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Rock chick reckoning, p.1
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       Rock Chick Reckoning, p.1

           Kristen Ashley
 
Rock Chick Reckoning


  Rock Chick Reckoning

  Kristen Ashley

  Published by Kristen Ashley

  Copyright 2011 Kristen Ashley

  Discover other titles by Kristen Ashley:

  Rock Chick Series:

  Rock Chick

  Rock Chick Rescue

  Rock Chick Redemption

  Rock Chick Renegade

  Rock Chick Revenge

  The ‘Burg Series:

  For You

  At Peace

  Golden Trail

  The Colorado Mountain Series:

  The Gamble

  Sweet Dreams

  Lady Luck

  Dream Man Series:

  Mystery Man

  Wild Man

  The Fairytale Series:

  Wildest Dreams

  The Golden Dynasty

  Fantastical

  Other Titles by Kristen Ashley:

  Lacybourne Manor

  Mathilda, SuperWitch

  Penmort Castle

  Sommersgate House

  Three Wishes

  www.kristenashley.net

  Kindle 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 person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  *****

  Dedication

  This book is dedicated to Rick Chew and Jim Gonzalez

  I love you. I miss you.

  I wish you were still right next door.

  Yahtzee!

  Acknowledgement

  A shout out to my Sir Will, William Womack, my uncle, my friend and the premier Rock Guru. Stella’s set lists would be nowhere near as cool if Will didn’t feed the burn in my soul for kickass music. Love you, Will.

  Author’s Note

  I would guess my readers understand, considering you’re reading a series entitled Rock Chick, that music means a great deal to me. Frequently in my writing I will use music to explain feelings, define characters or add emotion to the narrative. And if I had a wish, I would wish to be able to make music one way or another but, alas, I do not play an instrument (though have tried to learn) and my singing leaves something to be desired.

  So it was a thrill for Stella Gunn to inhabit my headspace and, through Stella, to be able to play a guitar, sing super sexy, entrance a crowd, give a one woman private concert to a hot guy and write set lists.

  Stella chose her music with great care. Therefore, if you haven’t before or have only done it in passing, I encourage you to experience fully the music Stella chose to explain her emotions by looking up the lyrics and listening to the songs mentioned in this book. Indeed, if you can, listening to the songs while reading the scenes may enhance the experience (it does for me). Most specifically Pearl Jam’s “Black”, Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes”, Journey’s “Open Arms” and Blink-182’s “All the Small Things”. They’re all fantastic songs but the lyrics expose Stella’s soul. Unfortunately, without permission from the artists, I cannot include the lyrics in the narrative and being a self-published author without a great deal of resources, I’m not in a place where I could request that permission (alas).

  Further, if you wish to know how Stella sounded singing in my head, find the Cowboy Junkies’ version of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and Sarah McLachlan’s version of “Blackbird” from the I Am Sam soundtrack.

  Or don’t and experience her just how she is in your head.

  Enjoy listening and reading.

  And always remember to rock on!

  *****

  Chapter One

  No One Got in the Way of Me and My Band

  Stella

  The phone rang.

  My eyes opened and I looked at the clock.

  Three thirty-seven.

  In the morning.

  I reached for the phone and said, “Hello?”

  I sounded awake and alert. This was because it wasn’t unusual for me to be up at an ungodly hour in the morning. Not only did I have loads of practice taking frantic phone calls in the hours before dawn but also I was lead singer and guitarist of a rock band. Most of the time, I was just stumbling through the door after a gig at an ungodly hour in the morning.

  “Stella?” It was Buzz, my bass player. He sounded messed up. On the phone at an ungodly hour in the morning he always sounded messed up.

  “Hey Buzz, what’s up?” I asked.

  His answer could be anything. He needed me to bail him out of jail. He needed me to give him a ride home because he was somewhere, drunk out of his skull and thankfully responsible enough to call someone, unthankfully, that someone was always me. He was stuck on a billboard on 8th promoting Earth, Wind and Fire’s upcoming concert with no way to get down (don’t ask).

  But I was guessing it had to do with Lindsey.

  “It’s Linnie,” Buzz said.

  I was right.

  “Buzz, I don’t –”

  “She’s in bed, she ain’t movin’. Something’s weird. It just ain’t right. I’m scared to even touch her. Stella Bella, fuck…” he whispered. “I think she overdosed.”

  I shot upright in my huge, super king-sized bed and my Saint Bernard, Juno, who was lying full out (thus explaining my need for a huge, super king-sized bed), sat up too and gave a woof.

  “Have you called 911?” I asked Buzz.

  “No, I called you.”

  Yep, that’s about right. Of course he’d call me. I was Stella Michelle Gunn, lead singer and lead guitarist of the Blue Moon Gypsies. I posted bond (mostly for Pong, my drummer, but for all of them on occasion). I soothed drunken angry men (again predominately Pong but they all were good at getting drunk and angry). I counseled relationships on the brink of collapse (this was not my strong suit for your information, the parties concerned always broke up). I listened when the world just did not understand (and the world didn’t understand much according to Leo, who played rhythm guitar and regularly got stoned and reflective). I extricated not-so-horny-anymore saxophonists named Hugo from mini-orgies with gonzo groupies gone bad.

