Authors: Desiree Holt
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by Desiree Holt
Cover art by Fiona Jayde and DZR Images
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To Jackie Joyride, the real Marc Malone who inspired me and made me fall in love with the music all over again. You rock, Guitar Man
“I can’t do this any more.”
Emma Blake pushed herself up from the couch, stared at the man focused intently on the television, and wondered why she didn’t run screaming into the night. All week she’d been restless, almost dreading their usual Saturday night. Pizza, an old movie, and obligatory sex. The lingering aroma of the oh-so-boring cheese and pepperoni still drifted in the air, but an unexpected feeling of nausea grabbed her. As if she’d finally reached her limit.
Andrew Fielder put the movie they were watching on pause and looked at her, puzzled. “Do what?”
“This.” She waved her hands to encompass the room. The television. Him sprawled into a corner of the couch. “What we’re doing.”
“You mean the movie?” He frowned and started to uncoil himself from the couch. “No problem. I’ll put in another one.”
“No, Andrew.” She wanted to stomp her foot. “I don’t just mean the movie.” She had an instant sensation of suffocating, of the room—maybe her entire life—closing in on her. A feeling that had been creeping up on her the past few days. “I mean
. All of it. This routine. This…this…nothing. Everything.”
He stared at her as if she’d spoken in a foreign language. “Emma, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
“I know, I know.” She began pacing, frustration threatening to explode inside her. “That’s the problem. You. Just. Don’t. Know.”
Six days ago her college roommate, Jacie Monroe, blew into town on her way to a conference, blooming with the happiness of an exciting marriage, a wonderful child, and a more than fulfilling career. Her satisfaction with life shimmered around her. And just like that, Emma had gone from the flavorless acceptance of her own simple, uneventful life—a life she hadn’t even realized she was dissatisfied with—to a case of raging discontent.
She’d stewed about it all week, hoping it would dissipate when Saturday night rolled around. But instead it only underscored her colorless existence. One minute she’d been happy with the gray she’d always known, then she wanted the bright flashes of color that seemed to sizzle from Jacie.
He leaned forward, a perplexed look on his face and, when he spoke, his voice was pitched in the patient tone of someone speaking to a child. It occurred to her that he often took that tone with her.
“You’re making me nervous, Emma. Please just sit down and tell me what seems to be the problem. Just straight out.”
Tell him? How could she put into words what had been rattling around in her mind all week, ever since she had lunch with her college roommate and saw the glow in the woman’s face, the enthusiasm in her eyes when she talked about her husband and her job and her child? Emma was startled by the awareness that she had none of that. Nothing about her life sparkled. Although up until now, she’d been perfectly content. Or so she thought. But that day, she had the sensation of a veil lifting, showing her a world she could have if she’d just grab on to it.
Andrew would never understand. He was too satisfied with the way things were. Too comfortable. This was what he wanted. And all Emma had wanted
“Okay. Okay, okay.” She stopped pacing, took a deep breath, and faced him. “Here’s the thing, Andrew. In a couple of weeks I’m going to be thirty.
And my life is about as exciting as boiled water. I’m bored out of my skull. Is that straight out enough for you?”
“Bored?” He looked stunned. “Emma, how could you possibly be bored? We have a very good life. You know that. Right?”
She laughed, hearing the edge of hysteria in the sound. “A good life. Oh, yes. Right. Of course. We work all week. Have dinner with my folks on Friday night or brunch on Sunday. On Saturday I come over here, we order in pizza, watch an old movie then go to bed and have sex.” She threw up her hands. “What more could a girl possibly want?”
“Emma, what in the hell has gotten into you?” He rubbed his jaw and blinked, as if he’d missed some important clue and didn’t know what it was.
“Something. Everything.” The sense of being suffocated or choked squeezed her again. “Tell me, Andrew. When we have sex, don’t you ever want me to be on top? Don’t you ever want to fuck me from behind?”
“What? For God’s sake, Emma.”
She wasn’t sure if he was shocked at what she suggested or the fact that she said
. It certainly stunned
to hear the words coming out of her mouth. Here was poor sensible, unexciting, dependable Andrew—wearing her parents’ stamp of approval along with his tailored slacks and collared polo shirt—looking as if someone had pulled the rug out from under him, and he’d landed on his ass.
It was just more than she wanted to deal with. It was like drinking flat champagne while everyone else got the bubbles. And she realized with unexpected clarity just how unsatisfied she’d been with the absence of bubbles all her life.
“I can’t do this now. If you don’t understand, nothing I say will make a difference.”
She grabbed her purse from the table next to the couch and headed for the front door. If she didn’t get out of this house right away, she was afraid she might choke to death. How could she explain to Andrew what the problem was when she wasn’t quite sure herself? How could she tell him that sitting on that couch, watching a movie she hated, she suddenly saw a vision of herself fifty years in the future doing exactly the same things in exactly the same way, and life would have passed her by? She had to get away.
