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Syncopation: A Collaborations Novel

Series: Collaborations #2
Contributors: Jodi Payne, BA Tortuga

Colt Boudreaux was raised in the Louisiana bayou and is gifted with a talent steeped in the rich and soulful New Orleans blues tradition. He makes a living as a session musician, playing guitar for anyone who needs him. When his manager sends him to New York, the Cajun is as beguiled as he is baffled by the energy of the city—and just as charmed by Kyle Alexander.

Kyle is a successful classically trained ballet dancer, choreographer, and native New Yorker whose unbridled talent defies convention, and whose rebel spirit favors ink, shuns the orchestra, and is every bit as unique as Kyle himself.

They find a connection right away that inspires rhythm and movement, mood and music, both in and out of the bedroom. It’s not long before they’re as obsessed with each other as they are with their art, and they decide to work together on an improvisational piece for Kyle’s upcoming solo exhibition.

But Kyle is focused, and Colt is free-spirited. Colt’s work ebbs and flows with inspiration, and Kyle’s is rehearsed. Kyle is social and sophisticated, and Colt… isn’t. When their talents weave together, it’s magical, but will their differences destroy it all?


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EXCERPT:

Chapter One

“OO-EEE!” OH praise Jesus, that felt like motherfucking heaven. Colt let the guitar rest, dangle from his fingers, the burning of the skin under his calluses promising to make tomorrow earned hell. It was worth it. Every fucking second of it. The music had poured through them all like they was all Robert Johnson hisself.

“Damn. Damn, that was fine, Boudreaux. You can play with us anytime, right boys?” Little Mel was sweating like a whore in church, her braids and mandolin dark with their good work. Hank Bennett and Mr. Bill were in the same boat. They’d laid down their tracks, wrote some, and then started jamming again. That last piece?

Lord, Lord.

Babies would be made under that song.

“I ’preciate it. For reals.” Colt didn’t know no one here, but he knew music, and he knew jamming, and he knew when it was right.

“You want to go get some food? You have to be starving, boy.” Mr. Bill grinned at him, gold tooth shining, and Colt nodded.

“Yessir. I got a hollow leg, me. I could eat.” He couldn’t believe he was here, not really. Not here starving, either, but here making music because someone wanted to pay his happy ass to do it.

Him.

“Come to New York, Colt. You’ll play some studio gigs, write some songs. It’ll be fun.”

What? He was gonna say no? What else did he do? He picked and played.

So here he was, ’til Nathan said to do something else. This place was like a dream, and he found himself going from little room to studio to little room, over and over. He’d traveled some—Dallas, New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio—but this place was… different. Cool and exciting, but he’d never felt so small.

He pulled his gimme cap on and put his guitar away with a smile. He’d reckon it. He’d managed fine so far, hadn’t he? Yessir. And he was loving all the different folks, all the different styles. All the music.

No wonder men sold their souls for this.

“Great work, guys!” The guy who worked the booth bebopped in, grinning like a gator. “The sound rocked.”

Little Mel grabbed the guy up in an embrace, and, damn, he sorta disappeared into her.

Whoa.

“Dang, Mellons. You gotta give a brother a chance to bail out before he suffocates in there.”

Little Mel laughed, the sound rich. “You’re on the wrong team, Timmy, honey. You’re the only one that complains.”

Timmy grinned at her and winked. “Hey, I totally got that whole last track even though you were just jamming. It was pretty sweet.” The guy started cleaning up, pulling mics and dressing cables.

“Boudreaux can find one hell of a hook.”

Colt bowed at her words, making a show of it. “La, it’s a good job.”

“Timothy Webb. Timmy.” Timmy stuck his hand out for a fist bump. “You can’t fake it and keep up with this crew. That was pretty boss, dude.”

“Colt. Pleased and thank you.” He didn’t have an ounce of fake in him. Just music and a little bit of wild child.

