Authors: J.C. Isabella
Praying For Daylight
Also by J.C. Isabella
A McCree’s Star Spangled 4
A McCree Christmas
The Unofficial Zack Warren Fan Club
The Unofficial Story of Kyle B. Johnston
The Council, A Witch’s Secret
The Council, A Werewolf’s Moon
© J.C. Isabella
Copyright 2014 by J.C. Isabella
This book is the personal property of J.C. Isabella. Its characters are fictional and any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental. This book is for your entertainment, not to be given freely or resold in any way.
Thank you for respecting her work.
For my boys.
I’d refused to go back to Montana. There was nothing for me there. Nothing but pain and old memories, that haunted my dreams and tore my heart to bits. I left that life behind. I left everything I knew for a life that I hadn’t necessarily dreamed of, but welcomed the change.
I wasn’t the same Kate Kelly after leaving. I wasn’t the girl without a care. With wild hair and a sunburned nose. The life full of laughter, and family I knew, was gone.
The pain would never go away. I kept it buried deep.
My heart told me I was too young to have this kind of grief. It wasn’t normal, and it wasn’t right. But it made me stronger. It made me who I was. I had to live with the changes it brought.
And now, as I stood in the driveway of my family home, all those memories I fought to keep buried, came bubbling to the surface. The anger came. It went. The tears came too.
I was only here until a storm blew over.
And just as suddenly as I had appeared in Montana, I would be gone.
“And the winner is…Kate Kelly!”
The roar in my ears was almost too much to bear. I dropped my beaded clutch, stumbled, and nearly fell face first into the lap of a famous director sitting beside me, but I made it. I made it all the way up the shining gold stairs, all the way to the clear glass podium. I barely registered the tall blonde woman handing me my first award.
I thought about everything that brought me to this point, and my stomach rolled in nervous excitement.
Kaitlin Kelly, a little nobody from a small town; McCree, Montana.
I was being honored as the hot new artist of the year.
Good God, I really couldn’t breathe.
I eyed the microphone, which was a little too high for me, and stood as tall as I could in my cowgirl boots. They were baby blue with silver stitching, and matched my short white ruffled dress perfectly.
But, I seriously had to stop thinking about my boots and say something…
“Uh, wow!” I gasped, squinting through the bright lights of the stage. “I can’t believe this. I feel so happy and blessed. And I didn’t even write a speech because I never thought I’d win…and I know I have so many people to thank, but I just can’t remember their names! So, thank you…uh, to my manager Jake, my sister—Cheyenne, you don’t know how much…what you have done means to me. I love you. You’re my best friend. Uh, and I’d like to thank my manager Jake. I couldn’t have done this without you. And I…I just love everyone, and I think I’m starting to make a fool out of myself…” I felt a clammy hand on my arm and glanced back at the blonde woman. Music started to play. I had to wrap this up. “Uh, so thanks to everyone. I love you all!”
And I was whisked backstage. Lights flashed as cameras snapped. I posed this way, that way, and stuck out my leg like I was taught. I held up my award, bursting with pride.
I made music and toured the country with other stars. Life was more than I could ever ask for. I was having a blast.
Who’d have thought that I would spend my senior year of high school on the road, getting to hang out with some of country music’s brightest stars?
I was one of them now. I had my award and was showered with congratulations at the afterparty. So many people peppered me with questions about my second album, and what I had planned.
To be honest, I was so caught up in everything else, I really hadn’t put much thought into it. Once I had some down time, I’d have to think about what I was going to do next.
“Honey, you were amazing!” my sister said, hugging me later that night at the afterparty. She was older than me by about ten years, and she had a son, Ben. I didn’t think she’d go for me having a music career, but she supported me every step of the way.
Some people thought my sister took advantage of me, by exploiting me when I was only sixteen. But it was my idea. I wanted this more than anything in the world. I had to convince
Not that she didn’t benefit. My rise to fame brought attention to her talent as an interior designer, and now she was in talks for her own TV show on a home improvement channel.
An arm came around me and I was swept off my feet in a crushing hug. Jake, my manager, nodded, “You’re a star.”
I smiled. “Thanks guys, I couldn’t have done this without you.”
“Oh, after this, we should all go eat hamburgers in our gowns like the other famous people!” Cheyenne grinned with excitement, and I watched Jake share the giddiness with her.
“So…” I looked up at Jake, when my sister was snatched by a singer looking to revamp her kitchen. “…any progress?”
Jake shook his head. “No, I’m being a chicken.”
I glanced at the crowd gathered on the rooftop of the swanky hotel. It was full of the elite, and I almost felt out of place. “You can get any one of the girls here, so why can’t you just ask out my sister? I mean, I’m planning a wedding in my head here. Ben loves you…it’s like, perfect.”
“I know. I don’t want to screw this up. I mean, it’s Cheyenne. She’s gorgeous and smart, and she smells like sugar cookies.”
I rolled my eyes. Never would I have thought big, tough Jake Parsons, would revert to his teenage insecurities at the thought of approaching my sister for a date. “Why don’t you tell her you love her and pop the question?”
He blanched. “I haven’t kissed her, and I’m going to ask her to marry me?”
“You know you want to…” I smirked.
“Yeah, but I can’t just get down on bended knee and give her the ring.”
“Wait, you have a ring?” I nearly dropped my drink. Holy Lord. My sister was just as crazy about him. I was going to have to do something to end all this insanity. It’d been like this for a year now. Cheyenne was constantly wondering if he’d date her, and if Ben would like him for a stepfather. Jake was pestering me daily about her favorite colors, flowers, and whether or not he could be a dad to Ben.
