Yet another new section to my blog — Sunday snippets, where I’ll share an exclusive excerpt from a published story of mine. This week it’s my last novel, Old Familiar Song, which is out in e-book and paperback.
Back in college, Larry Carson played drums in a friend’s band and fell in love with the lead singer, Geoffrey Mason. But all that’s in the past. Larry’s now thirty-five, divorced, and father to a precocious thirteen-year-old daughter.
One day, when Larry picks Crystal up from school, a song comes on the radio by a new rockstar climbing the charts. Larry recognizes Geoff’s voice immediately, though Crystal calls him Geo and claims he’s the hottest new singer on the scene. Just hearing him brings back a flood of memories, reopening wounds Larry thought long healed.
The more he listens to Geo’s music, the more Larry falls in love with his former boyfriend all over again. Partly to prove to his daughter that he used to know Geo back in the day, and partly to reconnect with his old friend, Larry buys tickets to an upcoming concert and manages to score backstage passes.
But there was a reason Larry and Geoff lost touch — and stayed out of touch for so long. Will Geo even want to see Larry again after all this time? Or will the magic of their old familiar song bring about a harmonious duet?
The only thing that could possibly make the evening any better, Larry thought as he tucked his drumsticks into his back pocket and started to break down his drum kit, was if it somehow ended with Geoff in his arms.
Yeah, like that was going to happen. He doesn’t know how I feel —
A hand on the small of his back startled him and he stood, expecting to see Doug, but it was Geoff leaning down over him. Those gray eyes danced with emotion and the stage lights, making them lighter than usual, like twin beads of quicksilver that had bubbled up from the temperature of their performance. Larry felt the heat simmering between them where Geoff’s hand still rested on his back. From that small touch alone, his entire body threatened to burst into flame.
“God, what a rush!” Geoff yelled over the sound of the crowd. “I didn’t know it’d feel like this!”
It never did before, Larry almost said.
But before he could, Doug was there, shoving between them with his guitar leading the way. “Crazy!” he hollered, all smiles.
The way he grinned at Geoff, Larry knew he’d forgotten their earlier animosity in light of the favorable response from the audience. Screw whatever I think, it’s all about your adoring fans, Larry thought darkly. Fuck that. They aren’t your fans anymore. Newsflash, Doug — they’re Geoff’s now.
Sure enough, Doug nodded at the edge of the stage, where a handful of young, college-aged girls had gathered. Some were reaching out towards them, others calling out Geoff’s name. Partway through their set, Doug liked to stop and introduce the band, but usually no one had ever bothered to listen before. Apparently now, some of the audience had listened, because Geoff’s name was being chanted in an almost disturbing fashion by the growing number of women nearby. They hadn’t climbed up onto the stage — not yet — but Larry worried they might. All it’d take was one brave enough to lead the charge …
Some of the excitement faded from Geoff’s eyes. “Do you guys usually hang around afterwards?” he asked, a tinge of worry in his voice.
With a loud laugh, Doug cried, “Not unless you’re looking to get laid! Hi, girls!” He waved at the audience, which caused a few of the women to swoon.
Geoff stepped around behind Larry, both hands on his back now, obviously trying to hide. “Yeah, no. Let’s go.” He grabbed twin fistfuls of Larry’s shirt and held on tight, as if afraid someone in that crowd might try to physically pull him off the stage. Over Larry’s shoulder, he muttered, “You and I aren’t even supposed to be in here, are we? We’re underage. We should leave now, don’t you think?”
Glancing back at him, Larry smirked. “Don’t tell me you don’t want to be ripped apart by fangirls? Isn’t that every teenage boy’s dream?”
The look of fear in Geoff’s eyes was answer enough. But then hissed back, “Is it yours?”
Something in the way he said it, Larry knew Geoff knew he was gay.
Fortunately, before Larry could reply, the manager of the Ratt took the stage and held up his hands to quiet the crowd. “Ladies, please,” she said, flashing a disarming smile that managed to dim the noise a bit. That, or the bouncers she’d brought along with her who took up positions along the edge of the stage served as good crowd control. When she could be heard without a microphone, she continued. “Let our boyband here take their instruments out to their van –”
“Not A Boy Band,” Doug interjected.
