Title: A Song for Julia
Author: Charles Sheehan-Miles
Release date: December 15, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Group: New Adult
Event organized by: AToMR Tours
Everyone should have something to rebel against.
Crank Wilson left his South Boston home at sixteen to start a punk band and burn out his rage at the world. Six years later, he's still at odds with his father, a Boston cop, and doesn't ever speak to his mother. The only relationship that really matters is with his younger brother, but watching out for Sean can be a full-time job.
The one thing Crank wants in life is to be left the hell alone to write his music and drive his band to success.
Julia Thompson left a secret behind in Beijing that exploded into scandal in Washington, DC, threatening her father's career and dominating her family's life. Now, in her senior year at Harvard, she's haunted by a voice from her past and refuses to ever lose control of her emotions again, especially when it comes to a guy.
When Julia and Crank meet at an anti-war protest in Washington in the fall of 2002, the connection between them is so powerful it threatens to tear everything apart.
October 26, 2002
Maybe it’s just me. But I would have thought that a girl at the center of the biggest anti-war protest since the Vietnam War might not have had such a gigantic stick up her ass.
But no … there she was, her mouth moving, and I didn’t understand a word. To be fair, she was wicked hot, even if she did dress like a librarian; she wore a floral knee-length skirt that hugged her thighs and a pastel colored sweater with what looked like a thousand bangles and bracelets running up her right wrist. Her eyes were a striking pale blue, framed with dark brownish-blonde hair. She had this schoolgirl look about her that made me want to lick the back of her neck. It was the hostile stream of words out of her sexy little mouth that caused me to step back, both irritated and defensive.
“What was that?” I asked, hoping to get the torrent of words to just stop.
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. I grinned.
“What I said was, you guys can’t set up here just yet. Mark Tashburn is about to go on … then there’s a fifteen-minute break. You guys can set up after that.”
I rolled my eyes. “And we go on at the end of the fifteen minutes?”
She smiled, her face relaxing a little. I don’t think she liked me that much. Her smile looked fake. Those ice cold eyes? Her smile never reached that far. I wondered what a genuine smile from her would look like.
“That’s right,” she replied.
“That won’t work,” I said. “Takes longer to set up than fifteen minutes.”
She sighed. “And why, exactly, are we just finding this out now?”
“Hey, not my fault. I don’t know who organized the time schedule on this thing, but it’s a complete mess. If you want us playing in 30 minutes, we needed to start setting up an hour ago. Takes time to set up the equipment and tune up.”
She huffed a little and said, “Fine. Just … try not to distract the audience too much.”
Jesus, whatever. She came running up the moment we’d started to carry equipment on stage. Not like the crowd was paying attention anyway, there must be a hundred thousand people out there. Bunch of hippies and peace freaks and what looked to be effing soccer moms. For the hundredth time, I asked myself how the hell I’d gotten roped into playing at an anti-war protest.
Of course, this was the biggest venue we’d ever played. But seriously, so far, the speakers had been a series of retreads from the 1960s. If that didn’t show how disconnected this thing was from reality, I didn’t know what did.
Whatever. This was Serena’s deal. She was big in the anti-war politics. And what Serena was into, the band did. We didn’t have a manager, but she was the closest to it. She sang with me and played rhythm guitar and had a magic sense for what music would work and what wouldn’t.
We rushed to get set up without alarming the natives or hippies. Finished in record time, no thanks to the princess who was off to the side of the stage with a clipboard, directing people here and there.
So, between the setup, tune up, and start, I had about fifteen seconds to take a breath and then launched into the first licks. The college kids in the audience started to groove on it right away, but the senior citizens and soccer moms … and holy shit, there was a lot of them … stared up at us as if the stage had been swept with radioactive contamination. I gave the guitar and vocals just an extra twinge for them, blasting out the raunchiest original version of the lyrics to our song “Fuck the War” rather than the extra special sensitive studio lyrics we’d ended up releasing.
I don’t want to mislead you. Morbid Obesity isn’t a punk band, more alternative rock, with a bit of an edge. I’m the edge. To date, our most popular song was “Fuck the War,” which we released on an EP a few months back. It’s a love song about my mom and dad, but you’ve got to listen to the lyrics to get that. I put a lot of emotion into it when I was writing it and when I performed it.
It was a perfect day to be on stage and outdoors: cool, but not cold. The sky was clear and cloudless, an occasional breeze wafting across the stage, a hundred thousand people of all shapes, sizes and colors spread across the frickin’ National Mall. I’d never seen anything like it.
