RUSH (City Lights_ New York City Book 3)(5)

By: Emma Scott


I had done plenty of sobbing at Juilliard, that first night, clutched tight in Melanie’s arms. But not a drop since. It was bottled up now, and I was the dam waiting to burst.

Two days later, I stood in the First Morning Presbyterian Church, staring at my sleeping brother in a casket. He had to only be sleeping, didn’t he? He looked fine. His collar was high to conceal the tangled nest of broken bones in his neck, but otherwise…My big brother. My touchstone. My best friend.

“First Juilliard, then the Phil!”

No, Chris. First pain. And then more and more, until my future was warped and drowned in tears, and I couldn’t see it anymore.

I sank to my knees, my forehead resting against the dark wood of the casket in the dim of the church and stayed there until the church somehow morphed into my bedroom at home.

I lay in bed for two days until my parents, fearful I wouldn’t graduate, hustled me back to school. But I knew they were more afraid I’d never get out of that bed again. They told me they were okay and not to worry, but of course, that was a lie. None of us would ever be fully okay again, and we knew it.

I flew back to New York City feeling as I’d been submerged in ice water. I didn’t expect my seat on the Strings would still exist. I didn’t care. I could hardly find my way to my dorm, let alone play.

But I had expected that the man I loved would be waiting for me, to comfort me through the worst of the grief. To be there for me when I needed him most.

And I had been so very wrong.

I saw Keith walking through Lincoln Center with his arm around Molly Kirkpatrick, the bass player of Spring Strings. My seat had been given to Eli Michaels, and then life had gone on.

Then and Now.

Joy, exhilaration, love…They had taken me so high, higher than I ever thought was possible. But then the wind changed, the currents dropped, and I plummeted in a free-fall, helpless to do anything but watch the ground rise up to meet me.

I went back to my student apartment at Juilliard, put my violin in its case, and shut it tight.

Time doesn’t fly; it ekes by and so did I. The vistas weren’t as vast, the colors not as vibrant here on the ground, and it was harder for me to see my future from my new low vantage. But it was safer down here. Much safer.





Chapter Two, Now


Charlotte

One year later

They were going at it again. I threw my pillow over my face but the walls were too thin. I could hear Reya’s ecstatic shrieking and Collin’s low grunts, like an underscore. A carnal symphony that had, too often, served as my alarm clock. I peeked out from under the pillow to look at my actual alarm clock. Six-thirty. I had to be up in fifteen minutes anyway, so maybe I owed my roommates a thank-you. Maybe their unquenchable sexual appetite had afforded me the shower first for a change.

I hoped so, I thought, brushing a lock of my brown hair out of my eyes. Hermione-hair, Melanie called it, and she was right—if I didn’t wash and condition the hell out of it every day, it looked like a bushy brown rat’s nest. I needed that shower, and stat.

I threw off my covers and hurried over the hardwood floors to our apartment’s one and only bathroom to find Emily had beaten me to it. I heard her humming under the spray of water.

“Damn.”

I went down the short hall to the kitchen, thinking I might at least have a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee by myself, only to find Forrest, the fourth roommate, at the breakfast counter, spooning cereal into his mouth, the lenses of his glasses aglow with the light of his laptop. He glanced up as I came in.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” I muttered, grateful he’d already made coffee. “Emily’s up early.” I tried not to sound petulant.

“She’s taking the kids to the Central Park zoo,” Forrest said. “Their mom’s having a luncheon or something and wants the house empty.”

An empty house. What I wouldn’t give…

Emily was a nanny and the primary breadwinner of our little group. That meant she and Forrest got the biggest bedroom, Reya and Collin the next, and I—the loner—was relegated to a tiny room at the back of the place with a stunning view of the neighboring building’s brick wall. But smallest room meant smallest rent—at $1200—and that was already pushing the outside limit of my budget.