Andrew followed her onto the little porch, his fingers closing on her arm before she could make an escape. “Wait a minute. Emma, hold on. Come back here. Let’s talk. Please.”
Talk? About what? There was no way he’d ever understand the sudden need for excitement that was raging inside her. She saw clearly that it wasn’t in his makeup.
“No, I can’t.” She moved away. “I have to get out of here. Sorry, sorry, sorry. I’ll call you.”
She hurried down the steps before he could try to stop her again, pressed the button on the fob to unlock her car, and jumped into the driver’s seat. Andrew was still standing on the porch beneath the overhead light, staring. Bewilderment in every line of his body.
She slammed the car door, cranked the engine, and quickly backed out of the driveway. She had no idea where she was going except away from here.
Poor Andrew. This wasn’t even his fault. It was hers. She had no one to blame but herself for wearing blinders all these years. The good girl who never colored outside the lines. If her roommate hadn’t been passing through town, if they hadn’t met for lunch, she might have still been content and never hungered for something else. She drove through the quiet residential streets, wondering how she’d let this happen. How she’d managed to be satisfied with a life so defined. So confining. Constricting. So much that she felt suffocated.
She stopped at a red light at a busy intersection and tapped her thumb impatiently on the wheel until the light changed.
All these years she’d seen nothing wrong with the pattern of living her parents had established for her. They were truly wonderful people, but she saw now that they led a life you could set clocks and calendars by. She’d accepted the same for herself. Dating boys then men they considered appropriate and acceptable. She was comfortable with a conservative style of dress—plain, unadorned jeans, an undistinguished tailored blouse. In a pale blue.
The way good girls dress
Her only rebellion had been one time in high school, when she and three of her “proper” friends had taken Sandy Piper’s father’s car for a joy ride. The thrill of the forbidden had lingered in the back of her mind all this time, buried but apparently still bubbling. Waiting for something to let it loose.
Turning right at the end of the street, she blended into the traffic on the four-lane thoroughfare lined with stores and other businesses. She passed a restaurant with sidewalk tables under outdoor lights, happy couples laughing and chatting. She’d never done that. Not with Andrew or any of her other dates. They all hated eating outside. Too many bugs. Too much exposure.
She drove aimlessly up one street and down the other, thoughts chasing each other around in her brain. Her birthday was closing in, and she was frightened that a life she’d never thought about or even known existed was passing her by.
She lost track of time and direction as she drifted toward no particular destination, so it was with some shock that she found herself on a street at the opposite end of town in front of a cement block building. The sign over the doorway read “Aftershock”, and even with the car windows rolled up, she could hear the heavy sounds of a rock band bleeding out into the night.
I’ve never been to a rock club
Because the men she dated didn’t hang out in places like that. Or even listen to that kind of music.
But now, without thinking about it, she pulled into the crowded parking lot, climbed out of her car, and headed for the entrance as if on autopilot. The sign next to the door read “Now Appearing - Lightning.” An appropriate name for a band playing in a club named Aftershock. The moment she opened the club’s door, she was assaulted by the sheer volume of sound, the noises of the crowd mixed with the blast of the music.
Someone was shouting in her ear. “Ten bucks.”
She stared at the large muscular man blocking her way, intimidating in black jeans and a long-sleeved black shirt, his hand outstretched.
She frowned. “What?”
He leaned closer to her ear. “Ten bucks. Cover. No money, you don’t get in.”
Emma fumbled in her tiny purse and found a ten-dollar bill. When she passed it to the man, he grabbed her arm and pressed a rubber stamp to her wrist—a stamp in the shape of a lightning bolt. She gawked at it, fascinated. She’d never been to a place where they stamped hands.
She looked up at the man. “What’s this for?”
“So you can get in and out,” he explained. “You never had a cover stamp before?”
Not that I’ll admit to anyone
“Oh. Of course. Thanks.”
The place was so dark, she had trouble adjusting her eyes. Blackness shredded by the molecules of light illuminated the stage from the booth located high on one wall. Red and yellow mingled diffusely with the darkness, creating a surreal atmosphere for the four bodies totally immersed in the music they were creating. The room was packed with people screaming their approval at the band, bodies so jammed together caught up in the heavy beat filling the room that Emma had trouble inching her way in. Feverish energy crackled in the air, sizzling all around her. So palpable she felt it scorching her skin, and she realized just how appropriate the band’s name was.
Emma stared at the crowd, at the bodies moving suggestively, almost as if they were having sex to music. She’d never seen anything like it and it shocked her to the core. Then a strange heat surged through her own body, and she had trouble catching her breath. Not the suffocating feeling from earlier but something new, something that stimulated every one of her senses. For a moment, she wondered if she had wandered into an alternate universe, one where the outside world ceased to exist.
A drink, that’s what I need
. Something to calm her jittery nerves. Wriggling her way to the bar, she ordered a beer. Although she seldom drank, it seemed the easiest thing to order in all the chaos. Anyway, tonight was a night for new experiences, and she didn’t think many of the people in here were drinking diet sodas.