  And apparently I was an emergency paramedic.

  “Call 911,” I ordered

  “But –”

  “Now!” I snapped.

  I hung up and swung out of bed. Juno woofed again and lumbered out of bed behind me.

  My first thought was Mace.

  In these situations, and there were a lot of them, although not always involving overdosed junkies who used to be sweet girls that were now addicted to smack, my first thought was always Kai “Mace” Mason, the tallest, hottest, coolest, most amazing guy I’d ever met. Mace with the jade green eyes. Mace with the thick, dark hair. Mace with the fantastic bod. Mace with the strong, masculine, long-fingered hands that could run so light across your skin you could almost hear them whisper.

  Mace would know what to do. Mace would take care of Buzz and Lindsey at the same time shielding me and Juno.

  “Sleep,” Mace’s ultra-deep voice would say in my ear after hanging up the phone (which he always answered) and kissing my shoulder or my neck or the spot behind my ear, his lips making me tremble. “I’ll take care of it.”

  Then he’d go and take care of it and I would sleep.

  But Mace was gone. He’d broken up with me a year before.

  Now it was just me. As always.

  My second thought was to shove thoughts of Mace aside.

  My third thought was to find my jeans.

  I yanked off my nightgown and tugged
on a pair of old Levi’s and my bra. I grabbed a capped-sleeved white blouse with red stitching at the top and dangling tassels that you would expect a girl named Heidi to wear while yodeling in the mountains of Germany.

  Just for your information, I loved that effing top.

  Also, for your information, I had no idea how to yodel and didn’t want to know how.

  I sat on the bed and pulled on my brown cowboy boots, dusty not from riding the range but from standing on dirty stages in dark bars.

  Then I grabbed my keys, shoved my cell phone in my back pocket and snatched Juno’s leash off a hook by the door.

  “Let’s go, Juno,” I called, slapping my hand against my thigh.

  Juno thumped over to me, not with great excitement, wagging tail and lolling tongue, ready for adventure. Instead Juno was resigned to her fate which consisted of yet another interruption to her beauty sleep of which she needed a lot.

  “Buzz thinks Linnie’s overdosed. Probably just passed out,” I told Juno as we headed out of my room and into the hall. “We’ll be back home soon.”

  * * * * *

  I drove my old, beat-up, dirty, fading red Ford van by Buzz’s place but no one was home. That meant they were at Lindsey’s.

  By the time I got there so had the ambulance and the police. Lights flashing, the front yard of Lindsey’s broken down house not just holding straggling tufts of grass, weeds and patches of dirt but also uniformed police officers and pajama’ed neighbors.

  Worse, parked on a street was a shiny black Ford Explorer.

  I knew what that meant.

  One of the Nightingale Boys was there.

  “What the ef?” I whispered, a chill sliding over my skin (for several reasons). I parked in front of the squad car that was parked in front of the Explorer.

  The Nightingale Boys were famous in certain circles of Denver – the circles occupied by cops, felons and others in need of their unique services. They were on the Nightingale Private Investigations Team, all of them highly qualified, intensely skilled, morally dubious but totally super cool.

  Mace was one of them.

  I clipped the leash on Juno and swung out my door, Juno following me on a huge, big dog sigh.

  Please don’t let Mace be here, please don’t let Mace be here, my brain chanted.

  Then I switched topics.

  Please let Linnie be okay, please let Linnie be okay.

  I rounded the back of my van, the door to Lindsey’s house opened and Luke Stark, Hot Guy and Nightingale Man, walked out. Black, super short hair, killer, trimmed mustache that ran down the sides of his mouth, mouth-watering handsome and body designed by the gods.

  I knew Luke; I’d met him when I dated Mace. I knew him now because he was living with my friend, Ava Barlow.

  His eyes scanned the yard and stalled on me.

  Okay, cool. No worries. All was well. I could deal with Luke. Luke was good. Luke was great.

  I smiled at Luke.

  The door opened again and Mace walked out.

  Fuck! My brain shouted and my smile vanished.

  My eyes did a sweep of all that was Mace.

  I wanted to find fault in him, I really did. I wanted him to be growing a paunch. I wanted him to be developing a bald spot. I wanted him to look like he was wasting away, pining for me. Something, anything but what he was. Tall at six foot four, flat, tight abs, square jaw and last but not least, arresting green eyes and great skin that showed the Hawaiian ancestry that he got from his Mom’s side.

  He didn’t scan the yard. His eyes came direct to me like he sensed me there.

  When his eyes caught my eyes I worked hard to keep my face blank.

  Mace didn’t appear to have to work hard at all. His expression didn’t change. Not in the slightest.

  I felt it like I always felt it when I remembered him, when I remembered us or when, on the odd occasion, I’d see him – that sharp kick in the gut and the sharper desire to flee.

  I held my ground. I was ashamed to admit, holding my ground took a lot, even after a year.

  Luke hesitated.

  Mace approached.

  Bad luck. I would have preferred Luke to approach.

  Effing hell but my luck sucked.

