A symphony of passion and desire…
Aubrey Irving has music in her heart. Once a violin prodigy at the prestigious Juilliard, family issues and money problems forced her to give up her dreams. Now she struggles as an audio engineer for a hot new video game developer. Then she met Paul…
Handsome, gifted, wealthy…At twenty-eight years old, Paul Crane seems to have it all. He’s made a fortune as a modern commercial composer. But he longs to show the world that there’s more to his music than trendy, disposable tunes.
An impromptu audition awakens a yearning deep inside their hearts. But just as the sparks begin to fly, they both find themselves pulling away… Aubrey has a dark and troubled past. Paul has a history of crossing the line with his clients. The last thing either of them wants is another temptation. Can these two artists unlock their hearts, and compose a symphony of passion? Or will their love song fade out before it even begins?
“If I could give Unfinished Sympathy more than 5 stars I would!” –
“Kept me on the edge from the very moment I started reading. I absolutely LOVED
everything about this book.” – Sassy Southern Book Blog
“I felt completely wrung out but in the best way! What this book has that is unique is that both lead characters really do have big issues that make a difference in their actually being able to be together. This story will make you smile, laugh, cry, and cheer. You will not regret giving it a try!” Amazon Review
Excerpt from UNFINISHED SYMPATHY
“I’m well out of practice,” I reminded him as I opened the case. My mouth dropped open for a second time in a row. “Am I to believe that people donate Testore eighteenth-century violins?”
He gave me an impish grin. “If I’m having the pleasure of listening to you again, I want to hear you on one of the best there is.”
Paul sat on the couch with his head tilted back. His sexiness was unnerving. I had to tear my gaze away from him.
“You’re building me up too high. I hope I don’t disappoint,” I said over the distance between us. I wasn’t nervous now, but more eager to hear the remarkable instrument.
I didn’t overthink it, instead I went on autopilot, taking the bow from the case to rosin it. Then I lifted the violin. My chin found the rest as I adjusted and warmed the strings. After a quick glance at Paul, I turned away at the start for a private moment of playing, then turned back towards him to bring him in. Unfortunately, what I heard in my performance was uncertainty, intertwined with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.
I paused and put down the instrument. “I don’t know. It doesn’t sound right.”
Paul came over and stood in front of me, pressing his palm low on my stomach, heating my skin beneath the fabric of the T-shirt. I gasped. My eyes widened as I met his intense stare.
“Inside of you is a hunger, a passion. That’s what I hear. I can only imagine where more work at Juilliard would have taken you, but I know you have a gift. Keep going,” he instructed. “Just play, not for anyone. Just do it.”
I took a deep breath as he returned to his place on the couch and waited. I could do this.
Picking up the violin again, I started over, choosing Tchaikovsky’s A Song Without Words this time. That was me. My feelings about the violin and music were like love, beyond description. Playing the violin again was like returning to a lost love. It was just as consuming.
I moved as I played. My heart swelled as music and I got reacquainted with each other through a Testore. It was utter perfection, the sound following touch as smoothly as velvet. The flow like silk across skin. I was in absolute heaven.
When I reached the end of the piece, I stopped and put the violin down. A hot ache grew in my throat. I could only stand there, shaking.
Paul came over, took my trembling hands and said, “There’s your sound, just as I remembered. You’re a haunting fire. Remarkable. You’re unforgettable.”
I didn’t speak. His validation of my music brought all my emotions to the surface.
“I need more of your music, Aubrey. Play for me. Fill me up. Are you ready?”
My heart skipped a beat. I smiled and nodded. “Yes.” And, I was.
This time he sat at his piano bench to watch me.
Enlivened by his virility and drive, I lifted the violin again. His encouragement emboldened me as I moved through the first uneven chords of Bach’s Chaconne. The piece was extraordinarily complex, requiring courage to perform it before a trained ear such as Paul’s. I had no place to hide should I fail in coordination, time, and tempo. But how could I not try? His strong will and confidence made the piece the right choice. His enthusiasm and support elevated me. I dared.
The muscles in my arms and fingers pained me as I stretched to reach the intricacies of the piece. I played recklessly. Defiantly. Fearlessly. I didn’t have to look at Paul to know I pleased him.
When I finished, he got to his feet and began pacing. “You’ve made me selfish now. I need more.” He stopped and demanded, “Give it to me.”
I wiped the sweat from my brow with my sleeve. As I thought on for the next piece I would perform that I hoped to impress Paul with and chose Ysaÿe’s Violin Sonata No. 3 Ballade. I’d practiced it almost every day at Juilliard. When I started playing, however, I quickly realized it was the wrong choice. Although I tried to hide my grief and despair, they rose from the instrument. I wanted to stop playing. I looked at Paul and he shook his head.
“Keep going. You need this,” he said, his face softening. “I’m right here with you.”
His support was kind, and I played on—but I was as conscious of my sorrow as incapable of disconnecting from it. And it became the voice of the song, along with the ache in my heart. The end finally came. I was physically and emotionally spent.
