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Tangled Limbs

Smashwords Edition


Copyright 2017 Kyra Mathews

Published by Kyra Mathews at Smashwords


Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Epilogue

About Kyra Mathews

Other Books by Kyra Mathews

Connect with Kyra Mathews



Acknowledgements

To the band Thirty Seconds to Mars (of course) whose music provided inspiration. Alibi and Do or Die were part of my mantra as I wrote this, just as Remedy and Rescue Me are now as I write another. Do or Die literally danced in my head the morning of my life-altering awakening, motivating me not only to pull myself out of a dark place but to pursue a dream.

Although tiny seeds were planted along my journey, a special thanks to Kathy and Missi for tending those seeds until they were ready to blossom. You sustained me through the hardest times of my life and for that I’m eternally grateful; you never gave up on me even though I’d given up on myself. You helped me find my strength, potential and ultimate passion. Kathy’s encouragement to follow the signs, no matter how random and ludicrous they seemed, helped me find my passion in life.

Very special thanks to my parents, loved ones and the friends who saw me through and kept me going. Without your love and encouragement, I don’t think I would have made it to the next day let alone where I am now.

A shout out to music and humor—music saved me, and humor sustains me. I hope to never be without you.

And finally, to fate, for pushing me well past my limits to evolve into the person I became.


Prologue

Music inspires many to persevere, hope, dream, laugh, cry and process a wide variety of emotions. Music was very important to Melissa Campbell, having been the only constant in a tumultuous existence. It was key to her survival—her addiction. Far worse addictions were a hostile presence in her life that ultimately robbed her of a nurturing childhood and a happy marriage. Her perception of love was clouded by the misconception that other people’s needs came first and only when she sacrificed herself did she feel worthy of it. Most of her life passed before she broke this cycle, finally finding happiness within herself.

Melissa’s motivation to change was spurred by one band in particular in more than one way. She followed a path that led her to what she was meant to do all her life--become a writer. Not only did she develop a passion for writing, she fell in love with a handsome bad-boy rock star. Shannon opened up a whole new world for her, exposing her to a deep desire she’d never experienced.

He lived in LA and she lived on the opposite side of the country however, making it a challenge to pursue a relationship. The idea of moving to California posed many doubts for her. Were his feelings genuine? Could he be faithful despite his widely acclaimed playboy reputation? Could she adapt to a different lifestyle? What hardships would she face in the public eye if they were a couple? She wanted answers before leaving the only life she’d ever known, but that was far from realistic. If she wanted him, she’d have to risk it all to see how things would unfold.


CHAPTER 1 – A Strange Awakening

(Missi’s POV)

The lyrics of Do or Die by the rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars permeated my subconscious mind one morning and interrupted my slumber. The incessant repetition of the song’s lyrics ‘And the story goes on’ illuminated the dark recesses of my brain and provided an intense awakening like no other. The lyrics told me my story would indeed continue. From that day on my life didn’t just go on, it improved dramatically. I dropped the baggage accumulated during my lifetime and felt confident I’d be able to reroute any smaller pieces that might arrive later.

I’d always been inspired by ‘Closer to the Edge’, especially the video wherein people give testimonials of how deeply they were stirred by music. It provided them with strength and encouragement and they instantly became my soulmates. Music was my lifeblood too and lyrics fed my soul.

The first time I watched Thirty Seconds to Mars’ videos I immediately zoomed in on the drummer. I wasn’t just mesmerized by his drumming abilities—he was bewitching. He had a lethal grin on that handsomely boyish face, muscles flexing as he played and more than a hint of a wild side. Watching him drum enthralled me—piquing my curiosity enough to search his ranking as a drummer. I was dumbfounded by the amount of information Google provided and felt like I’d opened Pandora’s box. When I read he’d had addiction issues I was truly saddened, knowing all too well the heartache involved.

I kept delving into that Google search nonetheless and watching one video automatically queued another until I was neck deep in them. The band’s humor and personal connection drew me in even further. I was ultimately screwed after watching videos by the drummer’s adoring fans. He wasn’t just drumming in them—he was putting on quite a show. I closed my gaping mouth and vowed to never watch them again. That reprieve didn’t last long before I indulged my guilty pleasure again, wondering if a 12-step program for lust loomed in my future. Still I kept unearthing whatever I could to feed my infatuation.

An article about the similarities between the band’s symbols with that of evil and the Illuminati sent my imagination on a 5K run. I envisioned Jared as Jesus, and Shannon as the devil, likely due to having watched a video where Jared was dressed like the Messiah. He emulated a religious leader with his uncanny ability to draw people in, but his approach leaned more toward that of a snake charmer. It was no wonder the band’s fan club was considered a cult.

Shannon was definitely a devil if not the devil—his combination of irresistible looks and charm lacked nothing more than pointy horns. I had no doubt his soft, yet husky voice had wooed countless unsuspecting souls into a spell.

I began obsessing over obsessing, with random thoughts wreaking havoc. My awakening message was a blessing, but why had it led to a fixation on the Shanimal of all things?

My behavior started changing and I became receptive to things I never contemplated doing. The attraction of having a tattoo for instance never appealed to me after being taught they were only for sailors and bikers. Nonetheless I wanted one of the band’s symbols to signify my awakening. The symbol I chose also represented Gemini’s air symbol. Once I had that tattoo I understood the appeal of having something that was like permanent jewelry.

My next undertaking was reading Thirty Seconds to Mars fan fiction. I previously knew nothing about this phenomenon, most likely because there’d never been anything I was that ‘fanned out’ over until then. Those writers were putting their work out there for the world to see and that somehow rekindled my life-long passion to write. I still attribute my inspiration to those very writers.

