Title: The Forbidden Muse
Author: Aubrey Parker
Series: Inferno Falls #2
Genre: New Adult Romance
Release Date: November 10, 2015Summary:
Gavin might just be the music that Abigail yearns for … if only his painful past will allow him to love again.
Just a few months after arriving at Inferno Falls, Abigail can’t see the light at the end of her tunnel. No one can complain about being overworked and broke when the rest of the country’s the same way, but that doesn’t make it any easier when Abigail has to live the story every day. It’s not the work or the meager lifestyle she minds. Abigail wants something more…something inspired…something raw.
Gavin is a grieving musician trying to re-find his inspiration. He’s mourning a crushing loss, and life has become too mundane, too typical, to give him the material for songs that used to come so easy. What could he expect to find in Inferno Falls that would truly stir his heart? After all, he’s been shattered by love too many times to find any comfort in a woman’s arms.
The song begins…
Strings play the moment they meet in Abigail’s section of the Nosh Pit, Inferno Falls’ latest and hippest restaurant, and their pulses thunder like a drumbeat from the moment their eyes touch. Abigail feels a stirring in her heart she never expected, while Gavin goes home to pour his inspiration into music.
But despite their obvious harmony, Gavin’s past won’t let anyone get too close. And after years of heartache, Abigail doesn’t have time for anyone who seems like they’re just playing around. Together they’ll have to learn to sing in chorus, or let the stage lights fade and bow out of each other’s lives for good.
I stop by the bathroom and splash water on my face. I flush the toilet, just in case someone outside is listening. I wanted to run, but don’t want to seem like I wanted to.
It’s cool. Nothing to see here.
I towel off, careful to dry the hairs sticking to my forehead so I don’t get a wet-hair halo that, I’m sure, will give me away. Too late, I think to check my makeup. And of course, I’ve ruined my concealer. My stupid, horrid redhead freckles are now visible, even though the rest of my face seems intact.
I look at my phone. I’ve got time. My purse is in a locker, but I can grab it, run back in here before the doors open, and cover up.
I leave the bathroom and head into the room with the lockers, but before I can work my combination lock I hear someone enter.
I turn to see Chloe, the singer without a past — as far as I know, anyway — walking elegantly toward me.
“Oh. Hi, Chloe.”
“Are you writing with Gavin?”
I assess her before responding. Chloe is pretty and young, but not in the same way the groupies or even the waitresses are. There’s something about her that carries beyond her years, as if she’s an old soul in a fresh body. Her blonde hair is usually shaped into platinum waves that would have been at home behind the mic in a World War II nightclub. The way she asked, my alarms want to go off, sure that Chloe has designs on Gavin like everyone else. But she looks more curious than accusatory, so I simply answer her.
“Wasn’t that his new song?”
“But you had lyrics. I didn’t think Gavin wrote lyrics.”
Knowing how this is going to sound, I say, somewhat resigned, “I wrote them.”
I watch Chloe digest the information, sure that she’s judging me. I pretend to be a writer, but I’ve barely ever written a thing. I can’t even finish a short story that satisfies me. I don’t have music experience and barely even have music club experience beyond the past few months. She must be deciding whether I’m deluded or merely pathetic.
“Did he ask you to write them? Did he give you a start?”
Now I feel stupid. I answer dismissively, waving a hand and returning to my lock for something to do. “Oh, I was just playing around.”
“By writing those lyrics.”
“You know how music will get stuck in your head. He’s been playing it, and I guess it kind of got wedged in there. I just sort of heard the words of the chorus as I walked around, under the rhythm of my feet.” I give Chloe a glance. “It’s stupid, I know.”
At first, she doesn’t answer, not taking my stupid-bait. I notice for the first time that Chloe has pale-green eyes. From a distance, they look brown. She has a natural pout in the set of her lips, and onstage, with her elegant clothing, she looks dead sexy. But it’s the kind of sexy that seems somehow superior, so men rarely approach her. It would be easy to believe that Chloe, with all her mystery and her prime spot in the lineup, thinks she’s too good for someone like me. But as much as I try to convince her that I’m stupid, she’s not rushing to agree.
“You said the chorus. But you had all of the verses, too.”
“I was singing out my ass. Making it up as I went along.”
Chloe walks a few more steps. I almost think she’ll sit, but I have no intention to do the same. Then it will be awkward. Instead, she leans against the lockers, arms crossing as she makes herself comfortable.
“You know,” she says.
“You looked him up. Dug around.”
“I found some of his songs,” I say.
“But you know what happened. With Firecracker Confession.”
I shift uncomfortably. I hope she’ll let me off the hook — but no, she’s waiting for my answer.
“I know there was a car accident. His band died.”
