Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask Final

BEHIND THE MASK: A Blue Silver story 
By Jody Wallace
Genre: Erotic Romance
Length: 28,000 words
Rating: R
From: Meankitty Publishing (2nd ed)
Cover: http://purplegirldesign.blogspot.com/
Buy Links: SmashwordsAmazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo
Add it to your Goodreads (coming soon!)

About the book:

When foul-mouthed Arliss meets the earthy-crunchy bassist for the comeback band, Blue Silver, more than sparks fly.

Arliss Pacifica Edgeworth, poor little rich girl, made friends in high school by pretending to be somebody she wasn’t—a huge fan of the pop band Blue Silver. After she attempts to use her Daddy’s money to treat her friends to a once in a lifetime Blue Silver concert and the limo breaks down en route, she and her friends drift apart.

Flash forward a couple decades and Arliss gets a call about a second chance at the concert of a lifetime on the Blue Silver reunion tour. A very special concert, where the former “Silverettes” can attend an after-party with the band members themselves. Should Arliss risk showing her friends…and any sexy band members who happen to be entranced by her foul mouth, bad attitude, and big ass…what’s really behind her mask?

28000 words. Rated R for adult language, adult situations, rageful ranting from a dubiously likeable heroine, and drunkenness.

Note: Originally released under the pen name Ellie Marvel from Amber Quill Publishing, 2006-2013. Polished, reformatted, and edited for this updated release.

Series Order (but each book stands alone)

LOST OUR FOREVER by Natalie Damschroder
NOTHING LIKE THE SUN by Megan Hart
BEHIND THE MASK by Jody Wallace
REBUILDING FOREVER by Natalie Damschroder

More about each book on the dedicated Blue Silver page!


***** Excerpt from BEHIND THE MASK *****

Chapter 1

“And now, another hit song from the eighties, ‘Making Noise’ by Blue Silver! Blue Silver’s nationwide reunion tour tickets are on sale now, and if you’re the eighth caller to identify the full name of the band’s lead guitarist, you can win two passes to the show in Little Rock in October.”

“Baaaarf!” Arliss Pacifica Edgeworth mimed puking when the DJ on the radio announced the next in a series of bad eighties flashback songs for the lunch hour. Unfortunately, here in Goforth, Arkansas, her only choices on the radio were country, gospel, and this station, which just happened to be having eighties flashback day, which was better than seventies flashback day, granted, but still nothing to sound so excited about.

Another unfortunate thing, Arliss reflected, as she jetted into the parking lot of the strip mall where she worked at T&A Accounting, was the fact she could name Blue Silver’s lead guitarist. Robert “Don’t Call Me Bob” Fox. And his likes, his dislikes, his favorite brand of soda, and what he’d claimed to enjoy on a date, courtesy of Tiger Beat magazine. (“Make homemade vegetarian pizza and watch old movies.”) Same with the other members of the band she’d pretended to like in high school in order to seem normal.

Of all the things she’d retained from her teen years, the memorized lists of Blue Silver stats had to be one of them. She couldn’t remember a lick of high school French—not that she’d gone to Paris or rescued any stranded French tourists—and she had nightmares about wandering through the halls of high school in search of her locker. But dorky ass pop band behind-the-scenes trivia? She remembered every bit of it.

Arliss started to whip into her favorite parking spot, the compact car space blessed with the only available shade in the entire lot, and nearly ran over Thompson’s motorcycle.

“Damn it!” Her least favorite coworker had snaked her spot again. Which pushed her already bad day into worse territory.

This morning, she’d woken early for no good reason whatsoever and hadn’t been able to get back to sleep. Sometime later, she’d mangled a nail trying to open a jar of peanut butter, and in a fit of pique had ripped off the rest of them, ruining the expensive manicure. And she still hadn’t been able to open the peanut butter, which meant no sandwich, which meant she had to leave T&A at lunch, which meant Thompson and his stupid motorcycle.

Then at work, she’d found a percentage error deep in the Gaddes report, which meant she had to recalculate the formulas in the spreadsheets and reprint, which meant she had to wrestle with the beastly printer, which meant she got toner all over her outfit and was forced to explain to her boss why the Gaddes report wasn’t on his desk and why she had black smears on her forehead.

That bastard Thompson always did this to her if she left the building. Waited until she drove off and stole her spot. Fatheaded fuckwad. Couldn’t add a column of numbers without using his toes. What good did it do her to arrive at work by seven-forty-five every morning—the fuckwad was always late—if she was going to lose the good parking whenever she went out during the day?

She parked at the other end of the row of storefronts from T&A, pissed at the world. Before she got out of her little Toyota, Arliss glanced around to see if anyone was out on the sidewalk who might see her. Nope, nobody. So she grabbed her handy lumbar cushion and buried her face in it, indulging in a screaming fit that left her throat aching and her eyes watering and some of her pent-up stress relieved. It wasn’t the method her therapist recommended when she felt the rage build inside her like a shaken cola, but she didn’t fucking have time for yoga right now, and those relaxation tapes were the stupidest things she’d ever heard in her life.