My therapist strongly encouraged me to follow whatever I was deeply drawn to and eventually I’d stumble upon my true passion. I thought it was a bit of a stretch, but I knew she was right when the overwhelming desire to pour my life, dreams and imagination onto paper took hold. Perhaps this was just the first string of dominoes that were destined to fall serendipitously.

I had a trip coming up to visit my dearest friend Chelsea who lived in the Los Angeles area. It would grant me the rare opportunity of visiting a specific coffee shop in hopes of getting a glimpse at the owner. Even though the odds of Shannon being there were microscopic, I planned on crossing a few things off my bucket list while I was in California.

Chelsea and I first met in our twenties. We were neighbors and became fast friends, capable of talking for hours and laughing until tears rolled down our faces. She became my partner in crime, as well as a trusted confidant who helped me cope with the constant turmoil in my marriage. She was the most positive person in my life and provided me with reassurance that one day my life would be better. I introduced Chelsea to a close friend Ian, sensing they’d be a perfect match. Little did I know that I’d be extremely happy and deeply saddened by the outcome. It was love at first sight and they married months later. Her departure with him to live in California left a big gap in my life and my marriage quickly deteriorated.

Chelsea was aware of the things I hoped to experience apart from our long-anticipated reunion. Returning to the Lone Cypress tree in Monterey was my biggest desire and she knew of its profound significance. I was in total awe the first time I’d seen it and knew it would forever hold a place in my heart. I identified with that tree, standing alone on a cliff top defending itself from the elements was how I’d felt most of my life. Intense emotions always overwhelm me there and reduce me to tears. A deep intuition tells me my heart and soul are bound to it somehow. People who know me well refer to that cypress as my tree.

The third thing I hoped to experience was a nightclub with techno music and dance like my life depended on it. I loved the intense beat and wanted to feel it live as opposed to the din from an old pair of computer speakers.

Flying alone wouldn’t be easy. It was my least favorite mode of transportation and I hoped my anxiety wouldn’t hinder it by causing a major panic attack. I’d seen footage of some poor man wrestled to the floor of an airplane and restrained due to his odd behavior and people’s assumption he was a terrorist. His only crime had been being in the wrong place at the wrong time with acute anxiety.

I focused on the positive aspects of my trip until departure was called, then my body turned to goo. I conjured up an image of my reunion with Chelsea to spur me on. The gooey feeling was my anxiety kicking into high gear despite the medication I’d taken. Determined to reach my goal, I put a smile on my face and walked toward the gate.

Much to my relief the plane was nothing like the puddle jumper I’d first flown on back in the 80’s. Beside me was seated a sweet older woman that reminded me of my grandmother. We introduced ourselves and chatted about our destinations. My new acquaintance noticed my apprehension about flying as I clutched the armrest fervently during takeoff. ‘It will be fine dear. I’m here.’ She said placing her hand on mine. I was comforted by her familiar words, having heard my grandmother utter them many times.

Having survived the first flight, I had a confident spring in my step as I approached the gate for the next. My excitement was high as we descended into Burbank, knowing my touchstone would be waiting for me. I couldn’t get to the gate quick enough and tears welled up in my eyes when I spotted Chelsea. We laughed and cried like fools. ‘You did it!’ She exclaimed.

‘I really did!’ I replied beaming, happy to finally arrive after months of anticipation. We chattered the whole way to the car and my annoying habit of adopting her contagious Southern drawl kicked in. She had a bottle of wine and snacks waiting at home and we talked for hours before calling it a night.


CHAPTER 2 – Falling at Your Feet

(Missi’s POV)

‘Today we’re going into LA for lunch and shopping. There’s a charming little café near an exclusive boutique I’d like to check out and they just so happen to be near where you want to go.’ Chelsea said winking and grinning.

‘Well Miss Scarlet, I do declare, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ I said batting my eyes.

‘I can’t believe of all the celebrities in LA that this Shannon person is who you want to see.’

‘Well you know I’ve always been different.’

‘That you have my love.’ She laughed.

‘Well don’t you look nice?’ Chelsea said as I came downstairs after getting dressed.

‘Ah darling, thank you. As do you.’ I chuckled.

We made our way to the car arm in arm acting like we were Hollywood divas. I loved that we were together, acting the fool like we’d done in the past. The closer we got to LA the more nervous I became.

‘All three places we’re going are right here in this area.’ Chelsea said as she parked the car. ‘So where do you want to go first?’ She asked.

‘Ah, the café.’ I said, hoping they had liquid courage to calm my nerves. We were seated outside, and the bright sunshine was welcoming.

‘The place you want to go is about three doors down on the right and the boutique is directly across from us.’ Chelsea said.

‘Got it.’ I replied but couldn’t venture a look down the street just yet.

We ordered drinks and toasted our reunion. In the back of my mind the fear of doing something stupid loomed large. I had a gift for having strange things happen at inappropriate times. I wasn’t as calm as I thought I’d be after the first drink, so I ordered another.

Once I finally had enough courage to look down the street, my heart fluttered. There was a man standing outside smoking a cigarette that looked like Shannon. I almost blurted out what I saw but was glad I hadn’t since Chelsea would have likely turned around and gawked.

‘Shall we go to the boutique or the shop next?’ Chelsea asked as we left the café.

‘The boutique…lets save the best for last.’ I said and knew when I stood up that I’d had too much to drink.

‘You always were a cheap date.’ She chuckled when she noticed me weave as I walked.

The boutique was impressive, a mix of very chic women’s clothing, handbags and jewelry. I was fine browsing by myself for a while, but my balance issue was a concern. I meandered over to Chelsea and grabbed onto a clothing rack to steady myself.

‘I think we need to get that coffee now. You’re looking a little blitzed.’ She said putting her arm through mine, and we made our way to our final destination.