Paul took the instrument from me. Without a word, he opened his arms, and I went into them. My spine tingled as one of his hands slid up and down my back. This was well beyond our boundaries, but I couldn’t bring myself to let go.
His warmth was so male, so bracing, and his scent so delicious that a need arose in me. It had been too long since someone had touched me. His touch went from being comforting to more heated the longer we held each other.
Paul seemed to understand, and just stood there holding me for a while until I calmed down. He then gently let me go, took my hands, and led me over to the couch to sit close to him. He didn’t press me for an explanation. Instead, he offered me a box of chocolates from the table, and I took one.
“Chocolate always makes me feel better,” he said.
The taste was unfamiliar but divine. I let out a moan and covered my mouth.
His eyes flicked to my lips. “I’m glad you like it.”
He picked up a bottle of water as I ate another piece of candy. Just like Paul said, it made me feel a little better. I relaxed, though I was now embarrassed too.
Pulling my hair over my shoulder, I ran a hand along the ridges of my braid. “Thank you for inviting me here. I’m sorry about—” I couldn’t finish. There wasn’t anything I wanted to share. Equally, I didn’t want him to think badly of me.
He picked up my braid from my trembling hands and placed it on my back in one fluid motion. “You don’t have to tell me anything, but I hope you do in time. You’re gifted. I don’t tell artists that often.”
My heart vibrated at his praise. “Thank you.”
“I don’t want you to leave feeling sad, but I don’t want to push you anymore today. Would you play with me?” he asked.
My eyes widened. Paul Crane wanted to play with me? There was only one answer: “Yes. I’d love to play with you.”
I ate another chocolate first, and Paul took his place on the bench. I rose and stretched, then returned to the violin.
He played Beethoven’s Spring Sonata. I wanted to sit and listen, but I wanted to please him more. My desire for him and the music moved me as I went where he took us, pausing only once to pull up the stand and spread the sheet music for Dvořák’s Romance in F Minor. Once again, I was swept by my love for the violin. Playing was thrilling, and so was Paul. He displayed an exquisite mastery in his performance. We played the music together as if we had been doing it for longer than a day, as if there were a timeless bond between us. And when our eyes met, the link intensified. We were in sync. I was in awe. It was extraordinary.
Without saying a word, he veered off to add his own embellishments. I followed him as far as I could, and we went somewhere I’d never reached in music. After a while, I stopped to listen to his magic as he formed a new sound, one of his own. With tension and control, he commanded the piano keys. I flushed at the beauty he evoked, completely seduced by his virtuosity and ingenuity. His sound was hypnotic and sensual, matching him in every way. He had a powerful pull, and I could not look or move away. I was transfixed.
I was also turned on. I tried to fight the pull, closing my eyes to block out how powerful he looked at the piano, and how voluptuously his hands moved over the keys, but my mind wouldn’t let go. A fantasy of how his hands would command my body began to overwhelm me.
I squeezed my eyes shut. What was I doing?
I was obsessing over this man. It was wrong, but I couldn’t turn off the desire I had for him. I was slick between my thighs. My clit throbbed. I needed to relieve the ache. I squeezed my thighs together to create pressure, but it wasn’t enough.
Paul’s deep baritone cut through my haze. “Just because I’m playing doesn’t mean I’m not aware of what’s going on.” His voice had a slight edge to it. “Did you forget our agreement?”
He stopped playing and turned around to face me. The full impact of his gaze was dark and penetrating. I’d known I wasn’t clever at hiding or lying. He was already aware of that too.
“I was responding to your music,” I rasped.
“I can see that.” He pushed his hair back from his forehead once more, and a hint of a smile crossed his lips. “We were feeding off each other. You also agreed to show me mercy because we might work together.”
I chewed on my bottom lip. “I did.”
“Since you won’t follow our agreement, then neither will I.”
My eyebrows rose. I didn’t know what he meant, but I didn’t have to wait to find out.
He parted his legs and placed his hands on his thighs. “Come over here.”
Was he mad? There was tension in his square jaw, but no frown on his face. I couldn’t read him.
In nervous anticipation, I took a step towards him. “What’s going on?”
“All the way,” he purred. “Don’t stop now.”
I took a breath and closed the small distance between us, stopping just outside the space between his thighs. My heart pounded so hard I was sure he could hear it. “What’s going on? I don’t understand.”
But I did understand and as I stood between his legs, I felt a silent communication between us and an unrehearsed understanding that every fantasy I had or was yet to have could be fulfilled by this gorgeous man’s lips and hands, and his sex buried deep in mine.
The allure in his eyes and voice entranced me. “I believe you do. Tell me what you want from me, Aubrey.” His hands ran down the length of my arms, creating goosebumps in their wake.
In books I’ve read, women behaved sexily after being asked such a question, whereas I adjusted my glasses—and not sexily either. But at least I made up for it in my reply, my voice steady though my confidence had slightly ebbed, “I want to get to know you. I enjoy playing music and talking to you. Maybe for us to spend time together.”
“You only want to get to know me?” he repeated with a hint of a smile.
“I’m telling the truth. … Y-you make me nervous,” I stuttered and took in a short breath while trying to summon some kind of sexual goddess who might have been hiding inside me, and who would climb on top of him now.
