The club pulsed as the beat I was pouring into the crowd took over their bodies. Arms in the air, hips swaying, eyes wide and glazed as my music slammed into their ears, the rhythmic beats controlling their every move. The air was thick and sticky, clothes slick to people’s skins as they crammed into the full club to hear me.
I watched them light up with color. Watched them get lost to the sound. Watched them shed whoever they’d been that day—an office worker, a student, a copper, a call-center worker—what the hell ever. Right now, in this club, most probably high off their faces, they were slaves to my tunes. Right here, in this moment, my music was their life. It was all that mattered as their heads flew back and they chased the high, the near nirvana I gave them from my place on the podium.
I, however, felt nothing. Nothing but the numbness the booze beside me was gifting me.
Two arms slipped around my waist. Hot breath blew past my ear as full lips kissed my neck. Spinning my final beat, I grabbed the Jack Daniels beside me and took a shot straight from the bottle. I slammed the bottle down and moved back to my laptop to mix in the next tune. Hands with sharp fingernails ran through my hair, pulling on the black strands. I tapped on the keys, bringing the music down low, slowing the beat.
My breaths lengthened as the crowd waited, lungs frozen as I brought them to a slow sway, readying for the crescendo. The epic surge of beats and drums, the insanity of the mix that I would deliver. I looked up from my laptop and scanned the crowd, smirking at seeing them on the precipice, waiting . . . waiting . . . just waiting . . .Now.
I slammed my hand down, holding my headphones to my left ear. A surge, a thundercloud of electronic dance music plowed into the crowd. Bursts of neon colors filled the air. Greens and blues and reds filled my eyes as they clung to each person like neon shields.
The hands around my waist tightened, but I ignored them, instead listening to the bottle of Jack as it called my name. I took another shot, my muscles starting to loosen. My hands danced over the laptop’s keys, over my mix boards.
I looked up, the crowd still in the palm of my hand.
They always were.
A girl in the center of the club drew my attention. Long brown hair pulled back off her face. Purple dress, high necked—she was dressed nothing like everyone else. The color surrounding her was different to the other clubbers—pale pink and lavender. Calmer. More serene. My eyebrows pulled down as I watched her. Her eyes were closed, but she wasn’t moving. She was still, and she looked to be completely alone as people crashed and pushed around her. Her head was tipped up, a look of concentration on her face.
I built up the pace, pushing the rhythm and the crowd as far as they could go. But the girl didn’t move. That wasn’t normal for me. I always had these clubbers wrapped around my finger. I controlled them, in every place I spun. In this arena, I was the puppet master. They were the dolls.
Another shot of Jack burned down my throat. And through another five songs, she stayed there, on the spot, just drinking in the beats like water. But her face never changed. No smile. No euphoric high. Just . . . eyes closed, that damn pinched look on her face.
And that pink and lavender still surrounding her like a shield.
“Cromwell,” the blonde who was all over me like a rash said into my ear. Her fingers lifted up my shirt and tucked into the waistband of my jeans. Her long nails dipped low. But I refused to tear my eyes away from the girl in the purple dress.
Her brown hair was starting to curl, sweat from being sandwiched by clubbers taking its effect. The blonde who was one step from wanking me off in full view of the club snapped my fly. I keyed in my next mix, then grabbed her hand and threw it away from me, snapping my fly closed. I groaned when her hands slid back into my hair. I looked at my mate who had spun before me. “Nick!” I pointed to my decks. “Watch this. And don’t mess it up.”
Nick frowned in confusion, then saw the girl behind me and smiled. He took my headphones from me and moved to make sure the playlist I’d set up played on cue. Steve, the club’s owner, always let a few girls backstage. I never asked for it, but I never turned them down either. Why would I refuse a hot bird who was up for anything?
I swiped my Jack off my podium as the blonde smashed her lips to mine, pulling me back by my sleeveless Creamfields shirt. I wrenched my mouth from hers, replacing it with the Jack bottle. The blonde dragged me into a dark spot backstage. She dropped to her knees and started again on my fly. I closed my eyes as she went to work.
I sucked on the Jack as my head hit the wall behind me. I forced myself to feel something. I glanced down, watching blond hair bounce below me. But the numbness I lived with every damn day made me feel virtually nothing inside. Pressure built at the base of my spine. My thighs tightened, and then it was over.
The blonde got up. I could see the stars in her eyes as she looked at me. “Your eyes.” She reached out a finger to trace around my eye. “The strangest color. Such dark blue.”
They were. Coupled with my black hair, they always drew attention. That and the fact that I was one of the hottest new DJs in Europe, of course. Okay, maybe it was less to do with my eyes and more to do with my name, Cromwell Dean, gracing the headline spot on most of the biggest music festivals and clubs this summer.
I zipped up my fly and turned to see Nick spinning my next mix. I cringed when he failed to transition the beats like I would have. Navy blue was the backdrop to the smoke on the dancefloor.
I never hit navy blue.