I was on the second round of the chorus when I looked to the right of the stage and saw Miss Princess. She was grooving on the music. Moving just slightly, her lips were parted in a way that caught my breath. Pouty lips. Kissable lips. I had to laugh at myself a bit. So not my type. Well, except that she was female and kind of hot. Still, not my type.
Back in high school, some freak accident of the Boston Public School system sent a group of rich kids from Back Bay to South Boston High. That was a laugh. It only lasted a year, though I don’t know if that’s because they got the zoning reversed, or the parents just yanked their kids from the public schools. This girl reminded me of some of those kids. Imperious. Superior. Some of them looked at the rats like me as if we were future criminals.
I wonder if that’s why she was turning me on so much?
It made me want to tease her a little, so when I launched into the second verse, I sang right to her, and her alone. I was on the second verse when she met my eyes. I held them. Her eyes, so distant and blue, were arresting. She noticed I was singing to her and froze in place, a deer caught in the headlights. I love it when girls react that way. Showed she was human. If we’d been back home in Boston, I’d have grabbed her and pulled her on the stage, but that wouldn’t go over with this audience.
After a second though, she met my eyes and gave a sly grin, as if to say ‘I know what you’re up to.’ I grinned back, belting out the lyrics. The bass and drums in this song were powerful and demanded that the body dance. I broke off eye contact and took off across the stage, threw myself into the solo, screaming out the lyrics at the crescendo, and then I brought the song to a crashing halt.
Despite the shock of the soccer moms and lobbyists in the crowd, the college kids loved it and screamed for more. Suburban Princess applauded, a mysterious grin on her face. I wanted to know her a lot better.
That wasn’t going to happen. This was an anti-war protest, not a meet and greet. As soon as the song finished, we started breaking down the stage and golden girl jumped up to the microphone and shouted, “Give it up for Morbid Obesity and their hit “Fuck the War”!” I paused what I was doing to check her out while she was at the microphone.
The crowd went nuts again, which was nice. Hearing the name of my song on those lips was even nicer. But five seconds later, she was introducing the next round of speakers, a bunch of broken down Vietnam and Gulf War vets who had been dredged up by the organizers of this parade to give it some credibility.
Mark and I dragged most of the equipment off the stage, while Pathin broke down the drums, and Serena pulled the extra monitors and wiring apart. As I stepped off the stage for the last time, the suburban princess met me at the bottom of the stairs. I stumbled down the last step and ended up less than six inches away from her, looking down into those fantastic eyes.
“You guys were pretty good,” she said, her head tilted back, eyes on mine. “Thanks for doing this.”
I shrugged and grinned. “It was fun.” Pretty good? That’s it? Jesus, she was close. I could smell her perfume, a faint, pretty smell.
“So …” she said, looking me in the eyes.
“How long is this thing gonna go?” I asked.
“Half a dozen more speakers, then they march around the White House. Maybe another hour.”
Mark walked up just as she was answering the question. Our bass player, Mark, is a big guy, who might have been a football player in an alternate universe where football players smoked too much pot and hung out with the bugs in the Pit in Harvard Square. His eyes widened when I opened my stupid mouth again.
“So, after it’s over, want to grab some lunch?”
For just a second her smile faltered, and she looked … almost angry. I know I’m not exactly wearing frickin’ tweed, but I’m not a bad guy, no need to be offended.
“Come on,” I said, “it’s just lunch. I won’t do anything too offensive.”
Mark spoke in a sarcastic tone, “I don’t think she’s your type, Crank.”
She closed her mouth, eyes darting to Mark. Her eyes narrowed, and her lips set in a thin line. It looked like she wanted to hit him. This girl was volatile. I liked that. “Sure,” she said. “Where?”
I shrugged. “Um … I don’t know the area.”
She looked thoughtful for just a second. “Georgia Brown’s at 15th and K Street. They’ve got outdoor seating. See you there … four o’clock?”
Yes! Was it me, or had she moved closer to me?
Mark let out a chuckle and walked away.
“All right, see you at four,” I said, looking at her eyes one more time.
I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.
Giveaway per blog: (1) eBook copy of A SONG FOR JULIAa Rafflecopter giveaway
About the Author
Charles Sheehan-Miles has been a soldier, computer programmer, short-order cook and non-profit executive. He is the author of several books, including the indie bestsellers Just Remember to Breathe and Republic: A Novel of America's Future.
