New excerpt from Tangled Up In You

Tangled Up In You will be published on August 5, 2016 as both an e-book and in paperback.

As the final edits for Tangled Up In You come to a close, I thought it would be fun to share an excerpt from the book focusing on Conor and Sophie. This scene is a turning point for Conor.

Conor had an unattached studio in the back garden of his house that had once been a large gardening shed. He had remodeled and expanded it to make it into a space where he and the band could work on music. The rustic wood floors remained but were covered with tattered Oriental rugs and an old sofa. There was enough space to house a drum kit, electric, bass, and acoustic guitars, along with a set of microphones. A basic recording system allowed for rudimentary demos, but Conor hoped to upgrade to a full-scale sound board and other better equipment in the near future.

The year was slipping into early summer, and the band didn’t have much to show for efforts toward their second album. Gavin was so wrapped up in Sophie that it had been hard for Conor to get his attention to write music. Martin had returned from his honeymoon but still seemed absent as he settled happily into married life. Shay had been the one most eager to start working on things, but they still hadn’t been able to gather everyone other than for the odd night out.

Truth be told, Conor had enjoyed the down time. He had always shied away from being a part of a big circle of friends, as much as people increasingly vied for his attention as the band made a name for itself. Gavin, Shay and Martin were his closest friends, so if they weren’t available, he was happy to be on his own. He’d spend days hiking the lush greenery of the Wicklow Way with a backpack filled with water, protein bars, fruit, and a book. The mountain lakes, steep glacial valleys, flowing streams, and ruined buildings along the way were plenty company to satisfy his loner tendencies and love of the natural Irish landscape. Sondra was able to lure him out of too much extended time away, though, and they had a good time out on the town with dinners with her actor friends.

But this day was a confirmed band day as they had all agreed to meet at Conor’s place to put in serious work. He had left his front door unlocked for the others and was sitting on a stool, freestyling on a Gibson Les Paul electric guitar.

“Ooh, is that new?”

He looked up to find Sophie letting herself in. She wore jeans and a pale green capped-sleeve cardigan held together at the bodice by a jeweled broach, and the color made her eyes shine a deep emerald. He saw a flash of bare skin at the lower open end of her top and fixated on the fact that she wore nothing under it.

“What you were playing, I meant. Is that something new?” she asked and moved closer to him. “It sounds so different.”

“It’s the open tuning on the guitar.”

“Like Keef!”

Conor stared at her in surprise. How did she know Keith Richards used open tuning, let alone his nickname? Richards had created his signature sounds for "Honky Tonk Women," "Brown Sugar" and "Start Me Up" by tuning his guitar the same way a banjo is tuned. The five string open G tuning created three notes with different octaves and a “ghost” note formed by the two other notes harmonizing.

“Don’t be so shocked,” she said with a laugh. “I actually pay attention when you guys talk music, you know?”

“Oh. Yes,” he mumbled and sat up straighter. “Where’s Gav?”

“He had to run back home. Forgot his book with all his notes, if you can believe that.”

Of course he had. Gavin could either be exceptionally focused or . . . not. It didn’t seem to bode well for their session today. Neither did Sophie being here. Not that he wasn’t pleased to see her, but she could be a distraction.

“I won’t stay long,” she said as if reading his mind. “I’ve got summer term to sort out at uni.”

“I see.” He hadn’t seen much of her or Gavin since Martin’s wedding. Since she had declared his relationship with Sondra hopeless.

“Let me hear that piece again,” she said, gesturing to the guitar he held.

He did as she asked and ran through what little he had put together. Watching her as he played, he saw the notes resonating as she tilted her head just so.

“How do you do that? Play without looking at the strings?”

He could have taken the opportunity to share with her that as a child he had shown prodigy-level talent for music, had in fact, taken violin and piano lessons starting at age three. It was likely he could have had a successful career in classical music had his friendship with Gavin not steered him toward rock n’ roll.

Instead, he said, “I’ve given the guitar more hand jobs than I’ve given myself.” Because it amused him to see her blush.

