Fire Devil: Windfall of fire
Zulies: Missoula smokejumpers
Blowup: Catastrophic fire behavior, rapid spread, mass ignition of large areas
I remember when I was a little girl. I believed in fantasies. Handsome knights on large steeds, protecting everyone around them. I used to believe in heroes. I no longer do.
You’re nothing and deserve to die alone…
“Everyone. Welcome to the stage, Jessica Dunn and Fringe!”
Jessica Dunn exhaled and clenched the neck of her guitar. Words. They were just ugly words. The vibrant lights from the stage ceiling danced across the band’s instruments, swirling in a random yet controlled fashion, neon flashes creating sensual images. She’d been through this before, now thousands of times. Once excited at the prospect of facing an audience, she was exhausted and no longer able to convey her once vivacious personality.
“Go on. You act like you’re heading for your funeral, girl.”
She gave the drummer, and the man she spent most of her time with, the finger. Cody Falcon grinned. Damn, if she didn’t shiver. His dimples and shaggy raven hair always made her swoon. “Do you see anyone that gives a shit out there?”
“What are you talking about?” Cody leaned down, licking her earlobe. “The crowd loves ya.”
“Right. You mean all two dozen or so scattered in the theatre?” She darted a glance out into the audience, shading her eyes from the intense lighting. She and the band once filled massive stadiums. Now they were lucky to get five or six hundred people to attend their performances. They were once considered ‘the’ up and coming rock band, their first single going platinum. The second was heralded as the album of the decade. Now? They were left to play gigs at fairs and two-bit concert halls.
“Stop bellowing like a damn kitten. Get to work.”
After debating her ability to run far away, she adjusted the strap holding the guitar in place and took a step toward the slender opening of the curtain. This wasn’t what she’d hungered for fifteen years before. Act like a professional. Entertain. She brushed her hand through her long red hair and tossed her head back. “You mean tigress don’t you, big boy?”
“That’s my sexy gal.”
Taking long strides, she walked out on stage, waving to the crowd. Temporarily blinded, she whistled and laughed as she found her way toward the microphone. The band members were settling in behind her, taking their usual place, something they’d done countless times during their tenure together. “Anybody ready to rock the house?”
Those attending clapped, their whistles giving her a boost.
“Come on. Let’s get this party rollin’!” Her sultry voice reverberated across the shadows.
She shot Wally, the base player a look, winking and giving a short bow. They were a frisky group and their audiences loved their style. ‘Loved’ as in past tense. Times were different. “We are so ready to have a good time tonight. Are y’all ready?” A sickening feeling remained in her gut. She’d fought her nerves for a solid year. Tonight, she was ready to pass out from terror. Hands on the guitar. Start strumming. Everything will be okay. She forced back a single tear as the music began to play in the background. She knew the words by heart. She’d written every damn song after all. But that was a long time ago.
Jessica blinked several times as she shifted from foot to foot. “We are…” The words were lost. She gulped for air and fingered the strings, playing a chord that made no sense.
The crowd cheered, clapping as several people moved toward the edge of the stage.
She froze, unable to take a step or remember the words. Her heart raced as she attempted to focus on anything in front of her. “We are the ones who will…” Goddamn it! Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Wally walking toward her, his smile plastic. He didn’t give a shit about the band or anything to do with their recording career. He wanted money and fame, something they’d tried so hard to achieve. She resisted lashing out, scratching his face.
“We are the ones who will rock you, rock you,” Wally sang as he pumped the bass and strutted closer. He gave her an encouraging nod, mouthing ‘you can do it’.
Shimmers of light pulsated around her, mixing with echoes of the music. This was their signature song, the one that rocked the house. She swayed back and forth as she tried to grasp onto what she was supposed to do. A thumping boom of the drums behind her jolted her back to reality. She stamped her foot and gave Wally a hateful look. He wasn’t supposed to be singing. Anger shoved her past an unseen threshold. “We are the ones who will rock you, rock you. We are the ones who fight.”
Wally nodded and grinned, singing alongside her.
