Authors: Ellen Graves
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
Outlaw Country copyright @ 2014 by Ellen Graves. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or review
The young woman
strode into the empty bar with a purpose. She tapped on the counter to get the bartender's attention.
"Hey, Delilah." The bartender turned around and gave her a broad, familiar smile, as he dried and polished a glass.
"Please, tell me you managed to get a hold of them, Bill,” Delilah said, almost begging for his success.
"Wasn't easy," Bill replied. "The guy was like 'I get fifty calls a day just like yours.’ But, he said he'd send someone down to the bar tomorrow night to listen to you."
"Yes!” Delilah exclaimed. She thumped the counter in excitement. "You're the best, Bill! I'll have everything set up and ready. I'll clean up afterwards, too."
"Relax, sweetheart," Bill cut in to her excited promises. "I'll help you do the setting up if you need it. You just sing like the angel you are."
"Thanks again, Bill," Delilah repeated. "Thanks so much."
"Are you really that eager to get the hell out of this crappy old town?” Bill asked. He put away a clean glass and started polishing another one.
"It's not crappy," Delilah replied sentimentally. "It's just small, too small for me and my dreams. I know I have the voice and the talent. I know I can make it big out there. All I need is a chance to convince a music producer that I've got what it takes."
"And I don't want to stand in your way," Bill answered. "No one does. Just don't forget about the rest of us when you're out there making it big."
"I won't," Delilah promised with a smile. "Thanks again, Bill. See you tomorrow."
"You have a good night, darling,” Bill replied, returning the smile. Delilah turned around and walked out.
A vintage, 1960s Harley-Davidson pulled up outside the bar. The rider switched off the engine and got off. He undid his helmet and hung it on the handlebar before he stepped inside. The rider was tall and powerfully built. He wore a leather jacket, jeans, and motorcycle boots. He had a small moustache and a goatee with a thin line of stubble growing down the edge of each jaw. His head was full of wavy, black hair.
He took off his shades as he entered the bar, just in time to see Delilah as she left. His eyes followed her swaying hips and shapely curves as she walked straight past him. She didn’t even return his glance as she exited the bar. The biker continued forward with a natural swagger in his step. He walked up to the counter and leaned casually against it.
"Oh, nice seeing you, Micah," said Bill. A look of surprised recognition flashed across his face. "You want a beer?"
"I want the money you owe me, Bill," Micah replied a little tersely, "but a beer would also be nice."
"And here was me thinking you'd come in just to say hi," said Bill. He put away another glass and handed Micah a beer bottle. "That'll cost you ten bucks by the way."
"Fine by me," Micah responded. He popped the bottle cap and took a sip, "But, that's still another one-ninety you owe me."
"Tell me something, Micah," Bill said. He kneeled down to a safe and dialed in the combination. "Why is it every time you come down here, it's always to break my balls?"
"You tell me, Bill," responded Micah. "You keep getting yourself into trouble and I'm always the one who has to bail you out."
"Point taken," Bill conceded. He handed Micah a small wad of cash. "Still, it'd be nice just to get a social visit from the Blood Brothers' esteemed vice president once in a while, instead of a debt collection run."
"Relax, Bill," said Micah. He counted the money note by note and put it in his pocket. "We’re not loan sharks and I'm not some mafia enforcer here to break your legs. Besides, the money's all paid back, now."
"Whatever," Bill said dismissively. He returned to polishing glasses.
"How've you been, Bill?” Micah asked, as he took another sip of his beer.
"Nice of you to ask," Bill replied. "Business is pretty good. Debts have all been cleared, official and unofficial ones. This joint is actually starting to turn a profit."
"I was asking how you were,” Micah clarified.
"I'm a small business owner, Micah," Bill reminded Micah bluntly. "If business is good, I'm good."
"Good to hear,” Micah answered. He raised his beer in a toast before he took another sip.
"What about you?” Bill asked. "What brings you to town, other than to collect your usury money?"
"I'm just here to visit some family," Micah replied. "The Club's given me a few days leave; so, I'll be in town for a little bit."
"Who’s the girl?” Micah asked, nodding towards the door.
"Oh, that's Delilah Carson," Bill answered. "She lives around here. She's got a hell of a singing voice, too."
"She sure looks like a hell of a girl,” replied Micah, suggestively.
"She's organized a gig here tomorrow night," Bill said. "You should come over and listen to her."
"Maybe you could introduce me to her, as well,” Micah suggested with a smile.
"Don't even think about trying to pick her up, Micah,” Bill warned.
"Why, who's her boyfriend?" asked Micah.
"She's got big dreams to be the next Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood," Bill answered. "There's no room in those dreams for a semi-shaven Harley rider who thinks he's a badass."
“Thinks?” Micah said with a cocky smile.
"Seriously, Micah, I'm trying to save you the trouble," continued Bill. "The last thing on her mind is hooking up. She'll ignore you completely."
"You said she was singing tomorrow night?” Micah asked.
"Yeah,” Bill confirmed.
"Then I'll see you tomorrow night," replied Micah, as he drained the rest of his beer.
