Authors: Alison Packard
Hearts on Fire © 2015 by
Design by Helen Williams
Photo © Andy Dean Photography
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
OTHER BOOKS BY ALISON PACKARD
in the Afternoon (Feeling the Heat #1)
Winning Season (Feeling the Heat #2)
Christmas for Carrie (Feeling the Heat #2.5)
Heat (Feeling the Heat #3)
His Rules (Feeling the Heat #4)
For Roman. Everyone should
have a brother like you. Love you lots!
Jessie Grant stared
at the cheery yellow wall in her dressing room, and fought the
overwhelming urge to throw something. Anything. Her agitated gaze
fell on the lovely vase of flowers that had been delivered just
before the show, and she had to remind herself that violence,
especially towards a perfectly innocent bouquet of pink roses and
white calla lilies, wouldn’t solve anything.
But then again, it
might relieve the tension that was coiled inside of her like a
tightly wound spring.
“Calm down?” Jessie
whirled around and met the exasperated eyes of her manager. “You
expect me to calm down when my guitar player, who, unbeknownst to me,
was half-wasted during our set, and decided to stage dive into the
audience.” She pointed a finger at him. “That broken arm of his
isn’t gonna to heal in four days. I need another guitar player, and
I need one
Lindell said in a soothing voice. “I’m working on it.”
“How are you working
She propped her hands
on her hips and gave him her best glacial stare. It didn’t faze
him. It never did. He’d been her manager since she was fifteen
years old, and he knew her better than anyone. So he
have known that she would be totally freaked out about losing her
lead guitar player four days before her exclusive gig in Las Vegas,
after all, he was the one who had dubbed her a perfectionist.
“I put in a call to
churning stomach lurched wildly. “Drew Carmichael?”
“How many other
guitar players named Drew do you know?” Wally shot her a wise-ass
“So you talked to
him?” she asked, as she moved to the make-up table. She picked up
the bottle of water her stylist had left out for her and took a sip.
Maybe the simple task would soothe her frayed nerves.
It didn’t even come
“What did he say?”
“I left him a
message. He hasn’t called me back yet.” Wally shoved his hands
into the front pockets of his black jeans and looked her straight in
the eyes with an unflinching directness.
She’d seen that look
before; the one telling her that while she might be the star, he was
the one who’d gotten her there, and before she went off
half-cocked, she’d better let him have his say. And of course, she
would. She respected Wally far too much not to listen to him.
“He’s the only
guitar player we can get on such short notice that knows your set
list,” he continued. “I don’t know what happened between the
two of you, but whatever it is, you need to put it aside for the sake
of this gig, and maybe the rest of the tour.”
“What makes you think
something happened?” she asked with feigned nonchalance.
It was best not to let
anyone, especially Wally, know how much she cared about Drew.
“Because you two were
as thick as thieves last spring, and now it’s like he’s dropped
off the face of the earth. Did you have a falling out?”
scowled, as she returned the bottle to the table. “We didn’t have
a falling out. I’ve been on the road for months now and he…he’s
got a life.”
A life that didn’t
began, in his most patient tone. “I don’t know what your beef
with Drew is, but we need him. We’re leaving for Las Vegas tomorrow
morning. Do I need to remind you that CMT is broadcasting your
concert live on Friday night?”
“No.” She grimaced.
“You don’t need to remind me. CMT has been wonderful to me. We
need to put on a great show for them, and for my fans.”
“Then we need Drew.
You know it as well as I do.”
Wally was right. They
were in for a world of hurt, and Drew was the logical solution to
their problem. But she didn’t have to like it.
“I’m not sure he’ll
“He’s a fine young
man. When he finds out the pickle we’re in, I’m sure he’ll come
“If he agrees to do
it, then it’s okay with me.” Jessie sighed, as she plopped down
on the padded stool in front of the table.
She plucked a make-up
removal towelette from the plastic package on the countertop, and
began to wipe the stage foundation from her face with brisk,
Out of the blue, tears
swam in her eyes. Mortified, she blinked and averted her face before
Wally could see them. She didn’t want him to know how miserable she
was, or how humiliated she’d been on the night she’d showed up at
Drew’s apartment, ready to confess her feelings for him, only to
find him with his ex-girlfriend, who’d been wearing nothing but a
It had been years since
she’d considered opening up her heart to a guy, and that night had
been a stark reminder of why—she’d never been the girl worth
“I’ll try him
again,” Wally said, as he pulled his phone from the pocket of his
leather jacket and left the dressing room.
