Benny Jones grew up fast, much faster than anyone in his family realized, in the backwoods sticks of Wyoming. Blessed with movie star good looks he didn’t lack for female attention, and his first girlfriend set the tone for his romantic life. Older, beautiful, rich, and generous, she wanted to have a pretty toy to play with, and a prettier boy on her arm. His worth became defined by her needs, which left him feeling empty and hollow.
Ben found an escape from the sordidness of his world with music, and frequently lost himself in the sounds and rhythms he could create, trying to set aside the increasing feelings of worthlessness and betrayal. He knew eventually it would all catch up with him, and he was right. It did, the night he nearly died. Fortunately for Ben his older brother was there to save him. Again.
Now, he’s attempting to navigate the world as a sober artist, digging in and holding onto his dreams by sheer determination alone when Lucia walks into his life. Sweet, beautiful, caring, and oh-so off limits Luce makes him think there are better things in store for him. There are problems, though. Not only doesn’t she fit the mold of his previous ladies, but her father is one of his brother’s best friends. No problem, right?
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From Chapter Nine:
“What the fuck ever, bro, just come listen.” Ben laughed, the sound rough and jangling in his own head, his anxiety ratcheting up a dozen notches. A fucking drink would smooth those edges. He shook the thought off, again trying to push down the need.
Striding to the stage, he was mollified to see Blake on the stool at his kit, scowling but clearly ready to go. Danny and Dmitri were in their spots, angling towards the front on the small stage. In his head, Benny ran through the show changes they’d put into place during sound check. This venue didn’t lend itself to some of the larger movements, so he would have to dial it back, be more controlled.
Mentally he reminded himself of the set list, unchanged for the past dozen shows. Tomorrow they’d have a different lineup, but this was the first time in weeks they’d booked into the same venue on back-to-back nights. Glancing down, he read Benita’s neatly written list taped to the stage near his microphone stand, and after checking with the guys, grabbed ahold of the stand and whirled in place, greeting the crowd with a shouted, “How the fuck areya, Fort Wayne?”
Listening with half an ear to the screamed responses, he leaned over to pick up his water bottle. In his head, he saw Andy’s face again, questioning why anyone would want to listen to him sing. Fuck it. On the fly, he changed trajectories, grabbing the glass of unwatered whiskey Benita had set out for him during sound check. Already half empty, he drank down a slug, once more thinking of the stash in the van and how easy it would be to pry open one of the packages. Just a little bit, he thought, then slugged another drink of whiskey back instead. Only a taste. “I said, how the fuck you doin’, Fort Wayne?” Louder than before, the roaring response came, and he grinned at Danny.
“Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.” Dipping to a conversational tone, he said, “My first time here at Marie’s, but I’m looking forward to our time with you fine folks.” Shifting back to a roar, he leaned backwards, face lifted to the ceiling, microphone to his lips, shouting his question, “Are you ready for some rock and roll?” With that, they were off, and the first half of the set went by quickly, every man on the stage in sync and rolling, playing like they hadn’t done for a long time. Shoulda threatened to can Blake a long time ago, he thought, waiting for the next intro to play him in.
Looking down, he saw his whisky glass was empty, so he grabbed the still-full bottle of water, downing more than half of it in one go. Lifting the tail of his shirt to wipe his face, a gaggle of girls at the front of the stage glanced up, giggling and grinning, and he smiled back, pushing his rock star grin as he launched into the next song. There was one, a pretty Hispanic chick, who smiled at him and he held her gaze, singing to her as if they were alone in the greenroom. A private show. He watched as a dark blush crawled up her cheeks, but she kept the connection, her brown eyes bright as she sang along. Beautiful.
A scowling leather-clad guy came from behind and latched onto her arm. Benny stumbled into the next verse, watching as she followed the guy old enough to be her father to the back of the bar. Just my luck.
Lifting his gaze, he caught Benita’s attention across the crowd and raised his empty glass, waiting until he received a nod in response. Setting it down, he continued on with that song, then the next, and the next, earning two more glasses from Benita. At least, she loves me, he hazily thought as she was bringing him another drink. Anger filled him when Danny met her at the edge of the stage and sent her away with it. “The fuck?” Benny questioned Danny as he walked past, fingers working hard on the thick strings of his bass.
Danny leaned in, mouth close and yelling over the music he continued to play, “You’re drunk, asshole.”
“Fuck you,” Benny said, turning to face the audience again. Three more songs, he thought, and we’ll have a chat about his motherfuckin’ motherin’ techniques. Mouth to the microphone, he shouted, “What’s a man gotta do to get a drink in this place?” As he knew would happen, a dozen hands lifted half-full glasses of beer or liquor towards the stage. Grabbing the fullest container within reach, he slammed it back, four forced swallows later he was handing the empty glass back to the owner with a grin. “Thanks, man. Vodka’s my favorite. Wets my whistle. Y’all ready to go?”
The crowd roared and laughed, and Benny took a step backwards, that step turning into two before he caught himself. “Let’s fuckin’ go!” A bit more patter for the crowd and he turned to Blake, mouthing, “One more time.” With a nod, Blake counted them down, and they started their final songs of the evening.
About the Author
Raised in the south, MariaLisa learned about the magic of books at an early age. Every summer, she would spend hours in the local library, devouring books of every genre. Self-described as a book-a-holic, she says “I’ve always loved to read, but then I discovered writing, and found I adored that, too. For reading … if nothing else is available, I’ve been known to read the back of the cereal box.”
A hockey fan, hiker, gamer, and single mom of a special needs son, she embraces her inner geek and has been working in the tech field for a publishing company for a couple decades.
Music is a driving passion, and she says, “I love music of nearly any genre — jazz, country, rock, alt rock, metal, classical, bluegrass, rap, hip hop … you name it, I listen to it. I can often be seen dancing through the house in the early mornings. But I really, REALLY love live music. My favorite thing with music is seeing bands in small, dive bars [read: small, intimate venues]. If said bar [venue] has a good selection of premium tequila, then that’s a plus!”