Perfect Rhythm is the story of Leontyne “Leo” Blake, a burned-out pop star who returns to her tiny hometown and gets to know her father’s nurse, Holly. In this scene, Leo has asked Holly out.
Read on to see what happens…
“I’m sorry. I can’t go out with you,” Holly said.
A flash of hurt crossed Leo’s face before it turned into the reserved mask Holly had seen in the beginning. “Can’t?” She sounded as if she was speaking through clenched teeth. “Or don’t want to?”
That was a question Holly didn’t want to examine too closely. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “I know it sounds trite, but it’s not you. It’s me.”
Leo let out a groan. “That is trite. It’s usually what women say when they’re either straight or think I’m a conceited, shallow celebrity—someone to lust after from afar, not someone to date for real.”
Her voice got rougher with every word.
Impulsively, Holly reached out to squeeze her hand or put it on Leo’s knee but then realized it would send mixed messages, so she withdrew and put her hand in her own lap. “I don’t think that about you. You know that, right?”
“But you’re not straight. You do date women.”
“I don’t date anyone. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
A frown wrinkled Leo’s brow. “Don’t tell me you’re still hung up on Ashley.”
Holly barked out a nervous laugh. “No. Definitely not.”
“Then it really is me.” Leo lowered her gaze to a tuft of clover. “I’m not your type.”
“That’s just it, Leo. I don’t have a type. At least not the way you think.”
“Okay.” Leo drew out the word in a way that made it obvious that she had no clue what Holly meant.
Holly sighed. Coming out as asexual hadn’t been on her list of relaxing things to do on her afternoon off, but she didn’t want a rejection to stand between them. She had come to appreciate their friendship too much to lie, even by omission.
Eating the remainder of her ice cream gave her a moment to collect herself. When the last crumb of cone was gone, she clutched her bare legs to her chest and gazed at Leo over her drawn-up knees. God, why was this so much harder than coming out as a lesbian?
Finally, she just blurted it out. “I’m ace.”
She wasn’t sure what response she had expected, but certainly not the crooked grin that spread across Leo’s face.
“Oh yeah,” Leo drawled with the husky voice that had won her three Grammys. “You sure are. Totally awesome.”
“No, I mean, I’m asexual.”
“Asexual?” Leo repeated it syllable by syllable. “What does that mean?”
Oh boy. Maybe that was what made coming out as asexual so much harder. Telling someone she was a lesbian didn’t require a half-hour education session.
“It means…” She glanced down and watched as she turned the black ace ring around and around on her right middle finger. “It means that I’m not sexually attracted to anyone.”
Leo stared at her, the last bit of ice cream cone apparently forgotten in her hand. “Wait… Are you saying you don’t like sex?”
“Not exactly. I’m saying I don’t want sex.”
A gust of air escaped Leo’s lungs in an audible puff. “You don’t want sex? Never? With anyone?”
The look of disbelief on her face made Holly laugh. “There are more important things in life, you know?”
“Yeah, but when it’s really good, sex can be mind-blowing.” She rolled her eyes skyward and fanned herself with both hands.
“I’ll have to take your word for it.”
If you’d like to read Perfect Rhythm, you can find the book here:
Happy Coming Out Day, everyone!
Perfect Rhythm is the story of burned-out popstar Leontyne “Leo” Blake, who reluctantly returns to her tiny hometown in Missouri when she finds out her father had a stroke. Once there, she meets Holly, her father’s nurse. At first, they don’t even like each other. Holly is convinced that Leo is a spoiled celebrity, while small-town girl Holly seems to represent everything Leo has wanted to leave behind.
The more time they spend together, the more they realize how wrong that first impression has been. Between trips to the local bakery store, late-night conversations up on the roof, and a date at the vet’s office, they start to fall in love with each other.
But Holly is asexual. Leo isn’t even sure what that means, much less what it means for them. And Holly isn’t sure she should risk her heart again because her last relationship didn’t end too well.
Will they find the perfect rhythm with each other, despite their differences?
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Enjoy and let me know what you think!
It’s the end of July and I’m back from Chicago, where I attended the GCLS conference for readers and writers of lesbian fiction. I also wrapped up the final proofreading of my upcoming romance novel Perfect Rhythm, and I thought I’d give you a sneak peek.
The novel features two very interesting main characters: Leo, who’s a lesbian pop star known to the world as Jenna Blake, and Holly, who’s a home-healthcare nurse and identifies as asexual.
So here’s the sneak peek:
Holly wandered into the living room.
Leo sat in her father’s easy chair, her eyes closed and her fingers moving to the rhythm of music only she could hear. Just as Holly was about to tiptoe out, Leo opened her eyes.
An instant smile formed on her lips. “Hey. Are you done adulting?”
Holly chuckled. “Just for the moment. The physical therapist is with your father.” She walked over to the piano bench, which was the seat closest to Leo’s easy chair, and sat down.
Leo tilted her head to the side and studied her. “You look good there. Do you play?”
