“You know I don’t do the relationship thing, Mo.”

“I know you don’t, but that still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be treated well, no matter what your relationship is with someone.”

“Still teaching?” Olivia wanted to change the subject from her inability to have healthy relationships with people, something Mo was all too aware of.

“Yup. Instilling musical ability into the minds of our children on a daily basis. It pays the bills while I slum around on the weekends with the band, playing bars,” he joked. Mo had been teaching music at the elementary school level for as long as Olivia had known him.

“You guys are playing tonight?” she asked with her eyebrows raised and her arms crossed.

“We sure are.” He smiled, running his hand through his dark hair. “When did you get back into town?” he asked, changing the subject back to Olivia. He knew her too well and was more than aware of all her tricks.

“I’ve been living here for a year now,” she admitted.

“You’ve been back a year and never got in touch with me? I’m hurt.” He placed his hands over his heart, faking a broken heart.

“I know. I know. I’m a horrible friend.”

“Well, I’ve known you were back,” he smiled. “Kiera can’t keep her mouth shut.”

She laughed. That sounded like her friend. “She planned this, didn’t she?”

He remained speechless while Olivia glared at him.

“You have a terrible poker face. You know that, right?”

Mo shrugged. “Come on, baby girl. Get back on stage with us. It’ll make you feel better.” He flashed his brilliant teeth, made even brighter against his olive-toned skin.

Olivia sighed, thinking about the last time she played with the guys. Her mind immediately flash-backed to that awful time in her life. Graduation. Wanting to celebrate that milestone of her life and having everything ripped out from underneath her feet. Again.

“Come on, Livvy,” he pled while gently touching her arm, comforting her. “It’ll be good for you. You need to start playing again. And in front of bigger crowds than at Open Mic night.” He raised his eyebrows at her.

Of course. Kiera must have told him about Open Mic. She totally planned this, she thought. “Fine,” Olivia huffed.

Mo hadn’t seen Olivia in years, but it was like nothing had changed. He knew she was starting to shut down.

But Olivia’s past was too painful to think about, so shutting down was the only way she could continue to survive. At that point, Olivia just wanted to survive.

CHAPTER TWO

A GOOD NIGHT TURNED BAD

“THANK you!” Mo shouted to a captive audience that had swelled in size over the last hour. “Now, for a little surprise. In the audience tonight is our good friend, Miss Olivia Adler!”

The crowd roared at the mention of her name. Butterflies started to form in Olivia’s stomach, nervous energy coursing through her body. Kiera grabbed her hand, knowing that she still got nervous before she performed.

“Those of you who have been following us for the past several years know that she used to sing with us. What do you all think about getting her up here to sing again?” The decibel level in the club sky-rocketed.

Olivia walked through the crowd and climbed onstage, looking over the sea of people standing in the large, dark room, illuminated only by the bright lights of the stage. She immediately wondered why she had agreed to get onstage with Mo and the guys again. The room was packed with hundreds of people, all standing shoulder to shoulder, enthusiastically cheering for Olivia as she made her way to the center of the stage.

Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and shut everything out, finding her calm. She slowly opened her eyes and smiled as she walked up to the microphone, ready for her performance. “How’s everyone doing tonight?” she shouted to overwhelming cheers. “I think we’re going to take it back a little bit. For those of you who came to watch us when we gigged at a great little bar called Scotch, this will bring back some memories. Hit it.” With that, the familiar sound of The Rolling Stones’ Honkey Tonk Woman filled the bar. Olivia was back where she felt most comfortable and loved it. She could forget about her past and just live in the moment of the music.

She looked over the crowd and saw Kiera, Melanie, and Bridget enjoying the performance. The entire bar rocked out to their rendition of the classic tune. It felt great knowing that she could bring joy to complete strangers with a simple performance.

Growing up, her happiest memories revolved around music. She could barely remember her parents, but she did remember sitting with her mother at the piano in the great room, playing and singing together. Olivia’s mother tried to teach her to play piano when she could barely walk. Even at a young age, there was something about certain melodies that spoke to her.

After her parents died and she was sent to a boarding school, Olivia continued to learn everything she could about music, becoming proficient at a wide variety of instruments and excelling, particularly, at piano. Throughout middle school and high school, she was involved in musical theater groups and sang with various bands. There was something about performing that always calmed her. It almost felt as if she could be someone else for a short period of time.

They finished their rendition of Honky Tonk Woman and Olivia took a quick bow, thanking the audience for their enthusiasm. She climbed down the stage and the crowd started chanting her name, “Libby! Libby! Libby!” She looked over toward Kiera, who was jumping up and down, clapping and chanting along with the crowd. She was in complete shock at the people shouting her name.

“I think they want an encore, Miss Olivia,” Mo said into the microphone. Olivia walked back to her microphone and shouted into it, “Do you want to hear something else?” The crowd roared in approval. “Okay. Who am I to disappoint my adoring fans?” The liquor she had consumed throughout the evening had made her brave and maybe a little cocky.

She walked over to Mo to confer with him about what to perform next. When he told her what he wanted to do, she laughed, glancing over at the enthusiastic crowd, knowing immediately that they would thoroughly enjoy what he had planned.

“Here’s another one that we usually save until later in the night,” Mo said into the microphone. “But since we have Olivia up here, I figured it would be nice to actually have a female singing the high part instead of Marcus having to suffer through that.” The crowd laughed as he looked to Marcus, the band’s piano and guitar player. “Let’s rock it.” Dale, the drummer, counted off and the band went into Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light. The crowd danced and sang along, the men singing with Mo and the women singing with Olivia.

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