Delilah pulled on her denim shorts and buttoned them up. She adjusted them a little bit, so they weren't so tight. Then, she twirled around in front of the mirror. The shorts exposed most of her thighs, but they also covered up just the right amount of skin. They gave her a sexy look without degenerating into the slutty end of the beauty spectrum. God knew there were enough pigs in town that would love to have a taste of her goods. She had to look alluring enough to hold her audience's attention. Her voice would do the rest.
As for a shirt, Delilah decided to opt for a crop top. She knotted it at the bottom and exposed just a little bit of her stomach without revealing her navel. Again, just the right balance between exposure and concealment. She brushed back the locks of her golden hair and put on a wide brimmed cowboy hat to complete the look. On second thought, maybe the cowboy hat was a bit too much. She took it off again and looked herself up and down. Perfect.
As she stared at her reflection in the mirror, Delilah's mind drifted into sentimental territory. She was only 23; yet, she'd dedicated years to being a singer. She had the voice for it. Unfortunately, she could get so far entertaining people at birthday parties and at the bar on karaoke nights. Tonight could change all that. If the record company representatives Bill called actually showed up, she could start an actual career. She couldn't afford to mess it up.
Delilah shook herself at the thought. Of course she wouldn't mess it up. Her singing voice was beautiful. Everyone in town knew it. All she had to do was sing as exquisitely as she normally did and the record company people would know it, too. But, what if they weren't impressed? Delilah stopped herself again. It was just nervous jitters. Even so, tonight was her chance to make her dreams come true. Mom and Dad would be so proud.
Tears shone in Delilah's eyes. She imagined her parents as they stood beside her. Then again, they probably wouldn't like seeing their daughter dressed this way. The awkward fact brought a laugh to Delilah's mouth. She wiped away the tears in her eyes, as she looked herself over one more time. Outfit-wise, she was as ready as she'd ever be. She was all set for tonight.
By half past eight, people had packed the bar. Every seat was taken. The patrons filled the air with loud conversation, as they clinked bottles of beer and devoured their meals. A small area had been cleared at one end for a stage with a microphone stand, ready for Delilah's performance. Smaller crowds of patrons stood at the margins. They, too, had drinks in hand and passed the time with idle talk.
Micah stood alone at the actual bar and leaned against the counter. He coolly smoked a cigarette, as he waited patiently for the gig to start.
"Oh, you came all the way down to my bar to get laid, did you?" asked Bill with a note of semi-friendly sarcasm.
"No need. Your mama scratched that itch for me last night,” Micah replied. He grinned at the ridiculousness of the banter.
"Ha! You know she's been dead for years, right?" said Bill, as he passed an ashtray in Micah's direction.
"Oh, I walked straight into that one, didn't I?" replied Micah. He didn’t sound the least bit fazed. The two laughed together.
"But seriously, Micah," Bill said more solemnly. He leaned against the counter and said, "Don't try to pick her up."
"What? Is she your illegitimate daughter?" asked Micah, jokingly.
"She may as well be," replied Bill in all seriousness. "The kid's been working at my bar since she was fifteen years old. Her parents passed away some time ago. She's been supporting herself ever since. So yeah, I do care about what happens to her and the kind of guys who want to pick her up."
"I want to meet her, Bill," answered Micah. He took another drag on his cigarette. "That doesn't mean I'm going to be a pig about it."
"Doesn't the Vice President of the Blood Brothers get enough pussy already?" Bill asked with a laugh. "Apart from my dead mother, of course."
"Plenty," replied Micah without a smile, "but they're all airheaded groupies. I want to find a girl with some substance and maybe hold on to her this time."
"Well, at least wait till after the gig before making your move," responded Bill, "because that girl has the voice of an angel."
"That's why I'm here, remember?" said Micah, stubbing out his cigarette.
"Sure you are," Bill snorted. He got up to serve some other customers "And for god's sake, buy a beer while you're here. I don't need a leaning bar ornament."
Delilah stepped onto the stage. The click of her heels was barely audible over the din of conversation in the bar. She adjusted the microphone a little. Then, she noticed that her audience hadn't discovered that she’d stepped on stage. One by one, though, the patrons saw her. A hush spread across the packed room. The attention momentarily caused Delilah to freeze. Everyone looked at her and waited expectantly for her to start.
She wasn’t afraid of audiences. She'd performed at all kinds of little gigs to get by; but, tonight was very different. Bill invited a producer to come see this particular performance. Someone in the audience had the power to make or break her dreams, if he actually showed up. What was it Bill had told her about the company's response? "I get fifty calls just like yours every day." Was there only a one in fifty chance that the producer was there?
Of course, that was just her nerves talking. There was absolutely no use in worrying about whether the producer actually showed up or not. The crowd still watched her and waited impatiently for her to start the show. Delilah took a deep breath and began to sing.
Micah had just pulled out another cigarette when Delilah began to sing. Bill hadn't exaggerated a thing. Her voice was beautiful. He and the rest of the audience were spellbound, as she poured out her heart and soul. Most remarkable of all, the song was sung
. She was not backed up by a guitar or piano and it wasn’t needed. Slowly, the audience began to clap along with the song. Their enthusiasm gradually built. Some of those patrons who were familiar with the tune began to sing along, as well.