Who’s ready for Chapter Two?

Here’s chapter Two of the Summer Ultimatum:

If you missed chapter 1, you can get it here

Copyright © 2023 by Amanda Shelley

Chapter 2 – Jax

My nerves are buzzing as I walk out the door. I just performed for the first time in front of a live audience, in my hometown of all places, and I’m dying to get out of here before anyone I know can stop me. I’ve never played locally. Playing in public was something I picked up my freshman year of college. I mostly played in the dorms or in small crowds. Tonight was about my promise to Dad—and now that it’s done, I’m heading home.

I’ve just made it out the door when an unrecognizable female voice calls from behind me, “Hey, Jax, wait up.”

At first, I’m tempted to pretend I didn’t hear it and keep walking, but when she mentions, “I’m with Smashing Waves Records. Can I have a moment of your time?” it stops me in my tracks.

Why would someone from a studio want to talk with me?

When I turn around, I’m met with piercing hazel eyes. They belong to a girl about my age, with dark wavy hair and dressed far more professional than most in this coastal town. She’s wearing a black skirt, with a fuchsia-pink blouse. It fits her perfectly, but she looks like she just came from the office, rather than someone who hangs out in a club. Before I can further assess her, she quickly thrusts her hand in my direction, officially introducing herself.

“Hi, I’m Sloane Lancaster from Smashing Waves Records Studio. I know you’re busy, as you’re rushing out of here, but do you think we could set up a time to talk in the next day or so?”

So much is in that introduction, I’m not even sure where to begin. But curiosity gets the better of me, so I ask, “What exactly do you want to talk about?”

Without hesitation, she smiles and says, “Your music, of course. You played one hell of a set and if you’ve got some time, I’d love nothing more than to set up a meeting to see what else you can do.” Reaching out, she hands me a business card. “My number is on the back. I’d really like to talk with you.”

Her confidence is sexy, but I’m so caught off guard by her offer, I’m sure I come off like an ass when I ask, “Why?”

Blinking a few times as if she can’t comprehend my question, she inhales a deep breath before straightening her shoulders and repeating herself. “Like I said, I’m interested in your music. I think you’ve got an amazing voice, and your vibe on stage is just what we’re looking for.”

“I’m pretty sure you’ve got the wrong guy,” I dismissively say. “This was a one-off—not my usual thing.”

The phone in her other hand buzzes with an incoming message. She briefly glances at it but returns her attention to me. “Look, I won’t take much of your time. But can you at least let me buy you dinner so we can discuss this further?”

Again, I’m both intrigued and confused by her persistence. “Uh, I work most nights this summer.”

“How about lunch?” She must read something on my face because she quickly adds, “You gotta eat sometime. We can meet for breakfast or just coffee. Just text me when you’re available, and we can set something up.”

Sloane certainly isn’t backing down. She’s got a way about her that’s assertive, but not at all bitchy or controlling. Her tenacity sparks my interest and makes me wonder what she’s really like. I’ve never considered pursuing a career in music, but I’d certainly be interested in more time with her.

What’s the worst that could happen? I spend time with a beautiful girl, and I turn her offer down? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Not wanting to show my cards entirely, I suggest, “Meet me at Whitman’s tomorrow at eight-thirty. The local morning rush should be gone, and the tourists won’t be out of bed just yet. It should give us a chance to get a table where we can discuss things.”

Nodding once, she grins. “I’ll be there. I’d better get back in to watch the remaining sets tonight. My sister is probably wondering where I went. Thanks again for agreeing to meet with me.”

She’s here with her sister? That’s interesting. Does that mean she’s a local? Or is she only here on vacation? I think I remember seeing Smashing Waves Studio as one of the major companies sponsoring the music festival this summer, but they’re based somewhere in California or something. I’m certain I’ve never seen her before—but as I put my truck into drive and pull out of the parking lot, all thoughts swirling through my brain are on her.

* * *

Between playing on stage for the first time and my conversation with Sloane Lancaster, I was wound up most of the night. Even though I’d pulled a double, working the morning and lunch rush at the restaurant yesterday before my performance, and my body was exhausted, I couldn’t sleep for shit last night.

Wanting to guarantee a table at the café, I arrive thirty minutes early, only to find Sloane typing away at her laptop in the back corner of the restaurant. When the hostess asks if I want a table for one, I point to Sloane. “My party has already arrived.”

Sloane is so entranced in her work she doesn’t even notice my approach. Today, she’s wearing another flowy blue blouse, and her long hair is tied in a knot at the base of her neck. On her nose is a pair of dark-rimmed glasses, and serious Sloane is even sexier than last night.

When I reach her table, I stand for a few moments before clearing my throat to get her attention.

Startled, her body jerks slightly before turning her beautiful hazel eyes on mine. “Oh, I didn’t expect you to be this early.” Reaching for her coffee cup, she moves it aside and quickly puts her laptop on the seat beside her.

Sliding into the booth across from her, I ask, “Are you always this early to meetings?”

“Dad was Air Force, and I’ve been engrained since I could tell time that if you show up on time—you’re late. Besides, I was already up and didn’t want to wake my sisters.”

The waitress arrives and refills Sloane’s cup with coffee. When I push mine toward her, she fills it to the brim. With a cheery smile, she states, “I’ll give you some time to look at the menu. Be back in a few.”

As soon as she leaves, I ask, “Are you staying at a local hotel?”

“No, we’re staying at Nana’s—Uh, I guess it’s our house… now that she’s gone.”

“So…” I draw out, trying to piece the puzzle together. Before I can censor my thoughts, I blurt out, “You live around here?”

“Well, I have most summers since I was a kid. But like I said, my dad was in the Air Force, so we didn’t live near here. Seaside was Nana’s home and the one place we always return to. Even now that she’s gone, it’s still where we feel most at home.”

Before taking another sip of coffee, I ask, “Is your entire family here for the summer?”

“No, only my sisters and me. Mom’s a traveling nurse, and Dad’s stationed at Lewis-McChord. But enough about me. We’re supposed to be talking about you.”

I knew it would just be a matter of time before she turned the table, but I’d much rather talk about her. Sighing heavily, I admit, “Trust me, you’re way more interesting.”

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