Still life with strings, p.1
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       Still Life with Strings, p.1

           L.H. Cosway
Still Life with Strings

  Still Life with Strings


  L.H. Cosway

  Copyright © 2014 Lorraine McInerney.

  All rights reserved.

  Cover picture taken from

  Cover design by RBA Designs.

  Editing by Indie Author Services.

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.

  Books by L.H. Cosway

  Contemporary Romance

  Painted Faces

  The Nature of Cruelty

  Still Life with Strings

  Urban Fantasy

  Tegan's Blood (The Ultimate Power Series #1)

  Tegan's Return (The Ultimate Power Series #2)

  Tegan's Magic (The Ultimate Power Series #3)

  Tegan’s Power (The Ultimate Power Series #4)

  Crimson (An Ultimate Power Series Novella)

  YA Paranormal Romance

  A Strange Fire (Florence Vaine #1)

  A Vision of Green (Florence Vaine #2)

  For my readers.

  You are a drop in a gigantic ocean but you mean the world to me.

  A Note from the Author

  Dear reader,

  The story you are about to read is set in my home city of Dublin. It may not seem this way to strangers, but it is in fact a very small place. Lives can be interconnected in little ways that may seem unbelievable, but are actually very possible given how tiny the city, and indeed the country, really is. My heroine, Jade, works in a concert hall that is loosely based on but not a one hundred percent accurate portrayal of the National Concert Hall on Earlsfort Terrace. Similarly, my hero Shane is the concertmaster of an orchestra that is loosely based on but not a one hundred percent accurate portrayal of the RTÉ National Concert Orchestra. Just a short walk from the concert hall is Grafton Street, where Jade busks as a street performer, and just around the corner from Grafton Street is St. Steven’s Green, where Jade’s mother used to sell her paintings. If all this information seems random, I promise it will make better sense once you’ve read the story. However, if like Jade you are a dreamer at heart, you can simply choose to put it all down to destiny.

  I sincerely hope you enjoy Still Life with Strings.


  L.H. Cosway.




























  At eighteen years of age, he never knew true grief until he saw her crying on the six o’clock news.

  It was so palpable he could almost mould it with his hands.

  His fingers itched to create a melody that would be the musical embodiment of her mourning.

  So he picked up his violin and began to play.


  They call me the Blue Lady.

  The more poetic would say a dark angel, or an unexpected, fantastical surprise standing upon the mundane street. I wear a long midnight blue dress, a matching wig, white paint on my hands and face, and glorious, feathery blue wings affixed to my back.

  I feel like a gap in reality, a moment where people can pause mid-stride and say in a breathy, wonder-filled voice, wow, look at that. For the more cynical, wow, look at that nutjob.

  Perhaps for a moment someone will think that they’ve stepped into a world where normal is not the rule anymore, that the extraordinary is. That my wings aren’t false but real, that my skin is really this white, my hair really this blue.

  Unfortunately, none of it is real.

  But it’s nice, isn’t it, for a brief moment to imagine that it is?

  In reality I’m a twenty-six-year-old woman with a stack of bills I’m struggling to pay and two younger siblings who are reliant on me to keep a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food in their bellies.

  I do this living statue act whenever I have the free time. It gives me an artistic outlet, while also making me some much-needed cash on the side. Admittedly, I don’t normally do it at one o’clock in the morning in the middle of Grafton Street, but it’s a Saturday. That means there’ll be lots of tourists. More to the point, lots of drunk tourists with loose pockets and even looser inhibitions about who they hand over their cash to – such as women who stand very still while dressed like a Manga fairy.

  I stare directly ahead, unblinking, controlling my breathing using a qigong method, just as I hear the recognisable loutish shouting and laughter of a stag party up ahead. When they come into my line of sight, I see that they’re all wearing black T-shirts with their nicknames written across the back and Jack’s Stag Weekend across the front.

  No shit.

  I am an island, an inanimate object among the to and fro of humanity. I brace myself for the possibility that the stag party is going to be trouble. Moments later, one guy stands in front of me, waving his hand in my face and trying to get me to blink. How original.

  Sometimes I feel like those guards who stand outside Buckingham Palace. And like those long-suffering buggers, I have also perfected the art of remaining still and giving no reaction at all.

  “Are you blue all over?” he slurs with a drunken sideways grin.

  As a street performer, you have to take the rough with the smooth. When you put yourself out there, you’re going to encounter every facet of society: the good, the bad, and the drunk off their arses. Kids are the best. They haven’t yet lost the sense of wonder that makes them stare up at you and truly believe you’re some sort of blue-fairy-bird-woman-thing.

  “That’s a real nice rack,” says another of the stag partiers.

  Yeah, you try carrying it around all day and dealing with the back problems, and then tell me how nice it is, I think. Soon they lose interest and continue on their way. A half an hour passes, and several more pedestrians throw some coins into my hat.

