Paradise Lodge, my new friends to lovers, holiday novella will be out in just a few days and I’m super excited for you all to meet Azariah & Ky!
Earlier today I’ve been contemplating Why this story?
Well, I have a special fondness for musicians and best friends discovering their feelings for each other. Add to that the additional excitement of being stuck together at a remote mountain cabin… well, doesn’t that just make your heart beat faster?
I would like to share an excerpt with you guys today!
I read the text message from Azariah a third time, my heart accelerating. Was I ready to face him yet? I swallowed thickly, the taste of cheap airline coffee lingering on my tongue. Okay, so we were going to do this. I could do this. Slinging my backpack over my shoulder, I headed straight for the exit. The airport was cramped like the kind found in small cities, with only a few kiosks open for business and nothing so grand as a restaurant. A welcome relief from the Los Angeles crowds.
Locating Azariah was as easy as spotting an oasis in the middle of a desert. I immediately caught sight of him sitting on a bench on the other side of the large glass doors, engrossed in one of the many books he always carried. I pushed my way through the crowd of holiday travelers and came to a halt at the curb, my suitcase by my side. A thick paperback was balanced on his crossed legs, and a bright-pink backpack and matching suitcase sat between his feet and the stone wall, half hidden by the wooden seat. I couldn’t fight the quick smile growing on my face, replacing my frown. Yeah, I could do this. It was still Azariah, one of my closest friends. We’d get it sorted, and everything would go back to normal.
Perhaps it was so easy to pick Azariah out of a crowd because we’d been close friends for so long. Being in a band together had us literally in each other’s face for most of every day. I remembered the first time we met and the instant connection I’d shared with him. While it took me longer to open myself up to Parker, Azariah’s childhood friend and now our bassist, Azariah and I had been close from day one. Luke, our drummer and producer, and I had been friends since high school. With me as the lead singer, and Azariah on the guitar and backup vocals, our band Moving Insignia had become everything to the four of us over the course of five years.
I walked up to Azariah and whistled. The sound made him look up immediately, the quirk of his coralline-red lips sending a familiar thrill through my stomach. He was dressed in a white winter coat with golden studs all over the front and arms, dark jeans, and black combat boots. I admired the way he rocked those artfully ripped pants. His naturally wavy dark hair was tied in a bun at the back of his head, his brown eyes hidden behind his favorite D&G sunglasses. As I sat beside him, Azariah uncrossed his legs and leaned against the wall. I always found it trippy to see my own face reflected back through the bright colors of his mirrored aviators.
“Hey you too.”
It was crazy how pleased I was to see Azariah smiling again, especially after the way our last band meeting had ended. We’d met to discuss our upcoming summer tour, and before everyone went on their respective vacations to spend Christmas with their families, Azariah and I had gotten into yet another argument that, for the first time, had ended in silent tears on my part. Tears I’d felt unable to repress for once, tears I hadn’t thought Azariah would ever cause. They’d been born of frustration, of hurt and heartache, of disappointment. Whether I was disappointed in him or myself, I still couldn’t tell. I’d shed them in the privacy of my hotel room, curled up underneath the heavy duvet, unable to stomach having a witness to my weakness, but they’d been tears, nonetheless.
Two weeks apart and quality time spent in the company of my family, people who love and care for me as much as I love and care for them in return, had done a fantastic job of helping me get over being butthurt because of a few dumb comments my best friend had made in the heat of the moment. I was still hurting, but I never liked holding a grudge, so I told myself I could be mature about this. And so far it seemed to work.
“You been waiting long?” I asked Azariah, who pushed his aviators farther up his nose with the tip of his middle finger before closing his book. Maybe he was willing to work on his own attitude as much as I’d planned to work on mine. I couldn’t even recall what exactly started our arguments in the first place, nor when. It felt all so silly right then.
“Not really, got here about an hour ago or so.” Azariah pulled his backpack onto his lap, stuffed the book he’d been reading into a pouch, and closed the zipper. I noticed how exhausted he looked. The long flight from Halifax, Nova Scotia, must have been one hell of a trip.
“You look beat,” I said. Azariah was one of the very few people I knew who ate as healthy as possible and maintained a perfect posture. He had a thing for yoga and meditation, and went to the gym regularly, which was something I’d always admired about him. Azariah was fit, but had a hard time gaining muscles, unlike me. Lifting weights once or twice a week seemed to be more than enough. To get the same results, he’d need to double my routine and then some.
“Yeah, I feel like hell. I’ve been on my feet since three in the morning, I barely got any sleep since yesterday,” Azariah told me with a tired smile. “Thirteen hours on a plane full of sick people and crying babies is the worst.”
“Yikes.” I imagined I could feel a shudder run down my back, remembering my own flight from LAX. I’ve never been a fan of airline travel, but Christmas made for the worst travelers. “Don’t get me started on this; I hate flying around holidays.”