All she could think about for the next three songs was kicking his motherfucking ass.
“Babe. You, all right?”
Jessica opened her eyes. The sound of Cody’s voice was usually melodic, calming given her recent rages. Tonight, he was off handed, as if she didn’t matter in the least. Maybe she didn’t. “Peachy.” She felt the seat compress as he eased down beside her. When he placed a hand on her knee she shifted, pulling her feet onto the seat and staring out the window. The lights of some Godforsaken town trickled by as the bus lurched. She hated greasy burgers and shitty motel rooms with sheets that had been washed in dirt water. There was nothing good about waking up on tour dates in a different location, changing clothes in ninety-degree heat while bugs feasted on every inch of her naked skin.
“Jesus. You’ve been a pissy bitch lately.”
She didn’t bother reacting. Why should she care?
After a full minute, Cody sighed. “Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
Shrugging, she ran her hands through her hair. “Just tired. Over it.”
“You mean the usual.”
This time she shot him a nasty look, but had little desire to play the ‘retort’ game. “I’m allowed to be exhausted you know.”
“Every day, all day?” he asked, his tone exasperated.
Of course, he was laughing at her. “What do you want from me?”
“What do I want?”
“Yeah?” She turned her head, blinking as tears threatened to fall. “What do you want me to do? Perform like a seal? Dance a jig in front of the crowd so maybe they’ll tell their friends and draw a crowd?”
Cody sniffed, wiped his mouth and looked out the window. “You really think that all I care about are the gigs?”
“Well, don’t you?” Challenging him was easy.
He waited a full five seconds before shaking his head. “You don’t think I worry about you or enjoy our time together? Is that what’s going on?”
“Do you?” she asked as she lifted her head. Clueless bastard. “Do you care about me like you used to? Do you want nothing more than to spend the night with me, dreaming of all the amazing things we could do together, songs we could write?” When he shrunk back, his mouth turning into a frown, she sighed and choked out laughter. “Of course not. Just go.”
“That’s what you do best. Push me away. You don’t give a crap about anything I want or need. Do you?”
She looked over his shoulder at the sleeping crewmember. The burly man shifted before sucking in a snore. “You don’t know what I care about and I’m not certain you ever did.”
“It’s all about you. Every damn thing is about you. You’re so fucking self-centered,” Cody hissed.
Jessica grimaced before looking away and out the window. She wasn’t going to allow him to see her cry. The driver made a wide right turn and accelerated, rolling through another hick town on their way back home. Home? What in the hell did she have to return to? A life full of bills and heartache. She concentrated on the flashing lights. Bumfuck Nowhere looked so much better enshrouded in flashing fuchsia and chartreuse. Her life was a mess, exactly the same as her career. Things had to change. She glared at his reflection, his dour expression. They were both washed up.
He reached out, almost taking her hand. Curling his fingers, he rested his palm on the seat and looked at the ceiling of the bus. “I still love you.”
The two years they’d been intimate had been tumultuous, yet she’d longed to hear the words for so many months. Now, they meant little. Exhaling, she didn’t have enough energy to continue the same battle. She settled back into her seat and gave him a half smile. “I know.” A few seconds rolled by in slow motion.
“Good. Then let’s do something about it.” Cody’s eyes flashed in the dim lighting. He rose to his feet, giving her a wink, and walked a few feet ahead.
She watched as he slid the curtain from one side of the bus to the other. This was considered their private quarters. Pensive, she wrung her hands as beads of perspiration trickled down the back of her neck. Why was she nervous? The answer was far too difficult. They’d grown apart. Not tonight. She wanted to relive moments from their past.
“You are the most beautiful girl in the world,” he said in a guttural voice.
Excitement surged from deep within. They hadn’t been intimate in weeks. She’d changed into a short cotton dress for the ride and her nipples ached, scraping against the thin material. She bit back a moan and shifted. Her thong was decidedly uncomfortable.
When he turned, he held his index finger up to his mouth as he unfastened his belt.
