Well, kids, I started 2014 with a series (The Fullerton Family Saga) and I have now ended it with another series (Southern Rockers,) which has turned out to be one of my more ambitious projects. It was challenging and demanding to write, but also a lot of fun. I really enjoyed getting to know these characters and it was a heartfelt way to end the year.
I had originally intended that all three books in the Southern Rockers series could have been read alone, but the third book rather demands that you know both Jonah's and Lacy's stories going into it. Lacy Abernathy has been put through it, and the emotional payoff in SRS packs more of a punch if you were there every step of the way. If you haven't read SOUTHERN ROCKER CHICK, I'd definitely recommend giving it a one-click first. I love unraveling difficult characters, and Lacy idles at difficult.
For all those who are caught up, SOUTHERN ROCKER SHOWDOWN answers any lingering questions you may have about this tangled love affair and even more twisted history. My GROUPIE and FIERCE fans especially will get to spend time with old favorites (Vanni, Graham, Jorge,) as new characters all clamor for our attention to tell their story.
The canvas is full. The stakes are high. Buckle in, kids. It's about to get complicated.
Jorge Navarro was the stylist to the stars, and had been working, successfully, with several hit TV shows, including Dixie, Love Plus One and the first season of Fierce. But he was still a dude, whose dark eyes glittered as they danced over her, contemplating the possibilities of what he could do with this blank slate.
She’d made up her mind when she was fourteen that no one was going to sex her up to sell her like some blue plate special. She was a serious artist. That’s all the audience needed to know.
Jorge saw things a little differently. He was just as stubborn as he had been the first day they met, during the audition process. He wanted to glam her up with some forties retro hairdo and ball gown, where as she wanted to keep her leather and her studs and show off her tattoos.
And now that Tony Paul was a part of the deal, she was even more determined to sell her voice and not her body.
“I am not a blowup doll!” she finally exploded.
“No. You’re a character.”
“No. I’m Lacy.”
“No, you’re a feeling,” he shot back as they stood practically toe to toe. His brown eyes, lined with dark guyliner, matched the fire in her own. “That’s what you’re selling out there, sweetheart. You’re not selling a lyric or a chord, a song or a CD. You’re selling a moment in someone’s life. You’re more than just a voice. More than just a singer. You’re love and rage. You’re sex and pain. You can be anyone. Do anything. Say anything,” he added. “Fuck you isn’t exactly what you want to tell a legion of potential fans.”
Their first consultation was a complete bust. She left without agreeing on anything, from wardrobe to makeup. He was ready to put her in some dumb cat suit like Gay, to make her just sexy enough to forgive her bad attitude.
But she didn’t want to be forgiven for it. She didn’t even want to be understood.
She wanted to be strong. That’s all that mattered.
Unfortunately Jorge was just as obstinate as she was. He held out like he was waiting for her to finish the last Brussels sprout on her plate.
Eventually Vanni Carnevale had to intervene. He showed up late Saturday night, when dress rehearsals were running long, but she hadn’t even circled around to a wardrobe selection. Vanni walked her outside to the food truck to buy her a taco. He eased in gently. “I hear that there’s a bit of a problem.”
“Lemme guess. Jorge tattled.”
“You really shouldn’t piss off your fairy godmother,” Vanni advised. “I’m not really sure if he can turn you into a pumpkin, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”
Her eyes met his. “You say that this is a show about the talent, not the image. That’s what I’m going for here. They don’t have to like me, but they do have to respect me. I’m not some vapid paper doll.”
“Sweetie, they’re never going to know your name. You go out onto that stage, guns blazing, and you’re going to make all the others look tame by comparison. When it comes to root for someone, how do you think that will stack in your favor?”
She sighed. “So what am I supposed to do? Flirt with everyone in the front row like you do?”
He grinned. “I’ve always found this extremely successful.”
She shook her head and chortled in response. He was irrepressible. “Vanni.”
He touched her elbow with his hand. “I believe in you. I know you have what it takes to win this thing. But I’m also scared you are going to do everything in your power to get voted out of here. You get one shot at this, Lacy. We gave it to you because we think you have something special, something that needs to be shared. You need to stop fighting this invisible war with everyone.”
She softened as she stared up at him. “Fine.”
“Good girl,” he grinned, before wiping away the sauce at the corner of her mouth. “Give it a week or two, get past the quarterfinals, then you can come out guns blazing. I’ll even loan you the bullets,” he added as he bent forward to whisper it conspiratorially.
“I’m going to hold you to that,” she warned.
He smirked. “Make sure that you do. Because if you get voted off first, I’m going to kick your ass back to Austin.”
This is a story of what happens when you're forced to confront your demons, bursting through the wall of your past to claim your future. Fortunately for Lacy, she's not alone anymore. It just may take her a while to truly believe it... because doesn't it always??
“Why can’t you leave me alone?” she exploded.
“You know why,” he told her. “I love you. I haven’t stopped. Not for one fucking day since I first walked into Southern Nights. And you love me too, even if you’re too damned stubborn to admit it.”
She snorted. “You certainly sound sure of yourself.”
“You can lie to yourself, Lacy, but you can’t lie to me. Your body betrays you every time I touch you.”
“Then stop,” she snapped.
“Why?” he asked softly.
