Reckless In Love
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San Diego, California
Drew Morrison was a rock god.
During the hour and a half that Ashley Emmit had been standing in the middle of the very crowded concert venue in downtown San Diego, she’d heard dozens of people say those exact words. Normally, she would have chalked it up to hyperbole or to collective excitement. But in that moment, there didn’t seem to be even a hint of exaggeration in the crowd’s claims. Not only were Drew Morrison’s songs incredible, but from the moment he’d stepped out onto the stage, Ashley hadn’t been able to keep her body from moving...or her heart from racing.
She was a numbers girl. She studied facts and figures. Her teachers had always said she was the very definition of a left-brained person. Sure, she’d always been drawn to music—not playing it, but listening to it. But even when she was on the verge of being swept away by a certain song, her enjoyment had always been tempered by her practical nature. She’d analyze the song’s structure, the chord progression, the rhyming patterns. She’d read dozens of articles about how the brain was hardwired to process music, as well. She didn’t just want to enjoy something—she wanted to understand why she enjoyed it.
That was why she was at this show. She had one last chance to get into Stanford Business School—and it all rested on figuring out every last detail of the way the music business worked. The graduate program had spawned a truly stunning amount of corporate innovation and had been her dream school since she was a teenager. It still hurt to remember the rejection letter they’d sent her: Our pool of applicants was truly phenomenal this year, most with exceptional real-world experience in their field of choice. We regret to inform you that we do not have a space for you and wish you all the best in the future.
She’d known it wouldn’t be easy to get in, but where other girls had pretty smiles and knockout figures, the one thing Ashley had always been able to count on was her brain. Somehow, though, her brain had let her down. Big-time. But since it was all she had, after wallowing in a freezerful of ice cream, she’d forced herself to brush off the devastating rejection and refocus.
Ashley had read every book written about the music business. She’d listened to every talk given by the experts. She’d pored over financial spreadsheets from both major and indie labels. But she didn’t have an ounce of practical experience. How could she truly understand how to innovate in the music industry when she’d never spent any time with a musician?
Going on tour with Drew Morrison was the crucial piece to her new plan: total immersion so that she could finally understand what was happening on both the business and the artistic sides.
As luck would have it, her father had been one of Drew’s undergraduate professors at Stanford, so even though Dad would much prefer she chose a steady and safe profession that had nothing whatsoever to do with the music business, he’d been able to pull some strings to get her a spot on Drew’s tour.
Ashley was so nervous about traveling from city to city in tour buses with Drew and the group of strangers who were in his band and crew, that she’d done what she always did when she felt unsure about things—buried herself in books and research. Even though she knew it would do absolutely nothing to help her fit in with the rockers on Drew’s crew, it had made her feel a little better to fill up a couple of notebooks with notes and questions, at least.
She was a nerd in the normal world. She’d just have to accept that she’d be a nerd to the millionth degree in the rock and roll world.
Tonight, she’d come to the venue armed with her notebook and tablet, ready to take notes on any- and everything. Only, from the moment Drew strummed the first chord on his guitar and began to sing, instead of all of the mental lists she should have been making or the details she should have been noticing, everything had been lost to the music.
To Drew Morrison’s genius.
“Thanks for coming out tonight, everyone.” His speaking voice was just as sexy and mesmerizing as his singing voice. The screams from his fans nearly drowned him out as he said, “I wrote a new song a while back that I haven’t played for anyone yet.” More screams came, truly deafening ones. “But tonight...” He’d been smiling earlier, but suddenly he looked terribly serious. And so sad that Ashley wished she were close enough to wrap her arms around him. “Tonight I finally feel like I need to play it. It’s called ‘One More Time.’”
The rest of the band left the stage, leaving only Drew and his guitar in the spotlight. Watching him, she felt as if he was steeling himself before the first notes rang out from his guitar and he began to sing the most beautiful—and devastating—song Ashley had ever heard. About loss. About his heart breaking. About pain that ran so deep he wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to recover from it.
She wasn’t absolutely sure what the song was really about, but her father had told her that Drew’s mother had passed away from cancer earlier this year. She knew what it was like to lose a mother, but hers hadn’t died—her mother had simply boarded a plane to Miami seven years ago after her parents had divorced.
The rest of the songs Drew had played tonight had been fast-driving and often upbeat. But this one held hints of sixties folk music. A little Dylan. A harmony reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash. A lyric that she could easily have imagined Joni Mitchell singing. Ashley had never heard anyone combine their own new sound with the past in such an amazing way.
Drew’s song reached deep inside of her, deeper than any other had ever gone. Ashley ached for him, even as she found herself aching for her own losses. Losses she never liked to look at too closely because they hurt so bad.