by Lynne Connolly
Fascinating Rhythm – my love affair with music
My name is Lynne and I write rock star romances. I can’t help it, it’s the rebel in me.
More likely it’s the music lover in me. I adore music, I always have. It’s dragged me into arguments and so-called “discussions” that have nearly ended friendships, but more often than not it’s made them stronger. I have an American friend who is constantly trying to get me to listen to country and western, a genre I’ve never really got the hang of. Where I live, we don’t have it, and only the occasional superstar has managed to even get radio play.
I’m still not there yet, but I’m hanging on.
So what kind of music do I love? C&W aside (and I’m working on that), almost everything. Except, perhaps, modern jazz, the sort without a tune. Of course I have my favorites. In my world it’s Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Radiohead, Mozart, nocturnes and Everything Else. There’s a lot of Everything Else.
In the past I had a few lost years, mostly spent with rock bands. Honestly, I can’t tell you. Really. But I can write about those experiences in my books. So some of the things you read about actually happened.
The first thing I learned was that rock musicians are people. The second that in the best, most enduring, music is it for them. It’s their life. The reasons might be different but everything they do relates to the music they make. This isn’t pop, where images are as important as the music, where performers have a machine around them, and partly because of their youth, partly because they are flattered and pampered and they have a longing to be famous, they can go out of control. That’s interesting in itself, and yes, I’ve written about that kind of musician in a later Nightstar book, “Her Dark Star” (you heard it first here!)
However, because a rock musician tends to know what they want to do, even though the lifestyle can distract them from time to time, and because most are older when they make it, they are more in control of their own machine. Oh, they have one, an entourage of staff that they need, but more of them tend to know the direction they’re going in and they will also have key members of staff who they rely on to help them manage the unwieldy machine. It gets worse during a tour, when drivers, managers, sound engineers, lighting staff and so on are needed.
That’s what I observed. But bands cope with the problems in their own ways, which is why I get to write the books.
Stop me, or I’ll go on all day. Let’s get to specifics.
Hunter Ostrander is the drummer for Murder City Ravens, the album is Nightstar, and like Phil Selway or any other drummer with a band that is a bit out there, he does more than play the drums. In fact, “percussionist” better fits his role. The idea for “Fascinating Rhythm” came from several sources. First the classical percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who is profoundly deaf, but despite that is one of the world’s best and most respected percussionists. Then the news that Upsala University, a center for research into studies for the deaf, is developing a new operation to restore the hearing of some deaf people by bionic methods – growing new audio nerves. But it can only work with people whose deafness is the result of audio nerve damage, and it can only work with people who were once hearing, because the neural pathways to the brain have to be there.
Hunter was created early in the series, and he wasn’t deaf. I’d have loved it if he were. But the girl he left behind in Sweden, Sabina, could be.
The whole story almost came together by itself, as did most of the Nightstar series. Sabina is nobody’s fool and neither is she a “victim” or considers herself deficient in any way. She knows who she is and what she wants, and that doesn’t include Hunter. Except that she has a link with him she can’t break. Friends first, then briefly lovers, at first she hopes to work the affair through and then go back to her life, but then she’s a candidate for the operation and then – she wants to hear Hunter play. She experiences him with her other senses, but for the first time in her life, that’s not enough. How would someone who only heard music for the first ten years of her life respond to something as new as Murder City Ravens? She doesn’t even know if she’ll like it, and if she has the operation and it works, it will put an end to everything she knows. Her career is predicated on her deafness.
Hunter’s mother is also a strong woman, and I enjoyed showing how Hunter’s early years put him at a disadvantage. Hunter’s mother is also deaf, and she’s a successful politician, working for the rights of deaf people and eventually going into deaf separatism. But her household was set around a deaf community, and she either didn’t make any effort for Hunter or assumed he would be okay. When Hunter decided that music was his thing, he learned the drums and percussion for his mother. But she wasn’t impressed, and Hunter only took wings when he did it for himself.
Anyhow, I’ve probably taken up enough of your time, so I’ll leave you thinking about bands you enjoy and the man at the back with the gleaming instruments. Ringo Starr claimed that he wasn’t the best drummer around at the time, hell, he wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles! So who was?
John Bonham, Keith Moon, Jason Bonham, Zak Starr, Buddy Rich, and the father of the modern drum kit, Gene Krupa?
