Excerpt Chapter 2 from CONNECTED (Connections #1)
Written by Kim Karr
Time is Running Out
The set ends so I walk over behind Garrett to lean my guitar against the wall. I pull
my shirt up to wipe the sweat off my forehead. It’s hotter than shit in here and I need a
drink. Garrett laughs, tipping his head back to swallow the beer he somehow already has.
“You going to grab a drink? I’ll take another,” he says as he downs the rest of his
his beanie at me.
I move closer and shove him a little and put the hat on my head. “Shut the fuck up,
you should talk.”
I hop off the stage and my sister rushes over to me. “River, I need you to take me
home as soon as the last set is over. I have someone meeting me back at my apartment.”
I shake my head, knowing it must be a guy. “Yeah yeah, I will Bell, but really can’t
you get a boyfriend that has some manners? You know, like actually picks his date up
and maybe even takes her out? And at a decent hour?”
She rolls her eyes. “All guys aren’t like you, big brother. Nice beanie,” she teases
before disappearing back into the crowd.
As I walk through the jam-packed room, some brunette chick I think looks familiar
asks me if I want to grab a drink in private. I kindly refuse, telling her I need to refuel
before my next set. She’s still talking when I motion toward the bar to signal that I’m
moving away. As my eyes flash across the bar, they’re suddenly drawn to a beautiful girl
standing against it. And she’s looking directly at me.
I start walking toward her, leaving behind the brunette who is still talking. As I stare
at the beautiful girl, I think, “I want her.” Tall, slim, long blonde hair that’s pulled away
from her face. But it’s her eyes that get me—the way she’s looking at me. Shit, I’ve
talked to about a dozen chicks tonight, but she is the only one who has me interested.
As I stare back at her I’m feeling like she’s not just any girl. Not just a girl to have
sex with. I’m actually having a fucking conversation with myself. I can’t figure out what’s
going on in my own head.
I try not to smile, but I know she’s checking me out. Fuck, why’d I put this hat on? I
quickly pull it off and comb my fingers through my hair. I can’t take my eyes off her and
I feel like I want to knock everyone out of my way to get to her.
When I finally reach the bar, I stand right in front of her. For some weird reason I
feel the urge to touch her, but instead I shove my hands in my pockets. She’s smiling at
me and I smile right back. This girl is hot. Her eyes still haven’t left mine this whole
time, so I decide to break the ice by calling her out. “Were you staring at me?”
She pouts her lips and rolls her eyes. Shit, that look gets me.
“No, I was just looking for my friend while I waited on my drinks. You just
I stifle my laugh and say, “That look was hot.” I want to say, “You’re hot,” but I
don’t—not yet anyway.
I can tell she’s trying not to laugh. If she does, I know I have her. Her phone rings
and her smile fades. “Why would you think I was looking at you, anyway?”
The person beside her walks away and I secure my place next to her. I toss my hat on
the counter and lean against the bar, my eyes never leaving hers. I answer in the most
honest way I can. “Because I was staring at you, hoping you were staring back.”
I don’t want to fuck this up so I decide to be the guy Bell always tells me I am—the
guy with manners. Then I say what I should have said first. “With all this talk about who
was staring at whom I think we forgot the basics, I’m River,” I say as I extend my hand.
She reaches hers out. Hey, I get to touch her. But she quickly pulls her hand back
before I get to grasp it and accidentally knocks a dude’s beer over. The asshole gives her
a dirty look and swears. I know I have to step in because this guy is out of line. I gently
guide her out of my way and try to control myself as I say, “Sorry man, just an accident,
but let me buy you another.” I hand him a ten, “Buy two.” I hope he takes the money and
leaves. Lucky for him he does, because otherwise I might deck him.
I turn around to find the girl smiling at me and sliding one of her beers my way. I
start to drink it and she says, “Thank you, that guy sure as shit wasn’t happy with me. In
fact he kind of acted like an asshole.” I can’t help but laugh mid-sip, almost spitting the
beer out of my mouth. Not cool.
Not able to resist any longer, I run my finger over her smooth bare shoulder and lock
my eyes on hers. “You’re more than welcome.”
She just barely shudders and steps back. I’m pretty sure she’s interested in me so I
step closer, not wanting to break our connection. “Now, where were we? Do we need to
start over?” I ask, looking into her eyes.
“We were introducing ourselves,” she says smiling.
“Okay, so let’s try again. I’m River and you are . . .?”
“I’m not sure you need to know that information right now. I’m kind of thinking you
might be a stalker,” she teases.
I laugh. I’m all about game playing but I’m not ready to play. I really want to get to
know this girl, and I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual, so I avoid dropping the canned
line I might have used on another girl and say, “You’re not serious, are you beautiful
Prologue of TORN
Connections #2 by Kim Karr
© 2013 by Kim Karr
Published by the Penguin Group
Release date: October 1, 2013
Close your eyes and you can imagine what it was like. Hot, sticky, crowded. Smoke,
flashing screens, and lighters flickering. Fans screaming, laughing, clapping, and crying.
