
Stepping back from the microphone, I pull on the worn leather of my guitar strap and force it to swing around and abruptly land on my back. I wince from the impact, not because of any pain inflicted, but because out of everything around me—the stage, the set, the equipment—the only thing that holds any value to me is this old acoustic guitar.
Realization hits me like a Mack truck, and it feels true. Nothing about this life or this dream holds any meaning anymore. Is it possible to love something so much, for so long, that one day you wake up and realize you don’t love it at all? No, right? So, what’s happening to me?
Vaguely, I hear the familiar riff that is my cue, reach for the microphone, and just a beat too late miss the opening bar. I glance over to Clay, and although I can't see his eyes behind the aviators he's wearing, I can read his concerned and pissed look all the same. Lucky bastard to have those sunglasses on . . . what I wouldn't give for a pair myself right now.
Clay takes a step toward me and I shake my head, halting him. Quickly recovering from my mistake, he turns back to the audience and walks to the stage edge to, one, appease the fans and, two, give me a little more time. Hands fly up into the air to touch him—he plays this part so well. I’d rather be on the receiving end of a thoroughbred’s hoof to the groin than be touched by so many people. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, immune, but I’m not. Wanting to be touched, hugged, or felt up just because I’m well-known is weird, and has always been my least favorite part in all of this.
Walking back to his place on stage, he glances at me one more time. He’s known that I’ve been off for the last couple of months, but we’ve never talked about just how off. This is going to affect him too, and as much as that causes my gut to ache with guilt . . . he’ll just have to get over it. I hope he can understand. No, I need him to understand.
Without thinking, I pull my hat off and lift my shirt to wipe the sweat from my face. The volume of the crowd moves to a deafening level and my heart sinks. When did getting a glimpse of skin become just as exciting as the music? It’s supposed to be about the music, dammit.
Sucking in more air, my lungs feel like they’re on fire, and the flames are ripping through my insides, scorching my throat. I’ve poured myself into this show more than any other to try and regain that lost feeling . . . but nothing. I feel empty except for the rawness that has become my voice.
The band circles back to the intro and I remind myself that this is the last song. With that reminder, a familiar kick of adrenaline hits my chest and I smile. It’s a feeling I once basked in when I walked on stage, to now only have it return when I’ve finally made the decision to walk off.