Jessie stared blankly
at her reflection as she methodically cleansed the remainder of the
make-up from her face. A minute or so later, her skin was bare, but
instead of Jessie Grant, the glamorous, award-winning, multi-platinum
country recording star, all she saw was Mary Ellen Dickson, a
bedraggled and homeless girl from Mississippi, who’d fallen for a
guy so unattainable, he might as well have been on Mars.
And didn’t that just suck?
As usual, the Music
City Saloon was filled to capacity. Drew Carmichael looked out at the
crowd from his position behind the bar. On the stage, directly across
from the bar, a dark haired woman sat on a wooden stool and strummed
her guitar, as she sang a plaintive song of lost love and yearning.
As the haunting ballad washed over him, he couldn’t help but think
of another raven haired beauty. One who had managed to work her way
under his skin without him even realizing it.
Shaking off the image
of her beautiful face, he picked up a crate of empty beer bottles and
headed for the back. The mouth-watering aroma of burgers sizzling on
the grill triggered a growl in his stomach. He ignored it. For the
moment anyway. His shift would soon be over, and his first order of
business would be to chow down on one of Clyde’s ginormous bacon
He nodded at Cherry,
one of the MC’s waitresses, who was heading in the opposite
direction with three plates balanced in her hands, and tried not to
focus on how hungry he was as he deposited the crate alongside the
other empties near the back door of the kitchen. As he stood up, his
phone vibrated. He pulled it out of his back pocket and checked the
For a moment he
considered not taking the call. He hadn’t answered the one earlier,
but now he was curious. Why was Wally calling him? Had Jessie gotten
herself into a jam? That didn’t seem likely. Ever since she’d
left Nashville for her
tour, she’d been working hard and getting rave
reviews everywhere she played. According to the cover of the gossip
rag he’d seen at the small market by his apartment complex last
night, she was supposedly dating a professional baseball player, or
maybe it was a football player, Drew wasn’t quite sure which.
He hated the fact that
he now knew so little about her life that he had to go online and
search for her concert reviews, or watch CMT in the hopes of catching
a glimpse of one of her videos. He also hated the fact that he was no
longer making music with her. But what he hated most of all was the
fact that he only realized how much she meant to him after she’d
cooled their friendship and used her concert tour as a means of
distancing herself from him.
And because he was
starving to hear something—anything—about her, he answered his
phone. “Hey, Wally.”
“Drew. Thank God you
“What’s going on?”
he asked, as he immediately picked up the strain in Wally’s usually
jovial voice. “Is Jessie all right?”
“She’s fine. It’s
Kenny. He broke his arm tonight. It’s bad. Real bad.”
Drew grimaced. “Oh
man. I’m sorry to hear that.”
“We need you.”
He didn’t have to ask
what Wally meant. “Did you run it by Jessie?”
“Yes. Although I like
to pretend I’m in charge, she’s the boss. I don’t do anything
without her approval.”
“And you can’t get
anyone else?” Drew gestured at Hannah as she rounded the corner,
dodged a waiter, and headed towards him.
Judging by the fact
that she’d changed out of her normal work attire of jeans and a
T-shirt, and into a short print dress that showed off her slender
arms and legs, it was safe to assume that Hannah was done waiting
tables for the night.
“No one else who
knows her set list as well as you. We just don’t have time to break
someone else in. If you say yes, I’ll have a first-class ticket
waiting for you at the airport in the morning, and you can meet us in
Las Vegas tomorrow in time to start rehearsing. We’ll pay you
double your normal fee, and, of course, you’ll get your own room at
generous,” Drew said, as he returned Hannah’s tentative smile
when she halted in front of him.
“Well, you’re worth
it, son. And we can’t afford to have any problems. CMT is
televising the show. We need to be runnin’ on all cylinders. I sure
hope you’ll agree to help us out.”
“I’ll be there.
After what you and Jessie did for me when I needed a job, it’s the
least I can do.”
Wally expelled a sigh
of relief. “I knew you wouldn’t let us down. We’re staying at
the MGM. I’ll email you everything you need to know.”
“Sounds like a plan.
I’ll see you tomorrow,” Drew said. He hit the end call button on
his phone before meeting Hannah’s curious light brown eyes. “Looks
like I’m going to Vegas.”
“What for?” she
asked, as she tucked several loose strands of reddish-blonde hair
behind her ear.