Sneak Peek at ON THE ROCKS (Vagabonds #3)

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On the Rocks, the third book in the Vagabonds trilogy, releases on Friday, October 30.  While I have a lot going on this week (I mean it–a lot*), this is the project I’m most excited about–the conclusion to this trilogy that has consumed more than half a year of my life and has truly been a labor of love.  Thus far, those who have been reviewing it have told me this is their favorite in the trilogy.

In this book, we’ll find out if CJ and Kyle are meant to be and if she succeeds in making it on her own or if she needs to throw in the towel in terms of her music career.  Here’s your sneak peek at the book.  Will they make it?  Guess you’ll just have to read this book to find out!

WARNING:  Due to language, sexual content, and dark themes, the book is NOT appropriate for anyone under the age of 18.

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CHAPTER NINE of On the Rocks (Vagabonds #3)

Things never felt the same in the band again. Jake and I were still tight as friends, and Brandon sensed something had happened, but he was far too sweet (and possibly innocent) to ask. It was all Teddy. The guy carried the memories of that night with him like a nonexistent albatross, and I couldn’t understand why. I tried talking to him about it—once with Jake and once without—but he wouldn’t do it. He just said he’d rather pretend like that night had never happened.

He apparently had a few issues.

But I wasn’t going to push the matter. On stage and when we were in the limelight, he remained a consummate professional. I should have seen his ultimate departure coming, though. He stayed with us throughout the entire tour, but he let me know once we were home that he was leaving.

That sucked, because he’d been perfect for the band. He played rhythm to my lead well.

I knew, though, that there were plenty of other fish in the sea and there would be plenty of other guys willing to play.

Maybe. I was supremely disappointed in the overall scheme of things. My debut solo album hadn’t done nearly as well as I thought it should have. Where were all my supposed fans, all those people who claimed to love me and love my work? They sure as fuck weren’t buying my album or coming to my concerts.

No, that wasn’t fair. I had no doubt that my hardcore fans were, but no one else was. I had thousands and thousands of Facebook likes and Twitter followers, but I hadn’t even sold as many albums as the supposed fans I had in cyberspace.

I felt like a fucking failure. It killed me, gutted me, shredded my heart. Music was my first love, and I wanted to share my creations with the world, but apparently they didn’t want them.

So, yeah, I wallowed for a while. I let it eat at me. I decided I would let it all in for now, because I was going to have to let it go and pick myself up at some point.

I considered quitting but had no idea what the hell I would do with myself. Quitting was always a fallback option…but I discovered that I still had some fight in me left.

Mom and dad were living in Hawaii now, and I visited them for a month, soaking in the sun and the smell of saltwater in paradise, and I pretended I wasn’t a rock star.

Except for when I got one new tattoo on my butt cheek. It said Kiss My Ass. That was like flipping my finger to the world after drowning in disappointment. Now I was up and swinging and ready to kick ass again, and it started by being a rebel.

Fortunately, getting a tattoo on my ass, even without a few drinks, didn’t hurt nearly as much as I’d thought it would.

What really killed me, something I wouldn’t tell a soul—not even to a therapist bound by laws of confidentiality had I chosen to avail myself of one—was how well Liz was doing. Jesus, the fucking fans loved her, ate her shit up like it was a Krispy Kreme. It probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much if her stuff had been good. But I’d finally broken down and bought her album to find out for myself. People raved and raved about it—and she was an old friend, to boot—so I decided to give it a listen. Maybe the shit they were playing on the radio wasn’t representative of everything on the record.

Unfortunately, it was. Actually, the singles that were getting airtime were the best songs on the album. Overall, the music sounded mostly like our first album, but there was more to it than that. It had a heavy punk feel but it wasn’t fresh. It sounded like old music, even though it was new. There was nothing innovative or different about it, including the words. It sounded derivative and plain.

And fuck it. If that was what it took to get ahead, I was going to be a fucking rebel all my life and be happy with shitty sales. I wasn’t going to sell out by being crappy or mediocre. And it felt like that was what Liz was doing, like she’d stepped down and decided to stray from excellence.

That made me all the more determined to be different, and as the months drifted by, I was able to distance myself from my first effort. Yes, I knew now in retrospect that it did have a Vagabonds sound to it, just as critics and fans had noted. So, when I returned home, I decided to lock myself inside for a month and just listen to my favorite music, let it influence me and change my songwriting.

I went through all my music and decided against older stuff, because I definitely did not want an old sound like Liz. So, much as I loved it, there would be no early metal, no hair or glam metal, no grunge. If the music hadn’t been written or hit the charts in this millennium, then I wasn’t going to listen to it.