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Excerpt #2 - Not what I expected (Julia)
It was funny, I thought, as we paid the bill and left the restaurant. Crank was … different. Easy to be around, and he made me laugh. But I was never going to see him after tonight, and that made me kind of sad. For a brief second, I thought of seeing him when we got back to Boston, but seriously? Bad idea. My life didn’t have room for someone like Crank. And from what he’d said, his didn’t have room either. This was all a little off-key, out of place, almost as if it was someone else out to dinner with him, and I was playing a role. I almost never go out with guys. And I never let my emotions get ahead of my brain.
But tonight, as we tried to wave down a cab to head toward Georgetown, I was feeling a little out of control. The way his shirt gathered around his arms, the easy strength in them, the easy grin … I was attracted to him in a way I hadn’t been with anyone in a long time.
I’ve never liked feeling out of control. Not like that. I’d gone there once, head over heels in love, and it did so much damage to my life I didn’t think I’d ever recover. No way I’d ever go there again. Whatever else happened, I was in control of my life. No one else. Certainly not some formless emotion and lust that can take away who you even are. I was fourteen when it happened, almost eight years ago, and the consequences and damage were beyond anything I could have conceived. What I learned was this: letting myself be at the mercy of hormones and brain chemicals and emotions can be deadly.
A cab pulled up, and we got in. I thought of tossing away caution and telling him I wanted to go home with him. One night wouldn’t be so dangerous. One night could be okay. One night could be free and fun and not go anywhere.
The cab driver took a hard right turn, accelerating to get through the light before it changed, and in the process I was pushed across the back seat toward Crank. He put his arm around me, an automatic reaction I’m sure, but I stayed there.
“You all right?” he asked.
“Fine!” I said. “Where are we going, anyway?”
“No idea. Aren’t there a bunch of clubs in Georgetown?”
“I think so. I didn’t get out much when I lived in the area.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Why not? Don’t take offense, but you seem like you were probably one of the popular girls.”
“You couldn’t be more wrong. What makes you think that?” I asked, giving him a challenging stare.
“First impressions, I guess. You still look very professional in that outfit, kind of preppy. Sexy as hell.”
I’m not a blushy sort of girl, but that made me blush. “It’s not exactly club attire, is it? But I don’t want to take the time to go back and change.”
“No worries, Julia. It’s just us, anyway.”
I swallowed and then leaned against him. What had gotten into me?
Lust. That was the only explanation. I could feel the hard muscle of his shoulders and thighs pressing against me, and my body was responding to that—no matter what my mind said.
The cab came to a halt, and the driver muttered something. I leaned forward. Nothing but red taillights ahead of us for blocks.
“What’s going on?” Crank asked.
“Construction,” the driver said. “Bad. You want me to let you out here?” He looked anxious to dump us out of the cab as soon as possible, to avoid being stuck in the westbound traffic.
I took a breath. My chest was tight, my whole body tense. I rubbed my hands on my skirt, closed my eyes and thought, Screw it. I can do this. It’s just one night, anyway.
“Do you want to…” he asked, just as I started to say, “Let’s …”
We both stopped, and he laughed.
“You go first,” he said.
I bit my lip, and I could feel my cheeks heating up again. “I was going to say …” and my voice trailed off.
“You were going to say?”
He grinned. It was a crooked grin, the left side of his mouth slightly higher than the right, and it made me want to melt into my seat and pull him right after me.
I took a breath and closed my eyes. “I was going to say, where are you staying?”
I kept my eyes closed another fifteen seconds or more. And, let me tell you, fifteen seconds is a long, long time. Finally I opened them, and he was looking at me with an expression I couldn’t interpret. For someone who was always joking, always making snide remarks, he looked serious. Too serious. More serious than I was comfortable with. I didn’t need serious in my life.
I saw his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed, then he said, “I’m at some dump in Arlington. Sharing a room with Mark.”
“Oh,” I said, my voice unnaturally tense.
“What about you?” he asked. He spoke very slowly, carefully.
“Um … my parents have a condo in Bethesda. I was planning on heading back there tonight.”
“I don’t want to say goodbye,” he said.
I couldn’t get control of my breathing. I felt lightheaded. Out of control. “Come back to my place.”
He titled his head, leaned close and whispered, “Are you sure?”
I found myself chewing on my lower lip again. “Yes.”
I dropped my eyes and leaned forward, putting my hand on the back of the taxi driver’s seat. “Can you take us to Bethesda instead? Wisconsin Avenue and Montgomery.”