(Shannon’s POV)

I glanced at the door when two women arrived. They looked like the ones I’d noticed earlier at the café down the street. The redhead knew what she wanted and ordered quickly, but the blond was clueless. I grinned as I observed from the back room. Watching customers could be quite entertaining at times, but the blond was worth watching in more ways than one.

The blonde’s friend assisted her with her coffee selection and they headed toward the back. I heard peals of laughter coming from their direction and took the opportunity to do a little customer service. They were engrossed in a lively conversation as I approached their table.

‘Hello, how’s your coffee?’ I asked.

The redhead was quick to say she liked it and it was definitely taking care of her afternoon fix. The blond just blushed, and the redhead broke the silence.

‘Don’t mind her, she made a miscalculation at lunch as to how many margaritas she could consume and still walk straight.’ The redhead explained.

‘Oh’ I chuckled.

‘So we put our shopping on hold due to her slight balance problem—holding onto a clothing rack for dear life with a huge grin. I didn’t want her to fall face first between the clothing racks, so I thought some coffee might help.’ She snickered, and the blond excused herself. ‘Do you need any help?’ She called to her.

‘If I don’t know how to do this by now then we have a major problem.’ The blonde replied while scratching the back of her head with her middle finger.

‘Witty one, isn’t she?’ I asked.

‘You have no idea.’ The redhead chuckled.

She went on to say that the blonde was a dear friend who was visiting for a couple weeks. She lived in a small town and wanted to go to a bona fide nightclub here since there weren’t any there. ‘I don’t have any idea what clubs might be suitable or who to ask. The people I’ve met since I moved here definitely aren’t into that, and I’d hate to end up in some strip club by mistake. I want to find somewhere classy, so I can take her there on her birthday. Do you know of any place like that near Simi Valley or anyone who might?’

I couldn’t come up with anything appropriate off the top of my head but told her if she gave me her number I’d find out. If I knew when they were going I might be able to get to know her friend.

‘By the way, my name’s Chelsea Hammond. It’s nice to meet you.’ She said as she wrote her number down.

‘It’s nice to meet you too. I’m Shannon.’ I said, and we shook hands.

‘I think this coffee has a little more caffeine than I’m used to. I don’t normally rattle on this fast.’ She chuckled. Given the tinge of a Southern drawl, I did have to pay close attention when she spoke.

I followed Chelsea’s concerned gaze as her friend returned to the table. I watched as she teetered slightly before her eyes fell closed and she fainted. Luckily I was close enough to catch her before she hit the floor. Chelsea gasped and jumped up. I carried her friend to a small sofa and laid her down, yelling for someone to bring me a cold cloth. The cashier dashed out with one and I knelt down and dabbed it on her cheeks and forehead. She flinched before she started coming around.

‘Missi!’ Chelsea exclaimed.

Missi slowly opened her eyes and stared at me admiringly before responding.

‘Mmm, this must be a sex dream.’ She cooed with quite a pair of seductive bedroom eyes, then jumped when Chelsea burst into laughter. ‘Chels, what are you doing in my sex dream?’ Missi asked.

‘Oh my, I don’t know if she’s alright or not. I should go get the car. It’s probably just a combination of alcohol and jet lag. Could you please keep an eye on her while I do? It’s just down the street.’ Chelsea said smirking.

‘No problem.’

I looked down at Missi as she held the cloth against her face. She looked terrified when she realized I was standing over her. I bent down and introduced myself.

‘I’m Shannon. Are you okay?’

‘What happened?’ She asked, clearly tensed.

‘You and Chelsea were having coffee and you fainted. Chelsea went to get the car so she can take you home. She’ll be back soon.’ I explained softly. She pushed the cloth at me and floundered as she tried to get up.

‘I need to leave now.’ She declared.

I offered to help her up after she realized she wasn’t coordinated enough to do so and despite her panic-stricken look she hesitantly agreed. I got her to her feet and put my arm around her waist. Chelsea came in just as we neared the door.

‘I can’t thank you enough and I apologize for all the trouble. Oh, and I forgot to leave a tip earlier.’ Chelsea said slipping a bill in my pocket. ‘I think I can take it from here.’

‘I’ve already got her.’ I said and continued outside.

‘Does she seem any better?’

‘She seems a little confused and uncoordinated, other than that I think she’s okay.’

‘Vern are you all right?’ She asked placing her hand on Missi’s face.

‘I think so.’ Missi replied looking up at me with uncertainty.

‘Vern?’ I asked questioningly.

‘That’s a story for another time.’ Chelsea said grinning.

I helped Missi in the car. She looked uncomfortable as I reached across to fasten her seat belt. I took one more look at those captivating eyes as I leaned back across her.

‘Take care Missi.’ I said smiling and closed the car door.

Chelsea gave me a quick hug. ‘Thanks for your help and for being so kind. There aren’t many people round these here parts like that no more.’ She joked, deepening her Southern accent before getting in the car and driving away.

As I put Chelsea’s tip in the jar I noticed it was a $100 bill. She’d likely been compelled to be overly generous after what happened. I needed to find out what the classiest club was between LA and Simi Valley, then I could thank her when I called.

(Chelsea’s POV)

‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost instead of your heart’s desire.’ I joked as we drove away.

‘I really can’t believe that happened. I could die!’ She wailed.

‘So much for flying under the radar to get an innocent peek.’

I did feel bad for her. It was another classic example of how things seemed to go south for her sometimes.

‘Well think of it this way, he probably won’t forget that for a while. I doubt many women coo at him in public about sex dreams.’ I said, taking care not to drive off the road as I cracked up.

‘WHAT?’ She shrieked.

‘I guess you don’t remember telling him you were in a sex dream when you came to.’

‘Please tell me you’re joking!’ She gasped.

‘And you gave him quite the look as you said it.’

‘Now I am gonna die!’ She said as she sunk down in her seat.

‘It gets better. Then you looked over at me and asked why I was in your sex dream.’ I chuckled.