Tingling, she didn’t care that they used sex to pretend closeness. She’d had just enough wine on the bus to warrant the wetness between her legs. She pursed her lips and slid first one strap of her dress down her shoulder then the other, exposing her breasts.
“Yet I’m tempting you,” she purred.
“Always. Jesus, what you do to me.” He pulled down his zipper, shot a look over his shoulder and tugged his pants past his chiseled hips.
Jessica gazed down at his thick cock. He was stiff and throbbing, his balls already swollen. She swallowed hard and tried to grasp onto the intimacy she’d been missing.
“Play with your tits,” Cody commanded.
“Mmm… Yes, sir.” She cupped her breasts, squeezing as she scooted forward.
He wrapped his hand around his cock, stroking. “Twist those pretty little titties of yours. I want to see pain in your eyes.”
She did as she was told, taking her nipples between her thumbs and forefingers. Pinching both, she rose to her knees. The pain was delectable. Her pussy ached, longing to have his thick dick buried deep inside of her. “Do you want me to suck you, baby? Do you want my hot mouth taking you all the way down?”
After an exaggerated exhale, he pumped his cock several times and walked toward her. “You want this?”
“Open your mouth,” Cody whispered.
She opened her mouth and looked up, hope filtering into the back of her mind. Tonight, his eyes held nothing but lust.
“I didn’t tell you to stop pinching. Harder.” He slapped his shaft against her cheek then used his cockhead to trace around her mouth. “Suck me.”
Leaning down, she took the tip of his dick into her mouth, sucking and swirling her tongue back and forth. She twisted her nipples until the pain became near anguish.
He grunted and eased his head back, jutting his hips forward and tugging his shirt up to his chest. “That’s it. Oh yeah.”
How many times had she sucked him off on the bus? Dozens. This was their game, as if no one knew what the curtain meant. She wrapped one hand around his balls, rolling them between her fingers. Tension slithered into her muscles and as she tried to take every inch of him, her throat closed. Coughing, she released his shaft and panted.
“Come on. You can do it.” Cody placed his hand on her head, using enough force to push her head back down.
Breathe and enjoy. Just breathe. Jessica took several deep breaths before willing herself to relax. She closed her eyes and sucked. A drop of pre-cum trickled into her mouth. She loved the taste of him, craved their uninhibited sex, or at least she had. Their first encounter, one day after an amazing concert, they’d found a secluded spot, fucking in the car.
“Oh God, yes. Good. Your mouth is so hot.”
She slid one hand under her dress, maneuvering her fingers under the elastic and rubbing her clit. Within seconds her fingers were coated with her juice.
Cody dropped his head and used the power of his upper thighs to pump into her mouth. He intertwined his fingers in her hair, using the leverage to hit the back of her throat with the tip of his dick.
Gag reflexes hit her hard. Her eyes watered and she clenched them shut. She pinched her clit, hoping the pain would help. Bile rose from her stomach and she moaned, this time an attempt to beg him to stop.
He seemed unable to hear her as he continued thrusting harder. “Gonna come, baby.”
Tears trickled past her thick lashes, falling as slowly as her heart raced. She stiffened and shoved her fingers inside her pussy, clenching her muscles. For a few seconds, she was able to concentrate on self-pleasuring until she heard the guttural sound just as he spewed into her mouth.
“Yes!” His entire body was shaking. His legs stiffened and he issued a strangled cry.
Jessica gripped his tense legs, digging her nails into his muscles. She stared up, hoping for some sense of understanding of why they’d been estranged or that he craved driving her into the heat of passion. There was nothing but his needs. That much she could see given his contrite expression. He never pleased her first. He didn’t initiate unless he wanted satisfaction. A cold chill swept through her, a disgusting reminder of their tainted relationship.
He pulled out and exhaled, wiping his mouth. He released his hold and whistled as he took a step back. “That was amazing. Damn, you’re good.”
She was determined to continue. “My turn.” Undulating her hips, she gave him her most seductive look as she worked her fingers deep into her pussy.
His look remained horny as he gazed down, watching her with interest. “That sweet little cunt in need?”