“And here we are, all grown-up,” he said.
She could feel his words rumbling through his chest, the vibrations in time with his lip movements. “I don’t know if I’ll ever grow up.”
“You’re adult enough for this.” He leaned down to kiss her, his arms banding around her to hold her close. Her hand remained trapped between their bodies and she could do nothing but keep it there while he captured her lips. He touched his tongue to hers, traced the line between top and bottom lip until it tingled, like using lip-plumping lipstick, and she opened for him.
There the analogy with lipstick came to an incongruous halt. He plunged in as if ravenous for her, as hungry as she was for him.
Ice froze her spine. What the fuck was she doing? Hadn’t she learned anything?
She pushed him away and, taken by surprise, he staggered back, stopping just before he hit the cart. “What’s wrong? I thought you wanted this.”
Oh, how she wanted him! But she couldn’t. Tears threatened to fall, filling her lower lids, and a lump settled at the top of her throat. “Will you promise not to disappear this time?”
He frowned. “What?”
“Last time, you remember? You didn’t write, didn’t call. Nothing. And I didn’t know where you were, so I couldn’t write to you.”
His chest rose and fell on a sigh. “I’m sorry. I know we—we connected the night before I left. But I couldn’t make any promises, so I thought it best to make a clean break.”
That was it? She’d half wondered if he’d ask her to go away with him, share his adventure. But of course he hadn’t. She’d just graduated and started her job with Emmelie.
A hunted look entered his eyes, brightened the blue as his pupils, previously darkened with desire, regained their normal hue. “I planned to come back to see you, but Emmelie told me you’d gone home.”
Not good enough. “You had my family’s address in Iceland.”
He swallowed. “I did. I still thought it right to give us both a break.” Spreading his hands in a gesture of surrender, he opened himself to her. “I missed you at first. Then my life changed. I thought yours had too.”
Did he think she wouldn’t welcome him? Her lips tightened. He was probably right. She’d resented his abandonment until she’d seen him today. No, that was wrong. She still resented it. “You should have written.”
“I know that now. I’m sorry.”
It didn’t stop her wanting him, and he’d proved before that fucking didn’t have to mean commitment. Perhaps this time she’d be the one to turn her back.
She took the initiative and walked forward until her breasts grazed his chest. “Do you still want me?”
He sucked in a breath. “Fuck, yes.”
Why deprive herself of the hottest man she’d seen in months? So what if it was Hunter?
When he held her this time she knew they wouldn’t stop. He tilted his head to seal them together more securely, his kiss unrestrained. He explored her mouth, took his time, but she did the same, felt the incredible softness of his inner lips and the smooth texture of his teeth. His tongue stroked hers in the most intimate of caresses, then he sucked gently, inviting her to explore. Ravenous, she tasted him, touched him, wanting more, wanting it now.
He broke the kiss, but only so he could lead her to the bed. It hadn’t looked that big when they came in. Or was it her nervousness coming to the fore? Yes, that was it. “It’s been a while,” she whispered, hoping she hadn’t spoken too loudly. Sometimes she found it hard to tell.
She looked back at his face. “Me too. At least a month.”
He startled her into laughter, but at the back of her mind she also remembered what he was these days. Sex on tap, no doubt, for the sexy drummer in one of the world’s hottest bands.
For all she knew she was another girl in another port. Of course she was, he’d be moving on soon. So she’d better make the most of him, hadn’t she? She tugged at his T-shirt and he finished the job for her, impatiently pulling it off over his head before tackling her clothes. A zipper down the back and her dress peeled away like a bud casing, falling down her arms. She dropped her hands so she could finish the job and the dress fell to the floor.
Eager to feel her skin against his, she moved closer. As he put his arms around her, he popped her bra undone. The straps fell loose, but she lifted her head for another kiss, craving it like an addict.
From the way he took her lips, he felt the same.
All the time he kissed her like an angel—or a devil. When his lips left hers, he kissed down her throat, stopping to suck the hollow between her collarbones while he helped her off with her bra. Then he stopped moving.
She glanced down, wondering what was wrong. Were her breasts the wrong size or something?
He was staring down. “Damn. I’d forgotten.”
“How pretty they are.”
She laughed. “How can breasts be pretty? I thought they were soft or something.”
