Fade black light, white light and stay
Stay half light
Half night and day
Half Light ~ Low with Tomandandy
Hitman Studios: Downtown Metro Area, Late Afternoon
It was late afternoon, scattered beams of sunlight filtered through the windows as Cooper made his way downstairs. There weren't many people left, a few staffers, a couple of studio musicians and him. Pushing open the door to the recording studio Coop picked up his Kramer wrapping his long fingers around its neck almost lovingly as he eased onto a stool. He was surrounded by mahogany and expensive rugs, sensual deep colors that Beth had chosen. Closing his eyes he breathed in the aroma of rich leather as he began to carefully pick at a particular melody with which he had been toying.
His hands slid fluidly over the strings as he played drawing himself deeper into the song until he was oblivious to everything else. Cooper played the melody over and over changing it up, slowing it down, dropping the key. However much time had passed, he was unaware. This was his element and Cooper's entire body hummed; he was the hypnotic melody that flowed through the amp and filled the room.
It would have been impossible to count the number of times over the years that he spent long evenings playing and writing music. How many dinners had he been late for, how many times over the long span of time had he lost himself here in this room. Cooper wasn't sure what caused it but he suddenly felt a prickly sensation on the back of his neck. The music stopped as he rose, gently set his guitar against the leather couch and glanced around the room. His heart hammered in his chest as he saw the reflection in the control room window, a petite woman with long black hair stood in silhouette watching. Once the moment had passed, Cooper motioned for her to join him.
Gemma entered the room and smiled at Cooper as she lowered herself onto the couch. "That was impressive! I had heard that you really got into the zone when you were creating music but I never expected it would be like that. I still have goose bumps."
Cooper leaned against the stool, folded his arms and suspiciously watched her. "How did you get into my control room Gemma? Why are you here?"
Gemma rose and walked around the room admiring the various guitars and other equipment scattered around. Her hand rested against the neck of the guitar that Coop had been playing moments ago and drew a quick breath as if she could still feel the heat of his hands or the vibration of his music still flowing through it. Without looking at him she sidestepped his question and instead answered, "I was here once, a very long time ago. I'm sure you don't remember. It was just after Julia had disappeared."
Walking forward, Gemma watched him thoughtfully, "You were wasted out of your mind and entertaining a couple of girls, equally wasted as I recall. You were a very sad man, I could see that, but I was a star-struck young girl who wanted what my cousin had and lost. I envied her luck finding a guy like you, I was never as lucky in love as Julia. And there you were grieving for her, drowning in your loss."
Cooper stepped back struggling to remain focused. He didn't want to relive those painful days and preferred to keep them buried. "That was a lifetime ago. You're out of your mind to come here and try that with me."
"I'm not trying anything Cooper! I've spent the better part of my adult life trying to make something of myself no thanks to my family. So what if I use what I have to get my foot in the door? That's all I'm doing! Give me an opportunity; take a chance on me, is that so much to ask? I don't want anything else from you and I swear you won't regret it."
"I'll ask again, how did you get in?"
Gemma waited, held her breath for the briefest of seconds, let it out and replied, "The girl at the desk let me in. I told her who I was. Look, don't fire her please? I was pretty convincing."
He hesitated, glancing past her at that leather couch. He remembered stretching out on it, his wife wrapped in his arms, her skirt hiked up, his pants unzipped, and Beth's laughter afterwards when he'd murmured a teasing complaint: he would never be able to look at the couch without seeing her there naked. "That," she had purred in contentment, "is the exactly the point." They'd grown closer, closer than they'd been in years, trying to rebuild trust, trying to keep everyone else out. Gemma's little trip down memory lane felt like an intro to seduction, and it alarmed and infuriated him. She was not just another woman; she threatened the fragile peace he'd finally attained.
Leaning in toward her, he spoke in a low, almost menacing voice. "Understand this, Gemma. You have no claim on my attention or my business. None. You want a chance? You've got the same chance any other agent has, and so far I am not impressed. Now get out of my studio, and do not, I repeat, do not pull this kind of stunt again."
Finnigan's Pub, Early Evening
Gemma walked purposely down the street toward the garage where she parked her car. Angry and distracted, she abruptly turned and headed toward the pub just ahead. How could she have been so foolish; she knew better than to play the seduction card. Hell she hadn't really even tried but that's exactly how she came off and now she may have blown her chance. Worst of all, Cooper, a notorious flirt, didn't even give her the time of day. Gemma always thought she was much more attractive than her cousin. She was certainly considerably more outgoing if her sordid past with men was any indication. Had Cooper buried his feelings for Julia for good? "He's moved on, cousin, truly over you. I wonder how that would make you feel?"
Pushing through the door Gemma chided herself, "Stupid girl, now what are you going to do?" She as much as guaranteed a contract to Brew, to Jimmy in particular, and he was the key to the kingdom. If she blew this he would walk and effectively flush her career down the toilet. What band would trust her after this?
Gemma ordered a drink, an expensive Merlot, and carried it with her upstairs. She had to think, find an angle that would get her back into Hitman with a signed contract before she met with Jimmy and the boys. She was so preoccupied, so lost in thought, that the man who approached her from behind caught her off guard. "Well hello there gorgeous; you look lost in thought. Did you know that would give you wrinkles frowning like that?"
Smiling, she turned slowly and faced the man behind her. Perhaps this night wouldn't be a complete bust after all.
Hitman, Late Evening
It was long after dark, hours after he'd planned to finish and leave. The last riff still running through him, through his hands, Cooper shut it down, left the studio, slammed and locked the door and strode across the parking lot toward his bike. A light flickered, spat, burned out, leaving him in the dark.
"Cooper." One word, his name, quiet, close, neither male nor female, a breath carrying his name.
He stiffened, turned hard, staring into the shadows. A couple at the far end of the sidewalk crossed the street toward the club, laughing and hanging onto each other. A car drove by and took a left at the light, red tail lights shining. There was nothing there, nothing but ordinary traffic in the city at night. Unnerved, recalling his reaction when he saw Gemma's reflection a few hours ago, so much like Jules standing there watching him and waiting for him, waiting and watching, he found it hard to breathe. Come on, he told himself. Don't do this. You're gaslighting yourself.
"Fuck," he muttered, tired, close to exhausted, thinking he wanted to make that trip again tomorrow to see Rayne but damn it was two hours away. He needed to go home, take Beth to bed, let her help him shut it out, the memory, all of it, deal with the rest of it tomorrow. He'd set the whole issue of Gemma aside, hadn't explained her relationship with Jules to Beth, and he wondered, again, if he should. And decided again, that it wasn't worth it. There was no point in worrying her about nothing. Things were good between them now, very good, and he was determined to keep them that way.
He dug into his jeans for the keys, found them. He threw one leg over his bike, still struggling with the key, when he thought he heard it again, the quiet voice calling his name. This time he ignored it. Started the bike, revved the engine, and with one last look back into shadow, his skin crawling, turned his back and tore away, burning rubber, leaving a long black smoking track behind him.
NEXT CHAPTER: Passages 20