“More than I needed to know, Connie.”

“You want to give it a try?”

“Give what a try?”

He raised his eyebrows and stared at her for a moment, feeling the heat between them and enjoying it. Then he pulled the guitar strap over his head and offered the instrument to her.

“Um, yeah, okay.”

He lowered the strap over her shoulder, holding steady to the neck of the guitar until it was in place. When he let it go, she staggered.

“Oh my god, it’s so heavy!” she said, astonished.

He laughed. It was a solid piece of equipment, one that he was accustomed to manipulating for hours on end. But seeing her surprise at the weight of it, the look of admiration for him in her eyes now, he viewed it anew. And he saw her anew. She was beautiful and sexy and fun—and Jesus he was smitten.

“Give me a pick,” she said.

He handed her one, though he feared what was to come next. The sound she made with her indiscriminate plucking at the strings was horrible. It made him cringe to see his exquisite maple wood and cherry-red Sunburst-designed guitar played that way. But then he saw the unfettered joy she had in playing. She knew it was awful, but she was enjoying it anyway. Her laughter rang out.

“Wait, how about this? Remind you of anyone?” She set about imitating the way he strutted across the stage during a live show, somehow capturing the confidence bordering on showmanship he knew he projected.

He watched her with a small smile, unable to look away. This attraction wasn’t exactly new. He had been drawn to her from the first day she arrived at school, all legs and blond hair, tanned skin, and extraordinary eyes.

“Got a new band member, then?”

Sondra stood at the door, her eyes trained on them. Conor blinked to clear his memories. Sondra being here felt incongruous and he wondered how long she’d been watching.

Sophie laughed again and shook her head. “No way. I’m just messing around. Here, take this thing before I fall over. I still can’t believe you make it look so easy.”

Conor took the guitar from her and placed it in its stand.

“Can I have a quick word, Conor?” Sondra asked and gestured out the door.

“Sure,” he said but groaned inwardly. Sondra’s hints about wanting to be more serious had become less subtle lately, and he imagined she wanted to take this inopportune time to press the issue once more.

They walked out into the garden, closer to the main house but not inside. The air felt wet but rain hadn’t fallen in a few hours.

“What on earth was that?” she asked, her face flushed.

Conor was taken aback by her sudden anger. “What are you talking about?”

“You and Sophie—what is that?”

“Just now? She was just messing, like she said. What are you on about?”

“Is there something going on with you and her?”

“She’s Gavin’s fiancée—you know that.”

“The way you look at her . . . it’s not right.”

“What does that even mean?”

“Did you ever have something with her?”

Conor sighed. “No. She’s always been Gavin’s.”

“Don’t sound so disappointed, Conor.”

“What do you want, Sondra? You want me to tell you that I’m after my best friend’s girl?”

“Are you?”

He took a deep breath and shook his head on the exhale. “No, of course not.” He knew this delayed response was too telling but he tried to keep his face impassive.

“Where is it going with us?”

“Don’t let’s do this again,” he said.

“You owe me the truth.”

“That’s all I’ve ever given you. Fuck’s sake, can’t we leave it be? It’s been grand with us the way it is. Isn’t that enough?”

“I’m not sure,” she said quietly.

“Well—”

“Conor Quinn! I’ve got a lead! Something good. Really good.”

Conor watched Gavin make his way to them through the house, oblivious to what he was interrupting. Conor was especially glad to see his friend now.

“What is it?” Conor asked.

“It’s dead romantic like, but you’ll have to trust me.”

Gavin’s excitement was obvious. And contagious. Conor felt his blood start to pump in anticipation of new creative efforts. Efforts that had been long delayed because of Sophie. It was time to make something happen.

“Let’s get to it, then,” Conor said. He gave Sondra as apologetic of a look as he could conjure up before heading to the studio with Gavin.  

© Lara Ward Cosio

Tangled Up In You will be published on August 5, 2016 as both an e-book and in paperback.