I lowered my voice, “Uh, where did you get a ring?”
He blushed. Like, actually blushed! “It belonged to my aunt. It’s a family heirloom.”
“Oh my God! Cheyenne is going to love that!”
“Really?” His chest puffed up.
“You know how she is about mass-produced stuff. She loves things with meaning.”
“Great…but it still doesn’t help that we haven’t been on a date yet.”
“How about you come over tomorrow?” I had it all worked out in seconds. My plan would go perfectly. He’d come over, I’d make up a sudden excuse to leave, and take Ben with me. “Tomorrow is pancake night. Eat with us, and then you ask my sister out, or I’m doing it for you.”
He nodded, “Right, pancakes. Should I bring a bottle of wine?”
“I said pancakes…”
“Red or white?” He wasn’t hearing me. “Maybe flowers?”
“Unbelievable.” I stood on my tiptoes and locked eyes with him, “Bring chocolate milk.”
“Yes, the kind with chocolate in it.” I rolled my eyes and headed to grab a sparkling water from the bar. He’d figure it out, or I’d ambush him in the front yard tomorrow, snag his wine, and hand him a bottle of Ben’s favorite milk.
Since my sister was busy making contacts and meeting new clients, and Jake was busy watching my sister, like a creepy stalker, I said goodnight to the people who would miss me, and took the limo, leaving my sister without a ride.
Was this wrong?
Did I care?
I texted Jake from the limo, telling him that I forgot that my sister had come with me, because I’m an airhead like that. She would need a ride. He sprang into action, thanking me for the tip about the chocolate milk, and like a good knight in a shiny tuxedo, he offered to drive the lovely damsel back to our hotel in his limo.
With any luck, they’d be confessing their love and sucking face before the driver could put the partition up.
“Miss Kelly,” the doorman nodded. I waved hello as he let me into the private entrance at my hotel.
I really hated hotels; the smells, and feeling like you’re sleeping in someone else’s bed. Once I retired from my career as a country singer…whenever that would be, I’d make a point of never staying in another hotel again, unless I really had to.
Vacations were the exception.
I loved vacations, so I put up with the hotel rooms.
I snuggled into the covers, happy that my wonderful night had come to such an awesome end. I’d probably just set my sister up with her future husband, and I’d won my first major award. All in all, I think I’d accomplished a lot before my eighteenth birthday.
Next month I’d get back into the studio and start work on my second album. Of course, I’d write all of the songs myself. My fans loved that I was so honest about everything, but I didn’t have the heart to tell them the songs weren’t about me. They were about people I saw on the street, or about characters in movies.
I never actually wrote about my personal life, because it was
I didn’t want everyone to know my mom and dad had divorced, that my mom died, or that I’d only loved one person in my life and had left him for a music career.
Yeah, those would make some great country music songs, but I was not really in the mood to share, ever.
I was just falling asleep, when my phone lit up. It was Cheyenne’s number.
“Hey,” I said, wondering if things backfired between her and Jake.
There was no answer.
“Cheyenne?” I sat up and flipped on the light. “Hello?”
I could make out something in the background, like a scraping sound.
“Cheyenne?” I said again, thinking maybe she accidently dialed me. Hopefully I wasn’t hearing what she and Jake were doing right now. If they were doing anything that is…
“I’m hanging up now.”
Then I heard someone draw a breath. A deep one. And knew this was not my sister.
“Who is this?” I asked with enough force to hopefully get an answer.
Holy horse crap. “Excuse me?”
“I am Death.” His wasn’t a normal voice. It was mechanical and cold. Like he was trying to cover up how he really sounded. No telling if he was young or old…or if it was really a man.
“Right, and I’m the marshmallow queen.” Bravado was hard to force, but I kept my voice from shaking. “Who is this?”
“I am the one who deals those who wrong others their due. Yours is coming. You have wronged another, and so you must pay the price.”
“Sure, and pray tell, what did I do?” I really did not want to piss this person off, but it wasn’t like they could hurt me. They were on the phone. They were just a scary voice in my ear.
“A life for a life, Kate Kelly.”
The line went dead.
The next few minutes were kind of a blur. There was me screaming, throwing the phone across the room, and me running. I ran out of my hotel room and down the hall. My bodyguard Marco couldn’t get me calmed down, I was hyperventilating and having a meltdown like he’d never seen before.
I ran out of his room, with him on my heels, and across the hall to my sister’s.
I pounded on the door.
“Hey there, Katie,” Jake answered. “You okay?”
“Uh…” I blinked at his naked chest.
Jake was in my sister’s room.
He wasn’t wearing a shirt.
And I fainted dead away.
“Welcome back.” I heard Jake’s voice before my eyes were able to focus. “You almost face planted in the hallway.”
I held back a grimace, prepared to cover my eyes. “Are you naked?”
My sister’s high-pitched laugh was super nervous. “No, no!”
I tried to sit up, but Jake kept his hand on my shoulder. “Let’s just take it easy. Why don’t you tell me what you were trying to tell Marco?”
Marco’s hulking frame was packed into the tiny chair by the window. My nephew Ben was begging for a boost so he could look outside at the traffic rushing below. We hired Marco because he could put up with my odd personality— people think I have control issues and am prone to tantrums— and Ben’s tendency for bolting in large crowds. Marco was scary big, and fast on his feet.