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Now, because you know me, you’re not going to be surprised by the fact that I picked A Moonlight Serenade by Alexa Padgett to focus on, and Alexa has few words for us.
The question my ARC readers asked most often is how I came up with the idea to make Ryn an early child music teacher. Well…I spent ten years taking my girls to these classes. We’re a musical family, and I wanted to make sure each of my kids had a strong foundation–and the ability to sing to pitch. It’s paying off, too! (Though, if I ever hear that hello song again, I might curl up in a ball. Did you not read I did this for a DECADE? Every week…ten years…that song gets OLD.)
But I digress…My oldest daughter learned “Hallelujah” on the piano last week and she and my middle daughter put on an impromptu concert. I love hearing them make a song their own. Yeah, kind of like Ryn (but I have WAY less music talent).
Playlist for this book: I have to say, I adore music and I really try to listen to a wide range of it.
My favorite song, that I listened to often while writing this book, is Reason Why by Ron Pope. Other songs include: Closer by the Chain Smokers, featuring Halsey. Not Easy by Alex da Kid, X Ambassadors, and Elle King. If We Were Vampires by Jason Isbell. Animals by Alex & Sierra. Million Reasons by Lady Gaga. Wild Irish Rose by George Jones. The Long and Winding Road by the Beatles. Patience by Guns N Roses.
Thank you, Alexa!
And here is an Excerpt:
“I have a surprise for you, Mercer Island. One of my favorite female singers is here, just waiting to sing you my favorite carol.”
I stiffened, but it was nothing compared to the tenseness radiating from Ryn. Mila’s face lost its smile. She touched Ryn’s arm.
“He didn’t tell me. I would’ve told him not to.”
“He doesn’t mean me,” Ryn said, voice faint.
“You know why it’s my favorite?” Murphy winked. “Because she’s singing it.”
The crowd hooted and howled. Small children screamed and clapped. Probably the best tree lighting concert they’d ever have.
“Join me, Ryn Hudson. The folks here need some more Christmas spirit.”
Ryn turned to me, wide-eyed. Murphy boxed her in, and I wasn’t happy about it. And by the pulse beating in her throat, she wasn’t either.
“I don’t perform in front of crowds,” she whispered, her voice as desperate as her eyes.
Murphy beckoned her up, beaming like he’d just handed her a huge cash check. The areswipe! I might just bloody his face for this.
“It’ll be all right,” I said, keeping my voice soothing. “It’s just like performing for your babies. You’re so good with them.”
“Because they’re babies! And they don’t care, really.”
The crowd began to grow impatient, craning to see who Murphy was waving to. The smile slid from his face as he caught a glimpse of mine, then Mila’s. Ryn’s was buried in my chest, as she shuddered through another breath.
“I’ll come up with you. You can do this.”
She tipped her head back and met my eyes. “What if I suck?”
I smiled as I swiped her cheek with the pad of my thumb. “You won’t because you can’t. That voice of yours is mesmerizing.”
She sucked in a breath and nodded. “Okay. But don’t leave me.”
I turned her toward the stage and clasped her hand. “Promise.”
She climbed the steps to the stage, her hand gripping mine. The crowd clapped politely but they already shifted, unsure of the newcomer who took too long to respond. My heart rose into my throat. The crowd needed to accept her, love her, like they had Murphy.
“Whatcha gonna sing for us, love?” Murphy asked.
She looked out over the audience, gauging their reaction to her. “Well, I didn’t really have anything planned.”
Murphy raised his eyebrow, as if his douchery finally settling over him. “Jake here says you like ‘Jingle Bells.’” Murphy smiled for the crowd, who hadn’t heard Ryn’s response, but this time his grin was strained.
Ryn took a deep breath and let go of my hand. She removed her mitten and held out her hand for the mic. Murphy handed it to her as trepidation built in his eyes. If Ryn bombed, Mila and I would ream his arse.
Before any of us could say anything, Ryn started singing. Those first few notes were midrange but powerful. “The First Noel…” As she continued to sing, Ryn closed her eyes and let the lyrics take her. I’d heard multiple stars sing this song. None gave me goosebumps like Ryn had when she hit the pure, high note in “Israel.”
The woman sang. And she did it without any accompaniment, without earplugs. Her talent overwhelmed me, and I stood as enraptured as the crowd as she finished the second verse.