She gave him an indulgent grin that told Larry exactly which lucky lady his friend would end up with for the evening. “Yes, well, let them get offstage so our next act can set up, and we’ll see what we can do about organizing a meet and greet over by the bar, what do y’all say? One more round of applause for these gentlemen, please!”
The cheers were deafening. With Geoff’s help, Larry disassembled his drum kit and stacked it on the handcart he used to roll it from the van to their gigs. Doug had the guitar and Rob, his keyboard. Geoff pushed a second handcart they used to lug the amps. The bouncers made sure a path was clear from the stage to the tavern door, and they kept it clear, too. For the first time, Larry felt like part of a real band, dodging rabid fans and turning away from cameras suddenly thrust in his face, hiding behind a line of bodyguards as they hurried to a waiting limousine outside.
Only they had to tote their own equipment, and there was no limo waiting for them, only Doug’s crappy van. But after the heat of the stage lights and closeness of the fans pressing in around them, the cool night air felt like bliss against Larry’s fevered skin. The crowd didn’t follow them outside — the bouncers made sure of that — and once they were in the parking lot, the guys laughed about the gig to release the tension that had been building up around them. “Our first groupies!” Doug cried.
Geoff asked, “Was no one else a little freaked out back there?”
Clapping him on the back, Doug announced, “You, my man, are my new best friend.”
“Hey!” Larry cried, pretending to sound wounded. “What about me?”
Doug draped an arm around Geoff’s shoulder and pulled him into a one-armed hug. “This guy’s going to get me so laid. What can you do for me?”
Larry glared at Doug as they neared the van. “Not kill you in your sleep, for starters.”
“He’s just jealous,” Doug whispered loudly. “You stick with me, babe. We’re gonna get all the ladies.”
“I don’t want them,” Geoff muttered.
Larry laughed. “Then you really are his best friend, because that means there’ll be more for him.”
* * * *
Larry was hardly surprised when Doug tossed his guitar into the back of the van with barely a glance at how it landed so he could return to the Ratt and the crowd of women waiting. For Geoff, Larry wanted to say, but let Doug find that out for himself. What was surprising was that Rob — Mr. Mullet, who still lived with his mother — hurried to do the same.
As he helped Geoff load the amps and synthesizers into the van, Larry muttered under his breath, “Yeah, none of those girls want any of that.”
Geoff laughed. “Doug seems to do well with the ladies.”
Larry rolled his eyes. “He talks a good game, don’t get me wrong, but his chances are fifty-fifty. He strikes out as much as he scores most nights.”
Together they hefted the last of the amps into the back, then folded up the handcart and tucked it off to the side. Next came Larry’s drums, which he treated with considerably more care. They were his babies; he’d been playing the same set of skins since high school, and they’d cost him a pretty penny over the years. If anything ever damaged any of them, from the smallest tom to the large bass, or even scratched any of his cymbals, he’d be livid. There was a certain order he liked to use when packing the kit, and Geoff took a step back to let him deal with the drums without interference.
As he worked, Larry told his friend, “Don’t worry about Doug. He already has someone lined up tonight. How do you think we got this gig in the first place?”
Leaning against one of the van’s open back doors, Geoff frowned down at him. “What do you mean?”
“That lady who came on stage after our set?” Larry glanced up at him and smirked. “She was the manager, I bet. That type always goes for Doug, I don’t know why. He told me once it was his smile, but I’ve known him long enough to know when he’s hiding nothing but bullshit behind that grin. I think some older ladies like reliving their glory days by fucking younger men, and Doug’s an easy lay. Don’t you dare tell him I said that, though.”
“I won’t.” Geoff laughed again and shook his head. “I guess if you’re hard up and can’t get it, you take it wherever you can.”
“Exactly.” Carefully Larry set the bass drum into the van, then started to nest the smaller drums into it. “Though in Doug’s case, it isn’t the sex so much as it’s finding a place for us to play, I think. But seriously, before tonight? We didn’t even stand a chance.”