Besides, she hated that hippie shit.

Hated eighties music, too. Just as Seth Graham, lead singer of Blue Silver and former husband of her long-ago friend Cassie Bryant, belted out something about his girlfriend’s eyes being nothing like the sun, she switched off the radio and grabbed her leather portfolio from the passenger’s seat.

If only she were able to switch off the other disagreeable things in her life that easily, maybe she wouldn’t need therapy. Maybe she wouldn’t be such a furious mess. Maybe she’d have a few more friends. Hell, maybe she could even get laid every now and again.

But that’s the price you paid when your dad was in prison, your mother was in the nuthouse, and you spent all your life and most of your money maintaining a façade that things were perfect—the way they should be when you’d grown up with the monetary privileges she’d had.

She’d lived in a mansion. She’d been driven to school in a limo, for Chrissake. She’d had an indoor pool, a pony, a designer wardrobe, a game system, a computer and huge television in her bedroom back when such devices weren’t prerequisites for being a teen. The only thing she’d refused was the nose job Mother always wanted her to have.

Lucky, lucky, lucky. What did she have to complain about, then or now, when there were starving people in the world without health insurance?

Life was just grand. Grand as shit.

***

She shouldn’t do such things, but sometimes her inner evil took over. Before she went home that evening, Arliss stopped by the local internet café, logged onto her anonymous account, and forwarded an email virus to Thompson, the bonehead, with the subject line, “Hot Teens Want You!” Maybe he’d be dumb enough to open it and maybe he wouldn’t, but knowing it was a possibility made her feel better.

This was a coping mechanism she’d never confessed to her therapist. It was also one of the most effective.

***

Later that night, the phone rang, startling Arliss’s attempt to open the damn jar of peanut butter. The screwdriver slipped off the edge of the lid and jabbed her thigh.

“Shit!” She threw it onto the floor, along with the plastic container of peanut butter, which bounced and rolled under the table, and hobbled over to the telephone. No blood, but there’d be a bruise. She was as pale as milk and she bruised easy.

“This better not be a telemarketer,” she snarled into the mouthpiece because she figured it would and she liked to scare them off as soon as possible. After all, nobody else called her land line. Mother wasn’t allowed to make calls after the last incident.

“I’m looking for Arliss Edgeworth,” said a soft female voice. “I think it’s still Edgeworth. She might have gotten married.”

“Fat chance. Who’s this?” Arliss asked. She almost recognized the voice but couldn’t be sure. If it was another mistress of Dad’s from before he was in prison, she hoped the woman wasn’t expecting a handout. The one with the kid, Arliss’s supposed half-sister, had been the most recent to track Arliss down.

At least she’d tracked Arliss down and not Arliss’s poor mother.

“This is Georgie. Georgie Davis. From high school. Is this Arliss?”

“Holy crap, I mean, wow! Really?” Georgie had been one of the four reasons Arliss had made it through high school without murdering anybody. Also one of the four reasons she had a head full of Blue Silver trivia and zero French, but you could forgive people some sins.

“Really,” Georgie said. “It’s me. How are you?”

“Well, I’m…”

Arliss paused before finishing—before automatically blurting out how much her life sucked. She stood straighter, almost unconsciously, and tried to calm the butterflies in her stomach. She and her high school pals had drifted apart after the fiasco with her Dad’s company. If Arliss were honest with herself, a nasty habit her therapist encouraged, she could admit the parting was her fault as well, for not trying harder.

Trying harder, of course, was synonymous with trying at all. She’d been so humiliated at that point in her life she hadn’t wanted to face anybody or anything. The fiasco with her Dad wound up with him in jail, her mom in a mental institution, and Arliss in foster care. That was preceded, only slightly, by the tragedy of the missed Blue Silver concert, a tragedy Arliss figured the other girls in the Silverettes fan club blamed her for.

But still, to have one of those girls, once her favorite people in the world, reaching out to her…

“I’m good,” she said finally. “It’s been so long. How are you?”

“I’m fine. How are…” Georgie laughed. “Sorry to be a parrot. I’m worn out. I’ve been making phone calls all day. I might sound like a halfwit, but I do have a reason for calling.”

Arliss felt a twinge of disappointment that Georgie hadn’t looked her up for fond, nostalgic reasons. “Are you in charge of the twentieth year high school reunion?” she guessed. “It’s about that time.”

“Better.”

Though countless things would be better than her twentieth year high school reunion, Arliss could hear an undercurrent of excitement in the other woman’s voice. What would make the shy, brainy girl Arliss remembered sound so happy? “Are you getting married?”

“No.” It was Georgie’s turn to pause and Arliss thought she sensed a dark weight in that single syllable.

Damn it, what a stupid question! At least she hadn’t asked if Georgie was pregnant or something. She heard the woman breathe deeply on the other end of the phone and then say, “Much, much better.”

