Welcome back for excerpt number two from The Farther I Fall, out in three weeks! Little bit of a longer excerpt today, and we get to meet Samantha Tennison, Gwen’s sister.
The television was blaring with some afternoon talk show or another, and Gwen was curled on the sofa staring at it. The days had become a gray routine: wake up, do physical therapy exercises, shower, work on halfhearted job search, watch telly. When had she last left the flat? She’d walked to check the mailbox two days ago. There’d been a letter from Mark Turner, Janet’s husband. She hadn’t opened it yet, but left it sitting on her dresser.
The sound of Sam’s key scraping in the lock pulled her from her reverie. Sam came in with a smile on her face and a bag of Chinese takeaway. Gwen reached for the remote and snapped off the telly. “What’s happened?”
Sam set the food down on the kitchen counter and started pulling out cartons and plastic bowls. “Come lay the table,” she said. “We’ll eat first. Then we’ll talk.”
Suspicions raised, Gwen went into the kitchen to do as she was asked. She pulled down plates from the cupboard and brought them to the table. “That sounds . . . like trouble.”
“It’s not,” Sam said, taking a plate and dishing out a pile of noodles and vegetables. “It’s brilliant. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before.”
“Oh Christ.” Gwen snagged a bottle of mineral water out of the fridge—no booze in the house, not anymore. “You’re not trying to set me up again, are you?”
For some reason, Sam’s grin twitched. “No. Not like you’re thinking, anyway.” She didn’t say anything at first, paying attention to her dumplings and rice for a few minutes. Finally she took a deep breath and said, “I may have a job for you. And you’re perfect for it.”
Gwen raised her eyebrows and spoke around a mouthful of noodles. “I don’t need you to give me a job. Besides, I don’t know a damn thing about the music business. What are you going to have me do, haul boxes around? File paperwork?”
“Better. Eat first.” Sam refused to say another word until they’d finished dinner and done the washing up. She steered them back into the living room and sat them down on the couch.
Sam settled cross-legged on the couch, which did nothing to dispel the image of her as a mischievous ten-year-old. “How much do you know about Lucas Wheeler?”
Gwen frowned. The name was familiar, vaguely. “Musician, yeah? One of yours?” Sam nodded. Gwen thought again. “In trouble of some sort? That’s all I’ve got, really.”
“That’s him,” Sam said. “Rising star, could be huge if he could get his shit together. He’s about to go on an American tour and he’s missing a tour manager.”
“Missing. Did you lose them?”
“We had to let him go.”
“No,” Gwen said. “Absolutely not.”
“You’re perfect for it. All you have to do is keep things organized. Keep people on schedule and in line, make arrangements. It’s a lot of logistics, but you could do it. You used to tell me all the time about how you kept up with inventory, dealt with some transport issues . . .”
“Sam.” Gwen shook her head. “I’m not taking a job from you.”
“Then what are you going to do? Tell me that. You’ve been sitting around here for weeks now. I wanted you to have some time to recover, but now you’re not recovering, you’re getting worse.” She reached across and touched Gwen’s hand. “Look, I talked to Mum—”
“Oh, I’m sure that was enlightening. How drunk was she this time?”
“She’s doing better.” Sam’s voice was quiet and defensive. “She’s worried about you too.”
“Too late.” Gwen pulled her hand away, folded her arms, and leaned back.
Sam drew a deep breath. “Gwen. I know about the nightmares. I hear you, every night. I need you to do this for me. Not just because we need somebody we can trust—because God knows we do—but because I need you to do it.” Gwen started to protest, and Sam cut her off with a hand-wave. “You need to get back on your feet, and you’re not going to do that camped out on my sofa. I’m asking you to either take this job, or go back to England. I can’t watch you self-destruct here.”
“I can’t believe this. You’re giving me an ultimatum?” Gwen had to bite back harsher words. This wasn’t fair, and Sam was the last person she’d ever expected to do this to her.
“I love you,” Sam said. “But you’re frozen here. I know you; you’re meant to be helping people, out doing things. When you come back, you’ll have some interesting stories to tell. And then you can decide what you want to do from there.”
“Why are you doing this?”
There was a long pause before Sam answered. “Because when I was drowning, you dropped everything to come out here and throw me a line. I want to return the favor.” She smiled. “Call it step twelve, if you want.”
Gwen met her eyes, which was a mistake. Sam needed her, so how could she say no? “Fifteen years in Her Majesty’s army—I have my fill of interesting stories,” she muttered.
“Oh, but not like this.” Sam grinned. “This is rock and roll, Gwen. Come on. You know you want a chance to boss people around.”
Gwen snorted. “I’m not saying yes. But tell me about it.”
“Right.” Sam swung her legs down and leaned forward, all but rubbing her hands together. “Travel around the United States. Hang out with a group of close-knit but dysfunctional individuals and get to know them far too well. Deal with the money, keep everyone on schedule. Keep things going.”
Gwen pulled a face. “Sounds like me on our last family holiday as kids.”
“All right, what’s the catch?”
“You’re right about Lucas being in trouble. He’s just out of rehab. We—well, we hope it took this time, for lack of a better word, but we’re not sure.”
Gwen rubbed her forehead. “You want me to babysit an addict.”
“Maybe a little.”
“It’s not like you haven’t done it before.” Her voice was soft enough that Gwen looked up at her.
“That was different.”
“Yeah, I know,” Sam said with a faint grin. “That time you wasted your entire leave getting me sober. This time it’ll be your job. Gwen . . . he can be difficult. I won’t lie.” Gwen gestured for her sister to continue. “The Wheeler family, they’re pretty posh. Lucas has a brother who is both protective and well-connected. He’s spoilt.”
“This just sounds better and better.” Gwen leaned back against the couch cushions. “Anything else you need to spring on me?”
Sam found the edges of the couch cushions very interesting all of a sudden. “He likes to push buttons, especially with women. He can be a cad. We’ve lost some good people from this tour because they couldn’t cope.”
“I thought he was gay.”
Sam gave her a wry grin. “He doesn’t like to limit himself.”
“Right, so you’re saying he’ll hit on me?”
“Likely. He can be very . . . charismatic.”
“And I’m guessing petulant and arrogant and rude,” Gwen said. “Not in my top ten list of traits I look for in a shag.”
“No,” said Sam with a twist of her mouth, “but drop-dead gorgeous and needy are.”
“I’ll think about it. I mean, with a recommendation like that, how could I say no?”
“Great. Tomorrow night we’ll go out and I’ll start introducing you around.” Sam grinned, and Gwen tried not to wince. She knew that look. That was the look Sam wore when she’d just got her way.
Come back next week for part three, or sign up for my newsletter for even longer excerpts.