Only 4 more days to go until the release of Elise Marion's latest novel, The Groom. One last teaser before publication. This time we hear from Kat.
Katrina carefully lowered her acoustic guitar into its pink, velvet-lined case and snapped it closed. She left the backstage area of Parson’s Bar and Grill and toted it to the bar, which was now winding down for the night. Only a handful of customers remained, which was good because she was exhausted and not really in the mood for schmoozing. While she appreciated that people were so enthusiastic about her singing and often wanted to tell her so face to face, Katrina was looking forward to one of Angie’s famous burgers.
“Great set tonight, Kat,” Angie said from behind the bar. She paused in the middle of wiping down the counter to slip an envelope into Katrina’s hand. “Don’t spend it all in one place.”
“Dana’s Shoe Emporium, here I come,” Katrina joked as she stuffed the envelope into her hobo-style handbag. She slung the purse onto a barstool next to her guitar case and accepted her dinner with a grateful sigh.
“Ang, you are so good to me, girl.”
Angie smiled but didn’t respond. She simply went back to wiping down the bar. Katrina dug into her burger as Jake, Angie’s husband, bouncer and co-owner of Parson’s, took a stool beside her. Jake leaned over the bar and kissed Angie before settling down to tally the receipts for the night.
Katrina had known the Parsons for years, and not only was their business arrangement solid, so was their marriage. Katrina didn’t have a lot of constants in her life, but the Parsons were definitely written on the pages of her existence with permanent ink.
She and Angie had met in high school, connecting over their mutual love of music. The two didn’t have much else in common. Katrina had been wild and rebellious, Angie the straight-laced good girl. The daughter of a professor, Angie had been queen of the nerds, while Katrina was more likely to be found cutting class. The two had met in choir class after finding themselves seated together in the alto section. Their voices had harmonized beautifully, and from there they’d struck up conversations during class about their favorite artists—which had resulted in them both ending up in the principal’s office on numerous occasions. Katrina always joked that she had been the one to turn Angie into a bad girl.
When Katrina had joined a band looking for a guitar player and singer, she’d talked Angie into filling the vacant position of bass guitarist. Her father hadn’t approved, citing music as a “waste of time.” But Angie hadn’t cared, and the two had spent their senior year playing punk rock and experimenting with neon-colored highlights.
After graduation, Angie had done Katrina proud by shrugging off her father’s plans for her life, marrying a Marine and turning down a full scholarship to go to culinary school. All so they could follow their mutual dream of opening a bar and grill where live music could thrive. The moment she graduated and he finished his four-year commitment to the military, they’d settled down and opened the bar. For a while they’d lost contact, but when Katrina had needed a fresh start, Parson’s was where she’d turned up. Angie and Katrina had picked up where they left off as if their time apart had never happened.
When they first asked Katrina to sing at Parson’s a few times a week, she’d done it on a lark. Always looking for something new and fun to do, she’d said yes, not knowing at the time she would become as much a part of Parson’s as the scratched bar top and the mini-skirt wearing waitresses.
She sipped her soda slowly and sighed, leaning against the back of her barstool. Jake looked up at her and smiled, an action that faded swiftly as his eyes connected with something over her shoulder. Katrina frowned.
“Creepy guy. On your six.”
Goosebumps pimpled along her skin. She felt eyes on her now and dreaded turning around to find one of her father’s hired goons.
“Shit,” she whispered as she turned just enough to find the guy in her peripheral vision. Big, beefy, wearing a three-piece suit and tie . . . definitely the kind of brute her father would send after her.
“Want me to get rid of him?”
Katrina smiled and shook her head. Jake was a big bear of a man—his career as a Marine had sculpted his body into prime physical condition. Knowing what he did about Katrina’s background, he was just as protective of her as he was over his own wife. She stood and rubbed a hand over Jake’s scruffy, closely shaved hair.
“No, honey, I got this.”
Jake tensed as she stood, draining what was left of her soda. “Are you sure? You don’t have to put up with that crap if you don’t want to.”
Katrina shrugged. “If I don’t approach him, he’ll approach me. It’s better for me to just go and see what he wants.”
Waving off Jake’s warning, Katrina turned toward the hired lackey reclining against the cushioned seat of the booth he sat in alone. She calmly slid into the booth and met her stalker’s beady, dark eyes. She folded her hands neatly in front of her and got straight to the point.
“Why don’t we just get right down to business here, and you tell me what the hell he wants. After that, you can feel free to kiss my ass and leave.”
Unruffled, the suited goon adjusted his position in the booth and stared down his nose at her as he spoke in a deep, gravelly voice.
“Mr. Giordano wishes to meet with you at his home. I have a car out front waiting to take you there and bring you back here afterwards.”
Katrina arched one eyebrow and smirked coyly. “And I suppose if I don’t come with you, I’ll find you or one of your other mouth-breathing friends standing over me in my bed tonight.”
The goon chuckled. “You know we can do this the easy way or the hard way, Miss Giordano. Your father has insisted on your presence right away. If you won’t come quietly . . .” he trailed off and laughed again. “Well, you’ll come.”
Katrina knew that the threat wasn’t idle. “All right, I’ll go with you,” she said. “But keep your meat hooks off me.”
“You’re making a very wise decision, Miss Giordano,” he answered. “Come with me, please.”
Katrina snorted at his use of pleasantries but didn’t respond. She simply crossed back over to the bar, shot Jake and Angie a look that said “I’ll see you later, don’t worry” and followed the bumbling minion out into the warm summer night. He paused in the doorway, reaching into his jacket pocket and bringing out a pack of cigarettes.
“No smoking in the car,” she commanded imperiously. “I’m a goddamn singer, and I don’t need you stinking up my good, clean air with your toxic smoke.”
He glared at her but complied, shoving the pack back into his breast pocket. As they walked toward the sleek, black Mercedes idling at the curb, her eyes zeroed in on the figure of a man entering a cab.
Her eyes locked with his for a split second, and pity knifed through her as she recognized the emotion in his eyes as one she knew all too well.
This man looked like he’d just barely made it through a day from Hell. His black tuxedo was rumpled and unkempt, his bow tie undone and hanging around his neck. His white dress shirt was stained with flecks of what looked like blood and he was sporting some pretty bruised-up knuckles. His dirty-blond hair was falling in heavy, straight locks over his forehead in tousled disarray and his eyes were bloodshot and watery. He gazed back at her for a split second before disappearing into the taxi that had pulled up next to him on the curb.
Snapping out of the trance that his haunted eyes had put her in, Katrina lifted her chin regally at her meathead escort and swept into the waiting car.
Release Date: October 26, 2013
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