Making beautiful music will be the easy part. Facing Warner’s past might corrupt them both.
Excerpt of Love Songs:
Could the sun possibly be any hotter, or brighter, or…
Warner’s brakes screeched as he came to a stop at the stoplight he’d nearly run though. The glare from the hood of his Ford was blinding. The sweat on his neck was annoying. And the fact that he’d just been told he had no talent, well that was pissing him off.
He had talent. He had a butt-load of talent. Warner Wright had performed on every stage in Nashville. Oh, he’d performed with some of the biggest names when they were begging for a job.
He let out a breath. So why had he been passed up?
Oh he knew why!
The reputation of his family came long before he started trying to sell his songs. One thing about being the ex-stepson of Patricia Little, was all of Nashville knew she was trouble. And even if you were a thirty year old man, and you hadn’t had the woman in your life since your own father committed suicide when you were twelve, those things stick in the minds of some. It didn’t help that after his father’s death, she married a little bigger—a little richer—and soon she’d made it into the bed of The Ox, Harley Oxbury. The only problem was he was Nashville royalty—and married to Nashville royalty. The legend was when Christine Eaden found out about Harley and Patricia she put a shotgun to his head and threatened to dis-“member” him.
Did it matter to the world that his ex-stepmother took down one of Nashville’s icons? Oh, yeah. The Ox lost his career. Record companies didn’t want him anymore. The public didn’t want to see his shows. There wasn’t a product willing to put his name out front. Patricia Little had ruined the icon and her reputation, twenty years later, she was tarnishing his.
Perhaps he needed to change his name.
That was stupid. His name was fine. The woman was only his step mother for two years. By now the town should have forgotten the men she left in her path. Well they probably would have if she hadn’t gone on TV and done one of those reality shows where Warner’s picture was prominently displayed on her mantel as some kind of trophy of the husbands and “other’s” children she left in her wake. And hadn’t he asked the producers to take that down? Only a million times.
Well, some people were meant to be on stage and some in the behind the scenes. The guitar on the passenger seat was a reminder that he was one of them.
Although Jordan Farr, the head of Master Records, told him if he could get a voice to back up his music, maybe the world would start to see past his relation to Patricia Little. That had been the most positive feedback he’d received yet.
The light turned green and Warner eased off the clutch and onto the gas. The truck hiccupped and then picked up speed.
But in Nashville afternoon traffic, he didn’t make it far. Warner eased to a stop at the next light.
He could hear the music which the city had been built on. It poured out of the stores and the bars. But this music was closer and the voice wasn’t Carrie Underwood’s or Miranda Lambert’s. No this was fresh, sweet, original, and very close.
Warner turned his head to the right and spotted a woman in a Jeep tapping her fingers on the steering wheel. The song wasn’t one he’d heard on the radio. It wasn’t a karaoke cut either. No, she was singing to someone’s music, and she was magnificent.
She turned her head as if she might have felt his stare. Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. The aviator glasses shielding her eyes reflected his beat-up blue pickup truck.
She stopped singing and smiled. And it wasn’t just any smile. It was the kind that came with a wink, if he could have seen her eyes.
That moment nearly stopped his heart, just as her voice had. If he had her by his side then the doors of this town would open up to him.
The woman eased through the intersection and turned right at the next light.
He had to follow.
Warner checked his mirrors and quickly changed lanes. It was a close call with a Mustang, of all things, and the driver flipped him the middle finger. But he had to keep her in his sight.
He made a right, but her Jeep wasn’t on the street.
“Damn!” He smacked the steering wheel.
But just then he saw the Jeep. The woman was climbing out of it.
Warner made a U-turn, again causing a car to blare its horn at him and a driver to flip him off. The heat must be getting to everyone. They were all in such a nasty mood.
She’d parked in front of a theater and was jogging up the steps.
Warner screeched to a halt in the middle of the street and pulled his brake. The woman turned around on the steps of the theater and stopped.