  Juno went wild. Finally happy with our ungodly hour adventure, Juno was straining at the leash, wanting more than anything, even hard food covered in melted bacon grease, to get at Mace. Juno loved Mace. She took Mace’s defection almost harder than me. She’d pouted and waited at the door for him for months after he broke it off. She hadn’t seen him in ages.

  I held on tight to the lead but struggled to keep my big dog still.

  “Juno, sit,” Mace commanded, five feet away.

  Juno sat, as always, obeying Mace without hesitation but she wasn’t happy about it. Her tail swept the dirt, her tongue lolled, her life brightened.

  Mace got close and Juno butted his hand with her wet nose, neck stretched to the max but keeping her doggie-heiny to the ground.

  I watched as Mace’s long fingers slid through the fur on top of Juno’s head and the gut kick feeling came back. Jealous of my own damn dog.

  How far had a sunk?

  I straightened my spine and tipped my head back to look at him.

  “Go home, Stella,” Mace said when my eyes caught his.

  Not “hey” not “how are you?” not “you look good” not “I made the worst mistake in my life breaking up with you. Please forgive me and marry me and live with me until we both die at the same exact time holding hands when we’re one hundred and seven.”

  To hide my disappointment at his non-greeting, my eyes went to the door of the house then they scanned the area. Luke had moved to talk to Willie Moses, another friend of mine and a police sergeant for the Denver Police Department. The ambulance was still there but I saw no paramedics.

  Something was not right.

  I looked back at Mace.

  “Is Linnie okay?” I asked.

  “Go home.”

  Yep, something was not right.

  “Is Linnie okay?” I repeated.

  “Stella, nothin’ you can do here. Go home.”

  Oh hell. Something was definitely not right.

  “Buzz called me. Said Linnie overdosed. Did she overdose? Is Buzz in there?” I asked.

  “I’ll talk to Buzz. He’ll call you in the morning,” Mace responded unhelpfully.

  I felt fear begin to tear at my insides and I started to move around him, pulling Juno with me.

  “I need to see Buzz,” I said.

  His fingers wrapped around my upper arm in a way that couldn’t be ignored. I stopped on a lurch, Juno stopped with me and I stared at his hand for two beats then up at him.

  “Take your hand off me Mace,” I said, my voice soft and low, my meaning clear.

  He gave up the right to touch me a year ago. He gave up the right to tell me to go home. He even gave up the right to pet my damn dog (maybe that last was pushing it but I felt like pushing it at that moment).

  He didn’t move his hand, in fact his fingers tightened. It didn’t hurt but it certainly made his meaning clear too.

  “Either you go to the van or I carry you there. Your choice, Stella.”

  He meant it.

  This pissed me off.

  I didn’t get pissed off very often. I didn’t have the time. My life was music and my life was the band. When we weren’t playing, we were loading or unloading our gear. When we weren’t loading or unloading, we were rehearsing. When we weren’t rehearsing, I was finding us gigs. When I wasn’t finding us gigs, I was practicing guitar. When I wasn’t practicing guitar, I was getting my bandmates out of trouble. When I wasn’t getting my bandmates out of trouble, I was hanging out with Juno and cooking fabulous, gourmet meals-for-one because Juno was a big dog with not a lot of energy thus she didn’t do much so I had to find some way to amuse myself and Juno liked the scraps. When I wasn’t hanging out with Juno and cooking, I was shooting the shit with my girlfriends on the p
hone or meeting them somewhere.

  The rest of the time, of which there wasn’t much, I was sleeping.

  As you could see, I didn’t have time to be pissed off.

  But really, who the hell did he think he was? He couldn’t break my heart one day and then get in the way of me and a member of my band the next.

  Nunh-unh.

  No way.

  No one got in the way of me and my band.

  I leaned into him.

  “Tell me what’s going on,” I demanded on a quiet hiss.

  “Buzz’ll call in the morning.” He kept attempting to blow me off.

  “What the fuck is going on?” I demanded on a not-at-all quiet shout.

  I felt rather than saw the eyes that turned to us.

  “Stella, lower your voice,” Mace demanded.

  That pissed me off more.

  “I’m goin’ in there,” I told him.

  “You aren’t goin’ in there,” he told me and his hand stayed where it was.

  Effing hell.

  I changed tactics. “Why are you doing this?”

  This caught him off-guard, I saw it. His usually blank-but-broody look disappeared and I saw his eyes flash in the dim illumination of Lindsey’s porch light.

  “I’m protecting you,” he answered, his voice low, the words seemed torn from him as if he didn’t want to say them.

  There was the gut kick feeling again and more fear started tearing through my insides.

  “It isn’t your job to protect me anymore, Mace,” I reminded him and watched the flash in his eyes again.

  Erm, excuse me? What in the heck was that all about?

  “You’re right. It’s not,” he said and dropped my arm.

  Big time gut kick.

  Sheesh. He gave up easily.

  Oh well, so be it.

  I started to move away.

  “Lindsey’s dead. Executed,” Mace said to my back.

  I stopped moving and turned to stare, unable to process what he just said.

  “What?” I whispered.

  Mace got close again. “She was executed, somewhere else, brought back here,” Mace answered.

 
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