Ethan Wolff lost his job as a journalist in metropolitan Madison, Wisconsin, along with the man he thought he'd spend the rest of his life with, so now he has to start all over again on the other side of the country, moving to small town Chino Valley, Arizona. Ethan's not used to returning to square one, but he refuses to tuck tail and give up on life, so he's going to return to grace, even if he has to kill everyone in the area to do it.
Nashoba Peshlakai is living the good life in Chino Valley owning his own business, the Spectrum Saloon, and pursuing dreams of being a musician. However, there are two things holding him back—having to deal with the alcoholic misadventures of his older brother, and falling for the new reporter in town.
Nashoba believes everyone has a heartsong that completes them, and it's possible that Ethan could be that chorus that makes up the tune for his existence. In order to find out, he'll have to figure out if he and Ethan are meant to be intertwined and also figure out how to complete the song in his head. Can his music help him find love while helping Ethan to see that his exile to the desert is a blessing and not a curse?
Ethan was in the middle of looking at his new work email account when the front door opened again, and a man with dark skin and long black hair in braids walked in. He looked nice in his white T-shirt and weathered blue jeans, and Ethan couldn’t turn himself away.
“Morning, Drea. I was looking for Duke. Is he in?”
“Sorry, Nashoba. Duke’s out shaking down customers for advertising. Is there anything I can help you with?”
“I was just going to talk with him about putting an ad in next week’s paper. I wanted to do a two-by-five ad advertising the Spectrum Saloon’s karaoke contest coming up.” Nashoba held up a piece of paper. “Here’s the information I want in the ad, if you could give it to him.”
Drea grabbed the paper and put it on the desk next to hers. “Sure thing. As soon as Duke pops his head in, I’ll let you know you’re looking for him. How’s everything else going today?”READ MORE
Nashoba sighed and sat down in a chair in front of Drea’s desk. “My brilliant brother wound up in the slammer again for driving drunk for the fourth time, clearly showing that the third time was not the charm for him, and I had to drive all the way to Camp Verde last night to bail his whiskey-soaked ass out. He doesn’t want to admit he’s got a problem, but Drea, I’m just scared my parents are going to get the call that he’s killed himself, or maybe someone else.”
Drea shook her head. “Family—can’t live with them, can’t just shoot them. It’s probably why I don’t associate with most of the folks in mine.”
“I don’t know. There are plenty of abandoned mine shafts in northern Arizona. With a little planning, you could toss someone in one of the shafts and just walk away.” Nashoba glanced over at Ethan and smiled. “Well, well, well. There’s a new face. Where’d you find him, Drea?”
“I ordered a twelve-pack of reporter notebooks, and he was the free gift with purchase. I found him all the way up in Wisconsin.”
Nashoba whistled. “Out of the freezer and into the flames. Nice. Is it safe for him to come out from behind his desk, or do you have him chained to it?”
Ethan took that as his cue to stop being an unintentionally creepy voyeur and greet the visitor. “Hi there. My name is Ethan Wolff. I’m the new reporter for the Chino Valley Sentinel.”
Nashoba’s smile curled up further, going from innocent to mischievous in an instant. “I figured that. Drea’s not in the habit of bringing hot men to her office to play with. She’s classy enough to keep them tied to her bed at home.”
Drea’s face turned visibly pink as she playfully slapped Nashoba on the arm. “You’re awful. You’re also rude for not introducing yourself to the man.”
“I had to get out my carefully crafted quip out first, so slow your roll, girl.” Nashoba stood up. “I’m Nashoba Peshlakai, a Navajo by birth and an occasional ho by choice. I own the Spectrum Saloon here in town. We welcome everyone—black, white, native, Hispanic, Asian, Persian, Irish Catholic, gay, straight, lesbian, bi, asexual and whatever new identities people keep coming with. Check that, we welcome everyone except Marjorie Taylor Greene. That bitch produces too much drama, even for my humble establishment.”
“Considering you run the joint, that’s quite a feat,” Drea said dryly.
Nashoba held out his hand, and Ethan shook it, surprised at how soft and warm it felt. In fact, being near Nashoba was raising Ethan’s temperature a couple of degrees. He felt friendship vibes from the person he was meeting, but he couldn’t help but feel there was more under the surface. It might have been wishful thinking, but Ethan had the feeling he wanted to get to know Nashoba a little better.
“I’m glad to meet you, Nashoba.”
“And I’m glad to meet someone who can pronounce my name. Folks have a hard time pronouncing traditional Native American names, so a lot of folks just call me Nash. You can refer to me either way. By the way, can I have my hand back?”
Ethan pulled his hand back in embarrassment. “Sorry about that. You’ve just got an interesting, soothing voice. You don’t see that much in…”
“Native Americans?” Nashoba’s left eyebrow arched.
“Bar owners, actually. Most of them sound like they smoke five packs a day and lose their voice boxes as a result. Your voice sounds lyrical.”
“Lyrical, huh? That’s rather flattering. How about you? Do you like to sing a tune on occasion? If so, maybe you ought to enter the karaoke contest we’re sponsoring in a couple of weeks. The winner gets fifteen hundred bucks. Might be good to buy some furniture or a vacation getaway. What do you say?”
“I actually haven’t sung in public for quite a while, but I suppose I could give it a go.”
“Great, and since you just came to town, you’re welcome to come to the Spectrum and check things out. I have a friend who’s a drag queen and comes over from Sedona once a week to do a show, which is kind of wild to be doing in redneck territory, when you think about it. He’s performing this Saturday at nine.” Nashoba pulled out a business card and handed it to Ethan. “Want to come out and have a drink? Maybe dinner—on me?”
Ethan tapped the business card with his free hand. “That’s very nice of you. I just might take you up on it. Does this queen have some skills?”
Nashoba nodded. “Cactus Wren is one of the best there is. Sometimes, my straight customers forget he’s not a woman. Should I save you a seat for Saturday?”
“Count me in. It beats spending a lonely night in my as-yet-unfurnished place.”
“Yay! I love new customers. It’s always fun to meet new people and learn their life stories. I imagine it’s kind of that way in your line of work, too, if I’m not mistaken.”
“It is, although admittedly I don’t exercise the option of getting them liquored up first.”
Nashoba chuckled. “Ethan, I can already tell I’m going to like you. Underneath that cautious stranger exterior is a touch of sass, and I love that. Well, I’ve probably wasted enough of your time and Drea’s, so I should probably get to the Spectrum and get it ready for a new day.” He took Ethan’s hand in both of his. “May you walk in beauty.”
Ethan just stood there in surprise as Nashoba let his hand go and walked out the front door. He didn’t expect to meet anyone so vibrant on his first day of work, and it helped to alleviate the fear and dread he woke up with.
Drea smirked. “Looks like someone made a new friend. Not a bad start to your day, I’d say.”
“I said it before, and I’ll say it again—you have some interesting friends.”
“I’ve got a sneaking suspicion you’ll have some interesting friends yourself before long. Then again, that’s one of the hazards of journalism.”
As Ethan walked back to his desk, he couldn’t help but disagree with Drea’s assessment of meeting interesting people being a hazard. As wild as Amara was, it seemed likely that she would remain welcoming and be accepting of Ethan, warts and all. However, he really wanted to get to know Nashoba better. He knew several Native Americans in Wisconsin, but Nashoba was a hottie. Maybe nothing would happen, but after what he experienced with Mark, he needed to be needed again. Still, one question remained: Would Nashoba be interested in him after hearing him sing?COLLAPSE