“Now, if you’re eating with them, you might find it harder to keep up. Especially with Mr. Bill. He can totally put it away.” Timmy packed the mics into a crate and put the cables on top. “You guys using this kit tomorrow, or should I break it down?”

“Can you jam tomorrow, Cajun?”

“Surely do. Just point and shoot my happy ass, Mr. Bill.” He didn’t have any other reason to be here, and no one had said he was going anywhere else.

“Right on. I’ll leave it, then. Just need the pickups.” Timmy crawled all over the drum kit, pulling the electrics to lock them up. “Colt, just leave your cables be. You want to lock up your instrument with everybody else’s babies, that’s okay by me. So you don’t have to carry it around? I keep the key, and I’m first in, last out of here.”

“Yeah?” He looked to Little Mel, because this one wasn’t his acoustic, but she was special. She was his, and she spoke to his heart. The acoustic spoke to his soul.

“It’s cool, man. Seriously. It’s safer here than sitting by your feet at a diner.”

“Right. Thanks, boo. I appreciate it for true.” He shot Timmy a grin. “You want food too?”

“You know it. I’ll join you guys in a few. Just gotta wrap up here. Hank, you want to show the newbie where you keep your toys on the way out?”

“Oh, I suppose I can handle that. C’mon, Colt, I’ll show you the locker.” Hank hauled his ass off the chair like he was made of stone. Had to be seventy if he was a day.

“I’ll catch up, dude. Shake Shack?”

Little Mel nodded. “I’m in, honey. We’ll see you there.”

He followed Hank, a melody tickling around behind his eyes, something happy and old, something his granny had sang to him, once upon a time.

“There’s some sweet stuff in here. Trust me, your guitar will be in good company.” Hank opened a door, which looked like any other door, but the door behind that one had a handle crank like a bank vault. The old man gave it a shove, and it swung open the rest of the way by itself, opening into a large, brightly lit room. There was a double row of guitar hangers on the far wall, and shelves with just about everything else imaginable on each side. Percussion instruments, strings, drum kits, a couple of leather jackets, a pair of cowboy boots. “This whole place could burn down and this thing would still be standing. I keep a bunch of my gear in here. I don’t know who half this shit belongs to, but Timmy does.”

“Merci, Vieux. This is sweet. Never seen nothing like this.” They weren’t near so fancy, back home.

“Welcome to the Big Apple, friend. Check out the pictures on the way out, get a little perspective. This isn’t exactly a small operation.”

“Big, small—whatever. I just want to pick.” The Big Apple. Why an apple? Huh.

Hank waited for him to hang up his guitar and then followed him out. “You will, if you keep up like you did today. Something you may or may not already know? Make friends with Timmy. He makes it easy, so it’s not like you have to try very hard. But he sits at that console every day whether you’re here or not. And if you’re not but someone that needs someone like you is? Timmy’s your best friend.”

They met up with the rest of the band in the lobby.

He filed that away. Friends he could do. Shit, he liked folks. He loved music. He loved folks that loved to play. All good, so far as he went.

The Shake Shack was crazy as all get-out. Loud and busy, burgers and dogs, and since this was Times Square, everyone was there. Suits, little kids, hipsters, uniforms, you name it. Sorta felt like New Orleans, but with less blues.

They’d only just sat down when Timmy arrived. He gave everyone a wave and got in line to order, head down and texting.

“So your manager sent you up here to us?” Hank asked, pulling at his cheese fries.

“Yessir. I come up from Houston, last, laying down gospel tracks. Good work, that.” It soothed the soul, even if they’d all spent the late nights so fucked-up on grain alcohol that he swore he was gonna go blind.

Hank nodded and looked at Little Mel. “He’s working for me. You?” Colt reckoned this was Mel’s band, best he could tell. And he was pretty clear that today’s session was an audition of sorts. That’s how things usually worked out.

“You know it. We can finish this album out, if you’re willing.”

“Yes, ma’am. As you want. I’m easy, me.”

