Title: Halfway to Someday
Author: Layla Dorine
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: January 27, 2020
Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, PTSD, musician, ex-military, insta-love, contemporary, gay, rock star, hurt/comfort
Rocker Jesse Winters just wants to be left alone. If he could melt into oblivion, he would and bid farewell to the wild child of rock n’ roll so many had dubbed him in recent months. Truth is there was never anything reckless, wild, or even deliberate about most of the things that had happened on Wild Child’s last tour, but had anyone cared to listen? No! Which was precisely why he was sitting in a cabin high up in the Colorado mountains, hoping the incoming blizzard would bury him forever.
Ryker Jorgensen left the VA hospital with a bunch of prescriptions and pamphlets on how to deal with reentering the civilian world, not that he’s in any hurry to do so. His nightmares still keep him up at night, and every new limitation he discovers gives him more reason to believe that he’s hopelessly useless now. Better to drive up to his cousin’s cabin and lick his wounds. Come spring, maybe, he’d look into being around people, if only for long enough to make the kind of money he’d need to buy his own secluded place.
The last thing Ryker ever expected to see was the man whose face had been plastered in his footlocker and his dreams for the better part of the past six years, but Jesse Winters is nothing like he imagined. When trying to leave Ryker out in the storm doesn’t work, Jesse resorts to ignoring him. But two wounded souls trapped in a snowed in cabin have little choice but to reach out for one another when emotions get frayed. His only hope is that Jesse will trust him enough to let him drag him back from the edge before he’s just another burned out star in the legacy that is rock n’ roll.
Halfway to Someday
Layla Dorine © 2020
All Rights Reserved
Firelight flickered against the stone mantel of the fireplace, yet despite its warmth, Jesse shivered and huddled in the blankets he’d wrapped around his shoulders. The winds outside had picked up as the sun sank lower in the sky. Now, as the minutes ticked closer to sunset, they howled like the crowds in the stands at every show he’d ever played. Staring into tear-blurred flames, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever climb up on a stage again. His fingers itched to touch his guitar, but what was the point in creating anything with the way his bandmates had turned their backs on him.
“Way to go.”
The sarcasm in Tish’s voice was unmistakable. Whirling, Jesse turned to glare at her.
“You think I ruined the concert on purpose?”
“What are we supposed to think!” she spat, crowding into his space. Didn’t matter that she was shorter, she had a way of getting right in his face. “The way you played tonight was abysmal. The fans didn’t deserve that. We didn’t deserve to have you out there ruining the set like that. You let everyone down tonight, so instead of making excuses, why don’t you tell us what the hell you’re on so you can get the treatment you need!”
“I’m not on anything!” he roared; then Kyle and Griffin were there, crowding him back against the wall.
“You garbled half the words to songs you wrote!” Griffin shot back.
“Not to mention how many times you were off-key and singing in an entirely different pitch than you were supposed to!” Kyle rebuked, staring into his eyes. “Were you drunk up there? High? Are you high now?”
“It was a bad night, okay? Why the hell can’t you all leave it at that?”
“One night is a bad night,” Tish hissed. “Hell, even two nights out of an eight-month tour, but this was what, the eleventh, twelfth time you’ve fucked everything up?”
“Fourteen,” Griffin said. “You’re forgetting the show he had to cut short in Reno, and the one we had to cancel in San Diego when he called and said he couldn’t perform. Couldn’t even bother to come tell us to our faces, he was so strung out.”
“I. Don’t. Use,” he snarled, exhausted, throat hurting as they’d loomed over him like vultures ready to pick him apart.
“Then tell us what the fuck is going on!” Kyle snapped.
Jesse shook his head, defeated, as he stared up into the eyes of his oldest friend. “I-I can’t.”
“You mean you won’t!” Tish chided. “And you’ll drag all of us down with you as our band, our dream, fizzles and burns.”
“It’s not like that. That’s the last thing I want.”
“Could have fooled me,” she snapped, sidestepping him and walking away, leaving the others to follow her.
“I just need time to work a few things out,” he called after them, cringing at the burn in his throat any time he tried to get loud. None of them even so much as turned back to look at him.
Pain sliced through his insides like broken glass, and he cringed and curled inward, rocking in the hopes of easing the ache. It wasn’t fair—he’d never set out do anything that would hurt the band or their music, never meant to get up there and fail or worse, not make it up there at all. But he’d screwed up both his personal and his professional life in all the worst ways possible…well, all except the ways they’d thought. He wasn’t stupid. He’d never use any of the hard stuff; he knew what it could do to bands, and he didn’t drink to get drunk, despite how free-flowing the whiskey and liquor got. Pot was different; it came from the earth, and besides, he only smoked it in the states where it was already legal recreationally. It mellowed him out when his brain was racing a mile a minute, and sometimes, that hazy silence was the only way he could relax enough to sleep. They knew him; they knew how deeply he loved the music, how it was all he had aside from them, and yet…
Did he even have them anymore?
Not knowing the answer doubled his pain, leaving him desperate to make it stop shredding his insides. The wind screamed and he raised his head, stared out the window, and watched the trees wave like angry shadows across the sad, gray sky, before turning his attention back to the song he’d been struggling since morning to write. The half-filled page in the journal on his lap taunted him with all its unfilled lines.