Missi looked like the world had ended and slammed her eyes shut.

‘This is exactly why I don’t go out much.’ She groaned.

‘We always did have some fun adventures. It’s nice to know things haven’t changed.’ I said hoping she’d lighten up.

‘Hopefully he didn’t think I meant HE would ever be in one of my sex dreams. He had to know I was just really confused.’ She said.

‘You’re probably right.’ I said patting her leg.

‘I’m so sorry. This was a really bad idea. I hope I didn’t embarrass you too much.’

‘No, it was more amusing than anything. What do you have in mind for tomorrow?’ I asked jokingly.

‘Oh please, hopefully that can’t be topped.’


CHAPTER 3 – Dancing Queen

(Missi’s POV)

The following day we took a train to Monterey and rented a car at the station. We stopped at Pebble Beach for lunch and reminisced about being there with her husband Ian who’d passed away a couple years earlier. I imagined him smiling down on us as we paid tribute to him with a tearful toast.

Our next stop was my tree. I was overcome by emotion when we arrived and sat gazing at it in blissful admiration. We took a few pictures and then headed for San Francisco. Chelsea was amazed at how calm I was traveling Route 7 again. Normally the drive through the steep hills put me in a panic. We laughed as we recalled the last time we’d been on that road. She’d made the same comment then, but soon figured out my sunglasses were hiding the fact that my eyes were closed. She always did have the ability to call me out better than anyone.

Being in San Francisco was hard for Chelsea since that’s where Ian had proposed to her. We had a relatively good time despite the tears that fell as we recalled the memories of times we’d spent there. We went to the pier for dinner and then walked around the shops. It didn’t take long to call it a night since it had been an emotional day.

Chelsea’s phone rang when we were on the train and she seemed caught off guard. ‘Oh, you’re more than welcome. You have no idea how much I appreciated your help. Yes, definitely better. I’m on the train right now and I may need a few more details. Would it be possible for you to call me back tonight? She asked.

The caller must have agreed, but she wasn’t forthcoming with any information afterward and appeared to be stifling a grin. I grew more curious when she received another call that evening and hastily excused herself.

(Chelsea’s POV)

‘I’m sorry Shannon. It may seem like I’m acting sketchy, but I didn’t want Missi to know who I was talking to. She’s still embarrassed about what happened the other day.’ I said.

‘She shouldn’t feel bad.’ He snickered and then provided the details for a club.

‘Thanks so much Shannon. You’ve been very kind. Do I need a reservation?’

‘Different places vary, so I’d call and ask.’

‘I’ll do that. Getting turned away at the door would definitely put a damper on things. If you’re in need of comedic relief, stop by. We’ll be there Friday evening.’

‘I’ll definitely keep it in mind. Good entertainment can be hard to come by.’ He chuckled.

(Missi’s POV)

‘Ya want me to turn on some of that there George Michael and we can pretend we’re sunbathing in the backyard thinking we’re all that and a bag of chips?’ Chelsea chirped jokingly as we were relaxing by the pool.

‘No, I think we can skip that.’ I replied, and we laughed heartily at the memory of our younger years.

She introduced me to a couple ladies from her condo development and we sat around the pool drinking wine, telling stories and laughing like fools.

‘We’re going shopping Missi. You need a fancy dress for your birthday. We’re going somewhere nice to celebrate. So don’t even think about arguing with me.’ Chelsea said sternly.

‘Yes mother.’ I replied knowing any objection would be met with extreme displeasure.

I fell in love with a little black dress at one of the shops. The subtle beading and hem that flowed when I moved made me feel like a princess. I’d never owned anything like it.

Chelsea and I went to a salon on Friday and she insisted we go all out in preparation for our big night by getting the total package. The stylist did a great job on my hair, half up and half down with a little wispy bun in the back. We left the salon refreshed and ready for our big evening.

Chelsea invited the ladies from the pool as well and we all set out toward our destination. My eyes widened as we pulled up to a mansion on a hill with a stunning view of the city. The inside was quite elegant with its marble floors, high ceilings and crystal chandeliers. I was quite taken with the ambiance and conveyed my appreciation to Chelsea for such a delightful choice. We had a perfect view of the sunset from our table, as well as the illumination of the statuesque fountains by the pool. A delectable meal was followed by a small cake to celebrate my birthday, which I claimed the piece with the largest portion of icing. Chelsea insisted we freshen up before our next destination.

‘Let’s all go get funky with it, shall we?’ Chelsea declared as we pulled up to a fancy club.

My heart beat faster as we made our way inside and the intense vibe hit me. Not long after we were seated I convinced Chelsea to dance.

As Chelsea and I approached the dance floor I couldn’t resist yelling the infamous line from Footloose, followed by my best rendition of John Travolta’s famous pose from Saturday Night Fever. ‘Let’s dance!’ I yelled. The beat was pulsing through my body as we made our way through the crowd and I totally cut loose when we reached the dancefloor.

(Shannon’s POV)

I didn’t see Chelsea or Missi when I arrived at the club, not until Missi flung her hand in the air. She appeared to be wound tight as she and Chelsea approached the dancefloor.

I held back, wondering how entertaining it might be watching them adapt to the club atmosphere. I was surprised by Missi’s ability to dance and took note of how attractive she looked. I grinned when a man butted in, performing what he no doubt considered slick dance moves. Neither of them seemed to mind, but their amusement of his enthusiastic maneuvers was evident. They headed to the bar after they finished dancing, followed earnestly by the man they’d unwittingly attracted. That’s when I decided to rescue them.

I went up behind them and lightly touched their backs. ‘Well hello. I didn’t expect to run into you again.’ I said as they turned around. I winked at Chelsea and she gave me a quick hug.

‘Oh my, what a small world.’ Chelsea replied and winked back.

