Preview Excerpt: “The Melody Thief,” by Shira Anthony

December 30, 2011

Here’s a sneak preview of the next in the “Blue Notes” series of books, “The Melody Thief.”

Blurb:  Cary Taylor Redding, former child prodigy and international cello soloist, has a problem:  he’s falling for sexy Italian lawyer, Antonio Bianchi.  Which wouldn’t be such a terrible thing, really, except that Cary’s been lying about who he is since he met Antonio.  If he comes clean, he figures he has no chance of sleeping with the man, let alone a relationship.  But then again, he isn’t really looking for a relationship, is he?

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Excerpt from Chapter Two:

Cary awoke in an unfamiliar bed with the muffled sound of voices at the periphery of his consciousness.  “…found him off via Padova.  No identification.  The man who brought him says he’s an American.”

He forced his eyes open and saw the metal sides of the hospital bed, the IV hanging from the pole and where it was taped onto his hand, the light yellow curtains at the sides of the bed, and the white plaster cast on his left arm.

Fuck. His wrist ached, throbbing to a dull beat like an insistent drum.  His head felt like it was filled with jagged rocks.

The last time he had been in a hospital was when he had watched his mother wither and die, her body wracked with pain from the chemo and radiation.  He remembered his own guilt as he had sat by her bed, helpless to do anything.  It had been the final insult, a coda, as it were, to their tumultuous relationship.  He never had been able to do anything right by her.

As his vision cleared, the shadows in the room shifted.  No, not shadows—a man, seated in the corner.  “How are you feeling?” he asked in English as he stood up and walked over to the bed.

Cary studied the other man through a haze of pain killers.  Italian, judging by his accent.  Blond hair, blue eyes, a few inches taller than he, a few years older, too, perhaps in his mid-thirties, and hot as hell.

“Do I know you?” he asked in a tentative voice.

The man looked back at him with a mixture of concern and humor.  “You could say we’ve met.”

“You… you’re the man from the street,” Cary said.  “How long have I been here?” he asked.

“A day,” the Italian answered.   “Perhaps I must introduce myself,” he added, as if realizing that he was being rude.  “I am Antonio Bianchi.”

“C…,” Cary hesitated, then finished, “Connor Taylor.”

It was the name that he used in the clubs.  Or at least it had been, after his agent had bailed him out of jail when a not-so-rainbow-friendly gendarme had caught him—quite literally with his pants down—outside a shithole of a Paris bar.  “What you do with your life off the concert stage isn’t my business,” Georges Duhamel had told him after he’d posted bond, “but you must at least use another name.  I won’t have you toss your career in the poubelle.

When all was said and done (and after he’d had a fake New York State driver’s license made under the name, “Connor L. Taylor”), Cary had decided that he enjoyed being “Connor.”  Unlike Cary, nobody gave a shit if Connor liked to fuck men in the restrooms or alleyways behind rundown bars.  Why would anyone care?  After a few years, “Connor” had become his excuse for the late nights and anonymous fucks—when he wasn’t practicing or performing, Cary was Connor.

“A pleasure to meet you,” Antonio said, after a slight hesitation.

“Thanks,” Cary replied.  “For last night, I mean.”

The broad-shouldered Italian nodded in reply.  “The doctor,” Antonio said, “he says that you may leave when you are ready, but that you have this”—he struggled to find the word—“commozione cerebrale,” he finally said in Italian.  He pointed to his head.  “You know, from falling?”

“A concussion?”  It explained the killer headache.

“Si.  A concussion.  He says you must not be alone for one or two days.  Is there somewhere I can take you?  A person who can look by you, then?”

Cary hesitated.  He supposed he could ask Rowena to stay with him.

“If you wish, you may stay with me,” Antonio offered.

Cary realized with some surprise that the Italian had guessed—albeit incorrectly—that he had nowhere to go.  You shouldn’t be surprised.  You look like street trash. He repressed a smirk at the thought that he looked a bit like one of the street hustlers he sometimes paid for sex.  He wondered what kind of man would willingly take in someone like that, knowing nothing about them.

But then again, it’s not like someone with a broken wrist and a concussion would be a danger to a big guy like him.

He considered the offer for a moment.  It was far more tempting—no, make that Antonio was far more tempting—than returning to his apartment and asking his housekeeper to play nurse and mother.  “I wouldn’t want to impose,” he answered.

“Not at all, Signore Taylor.  It would be my pleasure,” Antonio responded.

An hour later, having spoken with the doctor, Cary was released from the hospital with a bottle of pain killers, anti-inflammatories, and instructions to come back in six weeks to have the cast removed and begin physical therapy, if needed.

Cary’s face was tense as they rode the elevator down to the ground floor.  “This broken wrist,” Antonio said, sensing Cary’s dark mood, “it will make it difficult for your work, no?”

“You could say that.”

“What kind of work do you do?” the Italian asked.

“I’m between jobs now,” he replied.  The truth, although not the entire truth.   His next gig was in Rome in four weeks, and he had been scheduled to teach a series of master classes in Toulouse, France, in early December.

Antonio’s apartment was nearly as big as his own.  The high-ceilinged rooms were tastefully decorated in an eclectic mixture of modern Italian furniture and antiques.  Pictures of smiling children and adults adorned the tabletops and bookshelves.  From the abundance of blue eyes and blond hair in those photographs, Cary guessed these were Antonio’s family.

“You look tired,” the Italian said as he shut the door behind them.  “Perhaps I make dinner while you sleep?”

“Thanks,” Cary answered as he caught a glimpse of a large bed through a doorway to their right.  He rubbed his arm above his broken wrist without thinking and winced.  The dull ache had now become an angry throb.

“May I get you some pills?  For your arm?”  He held up the doggie bag of chemicals the hospital had sent home with Cary.

“That would be great.”

“Perhaps you like to use the telephone while I get it for you?” Antonio suggested.  Cary stared blankly at the other man.  “You know,” Antonio continued, “if there is a person who might…ah—” he struggled to find the word “—worry for you?”

“No,” Cary answered as understanding came.  “I’m fine.  There’s nobody.”

Worry about me? Other than a geezer of an agent and a brother halfway around the world? Justin would care, of course.  They were brothers, after all.  But why bother him and his family?  And Georges—the guy’d have a cow when he learned that Cary had broken his wrist, but only because he’d need to cancel a few months of gigs while it healed?  Yeah, he’d have to tell the idiot at some point, but why rush it?

He thought briefly of Rowena.  She’s your employee.  What does she care if you stay away for a few nights?  It’s not like you haven’t before.

Something akin to compassion—pity, perhaps?—flashed through Antonio’s eyes, but he said only, “Please.  Use the bed.  I will bring you the medicine.”

Cary was almost asleep when Antonio came back into the room with a glass of water and a few pills.  “This will help with pain,” he told Cary.  “I will arouse you when dinner is ready.”

“Mmm,” Cary murmured, repressing a lecherous grin in response to the Italian’s faulty turn of phrase.  It wasn’t all that difficult, really, since he was damn near asleep already and his wrist hurt like hell.

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