Crimson and Clover

C&C short

“This is a must-read for anyone who loves classic rock and roll. Better yet, this is a must read for someone who’s looking for something real.” – Terri Herman-Ponce, author of In This Life and Covet

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CRIMSON AND CLOVERCrimson and Clover by Juli Page Morgan

Falling in love is easy. Staying in love? That takes work.

Katie Scott may look like a flower child, but under her bohemian exterior beats the heart of June Cleaver. Even though the Summer of Love and the behind-the-scenes disintegration of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury left her disillusioned, she’s still resolved to blend the counter-culture with an idyllic, traditional family life. Since it didn’t happen in California, maybe she can find it in Swinging London.

British guitar god Jay Carey has just walked away from his successful band, intent on forming a new group where he can finally play the kind of music he really wants. Falling in love isn’t part of his plan, but he can’t resist the electric attraction to the fresh, young American flower child when friends introduce them. When Katie moves in with him, it seems both of them finally have all they’ve dreamed of.

But life with a rock ‘n roll star doesn’t lend itself well to white picket fences. The sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll lifestyle that brought them together seems intent on tearing them apart. Can Katie and Jay keep their dreams and their love alive, or will the stresses and betrayals of the music scene be their undoing?

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READ CHAPTER 1

Copyrighted Material Juli Page Morgan 2013 – All Rights Reserved Carey On Publishing LLC

Chapter 1

August 1968

A dream come true was a beautiful thing, and Katie couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful than London. After a year of innumerable delays, she was finally where she’d dreamed of living. Not just London, either, but in Ladbroke Grove, the hip neighborhood full of music studios, underground newspapers, and freaks of every kind. Her excitement turned even the dreary summer rain into something extraordinary and wonderful. Hell, she didn’t even care that her feet were soaking wet, and her boots were, in all likelihood, ruined. Though she loved them, the fringed leather knee-high moccasins were one of her last links to Haight-Ashbury, and, man, her stay there was a year she’d be more than happy to forget. With a delighted grin she veered left to splash through a large puddle on the sidewalk, and kicked her way to the other side to inflict a greater amount of damage and ensure maximum soakage. Take that, boots. And take that, Haight-Ashbury. London just drowned you both.

On the other side of the puddle she edged around a group of people gathered at the bus stop where their umbrellas weaved and bobbed like mushrooms in a breeze. It was a scene straight out of The Hollies’ song “Bus Stop.” One side of Katie’s mouth pulled up in a little smile as the lyrics ran through the internal radio in her mind, and she glanced back to see if she might spot a couple in the midst of falling in love, or at the very least a young, hip Englishman looking for a girl to share his umbrella. Anything seemed possible in this new, wonderful world, even rock song lyrics coming true.

More puddles beckoned, and she wreaked further havoc on her boots as she meandered down the sidewalk. She had no destination in mind though she needed to find a place to crash. Some food would be nice, too. She’d been served a mystery meal on the overseas flight from New York, a brown, lukewarm substance presented in an aluminum container, a substance that looked and tasted like stale cardboard. Her taste buds and her stomach only accepted a bite or two before she called “uncle.”

As though her thoughts summoned it, the tantalizing aroma of frying bacon wafted past her nose. Katie halted and looked around to try to determine where it came from and whether or not she could get some of it. Someone brushed past her, a tall guy wearing an olive-green vinyl jacket, and entered a narrow building that appeared to have been smooshed in between two larger, more substantial structures. As the door opened, the smell of bacon grew stronger, mixed in with the warm scent of coffee. The guy glanced back and held the door for her with a questioning look. Katie followed him in, intent on finding breakfast.

The interior of the building was dim, the few windows covered by posters and handbills that advertised local music acts and underground newspapers. The flare of a lighter igniting a cigarette illuminated the smoker’s face for a brief moment before shadows swallowed it again, and a fug of smoke almost obscured the low ceiling. Voices raised in genial conversation mixed with the psychedelic sounds of “Foxy Lady” from the jukebox in the corner, and Katie released a soundless sigh of contentment. This was exactly the kind of place she felt at home.

The combination of three of her favorite things—rock ’n roll, British accents and bacon—made the place her version of Nirvana. Add in some coffee to knock the edge off her impending jetlag, and the pub would qualify as Heaven itself.