This time, she’d try for levity. “You won the lottery and want me to be your personal accountant?”

“You’re an accountant?” Georgie asked, sounding a little surprised.

Arliss waited for the snarky comment about how it was her Dad’s accounting practices that put him in jail, but it never came.

“Well, you were the club treasurer,” Georgie continued. “And good at math.”

“It’s a job.” A job she despised. Hated. Loathed. “What’s better than winning the lottery?”

“It’s all thanks to Cassie. It was my idea, but you know how Cassie makes things happen.”

“Do you still see Cassie?” Cassie and Georgie had been best friends in high school. Faith and Marci had been equally inseparable, leaving Arliss to play an odd fifth wheel. But that had been preferable to being alone or clinging on the ass of the in-crowd who’d tolerated her for her Dad’s money.

That invitation had definitely been rescinded after the trial.

“Cassie and I grew up together, so of course I see her. She moved back to Harrisburg to… But we can talk about this later. Have you heard about the tour?”

Arliss frowned. “I guess not.”

“Don’t joke with me. I know you loved them. Are you sitting down? There’s going to be a special Blue Silver concert right here in Harrisburg! It’s the first stop in their reunion tour. It’s a smaller venue, a little club downtown, but that means it’ll be more intimate. It’s for charity. Cassie set it up. She and Seth are divorced, of course, but it’s for a good cause.”

Arliss wanted to ask, “The divorce or the concert?” but the answer was likely both, so she didn’t interrupt. Georgie’s voice grew faster and more animated the longer she talked. She’d always been like that—she seemed so withdrawn, but loose her on one of her favorite topics, like Blue Silver, and she could out-talk a motivational speaker.

“That’s…very nice,” Arliss said, when Georgie stopped for a breather.

“It’s better than nice. It’s a dream come true. Finally, it’s going to happen for us.”

Arliss risked some humor. “As long as I’m not in charge of transportation, huh?”

Georgie laughed, but to Arliss’s ears it sounded a little strained. “Right.”

The last time Blue Silver had come close to Harrisburg, back in their heyday twenty years ago, Arliss had begged her then-millionaire father for front row tickets and backstage passes. The limo had broken down on the way to the show, and the girls had been stuck listening to the concert on the radio.

Which had died right after the band dedicated a song to the local fan club, The Blue Silverettes.

Arliss’s fault? No. She hadn’t known about Dad’s money troubles and the fact he hadn’t been paying bills. Or mechanics.

But she’d always assumed the Silverettes resented her inadvertent ruination of their dream night. When her father’s white collar crimes were uncovered shortly thereafter, it had been the beginning of the end of the friendships, at least for Arliss.

The whole thing with the concert, her dad, her dissolving friendships made her feel shame, not guilt, but if people blamed her, what was she supposed to do? Pick a fight? Who knows what else they’d scream at her if it came to that?

She realized Georgie was still explaining and tuned in.

“So can you come?” Georgie asked. “It won’t be the same without you.”

“Sorry, I was…what did you say?”

“Can you come to the concert in August? We’re going to do it right this time, and it’s going to be wonderful.” Georgie’s voice took on a steely tone that sounded like Cassie at her most determined. Okay, Cassie at her most bossy. “Nothing is going to go wrong this time. Nothing. Please say you’ll come. Everyone else is coming.”

“Come back to Harrisburg?”

“To the concert. Just for the concert.”

“You don’t think I’m a jinx? You know.” Arliss cleared her throat awkwardly. She didn’t mention she’d gone to a Blue Silver concert in college and ditched it before it ended.

“Don’t be silly. That’s ancient history. It’s been so long, and this is a much better reason to get together than a high school reunion. The only thing I liked about high school was you guys. And Blue Silver, of course.”

Arliss leaned against the wall. Her knees wobbled and her chest ached. Return to Harrisburg, the scene of her father’s crimes? It wasn’t a huge place. The likelihood of encountering people who knew her was not small. She’d risk running into members of her two foster families, not to mention other people from her high school who might…remember. Remember Arliss as she’d been, the over-privileged girl everyone except the Silverettes befriended for the perks. The girl nobody was sad to see crash and burn. The girl they’d judged for what her father had been and what her father had become.

Worse, they’d judge what she was now. A nobody accountant who spent her wages on her Mom’s living expenses at the institution, had no friends, and couldn’t afford to shop retail. She drove a ten-year-old Toyota instead of being squired around in a limo, didn’t date, attended court-mandated anger management classes, looked like a heavier, younger version of Glenn Close, and had really, really ugly nails.

How would she act if she had to face people again? Who could she be to keep them from seeing who she really was?

“I’ll have to think about it,” she told Georgie, while a large part of her was screeching, “No freaking way!”

But the other part of her, the part that was honest, the part that longed to have a life very different from the one she led, the part that grew louder and louder over the next couple weeks, whispered, “Go. You never know what might happen if you take a chance.”

 

(c) 2007, 2015 Jody Wallace

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