Missi looked like a deer in the headlights but managed a shy hello.

‘Are you feeling better than the last time I saw you?’ I asked.

‘Definitely’ She replied blushing and looked away.

Chelsea was right, she was still embarrassed about our previous encounter. We ordered drinks and Missi wanted something called a vampire, which the bartender wasn’t familiar with. She told him the ingredients and instructed him to use his mixology expertise. She took one sip and closed her eyes, savoring the taste.

‘Perfect. Thanks so much.’ She said tilting her glass to the bartender.

Chelsea reminded her to take it slow and we all laughed. Chelsea excused herself to check on her friends and appeared not to notice the displeased look Missi gave her as she left.

‘I’m really sorry about what happened the other day.’ Missi said after a brief silence.

‘No problem. It happens all the time.’ I joked.

‘Sure it does.’ She replied and as she turned away I noticed she had a smaller version of one of my tattoos.

‘I like your tattoo.’ I said, and she almost choked.

‘Thanks, I see you have one too.’

‘What does yours symbolize?’

‘It’s my element—the Gemini air sign. What does yours symbolize?’ She said grinning widely and somehow I sensed she already knew.

‘I’m in this little band and we all have the same tattoos.’

‘How divinely planetary. I hope it isn’t gone in 30 seconds.’

‘Your response leads me to believe you might know who I am then.’

‘Yeah, I know a lot of different bands. I’ve listened to your music.’

‘Really? What types of music do you like?’

‘Oh, you name it. My music taste is quite diverse. What I don’t like though is classical or country. Classical makes me want to scream with all that…that…flitty, fluttery, piercing, squeaky stuff. And country…well a little twang goes a long way for me.’ She replied, and I bent my head back in laughter.

‘I’ve never heard it described that way.’

The man with the sketchy dance moves approached and asked Missi to dance. She finished her drink, handed me her glass and joined him. I was surprised she didn’t want to talk more. I wasn’t exactly trying to hit on her, but it felt like she’d brushed me off.

I looked for Chelsea and her friends instead, pausing briefly to watch Missi dancing and lip syncing, ‘Rollin down the street, smokin indo, sippin on gin and juice.’ She was trying to look gangster and laughed when she noticed me watching. She obviously wasn’t kidding when she said her taste in music was diverse. I shook my head and grinned at how into it she was.

‘So, Shannon, it looks like you picked the right place. I’ve never seen her cut loose like this.’ Chelsea said when I joined them.

‘Yeah, she’s sure into it all right.’ I snickered.

‘So, dancing queen, when did you learn to dance like that?’ Chelsea asked Missi when she returned to the table.

I had to bite my lip not to laugh at the way Chelsea posed her question.

‘Watching videos.’ Missi said.

‘So if I ever have another wedding I guess I won’t have to beg you to dance?’ Chelsea asked.

‘No, I’ll even choreograph it if you want.’ Missi replied smugly.

I enjoyed their company and as time went on Missi seemed more comfortable around me. One of the ladies returned from the restroom and it was obvious she didn’t feel well.

‘Oh no, we better get you home.’ Chelsea said.

Missi looked disappointed, it was clear that she wasn’t ready to call it a night.

‘Missi you could hang out with me and then I’ll take you home later if you want.’ I said offering up a quick fix.

She glanced at Chelsea as if asking for her approval and then agreed.

‘Make sure you get home before the stroke of midnight or you might turn into a pumpkin, or however that story goes.’ Chelsea chuckled as she leaned down to give Missi a quick hug.

‘Yes Mother.’ Missi replied rolling her eyes.

‘Good night, enjoy, au revoir!’ Chelsea chirped as she left the table.

‘I hear it’s your birthday.’ I said.

‘How did you know?’

‘Chelsea mentioned it.’

‘Happy birthday.’ I said and leaned over and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

She thanked me but blushed profusely, then quickly changed the subject by describing the elegant restaurant where they’d dined earlier.

‘Would you like to accompany me outside for a smoke?’ I asked.

‘Only if you let me steal one.’ She replied eagerly, so we went outside.

I lit her cigarette and she sighed contently as she exhaled. ‘I haven’t had one of these in a long time.’

‘I really should give it up, but it’s the lesser of all evils.’ I replied.

‘I definitely understand that.’

My phone rang and Missi wandered away. It was my brother, wondering what I was up to. I told him I was out and would call him the next day.

‘Do I get to dance with the birthday girl, or are you saving yourself for Mr. Dance Fever?’ I joked as we went back inside.

‘He certainly is a lively one.’ She chuckled. ‘I guess I could squeeze in one dance with you, but another vampire would definitely seal the deal.’

‘If you think you can handle it.’ I chuckled.

Missi left her purse at the coat check desk and we got our drinks before returning to the table.

‘So why does Chelsea call you Vern?’ I asked as she took a sip of her drink.

She nearly spit it out and started laughing.

‘It’s just a thing we’ve done for years. It all started when this Vern guy was popular on television commercials. He used to say Ya know what I mean Vern? and we would laugh like crazy. I think we found it so amusing because my husband resembled Vern. He made the same faces when he acted like a hick. Eventually we started calling each other Vern when we were accentuating things, but after a while it became a term of endearment I guess you could say.’ She explained.

‘You’re married?’

‘Oh Lord no, never again. How did you know she calls me Vern?’

‘Because that’s what she called you the day you fainted.’

‘Oh’ She replied before whipping down the rest of her drink. ‘I’m ready when you are.’

‘Whoa, slow down. Give that a minute or two to kick in. I’d hate to have to carry you out if you’d do another face plant.’

‘Where’s your sense of adventure? Besides, I’m on vacation and I’m going to live it up.’

‘Okay then dancing queen. Let’s do this.’ I said and grabbed her hand.