But I didn’t just listen. I drowned in it. I absorbed it. I ate and drank it. I fell asleep at night with the stereo playing and let it play all night long, turning up the volume when I arose in the morning. My car had an MP3 plugin so I could listen to anything specific I wanted to. I used an iPod when I worked out.

I didn’t listen to the Vagabonds. I also didn’t listen to the first incarnation of Kyle Summers, the band (I cracked myself up calling it that). But I was jamming out to some good shit—Death Crunch, Lamb of God, Korn, Last Five Seconds, Slipknot, Black Matter, Bullet for My Valentine, Shock Treatment, Godsmack, Seether…you name it. If they were a kick ass band in the twenty-first century, I was listening to them.

I decided a few things as I listened over and over to some of my favorite songs. The first was that I wanted to go a little heavier. The second was that I was happy being just “basic” metal—I didn’t need to be in a subgenre, and I certainly knew what my limits were.

And I did that…from my own place. I broke down and got my own apartment, and when CJ got back from Death Crunch’s huge tour that ended two days earlier in Europe, I picked him up at DIA. We hugged and kissed and, yes, I was happy to see him. He looked different—a little more filled out and he’d grown a bit of a beard. He still stirred me up and I was thrilled to see him…but I wasn’t sure how to break the news.

I didn’t, because we talked nonstop the whole way home—about his tour and mine, about future plans, and it was then that I told him about Teddy leaving the band. When he asked why, I told him Teddy hadn’t given a reason. I knew I could have told him what I suspected and he’d have to live with it; after all, it was his stupid idea that we see other people while on the road. It would serve him right if he felt jealous.

I didn’t say a word, though. But when we parked at CJ’s apartment building, I knew I needed to say something so it wasn’t a shock when we got upstairs. I grabbed his bass case while he threw a backpack over his shoulder and carried a big suitcase in one hand, a grocery bag in the other. As we started walking toward the building, I said, “Umm, I need to let you know…I moved out.”

It was subtle, but I noticed a slight pause in his step. Oh. So maybe he would have a problem with it. Well, I’d known it would be awkward, but I didn’t want it to be any big deal. “Out of my place, you mean?”

I nodded but kept my eyes on the stairs I’d have to place a foot on momentarily. “Yeah.”

He was quiet for a few seconds. “Did you get your own place or…?”

“Yeah. I just… Well, I want to thank you for your hospitality, you know. For letting me stay with you.”

He muttered, “Yeah, sure,” but I could tell it was merely an automated response. He was still processing it all. It wasn’t until we were inside, lights on and everything we’d been carrying put down, that he made sure he had my attention. “Is something wrong? Is there somebody else?”

Oh. That plunged in my heart like a harpoon. I didn’t know if I felt worse for not telling him before—because it obviously meant more to him than I’d thought—or because he believed I’d cheat on him. Well…when I was home. No, it was more than that. I guess, in hindsight, I’d say we had an open relationship, whether I wanted it or not, whether I agreed or not. That was the only way I could have CJ, and I’d been okay with it.

But I wasn’t happy with it anymore.

So I was stinging some that he figured I could just hang my heart up and stop caring. It didn’t work that way, not for me. He’d owned me from the first time we’d been together, and it wouldn’t be that easy to let go.

I felt like now might be a good time to let out a lighthearted laugh and call him silly, because of course he was the only guy for me. Then I thought it might be better to give him a wistful smile and just let him know that I needed some time to myself. But, instead, the rebel inside felt like balls out truth was the best way—the only way with the man I loved so fiercely that I ached to the core.

I did want to assure him, though. “God, no, CJ. There’s nobody else. But…” I shook my head, grappling for the words. “I need some space, something to call my own. We’re not building a life together here. This was never my home—it was yours—and, while I appreciate your generosity, I didn’t want to overstay my welcome.”

There it was—something—and that goddamn something sent a chill bolting over the surface of my arms, making the tiny hairs stand on end. You missed something, Kyle. What was it? There was a change in his face, so subtle that I just couldn’t make it out. It was a flash in his eye or a twitch in his cheek or a muscle in his jaw…but it was there, and you better believe it registered with my subconscious. All my fucking alarm bells were going off—every last one of them—and they were blaring at me that I had just fucked up monumentally.

But CJ was, if nothing else, always a gentleman. What made him frustrating and hard to read (in spite of the klaxons ringing in my heart) was that he held his cards close to his chest. There was little room for guessing, and I suspect that even had I come right out and asked him how he felt right at that moment, he wouldn’t have told me. And maybe he was too shocked to say anyway.

