Sweet Harmonies (Hope Falls #2)

By: Melanie Shawn

Chapter One

Karina Blackstone freed her long dark hair from where it had been trapped in a ponytail atop her head and ran her hands through it in frustration. It cascaded down over her olive-skinned shoulders in glossy black waves, and brought out the drama in her deep onyx-colored eyes.

She turned to gaze out the large picture window of Sue Ann’s Cafe in her small hometown of Hope Falls, and took a deep breath. She tried to let the lovely scene she witnessed on the other side of the glass in the small storefront cafe calm her nerves.

Directly outside the window was Downtown Main Street, a quaint section of town characterized by a wooden sidewalk and small, family run shops and restaurants. Beyond that immediate view rose the mountains surrounding Hope Falls, a small town located about 30 miles away from Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Pine trees of deep forest green filled Karina’s vision, dotted with fiery yellow and red aspens, adding spice to the woodsy landscape.

It was Karina’s favorite view in the entire world, and she ought to know – she had traveled through most spots on the globe. Her career as a highly successful pop star had taken her to every corner of the earth, and given her the means to make any one of them her home. However, when it came down to it, she had realized that this humble spot, this small burg of only 5,000 souls, was the place that had nurtured her as a growing child, and was the place that nurtured her soul still.

So Karina Blackstone was moving home.

This seemed like a fairly straightforward proposition to her. She wanted to return to the roots of who she was as an artist, dig down deep and bring forth music that truly expressed her soul.

To do that, she needed to return to the place where she could get in touch with herself, with the person she had been before all the madness of fame had started. She needed to come back to the Sierra Nevadas and reconnect with the simple life that inspired her, to clear away all the bright lights of the city and revel in the soft glow of the stars in the mountains. She needed to spend time with people who knew her as Karina Blackstone, her rightful name, not Karina Black, the milquetoast whitewashed stage name she had been assigned for her career as a radio-friendly pop princess, conveniently airbrushing out her identity as a Native American. She needed to be with people that knew and loved her as their smart-ass and ultra-loyal friend, not worshiped her from afar as a superstar without actually knowing her. She needed to come home to Hope Falls.

Simple enough to understand, she thought.

The person who absolutely, unequivocally didn’t understand, however? That was her manager, Bernie Kaplan, who was sitting across from her at the table in Sue Ann’s. The 70-year-old Bernie was short and excruciatingly thin, with tufts of white hair sprouting wildly in a ring around his bald crown. His round and buggy eyes were magnified behind the oversize lenses of his thick-framed glasses, and he had the odd affectation of having a cigar forever in his mouth, albeit unlit. Bernie had been her manager for 8 years, and she didn’t think she’d ever seen him smoke the damn thing.

Bernie, for all his harmless quirkiness, was the cause of her current frustration, which was rapidly devolving into despair. She seemed to be getting nowhere in her conversation with him, and it was beginning to tie her shoulders and stomach up in knots.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Bernie, I think I’ve expressed this as many ways as I know how. I just feel like I need to do this in order to return to the kind of music that’s me. Something more stripped down. Just instruments and my voice, and songs that I write…”

“You write your songs!” Bernie protested, interrupting her.

“Bernie!” she let out a frustrated laugh, “I don’t know whether to take issue with the accuracy of the word ‘write’ or ‘songs’ in that sentence! I mean, I make up cutesy little rhyming phrases and set them to catchy, hooky melodies, but it’s not what I would consider actual songwriting!”

Her face took on a sarcastically cheerful expression as she snapped her fingers and bopped her head, singing,

“I was thinking maybe

You’d be my baby

Feeling’s right

Come out tonight

With a kiss, you could save me…”