Triple Beat-nook
Author:Mari Carr

Grateful for the distraction, Dani shrugged lightly. “A little. I love music.”

Actually, she’d played the instrument nonstop since Mama Lewis had given it to her for Christmas the year before last. After so many years spent listening to music as a form of escape, it had felt amazing to Dani to be able to sing out loud. Mama Lewis told her she had the voice of an angel. A compliment she wondered if the kind woman regretted, since it had encouraged Dani to sing even more.

Stella gave her an approving look. “I live in Nashville. That’s where I’m heading now. Lots of musicians there. Pretty sure I’m the only person in the city who can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Figure the only reason they let me stay there is because I’m out of town more than I’m in it.”

Dani found herself envious of Stella’s life, her freedom to come and go as she pleased. “You must’ve seen a lot of the country.” This past month was the first time Dani had ever stepped foot out of New Orleans. Her world had been so small for so long.

Stella shrugged. “Seen about as much as you can see from a highway. Don’t get many chances to stop and play tourist. Even so, I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff.”

The waitress brought their food and Dani let Stella carry the conversation as she dug into the first real meal she’d had in weeks. Twice, Stella placed her hand over Dani’s to encourage her to slow down so she wouldn’t get sick.

As they ate, Stella told her about some of the places she’d seen, and then had her cracking up as she told funny stories about other truckers she’d met on the road. Stella was a born storyteller.

Once the waitress had cleared their plates and Stella paid the bill, the conversation winded down. “Where you headed?” Stella asked.

Dani clenched her hands in her lap, hoping Stella wouldn’t notice her nervousness. They’d been having so much fun, Dani had almost forgotten about her predicament.

“Um…” She searched for an answer, but the abundance of food had only intensified how exhausted she was. It was all Dani could do not to curl up in a ball on the floor and fall asleep.

“You got anywhere to be, Dani?”

Dani shook her head. She’d probably pay dearly for that honesty, but she could read the concern in Stella’s eyes.

Stella didn’t talk for a long time. Instead, she simply studied Dani’s face. If eyes could plead, Dani’s were begging.

Please don’t call the cops.

Please don’t ask me any questions.

Please don’t make me go back.

Finally, Stella said, “Seems like a girl with a guitar belongs in Nashville. Want a ride?”


Dani wiped away another tear as she recalled that night. Stella had given her so much more than a ride. She’d opened her home to Dani, helped her find a job and, when Dani really thought about it, Stella had probably saved her life. She wasn’t sure how long she would have survived living on the street before something bad happened. When she looked back now, Dani was shocked she’d made it three weeks on her own.

Stella had been right. Dani did belong in Nashville. The city gave her new hope, inspired her, helped her find her voice. She’d needed a fresh start and Music City had given it to her.

Now she was standing at another crossroads, very much like she had been the night she met Stella. If she could make it through the next week, she might have a fighting chance at a real future. One with no roadblocks in her path or cinderblocks weighing her down.

All she had to do was stand up to the devil.

Chapter Two

“Oh, hell no. Are you kidding me?” Dani picked up her guitar, grabbed the handle to drag her rolling suitcase, and made it one whole step away when Aiden followed out of the room and caught her arm and stopped her.

“Wait. Dammit, Dani. Just hold on.”

“What are you doing here, Aiden? Why are you in my room?” Then, because she knew he’d be there, she glanced over Aiden’s shoulder. Sure enough, Bryson was leaning against a nearby wall. He looked casual and relaxed, but she didn’t doubt for a minute he’d chase her down if she got away from Aiden.

“Bryson,” she said in cold acknowledgement. The bastard had the temerity to grin and wink.

She took three steps into the room, ready to coldcock the fucker before she realized her mistake. The door closed behind her.

Dani spun angrily. “Open the door or I’m screaming.”

Aiden leaned against it and crossed his arms. “Go ahead. We’re in the penthouse suite. There’s no one else on this floor.”

She’d spent the entire night on the road, memory after memory bombarding her. Now she was worn out and on edge. Her nerves were tattered and her emotions riding way to close to the surface. Finding Bryson and Aiden in New Orleans was the last thing she needed. “I don’t want you here.”

“Tough,” Bryson said, approaching them.

“How did you know where to find me?”

“Marco called to see if we’d be joining you in New Orleans this weekend. Lucky for you, I think pretty damn quick on my feet. Said of course we were.”

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