Bodies pushing, shoving, trying to catch a glimpse. Everyone wanting to see the stage—
the lights, the equipment, the musician himself.
He was running back and forth singing, headbanging, and playing his guitar. The
lyrics were jumbled. His movements out of sync. The sound of the bass thumped through
the crowd so loud my body vibrated with every wrong note played. I just wanted it to
Nick Wilde had opened for the Counting Crows at the Hollywood Bowl. It was his
second chance— and he blew it. The crowd was exhilarated at the start of his first song
and he owned the stage but it didn’t last long. By the third song he was improvising,
pulling notes, and forgetting words. He was lost in his own trance, soaked in alcohol, and
no one could help him…not Xander, not my mother, and definitely not me. “Mr. Jones”
started playing before he even finished his fourth song…and he never played onstage
Music was his soul. Music was in all of our souls. When we were younger he taught
us everything he could…how to play, to sing, the right way to command a stage. We
knew every song by every artist. We traveled to concert after concert. Music was his life
and it became ours.
But he wasn’t happy just playing. He had a dream—he wanted to be famous. And
somewhere along the way his dream became an obsession. I’ll give it to him, he got
further than most do. By the age of nineteen he had been signed by a label and cut his
first album. But after a disappointing run they released him. He spent the next fifteen
years working the circuit—clubs, churches, weddings, birthday parties, as he waited for
another big break. And then, just like that, he blew his golden opportunity.
Everything in our life changed after that. The drinking got worse, Grandpa came
around more to check on us, and Mom went back to work. Every day left another kink in
his chain as he lived in his own world. I was sixteen when his plan A became my plan B
wasn’t going to let me fail. The band’s album had a slow start but after a year of touring,
it started to gain popularity.
I remember the first time the Wilde Ones graced a real stage. We were restless. We
had been sitting around for hours waiting. When we were finally up we strutted
confidently across the stage like we had in rehearsal, but, really, we were nervous as hell.
The lights were much brighter and the audience so much bigger than we were used to.
When the guys started to play, soft, barely audible words flew out of my mouth so fast I
forgot to breathe. The band was drowning me out and I knew it. Looking around, I
adjusted the microphone height and took in the crowd. They were cheering me on with
such enthusiasm that my voice finally soared over them. It was the same voice I’d grown
up with, the one my dad had fostered. It was raw and present and soulful, and, in that
moment, my music came alive. The crowd went crazy and just like that my life changed
Xander struck while the iron was hot. He arranged to go on tour. That was the
beginning of the end for me. We started out small. Smaller venues, shitty hotels, crappy
food, and a lot of drinking. We opened for band after band and the relationships I
made…they kept me going, that and being up on that stage doing what I loved…it kept
me going, wanting to make my dad proud…yeah, that, too.
But touring was a constant infringement on my personal space. I hated the cramped
quarters, lack of privacy, constant strict schedule, never being in the same city for more
than two nights, people following you everywhere, people always wanting something
from you. Even the girls throwing themselves at you got old. It was the longest year of
my life, but I did it for him because somewhere along the way his dream morphed into
mine. What I came to realize was that his dream wasn’t mine—my dad thought being on
tour meant you had made it. His dream was about being famous. Mine is about the music.
As the venues got bigger so did the crowds, the fanfare, and I could see how you
could get lost in it, caught up in it—but I was determined not to end up like my father. He
was addicted to the fame. I’m addicted to the creative process. I hope that difference
between us is enough. The tour ended and we wrote, we played around LA, and as time
passed life was good. But I had managed to put off cutting another album long enough.
This time I was doing it for the band and for my brother and for me—because I love the
music. Cutting the album—that’s the fun part. It’s the promoting I dreaded, at least until
the day I saw her through the glass. The girl who inspired our song “Once in a Lifetime,”
the girl Xander always referred to as my muse, the girl who stole my heart one night and
then crushed it at the very same time.
She was as beautiful as I remembered and with one glance she took my breath away.
She walked my way, pulling a suitcase behind her, and my heart skipped a beat. I knew
immediately she was the one sent to interview me and suddenly any negativity I had
about doing press was gone. I couldn’t help but watch her. I wanted her unlike anyone I
had ever wanted before. I had to stifle a laugh when her briefcase fell off the top of her
suitcase and she glanced around to see who saw. I wanted to yell, “Only me and don’t
worry because everything about you is sexy as fuck.”
I rushed to grab the door for her, but she pushed it forward and fell into me—not that
I minded in the least. I’d catch her over and over. There wasn’t a thing about her that I
didn’t remember from the first time we met and even the awkwardness of the moment
brought me to full attention. When her body pressed against mine, I knew in that
instant…this time I wasn’t letting her get away so easily. I’d go on a thousand tours to
have her in my life—there was just something about her, a light in her eyes that made
everything wrong feel right. And just like my dad, I got a second chance—it was her. But
unlike him, I wasn’t going to blow it.
When she extended her hand and said, “Hello, I’m Dahlia London from Sound
Music. I’m so sorry I’m late,” I knew she had to be mine.