“Oh God, no. I wouldn’t call it that.”
“So you do play? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Holly scrunched up her face. “Because it’s embarrassing. The only thing I can play is one piece.”
Holly hummed it.
“Ah. Czerny’s Study in C Major,” Leo said. “Okay, let’s play that.”
“Um, I thought you didn’t want to play classical music?”
Leo smiled. “I’ll make an exception just this once.” She came over and motioned at her to slide to the side so she could sit next to her.
It felt nice and warm to have her so close, but playing the piano with her was like painting in front of Pablo Picasso when you could barely draw a stick figure. “I don’t know about this.”
“Come on.” Leo bumped her with her shoulder, bringing their bodies into even closer contact. “Dad is busy with PT. It’s just the two of us here.”
“Yeah, but one of us is musical genius Jenna Blake.”
“No,” Leo said very seriously and turned a little on the bench to look into her eyes. “One of us is Leo, not Jenna.”
“Right. You know you’re Leo to me.”
Instead of answering, Leo stared at something farther down.
When Holly followed her gaze, she realized she’d put her hand on Leo’s leg, probably to reassure her. It felt natural. But jeez, talk about sending mixed signals.
Before she could snatch her hand away, Leo covered it with her own and squeezed gently. “Ready?”
Holly swallowed. “All right. Let’s play.”
Leo opened the lid with the hand that wasn’t still covering Holly’s. “How about I play the left hand, and you play the right?”
“Remember where to put your fingers?”
“I think so.” She placed her fingers on the keys.
Leo finally took her hand away from Holly’s and stroked her fingertips over the hand resting on the piano, from wrist to knuckles. “Relax,” she said softly. “Focus on how the keys feel under your fingers.”
The last thing Holly was focused on at the moment was the piano. Sharing this with Leo was too confusing. There was something between them; she couldn’t deny that. She felt drawn to Leo in a way that might have seemed almost sexual to an observer, but to her, it wasn’t about sex. This was all about emotion.
Leo shuffled through her father’s sheet music, found the right one, and placed it in front of them.
Holly took a deep breath and then haltingly began to play the first notes, stumbling through the piece. God, this was awful. Her tempo was all off, and she had the dynamics of a robot.
Next to her, Leo’s fingers moved gracefully and without effort. It looked as if it came as easy to her as breathing. Wow. No wonder women were swooning when they watched Leo’s long fingers caress the neck of her guitar during concerts. If she weren’t asexual, she probably would too. As it was, her fantasies ended at those talented fingers giving her a massage or caressing her tenderly. Other people might have considered it foreplay, but for her it was the main course, an experience that was sensual rather than sexual.
Holly was so focused on watching Leo that she stopped her own playing.
Leo paused too and looked at her.
“Sorry,” Holly said. “I told you I’m not good at this.”
“Then let’s play it slower. Want to try playing the left hand, and I take over the right-hand melody?”
Holly nodded and started to get up to switch sides, but Leo just guided her hand to the correct keys and then reached across Holly’s arm to the piano’s right side. Their forearms touched each other lightly, but Holly didn’t feel crowded. It actually felt…nice.
They started from the beginning, and this time, Holly played without pausing. She had to admit it didn’t sound too bad.
When the last notes faded away, they both left their hands where they were for a little longer.
“Who taught you?” Leo asked as she finally put her hands on her lap.
Holly withdrew too. “Your father.”
Leo’s head swiveled around. “My father?”
“Yeah. You’d think I’d play a little better with him as my teacher, right?” Holly laughed. “He tried to teach me while he was recovering from his first stroke, but I’m hopeless. No matter how much I practiced, I could never coordinate playing with both hands and the pedal.”
“I bet that didn’t go over too well. After all, if you’re not a perfect student, it means he’s not the perfect teacher he thinks he is, right?”
“Actually, he took it pretty well.”
“Are we talking about the same man?” Leo asked. “When I was eight, my mother had to intervene because he wouldn’t let me stop practicing until I got one of Liszt’s pieces right.”
“I guess it’s different with you.”
“Yeah.” The one word dripped with bitterness.
“Maybe it’s because you’re his daughter, and he cares about you,” Holly said softly.
Leo snorted. “He’s got a funny way of showing it.”
Holly didn’t know what to say to that, so she just slid even closer on the piano bench and put one arm around her hip. “He probably never learned how to show it. But that’s his deficit, not yours. It doesn’t mean you’re not lovable.”
That last word hung between them as Leo slowly turned her head and looked at her.
Their closeness suddenly made Holly a little nervous, but at the same time, she didn’t want to move away from Leo’s warmth. This close, she could make out the brown flecks in her olive-green eyes. The bitterness in them from before was gone, and now they held only—
A discreet clearing of someone’s throat made them both jump.
So, what do you think? Does that sound interesting?
Perfect Rhythm will be out in September. To find out more about it, click here.
Created by Krystel Contreras & Jorge Courbis