  The moon is full tonight, a round white orb perched amid the stars. I want to go up there and see what everything looks like from on high. I flutter my wings and prepare for flight, flapping them through the air and then leaping into the sky. My ascent is an easy one. I pluck a star out of the blackness and stick it in my blue hair as an adornment. When I reach the moon, I find a comfortable spot and sit. Leaning my chin on my hand, I gaze back down at the street. The people look like tiny black ants, the buildings like less brightly coloured blocks of Lego.

  I blink, and I’m back on my box, back on the street. I was never really on the moon. My wings are a pretty accessory, but they’re useless for flying. Sometimes I can imagine things so hard that I feel like they’re really happening.

  My eyes catch on a group of people I recognise. They all play in the symphony orchestra at the concert hall where I work as a ticket attendant and bartender. I don’t talk to most of them, but I’m friends with a couple of the ladies. I know that one of the violinists is leaving to move to Australia with his family, so tonight must be his big send-off.

  Often on my breaks I’ll sit at the back of the hall and watch their rehearsals, allowing myself to be swept away with the music. My favourite sound is at the very beginning of their performances, when all the instruments cl
amour together to get in tune. It builds up this addictive sense of anticipation.

  I envy their lives as musicians, travelling the world and playing for amazing audiences in historic venues. It’s so much more beautiful than the life I live. I think a lot about the fact that I’m constantly near these people, and yet my reality is so far removed from theirs.

  None of them even know that the woman with the painted skin dressed all in blue is the same inner-city girl who sells tickets for their concerts and serves them drinks at the bar after their practices.

  In a way it’s quite a wonderful feeling. For a moment I am unchained from my own humdrum identity.

  By the time I withdraw from these thoughts, the orchestra musicians are gone. Slowly, I turn my head slightly to the left and find a new position. I stand in the same pose for fifteen minutes at a time, and then I’ll make an almost imperceptible move to ease some of the strain. It takes willpower and the patience of a saint to do this. Fortunately, I’ve had years of practice being responsible for my younger siblings.

  I’m all about the willpower, especially since I’m a recovering alcoholic who works in a bar. Most people say that to properly get over an addiction, you have to purge all presence of the drug from your life. I take a different approach. The fact that I can be around alcohol and not drink it, well, I like to think that makes me stronger. It’s been five years, and I haven’t touched a drop.

  Anyway, what with jobs being so thin on the ground these days, I can’t exactly afford to be picky. You’ll be amazed by what you can achieve when necessity sets in.

  Once I settle in my new position, I notice a man standing by the shuttered window of a shop on the other side of the street. He’s got brown hair in what my mother would have called a “gentleman’s haircut” when she was alive. It’s all neatly combed and swept to the side. His facial features are exotic yet not, giving the impression that he was born of a white father and an Asian mother — or vice versa.

  He’s just standing there staring at me, looking fascinated and a small bit lost. I sometimes encounter people like this. Adults who see me and are touched by whatever emotion my appearance has managed to evoke in them.

  These are the things I live for. Aside from the money, it’s the main reason why I do this.

  Up until this moment, though, I’ve never had someone I’m attracted to show a similar sort of wonder. His eyes crinkle in a smile. I think he knows that I’ve noticed him. A couple who have also been watching me for several minutes finally drop some money in my hat, and I give them a small bow for their generosity.

  My legs are starting to get a little too stiff, so I decide it’s time to call it a night. Stretching my arms up over my head and stepping down off my box, I pick up my money hat, fold it in half, and shove it into the box.

  The beautiful man across the street stands up straight when he sees me move. I pull off my wig and stick that in the box, too, loosening my real hair out of the tight bun I’d had it in under the wig. Making sure not to damage the feathers, I shrug out of the wings and place them inside as well.

  When I glance up, the man is standing before me, too close almost. His eyes are a deep golden brown, like a glass of fine brandy, and his features have a delicate masculinity. Strong yet vulnerable.

  “Hello there,” I say with a hint of amusement, pulling my long cardigan from the box and shuffling out of my blue dress. I always wear a light slip underneath.

  “Hey,” the man replies, watching as I fold the dress neatly and place it in the box before ducking into my cardigan. “You’re blonde,” he says then, eyes on my hair.

  I’d expected him to be foreign, given his semi-exotic appearance, but his accent is middle-class Dublin through and through.

  “That I am,” I answer, giving him a look as if to say, are we done here?

  It’s almost two in the morning, but the street still has quite a few people on it, so I don’t really feel on edge about this stranger standing near enough that we’re practically touching.

  His gaze travels down to my feet, a wry smile shaping his lips when he takes in my black biker-style boots. As he scans my bare legs, I feel a shiver run down my back, lingering erotically at the base of my spine.

  Hmm, it has been a while, and this man is utterly gorgeous. He’s wearing a dark suit with a white shirt, no tie. He hovers over me, standing only a couple of inches taller. His breath whispers across my skin, smelling faintly of gin.

  “Would you like to have a drink with me?” he asks, reaching out to run a hand through the waves at the end of my long hair.

