A (sorta) Southern Serenade

By: Krista Phillips

 (A Romance(ish) Novella Book 2)


Prologue





What was that sound?

Oh yes. The deafening crash of her dreams shattering into a million pieces.

Kendra Meyers propped her fists on her hips, the blue sequins of her gown scratching against her knuckles. Only moments before, she’d come to tell the theater owner that showtime was in fifteen minutes—when she’d overheard him on the phone.

She couldn’t have heard him right. “You’re—closing the theater?”

The balding man jerked his head up and turned every shade of red as he caught sight of her in the doorway. He mumbled something into the receiver then hung up the phone and motioning toward the tattered, cloth-covered chair opposite his desk. “I’m sorry you had to hear this way.”

Confusion fled as anger sprouted. “How could you do this? It’s the middle of the summer season. We—”

“Kendra, we barely turn a profit. With low ticket sales so far this summer—I just can’t afford to keep it open. I’ve been toying with retirement anyway, so I put out a few feelers to see if anyone wanted to buy the place—”

Her ears perked up, a glimmer of hope beaming like the small ray of sun shining through the office’s single, dingy window. “You’re looking for a buyer?” She rarely touched her trust fund. But maybe she could—

“I already found one.”

Okay. She didn’t really want to own a theater anyway. Just perform in one. It had been her dream since she’d been a little girl, despite being bred for a much different life. “Well, then the buyer will—”

He shook his head. “Tear it down. They bought the lot next to us too and plan to build a new hotel.”

The glimmer fizzled into a sad cloud of regret. “There has to be something we can do.”

“I’m sorry, Kendra. You’re a talented singer and actress. There are other theaters in town. I’ll give you a glowing reference.”

But the other theaters weren’t this one.

Here they did Broadway-style musicals. She wouldn’t fit into the honky-tonk dinner theaters that prevailed in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. And she’d already spent years living in Los Angeles trying her hand at acting. The few small parts she’d gotten had never satisfied her.

She wanted, no needed, something more.

In truth, neither had her job here. But it was close. Very, very close.

She pressed a finger to the corners of her eyes, trying to hold in the tears. She already had her makeup on, and mascara running was not what she needed less than ten minutes before the show. “When—are you closing?”

Gerald focused everywhere in the room but on her. “I—um, tonight is our last show. I was going to tell everyone afterward. I don’t want anyone quitting before the last performance or customers seeing a bunch of weepy actors on stage. I’ve arranged to pay everyone a severance for one month out of the proceeds of the sale.”

Kendra looked at the puny little man in front of her that she’d never had a ton of respect for. His wife, Sally Ann, had run the theater for years, and according to a few of the long-time veterans of the show, Gerald just stood in the background pretending to lead them. But when Sally Ann passed away just a few months after Kendra was hired, everything changed. He’d pinched every dime for the two years she’d worked there. From rigging electrical work himself instead of hiring a professional —that, go figure, caused a fire—to cheap costumes and zero maintenance on the building, it was no wonder their ticket sales were down.

But it was her dream. To sing. To perform. To make people laugh and cry all in the same performance. There was something exhilarating about the stage. Even if it was just for an hour or two, she got to step into someone else’s shoes and sing, dance, pretend—

Blinking away a rebellious tear, she stood and straightened her dress. She’d always complained about the itchy fabric of the cheaply made costume gown, but now, she’d never wear it again. “I presume you want me to keep your little secret?”

“I’ll give you an extra week’s pay if you do.” Which was a pittance to her, but he didn’t need to know that. No one knew just how much she didn’t need a job, and she’d like to keep it that way. Still, how was she supposed to go out there and perform now?

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