by LK Hunsaker
Music, Romance, & Friendship entwine during the 70s, with characters who will capture you.
Rehearsal: The Highest Aim
With rising fame comes rising tensions and decisions that build relationships or destroy them.
Susie, Duncan, and Evan lead Raucous through the music world jungle heading toward the top. Along the way, family secrets are revealed and new additions come along, and the friends must redefine themselves within their new roles. While making sacrifices and reconsidering relationships, they’ll have to choose between clinging to their current worlds and letting go to explore new possibilities.
The Highest Aim is the second in a series of six.
Available at most major online retailers, by order from your local independent store, or signed directly by the author at a discount. Email me!
(The print version is so far, as of January 2015, available with its original cover. That will soon be taken out of print and replaced with a new cover. I do have copies here available and will sell them personally signed until out of stock.)
Also in ebook format at Smashwords.com: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/lkhunsaker and soon to be available in shorter serial format.
Free read Rehearsal-related shorts are also available at Smashwords:
-- Evan's Story (focusing on Evan and Susie's relationships as teens)
-- The Water's Touch (focusing on Duncan as a teen in Scotland)
more to come!
For more info about the Rehearsal series, along with reviews, see http://www.lkhunsaker.com/Rehearsal-TheSeries.htm
Warning.. this is a spoiler for the first book of the series, Rehearsal: A Different Drummer. The series is intended for 15 and older due to language and some adult content. (Original version excerpt. New edition is edited further.)
28 July 1974
Grabbing an amp from the storage compartment beneath the rumbling bus, Evan straightened and jerked sideways enough for his guitar case to return to hanging over his back. Susie chastised him for overdoing the load, her eyes still sparkling from the excitement of the proposal. He assured her he was fine in the gentle tone he used only for her. Engaged. She was getting married. Evan couldn’t quite let it register in his brain and tried to let the strain of his muscles distract him from the strain of his thoughts.
It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. Or maybe it was, as happy as Duncan made her. Still, it left Evan drifting in the confusion of losing his life-long expectations.
His mom echoed Susie’s protest about carrying too much at once. It irritated Evan in a way Susie hadn’t. With a polite glance to say he heard her, he pushed on toward the apartment building, through night’s darkness and a cool breeze slapping his face. Janet held the door, mentioning how she enjoyed the lavender scent in front of the apartment building. Evan never cared for the herb before Susie planted it the previous spring, before he noticed how she loved it. Last year, they often sat on the steps to talk, enjoying the Massachusetts summer evenings, the freshness of nature, and each other. They hadn’t needed anything else.
He didn’t answer Janet, not wanting his girlfriend’s thoughts to invade his memories.
Voices swirled around the hallway and followed him into the basement while the band unloaded their equipment. Despite it being nearly one in the morning, they were all still talkative. Stu especially wouldn’t quit. He kept discussing the wedding, teasing Susie and Duncan about whether they would at least be engaged as long as they had dated. Janet countered with the necessity of waiting longer than that; four months wasn’t enough time to plan a wedding.
Unloading the amp onto the floor against the wall, Evan turned to see Duncan grimace while setting part of the drum set down. His ribs weren’t healed from the attempted mugging enough to carry much of anything yet. Wondering how Duncan got past his girlfriend … fiancée … in order to do so, Evan glanced around the basement. He didn’t see her. Amazing. He expected her to be glued to his side until they parted for the night.
Evan stopped him. “If Susie had seen the pain in your face I just did, she’d be all over you.”
So do no’ tell her.” Duncan threw a grin.
“Deal, but only if you stop now. You can’t heal that way.”
“I’m not backing down on this one.” Evan watched his friend’s face. There was a trace of wanting to tell him to back the hell off, as Duncan normally would, but mostly it was calm, relenting.
“So y’ are no’ pissed at me?”
“About what? You think I didn’t know you would push yourself too fast? How long have we known each other?”
“That is no’ what I meant. Y’ have no’ said anything about it yet, other than in front of everyone.” He looked over at voices in the distance, and returned the gaze. “Should I ‘ave told y’ I was going t’ propose?”
“Why would you need to tell me first?”
“Because she is closer t’ you than to anyone else. I did talk t’ her dad, but maybe I should ‘ave said something t’ you.”
“You asked John’s permission?” Evan couldn’t hide his surprise. No one did that anymore. Or maybe they did in Scotland? In 1974? Evan rather doubted it was the norm there, either.
“His opinion matters t’ her. I wanted t’ know it would no’ cause more trouble.”
“Who are you?” Evan grinned at his friend’s raised eyebrow. “I don’t mean that as an insult. But I’ve been so focused on how Susie has changed that I think I’ve missed something. Since when do you ask permission to do anything?”
Duncan looked across the room when Susie’s laughter cut through other voices, studying her a moment as she stood talking with Kate and Alison. “Y’ know I am lucky she will have anything t’ do with me. I do no’ know why she does or why she accepted, but I do not want t’ screw things up now.”