Suddenly it was quiet in the cab. Tense, awkward. I couldn’t believe I’d done this. I did not do one-night stands. But here I was, half-hyperventilating, with this guy I’d only known for eight hours sitting beside me in the cab. And I guess if it was just for now that was fine, but what if he wanted to see me again? What if he wanted to date? What if?
I didn’t think I could handle that.
This was so stupid. Things were so much easier with Willard, before I broke up with him. I was always in control. There was no passion there, true. There wasn’t anything there. But it was comfortable. Easy. I wasn’t afraid.
Crank, though: he made me afraid.
The cab cleared the traffic and turned up at Massachusetts Avenue, and we were speeding out of downtown DC.
“You’re awfully quiet now,” Crank said.
I looked at him, and his eyes were boring into mine, intense, probing.
“Having second thoughts?” he asked. “It’s okay.”
I leaned a little closer. “No. Just … it’s just tonight. We don’t see each other again. We don’t call each other in Boston. We don’t … anything. Okay? We enjoy each other’s company tonight, and then we’re done.”
He stared at me, surprised. And … his face looked disappointed. He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing once in his throat. “I don’t know why, but that’s … not what I expected.”
“Don’t get expectations. Not with me.”
He shook his head. “Usually I’m the one who says things like that.”
The cab came to a halt, and he paid it, and we were out on the street. A cool wind blew through the streets of downtown Bethesda, and traffic rolled by us. I took his hand and walked to the entrance of the high rise, swiped my access card to unlock the front door, and we walked into the lobby.
The night concierge was sitting at the counter, watching a small television. She looked up briefly, gave us a casual wave and went back to her show. Good. If it had been the day concierge, my appearance with Crank would have been reported back to my parents by morning.
We waited in silence for the elevator. The bell when it arrived on the ground floor was loud.
“Nice place,” he said. “Fancy.”
“My parents bought it a few years back when we were living in the area.” I didn’t want to talk about the year I’d lived with my parents here. I didn’t want to think about it. If there’d been any other place I could have taken him, I would have. I didn’t like having this crazy, free moment mixed with my past.
We stepped into the elevator. It rose, quickly, to the top floor. He followed me down the hall, and we stopped at the door while I fumbled for keys. I was shaking with anxiety, nervousness. The weight of this place made me want to scream. But not enough to push him away.
I unlocked the door and opened it, then started to step in. My heart was thumping in my chest, and my throat was tight. Not just because of him. Because of this place. I had no good memories here. Even with the lights still out, looking inside this condo, which I’d stepped foot in only a few times since the day I graduated high school, shook me to the core and made my skin crawl.
I shuddered and then turned back toward him when he didn’t come inside. He gave me a speculative, questioning look. As if he were curious about me, about who I was.
But that wasn’t any of his business.
“What?” I asked.
“You don’t want to see me again,” he said.
I did. But I shook my head no.
“You don’t sleep with guys unless you’re serious with them,” he said.
“I don’t have room for serious in my life.”
He stepped close and brushed my lips with his, then spoke in a low tone. “I want you to be serious about me,” he said. “I can get a girl to sleep with me any time. But there’s something different about you.”
I stared into his eyes. He meant what he was saying. We’d only known each other for a few hours, but I felt a connection too, even if it was only lust. I wanted him. Right now. I felt my breath speed up as I started to speak, “I …”
“Julia,” he interrupted. “I’d love to get to know you better,” he said. “But I’m not going to sleep with you. Good night.”
Then, unbelievably, he leaned forward and kissed me again. Slow. Our tongues just made contact. Wet and warm. Hungry. I wanted to whimper, pull him inside, but he turned and slowly walked back down the hall until he was out of sight.
I just stood there and watched him go, and part of me, a huge part of me, wanted to run after him. But I still remembered.
I remembered what it was like to have a hot, sexy, charismatic guy want me. I remembered what it was like to lose control, to feel that rush of emotion. To be overwhelmed.
I remembered what it was like to have my heart torn out, to have my dreams smashed, to be bleeding and lost in the back streets of Beijing. To have scandal nearly tear my family apart.
No matter how much I might have wanted this guy: I couldn’t go back there. Not now. Not ever. If it wasn’t going to happen for just tonight, it wasn’t going to happen at all.
So, I walked in the condo and closed and locked the door. I didn’t turn on the lights. I didn’t want to see the inside of this place. Instead, I made my way to the couch and lay down, alone.
I didn’t cry. Not here. Never again.