We were getting a little down and dirty as we danced, making me wonder exactly what videos she’d watched to learn how. Near the end of the song I saw the all too familiar flash of a camera.

‘I’m sorry, we need to go.’ I said.

‘Go ahead. I’ll catch up.’ She replied.


CHAPTER 4 – Cinderella

(Missi’s POV)

I stopped in the restroom before leaving the club. I was in the stall when a couple flustered girls entered, going on breathlessly about seeing Shannon. My eyes rolled as an image flashed through my mind of what these two bimbos must look like given their dramatic aptitude.

‘Why would he dance with some older woman when…’ I heard one say before the automatic flush drowned her out.

I was tempted to give them a piece of my mind but took a deep breath and calmly walked out of the stall. You could have heard a pin drop as I emerged. I avoided eye contact as I washed and dried my hands, then broke the silence with a simple comment.

‘I’m Cinderella bitch.’ I said pausing briefly before exiting, and the door’s closure was impeccably timed.

I patted myself on the back for my unruffled poise and walked quickly as I exited the club, hoping anyone who’d seen me with Shannon wouldn’t follow. Shannon flashed his car lights and I hurried over.

‘Sorry about that. Thanks for being so casual about it. ‘ He said.

‘No problem. I find myself in the same predicament sometimes.’ I joked.

‘Good to know.’ He chuckled.

‘I hope it doesn’t cause any problems for you, but I left a couple of your groupies with a parting comment.’

‘What? What happened?’

I described my encounter and he laughed loudly.

‘Good one Cinderella.’ He snickered.

(Shannon’s POV)

‘Is there anywhere else you’d like to go before I take you home?’ I asked.

‘To the Pacific to dip my toes.’ Missi answered excitedly.

‘Well it just so happens I can make that happen for you princess.’ I replied and headed toward the expressway.

I let the car fly and she had a huge grin that told me she liked going fast.

‘This brings back memories of my cruising days. My friend and I thought we were all the shizz in her 69 Mustang.’ She giggled intensely.

There was little doubt the alcohol was still fueling her buzz. I grinned, recalling how she’d indeed cut loose at the club. She wasn’t as shy as when we’d first met, and I wondered if there was anything else I might discover about her.

Once we arrived at the beach Missi was out of the car before I shut it off. She nonchalantly removed her heels and stockings while I was grabbing a blanket out of trunk. I took her hand as we walked down the beach.

‘You go ahead Missi, I can tell you’re a little anxious to get there.’ I snickered.

‘Thanks’ She replied and handed me her shoes.

She ventured down to the water while I spread the blanket out. She inched toward the water, only to retreat a few times before finally letting it touch her feet. The cold water was met by a cute little squeal when they made contact. I had a smoke, watching her delight as she cradled herself and slowly turned to capture a panoramic view of the stars. Eventually she fixated on the waves, slowly swaying as if mesmerized by their rhythm. She seemed perfectly content, but I kicked off my shoes and went to join her.

‘Missi’ I whispered as I approached.

‘Hmm’ She sighed blissfully.

‘I take it the view meets with the princess’s approval.’

‘Absolutely sweet prince.’ She giggled.

I slid my arms loosely around her waist and followed her slow sway. I was drawn in by the euphoric feeling that seemed to be radiating off her, as well as the misty breeze as it floated over us.

‘I could stand here like this forever.’ I whispered.

She nodded in agreement and I started wondering where such a remark had come from. I normally didn’t say things like that out loud, especially with someone I hardly knew. I couldn’t deny it was true, standing there with her watching the surf under a blanket of stars was mesmerizing.

‘You’ve got goosebumps Missi. I probably have a shirt or something in the car if you’re cold.’ I said, wondering if she’d been as moved as I was or was indeed chilled.

‘I am a little chilly.’ She said turning to walk away. I was disappointed by her response, but also having to let go when she moved. She did however accept my outstretched hand as we walked to the blanket.

She was dragging her feet back and forth in the sand with a faraway look in her eyes when I returned from the car. Her position provided a view of her slender legs and a tiny hint of what lay beyond. She was seemingly unaware of her reveal, apparently more entranced by the waves. I made no comment, just gazed at her and recalled a couple thoughts I’d had while we were dancing. My ogling was redirected by the smile that appeared on her face acknowledging my presence.

‘Let’s get this on.’ I said and reached down to pull her up.

‘Yes sir.’ She giggled and sprang up raising her hands in the air.

I shook my head and grinned at her. Despite trying not to dishevel her hair as I helped put the hoodie on, her hair still came undone. She didn’t seem to mind and looked quite sultry as her hair fell down over her shoulders.

‘Are you warmer now?’ I asked as I sat down beside her.

‘Yes, thanks.’ She replied with a quick smile.

‘Good’ I said and placed my arm around her.

Yet again she didn’t seem affected, which was foreign to me. Normally women seized any opportunity to be close to me and were quite affected by it. Why was she so different?

We watched the crashing waves in silence. I glanced over at her and smiled. She smiled back sweetly, and I felt her attention was solely on me for the first time that evening. I took it as an invitation to kiss her and cupped her cheek with my hand, hoping to test the water. I slowly bridged the distance between us until our lips met. Slow kisses turned into longer, deeper ones. I slid my tongue between her lips and her mouth was welcoming as her tongue swirled around mine. Her arms went around my neck and I eased her down onto the blanket, half my body over hers.

The depth of her desire seemed immeasurable as she moaned softly and clutched onto my shirt, and an ember started burning that quickly set ablaze. My hand slid over her body, stopping to caress her breasts. She quivered as my hand slid up her thigh and under her dress. My groin was pulsing with an intense desire to be inside her. I gently caressed her, the wetness between her legs evident and inviting. I was startled when she abruptly sat up and pulled away. My mind was slow to react to the sudden change in her responsiveness.

