Lincoln Adams was only supposed to be a drunken mistake, the consequence of a little too much Christmas wedding eggnog and loneliness.
Once he’s asleep, I sneak out of his apartment expecting to never see the drummer again.
Except I left my guitar at his friend’s house.
And my earring on his floor.
An earring he uses to leverage me into a lunch date where he starts chipping away at the armor erected around my heart with his too-insightful mind and gorgeous green eyes. His touch heats up my body with a need I’ve never felt before. I won’t do a relationship ever again, but a surprise mutual connection brings us together for a week of sharing and sensual delights.
Seven days of friends with benefits, then we go our separate ways.
What happens in
Tuesday, December 23rd
How do you almost lose a gig?
Need to call the man who hired you because your car won’t start.
No, not that one. The guy that didn’t look at me with let-me-ask-you-out eyes.
Completely humiliating to dial Mr. Bob’s number. The wedding rehearsal was supposed to start at six. Moreover, I was asking a bonafide rock star to see my neighborhood.
I didn’t live in a total shithole anymore, but everything was a little old and tired.
When the truck he told me to look for arrived, I climbed into the backseat immediately.
“So sorry! Again.”
“Shit happens,” the redhead in front of me said. “I’m Celeste.”
“Hi. Thank you for going out of your way. I could’ve called an Uber.”
“We’re on a schedule,” Bob said. “This is better.”
When we were ten minutes out, he spoke to someone on the phone to explain why we were ten minutes late so far.
I knew I would’ve been driving into the hills, but I didn’t expect a residential neighborhood, let alone mansions. Everyone I knew growing up did church or country club weddings.
The truck paused at a privacy gate. He keyed in a code.
Whoa. My mother would’ve drooled over this—
Better to put those thoughts out of my head before performing.
Bob honked when we parked.
People came out of the large single-story contemporary house in front.
I tugged my guitar case out of the back of the cab. “I’m so sorry! My stupid battery keeps losing its charge at the worst times.”
Ms. Donovan—Jen—came to me. “It’s okay. Life happens. We have plenty of time.”
I nodded gratefully at her kind smile.
A chair and a mic had been set up for me in a front corner of a converted barn decorated for Christmas and the ceremony. I hurriedly took my blue guitar out of its case, checked the tune, then nodded I was ready. The happy couple had asked for my version of Keith Urban’s Your Everything. I picked the melody.
Ms. Donovan moved down the center of the barn toward the dais.
The rehearsal ran smoothly from there.
“Everyone feel good about their parts?” Beth Lindsey asked. “After the guests move to the house, photos will be taken of the bride and groom with each other and us and the whole family. Dylan and Jen, you’ll be the last to enter the reception so we get to cheer your big entrance.” She was the wife of Jake—rock star—and organizer of this event.
“And before the ceremony, we have the separate photo shoots,” Mrs. Wright, Jen’s mom added. She shook her finger at Mr. Smith, the groom. “No peeking!”
“I’ll try my best,” he replied with a smile. Then winked at his bride-to-be.
“Do we need to run through it one more time?” Beth asked.
Jake Lindsey set his hands on her shoulders. “Love, we’ve all been to weddings before. They’ve got it.” She sighed. Must want it to be perfect for their friends.
The happy couple shook hands with Reverend Jacobs and he left.
“Michaela, do you want to come to dinner?” she asked. “There’s room.”
They stared at me expectantly.
“I…okay.” What could I say when I wanted to remain employed?
And at my income
I was loaded into someone’s car and taken to a restaurant with no other guests in the parking lot. You know they’re fancy when they rent a whole dining establishment for the night!
The guy that’d
come with the others before during my hiring auditions had arrived on time.
These people were rich, so probably custom tailored.
My BFF Moira’s tongue would be on the floor.
He grabbed the seat next to me at one of the two tables. Oh yay.
“Hi, I’m Hannah, Mike’s wife,” the girl on my other side said. Mikey Jorgenson, the keyboard player for the band. Her features hinted at a Hispanic heritage.
Yes, please talk to me. “Michaela.” We didn’t have room to shake hands, so I just stayed turned to her.
Her smile was sweet and friendly. “Jen gushed about your voice. I can’t wait to hear you sing at the wedding.” Always nice to hear.
“Thanks. It’s important the client be happy, especially on a special day.”
“Are you a full-time musician?” Her brown eyes were bright with curiosity.
“Oh, no, I haven’t hit that kind of level. Summer weddings and Christmas are my only busy times. My day job is actually copying manuscripts and correspondence for an author that refuses to do computers and e-mail.”
I got fast enough in the school class to put typing on my resume.
Had to work with what you got when you didn’t finish college.
“That’s quirky! Jen’s an author, but a modern one. She writes sci-fi novels.”
If I was a curious romantic, I’d wonder how she met her rockstar. But I wasn’t.
A waiter came by to collect beverage orders and hand out the custom menu.