“Because you’re not my priority right now, Jonah. And I’m not yours. Not really. If it comes down to it, you will choose to stay in this competition. You have to. Your sister needs you to. Your mother needs you to. You’re not going to sacrifice your family over some convenient lay.”
He laughed out loud. “You think you’re convenient? Nothing about you is easy, darlin’.”
“Take the hint,” she said, accentuating every syllable.
He stared into those dark eyes, taking notice of every copper fleck that floated there. He had memorized every detail about them, so much so that he still saw them in his dreams. She was here, right here beside him, flesh and blood. He could take her into his arms if he wanted. He could even steal another kiss. But her heart was as far away as the moon. It always had been.
“So that’s just it, then? We’re done?” She didn’t want to say the words any more than he wanted to hear them. Finally, softly, he asked, “Is there someone else?”
Her mouth fell open as she stared at him. Could he really believe all those horrible things about her, even now? And if he could, how could he say he loved her? “Does there need to be? Does someone else need to mark their territory for you to leave me alone? And here I thought you were better than Tony Paul.”
He grabbed her by the arm and brought her to his chest. She gasped at how hard he held her as his eyes bored into hers. “If you still feel the need to compare us, you never knew me at all.” He thrust her away and scooted to the corner of the seat. He didn’t say another word until they reached the mansion. He slammed out of the car and stalked off to his room.
Did I mention things get a little complicated? Tony Paul is back. And he's got a few ideas how to claim what he thinks is his.
When she got back to the house, she ended up running into Tony Paul. He was dressed in swimming trunks and heading toward the pool. He wore a big smile for her as she approached. “So how was practice? I hear the musical director is a hard-assed bitch,” he confided as he leaned closer. She recoiled away from him instantly. “Hard to beat Mama in that department, though, isn’t it?”
“I think your mother may have met her match,” Lacy mumbled. She sidestepped him, but he grabbed her arm anyway.
“Hey, if you’re done for the day, maybe you could join me in the pool. I hate to swim alone,” he added with a playful pout.
Really? Well, I hate raising a child alone, she thought to herself. He was just damned lucky there were too many eyes and ears in the house for her to say what she was thinking right to his hateful face. “Let me go,” she gritted between clenched teeth.
“Come on now,” he cajoled. “It doesn’t have to be this way. We were friends once. We can be friends again.”
Friends?! “We were never friends,” she informed him coldly. “I was an idiot and you were a lying sack of shit. The end.”
“I never lied,” he corrected. “I meant what I said whenever I said it.”
She scoffed. “Is that what you tell yourself so you can sleep at night, Tony Paul?”
His hand dropped away from her arm. “I know I made mistakes, okay? But we’re here. We have a second chance. We can do things differently this time around.”
“There is no this time around,” she shot back. “We are here to compete against each other. That’s it.”
His voice softened. “It doesn’t have to be. That’s all I’m saying.” His eyes swept over her. “Don’t you remember how it was between us?”
She shivered. She never wanted to remember how it was between them. Just thinking about him made her skin crawl. She had lain with a snake, pure and simple. It was her own stupid fault she got bit.
But she would not get bitten again. That much was certain.
She stepped toward him, the look in her eye lethal. “Let me tell you something right now, Tony Paul Hollis. I don’t care what you think happened between us in the past. You and me, we’re done. If you touch me again, I’ll castrate you in your sleep, I swear to God.”
“Is there a problem here?” Jonah asked from the doorway, leading toward the kitchen. Lacy rolled her eyes. She couldn’t spit in any direction in this stupid house without hitting someone who had done her wrong. It was as though they sought her out to torment her. At this point she wouldn’t have been a bit surprised.
“I took care of it,” she muttered to Jonah before pushing past him and taking the steps toward the second floor two at a time. He looked at Tony Paul, who offered him a good-natured shrug.
“Women. Am I right?”
He hoisted a towel over his shoulder and headed outside toward the pool.
But where there is love, there is hope. Especially if there's a man like Jonah Riley, who is willing to fight for the woman he loves, despite all the complications.
“What they’re saying isn’t true,” she said softly. It mattered to her that he knew that.
His eyes swept over her, from the top of her head all the way to her feet. There were many things that he didn’t know about this unusual woman. She had closed herself off from the world, keeping everyone at bay, afraid to be hurt again. She was like a bird with a wounded wing. She’d peck your damned hand off just to make sure she could get away. She wasn’t malicious. He couldn’t love her if she was. And he would have known by now. “I know.”
His voice was so soft that she turned to face him. “You do?”
He nodded. He stepped closer. “I can’t pretend to know what you’re going through. I wouldn’t even try. But I’m here, Lacy. You don’t have to do any of this alone.”
She nodded. “I know.”
He sighed as he toyed with a long strand of her hair. “But you’re not going to take me up on my offer because it would just prove what they are saying is true.” Her sad eyes met his. He traced the curve of her beautiful face with his fingertip. “So I’ll wait, because no one else ever did. I’ll stay because no one else ever has. And when you need me, I’ll be here.”
He turned to leave but her soft voice stopped him. “I need you, Jonah.”
Her voice cracked. She barely eked out the words. But it was everything he wanted to hear. He took her into his arms and crushed his mouth on her softly parted lips.
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