For him, control is everything…until it shatters, and now he’s come undone.
“Appassionata” by Emma Barry
Piano technician Brennan Connelly lives to control details: the tension on a piano string or the compression of hammer felt. But he’s never faced demands like those heaped on him by Kristy Kwong, the diva who’s haunted his dreams for two decades. Kristy’s got her own secrets—the debilitating stage fright that’s kept her from performing publicly for years to start—and this concert is the last chance to save her career. But can he locate her lost passion without losing his precious control?
“Unraveled” by Olivia Dade
Math teacher Simon Burnham—cool, calm, controlled—can’t abide problems with no good solution. Which makes his current work assignment, mentoring art teacher Poppy Wick, nothing short of torture. She’s warm but sharp. Chaotic but meticulous. Simultaneously the most frustrating and most alluring woman he’s ever known. And in her free time, she makes murder dioramas. Murder dioramas, for heaven’s sake. But the more tightly wound a man is, the faster he unravels—and despite his best efforts, he soon finds himself attempting to solve three separate mysteries: a murder in miniature, the unexplained disappearance of a colleague…and the unexpected theft of his cold, cold heart.
“Caught Looking” by Adriana Herrera
When best friends Yariel and Hatuey’s gaming night turns into an unexpected and intense hook up, Hatuey can’t wait to do it again. Yariel is less certain—the major leaguer might seem to all the world like he has a heart of stone, but he’s been carrying a torch for his friend for years, and worries this will ruin the most important relationship in his life. That means Hatuey has to do all the work, and he’s planning to give it all he’s got. After all, Yariel may be the one hitting home runs on the field, but Hatuey is playing a game of seduction. Yariel may be made of stone, but Hatuey knows exactly how to make him crumble.
“Yes, And…” by Ruby Lang
When rheumatologist Darren Zhang accidentally sits in on acting teacher Joan Lacy’s improv class, he’s unprepared for the attraction that hits him—and he’s a man who likes to be prepared. Joan is caring for her ailing mother and barely has time to keep up her art, let alone date. But as the pair play out an unlikely relationship during stolen moments, they both find themselves wanting to say yes, and… much more.
“Tommy Cabot Was Here” by Cat Sebastian
Massachusetts, 1959: Some people might accuse mathematician Everett Sloane of being stuffy, but really he just prefers things a certain way: predictable, quiet, and far away from Tommy Cabot–his former best friend, chaos incarnate, and the man who broke his heart. The youngest son of a prominent political family, Tommy threw away his future by coming out to his powerful brothers. When he runs into Everett, who fifteen years ago walked away from Tommy without an explanation or a backward glance, his old friend’s chilliness is just another reminder of how bad a mess Tommy has made of his life. When Everett realizes that his polite formality is hurting Tommy, he needs to decide whether he can unbend enough to let Tommy get close but without letting himself get hurt the way he was all those years ago.
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This book was delisted on November 23, 2020. Because it’s such a niche story, I’m not sure if I’m going to republish “Appassionata,” but–at least for the moment–it’s available for free here.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- How long is it? “Appassionata” is 26K; the entire anthology is 116K.
- What’s the heat level? While the novellas vary, “Appassionata” is hot but not erotic.
- Do you play piano? Yes, but not like Kristy does. (Obviously, very few people in the world play like she does.) I’m a shaky intermediate player, nothing fancy. But I do love classical music, and when I was younger, I wanted to be an opera singer. If you’re curious about the music in the novella, I put together a playlist on Spotify. And, Easter egg alert, I lent Brennan my piano. ; )
- Are there any content notes? For my story, on-page sex and alcohol use; profanity; on-page anxiety, depression, and stage fright.
- I’d like to review the book. Awesome! I hope you love it, but if you don’t, I support your right to review it honestly however and wherever you want. Reviews are for readers not writers. While bad reviews are unpleasant, I’ll live and won’t harass you about it. Promise.
“What about this?” Kristy walked to piano #3 and played the section of the second Brahms rhapsody where the melody fragmented. The logic of the piece dissolved into chords that wouldn’t line up, never resolved. It was a moody stew of notes. Romantic, yes, but arching toward Modernism.
She needed to play it faster, and she wasn’t quite wringing the emotion out of it like she wanted, but her playing was tolerable. That was a relief.
“Do you see—” she began, but the rest of the sentence wouldn’t come.
Brennan had followed her and was leaning over the piano’s harp, one ear cocked to hear what she was trying to say to him. She was suddenly, intensely aware of his aftershave. Of a faint scar along the index finger resting on the music shelf. Of the bones of his wrist peeking from beneath his sleeve cuff.
Sure, one moment of sheer terror pinged through her—he’s listening to you—but she grabbed at the bodily details of him to blot it out. He needed to hear. He needed to hear. He was an Aeolian harp, and she was going to set him humming.
She started to play again, shoving all her focus into him and into the music. A descending chromatic scale, and the freckle below his left ear. A voice shift from one hand to the other, and the way he inhaled sharply when he heard something notable. A sweeping crescendo, and the way he rubbed his fingertips together.
His body swayed—no, not swayed, shivered with the music. Caught in it like a leaf in an autumn breeze. If Brahms spoke to him, then there was something unsatisfied lurking underneath that man’s windowpane shirt.
Why, Brennan Connelly, what a revelation.
She sounded the last chord feeling giddy and, okay, smug too. That had been at least as good as yesterday. She hadn’t played that physically close to another human being in years, since before her breakdown. She’d refused to play for her agent, and she’d kept the symphony director across the studio when they’d selected pieces a few months prior.
Moreover, she hadn’t noticed someone, really noticed the color and texture of him, in…years. At least since she’d stopped performing. The knowledge pealed through her.
Oh. She was supposed to be talking to Brennan and not ogling him.
“The sound isn’t perfect because this piano’s not voiced correctly. I mean correctly for me.” She didn’t want to insult him, at least not when she’d only just decided there was a sensual creature lurking under those suspenders. “I need it to be able to do that but better.”
Because his nearness still had her flushed, she didn’t hear the skepticism in his answer.
© Emma Barry, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Emma Barry with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.