(The Minstrel Series #2)
She can’t remember. He can’t forget.
Eva Baumann is invisible. Sebastian Weiss is famous. In a perfect world Eva would be fearless and Sebastian would be guiltless.
It’s not a perfect world.
Another amazing cover by the very talented Steven Novak of Steven Novak Designs!
The Minstrel Series is a collection of contemporary romance novels set in the singer/songwriter world. The books are companion novels, with shared settings and characters, but each is a complete stand-alone story with a HEA (happily ever after) and no cliffhangers!
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The Scars They SeeGabriele had dared her to do this. “Just walk in, sign your name, and play a song for heaven's sake.” It was easy for her to say. Eva Baumann's sister didn't understand what it was like to be afraid. What it was like to be invisible. Gabriele oozed confidence, tall and lithe like a runway model, lighting up every room she entered. She was pretty, talented, smart.
And not handicapped.
Eva eyed the graffiti-marred entrance of the Blue Note Pub and watched as other musicians and-patrons strolled into the darkened room. Music pumping from the sound system escaped into the narrow corridor of four-story stone buildings every time the heavy wooden door opened and closed. Eva carefully set down her guitar case and rested her hand over her chest, willing her heartbeat to slow. The muscle pulsed erratically, and her stomach wanted to dry heave.
Eva gripped her cane with white knuckles. She'd learned to master the uneven sidewalks with careful steps, but the cobblestones were still a nemesis, especially in colder months like March. The tip of her cane had to center on a stone, otherwise she could lose her balance and fall. It was necessary to wait for a break in traffic or to continue to the corner for a walk light before daring to cross the street.
She took a deep breath. She could do this. This was just an irrational fear—not real. Nothing bad would happen to her in that room. It was filled with people who loved music as much as she did. It was loud and crowded and dark, and no one would expect her to talk. When they called her name, she'd focus on the small stage, blocking out everyone in the room out until she safely stepped up. Then she'd just close her eyes and pretend she was at the street church playing to the people who came for the soup they provided.
She could do this.
A cold wind blew hair across Eva's face, and she snapped to attention just as the little green man flashed on to indicate it was safe to walk. She lumbered across with a guitar in her left hand and her cane in her right. The weight of her instrument pulled her shoulders forward, her back arching slightly under her winter jacket. She caught her reflection in a store window and frowned. She looked like a crazy, old lady, not a nineteen-year-old girl.
Eva tucked her cane under her left armpit and reached for the door. It swung open sharply, a patron had exited at the same moment, and she was shoved against the wall, nearly losing her balance.
“Excuse me,” the guy said. He held the door open, waiting for her to go in. She wanted to turn around and head straight home, but the guy's eyes stayed on her, waiting. The cold air whooshed inside.
It would be impolite not to pass through. “Thank you,” she said softly. She leaned on her cane and entered. She'd been to the Blue Note before. Gabriele and her British boyfriend Lennon Smith had dragged her out one night, so she knew what to expect. There was a bar to the right and table seating to the left. A poster on the wall read: “If you want to chat with your pals while the band is playing, take your conversation outside.” The air smelled of beer and cigarette smoke clinging to damp wool jackets. At the back of the room was a small stage lit by two lights hanging from the ceiling.
Her stomach churned, and once again she questioned herself. Why had she come? What did she have to prove? Why did she care so much what Gabriele thought? She stared back at the door.
“Hello, ma Cherie. Would you like to sign your name?”
The gruff yet friendly voice stopped Eva before she could leave. She knew the manager, Herr Maurice Leduc, by reputation, but had never spoken to him before. “I don't know,” she answered.
“Well—” His eyes darted to the guitar in her hand. “I just thought since you lugged that thing in with you.” He pushed the sign-up sheet closer.
Eva didn't have the heart to deny the man. She took the pen and scribbled her name.
