Read Unplugged Online

Authors: Lisa Swallow

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Holidays, #New Adult & College, #Romantic Comedy, #Contemporary Fiction, #British, #Genre Fiction, #Family Life, #Humor

Unplugged

BOOK: Unplugged
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Unplugged

 

A Blue Phoenix Book

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Lisa Swallow

Cover designed by Najla Qamber Designs

Editing by Hot Tree Editing

 

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication

 

In memory of Steve.

You deserved to be the rock star you wanted to be, so Liam is for you.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

 

DECEMBER 2013

 

LIAM

 

The pictures leaked on the internet hit the front page of the celebrity magazines and I’m done
.
I don’t speak to her; I pack and leave.

Her
. Honey. My fiancée, on the front page of
Hello
magazine attached to another guy. Some minor Hollywood celeb, Mason Rogers. I think he’s in some new but shitty comedy show. I don’t care who he is but I care that Honey’s been photographed on nights out with him.

When the pictures hit, Honey denied everything and I believed her. The tears were genuine, washing half her perfectly applied make-up to her neck. But what kind of tears? Guilt? Fear of losing me? Who knows? Mason denies
there’s an affair, too. Cosy meals at exclusive restaurants and kisses in corners where they think nobody can see. Pretty damn incriminating. Affairs are hard enough for the ordinary person to hide – if you’re engaged to a member of Blue Phoenix, you’ll never get away with this shit.

I can
’t face more of the same tear-filled excuses and if I hung around in the States my soft-hearted self would believe Honey.
Again.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Honey needs to get a grip on her self-esteem and not accuse me of screwing around. Every time she’s suspicious of me, this happens, her fucked-up revenge for nothing. We’re supposed to be getting married in May. No way, not anymore.

So, I leave a note, telling Honey I
’m going home for Christmas. St Davids, the tiny city in Wales, hasn’t technically been my home for a lot of years but always welcomes me. Honey wouldn’t want to come here anyway; this place falls far below her designer standards. She’d be like a caged animal, on display for people to stare at and wonder.

At the moment
, I fucking wonder, too. Wonder if I’m an idiot thinking someone as beautiful as Honey wants me, and not just the money and status I bring her.

 

****

 

I walk off the plane at Heathrow and head toward the usual route out of the place, which stops the press seeing who arrives. Although, I doubt the press are interested; much to Honey’s disgust, we don’t get the press attention she’d like. This year, Dylan’s disappearing act and disastrous relationship with this chick, Sky, he found while he was away, and Jem’s idea of a joke, dating an heiress, is way more interesting than the bass guitarist engaged to up and coming actress Honey Wilson. Suits me.

I slept on the flight after a few whiskeys so I don
’t feel too jet lagged. I asked Dave to bring one of my cars up from London so I can drive myself to my parents. Home for Christmas and I’m leaving all the rock star shit behind, no chauffeurs now.

Mum and Dad
’s house is in a housing estate which rests half way between the small town and the coast; their detached house has all the room we longed for when I was growing up. I bought the house for them, despite Dad’s protests. He’s old school, doesn’t think his son should be looking after him. I teased Dad and told him now he’s an old fart; it’s my turn to look after him. The house I bought isn’t as exclusive or expensive as I’d like, but at least my parents are mortgage-free with an easier life.

My younger sister, Louise, still lives at home. She left school and works at a local bank, hasn
’t the desire to get the hell out of St Davids that I had. I offered to buy her a place of her own, but she refuses. Sure, Louise loves her rock star brother and his occasional expensive gift, but she won’t let me pay her way in life. I respect her for that.

The smell of winter, damp earth
, and the cold air hits as I climb out of the car in my parents’ driveway. Memories of Christmases as a kid follow me up the pathway as the red and gold tinsel glints in the window, catching the late afternoon sun. I have a key but if I let myself in that could be too much of a surprise.

I ring the doorbell and the imaginatively named Goldie, our spaniel, runs to the door barking. Through the frosted glass, a female figure approaches and the childish excitement grows.

The door opens and Mum stares at me as if I’m the ghost of Christmas past, as she holds the collar of a wriggling Goldie.


Liam? You never said you were coming home!” She never seems to age or maybe that’s me not wanting time to pass. Dressed in black slacks and a brown jumper, she’s my mum and she’s my home. Mum lets go of the dog’s collar and wraps her arms around me, squeezing tight. The dog leaps around my feet, clawing at my legs. I lean down and scoop up Goldie who half-jumps into my arms. Holding the licking, happy dog, I walk into the warmth of the house.

Christmas cards cover the magnolia painted wall, strung between photo frames holding mine and Louise
’s years of school portraits.


Louise! Liam’s here!” calls Mum as I follow her into the kitchen.