He climbed across the bench seat to the passenger door and hung his head out the window.
“Hey,” he yelled like some back woods yokel.
“Hey, yourself.” She had an accent. She was native and that might be iffy. If she grew up in Nashville then she knew all about the shame of his family. But he’d let that find its own moment. This one was his.
“I’m not stalking you. I swear.”
“If you say so,” she said slowly, but she didn’t make a move toward the street and he didn’t blame her.
“I heard you singing. You’re freaking amazing.”
She laughed and her ponytail waved behind her. “I appreciate that.”
“No, really. I know what I’m talking about.” He tried to open the door, but it wasn’t going so well.
She’d taken another step toward the door. He was losing her.
“Wait. I want to talk to you.” Finally he managed the handle and nearly fell out of the truck, which he’d left running
The woman had made it to the top of the steps and gripped the knob on the front door of the theater.
“I’m not crazy. Please hear me out,” he was begging, but at least common sense had kicked in enough and he stopped moving toward her. “I’m a song writer. I’m looking for a voice.”
The woman nodded slowly, but she didn’t make any more moves to run away. That was a positive sign, wasn’t it?
“What’s your name?” she called down to him.
“Warner. Warner Wright.”
“Warner Wright the song writer? Cute.”
“No, that’s really my name.” He took one step further toward the curb. “You have an amazing voice.”
She looked at the watch on her wrist then back up at him. “You gathered that from hearing me in my truck?”
Again, she nodded slowly. “Listen, I’m going to be late. If you want to come in and sit that’s fine. But I’m out of time for talking on the street.”
She opened the door to the theater and walked inside.
Warner started for the door and then the grumbling of his truck caught his attention. God, was he this desperate?
He hurried back to the truck, climbed in, and parked it down the street.
Clara locked her purse up in her aunt’s office and headed for rehearsal. The man in the street had scared the hell out of her at first, but she’d lived in Nashville her whole life. Every song writer thought they had what it took to make it big. Some of them got desperate enough to hunt down talent. But she’d never heard of this approach.
He hadn’t come inside. Perhaps he’d given up. All the same, she had her cell phone in her pocket. The theater had once been gutted by fire because of a psycho man. She didn’t care to see that repeated.
On the stage was a small ensemble waiting for her arrival. Behind them, the set to West Side Story was being repositioned for the weekend’s production.
“Thought you gave up on us,” Duke shouted from the piano. “You only have four shows left. Don’t give up now,” he laughed.
“The only reason I wouldn’t show up is because it’s too damn hot in here,” she said as she made it to the side of the stage. She walked up the stairs and joined the others.
Duke gave her a nod. “Let’s just take it from the top and work the songs. Arianna wants these last four shows to be sharp.”
They had only started the first song when the door opened and Warner walked into the theater. Why she thought he might be a threat she didn’t know because looking at him now she thought he looked like the biggest nerd she’d ever seen.
His jeans were worn, his shirt was untucked, and his thick blond hair was messed up something awful. More than likely he’d been driving all day with his windows down.
He’d helped himself to a seat in the back and just listened as they practiced. Well, she thought, if he liked what he heard in the car wait till he heard her sing as Maria.
Warner wondered how long he’d sat in that theater, alone. He was familiar with the musical—very familiar. They’d just finished the number Somewhere. Damn, he’d listened to nearly the entire musical. But that voice. She had the goods!
“She’s something, huh?”
Warner jumped in his seat and looked at the man next to him. Quickly he got to his feet. “Um, yes. She’s amazing.”
“That’s my niece.”
“She has a fantastic voice.” Warner turned to the man and held out his hand. He didn’t want this man to think he was crazy. “I’m Warner Wright. I’m a song writer. I heard her sing in the street and wanted to talk to her.”
The man nodded. “John Forrester.” He turned and looked at the woman he’d followed into the theater. “She doesn’t know you?”
