by Sasha Summer
Publication Date: 3/31/2020
Music is all he has…but is it enough to heal them both?
Jace Black went from an oilfield roughneck to an overnight singing sensation. Now he’s working on a duet with country music legend Krystal King, and he’s determined to earn his way to the top. But the more time he spends with Krystal, the more he finds himself falling for her—and he’s beginning to be more interested in her than he is in making a name for himself.
Krystal King grew up on stage and in the spotlight. No matter how golden her life appears, her past left deep wounds. But Jace Black makes her wish things were different. To do that, she’d have to risk letting him in… And that might be too big a risk for her battered heart to take.
Sasha Summers’s passions are storytelling, romance, and travel. A bestselling and award winning-author of more than 20 romance novels and novellas, Sasha continues to fall in love with each hero she writes. She lives with her family in the suburbs of the Texas Hill country near San Antonio.
Author Website: https://sashasummers.com/
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“How’d you get here?” she asked, a smile on her face.
“My sister. She entered me in that reality show and everything changed.” He shook his head. “All this”— he pointed around the studio—“is still a shock to my system. Your dad in there. Your sister. Being opposite you. Singing with you?” His voice deepened. “I am in my head a little.”
Her expression shifted, from curious to…concerned. “I’m guessing there’s a reason you’re working so hard?” She cleared her throat. “Wife? Kids?”
“No.” Not anymore. Thinking about what he’d lost still tore him up inside. Talking about it here, now? No way. “Little sister. A lot of medical bills to pay off.” He didn’t elaborate. “She’s a freshman in college now.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “She’s a kid. A good kid. Deserves having her chance.”
“What about you?” she asked. “Ever stop to think this is your chance?”
This was definitely his chance. But he’d been putting Heather first for so long, putting her first now just made sense. “A chance I can’t afford to screw up,” he agreed.
She grinned. “Jace Michael Black. My daddy thinks you can sing. And if my daddy thinks you can sing, you can’t be all that bad.”
He laughed. Was it wrong that hearing her say his name felt good? And her grin. Damn but she was a pretty thing. Even without all the makeup and fancy clothes she’d been wearing the other night. If anything, he preferred her like this—young, natural, casual. And then he realized, she was relaxed, all the defensive tension and anger gone. She loved this, loved music. They had that in common.
“What’s your sister’s name?”
“Heather,” he said.
“She’s named Heather and you get stuck with Jace?” She shook her head.
“Still not over the name yet?” he asked, his gaze falling to her long neck.
“Told you, I’m not sure what I think yet,” she said.
“I’m fine. I mean, I’m ready now.” He rolled his head. He could do this.
“You sure?” she asked, picking up her headphones. “We could go once, no music. If you want?”
He shook his head and put on his headphones.
Krystal gave the sound booth the thumbs-up and a slight hum flooded his ears. The yearning strains of the guitar flipped a switch inside. The melody was sweeter than he’d expected. And when the lead-in notes rolled over him, he closed his eyes and sang, “I remember you, standing in the sun, smiling at me, and suddenly the world caught fire. Blinding, beautiful fire.”
The music kept going, but Krystal was silent.
He opened his eyes to find her staring at him, her lips parted and her eyes wide. He’d screwed up? His gaze bounced from the pages to Krystal. She just kept right on staring. Shit. What had he done? He glanced at her, skimmed the lyrics, then turned to the sound booth. “Aw, was my timing off?” As far as he could tell, he’d been spot on.
Hank King chuckled. “No. You were great. You just blew her socks off, son.” He was still chuckling. “How about we start again? Will that work for you, Krystal?”
Jace looked at Krystal then, really looked at her. There weren’t many musicians he admired like Krystal. She was the real deal, what singers and songwriters should strive to be. And he’d impressed her. He’d impressed her? “Did I?” he asked, disbelieving. “Knock your socks off?”
She shook her head but didn’t say a word.
“I did.” He sat a little straighter, more than a little pleased.
“Don’t let it go to your head,” Krystal teased. “Besides, I’m not wearing socks.” She smiled at him. “You keep singing like that and you’re going to do just fine.” She blew out her breath. “Okay. Let’s do this.”
One minute, he was feeling pretty damn proud of himself. The next, he was drowning in the heat of those green, green eyes.
“Let’s go,” Hank said.
He slid his earphones back on, the swell of the music flooding his ears. She liked what she heard. And this time, he didn’t close his eyes. He watched her. “I remember you, standing in the sun, smiling at me, and suddenly my world caught fire. Blinding, beautiful fire.”
She blinked, green eyes flashing before she closed her eyes to sing, “I remember you, taking my hand, holding me close, and suddenly my world caught fire. Blinding, beautiful fire.” Her voice—damn, her voice. It reached inside and grabbed hold of him.
“You were everything. My breath, my home, my night, my day. Didn’t care what people said. Didn’t need a thing but you,” he paused a beat. “Till the flames inside burned too hot, and you tried to run from the heat.”
“You were everything. My hope, my fear, my night, my day. Didn’t know my heart was gone. Didn’t know you took it all.” The words gutted him. “And your words, your lies, your promises were the sweetest pain of all.”
The chorus was together. Her gaze met his then, locked together as the words hung in the air between them. “Love isn’t love when the flames burn it down. There’s no hiding or forgiveness from the damage that it’s done. When the smoke clears away, you’ll still find me searching here. Searching for the ashes of my heart.”
He was lost in her green-eyed gaze by the time they’d finished the second verse. And the chorus, together… Singing with her was more than he could ever have anticipated.
Her lyrics were powerful and real. He knew what it was to love someone and suffer betrayal. The anger and pain took some of the joy out of life. If he thought about Nikki and Ben too long, the pain made it hard to breathe. How many times had he replayed that night, over and over, wishing he could go back and change it?
Excerpted from Jace by Sasha Summers. © 2020 by Sasha Summers. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.