"You just wait, Lori. A talent scout is coming all the way from Yankton. This is the big break we've been waiting for."
Lorelei Littlehawk separated a speck of onion from her scoop of scrambled eggs and pushed it aside. She was usually patient with her brother's blind optimism. Their big break had been just around the corner, in his estimation, for nearly twenty years. This time she couldn't hold her tongue. Yankton, for Chris-sake?
"Hen, listen to me. We're a small-town family band. Everybody within a one-hundred-mile radius of Aberdeen has heard Littlehawk Lightning. I'm proud of that. But it's not a big circle. I hate to tell you this, but Yankton is still a long way from Nashville."
"Ah, but Hollywood is getting closer." Her brother Henry wagged his heavy black brows.
"Hollywood?" Lori reached to her mouth and pulled out something suspicious and crunchy.
"Henry's talking about a talent scout from some California studio. They're looking for a fiddle band to feature in a movie--in Yankton." Lori's dad motioned to the pile of isolated onion flecks on her plate. "Sorry about those. They were left over from last night's burgers. Thought I could sneak 'em by you."
"An onion's an onion, no matter how small you chop it up. It's okay." Lori shrugged and looked at her dad's face. She expected a dubious dismissal of this "big break." She didn't see it. Leonard Littlehawk was one of the best folk guitarists in the Midwest, and commander of the band. Since Lorelei was old enough to tuck a fiddle under her chin, she'd been on stage playing with him and her brothers. "So you think they're combing the state, looking for a band?"
"That's what I hear. They get a big break on production costs from the good people of South Dakota and in return, the locals get a shot at a piece of the pie. Humble though it may be."
Lori sighed. Okay, so this had some possibility. "Are they looking for original music too? Or covers?"
"As I understand it, original music." Her dad's eyes smiled.
"Really?" Now they had her attention. Their six-member band played all the local venues and catered to knowns. Every stinkin' weekend they played their usual list of songs. In Lori's opinion, dullsville. Littlehawk Lightning had tried to play original stuff--songs Lori and her dad had written. She knew they were good, but local folks liked familiarity and expected it in their weekend entertainment.
Lori's songs gathered dust.
"Do you suppose we could work up a few of our songs for this talent scout?"
"Very few. The scout is going to be at the Dragonfly Dance."
"The Dragonfly? That's in two weeks!"
"Sure is." Her dad stood from the breakfast table and put his dishes in the sink. "You pull out eight or ten of the best. We'll start this evening. Call that fiance of yours and get him to rehearsal at seven. Anybody seen much of Casey?"
Lori watched Henry stuff a big wad of toast in his mouth. He'd been chasing their lead singer since she joined the band six months earlier. "I sure haven't," he mumbled. "She sees me coming and runs the other way."
"You're better off, Hen. I'll track her down too." Lori turned to her dad. "My choice of songs? Do you really think folks will let us play them?"
"Your choice. The Dragonfly Dance is a good place to give them a try, beings it's an all-day deal. If they don't like our songs, they can go get a buffalo burger and wait until the next set."
Lori cleaned up the breakfast dishes with her mind a million miles away and a thousand measures ahead. Ten of their best songs? That would be a tough call. She had hundreds.
She hurried to the office-laundry room and stuffed a load of denims into the washer. Then she pulled her song-writing notebook from the shelf. She knew her dad would have no problem with his part, whatever she threw at him. And Henry was fine banjo player. Another brother, Cameron, rounded them out on bass with less enthusiasm, but he could pick up on new music quickly enough. Her fiance, Tucker Jennings, played a fair second fiddle and could be counted on for simple harmonies.
The big variable was Casey Drew. Beautiful, with a voice like a songbird, but as reliable as one too. She flitted in and out of rehearsals, belted out perfect notes, gathered her paycheck and flitted away. Whether she'd buckle down for some new material, Lori had her doubts. Luckily she had a trove of songs that would stand on beautiful fiddle harmony alone. Casey could dance around and look pretty, doo-ah-doo on the sidelines, and bang on her tambourine. If it were up to Lori, she'd throw the jangly menace in the dumpster. Fiddle bands shouldn't have a tambourine. Fortunately for Casey, Leonard Littlehawk tolerated her whims for the sake of her smooth alto voice.
Lori's body spent the afternoon folding laundry and listening to the tortured notes of her violin students. Her mind spent the time making final touches on the songs she'd selected. By three o'clock, her excitement wouldn't let her rest. Tucker would be home from Vermillion for the weekend and she couldn't wait to see him. Of all people, besides her dad, Tucker knew how she longed to take her songs for a spin. She made a quick stop at the drugstore to photocopy the music and then headed to Tucker's house.
She stepped onto the front step and turned the knob. She let out a squeal when her forward motion slammed her nose into the solid door. He locked the door? He never locked the door. With her hand in the knock position, she gave a quick look around. His car was in the driveway. He was home and had fallen asleep, no doubt. Rather than knock, she fumbled for her key in her purse.
Once inside, she blinked into the darkness. All the shades were drawn. Poor Tucker must have pulled an all-nighter, studying for the bar exam. Attempt number two and it was more agonizing than the first. Now she needed to wake him and tell him to fire up his fiddle. Lori tiptoed to the bedroom door and quietly opened it. She was met with more darkness and a light smell of--perfume?
She noticed a candle burning on the dresser. That was odd. Tuck always complained that candles made him wheeze.
"Oh, baby. You feel so nice."
In the candlelight's soft glow, Lori saw two legs spread with ankles coiled around a white ass. Stocky legs dug into the flowered sheets to deliver smooth hip thrusts. She recognized the voice, the sheets, and the thrusts.
"What'll Lori say if she finds out?" A giggle lilted into the stifling room.
"Shh," the voice in the darkness soothed. "She won't find out."
Rage ripped through Lori's heart and tears stung her eyes. She inhaled a shallow breath but found no room in her lungs. Her throat tightened and rejected the air. Only a whisper surfaced through the thick clouds in her throat. "She found out." The tempest inside her had no way to come ashore. She drew in another fortifying gust but it only sent jabs of pain to her heart.
Her wounded words had been aloft for a mere second before they imploded on impact. In the dim candlelight, Tucker sprang from the bed and took a thin blanket with him. Casey lay on her back with her legs still in the fuck-me position. Her blonde hair was unmistakable and her perfect naked form seemed to radiate in the darkness.
"Lori, what are you doing here?"
"How could you, Tuck?"
"What are you doing here?"
That was the best he had? All the explanations under the sun, and he wanted to know the reason for her visit? "I guess I was-- I thought you were-- I'm calling off our engagement, for starters." The tears wouldn't flow, but remained stranded behind a frozen wall. She grabbed the scrunchy from her hair and shook her long dark tresses to wild freedom. The seemingly random gesture became a lifeline of power. "Tucker, I think you're fired." Suddenly she'd become icy and calm. "I'm kicking you out of the band. You too, Casey. I knew I couldn't trust you."
"You can't do that."
Out the corner of her eye, Lori saw Casey sit up on the bed, but her stare was fixed on Tucker.
"I just did." Lori's ice-woman voice pierced into the candlelight as she stepped close to Tucker. His cheeks looked flushed. They were about to get more so. She flew a fiery slap across his face. "I'm keeping the ring. If you ever pass the bar, you can sue me."
In the safety of her car, the ice melted as hot breath burst from her throat. She wept into her hands as the image of Tucker making love to another woman played a cruel repeating loop in her mind.
Finally she drove away. The newly photocopied sheets of music blew around in her car and out the open windows. Just as well.