I brushed past the girl with a “Thanks, love,” ignoring her hiss of “Prick” in response. I took my headphones off Nick’s head and put them on my own. A few taps of the keyboard later, the crowd was back in the palm of my hand.
Without conscious thought, my eyes found their way to the spot where the girl in the purple dress had stood.
But she’d gone. So had the pale pink and lavender.
I threw back another shot of Jack. Mixed another tune. Then zoned the fuck out.
The sand was cold under my feet. It may well have been the start of summer here in the UK, but that didn’t mean the night wind didn’t freeze your balls off the minute you stepped outside. Clutching my bottle of booze and my cigarettes, I dropped down to the sand. I lit up and stared at the dark sky. My phone buzzed in my pocket . . . again. It’d been going off all night.
Pissed off that I actually had to move my arm, I pulled out my mobile. I had three missed calls from Professor Lewis. Two from my mum, and finally, a couple of texts.
Mum: Professor Lewis has been trying to get hold of you again. What are you going to do? Please just call me. I know you’re upset, but this is your future. You have a gift, son. Maybe it’s time for a fresh start this year. Don’t waste it because you’re angry at me.
Red-hot fury shot through me. I wanted to throw my phone in the damn sea and watch it sink to the bottom along with all this messed-up shit in my head, but I saw Professor Lewis had texted too.
Lewis: The offer still stands but I need an answer by next week. I have all I need for the transfer except your answer. You have an exceptional talent, Cromwell. Don’t waste it. I can help.
This time I did drop my phone beside me and sank back into the sand. I let the rush of nicotine fill my lungs and closed my eyes. As my eyelids shut, I heard quiet music playing somewhere nearby. Classical. Mozart.
My drunken mind immediately drifted off to when I was a little kid . . .
“What do you hear, Cromwell?” my father asked.
I closed my eyes and listened to the piece of music. Colors danced before my eyes. “Piano. Violins. Cellos . . .” I took a deep breath. “I can hear reds and greens and pinks.”
I opened my eyes and looked up at my father as he sat on my bed. He was staring down at me. There was a funny expression on his face. “You hear colors?” he said. But he didn’t sound surprised. My face set on fire. I ducked my head under my duvet. My father pulled it down from my eyes. He stroked my hair. “That’s good,” he said, his voice kind of deep. “That’s very good . . .”
My eyes snapped open. My hand started to ache. I looked at the bottle in my hand; my fingers were white as they gripped the neck. I sat up, my head spinning from the mass of whiskey in my body. My temples throbbed. I realized it wasn’t from the Jack, but from the music coming from further down the beach. I pushed my hair back from my face then looked to my right.
Someone was only a few feet away. I squinted into the lightening night, summer’s early rising sun making it possible to make out the features of whoever the hell it was. It was a girl. A girl wrapped in a blanket. Her phone sat beside her, a Mozart piano concerto drifting quietly from the speaker.
She must have felt me looking at her, because she turned her head. I frowned, wondering why I knew her face, but then—
“You’re the DJ,” she said.
Recognition dawned. It was the girl in the purple dress.
She clutched her blanket closer around her as I replayed her accent in my head. American. Bible Belt was my guess, by her thick twang.
She sounded like my mum.
A smile tugged at her lips as I stayed mute. I wasn’t much of a talker. Especially when my gut was full of Jack and I had zero interest in making small talk with some girl I didn’t know at four in the morning on a cold beach in Brighton.
“I’d heard of you,” she said. I stared back out over the sea. Ships sailed in the distance, their lights like tiny fireflies, bobbing up and down. I huffed a humorless laugh. Great. Another girl who wanted to screw the DJ.
“Good for you,” I muttered and took a drink of my Jack, feeling the addictive burn slide down my throat. I hoped she’d piss off, or at least stop trying to talk to me. My head couldn’t take any more noise.
“Not really,” she shot back. I looked over at her, eyebrows pulled down in confusion. She was looking out over the sea, her chin resting on her folded arms that lay over her bent knees. The blanket had fallen off her shoulders, revealing the purple dress I’d noticed from the podium. She turned to face me, cheek now on her arms. Heat zipped through me. She was pretty. “I’ve heard of you, Cromwell Dean.” She shrugged. “Decided to get a ticket to see you before I left for home tomorrow.”
I lit up another cigarette. Her nose wrinkled. She clearly didn’t like the smell.
Tough luck. She could move. Last time I checked, England was a free country. She went quiet.
I caught her looking at me. Her brown eyes were narrowed, like she was scrutinizing me. Reading something in me that I didn’t want anyone to see.
No one ever looked at me closely. I never gave them the chance. I thrived on the podium at clubs because it kept everyone far away, down on the dancefloor where no one ever saw the real me. The way she was looking at me now made nervous shivers break out over my skin.
I didn’t need this kind of crap.
“Already had my dick sucked tonight, love. Not looking for a second round.”
She blinked, and even in the rising sun, I could see her cheeks redden.