“He’s easy, him.” Mr. Bill laughed, poked Colt with his elbow. “Just playin’ with you, son. You can pick with me any day.”

“Hank, you remember that dancer we did a mix for a couple of months ago?” Timmy worked his way into the table between Mel and Hank.

“The bad-boy ballet kid?”

“Yeah, dude. Him. Kyle? He just texted me. I cut him a couple more CDs from the master. He’s coming to pick them up.”

“He was a trip and a half. I guess it did okay?”

“I think he’s going to let us know.” Timmy picked up a hot dog covered in vegetables. Something about that didn’t make no sense. “I guess they’re keeping you, dude? If not, you’d have totally split by now. This crew is pretty straight shooting.”

“I guess so. I like being kept okay.” He was easy that way.

Hank laughed, elbowed Little Mel. “He’s just like Timmy, all laid-back and whatever, dude.”

“Hey! Timmy!” A guy in a big sweater and a mop of dark hair waved from the doorway.

“Kyle. Dude.” Timmy waved his friend over.

“Duuuude.” Kyle grinned, teasing. “Good to see you.” They exchanged some complicated handshake and ended with a bro hug. “What the hell are you eating?”

“It’s that veggie dog thing.”

“Really, Timmy? Go with a cheeseburger next time. Hey, Hank.” They shook hands.

“Kyle. This is Little Mel, Mr. Bill, and over there is our new picker, Colt Boudreaux.”

Kyle shook hands and grabbed for Colt’s last. “Pleasure.”

Strong and warm and Colt’s body tightened, the sudden rush of want surprising the shit out of him. Huh. Pretty. “Pleased.”

Sit, boo, and watch you. Folks is folks and no one might want to know you swing the rainbow way.

Then again, he kind of thought Kyle held his hand, and eyes, just a little too long.

“I got your CDs, man.” Timmy dug around in his messenger bag.

“Oh, great. Thanks.” Kyle gave his hand an extra squeeze before letting go and taking the CDs from Timmy.

He set to his french fries, letting the greasy saltiness soothe his belly.

“So, Timmy, I’ve got another project to talk to you about. Do you have some time?”

“Um. Well, I’m in the studio with these guys for at least the next few days. Why don’t you come by?”

“Yeah? Okay, cool.”

“What kind of project is it?”

“I need something simple. Like really simple. Maybe just a guitar even. I’ll tell you all about it, and you can help me decide.”

“Yeah, sure, dude. No sweat.”

“Thanks, sweetheart. Nice meeting you all. I’m headed to rehearsal. Gotta run.” Kyle kissed Timmy smack on the lips.

“Later, twinkle toes.”

“Oh! Timmy! Roulette. Tomorrow night, karaoke and crazy shit. You should come.”

“Sounds great, dude.”

Kyle disappeared onto the street.

Lord have mercy, that was hot. He knew a few places in the Crescent he could do that, but here? Good to know.

Timmy laughed. “That guy is insane, dude. ‘Karaoke and crazy shit’ could literally mean anything. Oh. Colt. I meant to ask—you good with a place to stay? I know the studio is putting you up for a couple of days in a hotel, but after that? I got a room if you need one.”

“Yeah? I—I gotta call Nathan and find out what happens, but I might could use a real place. Somewhere I can cook.” He could spend him a few days in a place not a hotel room.

“Sure. Offer stands, kitchen isn’t big, but it’s got all the… kitchen stuff. I don’t cook.”

Mr. Bill and Hank gave them all a shake. “I’m gonna get Hank into a cab and head home. We’ll catch y’all tomorrow morning, yeah?”

“I’ll be in by eight. Studio is yours whenever you show, bro.”

Little Mel was looking at her phone. “No later than nine, boys. I want the full day we’re paying for.”

He nodded, nibbling on his fries. “I’ll be there, ma’am. No worries.”

He didn’t want to go back to his room and sit.

Timmy patted the table. “How about a drink and a little New York style jazz, dude?”

