Authors: Lena Lowe
omething I Need
Copyright © 2016 Lena Lowe.
ll rights reserved
. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, this book and any portion thereof may not be used, scanned, transferred, or distributed in print or electronic form without the express written permission of the author. Participation in any aspect of piracy or copyrighted materials, inclusive of the obtainment of this book through non-retail or other unauthorized means, is in actionable violation of the author’s rights.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and registered trademark owners of all branded names referenced without TM, SM or (R) symbols due to formatting constraints, and is not claiming ownership of or collaboration of said trademark brands.
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by Okay Creations
For my daughters - Isabella, Mia and Maddison, because you can do anything. And for my mum, who always loved to read, but will never read this.
f you can dream it
, you can do it - Walt Disney.
ago Jonte Williamson had a plan. A carefully crafted plan, a perfectly polished plan, a so-good-she-kind-of-just-ran-away-from-home plan. Now, she had nothing.
“I’m so sorry. Like I said, you’re welcome to crash on my sofa for a night or two.”
Jonte believed Misha was sorry. Really she did. But that didn’t make the shitty situation any less shitty. Yes, theoretically she could do that. Except her back already ached from being cramped up on various planes for twenty-plus hours. She was in desperate need of a bed and a room and a more permanent plan.
“Thanks, but I’ll pass,” Jonte said, her heart sinking and threatening to flat line on the welcome mat, right next to her duffel bag.
“Yep, thanks.” She tried to sound grateful, but guessed she wasn’t fooling anyone, not even herself.
Misha shut the door to what was supposed to be her new home, her new life. Fantastic. What in the world was she going to do now? Where would she live? Here she was, hot off the plane and homeless.
Welcome to the honky tonk capital of the universe
Jonte leaned down to pick up her bag and headed for the stairs. She descended slowly, one step at a time, because at this point, what was the rush?
Hmmm…maybe things weren’t as dire as the I’m-about-to-be-mugged-and-murdered-as-soon-as-I-leave-this-building scenario playing out in her head. Yeah, yeah – she was well aware she was being slightly melodramatic. The likelihood of getting mugged and murdered was probably extremely low.
Ugh. She needed to quiet the noise in her head for a moment and focus. Sure it had taken forever to find her never-to-be roommate Misha. But, for all she knew, maybe it would be easier to find an apartment now she was actually here in Nashville, because people would see she was completely normal and not some kangaroo-riding crazy person. Jonte shook her head as she reached the last step and entered the foyer – it really was incomprehensible how many people had asked if she had a pet kangaroo or koala sitting in her backyard. Yep, true story.
But then what if it wasn’t easier? What if everyone in the state of Tennessee or continental US hated her? What if coming to Nashville had been a colossal mistake? She could practically see her mother’s disapproving frown as she judged her for her foolishness, and hear her father’s soothing voice, pleading for her to come home.
She could find a new place to live.
She could fix this.
She sucked in a deep breath and then exhaled, the air whooshing out.
Be cool. Be calm. You’ve totally got this.
This was just a blip, an itty-bitty blip. Okay, maybe it was more than a blip, but she couldn’t let it deter her. She was here for one reason: to make it big. Someday soon she was going to be singing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Her lyrics would make people smile, make them feel, make them think “I know exactly what she was thinking when she wrote that.” That was her dream.
Jonte pushed on the glass door and exited the apartment complex. She looked at the bar across the road, the one the cabbie from hell had pointed out only twenty minutes ago. Plain brown brick with wooden accordion windows pulled halfway closed, it looked more like a café than a bar, but whatever.
Maybe a drink would help dull the panic that was starting to bubble away in her belly. She could sit with a beer and drown her sorrows for five minutes. Or better still, think about what a good story this would make one day. How she’d smile and joke about this moment when she was accepting a Grammy for Best New Country Artist.
That right there sounded like a damn good plan.
Jonte threw her duffel bag back over her shoulder and darted across the road, dodging a dinosaur-sized truck, its horn roaring.
