Book Sample Chapter(s)
COUNTRY IN BLISS (Book 3 of A Bliss Cay Novella series):
NOTE: Chapters are copied directly from the ebook so formatting is different on this site due to page sizes. Rest assured, all books are professionally formatted.
Chapter 1 BLAZE
Deafening screams muffle the sound of my boots on the concrete floor when I approach the rear of the stage. “Let’s hear it one more time for your favorite country heartthrob, the one and only Blaze Shore!”I yank my guitar from the stand, flinging the strap around my neck before tramping into the dark arena. Stop‐ ping near the mic, my hands assume their position as the spotlight shines above me.
When the crowd grows louder, my fingers move on autopilot with the chords so I can greet my loyal fans for the final song. “To all you guys out there, I want you to slide your arm around your girl and pull her into you nice and close for my new single. I can’t thank y’all enough for making it number one.”
After the song, security ushers me down the sterile hallway and out the rear door. I pause at the bottom of the steps, drawing the cool fresh air into my lungs. Inhaling a
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few more times, Shane closes the gap before pushing me through the open car door.
“You gotta stop doing that. You’re not making it easier to get you out of here before the car is mobbed.”
My best friend and body guard shakes his head while slamming the door behind me. He hops into the front passenger seat before my driver, Vance, rushes past hordes of excited fans already lining the driveway. Exiting the parking lot, he speeds up on the ramp to the interstate.
“You know I like to clear my lungs after breathing in that stale arena air.”
Shane turns in his seat glaring at me. “Keeping you from getting pawed at takes priority over your precious lungs. You need to quit acting like a spoiled brat and let me do my job, Blaze!”
Huffing, I stare at the trees flying past the window and I know he’s right. My recent close call with a wild fan put him on extra-high alert.
Just days ago, Shane kept one fan at bay as another woman jumped into the backseat behind me. She probably would’ve jumped in my lap if he hadn’t grabbed her. The gossip mags already make up half of what happens in my life, and their twist on what happened isn’t the kind of publicity that would help my career.
Looking at the back of his head, I admit, “Okay, okay. You’re right…I’m sorry. Next time I’ll wait until we’re on the road and let some fresh air in.”
Hearing a muffled sigh as Shane’s head swivels from one side of the car to the other, he observes the traffic around us before checking the side view mirror for a tail. My last album seems to be attracting more overzealous and daring fans.
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Having a retired Navy Seal as a body guard is chal‐ lenging in itself. These guys don’t leave anything to chance. I feel like a spy sometimes, always looking over my shoulder— this isn’t the life I envisioned when I joined the church choir as a teenager.
The only sounds I hear on the forty-five minute drive to the hotel on the outskirts of town are cars passing by, and the occasional turn signal.
In the beginning of my hectic but somewhat fulfilling career, I was adamant the only hotels I’d stay in have to be far away from downtown. I prefer to keep my private time as low-key and normal as possible. The farther away from the crowds in the city, the more relaxed I feel, that’s why I only ride in normal cars with tinted windows, nothing flashy. I get to blend in with everyone else.
After Vance exits the interstate onto hotel property, Shane and I do our usual quick change. We carry workout clothes and baseball hats in a duffle in the car. And instead of combing my hair back like I do on stage, I comb it forward so it hangs partly over my eyes. It’s one of the many things I have to do not to be recognized.
My phone rings as I pull my hat in place. Looking at the number, I see Angel’s name and quickly answer. “Hey little man, what’s up?”
Several seconds pass but he doesn’t answer, “Hey, you there?” I look at the phone to see if we were cut off. It’s not like him to call me after a concert unless something is up— he usually waits for me to call him.
Since forging a connection with Angel after he stole my guitar in the park over a year ago, the urge to look out for him has grown stronger.
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After grabbing my favorite instrument, he took off running. Little did he know my best friend Shane was like a ninja jumping out to grab him from behind the tree. Angel ran past him trying to get away, but it was too late.
Shane held firmly onto his shirt as I stepped in front of the boy, whose bottom lip drooped like he’d just lost his dog. After asking him why he took it, his eyes fluttered up and down from me to the instrument in his hands, not saying a word.
It only took one look at him to see the underlying pain hidden inside. “What’s your name son?”
Despite lowering my voice, his eyes widen…no doubt in fear of what I was going to do to him. Mom says my voice just doesn’t match my gentle soul. At least it keeps people from giving me much flack.
“The man asked you a question.” Shane wiggled his sleeve and stared at him.
His gaze traveled to my face. “It’s A—Angel.”
“That’s a nice, solid name.”
He blinked and swallowed hard while his head hung low. “Are you
going to call the police?”
Looking behind me at the bench, I turn and say, “Why don’t we
have a seat.” Shane glances at me. “It’s okay, I wanna talk to him.” Relaxing his grip on the boy’s shirt, I flick my head to the tree where my friend stood before grabbing the kid. He nods and strolls to the
massive trunk as I walk with Angel to the bench.
I plop down onto the metal surface, patting the space next to me.
His brows crinkle as he still holds onto the Gibson guitar I’ve had since I started touring. He raises the instrument and passes it to me before sitting down.
“Thank you,” I tell him.
Cocking his head, he asks, “Why are you thanking me? It’s your guitar .”
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“I know, but you gave it back. So…do you play?”
“I’m not very good.”
“You know what? I wasn’t very good either when I was a kid.” “Are you any good now?”
