All A Heart NeedsBy:
She was beginning a new adventure, Jessica Schilling thought as she walked through the doors of Drake's, a nightclub in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, with her friends, Nicole and Emma. She was on the verge of something exciting; she just didn't know what that something was yet. But it had to be better than what had come before.
At twenty-seven, she'd lived through a lot in the past three years, the death of her husband, the kidnapping of her stepson, and a move to San Francisco after her son had been reunited with his twin brother, Brandon. It had been a crazy couple of months. She was definitely not living the life she'd ever imagined for herself, but she was going to try to keep rolling with the punches.
But tonight wasn't about the past; it was about fun and letting loose a little. She hadn't been to a club like this in four years, not since she'd gone from Vegas dancer to wife and stepmother. She hadn't ventured out on a Friday night to do something other than pick up pizza or take her kid to a movie in months, and she was looking forward to a night out with the girls.
She'd traded in her usual jeans and a t-shirt for a red mini-skirt, high-heeled black boots, and a lacy top under a short black jacket. She wore her long brown hair down, and it now danced around her shoulders in thick waves. She'd put on more make-up than she'd worn in years, and for the first time in a long time she felt young again, hopeful, maybe even a little reckless.
"It's packed in here," Emma Callaway shouted, as they walked through the crowded room.
Emma was a slender woman with short, silky blonde hair that angled off her face and highlighted her bright blue eyes. Emma wore skinny jeans with high heels and a silky sheer blouse over a black camisole. On the other side of Emma was Emma's older sister, Nicole, who had blond hair that was a little longer than Emma's and eyes that were a lighter shade of blue. Nicole had upped her look tonight by trading in her usual conservative mom clothes for a short, clingy dress that showed off her legs and curves.
"I told you we should have come earlier," Nicole said with a frown. "Drake's is always packed on a Friday night."
"I couldn't get off work," Emma replied.
"You always use that excuse, Em."
"Because it's always true."
Jessica let their argument go on without her. She'd gotten to know Emma and Nicole pretty well the last few months, and she was used to their friendly bickering. She'd been an only child, so she was often fascinated by their sisterly interaction and wished she had a sibling to not only spar with but also share her life with. And Emma and Nicole didn't just have each other. They were part of the big Callaway family and had six other siblings, one of whom they'd come to see perform tonight. Her heart fluttered at that thought, knowing that the invitation of a night out with the girls had become much more exciting when Emma had told her they were going to see Sean's band perform.
She'd met Emma and Nicole's brother, Sean, three months ago during the kidnapping ordeal. Nicole's son, Brandon, had also been taken, and it was then that they'd discovered the six-year-old boys were identical twins that had been separated at birth.
During that terrible time, Jessica had found an instant connection with Sean, and she'd often wondered since then if they'd met under different circumstances or at a different time, if they would have acted on the attraction between them. But on the few occasions she'd seen Sean since she'd moved to San Francisco, he'd been stand-offish, making her wonder if she'd imagined the sparks, or if they'd only been on her side.
Not that it mattered. She wasn't looking to get involved with anyone, much less a musician. She had her hands full raising her son and sharing co-parenting duties with Nicole and her husband, Ryan. Since the boys had been reunited, they'd all agreed that it was important to keep them together as much as possible.
But she wasn't going to think about all that tonight. She was excited to see Sean perform, and there was a small, slightly vain, part of herself that thought it would be nice for him to see her at her best and not at her worst. Maybe it wouldn't be so easy for him to ignore her.
She should probably be careful what she wished for, because while Sean's disinterest bothered her, she didn't know what she would do if he were interested. Love had always scared her, and having lost her husband in an accident sixteen months earlier, she was all too aware that pain was often the flip side of love.
"I'm going to get drinks," Emma announced. "Find a spot by the stage, and I'll catch up with you."
"I feel old with all these twenty-somethings," Nicole muttered as they weaved their way through the crowd. Then she added quickly, "Sorry, Jessica. I sometimes forget that you're six years younger than me. You're so mature, and I mean that in a good way."