‘I…I…I’m sorry Missi. I thought you wanted that as much as I did.’ I stammered as tears rolled down her face.

‘I did want it Shannon. My intention wasn’t to lead you on and then reject you, but I haven’t been with anyone in eight years.’

My mouth hung open in disbelief, unable to comprehend how anyone could go that long without sex.

‘It’s okay Missi. There’s no need to feel bad.’ I managed to say.

‘I guess I didn’t think about what my reaction might be after that long. Obviously I wasn’t prepared. I’m so sorry.’

‘You don’t need to apologize.’ I said gently rubbing her back.

After an awkward silence, I tried interjecting a little humor. ‘Maybe if I’d known beforehand I would have reserved a suite in a five-star hotel, complete with champagne, strawberries and maybe even a mariachi band to mark the occasion.’ I joked.

The mood lightened quickly as she began snickering. ‘Hell, I’d almost bet there’s a greeting card for losing your second virginity.’ I added, and we laughed.

My phone vibrated with a text from Chelsea asking if everything was alright. ‘Don’t worry, I haven’t kidnapped her. Will get her home safely.’ I texted back chuckling.

‘What’s so amusing?’ Missi asked.

‘Chelsea wanted to know if everything was alright.’

‘Oh God, I should have checked in with her. I can only imagine what she must have thought.’ She said looking horrified.

Then her expression quickly changed as she rambled off random thoughts about what might have gone through Chelsea’s mind. Her laughter was contagious and consumed us.

‘Would you like to stay and watch the sunrise?’ I asked as I noticed a change in the sky.

‘I’d love that.’

Her head was resting against my shoulder as the ocean began transforming from a dull white to a brilliant blue. The rising of the sun above the skyline left a tapestry of colors in its wake. I looked over and watched Missi gazing at the display with the same reverent look she’d had gazing at the stars. I kissed her cheek and she gave me a shy smile. I broke the silence that followed by playing the humor card once again.

‘Would Cinderella be so kind as to try on this shoe?’ I asked as I picked up one of her heels.

‘And what should I expect if it fits?’ She asked amusedly.

‘Only good things.’ I replied with a smile and a wink.

She hesitated slightly before allowing me to slide her foot into the shoe.

‘A perfect fit.’ I declared.

She blushed and lowered her head, and it suddenly struck me that I was the one being sucked in for a change. Was fate trying to turn the table on my casual behavior with women? My thoughts were interrupted when Missi stood up, struggling to keep her balance. She had a devious look in her eye as she backed off the blanket. Despite her wobbly stance, she leaned down and grabbed the edge of the blanket and yanked. I tugged back, amused by her futile attempt to displace me. As anticipated, my tug tilted her toward me and I reached up and guided her onto my lap.

‘Cinderella’s misbehaving. She may have to be punished.’ I scolded sternly.

‘You wouldn’t dare!’ She gasped with a shocked look.

‘Oh really? Why wouldn’t I?’ I teased.

It was somewhat of a challenge to stand up and keep a hold of her at the same time, but I succeeded and carried her towards the water.

‘I’ll behave now. I promise.’ She said quickly.

‘I don’t believe you.’ I replied and kept going.

‘I’ll do whatever the prince desires.’ She begged, flashing a provocative grin.

An evil laugh was my only response. She squirmed as I took a few steps into the water and lifted her up to make her think I was going to drop her. Instead I set her down and pulled her close, placing my lips over hers. Her arms went around my neck as the kiss deepened. I wanted to get lost in the feeling, but I knew Chelsea would be anxiously awaiting Missi’s return. Instead I talked her into having breakfast, which was really a ploy to have more time with her.

‘So, what do you do for a living?’ I asked before glancing over at her, instantly amused by the amount of food on her fork and watched as she fit it into her mouth.

‘Sorry, I’m starved.’ She replied when she noticed my grin. ‘I wrote a book recently and I’m waiting to hear back from a couple publishers.’ She said.

‘Is that a hobby or did you want to be a writer?’

‘It’s something I’ve always dreamt of doing. It’s become my passion. Much like music.’

‘Do you play any instruments?’ I inquired.

‘Sadly no. I asked my son to teach me how to play drums once, but he blew me off because of my inability to read music. I tried learning in grade school. I was taking lessons to play the viola, but when the notes started blending together with lines and symbols I couldn’t keep up. The teacher was an older man with massive black hair on his fingers. The kids nicknamed him fuzzy fingers. Watching him play examples was very distracting. When he did finger vibrato, it looked like spiders on speed.’ She chuckled.

‘That must have been an interesting experience. I had trouble learning to read music too, but not because of anything quite that entertaining.’ I chuckled.

‘I have a confession. I listen to your music more than I may have led on. A couple songs really inspired me during a period of time when I thought I couldn’t go on.’ She admitted shyly.

‘That’s nice to know. I’m glad.’ I replied smiling.

Even though I’d been told similar things countless times, I was happy she felt comfortable sharing that.

We talked more about a multitude of things on the way to Chelsea’s, but I wasn’t anxious to drop her off. She didn’t fit the ‘drop and run’ category of women who necessitated a well-executed delivery after I’d gotten what I wanted.

‘How much longer are you staying?’

‘I’ll be leaving next Sunday.’

‘Maybe we can get together again before you leave.’

‘That would be fun. I really should go in before Mother Chelsea comes out.’ She chuckled.

‘I had a great time.’ I said once we reached Chelsea’s front door.

‘Me too. Thanks so much for everything Shannon.’

‘Anything for a princess on her birthday.’ I said grinning and kissed her.

‘Take care.’ She said with a wink and went inside.


