Hello! I'm Shannon, and I've finally gathered up the courage to post a story of my own. I hope you enjoy this first chapter!
Symphony - Chapter One
Clumsiness was one of Brenna Hamilton’s defining traits. In fact, she could have been the poster child for being awkward. Luke used to take great pleasure in pointing out how easily she would trip over nothing more than air on flat ground. So on this night, when it was absolutely essential that she be elegant and poised, she wasn’t the least bit surprised when she stumbled spectacularly over her own feet on the short walk to center stage. It didn’t help that she had chosen to wear a tight strapless black gown that made breathing difficult, but being the featured soloist with the Wildehaven Symphony Orchestra was a big deal. She was going to dress the part, damn it.
She righted herself to avoid falling in a heap on the floor and took her seat at the grand piano, the silence in the concert hall echoing loudly in her ears. Maybe no one really noticed, she tried desperately to convince herself. Not likely. Luke could never understand how someone with such talent could be the biggest klutz, and he rarely passed up an opportunity to remind her of it. Shaking the thought of her ex-husband’s negative words from her mind, Brenna straightened her back and placed her fingers on the cool ivory keys. With a deep breath, she began to play.
For all of the countless moments that she’d made a fool of herself in her twenty-seven years of life, she made up for it every time she sat down at a piano. It was her haven, her place of clarity, the one thing that she always did right. From a young age, she had been a natural with the instrument, and it often felt as if it was an extension of her own body whenever she played. Now, as her fingers rolled over the keys, Brenna closed her eyes, letting the delicate melody of the piece flow freely throughout the hall, like silvery butterflies fluttering above everyone’s heads. Lost in pure perfection, she reached the end of her solo, and the rest of the orchestra joined in to accompany her to a sweet finale.
The crowd roared with applause, and Brenna stood on shaky knees to bow with as much grace as she could muster before hurrying off the stage. The music motivated her and brought her to life, not the cheers from her audience, so she rarely mulled around after a performance once the curtain fell. Get in, get out, before catastrophe strikes – that was her general motto. Tonight, she had no choice but to stay a bit, considering that she had promised her best friend Lily, a violinist with the orchestra, that she’d make an appearance at the after party in the garden outside the concert hall. Besides, Lily had mentioned that her family would be in attendance, and Brenna always loved seeing the Davidsons.
The evening was cool and crisp, and the low hedges in the garden had been adorned with strings of twinkling lights. The wait staff flitted through the crowd, offering hors d'oeuvres and fluted glasses of sparkling champagne. Soft classical music played in the background. Brenna easily spotted Lily amidst the throng of people at the party. Not that it was hard to miss her; she lit up every room. Lily was tall, willowy, and lovely, with shoulder-length hair the color of golden sunlight. With thick chocolate-brown hair and a far-from-perfect body, Brenna always felt so plain next to her friend.
Lily was chatting casually with three well-dressed people that Brenna immediately recognized as Lily’s parents and older brother. Lily’s mother, Naomi, was a breathtaking beauty, shimmering with class and grace. Lily’s father, Greg, was the perfect complement to Naomi’s elegance. His wise gray eyes revealed his gentle kindness and a glimmer of charm. Brad, Lily’s brother, had clean-cut All-American good looks. Athletic and strong, he had been the captain of the rugby team in college and always had a pretty girl on his arm. Now he owned the most successful architectural firm in the city, a huge accomplishment for such a young man. If Brenna hadn’t known him for so long and thought of him only as a brother, she might have considered him to be boyfriend material. He typically had a stunning date with him anyway who was always much more captivating than Brenna could ever be. Tonight, Brenna suddenly noticed, there was someone new next to him – and not his usual type of companion.