The zap from our handshake at the café we met at was plenty enough contact.
Hannah’s attention turned toward her husband saying something, leaving me alone.
“What do you think you’ll get?”
Mrs. Lindsey stood
to address the room, saving me. “Welcome, everyone. If you haven’t met me, yet,
I’m Beth, friend of the bride and groom, host for the ceremony, bridesmaid, and
wedding coordinator. We’d like to thank Dylan’s parents for coming out from
Shelley, a teenager, went next, and introduced herself as Jen’s sister.
We raised glasses in cheers to her adorable toast.
The waiters came
to take dinner orders. I chose what looked like the cheapest thing and ours
moved on to Hannah.
Everyone chatted around me.
The groom’s father
came to talk to
A professor? Wow, no wonder he dressed like a bad boy in daily life.
Must be the black sheep of the family to go into rock music.
While waiting for my plate to arrive, I visited the ladies’ room. Kinda had to go, but it was really to get a moment of not feeling like the obvious-girl-out who didn’t know anyone.
I stood at the sink when Ms. Donovan exited a stall to wash her hands. “Sorry.” I backed into the opposite wall out of her way. “Thanks for dinner. I could’ve taken an Uber home or something.”
“That isn’t how
this family is wired. Is Hannah entertaining you?” She reached for a paper
I smiled politely. “She’s nice. You’ve all been nice. But if you want to take my meal out of the—”
“Nonsense.” Jen tossed the dampened towel in the trash. “Beth asking you along has zero to do with your performance fee. Some people are okay with enabling the starving artist thing, but not us. We all had to work hard and pay our dues, so we’d never disrespect you like that.”
My cheeks reddening, I averted my eyes. “Noted. Thanks. It was slow before the Christmas season kicked in. A lot of places hire live music that don’t bother the rest of the year, but there’s a lot of competition, too, so—” I sucked in a breath. She didn’t need to hear my problems. “Guess we should get back out there.” I reached for the door handle.
“Hey…Michaela. If you ever need a place to stay, like you’re between apartments—”
“Thanks, I’m fine.” I flashed a small smile, then yanked the door open.
Did I radiate I’m a charity case so badly to these people?
Because I wasn’t.
I sat at my seat with a bit of a huff.
Get a grip, Michaela.
Ms. Donovan was probably, merely, being kind. I needed to be better about hiding the sadness this time of year always brought out in me. Anyone could misread my vibe.
Waiters followed me into the dining room with large platters. Thank the universe!
My piece of quarter chicken was tender, juicy, and buttery and the veggies somehow tasted as fresh as spring-picked fare.
I was glad for the couple that the party was going well. Movies loved to make wedding planning look like a nightmare. When I performed for normal-people weddings, I ate at the reception, but I’d never been to one of these rehearsal dinners before.
The dessert menu came along with three items on it: frozen chocolate mouse, a tart with pears, and their version of a Yule log cake. Options to order coffee or booze.
already, I went with the fruit thing.
Hannah’s eyes had
rolled back from the first bite of her mousse and
“That’d be so much better if it was apples,” he said, using his fork to point at my plate.
I paused in bringing a bite to my mouth and aimed it at his. “Oh? Here.” Then made the mistake of meeting his gaze as his mouth closed over my utensil.
His eyelashes were long and black. Irises the color of emeralds. Full lips.
He swallowed, then said, “Tastes like figs. No wonder you like it.”
“Figs. Your taste buds are deaf.”
“Deaf?” He chuckled, throaty and rich. “Here, taste something that’s actually good.”
He slid a morsel of cake into my mouth before I could reply.
Okay, it tasted like gingerbread but better. “It’s not bad.”
A commotion at the other table interrupted our debate. Dylan and his father were arguing. The Smiths were leaving.
“DAD,” Dylan barked. They stopped at the door. He linked his hand with Jen’s. “You know nothing. I asked Jen to marry me because I love her. Period. She’s the first person I want to see when I wake up and the last before I fall asleep.” He turned to his fiancée. “Seeing you come to life after the pain he put you through has been a privilege. You’ve not just made me better, you’ve become an essential part of this family, and I am so damn proud to call you wife in two days.” He looked to his parents again. “You have a chance to be part of this family, too, but it’s your decision. I’d like you to be there when I marry the love of my life, but if you aren’t, it’ll be you who is missing out. Not us. We’re rich in ways money can’t buy.”
His parents still left, leaving us in silence.
What could be said?
“Well, this is bloody awkward.” Apparently that.
Jake Lindsey, ruler of stages and radio waves.
The meal and the evening finished with subdued cheer.
I just wanted to get home.
I waited by the door with Hannah. Her husband was still occupied.
“We’re usually drama-free,” she said quietly. I nodded.
Beth finished talking to the bride, then we were heading out.
No one would ever
believe Jake Lindsey was chauffeuring
me to my apartment in the
Now two parts of a world-famous band would see my neighborhood.
How was this my Christmas?