“It’s more than nerves… it’s fear,” he said, breaking through my thoughts with his own analysis. “I believe you want more than just to talk and play music, but you can’t bring yourself to tell me. If you can’t say what you want, you shouldn’t do it. If you did, and it’s against who you know yourself to be, you’ll regret it. Trust me on that.” He ran his hand over his face and stared away.
I wanted to argue with him and tell him he was wrong, but he was right. I feared the sexual experience might mean more to me than it meant to him. I’d regret doing it. Besides, the real me didn’t want to pretend with Paul, I had really enjoyed how easy things had gone with him so far today.
My mouth was dry. “I don’t know what to say.”
He sighed. “You don’t have to explain yourself. You’ve reminded me of what I’m still slow to learn, though I no longer make a habit of having casual sex. You see, my greatest weakness comes when I’m moved, and you truly moved me, Aubrey. And that’s why you need to leave now.”
Paul’s eyes found me then, and I could see he wasn’t being impolite. He was battling something inside him, the same way I was. Still, he led me to the door next to the elevator and took out his phone, his eyes narrowing as he stared at the screen.
I spotted a bag with my clothing draped across the table and moved to get it.
“James must have come upstairs and left it when we were playing,” Paul said, acknowledging the return of my clothes. “I’ll have my driver, Regan, take you home—”
“No need,” I said and shook my head for emphasis. “I need to pick up something for the party tonight.” Not just any party—a work party with him, my company’s potential subcontractor.
“Then Regan drop you off where you want to go,” he said, putting away his phone.
“I don’t know where I want to start,” I said. “It’ll be easier if I go on my own.”
“He’ll take you wherever you need to go,” he insisted. “Just take the ride, please.”
To end our ride-offer loop, I announced, “I’ll just go change in the bathroom,” I said and went inside.
As I put on my clothes, I tried to understand what had just happened with Paul. Hell, he made me wet just by looking at me. And, he seemed interested in me. Was he seeing me as a new friend, or something even less now?
Maybe it was for the best. I might have to work with him. He was doing the right thing. Still, I couldn’t understand why I felt so mournful.
I stepped out of the bathroom and he stood over by the elevator door and pressed the button and cursed. I saw now he wasn’t conflicted, he just wanted me out of there. The elevator doors chimed and opened to a tall man in a suit holding a briefcase.
“What’s going on with you? You’re a no-show with me and you know as much as I do those warnings like the one you received can’t wait,” he said to Paul, then stopped in mid-sentence. When he turned towards us, I thought he looked similar to Paul, although with pale blond hair. He scrutinized me then smirked at Paul. “Please introduce us.”
“Gunnar, this is Aubrey. Our meeting went longer than I thought. She’s just leaving,” Paul told him, and pressed the elevator door.
Gunnar balked and held out his hand for me to shake. “You can do better than that. I’m Paul’s cousin, friend, and lawyer. How do you know Paul?”
“I’m from Emono Games. We were playing music,” I replied, and flicked my gaze over to Paul. His expression told me I’d said the wrong thing and my stomach muscles twisted.
“Emono Games,” Gunnar repeated enthusiastically. “You met at his client meeting yesterday, I presume. Sorry, I couldn’t make it, but I’m looking forward to Paul filling me in on all the details. Or would you like to do it?”
“You’ve had your fun,” Paul groaned at him. “I’ll see you in a minute.”
“Nice to meet you, Aubrey from Emono,” Gunnar said. He strolled over to the couch and plopped down.
Paul smirked at him then turned. “Regan is downstairs. Please, let him drop you off.” The elevator door opened.
“Okay,” I reluctantly agreed. “Is everything going to be okay?” I glanced over at Gunnar, who was watching us.
“Yes,” he said. “He thinks he needs to be my conscience.”
We rode downstairs in silence, only inches apart but worlds away from the easiness we had together when we’d been upstairs. I couldn’t stop thinking what would have happened if I had kissed him when he asked me to come to him.
The elevator opened to a garage with a handful of cars. A Mercedes pulled up. Paul opened the back door and gestured for me to climb in.
I paused and turned to thank him for the invite, because playing music with him had been an eye-opener, and something I had needed.
“Thanks for today, even if things turned weird,” I said.
“Weird,” he repeated, his lips spreading into a soft smile. “I suppose that’s a way of looking at it. Thank you for coming over.”
“You’re welcome,” I murmured.
Paul helped me into the car and bent down as I buckled the seatbelt. “You’re talented and inspiring. I’m blown away by your violin.” He tucked a loose strand of my hair behind my ear and I shivered. “You intrigue me. I’ve enjoyed having you with me today.”
I licked my lips. “Thank you. Playing with you was amazing.”
“Do you have to send me away?” I held his gaze, my heartbeat pounding. I might have been nervous at the start, but I was brave enough to admit how much he affected me. I doubted I’d ever feel so thoroughly captivated and tempted again.
“We both know that I do,” he whispered. He brushed his fingers against my cheek. “Keep that haunting fire burning. See you tonight.”