He took a deep breath and I saw another subtle shift. It was like watching a door close in slow motion. “So where’d you move?” He started walking toward the kitchen, grocery bag in hand.

“Not too far from here, actually.” I had wanted to scope out somewhere higher on the mountain overlooking the city, but I couldn’t afford a place like that, not yet, and certainly not with my lackluster album sales. I’d wanted to talk about that shit with CJ at some point too, but now wasn’t the time. Right now, I felt like I was walking through a minefield.

CJ set the bag on the counter and opened a cabinet, fetching out a drinking glass. “You’re all moved out already?”

I’d finished the week before, and just two days ago had cleaned his place top to bottom for his welcome home. “Yeah.”

He walked to the sink and poured cold water from the tap into the glass. His back was to me when he said, “Guess I should collect my key from you then.”

It sounded almost like a question and I wasn’t sure how to answer. I was probably having a hard time, because I felt like a quarterback trying to make a pass but I’d just gotten knocked to the ground. I was still holding the fucking ball and the wind was knocked out of me—hard. How the hell could I talk at a time like this? “Uh, yeah, if you want to.” I swallowed and reached in my jacket for my ring of keys.

How had I been so stupid? What had I been thinking? Why had I thought that he would come home and things would be normal—or somewhat normal? We’d stay the same, only I’d have my own place. What was the big fucking deal about that?

But, goddamn it, I’d been hurting so badly already that I was afraid to hash it out. I was so scared that if I asked him, I’d find out that I’d never really meant a thing to him. I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to hear that I was just a step up from a whore, and that was only because we were friends…because, in spite of anything CJ had ever said to me about “caring,” his actions screamed far louder than his words. I’d never felt like anything special to him.

I was a warm body in his bed who just so happened to be a friend.

I shut something off inside myself then, and I think it was to stop myself from crying or screaming or slapping him. I focused everything inside me on that fucking ring, winding the silver key through the loops until it came free, and I set it on the counter.

I felt my eyes get watery and I clenched my jaw. Be practical. “Uh…your mail’s over there on the table. And your mom wanted you to call once you unpacked.” I forced a smile, but I got the feeling it was like the way a person’s grin is lopsided after the dentist shoots her gum with Novocain—it feels like your muscles are obeying your brain’s commands, but you look in the mirror and see how clownish you really seem to everyone else. “She has a food delivery to make.”

He too put on a small, forced smile but the air was thick and heavy with everything we weren’t saying. “I’ll have to come see your place sometime.”

“Yeah.”

I left soon after. There was no welcome home sex like I’d imagined when I’d been driving to the airport earlier that day. There was no hug or kiss goodbye, but maybe there should have been, because, for some reason, it felt like someone had died.

Oh. That was me. Inside.

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BOOK NAME: On the Rocks

SERIES NAME: Vagabonds, Book 3

GENRES: Contemporary Romance, Rock Star Romance, New Adult, Erotic Romance

LENGTH: Novel (70,600 words, 227 pages)

RELEASE DATE: October 30, 2015

PURCHASE/PRE-ORDER LINKS:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Lsct8A
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1OqyYN8

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26588749-on-the-rocks

BLURB:
The explosive conclusion to the Vagabonds trilogy!

After playing second fiddle in the all-girl rock band the Vagabonds, lead guitarist Kyle Summers decides to break out on her own and puts together a band that helps her shine as a solo act.

But the road is uphill and success seems elusive. She begins to question herself and her talent, wondering if she should sell out to win the adoration of her old fans or stubbornly follow her heart and continue to languish in relative obscurity.

On-again off-again love interest CJ Slavin helps Kyle get her new band off the ground but refuses to commit to their relationship, once more leaving Kyle feeling alone, unloved, and unimportant, and those emotions lead her to do rash, irrevocable things on the road, things that could drive CJ away for good. Will they finally admit their feelings to one another and forsake all others or split for good, and will Kyle finally find the fame she’s been working her ass off for or will she leave it all behind, a broken woman?

Find out in the final tale of the Vagabonds trilogy!

***Not intended for readers under the age of 18 due to adult language and sexual content***

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* For those of you who are interested, this week I am doing all this:

  • Relaunch of the book formerly known as Worst Mother (now known as Laid Bare); to celebrate, the book will be on sale all week at all sites for 99 cents.
  • What to Read After Fifty Shades of Grey: Coming of Age releases on Tuesday–priced at $1.99 because Amazon couldn’t afford to sell it for the 99 cent price tag we put on it.
  • Preparing for and then celebrating the release of On the Rocks.
  • Discounting two books on all sites to celebrate Halloween and Day of the Dead (Savage and Old House)

Whew!  Thanks, as always, for your amazing support!

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