Katie left her wet jacket on one of a row of hooks affixed near the door, and took a seat at the large bar against the far wall. She stowed her duffel bag and guitar case at her feet as a thin woman with waist-length gray braids and a pleasant face smiled at her from behind the dinged and scratched, but still shiny stretch of polished oak.

“And what can I be getting you, then?”

Hunger battled with the horror stories Katie had heard about British food. Everyone she knew who visited England came back with tales of plates of boiled meats, puddings apparently made of blood, and something  called brown sauce that defied description. Each of these things could give the airline meal a run for its money. But there was that aroma that pulled her into the pub in the first place.

“Can I get some bacon?”

The woman’s gaze sharpened at Katie’s American accent. “Absolutely. Anything else? Eggs? Toast?”

There wasn’t a mention of blood pudding, so Katie nodded with enthusiasm. “Oh, yeah. Toast, coffee and scrambled eggs, too.”

“Right-o. Brown sauce?”

Nope, that wasn’t happening. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Right then. I’ll have your coffee out straight away.”

As the woman bustled off, Katie dug in the front pocket of her jeans and pulled out an elastic band wrapped around the key to her guitar case. She pulled the band loose, gathered her damp hair behind her with both hands and secured it in a low ponytail that reached her waist. A slight tug tightened it, and she turned back to the bar as the woman placed a steaming cup of coffee before her along with small containers of milk and sugar.

“There you are. Need anything else?”

Katie shook her head. “No, I’m cool. Thank you.”

“Just give us a shout if you do. I’m Libby.”

“And I’m Katie.”

Libby smiled and nodded. “Glad to have you here, love.”

Katie returned the friendly smile, and turned her attention to the coffee. She pushed aside the milk and sugar and raised the cup to her lips. Warmth spread through her chest as the hot liquid traced a path down her throat. But, wait. Something was off. Mid-swallow she took a closer look at the beverage in the mug, and fought down a shudder. Instant coffee, and so weak it almost had to be helped out of the cup. Oh, well. Even if it was vile, it was coffee.

She raised the mug to her lips again, and with her free hand spun the key on the bar. She watched with idle interest as the pub’s low lights flashed off it with every rotation. The little key looked even smaller on the large bar and she reached for it to return it to her pocket before she lost it. Instead of closing over the key, though, her fingers brushed against it and caused it to skitter away and out of reach. Before it slid off the edge of the bar, a lean, masculine hand closed over it, stopping its escape. Katie murmured her thanks and turned to the man who had materialized next to her.

Warm brown eyes smiled back at her from a lean, chiseled face, and Katie stared in awe. Why had everyone warned her about the food in England but neglected to mention Adonis was alive and well in London? With a flash of recognition she realized it was the same guy who’d preceded her into the pub. Her friendly smile, frozen in surprise, thawed and deepened. “Hi there.”

“Hi there.” His low, husky voice sparked a flash of excitement in Katie’s belly. “I’m Adam Greene.”

“Katie Scott.” She took the key he held out and fought back a quiver of delight at the touch of his warm fingers. “Thanks for saving this for me.”

“My pleasure.” Adam settled onto the stool next to Katie’s.  “Where are you from? Your accent makes it clear you’re not a native.”

He’d lost the green vinyl jacket, and Katie took a quick, surreptitious inventory of his paisley shirt, leather jacket, and flared trousers that fit him like he’d been sewn into them. “Alabama. By way of California…by way of Alabama.” The heat of embarrassment scorched her cheeks as she rattled on like an adolescent confronted by the coolest boy in school.

If Adam’s voice was swoon-worthy, his laugh should have been patented as an aphrodisiac. “After all that, however did you end up in Ladbroke Grove?”

“I’ve wanted  to move to London for a while.” She took a sip of coffee to give her time to regroup and get her cool back. It was kind of hard to do with such a gorgeous specimen in close proximity. Katie couldn’t detect one physical flaw on the guy, from his tight, hot body to the shiniest light brown hair she’d ever seen on anyone, male or female. “Someone told me Ladbroke Grove was the happening place. So here I am.”

The delicious aroma of breakfast rose from the plate Libby set before her, and Katie jettisoned any thoughts about how cool she might or might not be.

“Scrambled, bacon and toast.” Libby motioned toward Katie’s cup. “More coffee?”

“Yes, please.” Katie handed it over and snatched up a fork, ready to find out if that bacon tasted as good as it smelled, but stopped to watch with a touch of trepidation as Libby turned a hard look on Adam.

“What do you want, then?”