“Your music has no soul,” she blurted. My cigarette paused halfway to my mouth. Something managed to stab through my stomach at her words. I shoved it back down until I felt my usual sensation of numbness.
I sucked on my cigarette. “Yeah? Well, them’s the breaks.”
“I’d heard you were some messiah or something on that podium. But all your music comprised was synthetic beats and forced repetitive bursts of unoriginal tempo.”
I laughed and shook my head. The girl met my eyes head-on. “It’s called electronic dance music. Not a fifty-piece orchestra.” I held out my arms. “You’ve heard of me. Said so yourself. You know what tunes I spin. What were you expecting? Mozart?” I glared at her phone, which was still playing that damn concerto.
I sat back, surprised at myself. I hadn’t talked that much to anyone in . . . I didn’t know how long. I took in a drag, breathing out the smoke that was trapped in my chest. “And turn that thing off, will you? Who the hell goes to hear a dance DJ spin, then comes to a beach to listen to classical music?”
The girl frowned but turned off the music. I lay back on the cold sand, closing my eyes. I heard the soft waves lapping the shore. My head filled with pale green. I heard the girl moving. I prayed she was leaving. But I felt her drop beside me. My world darkened as the whiskey and the usual lack of sleep started to pull me under.
“What do you feel when you mix your music?” she asked. How the hell she thought her little interview was a good idea right now was beyond me.
Yet, surprisingly, I found myself answering her question. “I don’t feel.” I cracked one eye open when she didn’t say anything. She was looking down at me. She had the biggest brown eyes I’d ever seen. Dark hair pulled off her face in a ponytail. Full lips and smooth skin.
“Then that’s the problem.” She smiled, but the smile looked nothing but sad. Pitying. “The best music must be felt. By the creator. By the listener. Every part of it from creation to ear must be wrapped in nothing but feelings.” Some weird expression crossed over her face, but hell if I knew what it meant.
Her words were a blade to my chest. I hadn’t expected her harsh comment. And I hadn’t expected the blunt trauma that she seemed to deliver right to my heart. Like she’d taken a butcher’s knife and sliced her way through my soul.
My body itched to get up and run. To pluck out her assessment of my music from my memory. But instead I forced a laugh, and spat, “Go back home, little Dorothy. Back to where music means something. Where it’s felt.”
“Dorothy was from Kansas.” She glanced away. “I’m not.”
“Then go back to wherever the hell you’re from,” I snapped. Crossing my arms over my chest, I hunkered down into the sand and shut my eyes, trying to block out the cold wind that was picking up and slapping my skin, and her words that were still stabbing at my heart.
I never let anything get to me like this. Not anymore. I just needed some sleep. I didn’t want to go back to my mum’s house here in Brighton, and my flat in London was too far away. So hopefully the cops wouldn’t find me here and kick me off the beach.
With my eyes closed, I said, “Thanks for the midnight critique, but as the fastest-rising DJ in Europe, with the best clubs in the world begging for me to spin at their decks—all at nineteen—I think I’ll ignore your extensive notes and just keep on living my sweet as fuck life.”
The girl sighed, but she didn’t say anything else.
The next thing I knew, the sun was burning its light into my eyes. I flinched when I opened them. The screech of swarming seagulls slammed into my head. I sat up, seeing an empty beach and the sun high in the sky. I ran my hands down my face and groaned at the hangover that was kicking in. My stomach growled, desperate for a full English breakfast with copious cups of black tea.
As I stood, something fell from my lap. A blanket lay on the sand at my feet. The blanket I’d seen beside the American girl in the purple dress.
The one she’d been wrapped in last night.
I picked it up, a light fragrance drifted into my nose. Sweet. Addictive. I glanced around me. The girl was gone.
She’d left her blanket. No. She’d covered me with it. “Your music has no soul.” A hard clenching feeling pulled in my stomach at the memory of her words. So I chased it away like I did anything that made me feel. Caging it deep inside.
Then I took my arse home.
A Wish For Us.
A story of music. A story of healing. A story of love conquering all.
Nineteen-year- old Cromwell Dean is the rising star of electronic dance music. Thousands of
people adore him. But no one knows him. No one sees the color of his heart.
Until the girl in the purple dress. She sees through the walls he has built to the empty darkness
When Cromwell leaves behind the gray skies of England to study music in the South Carolina
heat, the last thing he expects is to see her again. And he certainly doesn’t expect that she’ll
stay in his head like a song on repeat.
Bonnie Farraday lives for music. She lets every note into her heart, and she doesn’t understand
how someone as talented as Cromwell can avoid doing the same. He’s hiding from his past, and
she knows it. She tries to stay away from him, but something keeps calling her back.
Bonnie is the burst of color in Cromwell’s darkness. He’s the beat that makes her heart skip.
But when a shadow falls over Bonnie, it’s up to Cromwell to be her light, in the only way he
knows how. He must help her find the lost song in her fragile heart. He must keep her strong
with a symphony only he can compose.
A symphony of hope.
A symphony of love.
A symphony of them.