See, at the end of writing a book, through the final check process, I just want to hover in the pages with them.
I love Jack. The man he wanted to be; then the man he became.
I want to do justice by his story. Hence, the extra time and the double, triple checking. It's an important book in the Parker series, because beyond sharing what happens with Lena & Jack, you meet Chrissie's mother and maybe you understand parts of Chrissie you haven't understood before this. We are all an artful blend of our parents and what we live.
Lena is....and through the pages I write I hope you see and fall in love with these imperfect people, and yet understand them all better.
And now I have this wonderful world of new characters I'm spinning stories in my head for. But I don't know: does anyone want a love story set in the '60s, and if not, their stories will remain mine, in my computer or maybe just my head.
As always I wish you peace.
Copyright © 2016 Susan Ward(Excerpt)
After four hours sitting in a chair softly strumming Vivaldi on the guitar, I was more than ready for my gig to end.
The manager was annoyed with me.
I was supposed to remain as unobtrusive as furniture, but I’d figured out even in this crowd when a woman looked at me that if I made eye contact and smiled the tips were better. The phone numbers they sometimes slipped into the bills I destroyed before I went home.
I could have been Good Time Jack here, of all places, if I wanted to be, which I didn’t. Lena would make me quit if she ever found as much as a single telephone number in my pocket. She’d probably toss me out as well. There were some things about Lena I understood without effort. And if I hadn’t, the way she stared at any girl who smiled at me would clarify things instantly.
My goddess was passionate in other ways than in bed; she had a temper.
Reggie was waiting for me out front when I exited the restaurant and we headed toward my car.
“Where have you been sleeping?” I asked. “You haven’t been home in days. Lena is starting to feel badly.”
He shrugged. “Me not being home has nothing to do with her, Jack.”
“OK, so explain it to me. What gives?” I prodded as I started the car.
“It’s just I’ve been spending time with Liz, and I thought it would be better all the way around if I did it elsewhere.”
I frowned. “Liz?”
His eyes locked on mine meaningfully. “The girl Lena found in your bed her first night in Cambridge.”
“Oh.” I tried not to smile, but failed miserably. “Yep, don’t want to even mention her to Lena. Better not to bring her around.”
We laughed, though Reggie shook his head at me.
“Fuck, you are one pussy-whipped man.”
His comment didn’t insult me. “You don’t know the half of it, Reggie, and trust me, I’m not complaining. Where are we going?”
We lapsed into silence as we drove the rest of the way, but I was feeling better about the Reggie situation. Everything was cool between us. He was just off doing things better to do away. Though now that I knew what was going on with him I couldn’t explain it to Lena, so she’d just have to get over feeling badly about Reggie on her own.
Nope, bringing up Liz would not be a good thing.
“Park over there,” Reggie said, and I pulled off on the side of the road in front of a bar.
I stared at the dark windows, hearing the raucous crowd, and I shook my head. “Shit, you should have told me we were going to meet Liam in a place like this.”
Reggie frowned. “What’s the problem, Jack?”
“Well, look at me. I just came from my gig at Moxy. I’m not going to fit in here. They are not even going to give me an audition. This is a waste of time.”
“It will be fine. I’ve already told Liam about you.”
I climbed from the car in an area of the city where my silver Porsche and preppy style of dress—crisply ironed shirt, tie, khaki slacks, and navy blazer—stood out like a sore thumb.
Nope, it didn’t matter how much Reggie tried to sell them on me, this was going to be a bust.
I pulled back the door and entered the smoky bar. It was packed, and while the girls looked at me—they always looked, everywhere—the guys gave me hostile stares.
Fuck, just what I expected. I’d be lucky if this wasn’t kick the shit out of preppy for fun night.
I raked a hand through my golden hair as I fought to see through the crush of bodies on the dance floor to the band on the stage.
They had kind of an interesting sound, sort of a blending of a whole lot of styles—blues rock, folk, and pop—and were almost coming up with the right stuff.
It might have worked out better if they weren’t all marginal musicians, except their lead guitarist/front man who was pretty awful, and their bass player who was the talent in the group.
Reggie leaned in to my ear so I could hear him above the noise. “They get booked regularly. Steady work. Well-paying gigs. Give it a chance.”
Damn, I’d let my thoughts show on my face.
I shrugged. “At this point, it doesn’t matter. They’re not going to give me a chance.”
“Where’s that Parker confidence and charm?”
“I left it at the door.”
He laughed and starting moving through the crowd.
He gestured for me to sit at a table near the stage and grabbed hold of a passing waitress to order a round of drinks. We were down two drinks when the band finally broke.
