The 1950s. Postwar exuberance. Conformity. Rock and roll.
Russell tells himself he’ll marry Susie because it’s the right thing to do. His summer job coaching her water ballet team will give him plenty of opportunity to give her a ring. But on the team’s trip to the annual Aqua Follies, the joyful glide of a trumpet player’s solo hits Russell like a torpedo, blowing apart his carefully constructed plans.
From the orchestra pit, Skip watches Poseidon’s younger brother stalk along the pool deck. It never hurts to smile at a man, because sometimes good things can come of it. Once the last note has been played, Skip gives it a shot.
The tenuous connection forged by a simple smile leads to events that dismantle both their lives. Has the damage been done, or can they pick up the pieces together?
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Right away, Susie scuttled over to Russell. “After all this, I’ll need a shot of whiskey to take the chill off.”
“Me too.” Russell smirked to temper the truth in his words. “Go get your robe.”
“Nah, you’ll keep me warm enough.”
He took pity on her shivering and draped an arm over her shoulders. She tucked herself in close, ensuring he’d be left with soggy spots on his sports shirt and khaki slacks, but he didn’t push her away.
He and Susie made a good team, and for the seven thousandth time, he wished the press of her curves put more heat in his veins.
No such luck.
“Thanks, lamb chop.” Her rubber nose clip gave her voice a nasal hum, and she trembled in the cool summer air. “Can we sneak out later?”
“Sure, but if Aunt Maude catches us, we’ll both be on the train back home.”
She faked kicking him in the shin. “I didn’t come all this way to worry about going home. You and me are going to have fun.”
He pressed a kiss on the top of her head. “Yes, dear.”
Their last hurrah. They had two weeks in Seattle, then another run in Detroit. At some point, Russell would give Susie the diamond ring he had tucked in the bottom of his suitcase. He snugged her closer to his side. He’d start his new job, they’d get hitched, he’d buy the house, and she’d give him babies. More importantly, the wedding would give his parents something to be happy about.
The feeling of dread wedged under his sternum had more to do with nerves than anything else.
The director called for the Night at Club Aqua number and counted off a fast tempo. His baton flashed in the floodlights blazing from the edge of the stage. From the orchestra pit, the band hit the opening bars of “In the Mood.” Susie took off, diving into action with the other Aqua Dears. They spun through the water in a synchronized display, while the dancing half of their traveling troupe, the Aqua Darlings, took the stage dressed in sparkling blue skirts, white blouses, and low-heeled black shoes.
The big band, a dozen musicians playing brass and strings and percussion, romped through the verses twice, their heads silhouetted in the stage lights. Then a lone musician stood, rising into the glare like Gary Cooper on the screen at a drive-in movie. He was tall and lean and handsome, with a curled pompadour and a five-o’clock shadow. Curiosity pinned Russell in place. Then the young man put a trumpet to his lips, and Russell had to close his eyes.
The music rang out over the lake and bounced off the rooftops in the surrounding neighborhood. The tone was cool, but the solo was hot, hitting Russell with the force of a pickax. The horn’s voice turned his insides to jelly, but the man—from the swoop of his hair to the curve of his bicep—swapped that jelly for lava.
I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at work or at home. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.
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