Duncan raised his arm to wipe the sweat rolling under his chin onto his sleeve and threw her a glance. Shagged brown hair topped her average-height frame; she was not much shorter than he was, he supposed. A modern girl, judging by the way she spoke to him and her forthright gaze. “Thank you, bu’ I am workin’.” He looked back to check on his ordered beer. Smoke from the guy next to him mixed in with the general haze in the bar and choked his mouth and throat.
She moved closer. “Not at the moment, you’re not.”
Returning his eyes, he noted a tenacity in her expression and body language. A quality he liked, to a certain extent. “Well, y’ are right. At the moment, I am tryin’ t’ cool off a bit. Then I am goin’ back t’ work.” A trickle of sweat rolled down the side of his face from underneath the damp hair falling over his forehead. Duncan dipped his head to pull the bottom of his T-shirt up, rubbed it across his face, and let it fall again.
Accepting the mug that finally came across the bar, he took a large swallow. The coolness against his hand echoed the stream of liquid in his throat.
The girl cuddled into his shoulder. “Are you ever here when you’re not working?” Fingers with painted nails touched his arm.
Ignoring a snigger from the new bartender, he again raised the mug to his lips, allowing time to consider an answer. “Now and then.” The chill of the glass distracted him from the girl’s flesh pushing against his and the flirtatious scent of her cologne.
She broke through, sliding both hands around his fingers and the heavy mug, and pulled it from him. “So maybe you’ll dance with me another night?” As she sipped his beer, she kept her eyes on his. Narrow eyes. Lashes painted longer than natural matching thick black lines extended from the corners, the brushed-on green of her lids attempting to extend the brownish-green of her pupils. It didn’t work well.
She rubbed a finger around the edge of the mug, hinting.
Duncan considered the offer. She looked fake, but not snobbish. And who was he to be too particular? “Maybe.”
She grinned and pushed the drink back at him.
He watched her move away, flaunting the beer to her table of friends, repeating the conversation, he figured, making it more than it was. He never understood the infatuation girls had with guys in local bands. Hell, this wasn’t even a good local band. His mates were okay guys, as far as it went, but barely third-rate musicians. It didn’t seem to matter. They were only background noise for pick-up lines and attempts at relaxation by intoxication in the dark out-of-the-way bar.
Dark was helpful. It disguised the niched plank floor and scratches in the old wooden tables with only patches of varnish left as pointless protection. Duncan imagined his mum would cringe about him playing at the little dive, though it was better than many he’d played. For the most part, it was kept clean, not close enough to clean for her, but enough. He was just as glad she didn’t know how he was living: day to day, city to city, jumping from one third-rate band to another while doing whatever other cash jobs he could find.
This one wasn’t bad. Joe and Mel gave him a room in their house next door and all the food and beer he wanted in exchange for restocking the bar, carting kegs, and helping Joe build the breezeway to run between the two buildings. His part of what the band made, he kept. It was enough.
Duncan ordered another beer and watched the small crowd, studying the ones he recognized as regulars and the few he didn’t. Mostly, he played to the same group every weekend. It was only a paycheck. There wasn’t one, he imagined, who would even know if he played a wrong chord now and then. They weren’t listening, not more than enough to go through the motions of dancing. Their drummer was at least decent. They kept a good beat.
A movement from the table of Thiel College students caught his attention. They were always easy to spot, dressed too well for the bar full of locals and holding their chins higher than necessary. One of them rose to retrieve his drink from the bar instead of barking an order at the girls serving. He was the only male at the table without a cigarette hanging from his mouth or fingers. Worst part of playing in bars, the damned cloud of nicotine.
The guy was heading in his direction. Duncan turned back to catch the bartender. “Is tha’ beer comin’ tonight?”
“Make that two.” The college guy moved up behind him. “And a wine spritzer. After his, of course.”
Wine spritzer. For the girl at the table sitting sideways in the chair with her legs crossed and her shoulders straight, Duncan guessed.
“How long have you been playing?”
Glancing up to make sure the guy was talking to him, he answered, barely. “A while.”
“Obviously. I meant, how many years?”
“Why?” Duncan raised his hands in a questioning gesture at the new bartender. He would have to go back and play before he ever got it, at this pace.
The intruder took advantage when the stool next to him was vacated and planted himself as if he actually belonged in the bar. “You’re wasting your talent here. You’re a hell of a guitarist.”
Rehearsal is a series of 5. Two are out. But they are not at Smashwords currently because I unpubbed them. Temporarily. They are being overhauled.
To my Rehearsal fans who keep asking when the next one comes out, I’m hard at work at it. It should be out this year. First, the first two will be re-released, with new edits and new covers. In print as well as in ebook.
This series was my first long piece of fiction. It began way back when as ideas and occasional scene sketches. And when I decided to return to my writing in 1996, the dock scene of the first book was the first thing I wrote. It’s a very long series. Five might not sound long, but they average around 650 pages each. And there will be a sequel. It’s already in progress. It’s a good thing some people still love thick books!
I’m excited about the new versions, since I’m using a cover idea from my daughter and hoping I can pull it off well enough. No hints. In the meantime, while I’m working on the re-releases and the new one, there are two free read short stories at Smashwords that relate to the novel. They’re called Evan’s Story and The Water’s Touch (okay I don’t spend a lot of time on titles of 2,000 word free reads).
I couldn’t highlight all the rest of my books without mentioning Rehearsal, so there’s the scoop.
Did I mention the guitarist you met above is from Scotland? Not because it’s in right now. Because way back in … uh, well in high school (should I admit that was the mid 80s?), I decided he needed to be Scottish based on real music of the time. I also decided way back before I ever moved here that his best friend would be from Pennsylvania and a Thiel College grad. Funny how things work since I now live a stone’s throw from there and Scotland is one of my all-time favorite travel destinations.
Oh, the girl in the book. She’s a dance teacher who babysits part-time. She and Evan live across the hall from each other in fictional Lakewood, Massachusetts. She loves to visit Boston. So did I when we lived close.
Susie picked up the last toy from the floor and dropped it into the plastic bin she kept for Timmy and Taylor. Now that her charges had gone home, she thought about catching up on paperwork she hadn’t bothered to do yet. But she was tired tonight. So instead, she lit the three lavendar-scented candles that accented her oak coffee table, flopped onto her favorite corner of the light brown sectional couch, and pulled her legs up in front, entwining them into a knot.
The silence was deafening after having the little ones there most of the day, and she wondered if Evan would come back over. She doubted it, since his friend just arrived. What would he be like in person? Of course, she had heard a lot about Duncan and knew how excited Evan was about him coming. She also knew Evan wasn’t sure he would stay. At least she would finally get to meet him, and no matter what he was like, she would welcome him for Evan’s sake.
Even if the guy had pulled her best friend away when they were finally getting to spend time together. The show had kept her so busy recently, with extra practices and planning meetings and ordering costumes, that she had hardly been able to say two words to him in the last two weeks. And she’d missed him.
I do still have print copies of the original edition of Rehearsal: A Different Drummer & Rehearsal: The Highest Aim. If interested, email for price info.