Determined, she stepped inside the bar and was greeted by Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” blaring from the jukebox in the corner. Interesting. And the place was all modern industrial – dim lights, dark wood, polished metal – not really what she’d expected to find in Nashville. Hmmm…did it matter? Probably not. She toted her bags up to the long bar and plonked herself down on one of the scratched metal stools.
“What’ll it be?”
Jonte looked up to find the owner of the slow, thick drawl: a bartender with ridiculously white teeth, offset by dark sexy stubble along his jawline and cheeks. Her eyes wandered up and stopped at his green eyes.
Those were some eyes.
Eyes that would surely make women say yes to anything he asked.
Just three words had her heartbeat racing, singing like a canary on crack.
“Beer,” she said.
“ID?” Somehow his accent made those letters sound sexy.
“You’re seriously carding me? I’m over eighteen.”
“Sweetheart, it’s the law. I gotta check your ID to see that you’re over twenty-one.”
“Oh, right, twenty-one.” Her face flamed and she rifled through her handbag, finding and then flashing her passport.
He snatched it from her and held it up to the light, taking his sweet, sweet time to study it, looking several times between her face and the passport.
“It’s real.” She drummed the bar with her fingers, irritation now replacing infatuation.
“Please don’t say
throw another shrimp on the barbie
“And why would I say that?” He handed back her passport.
“Seems to be the pickup line of choice in this country.”
“If you say so. So how do I say your name, sweetheart?”
“Jonte. Like Bronte, but with a J.”
“You know, the authors.”
He stared at her like she was speaking alien.
“Charlotte and Emily Bronte. Jane Eyre. Wuthering Heights. Pretty famous.”
“If you say so.” He chuckled again, a deep rumble that for no rational reason pissed her off, and then turned and walked to the other end of the bar.
One drink and she’d be outta here. She couldn’t stick around. There was no time for broody bartenders with dreamboat eyes when Broadway was calling her name.
* * *
a nice piece of asssssss,” Tommy said.
Cash nodded automatically and refilled Tommy’s shot glass. Without fail, Tommy stopped by the bar after work every night for a half-hour chat about nothing, and four shots of whiskey. Not that Cash was judging. It was a fact, plain and simple.
“Too young for you,” he replied.
The Aussie needed to drink her beer and leave. She had drama with a capital D written all over her. But, damn it, he sure was interested in speaking to her some more, and that never happened. He’d owned and worked in Rock on Nashville for the past four years and had seen loads of women hotter than the feisty blonde with the random name who had already taken up too much of his time. Yes, she had a rocking body, not too tall at what looked to be around five foot eight and unable to hide those deliciously round curves under her plain clothes. But that wasn’t what was drawing his attention; she had spectacular hazel eyes – with flecks of gold, they looked up at him with a touch of fear and a truckload of determination. And she wasn’t fawning over him, the way women often did. That, in itself, was sexy.
“Wasn’t saying it for me.” Tommy slugged his shot. “Now would ya look at that. Wonder how she’ll hold it down?”
Cash glanced over his shoulder to look at the Aussie. He watched her neck her beer and then slam the glass back down on the bar. Well, that was unexpected. And see, drama right there. Great. This could get messy quick.
“Back in a few,” he muttered to Tommy.
Cash stuck his head through the small square kitchen window and called out to Pete. “Can I get some fries?”
Pete looked up from the grill. “Sure thing, boss.”
“Thanks.” He made his way back over to Jonte. “Hard day?” He propped himself up against the bar and figured he could play the typical bartender.
“Could say that.”
“Lemmegetchaanotherone.” The words rushed out of his mouth before his brain caught up.
“I really shouldn’t.”
“On the house.” Cash smiled, his first bona fide smile for the day, and handed back the glass.
Wait…! On the house?
He never gave away freebies. What the hell?
“Thanks.” She returned his smile.
