Good morning! And thanks, Michael, for inviting me on your site today.
What kind of heroes do you want in your books? Do you want ripped abs? Perfect cheekbones? A cleft chin? Rescues kittens from trees and is kind to little old ladies? Or do you like…
What is it about the roar of a Harley Davidson that pulls your eyes toward the road in time to witness sleeves tats and long hair on a guy who only shaves on Tuesdays? What? You don’t anyone like that?
Allow me to introduce Henri Lafontaine, lead singer for the hard rock band Hookers and Cocaine, and quite possibly the one your mother warned you about.
Now, what good is a bad boy without someone to smack him on the nose and tell him to get over himself?
Die hard rocker meets reserved opera tenor. Let the fireworks begin!
Wealth. Fame. Gold record. Hookers and Cocaine front man Henri Lafontaine has it all…including a control freak manager, band members who smile as they sharpen blades for his back, and last but damn well not least, a fan out to steal his heart. Literally. Trying to write hit songs and plan a comeback in the midst of the hi-fi white noise of LA feels more like watching his world implode, until he’s offered a month in the Colorado Rockies for vocal coaching.
Sebastian Unger’s rich, classically trained tenor inspires wicked thoughts. More than a pretty choir boy, he cracks the whip without hesitation to drive tattooed bad-boy Henri to give his all to his music. Working, fighting, and finally establishing a fragile peace, they find inspiration and perhaps more in each other. But the clock is ticking. Time will pull Henri back to the grit and gold of LA’s mean streets and fame machine, while Sebastian must return to the opera circuit, where a mysterious man known as “the patron” holds far too much sway. Only the trust they’ve built on a handful of notes bridges their two worlds…and shields them from malice.
How about an excerpt?
“I’VE GOT a date with a bullet, got a date with a gun….”
Every word ripped out of Henri Lafontaine, taking pieces of his soul. He pleaded with the audience, tuning out the pinch of tight leather against his knees, and knelt on the edge of the stage. Pain meant he lived, he breathed, he felt.
“No matter what I do, one day it’s gonna come.”
Frenzied fans reached for him, too far away to ease his cloying loneliness. A vise gripped Henri’s innards—more than sweat poured from him with the fatalistic lyrics. One misstep, one leap from the stage, one dive into the pit of sycophants, and the arms reaching for him, the clutching, grasping hands, would hold him close. But not close enough to melt the numbness inside.
“You say that you love me, but you only speak in lies.”
He raised his voice, keeping the tempo pounded out by the quartet of musicians behind him. Not the kind of folks he wanted at his back. Hookers and Cocaine. A stellar name for a group. Most of the members lived up to the title.
“But I do love you, Henri! I do! I do!” A young woman with a tomato-red faux hawk shoved her way closer. Henri beckoned. Security would rip him a new one for violating protocol. Oh well, better to ask forgiveness than permission.
He crammed his whole heart and soul into belting out:
“Put me down every minute, and I gotta say good-bye.”
Images of his manager, his bandmates, critics, and certain members of his entourage flashed behind his closed eyelids. Pressure built in the back of his throat, sending his voice out wavering. Dampness trailed down his cheeks, accompanying a desperate plea for help, which the masses likely understood as merely the lyrics to a top-forty hit.
Aching, longing, isolation, fear—his constant companions.
He panted for a moment, letting the guitar solo wash over him, and swept a sweaty curtain of ebony out of his eyes with one hand. Damn but Ricky played like a maniac. Too bad about the “unmitigated asshole” thing. The guitar for hire coaxing ethereal melodies from a six-string bordered on miraculous, but could be better if he played from the heart and not for the money, the groupies, and the fame. Ditto the drummer, Giles, whose cocaine habit stifled true talent, and doubly so for Vince on the keyboards, “reducing his art” for the paycheck, when he’d bragged often enough of contemporary rock and roll lying far beneath his master’s degree in music.
While the rest of the band wanted the trappings of rock stardom, Henri wanted one more breath. One more inhale, one more exhale. And a little less pain.
A bass beat throbbed, charmed to life by a traitor who’d sold out his brothers to a tabloid. Tomorrow’s headlines would rip the band apart—if they managed to last until dawn. Serpents. He’d surrounded himself with serpents. Or rather, his manager had, someone else with dollar signs in her eyes, blinding her to the golden goose’s swan song.
The fan fought her way forward through a sea of writhing bodies, and Henri extended his hand, signaling “come hither” with wriggling fingers, animating the image etched on his wrist. Fanciful creatures entwined with ivy trailed up his arm, disappearing under his T-shirt sleeve. Before the girl answered the call, the mob closed in, grabbing, clinging, tugging Henri half off the stage. The world turned upside down. He hung over the platform’s edge. Oh shit! He grabbed at an amp and missed. Falling, falling.
“I’ve got you.” Arms around him, but not in the way he needed. A scowling security guard clamped on tight. Great. Just what he needed.
As though he’d not been denied his greatest wish of human contact, Henri started in on the chorus while the guard shoved him back on stage.
“’Cause I’ve got a date with a bullet, got a date with a gun.”
Rising to his feet, head bowed, he cried out for rescue, from thousands who heard the words but not the message.
“And every day that I stay with you, the closer that day comes….”
The band wound down, the drummer dropping back, the bass and keyboards quieting. The lead guitar softened to allow Henri to deliver the final words in what passed for a whisper during a live show.
“It’s just a matter of when.”
Want to know more about Henri and Sebastian? Well, you’re in Luck! September 15 was the release date Dreamspinner Press for A Matter of When, the story of Henri and Sebastian.