He slipped his cock between his legs and pulled up his jeans. Looking out the window, he squinted. “We’ll be there soon, baby. The guys will be waking up.”
“We have time,” she cooed and thrust in and out, flexing her fingers open. She moaned and tossed her head back, allowing her long, red hair to fall to the seat.
“Come on, baby. Not now. We’ll play when we get back to my place.”
She jerked up, giving him a hateful look and stopped moving. “What if I want to go to my house?”
“My place is closer,” he snorted and zipped his pants. He fastened his belt and kept his eyes on her. “Oh, come on. Don’t you dare pout on me. We just had sex.”
“This was sex?”
“Well…” Grinning, he wrapped his hand around her wrist, pulling her hand up to his face. “I love the scent of your pussy.”
She started to protest when he slipped her wet fingers into his mouth. The sucking and slurping noises sickened her. Hissing, she yanked away her hand, wiping the remnants on her dress. She kept her eyes plastered on him as she jerked up her straps.
“What’s wrong with you? You on your period or something?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Incensed, she slid toward the window. “You just had your fingers dripping with my cum in your mouth. Taste any blood?”
He shook his head and eased onto the seat. “God. You don’t have to be so shitty here. I was just kidding you. Swear to God.”
“You’re an ass.” She looked out the window, infuriated. This was the same shit she was used to. He was callous and unfeeling, as if only he mattered.
“Come on. Relax. We’ll be home soon. Maybe we can take a weekend together, just you and me. Okay?”
“Sure.” Over my dead body. She clenched her fists and bit back so many things she’d wanted to say to him. Several minutes passed.
“Do you love me?” Cody took her hand in his, rubbing her fingers.
Jessica darted her eyes back and forth and pulled her hand away. Her heart raced and for a few seconds she concentrated on the soothing sounds of the rolling bus. This was a question she’d contemplated for hours, days.
He laughed, the tone bitter. “Goddamn and you wonder why I seem distant. You’re so warm. So loving.”
“You know what? I do love you.” In some ways she did, but was she in love? Not according to her heart. She turned back toward the window, wrapping her arms around her knees. In the neon reflected glass of the aging bus, she could see his anguished face as he wrestled with his emotions. They had little left to say to each other.
Exhaling, Cody shook his head as he rose to his feet. “Yeah. I can sure tell.”
Her entire life seemed to be sliding into Hell. A shiver trickled down her spine as she closed her eyes. At least she was going home after a three-week tour of Arm Pit USA. Tomorrow night she’d enjoy sleeping very much alone, nestled in soft sheets. As she drifted off to sleep, visions of the future settled into her mind. She was alone, in a field and no one gave a damn.
“We’re at the jump site,” Cooper screeched over the increasing noise.
“You’re not going yet. We have to wait for our orders,” Stoker insisted as he fumbled with his gear. Wind whipped through the open bay of the plane, creating a howling boom. Adrenaline was coursing through his veins as well as something else. Fear.
“Take a look at that shit down there,” Cooper huffed and shuffled toward the edge. “We can’t wait.”
Stoker reached out. “No. We follow orders. Remember?”
“Fuck orders. They’re people down there needing our help.” Cooper gave him a haunted look then donned his helmet.
As Stoker trudged, determined to stop his friend from jumping, he heard Cooper’s last words just as he reached out, grabbing Cooper. ‘See you in paradise.’
“What the fuck?” Stoker Hansen jerked awake, swimming up from the horrific dream. Swirling visions clouded his foggy mind, ugly reminders of a mission of healing turned into carnage. Rubbing his eyes, he twisted his head back and forth as his eyes became accustomed to the darkness. The sound of the alarm continued, blaring into the close-knit quarters. He sucked in his breath and held his hands over his ears. You’re okay. This isn’t war. You’re home and safe. As his breathing slowed, he shivered. Yeah, at least he was safe.
“Get the hell up, dude. We have a hot one.”
“What? Cooper?” Stoker asked. His stomach remained unsettled, the usual nausea pooled in the pit of his stomach.
“Cooper? Jesus Christ, Stoker. Get up sleeping beauty. We have a call.”
