From Chapter 1

The chord progression was tough, but Sharon worked at it until it flowed smoothly from one bar to the next. She hummed along with it, engrossed in the work she loved. The day had gone well. She’d made quite a bit of progress, but it was far from done.

The song she was writing was strong, determined, even aggressive. She thought maybe she ought to make the lyrics patri‐ otic and enthusiastic. But the lyrics would come later. She had yet to finish the melody. Other songwriters approached their music differently, but writing the music first was the way she learned to do it years ago and it suited her.

Sharon smiled as she watched, her own long, dark blonde hair tied up in a ponytail to prevent it from draping down over her guitar while she wrote. Riley was a person of enthusiasms and she tended to go crazy for one thing or another, then rapidly lose interest. She was flighty but had a heart of gold. Still, Sharon had to ask. “What’s got you all het up?”

“Oh, can’t you tell, Sharon? I’m in love! Love, love, love. I’m mad, crazy, loony about this guy!” Tossing her purse onto a plush olive-green club chair, she sighed and hummed with delight.

Sharon wanted to roll her eyes, but she opted for politeness. “Oh? Who is he?”

“He’s a rodeo something-or-other. His name is Cash. Isn’t it the cutest name ever? It sounds like he’d be a good luck charm. He’s so fantastic, I just can’t get enough.”

Sharon smiled and strummed a few chords. “Is he Cash Richey?”

“Could there be another cowboy named ‘Cash’?”

“Unlikely. I’ve seen him but haven’t spoken to him. Tall, a little scruffy, gorgeous smile, right?”

“That’s him. Oh, Sharon, when he smiles at me, I think I might faint.” She flopped with a whoosh onto the other, matching chair in the room, across from Sharon, who sat with her guitar balanced on her jeans on the brown and gold patterned sofa.

Riley was on one of her trips into fantasy-ville. She was so often ‘in love’, it was a cycle of wild enthusiasm followed by deep disappointment when the guy she was crushing on let her down somehow. She broke up with lovers as often as Sharon put on her shoes. Sharon was exactly the opposite. She was too busy to start relationships. Her music meant more than a passing fancy, even though, every once in a while, she felt a little lonely and yearned for the company of a man she could love. It was stupid, though. She didn’t want to fall in and out of love like Riley.

“Riley, keep a level head, okay? You remember Harry, don’t you? You were crazy about him, too, and he was quite a dirt bag. It wasn’t the first time, either.”

Riley stopped smiling and began to fuss with the buttons on her dress. “I know, I know. I haven’t always had great taste in men. But those guys were wrong for me. We had too much in common. They didn’t excite me like Cash does.”

Too much in common… Like being flighty and slightly pressed off center? Yes, they were those things, but also, they weren’t as interested in Riley as she had been in them. She’d thrown her all into each relationship and got very little in return. She just couldn’t admit to herself she’d set herself up to be used and discarded. Sharon tried to tell her, or at least mitigate the damage when her friend wouldn’t listen to reason.

“Where did you meet him? At the arena?”

“Yes. I was looking for you. He stopped to help me. He’s just the most kind, generous person ever!”

Sharon paused her random chord progressions, watching the sheer white curtains billow slightly on the warm afternoon breeze. “Gentlemanly of him. What did you need from me that couldn’t wait until tonight?”

“Maggie has a cold and laryngitis. Can you be a backup singer tonight at a show?”

“What time?”

“Nine o’clock. Say you’ll do it. Please?”

“Where is it?”


“Another wedding?”

Riley scrunched up her face. “I know. I know. But I could use the money, and those gigs pay really well. There’s no shame in doing private engagements.”

“No, of course not.” Sharon could use the money, too. Doing rodeos paid the bills for the most part, but it didn’t get her ahead. If she wanted to devote more time to songwriting rather than performing, she needed to have a nest egg.

It would be a race to get from the arena where she had an eight o’clock show, all the way to Guenther’s across town. It was a popular venue for parties, including wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs, and small business conferences. It had a beautiful view of the San Antonio River Walk, which drew people from all over Texas and beyond. Their food was excellent, the tables always glittered with fine china, and the liquor was plentiful. For Sharon, the money was too good to pass up. “Sure, I’ll do it. Tell Maggie I hope she gets better soon. Is there a rehearsal?”

“No. We’re playing the usual mix, including ‘Mocha’. Nothing you haven’t done with us before.”

“Mocha” was a song Sharon had written for Riley a couple of years past. Riley had ridden it into the top forty but hadn’t been able to capitalize on it as much as she should have. Her agent hadn’t been aggressive enough, but he’d been replaced since then and Riley’s gigs were getting more frequent and high- profile. Sharon was proud of “Mocha” but, like Riley, it hadn’t gotten her as far as it might have. Sharon’s agent did get her a few songwriting gigs for novice country singers on the back of the song, but she needed more than one top forty in order to make a name for herself in the music industry.

Riley got up, patted Sharon on her bare arm wrapped around the guitar and giggled. “You’re good to me. Thank you.”

Sharon returned Riley’s warm expression. “You’re welcome.”

“La la la! I’m about as happy as happy can be. I love being in love! Cash and I are going to be perfect for each other, don’t you think?”

Yes, Riley loved being in love. Good thing, too, as she did it so often. “I don’t know Cash except to point him out in a crowd. I’m sure the right man will come along for you sooner or later, Riley. Maybe he’s the one. I couldn’t say.”

“Wait until you meet him! Then you’ll know for sure like I do.”

“Okay. Until then, let me get back to this song. I’d like to get the refrain started today.”

“Of course. I’m going to go look him up on the internet. It doesn’t hurt to be careful.”

“Right. Have fun.” At least her friend had the common sense to look for any red flags. Sharon would have probably heard gossip about any cowboy who was particularly troublesome, but she really didn’t get involved in squabbles, so she might have missed something. The cowboys didn’t much interest her. They were too testosterone-driven, dangerous to her peace of mind. She was safer with her guitar.

As Riley danced out of the room, humming a popular love song, Sharon rolled her eyes and got back to her work.

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