“No, sir. But I’m not stalking her. I just wanted to talk to her about singing.”
John nodded slowly again and pulled his hand back. “She’s trained with a gun.”
Warner swallowed hard. “Most women in Tennessee are, sir.”
That made John laugh. “True enough.” He patted Warner on the shoulder. “She’s almost through.”
He gave him a smile and then looked toward the stage and gave his niece a glance. A million words were said between them in that moment, he wondered what they were.
Warner sat back down in his seat and listened as they finished the rest of the show.
To say he was moved would be an understatement. A piano and a dozen voices could do amazing things.
When the group stood up they all began to talk. This was a family, a musical family. One brought together by a common love and the current show they produced together.
It had been years since Warner was in musical theater, but you never forgot the feeling.
The woman he’d followed walked away from the group and was headed toward him. Her thumbs were tucked into the front pockets of her cutoff jeans.
The eyes that had hid behind the shiny aviators, which were now hung from the front of her tank top, were dark brown.
Warner quickly stood.
“You followed me all the way in here and listened to rehearsal?” Her accent was drawn out.
“Yes. I have to say, you’re amazing.”
The woman nodded slowly, just as her uncle had done. “You’ve said that, but thank you.” She looked down at her bare toes in the sandals she wore and wiggled them. The middle ones had rings on them. “Is that all you wanted to tell me?”
“Yes. No. I—is there somewhere we can talk?”
She looked around. “What’s wrong with here?”
“Right. Listen, I’m a song writer and I’m looking for a voice to demo my work.”
“And you’re looking for lessons?”
Warner raked his fingers through his hair. It was getting much too long. He looked down at his attire. God, she must think I’m a hobo.
“No. I’m not looking for lessons. I’m looking for someone to do the vocals.”
“And you want me to do that?”
He smiled. Finally they were on the same page. “Yes.”
“I see. Mr. Wright, I’m very busy with the theater right now. I just don’t…”
“Would you just look at them?” He was so desperate he was hunting down strangers to sing his songs. This was embarrassing. “Please. Maybe just a few hours with me and you could see what you think.”
“You don’t even know my name.”
He dropped his shoulders. He was desperate.
He held out his hand to shake hers. “Again, I’m Warner Wright.”
She smiled and took his hand. Her grip was firm. There was no messing around with this one. “Clara Keller.”
“Ms. Keller, I would appreciate a moment of your time to show you my work.”
She pulled her hand back, tucked it into her back pocket and gave him a regarding look.
“Do you know where the Riverside Building is?”
He raised his eyebrow. “Doesn’t everyone? This is Nashville.”
She chuckled. “There is a Starbucks on the main floor. I’ll meet you there tomorrow at ten.”
“Tomorrow at ten. Starbucks. Riverside Building.”
“Will that work?”
He nodded. “Thank you. Can I take you out for a drink tonight? No business, just get to know you?”
Clara pulled her phone out of her back pocket. “Thanks, but I have one guilty pleasure and its on TV tonight.”
A bead of sweat rolled down the back of his neck. He forced a smile. “What might that be?”
“Reality TV at its worst. Every heard of Nashville Ex-wives Club?”
He knew the blood had just drained out of his head. Damn if he fainted this would be over.
“I’ve heard of it.”
“Never miss a one. That Little woman is such trash she makes me laugh. But I’ll see you tomorrow. Ten.”
He only nodded as Clara left the theater.
Well, this was over. Once Clara found out about his connection with Patricia Little she too would exit stage left.
Warner left the theater just in time to see a tow truck drive away with his pickup.
It was official—Nashville hated him.
Bernadette Marie has been an avid writer since the early age of 13, when she’d fill notebook after notebook with stories that she’d share with her friends. Her journey into novel writing started the summer before eighth grade when her father gave her an old typewriter. At all times of the day and night you would find her on the back porch penning her first work, which she would continue to write for the next 22 years.
Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online! If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter by following this blog!