The angry scowl and gruff words gave the impression that Adam wasn’t one of Libby’s favorite people. In fact, she kind of acted like Adam had attempted to knock the place over a time or two and might be tempted to try it again.

Instead of appearing chastened, Adam directed a smile at Libby, a winsome smile so beautiful that Katie paused in admiration, her fork suspended halfway between her plate and mouth. “Sausage, egg and chips,” he purred at Libby. “Why’d you even bother to ask?”

A sly twinkle brightened Libby’s eyes, and her voice lost its gruff edge. Okay, then; the whole anger thing was just a joke of some sort. “Of course.” She turned away, but tossed a question over her shoulder. “A cuppa?”

“Right.”

Katie’s temporary paralysis broken by Libby’s retreat, she returned her attention to her breakfast. The bacon was as good as it smelled, and she ate with gusto, serenaded by Adam who sang along with the jukebox, his voice rich and mellow. Satiated by both food and his rendition of “Green Tambourine”, Katie put her fork down and turned to face him. “I have a question. What in the hell is  brown sauce?”

Eyebrows arched in surprise, Adam shrugged. “It’s…well, it’s sauce to put on your food. And it’s brown.”

Katie snickered. “That clears things up.”

“I dunno.” Adam appeared flummoxed, his forehead creased in a frown. “Don’t you have brown sauce in America?”

“I’m not sure. We’ll get back to that. So what’s a cuppa?”

“That one’s easy.” Adam lifted the cup of tea Libby handed him. “This. A cuppa tea.”

“Fairly self-explanatory.” Katie nodded and committed the term to memory. “And one more thing; are there any inns or motels around here? When Jimi was waxing poetic about Ladbroke Grove he kind of neglected to mention anything like that.”

“No, there’s not much like that in this area.” He dug into his breakfast with apparent delight, despite the runnels of brown decorating the eggs. Katie shuddered at the sight. Nope, she didn’t need to know any more about  brown sauce. She’d just avoid it at all costs. So caught up in wondering why people would do that to eggs, she almost missed Adam’s question.

“Jimi who?”

“Huh?”

“You said Jimi turned you on to the Grove. I wondered if I know him.”

“Oh. Jimi Hendrix.”

Adam choked on a bit of food and gulped his tea. He came up gasping and looked at Katie with an expression of awe. “You know Jimi Hendrix?”

How should she answer that one? Adam’s clothing gave him the appearance of a flower child, but she couldn’t be sure how he’d react if she told him her acquaintance with Jimi Hendrix was limited to the three days he’d spent in her bed.

“I know him a little.” Better to be vague, at least at first. “I met him at the Monterey Pop Festival.”

“Monterey.” Adam looked impressed. “So when you said California you meant San Francisco?”

“Mm-hm. I spent a year in the Haight. Monterey was the high point. I hated the rest of it.” Katie leaned her head on her hand and tried like hell to keep her eyes open. Now that she had a full stomach, she was sleepier than she’d ever been in her life. Was this jetlag? It felt more like narcolepsy. Waves of drowsiness washed over her, and despite her best efforts her eyes closed. Though her mind refused to make heads or tails of the words, she listened with pleasure to the husky sound of Adam’s voice which was as soothing as the hum of bees in a sunlit garden.

A light touch on her arm jerked her back to full consciousness, mortified that she’d fallen into a light doze. Adam’s warm hand rubbed her arm as he smiled at her with obvious amusement.

“How long have you been here, love?”

“Um.” Katie sat up straight and rubbed her hands over her cheeks in an effort to wipe away any residual sleepiness. It didn’t work. “My flight landed a couple of hours ago.”

“No wonder you’re wiped out.” Adam looked down into his tea cup and chewed on his bottom lip. After a moment he seemed to come to some decision as his face cleared. This time his smile was absent of all amusement. “Look, my flatmate’s on holiday and won’t be back until next week. Why don’t you crash at my pad and get some sleep? I’ll be at work, and with Stuart away no one will be there to bother you.”

It took a couple of seconds for his words to penetrate the haze of exhaustion that clouded her head, but when they did a rush of gratitude tingled through her. After all, she couldn’t sit there and snooze over her empty plate all day, and the thought of having to hunt down suitable accommodations on her own was too daunting in her current state. “You’re sure I won’t be in the way?”

“Not at all. You need sleep, and I’ve an empty bed at the moment. What could be more perfect?”

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