Wednesday, October 12, 2022



Jaded Heart 
(The Donnellys, #4)

Even jaded hearts can be tempted into trying again.

Chapter One

“Which side? Wait, wait, wait.” Angela Donnelly spun around and stared up at the signs above the exit doors of Terminal Four at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport…sweating. To. Death. “Okay, yeah. I’m on the south side. Door number six.”

“Perfect. I’m on my way.”

Angie closed her eyes as the familiar dinging from the key entering the ignition came over the line, which was promptly followed by the distinct sound of the engine starting. Really? “Ohhhmygahhhd, Celia. You haven’t even left yet, have you?”

“Sorry, sorrysorrysorry. I’ll be there in fifteen. I swear.” 

“Seriously?” Angie dropped her purse on top of her suitcase. “Ugh. I’m already sweating my ass off. In fact, I can see it. It’s melted on the sidewalk. And it’s fucking gross.” 

“Ewwww. That is gross. And graphic. Okay…loveyousorryloveyousorry…be there in a few. Hanging up now so I can drive. Bye!” 
“Fine, but don’t get a spee—” Angie pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at the home screen. “Speeding ticket,” she said to no one because her younger sister, Celia, had already hung up. “Okay then.” 
Angie pushed her long hair off her shoulders. She should go back inside and buy a water from the Starbucks she spotted while waiting for her bag. Ooh! Or maybe a Caramel Frappuccino. She frowned. She might appreciate the caramel yumminess, but her ass and thighs wouldn’t. Oh well. She didn’t much feel like lugging her suitcase back inside, anyway. 

Pulling the hair tie off her wrist, Angie gathered up her hair and twisted it into a knot on top of her head. She cocked her hip to the side and fanned her face. Scrolling through her phone, she checked the weather app. Ninety-eight degrees out? Yeah, no. 

Lugging her suitcase was exactly what she was going to do. Okay, maybe not lug, since it was on wheels. But whatever. Who cared about semantics when a person was melting? Not her. That was for damn sure. 

By the time she made it back outside to the curb—half-drunk water bottle stuffed in her purse and a tall Caramel Frappuccino in her hand—her phone was vibrating her ass cheek to the point of numbness. After dumping her purse back on top of the suitcase, she slipped the phone from her back pocket and answered. 


“Where are you? I’m circling. You went to the south side, right? Door six?”
“Mmhmm.” Angie sipped from the straw. Whoops. She hadn’t meant to take that long, but there was a line. “I didn’t see you.” 

Her sister let out an exasperated sounding sigh. “Coming around again.” 
“All right. I’m here. Waiting. Still sweating, by the way.” She grinned, then took another sip and focused on the oncoming line of cars. “What color is your car again?” 

Her sister laughed. “It’s silver. And it’s a truck, you goof.” 

“Oh, yeah. I forgot. Ooh! Is that you?” She raised her sweet, ice-cold beverage in the air. “I think I see you.” 

“Yes, that’s me.” 

“Yay!” Angie took the phone from her ear and shoved it in her back pocket as her sister pulled her truck up to the curb. 

Celia came around the front of the vehicle, grinning. “Starbucks? Really?” 

“Well, can you blame me? It’s hot out.” Angie grinned and tried to look innocent. “I got thirsty.” 

“Poor baby.” With a laugh, Celia gave Angie a quick hug before muscling Angie’s suitcase off the ground. 
Angie opened the passenger door. “It has wheels, you know.” 

“No shit, really? Get in before you melt, princess.” Celia hefted the suitcase into the back seat of the truck with a grunt. “Good God, what’s in this thing?” 

“Oh, you know, everything.” Angie shrugged before hopping inside the cab to the blessed AC and then Celia slid behind the wheel. In the next minute, they were navigating out of the airport and heading for the freeway. Angie tilted the plastic cup in her sister’s direction. “You want some?” 

“I’m thinking you should just give it to me as payment.” Celia took the drink and sipped from the straw. “Mmm. Especially because you didn’t get me one. And while you weren’t getting me one, I had to drive in circles waiting for you.” 

Angie laughed. “Fair enough. It’s all yours. My ass doesn’t need it anyway.” 

“This is why I opt for sugar-free.” Celia grinned, sucked some more from the straw, and then set the drink in the cup holder. “Welcome to Phoenix in the spring. We’re having a bit of a heat wave. But only a small one.” 

“A small one, huh? My body’s in shock. It was seventy-five degrees when I left Burbank an hour and a half ago.” 

 “It’s the desert. Plus, climate change is real, sis. Pretty much anytime starting mid-May to mid-October is summer now.” Celia turned up the volume on the radio.

Angie gazed out at the mountains in the distance and then looked back at her sister. “Yeah, it’s hot as hell, but it’s a beautiful hell.” 

“That it is.” Celia glanced over and smiled before focusing back on the road. “Glad you’re here, Ang.” 

“Me too. A month-long vacation is just what I need. My dating moratorium is over and I am so ready to hit the clubs and stretch my legs!” 

