THE TRAVELLER by HJ Bellus
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Hart Richards has never found home.
Sure, he was raised in a house…but it was far from a home.
He thought he’d found it in the Army, only to have his world shattered along with his band of brothers.
Hart settled in a small-town in Montana until the inevitable happened.
The call he dreaded the most…
His mom was dying and he needed to return to the place he grew up.
Leaving his business behind to his best friend Cub, he set out on a long road trip back to Nashville.
The endless road, his only solace as the miles ticked by.
His soul in his pocket travelled aimlessly…
Hart had no idea what was waiting for him back in Nashville. The Traveller’s adventure may turn into his reality.
Peaches slides me a whiskey neat then another. Before I know it, the tip of my black work boot is tapping to the country music blaring throughout the small, crowded bar. Being perched at the end of the bar where the waitresses put in orders has its own perks.
Hello, cowboy boots and shorty shorts while slinging drinks. My mind eases, wiping away all the worries and real life stress as each drink goes down. Peaches leans in every once in awhile letting me know my drink tab, but I just wave her on like I’m going to pay. Her pussy jokes are about to backfire and I smirk as I down the fourth drink.
“Excuse me.” A shoulder nudges mine.
When I look up to the movement, I come eye to eye with a raven-haired beauty. I’m clearly in her space, but the foggy cloud in my judgment is overpowering. She’s pretty, like a shiny nickel pretty.
I stare like a stark ass fool. Her emerald eyes hypnotize me something fierce. I should speak, but it seems all I can do is stare. I know what Tristan, the well-hung hero in the romance books, would do and I know what that badass biker, Trace, would do, yet, I just stare at her, getting drunker on her looks.
“Sit up.” She bites down on her bottom lip to stifle the rest of her message.
I guess dickhead, asshole, or fuckface would follow, but she refrains from using any of these terms all the while plastering on her poker face while trying to get more drinks from the bar.
“Help me.” I can Goddamn right sit up on my own, but her touch would be nice.
“Okay.” She shakes her head, apparently not amused by me.
That’s when I see her tits and my God are they a perfect set of tits. Motherfucking titties. I need my palms, lips, and mouth on those arts of perfection. It’s all about admiration for the perfect work of art. I’m all about being a professor of art and respecting the subject.
My clear admiration of the beauty before me is abruptly interrupted when the stool my ass is perched on is kicked out from underneath me. My ass lands hard on the wood floor. Peering back up at her I finally catch a smile gracing her lips.
“Did that help?” she asks, picking up her tray filled with drinks.
“Got the job done. I guess.” I stand slowly, cupping my nuts and hoping her next move isn’t to jab me there.
Peaches’ cackles join the conversation. “See you met Vannie, Hart.”
I narrow my eyes at the dark-haired goddess. “Vannie. Nice.”
She rolls her eyes with no desire to entertain me any longer. Her ass is entertaining enough as she sways out onto the floor. I’m a tall man, easily over six feet, and this woman in front of me is tiny in stature, but her attitude more than makes up for it.
“Leave her alone.” Peaches places another whiskey neat in front of me.
“She’s the one that knocked me on my ass.” I pound the entire drink in one long gulp since Little Miss Hot Ass killed my buzz.
“I’m serious, Hart. She’s a roamer. Don’t know her story, but if I had to guess it’s as dark as her black hair.”
“What? Did you hit on her and she turned you down?” I smirk over the glass.
Peaches shakes her head, but she has a glimpse of a smile dancing on her face. “No, too young for me. She’s my best worker so don’t scare her off, asshole.”
“Whatever, Cougar Cakes.”
The band up on the stage isn’t half bad even though country music tends to make my ears bleed. They’re upbeat with an original sound and music. I notice three or four big suits enjoying a drink and listening while tapping their fingers on the table.
I slow down on the drinks knowing my limit. Drinking was my one vice to get me through life after returning home from my deployment. Our band of brothers was hit hard. We had lost a handful before we returned. I saw shit I can never forget. Booze numbed that ache until Izzy came screaming into our world. Then it was all her and keeping up the bed and breakfast I’d bought.