Wow. Despite her snooty mood, Little Miss Drama had an amazing smile. Big and vibrant, it pulled you in and dared you not to smile back.
“You really don’t want to hear.”
He usually didn’t.
“Sweetheart, it’s my job. And you look like you could use someone to talk to.”
Jonte hesitated, her eyes square on him, sizing him up. “I feel like I’ve stepped into a bad country song.”
His gut clenched at her mention of country music.
You’re fine. It’s just a stupid word.
He snorted and nodded.
“I literally just got off the plane –” she checked her watch “ – like, less than an hour ago. My phone won’t work in this country. Some sleaze-ball cabbie decided to take the scenic route here and then had the cheek to hit me up for my number. I might as well have given it to him, because my phone won’t work in this country – useless brick. And to top it off, the room I had arranged to rent is no longer available, so I’m officially homeless.”
Cash leaned in. “But on the plus side, your boyfriend didn’t leave you and your dog didn’t die.”
“Oh, you’re a comedian who deals in country music clichés.” Jonte scrunched up her face, her tone indicating she was unimpressed by his attempt at humor.
And there was that word again. He needed to shut this conversation down.
“Ha! Hardly. I don’t do country anything.”
“That’s just weird.”
Cash raised an eyebrow, letting it talk for him.
“Sorry, that was kind of rude.”
“Sweetheart, did you bother to read the name of the bar on your way in?” He cocked his head to one side, thinking maybe he’d get a better handle on her from this angle.
Her silence spoke volumes and she looked down from his face to the logo on his black shirt: Rock on Nashville.
There you go sweetheart.
He turned around so she could see the slogan plastered across his shoulders: This ain’t no country bar!
He spun back around and noticed she was quick to look up. Had she just been checking out his ass?
“I am in Nashville, right?”
Great, melodramatic too. All these variations of drama. Why was he standing here again?
“Just checking I didn’t manage to get myself on the wrong damn plane too.”
“Fries are up!” Pete yelled, sticking his bald head out from the window on the other side of the bar.
Cash held up his hand and rushed over to grab the basket. He checked the regulars were all boozed up and fine, and then returned to the crazy blonde Aussie.
“Here, you looked hungry.” He pushed the basket of fries towards her.
“Really, you shouldn’t have.”
Cash simply shrugged, agreeing. It was done now.
“Thanks.” Jonte popped a fry into her mouth.
“So, sweetheart, how’d you lose your place to stay? Didn’t you sign a lease agreement?”
“It was an informal sublet arranged over the internet.” She grabbed for another fry. “I’d Skyped with my supposed roommate, Misha, and paid her a deposit, but apparently her sister got dumped by some loser boyfriend and moved into the room this morning. She said she tried to call me, but...” Jonte dangled her dead cell in the air.
Cash let out a nervous chuckle, his insides churning crazily at the thought of what he was about to ask.
Keep your mouth shut tight. It’s none of your damn business. Walk away. Walk away. Walk away.
“Right. Are you here to go to Vanderbilt?” He knew he shouldn’t give a damn, but he prayed her answer was yes. She seemed like a smart enough chick, and really there was only ever one other reason people came to Nashville. “Maybe the housing officer can help you out.”
Of course not. Disappointment drowned the smidgen of hope that had snuck in. There was only one thing left to ask. “You want to be a country star?”
“Am I that obvious?”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, look at you, sweetheart.” Cash gestured at her messy blonde hair and her simple white tank top. “Where are your cowboy boots, and more importantly, did someone steal your guitar? ‘Cause if they did, you left it off your list of woes just a minute ago.”
“I don’t play guitar.”
That stopped him short.
She doesn’t play?
Christ, how in the hell did she expect to make it in this town without a damn guitar slung over her shoulder? Maybe she wasn’t as smart and determined as he’d given her credit for.
Wolf-whistles sounded out over the El Camino song that was blasting out of the jukebox. Cash looked up and saw his sister strolling towards him, wearing a short pink dress.