He plopped his feet on the floor and shook the cobwebs away. He wasn’t in Afghanistan. He wasn’t crouched in a pool of blood. This was his best friend, Garcia. Okay. I’m okay. After a deep breath he sprang into action, shoving his feet into boots and grabbing his heat and fireproof jacket. “Give me the details.” Live your life. You deserve. The sentiment would never leave him. He’d never be free of the words whispered by a respected soldier.
“Three alarm fire at a residence. Gotta hurry before it spreads to the woods,” Garcia stated and raced away.
Men ran past him, heading for the engines. They all knew the drill, could perform it in their sleep. Stoker hopped onto the engine a split second before it rolled out of the garage. The moon was full, highlighting a gorgeous star filled early morning. Within seconds the sky turned orange. “Shit.”
“Third one in as many days.”
Stoker nodded and glanced at his buddy. Garcia Puevos was grinning, enjoying the moment. The guy was an adrenaline junkie. “You have to wonder if arson is involved.”
“Jesus, bud. You think everything is a conspiracy.” Garcia slapped him on the back.
“Not everything.” Stoker grabbed the metal bar and leaned out as the engine picked up speed. Missoula, Montana had seen one too many raging fires in less than six weeks. Most of the investigations indicated they’d been started by carelessness or accident. His gut told him otherwise. Even the smoke jumping team had been called in.
Within seconds they were on scene. Two engine companies had responded, which meant they faced a serious situation.
“Fuck me. Unbelievable,” Stoker whispered under his breath as he secured his helmet. Flames licked up over the roofline of the massive house. Embers floated into the huge oak trees flanking the perimeter. An angry glow of red and tangerine brightened the sky as the sound of crackling wood created a roar.
“We do this by the book.”
Stoker glanced at his Captain of three years. The man was respected in every circle, including the Governor’s office. Captain Banyon could even run for office himself. “Could be arson.”
Captain Banyon shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. We’re called in as backup so you protect the outskirts. From what I’ve heard, nothing is secure yet and the fire’s too hot.”
Garcia jumped off the engine before it rolled to a stop, jerking the hose from its perch. “Everyone out?” he called as the various firefighters rushed into action.
“Family is out. Pets still inside,” came a voice from the smoke.
“Crap. Let’s go,” Stoker screeched as he took off running, turning on the powerful light attached to his helmet. Ominous shadows crisscrossed the terrain, creating a sense of foreboding. He heard Garcia calling from the distance. There was little time to try and save anything, let alone the family pets, yet he was damn sure gonna try. He yanked down his mask and raced into the melee, scanning the perimeter as he searched for an opening.
“What the hell are you doing?” Captain Banyon hissed.
Garcia flanked his side and lifted his mask as a team of early responders motioned their way. “Where are they?”
“The family is over there.” One of the men pointed as he wrangled with the hose, shooting water up at the roofline.
“Not the family. The pets.” Stoker located the front door. There might be two minutes before the entire second floor collapsed into the first. He calculated whether there would be a backdraft. No, the fire was burning in a controlled albeit destructive pattern. The house would be a complete loss.
“Not gonna happen. They’re trapped too far in.”
He glared at the shadowed mask of a man he didn’t know and turned toward Garcia. “We have ninety seconds. Let’s go.”
“You got it,” Garcia answered as both men took off.
“Get back here!” the Captain barked.
They ignored the command as Stoker kicked down the wooden door. A billow of black smoke poured from the interior. He tugged out his flashlight, turning on the high-powered beam, and for a second tipped his head, listening for any telltale signs. A strangled yelp grabbed his attention.
A single terrified woof trickled from the blackness. A second and deeper bark followed.
“Over there!” Garcia yelled.
Stoker kicked over a chair as he moved forward.
Garcia shoved Stoker to the ground as debris slammed down from above. “Need to get out of here.”
“Not without the dogs.”
“You’re nuts, man,” Garcia hissed as he shook off fallen wallboard.
