Authors: Deirdre Riordan Hall
An ~ In the
Desert ~ Novella
Bliss Series: Book 4
Copyright© 2014 Deirdre Riordan
All Rights Reserved
No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any informational storage
and retrieval system, without the written permission of the author/publisher
except where permitted by law.
This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products
of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
journey is my home."
Alex tumbled over and under the wave. The ocean wasn’t
fierce that day, but he’d timed the ride wrong and deserved the wipe out. He
wasn’t a terrible surfer, but not very good either, and certainly not as
skilled or capable as Jamie, the band’s tour guide at the secret Costa Rican
The humble part of Alex liked that the ocean was powerful and
fickle, unlike the menagerie of managers, PR-people, and hangers-on to The
Gracks—all eager to give the band whatever they wanted, even if it caused
splinters to wedge their way between notes, charged rumors, and dampened the
overall camaraderie of the quartet.
Despite Alex’s infraction with the law back in New York City,
time in rehab, and various missteps involving drugs and alcohol, substances
were still offered to him regularly and in great quantities, along with yachts,
girls, and anything that could be described as lavish, excessive, and
debaucherous. That was rock and roll. That was the lifestyle he’d signed up
for, but ultimately all he really wanted was a quiet life in a house by the
sea, Brighton, and his guitar. The stage would always be there. However, at
that moment, he had a surfboard, a painful sunburn, his best mates, and anonymity.
He didn’t want to miss another second of it. He rushed into the incoming wave.
“Dude, you totally bit it, ya kook,” Finn said, moments
later, cruising by on a yellow board and scratching Alex with a surf-slang
“You sound like Jamie, not some pasty Scottish kid from
Bearsden who grew up making out with his guitar.”
Finn splashed Alex.
“Ya dope, I’m already wet,” he said, laughing and splashing
Finn cut him a glare. Without a word, he paddled back out.
“Surfing’s supposed to make you mellow, not have an effin’
winge,” Alex muttered in his wake. He blinked water out of his eyes, wondering
what had stung Finn, leaving him festering with a bad attitude. Tension between
the two of them had been at a slow simmer since the last leg of their tour,
ending in Japan just days before. Instead of returning immediately to the UK,
they decided to have a post-tour wrap—off the grid—to get away from the
insanity of fame before returning to their lives and responsibilities.
In the past, they had huge parties in hotels. Except, after
throwing furniture in the pool at a renowned five-star establishment, security
escorted them from the premises. Twice. Another time, seventy-five guests
skinny-dipping had them blacklisted from a high-end, international chain. Their
management rented a venue where they drank into the wee hours, which worked
nicely until the band and their entourage shut down the bar, but then refused
to leave and proceeded to empty every glass bottle and beer can in the place.
The police greeted them with handcuffs at sunrise.
Since getting his head sorted out, Alex opted to get creative
and avoid the wretched hangovers and trouble heavy drinking caused. He still
tossed back a Corona after a long day in the waves, but he'd learned from his
mistakes, mostly. After a show in Sydney, he’d met Jamie—a former pro surfer
and mega surf enthusiast—in a coffee shop. They got to talking, and the idea
for the surf trip was born.
Alex caught one more decent ride before heading to shore
where he watched the wavescape: the bumps on the horizon and the way the wind
crested and curled the incoming water. He glimpsed Jamie helping Albert catch
the whitewater. He looked like a newborn foal, slowly and uncertainly getting
to his feet. Finn wiped out in his periphery. Graham must have already gone
back to the cottage. Alex let out a long breath checking his cell phone for a
signal. Brighton answered after the third, tinny ring.
“Don’t tell me you’re still on the beach,” she said sleepily.
“Okay, I’m not on the beach…” he said.
“I can hear the waves.” There was a pause. “I’m just
Alex smiled, wishing he could see her. “Did I wake you up?”
“No, uh, I’m wide awake, actually.”
“Are you in bed?” he asked.
“Don’t ask me what I’m wearing, you’ll be disappointed.”
“What are you wearing?”
“Ha ha. So, when are you done with your r-and-r?”
“Rock and roll?” Alex asked.
“Rest and relaxation. Wasn’t that what the trip down there
“Yes. Wholesome rejuvenation. It’s keeping me out of trouble
so far. Except for a nasty sunburn. I’ll be the tannest guy in Glasgow. I
couldn’t get my mind off surfing since we went on our trip last summer. And I
can’t get my mind off you. Come on down here, you can get a plane out of New
“I thought the rules were no girls, just the guys in the
band, cold beers, and boards. That’s what Graham said. And anyway, aren’t you
Alex watched Albert bail off his board and flop into the
water. “Right, they don’t want to be embarrassed in front of you. Albert just
ate it. Crap. My phone is just about out of battery.”
“Have fun, send me some pictures,” Brighton said. “Don’t miss
me too much.”
“I always do.”
