Lena shook her head and wove through the cluttered space of chairs and tables, which doubled as Calliope's dance floor to the one large, round table Bryan positioned at the front of the stage for her entourage. She sat on the aisle next to Juan Carlos. Marian and Jasmine rounded out the table with seats for their large, glittering bags.
A nervous energy flowed through her as Bryan adjusted the mike. She clasped one of Juan Carlos's bulky hands. "They'll be fine," he assured her. "They have a wonderful teacher."
She leaned on his shoulder, thankful for her family's support. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Marian blowing her a kiss. They'll be fine. I'll be fine.
"Tonight, we have the jazz chorale of Hamilton College with us so give these talented young people a Calliope's welcome. The future of jazz music is right here." The crowd clapped.
The house lights dimmed to darkness and Bryan's disembodied voice sounded through the room. "First up tonight is one of my old friends." A distant low moan warbled through the still air, stuttering her heart. "He's pulling out the horn tonight, y'all. Mr. Ethan Holden..." Finally, her heart sputtered to a jolting stop.
The horn pealed above her, causing her to tremble beneath its melancholy weight. Her song wailed above the strains of the piano and the gentle swish of cymbals. The song he had written for her, played for her the night he told her he loved her. Their song.
Bastard! Why wouldn't he let her go? Any effort to turn away was thwarted by the draw of the brilliant white spotlight following his solitary figure mounting the steps to the stage. He looked resplendent in the simple shirt unbuttoned past his collarbone, stretching over his taut chest and falling unfettered to his tapered waist. His jeans wrapped snugly around his slim hips as he stood with his legs spread slightly apart, his back arching backward. His fingers masterfully tapped the trumpet's keys, making it sing a song that exploded a scorching, shameless lust within her.
He steadily fingered the instrument, resonating tones that wrapped her body in a cocoon of deliciously illicit memories of what had taken place that first night. She brought a finger to her mouth and glided it over the smooth edges of her teeth, suckled it, and grazed it over her arid lips. He had taken her breath away and he was doing it now. Any resistance she once had coupled willingly with the notes of his siren song and floated away.
Entranced and on the verge of an old-fashioned swoon, she was saved by the sharp piano chords. "Gone boy, whoo ... whoooo!" a woman's voice rang out, and the crowd burst into thunderous applause as Ethan bowed to the pianist and stepped to the rear of the stage.
She could have run to him right then. Damn the show, damn the crowd. But he hadn't loved her enough to come back for her, his most important obligation. She twisted in her seat, relieving the ache that stirred between her crossed legs.
Her head swam and she sank back into her chair, unable to tear her eyes away from him. The memory of his caress kindled old flames of desire and ignited new ones. Shifting uncomfortably in the hard, wooden chair, she cursed him not for her desires, but for the painful choice she had to make where he was concerned.
At last, the lights came up amid a series of claps and whistles. Ethan strode off stage and headed in her direction. Breathe, damn it. Her entire body tensed, bracing for the feel of his fingers heated by the vibrations of the keys grazing her skin.
An amorous pang clamped her thighs shut and she pressed her lips tightly together lest the sound of unmistakable want emerge without her consent.
"Did you enjoy that?" he whispered.
Her eyes slowly closed and her body drooped. Whatever had held her upright evaporated in the heat of his breath flowing over her ear.