Seated at Brad’s side was a very handsome man in a sleek black wheelchair. He was clearly familiar with the Davidsons, because he was definitely a part of the circle that they had created. He was dressed as impeccably as everyone else, in a suit that was perfectly tailored to fit his body. His dark blonde hair was combed smoothly back from his face, and as Brenna approached, she could see that his eyes were a brilliant blue. She suspected that he was around the same age as Brad, in his late twenties or thirties. She was struck immediately by the broadness of his shoulders, and she wondered absently what it would be like to watch the muscles of his strong arms flex exquisitely beneath his crisp white dress shirt. How would it feel to twist her fingers around his black tie and loosen it slowly, so slowly, until she had free access to unbutton the top of his shirt and reveal the expanse of his chest?
Brenna felt drawn to him, pulled to him as if she were attached to an invisible string under his control. He smiled warmly at her, but before she could offer an introduction, Lily clamped a hand around her shoulder.
“Ahh, the star of the show!” Lily beamed. Brenna blushed. She couldn’t get used to accolades, no matter how often she heard them.
“Oh, stop. I only have a small part in the bigger picture,” Brenna replied.
Lily frowned. “Don’t be so modest. Everyone comes to see you play.”
Naomi nodded. “It’s true, Brenna. You really are very good.”
Brenna smiled gratefully. “Thank you, Naomi. I’m just honored to be allowed to work with such esteemed musicians.” And she was sincerely thankful for the way the orchestra had invited her and welcomed her with open arms. Note to self, she thought. Add to the to-do list: learn to accept a compliment without feeling like a fool.
Still, as the praise and small talk continued, Brenna could barely focus on the words being spoken. Her attention was entirely concentrated on the man in the wheelchair. She didn’t want to appear rude and stare but she couldn’t resist the surprising urge to sneak a glance at him. He was so gorgeous, and an animal lust spread throughout her belly at the thought of his hands on her naked skin, making it even harder to breathe in her tight dress. She’d never felt this kind of primal desire for someone before, not even with Luke…and this man was a complete stranger. She still didn’t know his name.
As if on cue, Brad’s voice broke through her reverie and forced her back to reality. “Brenna Hamilton, meet Sebastian Miller. He’s just joined my firm. I promised that I’d show him around town tonight and see my little sister at work.”
Sebastian stretched out his arm and offered a hand. “So this is the elusive Miss Hamilton,” he replied, his voice as deep and smooth as velvet. “Brad and his family speak very highly of you.”
Damn, he was beautiful. Brenna felt the almost unbearable urge to reach out and run a finger over the curve of his upper lip as he spoke. She took his hand, his touch sending an instant thrill through her body.
“Thank you,” she murmured. Why did her mouth feel so dry? She couldn’t even think past the feel of his palm against hers.
Lily clapped her hands together happily. “Good. Now that you’ve been introduced, can you keep Sebastian company for a few, Bren? I want to show the fam our new rehearsal space.” Brenna had almost forgotten that anyone else was there, as if she and Sebastian were in a vacuum space that belonged only to the two of them.
No, no, no. “Uh, sure.”
“Great! We’ll be back.”
Lily led her parents and Brad away, chatting comfortably about the concert hall’s greatest attributes. Brenna turned to Sebastian, wondering what she should say first.
“So you’ve just moved to town then?” As soon as the words escaped her lips, she frowned inwardly. What a stupid question! Just another example of her own unique brand of open-mouth-insert-foot. “Sorry, obviously you’ve just moved to town,” she quickly rambled, her tongue seeming to twist up on itself.
He raised an eyebrow, and Brenna wondered if he could already sense her awkwardness. So much for impressing the hottest guy she’d ever seen. This was a new record for her. Usually it took at least a full dinner date for a man to realize that her shyness was just a cover-up for her clumsy way with words…and everything else, for that matter. “Yes,” he answered, “I have a studio apartment on the west side of town.”