That frown flashed across Geoff’s lips a second time, marring his handsome features. Larry had to turn away and concentrate on his drums to keep from leaning forward to kiss it away. The temptation was almost too great, though; thank goodness his hands were filled with cymbals and tom-toms, or he would probably do something foolish. And end up having to apologize for it, too, he thought, forcing himself to turn away from Geoff. Does he know what he does to me? Does he even have a clue?
“What do you mean, before tonight?” Geoff wanted to know. “You guys have been playing for a while now, haven’t you?”
Larry busied himself with wrapping his cymbals in protective foam padding to keep them from getting scratched. “Doug and Rob have been, yes,” he said. “Last year they had another guitarist, no drums, and I think a few girls who sang backup, but I’m not sure. There was a bit of a blowout at the end of the semester, though — you’ve seen how Doug can be –”
“No shit,” Geoff muttered.
Over his shoulder, Larry grinned at his friend. “Then I came along, and Doug and I have known each other for years, so he was all like, you’re in the band. Same way he did with you. Only I had to go back home during Labor Day weekend and lug my drum kit up when I returned. And listen to my mom bitch about how, if my grades drop, I have to promise to give it up.”
Making an exaggerated pout, Geoff faked a sigh. “Aw, poor you.”
“Tell me about it.” Larry shook his head. “I can’t seem to get anything below a B in any of my classes! I was this close to lying to Doug and telling him my grade point average was slipping to get out of this damn thing. Then you came along with a voice like that, and suddenly we’re half-decent. We even have fans.”
As if I needed an excuse to hang out with you more, he added silently.
“Fangirls,” Geoff corrected.
Larry laughed. “Lucky Doug. Though I’m not real sure what Rob thinks he’s going to do with any of them. The only woman in his life is his mother.”
“Ew, really?” Geoff wrinkled his nose in disgust.
“He’s forty and still lives at home,” Larry said. “You do the math.”
Finally the drums were all neatly packed away. Larry folded up the second handcart and slid it into an empty space alongside its partner. “There. All set.”
With Geoff’s help, he closed the van’s doors and locked them. The keys to the van rested in the front pocket of his jeans. Leaning back against the van, he folded his arms across his chest and looked at his friend in the glow from the overhead street lights illuminating the Ratt’s parking lot. “So,” he said.
Geoff took a step closer and shoved his hands in his pockets, then leaned his arm against the van beside Larry. “Want to go back in there with the others?” he asked. “Sign autographs and shit?”
Larry shook his head. “Not really.”
Geoff shuffled forward, inching closer still, until the toe of his shoe bumped Larry’s foot. Lowering his voice, he murmured, “Hey, listen.”
“Hey, what?” Larry replied with a smile.
“So, Doug.” Geoff dropped his gaze, as if embarrassed by what he wanted to say.
Larry prodded. “What about him?”
With a shrug, Geoff asked, “What’s the deal between you two? I mean, I know he likes girls, but … well … what about you?”
Larry’s heart quickened. Hoping he sounded more casual than he felt, he asked, “Do you want to know if I like girls, too?”
Geoff glanced up at him sharply. “Do you?”
Now it was Larry’s turn to shrug. “Sometimes. But I like guys, as well.”
“So you’re bi,” Geoff sighed.
Geoff bit his lower lip, mulling that over. Larry held his breath, waiting. After an eternity, he started to feel lightheaded. Tell me what you’re thinking, he prayed. Give me something to go on here. Talk to me, please.
Finally Geoff asked again, “What about Doug?”
“What about him?” Larry countered. “We’re friends, nothing more than that.”
“With benefits?” Geoff pressed.
A short bark of nervous laughter escaped before Larry could tamp it down. “God, no. One, he isn’t into guys. Two, he isn’t my type.”
Geoff gave him a small smile — it wasn’t the sunny grin Larry was used to, but it was enough to dispel the storms clouding those gray eyes. In a soft voice, he asked, “What is?”
Meeting his gaze, Larry admitted, “You.”
Then he surprised them both by closing the distance between them and pressing his lips to Geoff’s to claim a sudden, tender kiss.