She lowered the mic from her mouth and glanced back at me, where I stood in the shadows. “How was that?” she asked.
I stepped forward and wrapped my arm around her shoulder, pulling her close enough to whisper in her ear, “Amazing.”
She smiled and did a small wave before handing the microphone back to Murphy.
Murphy grinned and bowed.
She turned to leave, but the crowd booed, then began chanting, “More, more!”
I hissed out a breath, thankful and a bit overwhelmed by their reaction.
“How about one more song?” Murphy asked, wiggling his eyebrows. His piercing caught and flashed in the lights. “Give us a mo’ to confer. We’ve not sung together before.”
He turned off the mic and walked over to us. His face morphed onto the pained look I knew well. “I’m a bloody arse.”
“I don’t really like to sing for crowds.”
“Why not?” Murphy’s surprise built. “Bloody fucking Christ! With pipes like those, I’d sing my way through life. And make some fine quid doing so.”
“She doesn’t, and that’s all that matters,” I growled, stepping closer to my brother.
Murphy met my gaze, his features austere in the lights. “Got it. Won’t happen again.” He blew out a breath. “Any song we all know so the crowd doesn’t riot?”
“‘Jingle Bells,’” Ryn and I said in unison. I grinned down at her, excited that we were already sync—excited to share my love of music with her.
Murphy turned on and raised the mic. “We need two more microphones and a stand,” he said, buying us a few more seconds. He dropped the mic back to his side.
I smiled down at Ryn. “We can ask the kids to sing, which the parents will like.”
“Smart, mate,” Murphy said. “But I haven’t played that one in years. A bit rusty on the chords.”
“I’ll play it,” Ryn said. “That is if you don’t mind me taking your instrument.”
“No worries.” Murphy handed it to her, and she took off her other glove, shoving it into her left pocket. Once the microphones were in place, we turned toward the audience, almost in perfect synchronization, and smiled.
“We’ve got a classic for ya,” Murphy crowed. The crowd hollered.
Ryn strummed the notes and all movement in the audience stopped. “All right, boys. Let’s jingle some bells.”
Murphy and I joined her, letting Ryn’s guitar chords set the pace. I went to stand next to her while Murphy hammed it up with the crowd.
“Remember how I did it with the kids?” she asked.
“Okay, that’s how we’re playing this audience.”
She began to play and Murphy stepped back, letting her own the limelight. Once again, Ryn’s voice was killer—precise yet meltingly sweet. Murphy kept time on his thigh, joining in for the chorus. I added some deeper bass as Ryn worked her way up to harmonize with Murphy. He grinned at her as she met him note for note. By the last verse, we owned the song. The crowd clapped and sang along. This was one of the best highs I’d ever gotten while performing.
“Your turn!” Murphy called to the crowd. “Jingle Bells…”
Their voices filled the cold night air, the festive mood building with each note.
“Fair dinkum!” Murphy yelled when it ended. “What did I tell ya? Ryn Hudson, everyone.”
We took our bows and headed off the stage. As the crowd surged forward, no doubt wanting our autographs, Claude and the rest of the security team stepped in front of us, a human line just behind the metal barricade.
Mila latched on to Murphy’s arm and from the set of her lips, I doubted Murphy would like her next comments. He hung his head and nodded as Mila led him away.
“You ready to be off?” I asked.
“She does have him in hand, huh?” Ryn said, her gaze lingering on Murphy and Mila, who was still giving him an earful.
“I’ll make sure he apologizes for putting you on the spot like that.”
Ryn laughed, and I realized she was still on the high from a great performance. “It’s fine. Mila’s dealing with him, and I had fun. Lots of it.”
I brushed her hair back and pulled out her mittens from her pockets, holding them up so she could slide her reddened fingers back inside. “I’m glad.”
“Ryn!” The voice was female, urgent. We both turned to see the sheila from her flat. Sam, Ryn had said. Her dead husband’s twin. Not bloody likely this would go well.
Sam plowed forward, chest heaving and cheeks stained with tears. “What were you thinking? You never perform for crowds!”
“I didn’t plan to, Sam. Murphy blindsided me. If he’d asked, I would’ve said no.”
“Please.” Sam’s voice dripped with scorn. “Clearly the limelight suits you.” She looked me over, her face crumpling. “Why are you here—with him?” Sam pointed at me. “What about Dez?”
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