Sitting at the old oak table in the kitchen, a little girl looks up from her plate. She
’s eating tinned spaghetti, the orange sauce covering her chin and cheeks. I don’t know who looks the more surprised, me or her. I figure she’s around four years old, but what the hell do I know? And who is she? The girl’s dark brown hair touches her shoulders and she licks some of the sauce from her face.


You’re the same colour as Goldie,” she says.

The dog is a golden spaniel, and I
’m wearing denim and a leather jacket. I’m confused.

She points with the fork.
“Your hair.”


I’d say your hair was more the colour of the spaghetti,” says my sister from the hallway. Louise wasn’t blessed with my colouring; her hair is brown like Mum’s, although currently it’s almost blonde.

I drop the dog and my sister comes over, wrapping me in a huge hug. She smells of the same floral perfume that she wore as a teen, one that used to fill the air in the upstairs of our small house. Louise
’s perfume, Mum’s cooking, and the smell of oil on Dad’s clothes when he came home from working at the car garage; these are the scents that pull me back in time. Mix in the Christmas smell of tinsel and already I’m pulled away from the crazy shit in the States and back to a comfortable normality.

Louise grabs my face and squeezes my cheeks.
“So, big brother, what’re you doing sneaking home? Where’s Barbie?” She looks past me and I give her a warning look.


You haven’t met her, don’t judge.”


Is she here?” asks Louise.


No.”


Did you split?”


Leave him alone, Lou.” Thankfully, Mum interrupts with a mug of tea. I take it automatically although I can’t remember the last time I drank tea. Over-priced coffee, yes; tea from a teapot? Only here.

Through the whole exchange, the little girl has
stared; mouth open and spaghetti sliding off her fork. I imagine myself in her eyes: tall man, bright red hair (call me ginger and I’ve been known to punch) pulled back in a ponytail, tattoos spreading from under my sleeves and across my wrists. I probably look like shit, too. The girl doesn’t look frightened, just amazed.


What about you, Lou?” I ask. “I only saw you a year ago and you have a three year old?”


I’m four!” protests the girl.

Now I
’m confused. “You babysitting? Or have you started adopting strange children?”


Ella and her mum are staying with us,” Mum says, passing me a chocolate biscuit, which I automatically shove in my mouth.


For Christmas?”

They glance at each other.
“For a few weeks.”

Some kind of woman code thing passes between them, I think. Whatever, none of my business.

“Sorry about that, is she behaving?” A woman’s voice with a Welsh lilt to match the others carries into the room from behind my sister.

Louise steps to one side.
“She’s fine, Cerys.”


Oh, good...” Cerys halts as she notices me and my hearts stutters.

I thought I recognised the name.

Cerys, my sister’s best friend all grown up. They were fifteen when I left town with Blue Phoenix at eighteen so they’re twenty-two now. I remember her as a teen — shy, a little awed by the scruffy rock band making a name for themselves around Wales. Anyone and anything to do with my little, teen sister annoyed me, and half the time I was drunk or high on weed so I ignored them both.

I saw Cerys again one summer, a few years ago, amazed at how much she
’d grown up. Like fucking beautiful, curvy woman grown up and no longer the baby faced girl who used to peer at me from under her long brown hair with a look that stoked my ego. The guys teased me about her, but she was too young and an amusement.

A couple of summers later, I came back as Liam Oliver, bass player of the international Blue Phoenix, and she was Cerys
Edwards, hometown girl with hometown boyfriend. One night me and the guys went out with our old friends from school and her and Lou tagged along. Suddenly our three-year age gap narrowed. We both got drunk, I rambled on about how fucking gorgeous she was now she’d grown up. Then I kissed her. I shouldn’t have, she was young and star struck and had a boyfriend, but at least kissing her is all I did. I look back to the little girl who’s tucking into her spaghetti. If I wasn’t a hundred percent sure we’d stopped at the kiss, I’d panic whether this kid was mine.

Looks like Cerys grew up pretty fast if the kid is hers.

Today I’m sober and can see Cerys has changed again. She’s still little, not much taller than my mum’s five feet. Is petite the word the chicks use? Her hair is shorter now, huge brown eyes staring into mine as if she can see the Liam Oliver who left town seven years ago. Not the rock star, but her friend’s scruffy big brother.

Cerys nervously tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and my gaze is drawn to the full lips
she parts as she catches my eye again. Her pale skin flushes and I blink. I didn’t expect this reaction. Thank fuck she’s wearing a sloppy blue jumper over those tight black leggings because I really don’t want to see what her body looks like when her eyes and mouth are turning me on.

What is with this reaction to her? One kiss and I can barely remember th
e night it happened. I push away the flaring desire. She’s got a kid, which means the dad can’t be far.


Hey, Cerys,” I say and offer her a friendly smile.

The pink grows.
“Oh. Liam. Hey.” She turns to Louise. “I’m so sorry; I didn’t know he was coming home.”

BOOK: Unplugged
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ads

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