Stoker didn’t care. This was a mission he refused to fail. Another booming sound brought a series of whimpers from the dogs. He dug through wallboard and fallen wood until his hand wrapped around a trembling bit of fur. He managed to grasp two dogs, cradling them to his chest before crawling backward and getting to his feet.
“Come on. It’s about to give!” Garcia warned.
Stoker swiveled to his right, crouched low and headed for what he thought was the front door. Within a split second he became disoriented. The dogs howled and he knew they were struggling to catch their breath. His chest heavy, he shook his head as he recounted his steps. He yanked off his mask, placing the heavy plastic over their faces and shoved his way through the debris. After gulping acrid smoke, he stumbled.
“Partner, let’s go!” Garcia wrapped his hand around Stoker’s arm and yanked him several feet.
Fire rushed past them, licking up the crumbling walls. Stoker covered the dogs with his arms, praying to God they would survive.
Fresh air rushed into his lungs. Stoker raced forward several yards before falling to the ground, cuddling the pups as he sucked in air.
Flames shot out around them as several walls collapsed.
Clenching his eyes shut, Stoker relished in the sound of the pup’s whimpers. He’d saved their lives.
“Hansen! Are you out of your mind?”
Stoker heard the Captain, realized he’d risked his own life as well as his partner to save two dogs, but he knew in his gut he had to respond. Coughing, he eased the dogs down to the ground, surveying both furry creatures. They were breathing but barely. “I got them out.”
“At what price?” the Captain hissed. “Damn it. When I tell you to follow orders, I mean exactly what I’m saying. Hot dogging bullshit is going to get you killed. What is up with the both of you?”
“What?” Stoker asked as he struggled to see.
“Puevos is down, asshole.”
He craned his neck, struggling to understand. Horrified, he wheezed. Garcia was lying on his back, his lower legs covered in debris. “No!”
“Mommy! My babies.”
The little girl’s voice cut through the smoke and noise. Stoker lifted his head as another firefighter lowered to his knees, taking the dogs into his arms. While he didn’t recognize the oversized man, he was able to comprehend respect in the firefighter’s eyes. He waited until he heard the sound of glee coming from the little girl before crawling toward his buddy, his heart racing. Shaking, he eased the helmet off Garcia’s head and checked his pulse. “Garcia. Come on, buddy.” No, this couldn’t happen.
Garcia coughed several times as he slapped the ground and opened his eyes. “God, you’re a nutcase.”
“Are you all right?” Stoker managed as he placed his hand on Garcia’s heart.
“Nothing a week in the Caribbean with a hot blond won’t cure.”
“Horn dog.” Stoker looked down the length of his friend and could see a gouge in the man’s pants. Blood oozed from the cut. “You’re hurt.”
“Stop worrying. Dogs alive?” Garcia struggled to sit up.
“They are.” He tipped his head, an intense shiver oozing down the back of his legs as the house seemed to melt into the ground. This wasn’t a normal house fire. He’d bet his badge on the fact. Fear remained, wrapping around his psyche in a paralyzing fashion.
“You’re never going to amount to anything. No matter what you think, you’re worthless and shouldn’t have been born.”
“Leave me alone. Just get away from me!”
Jessica jerked up, a strangled scream coming from her parched throat. She cupped her cheek, fingering the area under her eye and dared a glance around the humid space. She rocked back and forth, the terror subsiding. No one had found their way into her home, beating her in the middle of the night. The nightmare couldn’t hurt her. No, she refused to allow the memories to waste any more of her time.
She glanced around the darkened room as she controlled her breathing. The dreams were vivid. Breathe. You’re okay. You’re home. She was anything but okay. Ever since the dreams had begun in earnest almost six months before, she’d been suffocated, nighttime finally crushing her entire life. Help. Her best and only friend continued to encourage her to go see a doctor. A shrink she didn’t need.
A few seconds later, she climbed out of bed. There’d be no more sleep tonight. The clock said four-thirty, the usual time. She’d managed to hide her night terrors from everyone, at least so she could function. Being alone in her bed allowed the monsters to crawl out of their prison cells.