  Despite his forwardness, it feels good to be touched. Sometimes it seems like no one ever touches me like this — just for the sake of it. I had a really stressful day with my younger brother Pete acting the brat; a little relief would be nice. A bit of physical interaction. Some skin on skin.

  Something thickens in the air between us as we make eye contact. The man sucks in a quick breath, his gaze flickering back and forth over my features.

  Once I have everything put away, I close my box, pulling it along on its wheels.

  “How about a quick shag instead?” I ask back, uncharacteristically brazen. It’s the middle of the night, and I’m never going to see this man again. He’s just what I need. A pretty stranger to lose myself in, to make me feel new again for a short while.

  He laughs out loud, thinking I’m joking. Then his eyes widen and his nostrils flare when he realises I’m being serious. A touch of red colours his cheeks, possibly displaying his embarrassment. His hand moves from my hair to my neck and strokes downward to my collarbone. He might be embarrassed by my proposition, but he wants exactly what I want. I can tell.

  “Okay, Bluebird, that sounds much better,” he says, breathing harshly now.

  Taking his hand, I lead him away from the main street and down a dark, secluded alleyway. I rest my box against the wall, and seconds later he’s on me. Hands in my hair, lips on my lips, tongue in my mouth caressing my tongue. He tastes nice, like toothpaste and an expensive dinner. I undo three buttons on his shirt, slipping my hand inside and feeling his taut nipples and hard, muscular pecs beneath.

  His hands move along my bare thighs to the backs of my knees, where he applies pressure and pulls my legs up around his waist. He holds me there, my back pressed hard against the concrete wall. His erection hits me right between the thighs now, nudging exquisitely in and out. All of his embarrassment has disappeared, his lust overriding it.

  “You smell great,” he rasps, sucking on my neck. “You want me up inside you, Bluebird?”

  “Yes, hurry,” I moan, allowing my face to fall to the hollow between his shoulder and neck. His hand slips inside my knickers, and he groans when he encounters my wetness. He shoves a finger in experimentally, and when I cry out he allows another to join it.

  I reach down and fumble with his belt, undoing his trousers and pulling them down just enough to free his cock. The next thing I know, he’s tugging my knickers all the way down my legs and shoving them into his pocket. He rummages in his other pocket and whips out a condom, which I suppose isn’t too unusual a thing for a man out late on a Saturday night to carry around with him.

  Rolling it on, he lifts his head to meet my gaze. He tilts his neck to the side, those gorgeous golden eyes hooded with desire. I don’t make a habit of propositioning random men on the street, and yet I have to admit that none of my previous one-night stands have ever progressed this quickly — or this smoothly. Usually there’s a bit of awkward fumbling before a rhythm is found, if at all, but with this guy it feels so natural. I guess the late hour has brought out my uninhibited, adventurous side.

  He positions his cock at my entrance, still holding my gaze, and pushes slowly into me, letting out a guttural, “Fuck.”

  I lock my legs tight around his waist, and he grips me firmly before he starts pumping into me fast. In this moment we’re base and animalistic. No reservations, no pretences, just two people seeking relief and some small pie
ce of a human connection.

  “You feel…really good,” he groans, flicking his tongue along my earlobe.

  “Yeah, go harder,” I whisper, needing to be fucked so hard that I fall into the pleasure and forget.

  “You’re a dirty, beautiful little thing, aren’t you?” he says, a glorious smile on his face. He lets go of one of my legs and pulls down the strap of my slip, my cardigan hanging loosely at my elbows. Then he pulls free one of my breasts and moulds it with his palm, pinching the nipple. I sigh and undulate, biting my lower lip.

  “I’ll be whatever you want me to be — just fuck me harder,” I tell him, throwing my head back when he thrusts up into me deep.

  His eyes grow dark as he zeroes in on my mouth, then captures it with his lips. He slides his tongue in and out, as though mimicking the motion of his cock inside me. When he withdraws for air, I notice he’s got some of my shimmery white face paint on his cheeks and stains of it on the shoulders of his suit. For some reason, it makes me smile.

  “You like that?” he growls and I nod, unable to find my voice.

  His thrusts become even faster, harder, as he reaches down between my legs and rubs at my clit, coaxing me to orgasm. I can tell he’s going to come soon, so I let go, allowing myself to climax along with him.

  He’s got a delirious look on his face as he spurts into me, letting out a long, deep, stomach-clenching groan. The noise is the essence of male sexuality. My orgasm hits me quick and intense, shattering through my system.

  He holds me there long after he’s come, stroking my hair away from my face and cupping my cheeks. “I think I might have dreamt you,” he breathes, kissing one side of my mouth and then the other.

  That makes me grin wide. What a romantic thing to say to a woman who let you shag her minutes after you just met.

  “You’re a sweetheart,” I reply, giving him a soft kiss goodbye and then dropping my legs to the ground. I take a moment to right myself, fixing my cardigan back in place. Then I walk over to my box and grab the handle.

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