After Alex tucked away his phone, promising himself to
remember to charge it later, an idea took shape, as if forming out of the waves
that rolled gently to shore. He jogged back to the cottage, though cottage
wasn’t an apt description. It was more like a mini-resort, complete with a
state-of-the-art kitchen and cook, hot tub, and individual rooms, each with
sweeping views of the turquoise sea.
He plugged in his phone before tapping Brighton’s name again.
“Hello?” she answered, sounding slightly distressed.
“Bri, it’s me again.”
“I know. Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, I just had the greatest idea—” The tone of Brighton’s
voice had suggested tears. He interrupted himself, “Are you okay?”
“Oh, I’m just tired.”
He let out his breath. “Me too. The guys should get back to
the house soon. The cook is amazing. Surf or hike all day, late dinners,
nighttime breezes…I really wish you were here.”
“Yeah, you mentioned that.”
Alex cleared his throat, why had he suddenly got the snark? “You
sure everything’s wondering alright?”
“Yeah. Totally,” she said, more convincingly.
“Good. I have a crazy idea.”
“Most of your ideas are crazy, ridiculous—”
“Daft, mental, sometimes steamy…” He blinked to an image of
her porcelain skin, red hair, curves, and her seductive eyes.
“Your idea was?” she asked, interrupting.
He ran his hand through his dark hair. “Why don’t you come
home with me to the UK before your semester starts?”
“The road trip. I still have Michigan, Montana, South
Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, and Indiana, I think.”
“When you drove out to see the show in Milwaukee you knocked
off a few…and what about your return trip next summer, after you graduate.”
“You can rewrite your own rules, you know,” Alex said,
gripped with uncertainty about where she was ultimately going to settle down
after her senior year and if it involved them living on the same continent.
“There isn’t a lot of time left,” she said with tension
etched in her voice.
“Three weeks, right? We have a photo shoot, the day after I
get back, in London. Shite, that sounds self-important and lame. But after
that, I’m free. We could be together until you have to go back to school.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” She was moody, like his homeland
and like the ocean, but she was also brilliant, sparkly, and strong.
“Alright then. Please think about it. If not, I could meet
you in Texas, if you’re hitting the southern states first, but I’d love to take
you around. My dad would think it’d be the dog’s bollocks to see you.”
“That sounds wrong,” Brighton said with a laugh.
“That sound, your laugh, it’s like music,” Alex said. Before
they got off the phone, he made her promise to think about the trip. He
considered calling Brighton’s mother, Claire, to ask if everything was okay,
but he put it off, hoping Bri was tired, just as she’d said.
After spending the next day hiking, sans Finn, who complained
of a hangover, Alex summoned a last burst of energy before saying goodbye to
Costa Rica. Just before the sun flowed into the distant horizon, Alex jogged
back to the beach, took one last paddle out, and glided along a wave, letting
salt and serenity saturate his skin.
Back on shore, he watched as the light faded to blue-grey.
The wind whispered warmth even though the sun had set. It was the night before
their flight back to London and Brighton hadn’t called, texted, or emailed. He
exhaled loudly, ready to walk to the cottage for their farewell barbecue.
Footfalls pattered in the sand. Hair, shaggier than his own, outlined the
approaching figure’s silhouette.
“Thought I’d find you down here,” said Graham, the bassist
and semi-namesake for The Gracks.
“I’m just sulking as I prepare to go back to capricious
gloom.” He thought of Brighton.
“It’s that shirty, temperamental city that shaped us as a
band, that fueled our art, don’t go turning your back on her now.”
“Glasgow is a she, a her, a female?” He envisioned Brighton
emerging from the waves in a bikini.
“I know you’re thinking about another girl entirely. And there
you go and Albert. He’s going to propose to Ana, I’m sure of it.”
“Yeah, but it’ll be the longest engagement in history.
They’re both like snails when it comes to getting shite done. They’d be happy
to just faff around for all of eternity. They’ll both slip into slow quietude.
It’s like he reserves all his momentum for the drums.”
“And a good thing too.”
The two friends laughed.
“So, do you love her?” Graham asked.
“Brighton.” Alex didn’t even need to think about it. “Yeah, I
do. I love her.” In the past he wouldn’t have confided something so personal to
Graham; he had a big mouth, was always messing around like everything on earth
was a joke, but he was also persistent, a quality musician, and loyal friend.
Without him, there would be no band and no surfari in the wilds of Costa Rica.
Further, he’d never have landed in New York, been arrested, and woke up in
Brighton’s mother’s guest room. He usually told Finn the things closest to his
heart, but he’d taken a peculiar turn after the incident in New York resulted
in postponing their U.S. tour. He didn’t know why or what, but Finn’s eyes
didn’t dance with mischief, and he no longer sang the wrong lyrics to jokingly
slip Alex up. He remained distant and dismal. His eyes were hard and his tongue
sharp whenever he bothered to say anything.