“Clubs?” Celia groaned. “There goes my social life.” 

Angie frowned. “Ohhh, right. No worries. We can go to some gay clubs, too. You know I’m all down for that.” She turned the AC dial up and adjusted the vent closest to her. “Aside from that, I’m confused. I thought you were dating someone.” 

“I was.” Celia merged onto another freeway. “Past tense.” 

“That sucks. Sorry, honey.” Angie reached over and squeezed her sister’s forearm. “When did that happen?” 

“A couple of weeks ago. No need to be sorry. It just wasn’t working out.” 

“Yeah, I know how that goes. Still sorry, though.” Angie swiped a stray hair away from her eye. “Maybe you should try a moratorium like me?” 

“Uh, no thank you.” Celia visibly cringed and Angie laughed. “I’m still surprised you followed through with a whole year.” 

“Shoot, you and me both.” Angie looked back toward the mountains. She’d spent a year single, committed to a real deal, no relationship-no dating-no one-night stand, moratorium. Before making the commitment, there’d been a steady stream of guys in and out of her life. None of them were worth bringing home to the parents. There’d been a couple she liked, sure, but she’d never gotten attached to any of them. 

Angie sighed and glanced over at Celia. “If you recall, it wasn’t my idea. Cyn and her brilliant plans. Then along comes Shane, and boom, they’re all happy ever after now.” 

“I do recall.” Celia chuckled. “She tried, and failed in the best way, I suppose. But not you. I give you props. No way I could’ve followed through like you did.” 

“Honestly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.” Angie shrugged. “I’m glad I did it. I focused on work, reevaluated my goals, and set some new ones.” 

“New ones?” 

“Yep. New ones.” Angie grinned and played with the tendrils of hair hanging down at the base of her neck. 

“Are you going to share or leave me in suspense?” 

Angie laughed. “Time to put my degree to better use, little sister. My focus is still music, of course, so I’m shooting for Rolling Stone Magazine. I don’t know if it’ll happen, but I’m going to try.” 

“That’s awesome!” Celia glanced at Angie, her smile big and bright. “I know you can do it, Ang. You just gotta put your mind to it.” 

“Aw, thanks, Celia. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing indie music reviews for that small press in L.A. But…” Angie shrugged again. “I want more. But not until after this nice month-long vacation, though.” 

“You got this. It all starts right now.” Celia grinned and turned the music up louder. 

Angie tapped her thumb on the armrest to the beat of the song. “Country, huh? Who is this?” 

“Yes, country. Ashley McBryde.” 

Angie grinned. “You never cease to amaze me.” 

“What’s wrong with country?” Celia rolled her eyes. “Whatever.” 

“Nothing, just never took you for a country girl. Wait, is she singing about one-night stands?” 

 “She sure is.” Her sister grinned. 

Angie laughed, shaking her head. “Perfect.” 

She’d meant what she said; Angie really did need to stretch her legs, and she was glad to be back in Arizona. It’d been a few years since she’d been there. She missed her sister and her brother, Mark, but more than that, she needed a change of scenery. 

Life was unfolding around her, moving forward, and she’d been standing still. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Her younger brother Mark was graduating from ASU in a couple of weeks, and he’d go onto whatever it was he was planning to do with his life. Angie was excited for him. 

Mark’s graduation was the perfect opportunity to get out there and have fun…and do it with her brother and sister around her. They could be the three musketeers for a month. Donnellys on the loose in Sin City…aka Tempe, Arizona. Perfect. 

* * * 

Garrett James stood on the loading dock at the back of the building he ran his small concert venue out of and signed the bill of lading for the delivery of booze that had just been unloaded. 

He handed the clipboard back to the driver. “Thanks, man. Have a good day.” 

“You too, Garrett.” After a brief handshake, the guy stepped away and made his way to his truck. 

Garrett ducked inside and pulled down the steel garage door. For now, the building was quiet as a church and he was alone. But not for long. The three bands he had lined up for the night weren’t due to arrive for another five hours. 

Once they got there, the building would turn into what could only be called “managed chaos” as they got set up and his mixing engineer took them through their soundcheck. Truth be told, the real chaos would happen when patrons started arriving. But he loved it, every minute of it. 

He’d have plenty of time to update the liquor inventory, catch up on paperwork, answer a couple emails, and then get ready to open. Perfect. Garrett took the back stairs up to his office two at a time and then settled behind his desk. 

Two hours had come and gone before the sound of his cell ringing drew his attention. After picking up the phone, he swiped the screen and put it to his ear. “Who’s this?” 

“Knock it off, Dad. I’m totally running late. As usual, you didn’t answer my text.” 

“What text?” Garrett leaned back in his seat and smothered a chuckle. He’d seen the text but hadn’t replied yet. 

“Ugh, give me a break. I know you saw it. Anyway, do you want something from Starbucks?” 

“Ah, yes. Your daily caffeine run.” 