“Wonderful,” Herr Leduc said with a sincere grin that filled a round face. “I look forward to hearing you play...” he glanced down at his sheet, “Eva Baumann.”
The room consisted of a lot of wood. Tables, chairs, benches and floors—all darkly stained, old wood. Even the ceiling had rough, open wood beams. Eva claimed a nearby empty chair and breathed in and out, long and slow. She was here. She'd done it. Wait until she told Gabriele. Wouldn't she be surprised?
A server arrived, and Eva ordered a cola. The other people who shared the long table gave her sideways glances at her childish drink and cheered each other as they lifted their beer glasses.
Herr Leduc walked on stage and welcomed everyone. He called the first act, a girl with long, golden hair, he introduced as Katja Stoltz.
Eva listened intently impressed with the girl's talent and the way she took over the stage like she owned it. That was what Eva needed to do. Own it.
The girl finished her song, and after much-deserved applause, she joined her friends at a table across the room. A guy in his early twenties with a peacock tattoo along one arm stood to give Katja Stoltz a hug. He had messy, dark brown hair and bristles on his face, like he hadn’t shaven in a few days. He laughed and high-fived her before sitting and draping the peacock around a thin girl with spiky hair.
A shiver ran up Eva's back. She recognized that guy. Last summer, when she was playing guitar for the homeless, many of them had raised their hands to God in praise. The outside metal blinds had been raised, they always were when the church was open, and a group of guys had stopped to watch from across the street. They began to laugh and then threw their arms in the air, mocking the people worshiping inside.
That was the first time Eva had seen that peacock tattoo, and she'd never forget the laughing face of the handsome boy who went with it.
Her short-lived confidence shriveled at the thought of being the guy's next target. Oh, why did she come? She'd leave right now if she thought she could do it without making a scene. The room had filled, and there was no way she could slip out unnoticed with her guitar and her cane.
She sipped her cola and kept her eyes focused on each act as it was called. Every time Herr Leduc stepped to the mic to call a name, Eva’s heart filled with nervous dread and emptied with a flush of relief when she didn't hear hers.
“Sebastian Weiss,” Herr Leduc said.
The guy with the peacock tattoo hooted, shifted out from behind his table and grabbed his guitar.
So that was his name.
He hopped onto the stage and strapped on a guitar with an over-confidence Eva envied. She wanted him to be terrible so that she could add self-delusion to his other obvious traits of conceit and insensitivity, but unfortunately he wasn't. His voice was smooth and strong, and he had great range.
She also happened to notice the flex in his biceps that poked out of the short sleeves of his dark T-shirt and how his jeans fit nicely on slender hips.
He finished his song and fisted the air like he just won a boxing match. The audience went crazy. Eva couldn't help but join in the applause. Something about Sebastian was electric. His aura and competence, his popularity—she couldn't peel her eyes off him. His arm returned to its position around the girl beside him who hadn't smiled once. Such a contrast to Sebastian who couldn't stop smiling. He seemed quite taken by the pixie girl and kissed her excitedly on the cheek.
What? Eva had been so busy watching the table of cool people, she hadn't been paying attention.
Herr Leduc's accented German bellowed again. “Eva Baumann.”
Eva's heart stopped. Then raced. Her hands broke out into a sweat, and she blinked back the tears welling up behind her eyes, which were opened far too wide. Her head prickled hotly, and she swallowed hard. She could sense the attention of the room, necks craning, everyone searching, waiting for the next act to stand.
Herr Leduc stared at her, and all she could do was shake her head. He gave her a gracious nod and called the next name.
A girl with short, dark hair bounced out of her seat, and within seconds Eva was forgotten. She took advantage of the swirl of commotion that occurred between acts, grabbing her guitar and cane, and limped to the entrance.
It was a terrible mistake to come, she thought as she hobbled down the crusty street. She kept her head bowed low against the cold, and gripped her guitar case and her cane. If she'd had a third hand, she'd swipe at the bitter tear that slid down her cheek.
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