CHAPTER 5 – Drum Lessons

(Shannon’s POV)

I returned Jared’s call on my way home. He didn’t answer, so I left a message. He was somewhat of a control freak and I knew if he didn’t hear back he’d hound me. His concern stemmed from some sketchy incidents in the past. There were times I disappeared even when I knew my presence at band events was crucial. He had a hand in keeping me on the straight and narrow over the years, but unfortunately it had carried over despite the fact that I was less wild and more reliable as I got older. His compulsive need to oversee a lot of what I did was annoying, but I knew deep down he had my best interests at heart.

I hoped pictures from last night wouldn’t show up anywhere. Jared was always less than thrilled with publicity that speculated about me and the women I was seen with, especially if partying was involved. To him publicity should only promote the band, or in his case his acting career and other pursuits. He was quite adept at avoiding the paparazzi over the years, but me not so much. There were a few incidents of mine on the internet I wished would disappear dating back to the early years especially. My reputation was more of a rogue badass instead of a skilled musician. I lacked Jared’s stamina and ability to finesse people at any given moment. But that’s what made him the perfect front man for our band. My temper and stubborn nature were unfortunately my stronger attributes most times, which put me in some difficult situations.

(Missi’s POV)

‘I’m home.’ I called out to Chelsea.

‘Well it’s about time you little hussy.’ She teased. ‘Tell me how it went.’

I plopped down on the couch with a content sigh.

‘Could you give me a little more than that please?’

‘It was the best birthday ever.’ I replied dreamily.

‘That’s not quite what I was going for Missi. What happened after we left?’

‘We talked, we danced, but left because someone was taking pictures. We ended up at the beach. It was a gorgeous night.’

‘Missi quit being vague. I want to hear the juicy stuff. ‘ She demanded.

‘Chels, what do you take me for?’

‘Spill it.’ She said staring at me intently.

‘Let’s just say things got a little heated at one point.’

‘How heated?’

‘I didn’t have sex with him if that’s what you’re asking.’

‘Why the hell not?’

‘I didn’t feel comfortable after how long it’s been, nor am I up to par with the women he dates.’

‘So you’re not a spring chicken, you’ve got your own style. I think you may have more to offer than some of the hotties he dates, and it isn’t always about looks you know.’

‘I guess you’re right. At the end of the day he is just a person—a funny and quite charming person. I imagined he’d be stuck on himself, but I don’t think that’s the case. Who ever thought we’d run into him of all people last night? It was a little awkward at first, but I’m glad we did.’

‘Welllll…he recommended that club.’ She confessed hesitantly.

‘When?’

‘The day you fainted, while you were in the restroom. I asked him if he knew any nice clubs near here. He couldn’t come up with anything at first, so I gave him my phone number.’

‘So that’s why you were acting odd on the phone.’

‘Yes, and I may have mentioned when we’d be there.’

‘Oh God Vern. I’m so embarrassed now.’

‘Why? You didn’t know. He’s just a person like you said yourself. Besides, look how well it turned out.’

‘But he probably thinks we lured him there. I can’t believe you did that.’

‘You had a great time Missi. Don’t overthink it. Did he say anything about getting together again?’

‘He did ask when I was leaving and mentioned getting together again, but I think he was just being polite. He didn’t even ask for my number. Besides, I’m here to spend time with you.’

‘Well ya never know.’ She said grinning.

‘Oh please. I’m not gonna lose any sleep over it. I lost enough of that last night and I’m feeling it.’ I yawned.

‘Sleep as long as you like then. The only plan today is recuperation from last night.’

‘Thanks for the greatest birthday ever!’ I said giving her a big hug.

‘You’re very welcome. I’m glad it went so well.’

I smiled contently as I hung up my dress. It wasn’t the only thing that made me feel like a princess after last night.

‘Hey there.’ Shannon said happily.

‘Hey yourself.’ I replied.

‘I got your number from Chelsea. I need to talk to you about something.’

‘What’s up?’

‘Some pictures from the club showed up on the internet. There’s some speculation about who you are. That happens whenever I’m spotted with someone. This is embarrassing to ask, but you won’t comment on anything, will you?’

‘No, I respect your privacy.’

‘We try to maintain a low profile as best we can. Things get out of proportion otherwise.’

‘I understand. I wouldn’t get involved in anything like that anyway.’

‘I’m glad you understand. You’re being a really good sport about it too.’

‘I’m not out to impress anyone Shannon. My life as a princess is unpretentious, and I don’t divulge any details about my personal life either, nor do I sign autographs.’

‘I’m glad to hear that. Autographs can be a drag sometimes. I’m gonna tell my brother he can quit flipping shit then. He’s a little high strung about these kinds of things. Now that I have your number I’ll be in touch.’

Shannon must have clued Chelsea in on what was going on, because she was shaking her head as she stared at her laptop.

‘Let me see.’ I said looking over her shoulder.

‘That’s where that dirty dancing will get you my sweet. You look really hot for an old lady though.’ She chuckled.

‘Yeah, not too bad.’

‘What should we get ourselves into today?’ Chelsea asked jokingly.

‘Whatever it is, we need to keep it on the down low.’ I chuckled.

My phone pinged as I closed my bedroom door that evening. It was a text from Shannon and I smiled as I read the simple message: Nite Princess.

‘Good nite prince.’ I sent back.

As tired as I was, there was little chance of sleeping now. I tried reading to distract my thoughts, but they kept returning to him. My heart and mind were waging war. Why was I swooning over yet another bad boy, especially one with his reputation? I’d been through more than enough with the breed of men I was always drawn to—the ones with addictive tendencies. Shannon didn’t appear to be actively using however, or my radar would have kicked in. He hadn’t lost control after a few drinks, nor did he drink to the point of inebriation. I was torn. I felt like I could be myself around him and that was rare. Why not allow myself a brief encounter even though casual sex was a foreign commodity in my world? That was all it ever would be anyway and maybe it was time to give it a try. I felt capable of handling any residual feelings, especially at this point in my life when I was well past the point of needing a man to complete it.


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