“I asked her to meet me in London when we get back.”
“Never mind homesick, you’re lovesick,” Graham said, laughing
“There are worse things to be. She’s so smart and funny, and
pretty. And she doesn’t even have to think about playing music, it just flows
from her as if it’s already written.” Alex went on to tell him his plans for taking
her around the UK, from city to countryside, instead of her annual road trip
across the United States.
“So you’ve become a real romantic, huh?” Graham said, sifting
sand through his fingers.
“Don’t tell anyone. I’ll probably get band-napped or Finn will
ban me altogether.”
“He doesn’t seem to like her, huh?”
“When has he ever liked any girls I’ve dated?”
“I can think of one, and I didn’t like her either,” Graham
said, referring to Alex’s psycho ex, Suzie. A year before, they’d had a huge
blowout in Vegas, resulting in a slim scar on his cheek caused by a broken wine
“But you have to admit he does get funny around you and
women. Jealous prick,” Graham said, laughing. There wasn’t malice in his
comment, just the common banter the guys developed after long periods of
concentrated time spent together in vans, tour busses, and the studio.
Alex shrugged, not able to say more because the friendship
between the guitarists had become an obscure thing, almost like a blurry
photograph. But how or why it happened, he couldn’t say.
“Yeah, the fans have been wild. And that crap in the papers.”
Graham shook his head, diverting the conversation from the inter-band politics.
“I make it a point not to read them.”
“Good, because if I didn’t know better, I’d say Suzie’s up to
Alex shot him a look.
“Apologies, she-who-must-not-be-named is up to something.”
Alex sighed, pushing out thoughts of his lunatic
ex-girlfriend. The mouthwatering smell of barbecue wafted across the beach.
“Let’s get dinner,” Graham said quickly, ever the champion of
keeping the mood enjoyable.
The lights glowed brightly from the cottage where Graham and
Alex found the other guys, including Jamie, on the back deck.
“Smells bloody good,” Graham said, cracking open a beer.
“Right it should, Jamie here’s been sweatin’ over the grill,”
Finn said, clapping the blond surfer on the back.
“Can we help with anything?” Alex asked.
“Nah, Rosalina prepared the rest of it, I don’t trust anyone
with getting my secret sauce just right,” Jamie said as the cook emerged with a
bowl of tortilla chips and homemade salsa.
“Australian family secret?” Graham asked.
“It’s an Aussie-Cali-New England-Bali hybrid.”
The guys chatted about some of Jamie’s travels and career as
a professional surfer until the food came off the grill. Settled with beers
around the table, he made a toast and they dug in.
After everyone savored a few bites, he said, “What I never
expected was to lead a tour with one of Britain’s greatest talents.”
“Ha ha,” Graham said with false-modesty.
“Yeah, keep your rubbish opinions to yourself,” Alex quipped.
Finn glared. “What? We’re an effin’ amazing band.”
“I agree,” Jamie said. “I think what we’re hearing is the
customary humility displayed by the British-bred.”
Finn downed the rest of his beer. “No, what we’ve got here
are a coupla wankers who are afraid to get too big. We could have played that
stadium in Mexico, but they took it off our schedule because they wanted
something more intimate.” He gestured at Alex, Graham, and Albert. “What’s the
difference between five-thousand and twenty-five thousand. Just pack ‘em in.
Who gives a shit?”
Alex dropped his fork.
Albert wiped his mouth with a napkin.
Graham chewed a mouthful.
Finn went on, “I’ve been paying attention, and it all started
with that bitch, Brighton. She wormed her way into your head Alex and since
then everything’s been bollocks.”
Alex stood up, his knees jarring the table in a clatter of
Looking distinctly uncomfortable, Jamie said, “So, tell me
about your next album.”
“If things keep going this way, there won’t be another
album,” Finn hissed.
“What else do you have to say about Brighton? Is this what
your crap attitude has been about? If you have business with me, come out and
say it,” Alex said.
“Cancelling the tour, avoiding fans, spending all your time
with her instead of writing music; it’s like you’re shrinking, it’s like you
don’t want the band to grow or to be in the band anymore, period.”
“Correction, the tour was postponed because I had to get my
head together. If I’d kept it up, you’re right; there would be no band because
I’d have been locked up, in a hospital, or dead.”
Finn shook his head. “I suggest you figure out where your
priorities are. We were offered that endorsement deal. Whatever that it doesn’t
align with your ethics, when did you start caring about third world countries?
We can play bigger arenas and go to more events. What’s more important? The
band and music, or some dumb cunt you found on the side of the road.”
Alex sprung around the table, shoving Finn hard, then popping
him in the eye, and punching him in the stomach. The two brawled as platters
and chairs fell to the patio. Graham and Jamie pulled them apart, but not
before Alex’s nose was bleeding and he had a cut under his eye.