To celebrate the release of my most recent book, Lighting the Way Home, co-authored with EM Lynley, and the upcoming (May 6th) release of the next installment in the Blue Notes Series, Prelude, I’m running the first of several contests here on my blog! Comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win a copy of your choice of ebook from my back catalog. You can see all my Dreamspinner Press books here. Contest ends Friday, April 12th at midnight!
The Blue Notes Series is all about music and love, and many of the stories take place in romantic locations such as Paris, London, and Milan. And Chicago. Yes, Chicago! A very romantic city, in my opinion. The gorgeous new cover of Prelude showcases the windy city viewed from Lake Michigan. And I’ll be in Chicago from April 18th through the 21st for a Dreamspinner Press author’s workshop/retreat. Can’t wait! Venona, my Prelude co-author, has promised me a special tour of the places hightlighted in Prelude!
The story itself is about Chicago native Alex Bishop, who grew up on the rough and cold Chicago streets, bounced from foster home to foster home, and who survived a brutal knife attack that nearly killed him. Instead of dwelling on what’s wrong with his life, Alex looks forward and through his music, is able to pull himself out of poverty and into an international career as a crossover violinist.
Alex’s life is a world away from David Somers’s. David, the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, lived a life of privilege as the heir to the Somers Investments fortune. But underneath his poised exterior, David is still haunted by the loss of his parents when he was a young child, and the iron fist and fiery temper of his grandfather, who raised him. And in spite of his success as a conductor, David still longs to compose music. For David, hearing music is almost like breathing. He hears music in everything he does and in everyone he meets. And when he meets Alex, the music David hears is extraordinary.
Prelude is a prequel of sorts to the first three Blue Notes Series books, although it can be read as a standalone novel. David, and Alex to a lesser extent, appears in all three of the first books as a friend and mentor to musicians Cary Redding and Aiden Lind, and is a good friend of Antonio Bianchi and Jason Greene. But the David readers have come to know in those books is not the man you will meet in Prelude. In Prelude, David is uncomfortable in his own skin and unsure of himself. What changes? You’ll have to read the story to find out!
Prelude is co-authored with my good friend Venona Keyes and will be available for preorder at Dreamspinner Press in a few days! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a never before seen excerpt from the novel to whet your appetite. Let me know what you think! I hope you enjoy it. And don’t forget to comment to enter the giveaway! -Shira
Summary: World-renowned conductor David Somers never wanted the investment firm he inherited from his domineering grandfather. He only wanted to be a composer. But no matter how he struggles, David can’t translate the music in his head into notes on paper.
When a guest violinist at the Chicago Symphony falls ill, David meets Alex Bishop, a last-minute substitute. Alex’s fame and outrageous tattoos fail to move David. Then Alex puts bow to string, and David hears the brilliance of Alex’s soul.
David has sworn off relationships, believing he will eventually drive away those he loves, or that he’ll lose them as he lost his wife and parents. But Alex is outgoing, relaxed, and congenial—everything David is not—and soon makes dents in the armor around David’s heart. David begins to dream of Alex, wonderful dreams full of music. Becoming a composer suddenly feels attainable.
David’s fragile ego, worn away by years of his grandfather’s disdain, makes losing control difficult. When David’s structured world comes crashing down, his fledgling relationship with Alex is the first casualty. Still, David hears Alex’s music, haunting and beautiful. David wants to love Alex, but first he must find the strength to acknowledge himself.
Excerpt from Chapter Three
Setup: This is the day after David meets Alex, who filled in at the Chicago Symphony for an ailing violinist. David was impressed with Alex’s playing, but not as impressed by his tattoos and reputation as a crossover artist. Still, David can’t seem to get Alex out of his mind…
BACK IN his apartment in the early hours of the next morning, David lay in bed, gazing out the window of his penthouse. The late-autumn sky was dark and lit with stars. As the first hint of sunrise added a touch of pink on the horizon, he finally closed his eyes and fell asleep.
He awoke some time later with a start, covered in sweat, the ache of arousal making his groin pulse. He had a dim recollection of a dream—an image of Alex Bishop. The sound of unfamiliar music faded as his eyes adjusted to the bright morning light. The music was melodic and urgent in its complexity—a counterpoint of bright inquisitiveness woven with a heady romantic tone. Something new and appealing and unlike anything David had ever imagined before.
He took a few deep breaths before glancing at the clock. It was late—after ten o’clock—and he’d been asleep only three hours, but he knew he would not sleep again. Instead, he got out of bed and headed for the shower, unwilling to dignify his physical need with the attention it craved. Once finished with his morning ablutions, he tossed a silk bathrobe over his shoulders and made his way to the kitchen. He would need strong coffee to get through the day’s rehearsal schedule without yawning.
He poured hot water over the grounds at the bottom of the french press and set it to steep before retrieving the newspaper from the front door. After tossing the paper onto the counter, he turned to the fine arts section to see if there was a review of the prior evening’s concert.
What was that music? He tried to recall the dream as he watched the coffee swirl about, but could remember only bits and pieces of it—random phrases, nothing more.