“Yeah.” Azariah nodded. “I’d rather be trapped in an elevator full of pigs all day.”
I snickered at the images popping into my head. “Have you heard anything from the guys?” I asked him as I pulled my phone from the pocket of my leather jacket, watching Azariah mirror the action.
“No, nothing yet.” Azariah stood as we both went through the seemingly never-ending list of notifications on our phones. I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when a new message from Luke came through. A glance at Azariah confirmed he’d seen it, too, so we both opened our group chat with a flick of a finger.
There’s a chopper waiting for you guys! it will bring you to Paradise Lodge
What chopper? I typed back.
Where are you guys? Azariah asked in the chat.
Luke replied, The one we rented, obvs
Then, Parker joined the conversation, saying, For you. We won’t be traveling from Medfort.
Why are we taking a chopper? I typed back quickly, really not liking this. I added angry little smileys for more effect, and, Where the hell is this place that we need to fly in?
Luke typed, Dude, no roads to the lodge unless you wanna hike
Parker said, Or swim =D
Luke again: Just ask one of the staff people there for the Moving Insignia chopper. They’ll be waiting for you guys
I could easily picture his face with the impatient twitch of his eye.
Just…not a helicopter! I groaned and squeezed my eyes shut, blindly shoving my phone back into my jacket. I hated helicopters. The noise gave me goose bumps and made the hair at the back of my neck stand up. And the less-than-smooth transit not only freaked me out but also triggered my motion sickness. I found out firsthand what it did to me last year when we shot part of a music video in one. I swore I’d never set foot into a helicopter again if I could help it.
I muttered a curse. Apparently, I had no other choice. A hand landed on my arm, causing my eyes to snap open and collide with a familiar brown gaze. Azariah had pushed his aviators up as if he knew what those eyes did to me. My fingers tightened around my smartphone. Don’t be a chicken shit! Put your game face on, O’Sullivan. You got this.
Forcing my lips into a smile, I stood up straight and pulled back my shoulders, trying to appear like the confident leader I was supposed to be. Like, we were going into battle and our survival depended on me. I hated nothing more than disappointing my friends, and I so didn’t want to feel the mortification when Azariah realized I was afraid of a harmless, more or less, helicopter ride.
“Yeah.” I cleared my suddenly dry throat. Azariah’s hand fell away, and he took a step to the side. “Hold just a moment. I’ve got to…” I trailed off as I lowered myself onto the bench and slid my backpack down my shoulder and onto my lap. I rummaged for the little motion sickness pills, my best friends when it came to traveling. I popped one out of the crinkly blister pack and into my mouth.
When I lifted my head, I found Azariah watching me with a strange expression. Somehow, Azariah knew. I had no idea how, but there was no mistaking that look in his eyes as he searched my probably ashen face. Those all-seeing eyes had detected my fear, found a silly little weakness I wasn’t proud of having.
Azariah being Azariah, he didn’t call me out on it, and instead gave me one of those achingly sweet smiles. His eyes disappeared behind the multicolored lenses of his sunglasses again, and he said, “I’ll get us a coffee at the little shop, then find someone who’ll know what’s going on.”
I nodded, a silent thanks on my lips, feeling mortified Azariah knew I’d rather swim a million miles through the Atlantic Ocean than ride five in a chopper supposed to bring us to some deserted vacation lodge in the middle of nowhere, probably on top of a mountain surrounded by creepy woods with even creepier animals lurking in the shadows.
Why couldn’t we have rented a beach house in Hawaii instead?
Out December 3, 2018!
Azariah Bell is a nervous wreck. He isn’t prepared to spend the final week of the year with his best friend, Ky O’Sullivan, lead vocalist for their pop rock band, Moving Insignia—especially after the fight he caused before they parted ways two weeks ago.
Afraid of not being taken seriously by Ky, Azariah was concerned about what confessing his feelings would do to their friendship, or the band. He tried to keep his emotions in check, but instead, he exploded in anger over some petty issue, and now he’s potentially lost Ky forever.
Ky is looking forward to the band’s annual writing retreat for a week of songwriting and recording at a secluded mountain resort. Spending Christmas with his family gave Ky time to reflect on how he’d handled Azariah’s epic meltdown. It wasn’t good, and Ky is determined to uncover the true nature of Azariah’s unusual behavior. They didn’t keep secrets from each other, or so he believed.
Expecting to see the rest of the band when they arrive by helicopter, Ky and Azariah are shocked to learn they are alone at a deserted lodge. When they discover they’ve been set up by their bandmates so they can “sort it out,” their choices are few. But it’s critical for them to resolve their problems if they have any hope of enjoying the new year together, let alone make that new album happen.