Bombshell Page 1

Maestro, Virginia

Very early Saturday morning

She’d drunk way too much. She was an idiot. Why had she, Delsey Freestone, a reasonably intelligent twenty-five-year-old supposed adult, swan-dived into those last two margaritas? Because the big cheese director of Stanislaus was treating you like his favorite student, making you his special margarita recipe, that’s why, and you were afraid to turn him down. To be honest, you were flattered, too. And what was in those margaritas that tasted so good?

She was very sure at that moment she didn’t want to know.

She didn’t understand why Dr. Elliot Hayman, the new director of the Stanislaus School of Music—Call me Elliot, my dear—had appeared to want to cut her out of the graduate student female herd at the party and bestow his margaritas and attention on her. Not only was Dr. Hayman in charge of the prestigious music school, he was also an internationally celebrated concert pianist, with a libido, she’d read in a critic’s review, to rival his glissandos. When it came to renown, he was in a different universe than hers. She and Anna Castle, a violinist from Louisiana and her best friend in Maestro, had decided Dr. Hayman enjoyed the role of director because it appealed to his vanity, but they also both acknowledged it was only the older graduate students, like herself, who believed that he was, at the core, faintly contemptuous of the students. On the other hand, he was a sharp dresser, dropping in conversations that he shopped twice a year in Milan for his suits, always fashioned for him by Bruno Giraldi himself. Whoever Bruno was, Anna observed, Dr. Hayman certainly dressed to impress.

So why had Dr. Hayman dogged her all evening, giving her entirely too much attention until she was certain every student within hearing distance now hated her guts? Thank you, Dr. Hayman—Elliot—that was just what she needed. And what would Anna say about him when she told her about his behavior tonight? She’d laugh and say something like, “Smile, Dels, and suck it up,” stretching it out in her lazy Louisiana drawl until Delsey would want to yank the words right out of her mouth. She’d wished all evening that Anna had come, but no, Delsey had had to fly solo.

Delsey supposed the sudden waves of gut-wrenching nausea combined with her flatlining brain had been heaven-sent, since it had gotten her out the door of Professor Rafael Salazar’s sprawling ranch-style home on Golden Meadow Terrace in under a minute, with no one the wiser, only one arm in her coat when she’d quietly closed the back door behind her. She’d sucked in the cold winter air, grateful to be out of Professor Salazar’s whooping hoedown, away from both him and his twin brother, Dr. Hayman, and wasn’t that a hoot? Twins! Separated as boys and ending up with different last names. The only thing they had in common, as far as she could see, was their incredible talent.

She drove very carefully until her head was pounding so hard and she was feeling so woozy she was swerving like a drunk, which, she supposed, she was. No cops, please—too much humiliation. She eased her ancient Spyder to the curb of Tinsel Tree Lane and shifted into neutral. She pressed her forehead against the steering wheel, willing the world to stitch itself back together for her, swearing to any power listening that she’d go back to her one-drink limit. She’d made that promise when she was only sixteen, after sharing a bottle of hooch with her boyfriend Davie Forman, and wanted to die, certainly not have sex with him in his daddy’s Mustang. Tonight was the first time she’d broken that promise in nine years. What an idiot you are; you deserve freezing your butt off and having your head explode, and the misery of hugging the toilet in the morning.

She finally cracked an eye open to see the half-moon crystal clear overhead. It looked as cold and hard as the solid mountains of snow that blanketed everything around her—trees, street signs, cars, mailboxes. Big snow, the locals called it—unusual, the locals also said—yet here it was, a big honking snowstorm. At least it had stopped pelting down for a while, but they said it would begin again hard near dawn. She’d come to realize after the first heavy snow in December that if she hit a snowdrift, she and her Spyder wouldn’t be found until spring.

Looking at the unrelenting white made her miss the warm salty air of Santa Monica, scented with the night jasmine trellised on the stone fence surrounding her former apartment building. To top it off, her car heater was struggling to stay alive, her Spyder no more used to this circuit-freezing weather than she was. She sure wasn’t helping any, staying out all hours of this frigid night—it couldn’t be more than ten degrees, and counting down. Houston, we have a problem. She squeezed her eyes shut; what should she do?

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