“Let me handle this, Jack. We need to play this cool. Their singer doesn’t know they’re thinking of cutting him loose,” Reggie said quickly before they joined us at the table.
“Reggie Dun, what the hell are you doing here?” a man said in a booming voice, and by their greeting I assumed it was his buddy Liam.
“Just checking out the local competition, Liam,” Reggie replied jovially.
“You still at the Firehouse?”
“Until the end of July. You?”
Liam laughed. “We’re booked solid all over the state for a year. Probably because of Jerry’s looks.” He gave his singer an affection shove—he was good-looking guy—and then jeered, “It can’t be because of his playing.”
I laughed when everyone else laughed before I realized it probably wasn’t a smart move.
Jerry planted an arm on the table and scowled into my face. “What the hell are you laughing at, kid?”
I met his stare evenly, smiling as I leaned back in my chair. The air around the table crackled with tension, telling me it was better to double down than back down in a crowd like this.
“A guy told a joke. It was funny. Even though it isn’t fucking funny for those listening to you that you don’t tune your instrument before you go on stage. But then, I figured with how you played it didn’t really matter, so I laughed.”
His reaction to that—not good—might have gone badly if Liam hadn’t been laughing so hard that it was him Jerry shoved before he walked away with the rest of the band.
Reggie stared at me, shaking his head. “I told you to play it cool.”
“Fuck, I’m not going to roll over for a jerk like that.”
Reggie got up from his chair and followed Jerry out of
Reggie got up from his chair and followed Jerry out of the bar, leaving me with the towering bass player standing above me.
“You got my lead singer hopping mad, kid. You best watch where you shoot off your mouth around here.”
“It’s a crime to play that way and charge people money. Your sound wouldn’t be half bad if it were in tune.”
“And what would you know of that?” he scoffed.
I shrugged. “I know when a guitar is in tune. That’s more than your lead knows.”
He laughed. “You’re a cocky bastard, aren’t you?”
“I’ve been called worse.” I extended my hand. “Jackson Parker.”
“Liam Ferguson.” He gave me a critical once-over. “Irish?” I nodded. “You just saved yourself from getting punched in the face.”
“Irish Catholic. Will that earn me the right to show you how that song should be played?”
“No, but it’s earned the right to buy me a drink.”
Laughing, I gestured at the chair across from me, and I called the bartender to bring a bottle and another glass.
“Your band has an interesting sound. Where are you guys from, Liam?”
“Southie. Born and raised. How about you, Jackson.”
“California. A small town. Santa Barbara.”
“I know the town. Did a gig up there. Used to play with some guys out on Balboa Island. Fucking genius musicians, but their music—you kids with your feet in the sand have your own kind of sound and your own kind of rules about everything. Is that the kind of music you play?”
I shrugged. “I play a bit of this, a bit of that. Whatever pays the rent.”
Laughing, Liam nodded. “I do a bit of that myself.”
“Right now I’m playing classical guitar during the dinner hour five nights a week at Moxy and doing catch gigs with Reggie when he needs me.”
His gaze paused briefly on my ring. “I see you’re married.”
“Women, the weakness of every Irishman.”
“They are that. But would we have it any other way?”
We both laughed.
“So, Jackson Parker from Santa Barbara, what the hell are you doing in Southie trying to buddy up to get some work out of me?”
“I need the work. Plain and simple.”
“Something tells me there’s nothing plain and simple about you. Why would a kid going to Harvard need work?”
I pretended to be surprised by his observation. “How did you know I attend Harvard?”
“The clothes. How else? You’re not the first Harvard boy to get lost in here. You rich boys like to come down here for good times. The music is better. The drinks are better. The girls are better than what you find in a Harvard bar.” He refilled his glass, shaking his head with an amused smile on his face. “You are the first, however, ever to insult my guitarist, then buy me a drink and ask for work.”
The band was back on stage.
He rose from the table.
“Thanks for the drink.” He started to leave, then stopped and turned back to face me. “We rehearse Wednesday after hours in the back of the novelty store on Front Street. We’re booked every Friday and Saturday for the next year. Bring your guitar. You’re hired, kid.”
I stared at him in surprise. “You haven’t heard me play or sing.”
“Don’t have to. I’ve seen all I need to see. Reggie vouched for you. That’s good enough for me. And it’s past time to give Jerry the boot.”
He walked back on stage and, in spite of what he’d said, I still wasn’t sure why he’d given me the slot. Frankly, I didn’t care.
They did regular paid gigs two nights a week, and hopefully it would be enough money that I could quit Moxy and have more evenings home with Lena.
Copyright © 2016 Susan Ward(Excerpt)