Music City Madness: Chapter 63

Leland softly strummed his acoustic Gibson to produce the melody he’d written the day before. He closed his eyes and imagined Melissa’s image, her very essence captured in the lyrics he’d penned before he set the words to music and brought a new song to life while Abby’s cat howled outside his door. Unfazed by the feline accompaniment, he stopped playing when he heard Abby scream, “DAD!

“It’s late,” he called out from the makeshift studio he’d assembled in his room.

Come here…

Leland rested his guitar in its stand. “Hold on.”

* * *

Abby stood in the hall and pointed at her room. “I heard a noise.”

“What kind of noise?”

“I think there’s a bug in my room. A cricket or one of those flying cicada bugs.”

“Abby…”

“I’m serious. You know I hate those.”

Leland scooped the orange tabby and rubbed his fur. “I’ll throw Tiger in there and let him find it.”

“I don’t want him to eat it.”

“Then you won’t have the bug anymore.”

“What if Tiger gets sick?”

“What if you let this go and try to get some sleep?”

“Nicole let me stay up until eleven.”

“Nicole’s not here anymore.” Leland felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He set the cat down and read a text message from Melissa.

“Who’s that from?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Jonathan said his mom came home from the hospital.”

“Good to know.”

Leland’s phone buzzed again. “You need to get back in bed.”

“I’m not tired.”

“You will be when you close your eyes.”

“What about the bug?”

Leland gave her room a cursory inspection. “Do you want me to sing tonight?”

“Dad…”

“I’ll break out the ukulele.”

“To scare the bug away?”

Leland tugged the lamp chain on Abby’s nightstand. “You want your door open or closed?”

“Leave it open so Tiger can get in.”

“I think the bug’s outside your window.”

“It sounded louder a minute ago.”

Leland stayed by the door. “Good night, Abby.”

Abby called the orange tabby, who purred loudly with his tail in the air. “Dad,” she said in a quiet voice. “I liked the song you were playing.”

“I didn’t know you were listening.”

“I’m always listening.”

Leland closed the door gently and flipped open his phone to re-read Melissa’s invitation for an impromptu rendezvous. The timing was bad, but he wanted to see her again.

He scrolled through the names in his contact list until he came across Nicole’s. He hesitated before he made the call, contemplating his half-baked plan before he made his decision and pressed the phone to his ear. When he heard Nicole reply, he asked, “Could you watch Abby for me tonight?”

* * *

Melissa kicked at a clump of hay inside her empty barn, contemplating Martin’s offer on the house. She missed Tomás, and she missed her horses. So much had changed in recent weeks with her life turned inside out. But she had her boys, and she had an amazing man in her life who made her feel like anything was possible. Dream big or go home, she told herself, staring through the open barn door at the star-filled sky. She slid her hand in the back pocket of her favorite skinny jeans—the ones she wore without underwear—and a form-fitting blouse unbuttoned lower than she’d dare to wear in public.

Headlights approached from the access road adjacent to the edge of her property. Desire swelled within her when she recognized Leland’s ride. “Sanford and Son called,” she said when Leland jumped out to greet her. “They want their truck back.”

Leland bent down to kiss her. “I got here as soon as I could.”

“I missed you. I wasn’t sure if you’d be able to come at all.”

“I found someone to stay with Abby.”

“I assume this someone knows you’re taken.” Melissa brought him toward the barn with a blanket spread over fresh hay. “I hope you don’t mind the accommodations. My boys are in the house with Sid.”

Leland scanned the empty barn with clean floors and new lumber to replace the rotten wood. “I like what you did with the place.”

Melissa kissed him on the mouth more vigorously this time. Then she removed her top to reveal her naked breasts. “Did you miss me?”

“More than you know.”

Melissa felt Leland’s hands on her hips, sliding south in a hurry to help unveil her from her jeans. She unbuckled his belt and unzipped his pants.

Leland kissed her passionately, cupping his hands along the side of her face. He sank with her to the padded blanket and caressed her body.

Melissa felt his arm beneath her and leaned in for another kiss, trembling with every uneven breath as Leland’s warmth pressed against her, then within her. She looked up at his soothing green eyes with her hands on his shoulders, pulling him closer until everything about her life made sense again.

* * *

Leland pondered the stars through an opening in the rafters above while Melissa rested hear head on his chest, her naked body nestled against him. “What are you thinking?”

“I want you to spend the night with me.”

“In the barn?”

Melissa rubbed her hand on his chest. “I didn’t hear you complaining.”

“What about your boys?”

“They’re fine,” she said, enjoying the afterglow. “I love my boys, but I need a break from it all.”

“I missed you.”

Melissa raised her head. “I missed us.”

“No more hospital adventures.”

“No more pills,” Melissa added.

“Are you in pain?”

“Not with you here.”

“Any offers on your house?”

“My ex-husband still wants to buy it. He couldn’t leave fast enough five years ago. Now he pops up like nothing happened. Thinks he can turn his life around and make up for lost time. He doesn’t deserve me or our boys.”

“How do your boys feel about him?”

“Jonathan’s indifferent. Adam craves the attention. Ever since Tomás died, Adam hasn’t been himself.”

Leland caressed her backside with his fingertips. “Do you think we’ll recover from the flood?”

“Nashville is a strong city. Things will get better. What about your concert? Are you ready to command the stage?”

Leland lowered his hand to the small of her back. “I’m good.”

“What does Sid think about it?”

“He thinks I should join The Wiggles.”

Melissa tapped his chest. “He does not!”

“What about your album?”

“I’m still trying to line up the right connections. I’m not exactly Carrie Underwood.”

“She’s not exactly Melissa Hamilton.”

Melissa rolled on top of him with her hips firmly planted on his pelvis. Beads of perspiration damped her forehead. “Good answer.”

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