It was a fixer upper at best and super cheap, but it was more therapy to restore and turned out to be a profitable business even though at one point I could only afford air to eat. It was all worth it. Cub and his family now run it for me. They own it. I left the papers behind because I knew he’d never accept.
I’m a roamer like that. My heart grows wild and the desire inside me flairs up with the need to move on. I’ve quit wondering when I’ll strike gold in life and find the one person or place that can keep me rooted. Instead, I float with the breeze and enjoy life as it comes.
“Thank you, everyone. Up next for your entertainment is the very talented Miss Savannah Ray.”
The voice booming over the microphone catches my attention. I look up to see the girl Peaches calls Vannie take the stage with a guitar strapped to her front. I have no idea how much time has floated since our first encounter. She’s changed into a white sundress with dainty straps. Her feet are covered with worn, brown cowboy boots.
She’s pulled her hair up into a ponytail. Her defensive, badass aura has disappeared leaving behind a timid woman up in the spotlight. No band members surround her. It’s just her up there.
“Watch this.” Peaches nudges me in the shoulder.
The moment Vannie opens her mouth, magic happens. Her voice is haunting, delicate, soothing, and beautiful. I’m in awe of the way she sings into the microphone, blocking out the rest of the bar. It’s by far the best voice that’s ever graced my ears.
It’s my new favorite song even though I have no idea what it is. The bar grows eerily silent with everyone hypnotized by her honey-laced voice. The blush that creeps on the apples of her cheeks is adorable. She ducks her head once the song is finished and the bar goes wild with cheers. Some even stand on their feet cheering away.
She removes her guitar for the next song. I recognize it since it’s been played on the radio several times. “Let Her Go” by Passenger has never sounded so seductive. Her voice controls the entire song with her hips swaying softly from side to side. She never makes eye contact while deep in the lyrics. It’s as if she’s pouring all of her soul into the words.
Song after song streams from her and never once does the bar go back to socializing. She keeps their attention the whole time. You could hear a pin drop between songs.
“Thank you.” She drops her head and moves off stage.
Peaches hollers out last call and then sits next to me with a drink in her hand. “So, what do you think now?”
Too stunned to talk, I remain still and quiet.
“Well, that’s a first, somebody finally shut you up.”
“She’s so different up there.” I point to the empty stage.
“Yeah.” Peaches nods sipping from her drink. “Like I said, I don’t know her story, but could guess she’s street smart, but shy when it comes to being on the stage.”
“She’s fucking talented. Why hasn’t she been scooped up yet?” I ask.
“She doesn’t want it.”
Peaches doesn’t get the chance to reply before we’re interrupted by Vannie herself.
“Hey, need help closing up?” She tucks her hands into the front of her shorts pockets.
She’s changed again. Odd.
“You can head home, Vannie, got it covered here.” Peaches hops from the stool and hugs her. “See you tomorrow night.”
I don’t miss the fact that she doesn’t make eye contact with me this time. You’d think I had on an invisibility cloak, but it doesn’t stop me from studying that sweet little ass as she waltzes off. She stops near a table, sets down her guitar, and proceeds to put a hoodie over her head. Her dark hair blends into the material of the pitch black hoodie making her allure all the more powerful.
“Vannie,” Peaches hollers out.
She pivots slowly, grabbing her guitar once again and giving Peaches her attention.
“You get your car fixed?”
Shyly she shakes her head.
“Girl, I’m going to beat your ass.”
“I’m only five blocks away.”
“It’s dark. You’re young and gorgeous. I don’t care how close you live.”
Without thinking, I hop up from the stool. “I’ll walk her home.”
“No.” Vannie’s defensive attitude flairs right back up with no hesitation.
“Hey, I’m a good guy.” I hold up both of my hands. “You can even frisk me to make sure I don’t have any weapons.”
I wink at her. I’m beginning to think she has no personality at all. But her voice just a few minutes ago convinced me otherwise.
Peaches convinces Vannie that I will be walking her home. “I’ll apologize in advance, Vannie, but Hart is a good guy. You shouldn’t be out there walking alone.”
“I’ve seen scar…”
Peaches lays her hand on Vannie’s forearm. “I’m sure you have, doll, but not a hair on your head is getting hurt on my watch. Now get going, you two.”