“Yeah? I’m in, boo.” Oh, he liked this guy. He wanted to go and see, hear. Do.

“Birdland, Mellons. You coming?”

“Timothy, if you call me ‘Mellons’ again….”

“If the shoe fits, sister.”

Little Mel grinned at him. “Get out of here before I squash you flat.”

Timmy leaned in and kissed her cheek. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll see you at eight, I know. Come on, Colt. Mellons means business.”

“Timothy!”

Timmy laughed himself silly all the way to the sidewalk.

He followed along, bebopping to the music that seemed to be everywhere. “Thanks for the invite, boo.”

“Oh, yeah. Dude, I’m up for music any night, and you don’t want to hang out in a stale hotel room when you have this city at your feet, right? Oh, and by the way? Don’t change a thing, but up here when someone says boo, they mean honey. Like ‘that’s my boo.’” Timmy grinned at him.

“Yeah? ’Kay. Good to know.” He knew that it would pop out anyway. He was all about the habits, from chewing toothpicks to falling asleep to Abbey Road.

“So I saw the CV Nathan sent, dude. You get around, huh?” Timmy turned a corner, and they headed down a long block.

“I go where the music takes me.” It was the best life. His daddy would be damn proud. Prob’ly was looking down and grinning right now.

“You’ve got sick fingers, dude. I’m glad it brought you around here. You play anything else?”

“Anything you can pick, boo.”

He could see the flag that hung outside the club down the block, and the neon in the window drew his eye a second later. There was a line—not a long one; he’d seen worse—but still a line.

“This isn’t too bad. We should be golden, dude. Hey, stand with the neon; I’ll get a picture for you.” Timmy pulled out a phone.

He went to stand, posing like the littlest Cajun dork in history, hooting as he boogied and Timmy laughed.

“That’s rad. You got AirDrop? I’ll… send it… huh.” Timmy glanced up at him and then back at the screen.

“What? My hair weird?”

“No, dude. Kyle is asking about you.” Timmy laughed. “He thinks the whole world wants him.” Timmy started texting.

“The pretty one?” For true? He liked the thought of that, yes he did.

Timmy glanced up at him again and nodded. “The super pretty one. I was about to…. It’s cool, I wasn’t trying to freak you out, dude. I can tell him to simmer down… unless…?”

“You into him? I ain’t no poacher.”

“Aw.” Timmy laughed, a little embarrassed. “No. I thought maybe I was at first a while back, but no. He’s a lot of fun, but he’s a buddy, that’s all.”

“Bon amis are good, yeah? Better than lovers sometimes.” He got that. Your friends didn’t fall out of your life near as much.

“A lot of times, dude. Totally. So, what do you want me to say? You want me to tell him to chill, or are you interested?”

“I could be interested.” His cheeks burned some, but that was okay. A guy needed a little fun in between gigs.

Timmy elbowed him and grinned. “Yeeeeah, dude. That’s the way to be. He’s a party and a half.” He watched Timmy text and speak everything out loud. “Colt… is totally… into hanging out, dude. Yeah? That work?”

When he nodded, Timmy hit Send and waited for a reply.

“Kyle says, ‘Great. Bring him to karaoke tomorrow night.’” Timmy looked at him. “Cool? This karaoke thing he does? It’s more like open mic night. It’s all theater peeps, and it’s total talent.”

He nodded. Open mic night he understood. He’d spent most his life picking for anyone who would listen. He sang, wrote, played—if it was music, he was there.

“I’m telling him you’re in.” Timmy texted, grinned at something that popped up on the screen, and put the phone away. “You have a date, boo.” Timmy winked at him.

“Lookit me!” He gave a holler, and all the folks stared.

Timmy gave him a fist bump and took his arm, steering him into the club.

Pages: 204
Title: Syncopation
Published by: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: 2/5/19
ISBN13: 978-1-64080-797-6

 

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Be sure to visit BA Tortuga online at batortuga.com