She nodded. She could imagine him in the penthouse of one of those huge high-rise buildings in the ritzy section of Wildehaven, all clean modern lines and floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out onto the vast city below. She had a sudden vision of herself making love to Sebastian as he sat in his chair in front of one of those windows, her sweaty naked body tangled with his. Her chest tightened at the thought, and she forced her mind to fix on something else.
“What about you?” he asked, his mouth forming the hint of a secret grin as if he could somehow read her mind. “What do you do when you’re not breaking hearts on the piano?” She got the strange impression that he was teasing her.
“I teach music at an elementary school. Kindergarten through Fifth Grade.” Ugh, I sound so boring, she thought. “I also help to maintain the records of the downtown historical buildings. I work part-time at Brad’s firm every Friday to help keep everything current.”
His eyes lit up. “Really? That’s one of the reasons that I’m joining Brad’s team. The historical architecture division will be my special project.”
Brenna’s throat went dry. Did that mean that they’d be seeing each other regularly? Sebastian moved closer to her.
“Hmm, I’d love to hear more about the history behind those buildings, especially since you have an inside knowledge of them.” He paused, thinking. “Let me take you for ice cream next week, and you can tell me all about it.”
Was he asking her out? “Ice cream?”
He shrugged. “Why not? Something sweet for such a beautiful woman.” He reached out and slid a fingertip across the back of her hand.
Her knees nearly buckled at the heady combination of his words and his touch. It had been a long time since a man had flirted with her so boldly.
“Just so you know,” she murmured. “I’m a little weird and probably likely to do something that will embarrass you.”
Sebastian smiled, a mischievous glint in his eye. “You’re worried about embarrassing me? That’s a first. Some people are uncomfortable with the looks they get while hanging around with me.” He gestured to the chair, as if an explanation was needed. “But it’s OK, believe me. I have lots of practice at not letting little things like that get to me.”
She shrugged, gathering her courage and opening her mouth to speak before she could think better of it. “OK. Sure. I can meet you at the Sugar Factory down on Commonwealth. How about next Saturday afternoon at, say, 1:30?”
“Saturday, 1:30, Sugar Factory, got it.” His finger continued its delicious exploration of the back of her hand. “It’s a date then.”
At that moment, the Davidsons returned. Brenna pulled her hand away, but not before her friend saw it happen. It’s not what you think, Brenna tried to telepathically relay to Lily. Or is it?
Brad tapped a finger to Sebastian’s shoulder. “Ready to get going? The guys are going to meet us at Hanlon’s.” Brenna knew what that meant – Hanlon’s Bar was a popular place for young professionals to drink, mingle, and go home to have sex on silk sheets.
Lily pulled her in for a hug. “You wanna go too, Bren?” Brenna glanced at her watch. It was getting late, and she had an early start at the school in the morning.
“Nah, not tonight. Busy day tomorrow.” She hated to let Sebastian go, especially since she knew he would probably find a cute little law student at Hanlon’s to cuddle up with for the evening. Oh well, it wasn’t like she had any claim to him.
“OK," Lily said. "Well, great show tonight. Let’s get together for lunch next week.”
Brenna smiled. “Definitely.” She turned to Lily’s parents and Brad. “Great to see you guys. Have fun tonight. And it was nice to meet you, Sebastian.”
Sebastian glanced up at Brenna, his eyes meeting hers for the briefest of moments before nodding. “Wonderful to meet you too, Miss Hamilton. I’ll see you soon.”
The Davidsons exchanged a knowing smile. Brenna wondered if they could feel the palpable attraction between Sebastian and herself. If they did, no one said a word about it. Instead, they wrapped up their good byes and headed off to the parking lot.
Brenna watched Sebastian roll effortlessly away with them, and she ignored the sudden impulse to run after him. Well, well, she thought wildly. This evening turned out to be pretty damn good. Still, there was always the opportunity for her to mess it up. After all, she was the queen of fumbling over everything and making very bad decisions. Was accepting Sebastian’s offer the wrong move? Maybe…but for once, she couldn’t wait to find out.