“Lucky?” Evan shook his head. “You’re good for her.” Despite himself, he had to admit it. “Duncan, if you had asked me, I would have told you I have never in my life seen her as happy as she is now. People screw up. Hell, I screw up all the time and she hasn’t walked away from me yet.” Evan glanced over and caught her eyes; she knew they were talking about her.
Commotion caught his attention – Stu trying to carry too much at once. Setting a hand on Duncan’s shoulder, he knew he had to say more. “You don’t need my approval, but you have it. I meant my congratulations sincerely.”
“Then y’ will stand up with me? Be my best man?”
Duncan’s best man, while he married the love of Evan’s life. Something was rather unjust about the idea. “You’ve been planning this for a while?”
“Since the day she said she was in love with me. I only waited t’ be legal so I knew I would no’ be makin’ her choose between me and her home.”
Making her choose. Except she already had. Susie would choose Duncan over anything, or anyone. Evan stifled his thoughts. “I would be honored to stand up with you.”
Accepting a handshake and thanks, he went to help Stu and to finish unloading. Walking past Susie, he paused to mention her fiancé was having a hard time not letting himself carry equipment, knowing full well Duncan had followed and was listening.
“Oh? Well, I think he’s not going to.” She smiled at Evan and set a hand on Duncan’s stomach, her other arm wrapping around his back. “I’m still in charge.”
Duncan raised an eyebrow. “Are y’ now?”
She kissed him.
Evan continued toward Stu.
Susie felt movement on the bed and opened her eyes. Light streaming through the blinds told her it was early; the sun was still rising. Finding Duncan’s face, she moved closer, cuddling in against his bare chest. His fingers touched her cheek and ran back through her hair. Engaged. He had asked her to be his wife. The memory of the night before brought the emotions to nearly the same level as when he first asked and she pressed her fingers against his back, holding on.
“G’ mornin’.” He kissed her head.
“I love waking up with you.” She returned the kiss, to his chest. She had become bolder last night … earlier this morning … when he agreed to stay, and after she agreed they would still wait … until their wedding night. At least now she knew what she was waiting for, that he had a reason beyond just because she had told him she had planned on waiting until she was married. They had also agreed that it wouldn’t take four months or more, as Janet insisted it would, to plan the wedding. Not for what they wanted; simple and elegant, but not fancy. They didn’t want a bunch of designers and caterers and a thousand guests. They wanted their family and their friends and candles … and the legal joining that would signify the way they were already joined in spirit.
“I am glad y’ do. I hope y’ will no’ get tired of me always bein’ here.”
Raising to see his face, she smiled. “Not likely.”
He kissed her, pressing closer, turning her onto her back to prop himself half-way on top. “Y’ know I am supposed t’ be goin’ to work in a few minutes.”
“Call in. Want me to dial?” She started reaching for the phone.
Grasping her hand, Duncan entwined his fingers in hers and pulled her arm back in to their sides. “Come in with me. I can no’ leave Ev short again, bu’ I do no’ want t’ leave y’ today. I am no’ doin’ anything now that y’ can no’ do.”
“It’s driving you crazy, isn’t it?” Susie pulled her hand from his and ran it along his ribs. “Having to be so careful.”
He raised an eyebrow. “It is no’ as hard as tryin’ t’ be careful with you.”
“No?” She slid her hand up to his chest. “So I think we should set a date. Unless you want to wait…”
“Tell me when and I will be there.” Duncan touched her lips.
“Tomorrow.” She chuckled at his expression. “Too soon?”
“No’ for me, bu’ y’ are no’ serious?”
Not completely, but she wouldn’t argue if he agreed, either. “Well, I suppose I need time to make a dress and…”
“And we need t’ clear the schedule with the band, so we will have time t’ go away.”
“Go away?” Susie touched his hair.
“Y’ do no’ want a honeymoon?” His eyes sparkled, amused.
“Oh. Yes, nothing fancy, though, just…”
He kissed her, deeper, lowering against her body. His breath tickled her neck when he moved his lips close to her ear. “I want t’ give y’ everything y’ have always wanted. Tell me wha’ kind of honeymoon y’ have though’ about. Honestly.”
Clenching her eyes, she resisted his pulling away. “I just want to be with you, alone. I don’t care where we go. I don’t care if it rains. I don’t care if it’s out in a tent somewhere. I just want to be with you.”
Finally forcing themselves to rise, the decision of the honeymoon left in Duncan’s hands, they began to separate long enough to shower in their individual apartments.
Susie stopped him at the door. “Wait.” She went to the kitchen and grabbed the extra apartment key out of a drawer, returning to place it in his hand. “Dad gave it back to me last night. I want you to have it.” She gave him a quick kiss. “If you’re done before I am, you can let yourself in.”
“And I should no’ tell y’ wha’ I am thinking right now.” He grinned.
“You don’t have to.” She backed away a couple of steps, watching his eyes. “I’ll hurry so I don’t make you late for work.”
“I am no’ sure I would care.”
She chuckled and turned to go down the hall.