“Pretty,” he said firmly, cupping one. His big hand enveloped her left breast, encasing it in warmth. He massaged it before drawing his fingers gently along the slopes to the tip, and then again before he lingered to caress. “I love the way they move.”
“Don’t they all move like that?”
“Depends how good the surgery was.”
She jerked back, crossing her arms over her chest. “I haven’t had plastic surgery ever. Not ever. But what if I had?”
He held his hands up in apology. “I didn’t mean to upset you. There’s nothing wrong with plastic surgery, it’s just that they feel different.” He growled. “Shit, I’m sorry.” He flicked a switch and the bedside lights came on, although she could see his lips fine this close.
She’d overreacted. “I’m on edge.” She dropped her arms and stepped toward him and he folded her into his embrace.
“Fucking insensitive of me,” he said when she lifted her chin. “It sounds stupid, but I’m kind of nervous.”
“Not stupid. I am too.” She stroked her hands down his back as if soothing a fidgety cat. The act calmed her in a strange way until he lowered his head and kissed her again.
Then it all came back, her arousal, surging up inside her, loosening her body, readying her for his invasion.
He eased her back and when she felt the mattress against her thighs, she realized what he wanted and let herself go as he lowered her gently to the bed.
She watched him divest himself of the rest of his clothing, revealing powerful thighs, no doubt honed from years of thumping the bass drum and a taut stomach, ridged with muscle. He shed the last of his garments, his underwear. “You used to wear tight black briefs,” she said.
He glanced at her. “Shorts are cooler. I don’t stick to one style. Call me fickle.”
She lost the smile and he came down to lean over her, propping his arms on either side of her body. “Hey, it’s okay. I was making a joke. Is there something wrong? Do you want to stop?”
Vigorously, she shook her head. “No, never. It’s just been a while for me too.”
“About a year.”
He gave a low whistle. She had no way of knowing if he made a sound, but she saw the way he pursed his lips and felt the air against her cheek. “You had better things to do?”
She didn’t want to answer. “You could say that.” She’d tell him about her forthcoming change if she felt like it. But he was moving on. No reason for him to know unless he stayed in touch. And she wasn’t counting on anything this time. “You look good.”
“You look beautiful. You might have pretty breasts, but altogether you make a beautiful package.”
He cupped her cheek, stroking the fine skin there, making her want to purr like a cat and rub herself against him. “You’re different, Sabina, you always have been.”
She had no desire to laugh now. His gaze held no flattery, his lips no light banter. For a brief moment out of time they met and exchanged complete honesty. “You too.” Because she understood. Understood so much that it had taken her much longer to get over than she’d ever imagined it would.
Pushing away from her, he said, “I need to get some protection. Get into bed and I’ll be back in a minute.”
So practical. One of the things she hated about being deaf was not hearing the gradations of tone. She didn’t know if he was murmuring or speaking normally. She could tell a whisper from a yell from the way the chest and neck moved, as well as the usual facial expressions that went with yelling. Usually she didn’t regret, because she couldn’t see the point in it, but sometimes a pang hit her. She wanted to hear his voice; she wanted to know what he sounded like.
He returned, walking across the room, his erect cock bouncing with each stride. She watched, fascinated, and he didn’t take his gaze from her but stood over her and tossed a few packets on to the bedside table. A few?
“Fuck, how many did you get?”
“A handful. Let’s see how far we can take it, hmm?”
Swallowing, she nodded, trying to look as if she did this every day. Except she’d just told him that she didn’t. “I’m not very good at this, am I?”
“I’d say you were excellent.” He dropped a kiss on her neck. “Top of the class.” He took a nipple into his mouth and delivered a hard suck, then lifted his head so she could see what he was saying. “A1.”
Laughing, she curled her arms around his neck to draw him closer. “You too. That feels good. Do it again.”
“With the greatest pleasure in the world.” He followed suit, lavishing attention on her other nipple while playing with the one he’d just sucked. He rolled it between finger and thumb, sending shots of sensation over her body. Tingles traveled along her shoulders and arms, sensitizing her to a new level before he kissed underneath. He licked under her breast and then moved down, touching his tongue to her navel and going farther. He said something against her belly and then lifted his head. “You taste great and you feel even better. Your skin is amazing, do you know that?”
She shook her head. “Thank you. You’re pretty good yourself.”
“I want you lying down properly, with your legs wide open. I want to know how you taste.”