She'd always been mature, forced to grow up early. "No worries. I actually feel kind of old, too. I don't exactly have a clubbing kind of life anymore."
"Do you miss that life?" Nicole asked, a curious gleam in her blue eyes. "I can see why you would. You're only twenty-seven. Most people your age are leading a clubbing kind of life."
"I don't really miss it. I wouldn't trade my life as Kyle's mom for anything, but lately I've been feeling a little…" She tried to come up with the right word to describe her mood. "Restless. I needed a night out."
"I know that feeling well. Let's make the most of it."
"The most of what?" Emma asked as she rejoined them.
"Our night," Nicole said.
"That's the right attitude," Emma said with an approving smile as she handed them their drinks.
"What's this?" Jessica gave the glass of amber-colored liquid a wary look.
"Fireball whiskey. It's not as dangerous as it sounds."
Jessica took a sip and immediately liked the cinnamon flavor. She had no idea how strong it was, but she didn't have to take care of anyone tonight. Kyle was spending the night at Nicole's house, under the supervision of Nicole's husband, Ryan, so she was a free woman, and she was going to enjoy herself.
"They're starting," Nicole said.
Jessica turned toward the stage as Sean and his band walked out. Sean wore faded jeans that hung low on his hips and a button-down light blue shirt that emphasized his broad shoulders. His brown hair was thick and a little on the longish side, curling around his collar. His deep blue eyes showed anticipation and excitement as he grabbed his guitar and stepped up to the microphone.
The rest of the band took their places, but Jessica didn't see any of the other guys. Her gaze was solely on Sean, her heart beating way too fast, her stomach fluttering with a desire she thought had gone dormant after the death of her husband. It was back now and in full force.
She tried to tell herself that it was the whisky sending a shiver down her spine, but when Sean looked into the crowd, directly at her, she knew her nervous tension had nothing to do with the Fireball and everything to do with him.
Sean held her gaze for a long moment and then his lips slowly curved into a smile.
She smiled back, at the same time feeling a little foolish for even considering that he was actually looking at her. There were lots of women in the crowd, and who knew what he could see beyond the bright lights?
With a one-two-three, the band began to play, a lively beat with a rock and roll edge. Sean was the lead singer, his deep baritone voice raising the hairs on the back of her neck. As he sang, he brought the crowd into the music. He made the words mean something. He was in complete and absolute control on that stage, and they were all just along for the ride.
It was an amazing thing to watch. Sean had been born to do this. He was truly living out his dream. How many people could say they were doing that? Certainly not her. She wasn't even sure what her dream was anymore.
She reminded herself that Sean's dream was a solo journey. Musicians were notorious for failed relationships, unable to commit to one person, which was completely understandable considering the love affair they could have every night on the stage surrounded by beautiful women. She'd lived through her mom's fascination with musicians, watching her date one guitar player after another. Her mom always thought she was the one being sung to, that the lyrics of love and longing had been written just for her. But that was almost never the case.
Jessica had criticized her mother for being foolish, telling her to look at reality, stop making decisions based on her heart. Now she felt guilty at how harsh she'd been, because she could feel the magic of Sean's music wrapping itself around her like a warm pair of arms, drawing her in, whispering in her ear, making her feel like she was the only woman in the room.
She blew out a breath and downed the rest of her drink in one long swallow. She wouldn't make the same mistake her mom had made so many times. But she didn't have to leave. She was just here to have fun, and that's what she intended to do.
At some point in the set, Emma handed her another drink.
"Thanks," she said, enjoying the warming slide of liquid down her throat. She began to sway with the beat, thinking how long it had been since she'd wanted to dance. She'd given up dancing when she got married, but now she was starting to miss it.
The crowd burst into applause as Sean's band finished their encore. Despite shouts for more, they finally made their way off the stage, and the lights came up.
"That was awesome," Emma said, her face lit up with excitement and pride. "I can't believe my brother is that good."