“You’re one to talk. You live on coffee and chips. Makes no sense to me—hold on. Yeah, can I get two tall coffees—okay I’m back.” 

“What’s wrong with potato chips?” 

“Uh, how about the fact that you’re getting older and eating healthy is a tad important?” His daughter laughed. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m fine. Leave my diet alone.” 

“Someone has to pay attention to it. It’s a well-known fact that married men live longer you know? Honestly, with the hours you keep, I’ll never understand how you aren’t asleep at your desk the majority of the time.” Chassidy laughed again. “So, before I pay, you want anything else?” 

Garrett rolled his eyes. “Funny girl. You trying to set me up with someone or did you mean something else besides coffee?” 

His daughter barked a laugh. “I know better than that. Too many gold diggers out there. Ooh, they have those birthday cake pops you like so much. They look fresh, too. You want one? Two?” 

“Sold! Bring me two.” He shifted a stack of papers to the side for filing. “See? Who needs a wife when I can have cake!” 

“Sick, sick man. Although, you’re right. Cake is probably better than a gold-digging stepmother.” 

Garrett grinned and shook his head. “I’m so glad we agree.” 

“Well, I am a chip off the old block.” 

“Calling me old again, kid?” 

“What’s that?” His daughter laughed again. “You cut out. See you in twenty, Dad.” 

“Smartass.” Garrett chuckled as he hit the “end call” button and set the cell back on his desk. 

Glancing at the picture of Chassidy when she was five years old on the corner of his desk, he let out a breath and ran his fingers through his long hair. 

She worked for him at the club for the last five years—handled all the bookings and was fantastic at it. All things considered, their relationship was rock solid, even though he drove her insane, and sometimes they fought—though that’d lessened significantly since she moved out of his house two years ago. 

She was stubborn, just like he was, but Garrett couldn’t say he was upset he’d passed that little trait onto her. Actually, except for his self-destructive ones, he’d passed a lot of good traits on to her. Considering he’d missed the majority of the first ten years of her life, that was saying something. 

After one too many tragedies, Garrett finally hit rock bottom, cleaned himself up, and attempted to be a father for the first time in his life…and as far as he was concerned, Chassidy was all he needed to make a new beginning. It wasn’t an easy road by any stretch, but they’d done okay. 

He and his little girl. Chassidy was the only thing from his past he didn’t regret. 

The office line assigned to Chassidy rang. Instead of letting it go to her voicemail, he answered. “Copper Halo, bookings. How can I help you?” 

“Hey yeah, this is Josh Chasen. Manager for Gothic Princess? Is Chassidy available?” 

Garrett looked over the lineup for the night. Gothic Princess was their opener. “Chassidy isn’t available right now. Did you try her cell?” 

“Yeah, but no answer. Hate to do this, but I need to pull the girls out of their spot tonight. Lead singer’s got the stomach flu.” 

“Fuck sake, okay.” Garrett sat back and let out a frustrated sigh. Damn musicians could be total flakes. Stomach flu likely translated to being too hungover to perform. He cringed at how jaded his thinking was, but honestly, back in his heyday, he’d used that same excuse a million times. It was the nature of the beast. “You got anyone that’s any good you can refer?” 

“Not off the top of my head. I’ll ask around though. Again, sorry. I feel real bad, man.” 

Garrett leaned forward and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Appreciate it. Thanks for letting us know. Take care of your girl.” 

Setting the receiver back in the cradle, Garrett grabbed his used coffee mug and headed into the bathroom to rinse it out. Filling a slot last minute could be easy, but often the takers you got weren’t very good. Sadly, just because a group of people got together that could sing or play instruments and called themselves a band, didn’t mean they actually could perform worth a damn. Likely Chassidy had someone on the back burner she could call to fill the spot. He hoped. 

Taking a deep breath, he reminded himself not to get too worked up. This was his life, a life he’d chosen. He owned his own business. Answered only to himself. But owning a business came with the good and the bad. In his case, it was music, musicians, people and lots of booze—though he didn’t partake anymore. 

Garrett took his seat again and leaned back in his chair. Letting his head fall back, he closed his eyes and let his thoughts wander back to Chassidy. 

Lately, she’d been dropping comments about him being single. He wasn’t sure why. He preferred being single. Not that there wasn’t the occasional hook-up or someone he casually dated. There were. It was just Chassidy wasn’t exposed to them when she was young, and why should she have been? 

Most women he met, even after all these years, proved to not be truly interested in him as a person, so why bother keeping them around? 

As a single father, Garrett wasn’t interested in disrupting the stable life he’d finally given his daughter. Her life had been far too unstable before she lost her mother and then before he’d gotten cleaned up. 

Memories broke through and Garrett shuddered. He didn’t like to think about his ex-wife, Amanda. Or her death. Or how he used to live either. Really, any part of his life from that time. 

It was ugly, he had been ugly, and as far as Garrett was concerned, that ugly needed to stay right where it was, in the past.

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