She exhaled as she eased to her feet, grabbing her robe and heading for the kitchen. A single flick flooded the expansive area with too much light, illuminating the mound of unopened mail. Three weeks seemed like a lifetime. She opened her refrigerator, searching for something cold to drink. The pitiful number of old condiments, a package of stale bagels, moldy cheese and a half empty bottle of water was a perfect sign regarding her life in general—out of sorts.
Coffee she had, although she’d have to drink it bitter and black. At least the hot liquid would warm her shivering body. As the coffee pot dripped water, she sat down and sorted through the assortment of mail, pushing the junk flyers to the side. The single pile remaining was hefty and she didn’t need to open the myriad of bills to know most of the envelopes housed dunning notices. She was lucky her electricity was still on.
How had life gotten so out of hand? She looked around at the stainless-steel appliances, realizing she couldn’t remember the last time the oven was used. She’d savored every second of fixing up the old home, making the gorgeous place something out of Florida Digest. Maybe she’d only achieved Cheap Homes and Gardens, but she’d tried. She chuckled. Thank God, she could care less about live plants or having a pet. They’d be dead.
She pushed around the group of notices until one in particular caught her eye. The red lettering indicating ‘open immediately’ from her mortgage company she couldn’t ignore. She groaned as she read the letter for the second time. The bank would need at least four thousand dollars by the end of the week or they were going to start foreclosure procedures. With two hundred dollars in her checking account and maybe a cool fifteen hundred in her savings, the meager check she was expecting from the recent shows wouldn’t be enough to keep the wolves at bay. Let alone she’d have to hand over another three thousand in a week.
Tears slipped past her lashes as she scanned the perimeter. She was under water in a space she rarely enjoyed—just like her life. A quick glance at the wall next to her refrigerator was a reminder of the old days, when she’d graced the covers of every rocker magazine. The glossy framed photographs were no longer any comfort. She placed her head into her hands and allowed herself a good cry as the gurgling sound of the coffee maker filtered in with her agonized sobs. She needed a Hail Mary. With no family to turn to and zero options, she had no idea what to do.
Wallowing in self-pity wasn’t the answer. She jerked a cup from the cabinet, pouring a hefty amount. The bitter taste was almost comforting. A plan. She needed a plan. As she paced the kitchen she realized she had to get a real job. There was no way she was going to be a rock and roll star again, no matter how hard the band worked or how many gigs they performed. Their fifteen minutes of fame were gone. Stardom had whizzed by in a blur.
Her house phone rang, cutting through the quiet, and she jumped. No one called using this number. “Hello?”
“Good morning, sleepy head.”
“Cody? What’s wrong?” She eyed the rays of sun peeking over the horizon.
“Nothing is wrong other than you need to get in gear. I tried calling your cell. We have a hot concert to perform at,” Cody chortled.
“What are you talking about?”
“Remember the benefit concert I mentioned in Orlando?”
Jessica tried to figure out what he was talking about. “Vaguely.”
“Right. You forget everything. The one where the folks offered to pay the band twenty k?”
She heard the excitement in his voice. They hadn’t been paid this much in almost three years. “Yeah?”
“Well, they want us. We’re the headline. Can you believe it?”
While she hadn’t been to a church since she was a little girl, she crossed herself in honor of her grandmother. Hail Mary.
“Get going. We have some work to do.”
A smile broke out across her face as she did the math. Twenty thousand dollars split five ways along with her savings was exactly what she needed. “Sounds fantastic!”
“Good girl. I’ll come get you in about two hours and we can take the scenic route. Hell, maybe we’ll take in a few sights on the way home. You’ll be ready?”
Jessica beamed. “With bells on, baby.”
“There’s the woman I know and adore. See you soon.”
She hung up the phone and turned in a full circle, sloshing coffee on the floor. Her luck was changing.
As she scampered toward the bedroom, ready for a hot shower and an amazing day, his words, ugly reminders of the past, settled into the back of her mind.
“You’re going to Hell, little girl and I’m going to send you on your way. First, let’s have a little fun. Come here.”