Too soft. It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t anything but another feel-good fluff piece like the rest of the shit he’d been writing for the past year. With a growl, he ripped the page out, crumpled it, and tossed it into the flames. Orange licked around white, curling the edges, blackening them before devouring it completely.
Glaring down at the previous song, he skimmed a couple lines, then yanked it from the journal and hurled it into the fire too. The sound of tearing paper brought some sick kind of satisfaction, so he ripped out several more and consigned them to the flames, leaving nothing but the darker pieces he’d penned earlier in the week. Now those words he could connect with.
“Holy shit, guys, do you know what this means?”
They all turned their attention toward Kyle, who was still bent over the contract on the table, rereading every line of the document they were preparing to sign.
“Yeah,” Griffin called out. “It means no more ramen-noodle stew and day-old Bolivian creams. We can finally buy the fresh ones instead of the stale fifty-nine cent kind.”
They all broke into laughter then, the energy level in the room so high everyone was vibrating with it. Tish moved to stand behind Kyle, hugging him and rereading the contract over his shoulder.
“Means we beat the odds,” Tish said, her voice trembling with awe. “We really did it. We got a record deal.”
“Hell yeah, we did!” Jesse laughed, high-fiving Griffin, who caught him by the wrist, yanked him into a headlock, and proceeded to muss up his hair, which turned into a wrestling match that Jesse had no chance of winning. He’d resorted to tickling Griffin instead, their drummer writhing on the carpet as Tish decided to get in on the action and tickle him too. Of course, that had led to Kyle tickling her and all of them eventually collapsing into a laughing pile beside the couch.
Now, as he poured all his angst and rage onto the page, he found it impossible to remember when they’d last laughed together. Back in the studio, maybe, when they’d recorded their last album before the tour? He tried to think back that far, tried to temper the darkness of the would-be song with thin tendrils of lightness and hope, but the only images he could conjure in his mind were angry ones. Bitter accusations hurled at him the way he was hurling sarcasm and ire at the page, dotting it all with a heavy dose of scorn and a metric fuckton of guilt.
Snarling, he scrawled a few more words in the journal then tossed it aside, kicked a blanket off to the side, and squirmed around until his back was against the couch and his fingers were beside his pillows. For several moments, he caressed one of the soft, fluffy pillows before jamming his hand underneath, fingers fumbling below the plush overstuffed feathers, brushing against the coolness of the blade he kept tucked there. He curled his fingers around it, pulled it from its hiding spot, and let the firelight glint off the sharpened steel, the sparkle mesmerizing him for a moment. The flashing red-and-orange hues reminded him of strobe lights. He ran the blade up the back of his hand and arm, watching the tiny lines of blood well up and drip over the scars. Old white lines, angry red raised ones, an endless pattern that disappeared beneath his sleeve. If the photographers ever saw, they’d have a field day selling those shots to every music magazine they could find, which was why he never went sleeveless on stage. Here though, in the solitude of this borrowed cabin, he’d left his scars uncovered, if only to make it easier to carve in more.
Turning his hand over, Jesse pressed the blade against his wrist, traced the sharp edge along his flesh, but didn’t part it. Not this time. It was so tempting though. Maybe later when he dreamed of all his failures and woke up crying again.
How long he sat that way he’d never know, firm grip pressing the knife to his arm, body poised for action, muscles tense, beginning to ache from being held on edge so long. The voices in his ear warred, screamed, raged, one telling him to do it, the other pleading with him to think. All he wanted was the shame to stop and the heavy pressure in his chest to ease up enough to let him breathe.
The wind raged, and he longed to go out in it, throw his head back, and howl until his voice was shot. It wasn’t fair. He’d been scared and sick and struggling with what to do, choking on feelings of inadequacy and rage, a whirlwind of words in his head, and yet he hadn’t been able to string them together. Each time he’d attempted to stammer out something, they’d hit him with another accusation; if anything, that had hurt more than what Troy had done.
His fingers shook, so he pressed the knife deeper into his arm, trying to still the shaking. Pain shot up the back of his neck, throbbing in his temples and behind his eyes, his body coiled so hard it hurt.
There was no one left to believe in him, so why keep fighting? His band was the only family he’d had since his folks died. Without them, why keep playing? Why write another song? Why even bother to live another day? It would be so easy to give in, become another statistic. There was no one to stop him, no one to find the body until spring, and by then it wouldn’t matter—they’d have already replaced him anyway.
Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly, the vicious voice in his head telling him to get it over with.
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Meet the Author
Layla Dorine lives among the sprawling prairies of Midwestern America, in a house with more cats than people. She loves hiking, fishing, swimming, martial arts, camping out, photography, cooking, and dabbling with several artistic mediums. In addition, she loves to travel and visit museums, historic, and haunted places.
Layla got hooked on writing as a child, starting with poetry and then branching out, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Hard times, troubled times, the lives of her characters are never easy, but then what life is? The story is in the struggle, the journey, the triumphs and the falls. She writes about artists, musicians, loners, drifters, dreamers, hippies, bikers, truckers, hunters and all the other folks that she’s met and fallen in love with over the years. Sometimes she writes urban romance and sometimes its aliens crash landing near a roadside bar. When she isn’t writing, or wandering somewhere outdoors, she can often be found curled up with a good book and a kitty on her lap.