Chloe’s head shakes slowly. But she’s not saying no; she seems to be deciding that I’m baffling, or possibly an idiot.
“Not just his band, Abigail. Grace was his girlfriend.” She watches me then adds, “And his songwriter.”
My mouth was open. I shut it.
“I … I didn’t know.” I’m trying to remember what I may have said to Gavin, particularly the times I pried too far and he seemed to cut me off. Have I been nosy? Intrusive? Have I — ?
“You’ve just written him the only new lyrics he’s had since she passed.”
Oh, shit. Oh, Jesus. Now I want to crawl into a hole and die.
“I was just messing around,” I say.
“Have you ever written lyrics before?”
“I wasn’t ‘writing lyrics.’ I was … that was just stuff in my head.”
She comes forward another step, and this time she does something curious for anyone else but perfectly expected from Chloe Campbell. She reaches out and takes hold of one of my earrings, inspecting it. They’re pretty things, set with diamonds — one of the few rich girl relics I’ve hung onto. And now, it’s like Chloe has seen the clue I’ve left literally hanging, and can see right through me.
She lets go and says, “Are you telling me the truth?”
I nod. “Of course.”
She sighs, her pouting lips pressing together as she seems to believe me. She leans back from the lockers and begins to stroll the small room. I turn to follow, and she stops once I’m looking out the window, seeing the darkening Old Town streets beyond.
“The best of the stuff I’ve written comes right out of the air,” she says, her voice breathy. “The pieces I labor over, that I work on forever? Those are the songs I usually don’t bother to sing. It’s the spontaneous ones that are most honest. What I do on this stage, those are songs I wrote in an afternoon. They come to me almost whole, from nowhere.”
“That’s spooky,” I say, unsure how else to respond.
“What you sang just now? That hurt him. He won’t show it, of course, but I could see it on his face.”
Is this an accusation? Is she angry? Does she think I’m a pretentious bitch, daring to dip my toe so publicly into waters that only true artists should swim?
“I didn’t mean to — ” I begin.
“He needed to hear it. And it was sweet, what you said.”
I think back. I don’t even remember what I sang. So much of it was like Chloe described: out of nowhere, as if something else was using my mouth to sing words like a puppet.
“Grace meant everything to him, Abigail. They were inseparable. Charlie was almost as close. The three of them were one of those groups of friends most of us envy. They didn’t fight. Three is supposed to be an unstable number, but there was never any jealousy. Charlie had a girl of his own, and he had no designs on Grace. Charlie and Gavin had been best friends since grade school, I guess. And when Gavin needed time to compose with Charlie, Grace understood because she was one of them. You could tell just looking at them that they were going to make it because they were three wills blending into one. I met them a year before the accident then ran into them here and there when we were all nomads. What Gavin and Grace had? It was special. You could tell.”
“I … ” But there are no words. I don’t know what to say. Chloe’s story isn’t making me feel touched or even sad. Instead, it’s making me feel like I’ve trespassed. Like I’ve stepped where I don’t belong and am not wanted.
“When she died, everyone who knew them thought that Gavin might, too. The car accident that killed them? Gavin was supposed to be in it. And it’s like he wishes he had been. For weeks, he would only second-guess everything. He was sure it was his fault. He wished he could have traded his life for theirs, but worse was how he seemed to just want to be with them, whether they could have lived or not. They were all for one and one for all, as far as Gavin was concerned. His survival made him angry. It was that way for a long time, and then he settled into this workless slump. He’ll only play Grace’s old songs, but never with lyrics.”
“Why not? I’ve heard him sing a little on YouTube.”
“Because most of the songs were about how much she loved him.”
Chloe’s reply breaks something inside me. I want to slump into a chair. I want to cry, for him, for all of them. And I want to apologize. I’m remembering some of the song now, and I want to take it all back. I didn’t ask for those lyrics; they seemed to come to me as naturally as if Gavin had birthed them himself without ever writing them down. He needs to understand that I didn’t mean any of it. The song’s story seemed to be about moving on, but because I was singing, it’s as if I was the one singing that sorrow isn’t worth the indulgence. It was flip and dismissive. I feel so terribly sorry.
“I didn’t mean it,” I say, almost pleading. “I didn’t mean what I sang.”
Chloe reaches out again, but this time she doesn’t touch my earring. She cups my cheek with her palm and smiles.
“You both meant it, Darling. Because whether or not you realize it, you wrote that song together.”
I love to write stories with characters that feel real enough to friend on Facebook, or slap across the face. I write to make you feel, think, and burn with the thrill that can only come from getting lost in the pages. I love to write unforgettable characters who wrestle with life's largest problems. My books may always end with a Happily Ever After, but there will always be drama on the way there.