He wasn’t disturbed to imagine music when he thought of Alex Bishop. In David’s experience, nearly everything in his life had a certain melody to it, whether it was the memory of an evening spent with Helena at the estate or the view of Lake Michigan from his penthouse apartment. Conflict with his grandfather was as much characterized by music as it was by shouting and pain. Music was part of his life, a sense to be experienced just as the more pedestrian senses of sight and smell. And yet this music was different, somehow. He just couldn’t figure out why.
He pushed the plunger to the bottom of the press and poured his coffee. Black was the only way he would drink it today. He needed the clarity of the jolt of caffeine. As he brought the steaming hot liquid to his lips, the phone rang.
“Doris—” David sighed and looked longingly at his soon-to-be-cold cup of coffee. “—how good to hear your voice.”
She laughed. “No doubt you’d been expecting my call. I suppose you also won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve had my people trying to book Alex Bishop for a return engagement.”
“Is that so?” He’d figured as much. He cradled the phone against his ear and walked over to the refrigerator to scare up something for breakfast.
“I’ve gotten nowhere.” Her sigh was audible through the speaker. “You can’t imagine how disappointed I am.”
“Of course,” he told her. “But you know how difficult it can be to—”
“Robert and I have left half a dozen messages with Bishop’s booking agent and still no return call.”
David was tempted to point out that it had been less than twelve hours since Alex Bishop played the last note of the Sibelius the night before, but he held his tongue. “It sounds as though you’ve done your best, Doris. Perhaps you should wait until tomorrow to try again.”
“Seriously, David. You know how difficult it is to book some of these artists. Surely you can appreciate that each day that goes by means we’re less likely to get the booking. Why, only last year we lost the opportunity to bring Raimondo Pelli back again.”
David managed a quick sip of coffee as she rambled on.
“…and the symphony association just about had a fit.”
“You’re not listening, are you? Did you even hear what I said?”
“Yes, Doris, I’m still listening.” He swirled the half-empty cup around, barely listening. “Of course, I understand. But there are other violinists who—”
“We can’t risk losing Alex Bishop the way we lost signore Pelli.”
David repressed a sigh and put his cup of coffee down. On the telephone, Doris was far more exasperating than in person, and lack of sleep was doing nothing to improve his mood.
“David, I need your help with this,” she said, sounding nearly as irritated as he felt. “Will you call him? The agent?”
“Doris, you know I don’t usually contact agents directly.” His stomach lurched. He needed to get her off the phone before the lack of food and caffeine took its toll.
“Just this once. I promise I won’t ask you to do this again. But Alex Bishop is—”
This time, it was he who interrupted her. “Doris,” he said, “I’ll call the agent, if that will satisfy you. But just this once.”
Five minutes later, after writing down Kenneth Sykes’s name and phone number, he hung up with a sigh. Damned rock star musicians. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence would jump at a chance to play with the Chicago Symphony—even change his schedule, if need be. Bishop, apparently, was not just anyone.
David drank the remainder of his coffee and finished the croissant, fruit, and cheese on his plate with resignation. The croissant, which he’d microwaved to warm, was now slightly hard from sitting, the coffee was cold, and the cheese a bit dry. Begrudgingly, he picked up the phone once more and dialed.
“Good morning! Sykes Agency, Tiffany speaking.”
“Good morning, Tiffany. This is David Somers. I would like to speak to Kenneth Sykes.”
“Kenny’s not here,” said the girlish voice on the other end of the phone. “I don’t expect him in at all today. You see”—she half whispered this as if it were a secret for David’s ears alone—“there was this big party over at….”
David frowned as the woman droned on. After a full minute had passed, he took a deep breath and interrupted, “Excuse me, miss….”
The girl giggled. “Tiffany.”
“Tiffany, this is Maestro David Somers, Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I do go on sometimes, don’t I?”
David was tempted to tell her that yes, indeed she did go on, but instead said in his commanding professional voice, “I’m trying to reach Mr. Kenneth Sykes. Is this his office?”
“Of course! I’m his assistant, Tiffany” was her gleeful response.
“Tiffany. It’s a pleasure to speak with you. Can you please have Mr. Sykes call me back later this morning?”
“Oh, you wouldn’t want to talk to him this morning, Mr. Somers.” Her voice was suddenly serious. David imagined Sykes was probably sleeping off the big party, and his upper lip curled in disgust. “Can I have him return your call later? Maybe tomorrow?”
David realized he was gripping the phone so tightly that his knuckles had turned white. He took a deep, cleansing breath and in his most patient voice said, “Please tell him that I’d like to speak with him about Alex Bishop.”
“Of course, sir.” She took his number.
“Thank you, Tiffany.”
“You’re welcome. Stay warm, Mr. Somers.”
Did everyone think Chicago in winter was the Arctic? “I will,” he replied, at a loss to come up with any other response.
David set the phone down with a sigh. There was a reason he had hired a booking agent. No matter. He’d done what he’d promised. And if Alex Bishop never played with the CSO again, that’d be just fine with him.