I chuckle. “Let’s just say I’ve improved.”
“Oh.” He stares at the grass.
“You don’t have a guitar of your own?”
“No. My abuelito wanted to get me one but…he died.”
My heart sinks hearing the cause of his pain. “I’m really sorry,
Angel. My grandfather died after I graduated high school. I was sad for a long time. When did he die?”
“A month ago. I miss him. He was really nice and he loved music.” “That’s nice. Sounds like he loved you very much.”
He nods, eyeing me. “He was saving money to get me one.”
“Did you live with him?”
“No, but him and abuela lived next door to me and my mom. They took care of me when mom had to go away. She’s in the Army and has to go to different places sometimes.”
“Ahh, I see. So you really want to learn how to play the guitar, huh?”
“It’s my favorite thing in the world. I love how it sounds.” He blushes, putting a smile on my face.
“Well, then…I’ll make you a deal. If your mom says it’s okay, I’ll teach you how to play but you have to show up. We can meet here in the park every Saturday if that works for you and your mom.”
Angel wrinkles his nose. “Why would you do that? You don’t know me.”
“It’s better than calling the police, don’t you think?”
“The name is Blaze. Don’t call me sir. It makes me feel old.
And to answer your question, I teach kids at the community center in
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my spare time. That’s how I learned. So what do you say? Sound good?”
“It sounds great!” Fighting the smile tickling my lips as I hear the excitement in his voice, my shoulders relax knowing I might be able to make a difference in at least one kid’s life.
The phone rings again, pulling me back to the present as I see his number. “Hey, you there Angel?”
“Yeah, I’m here. I think the phone went dead.”
“Are you alright?”
“I—I don’t know. I wish you were here.”
His tone speaks volumes. “What is it buddy? You know
you can tell me anything.”
“Now mom’s talking about sending me to stay with
people I don’t even know. She said there’s nobody else to look out for me while she’s gone. I, I don’t wanna stay with strangers. Why did abuela have to die? Now I have no one.”
Why can’t this kid get a break? It’s bad enough his father died when he was a toddler, but losing his grandparents, who helped raise him, a year apart hit him hard. And now his mom’s getting deployed overseas.
“Hey, hey, you know you have me. I’ll always be here for you.”
“I know we can talk on the phone but…you’re not here. Mom says it’s a lot of responsibility to take care of someone else’s kid. And she says you’re too busy and you travel a lot so it wouldn’t work.”
She’s right. My crazy work schedule is not fit for a kid. It’s the reason why I don’t have a wife and kids of my own while living a normal life.
Growing up, dad kept pushing me to sing in front of
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crowds since people told him I could be famous someday if the right person heard me.
Lucky—or unlucky—for me an executive with a record label heard me sing at a festival. As they say, the rest is history. But if I knew then what I’d be giving up, I probably would’ve run the other way.
“I’m sorry Angel. I wish there was something I could do.”
Hearing him sniffle felt like someone punching my heart. “It’s not your fault. Like mom says, you have your own life and I’m not your responsibility.”
If only he knew how wrong he was. As far as I’m concerned, that day in the park when I agreed to help him out bonded us together for life. Without trying, that fragile young man crawled deep under my skin and I’ll do anything in my power for him.
“Angel, you have to promise me you’re going to hold your head high and be strong. I’d like to talk to your mom tomorrow and see what’s up.”
“Fine. I’ll try.” Another sniffle filters through the phone. “Hey, do you remember what I told you about trying?” “Yes. We don’t try, we do.”
By the time we hang up he stopped crying, though my
own frustration was setting in. If I wasn’t on the road, he could stay with me and wouldn’t have to be with God knows who! This is wrong. My heart hurts for everything he’s feeling.
“Dang it!” I slap my hand so hard on the leather seat that it feels like it’s on fire.
If my father hadn’t taken control of my life all those years ago, I could take Angel to the beach for a vacation while his mom is away. I’d
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be able to do whatever the heck I want to on my terms. Why didn’t I stand up to him? It’s my fault, I’m to blame for this mess.
With my disguise in place and feeling like I might explode, I throw the car door open—only for it to stop half‐ way. It must’ve hit something. I squeeze through the opening while trying to push it further as I see some blonde with large sunglasses gawking at me.
“What’s your problem?” Raising my brows, I stare back at her wondering if my disguise didn’t work. Hopefully she’ll take the hint to leave me alone because I’m not in the mood to sign autographs.
“Excuse me?” Fluttering her eyes, she shuts her mouth and raises her brows. “You’re asking me what my problem is when you’re the one who hit me with your car door? What’s your problem? You barely missed my face!” She props her hands on her hips, shaking her head.
“Why are you walking so close to my car then? You people need to give me a break.”
“You people? What the heck does that mean?”
“Duh, people like you who want something from me. Just give it a rest, okay?”
“Are you on drugs or something?” She pulls her glasses off, looking me in the eyes.
This woman is getting on my last nerve. “Don’t try to play dumb with me lady. I’m not falling for it.”
She squints at me. “Have you lost your mind, or are you rude by nature?”
“You can quit trying to be coy, I’m not interested!”
“Trust me buddy, I wouldn’t be interested in you if you were the last man on earth.” Eyeing the woman, Shane
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walks around to my door, in an attempt to diffuse the situa‐ tion before I slam it shut.
“Unbelievable!” she yells before storming off.