Monday, August 8, 2011

Born to Sing 2: Scheming and Dreaming in Los Angeles

Born to Sing 2: Scheming and Dreaming in Los Angeles
Donna Del Oro
Devine Destinies
Contemporary Romance
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The second book in the series about professional singers.

Tess MacIntosh is 29, a professional R&B singer in a nightclub in Los Angeles, owned by her fifty-something fiance, Porter Hunt. She's as cynical and as hardnosed as Porter, due to her own difficult childhood, and is marrying Porter for his money and connections. Porter, in turn, is one of those middle-aged men whose wealth and power in his little world make him feel invincible and entitled to any beautiful woman he wants. Tess's good friend and once teenage crush, Aaron Peterson, a musician and composer with dreams of seeing one of his musical plays on Broadway, needs her to join him for a cruise gig. He's loved Tess since he was nineteen and she was sixteen. He sees this cruise gig as his last chance to win her over before she takes a path in life that he's convinced will lead to misery. So which path will Tess choose? Millions of dollars if she marries Porter? Or Aaron's love and Broadway dreams?


“But you asked me to go on this cruise anyway? Knowing how Porter felt—how jealous he was?”

“Stupid, huh? I needed a singer and I wanted you. So sue me.” The silence that fell between them fairly crackled with what was left unspoken.

Then the unspoken spilled over. “I love you, Aaron, and I need you in my life if I’m going to…well, go ahead with this marriage. Y’know, tolerate it.”

His arms around her slackened and he leaned back, away from her. As though physical contact with her was too painful. “You love me, huh? You don’t, Tess, not really. You’re so hung up on money, you can’t see straight. You think it’s going to give you everything you didn’t have as a child. You don’t know what you want or how you feel about anything.”

Her insides ached with anguish, the hollow feeling gnawing at her. Aaron was right. She thought money was going to make up for her deprived childhood. But what about emotional deprivation? How could she live without love? Real love?

“I don’t know… Maybe I need money more than anything else. I don’t know…”

“Now, that’s honesty, Tess. Your offer—us? Friends with benefits thing?” He snorted softly into her hair. “God, I can’t believe I’m saying this but here goes. I’m turning you down. You see, Tess, the great thing about a fantasy is the possibility it might some day come true. You’ve been my fantasy girl for a long, long time. I’m so tempted, you have no idea.” He almost growled those last words. “No, where you’re concerned, sweetheart, it’s all or nothing. All or nothing. Take it or leave it.”

Tess closed her eyes and felt the tears seep out of the corners and trickle down her cheeks. Leave it to Aaron to always dream the impossible. Always uncompromising. He’d have sex with a girl who meant nothing to him but her, Tess, practically begging him? Un-freakin’-compromising.

She sniffed back the tears. “All or nothing? Take it or leave it? You call me hard? You’re the hardhearted one.”

“No, baby-doll. It’s all my soft heart can take. I won’t have you stomping on it. Not again. The last time, it took me years to recover.” He kissed her cheek, then wiped her tears away with his thumb.

“Me, stomping on your heart? You left me and went away to school. I moved on. I had to show you that I could make something of myself, too. I had to prove myself, that I wasn’t like my parents. That I wasn’t some cokehead’s pathetic slut of a daughter. I know your family saw me that way. That’s why Mac broke us up. He knew how your family felt and he didn’t want to lose you or them. He worshipped all of you.”

“No, baby, you’ve got it all wrong. They felt—Mac, too—we were too young. You wouldn’t write to me in college and when I came back, you had a boyfriend and-and this show business crowd of friends. My parents, Mac—we were all proud of you and what you’d accomplished. All on your own, too, which is amazing. But you kept me at arm’s length.”

Her tears flowed and her throat burned raw, but she couldn’t help it. Aaron’s validation of her filled her bank of emotions. What he said was basically true. She’d kept him at bay with a parade of boyfriends. Why? To pay him back for leaving her? Both he and Mac left her alone. She shuddered as his fingers wiped and caressed her cheeks.

“For a long time, I hated you. You and Mac. I loved you both so much and you both left me.“

“We had to, Tess. We had to leave to grow up. C’mon, baby. We’re exhausted, in a damned strange mood,” he said, a catch in his voice, “let’s call it a night.”

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