In the sequel to Broken Records, Gwen Pasternak has it all: a job she loves as a celebrity stylist and a beautiful wife, Flora. But as her excitement in working with country music superstar Clementine Campbell grows, Gwen second-guesses her quiet domestic bliss. Meanwhile, her business partner, Nico Takahashi and his partner, reformed bad-boy musician Grady Dawson, face uncertainties of their own.
I’m very excited to have Gwen stop by today. She’s here to talk about what she values most in friends. I loved getting to see why she values what she does. It’s nice to have the background to go with it. Read and enjoy!
First of all, you need to understand my family. It’s relevant because otherwise I just sort of come off looking like a jerk, and I may be bad at holding my tongue when appropriate but I do try to not be a jerk.
I grew up in one of those families where everything seems perfect and like we’ve all achieved the American dream or whatever. Nice house, nice cars, nice vacations, my parents paid for my college and bought me a car and were really involved in my education and future goals. Like really involved. Like really, really, really…
And this is when I sound like the ungrateful brat my parents think I am, but the thing is that all of that came at the price of conformity. I’ve never been good at that. It was stifling and frustrating and the more they stamped down any original thought or plan I had, the more I resisted. They don’t accept me, but not even in a hateful way, no. That would make them look bad. It’s a constant, quiet disapproval that saturates our every interaction. I still have a hard time believing myself as worthy, even though I know I am. And that everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve isn’t enough because it’s not what I’m supposed to be doing. Who I’m supposed to be.
Okay Gwen, you’re probably thinking, your family kinda sucks, join the club. Get over it already! Well, A: Screw you. And B: I have, thank you. And that’s because I’ve found a group of friends who accept me as I am, because after growing up the way that I did I will not be anyone but myself. Been there done that, have the self-destructive past to prove it. So my friends acceptance is the most important thing to me. And look, I know I’m not easy to love. I’m loud and my mouth forgets to check in with my brain a lot, I’m blunt, and I have the sense of humor of a fifteen year old boy. But my friends make me feel lovable, they make feel like I’m enough just as I am, and they aren’t just putting up with me and flaws, they really do like me.
We’re more than friends, we’re family and that’s helped me to take steps towards accepting my parents for they are. With their many flaws. Their many, many, many-many-many-many— Okay, okay they aren’t that bad. I mean, they did buy me a car.
“There’s a reason you two aren’t allowed to hang out alone.” Arms crossed, one impeccable eyebrow raised, lips twisted, hair artfully tousled, and dressed to the nines: Alexander Wang black-on-black tropical-printed board shorts, a slim fit black-and-white chino and matching black lapel jacket, black boots, and a black and white scarf to tie it all together. “Nico,” Gwen says.
“Nico?” Grady is up in a flash. “You came?”
Nico’s face softens into his Grady look. “Of course I came. Did you really think you were getting rid of me that easily?” Grady comes closer, and Nico brushes a spiraled lock of hair from his face. “I’m sorry it took me so long. There were storms over Dallas, and I got stuck on the tarmac with a dead phone. I barely made my connection, and the clusterfuck of morons known as the United gate at JFK could not get its shit together, and I may be banned outright from Charlotte-Douglas International, can you believe they flag you as a security risk and hold you in a room with no phone signal or Wi-Fi just for threatening one person with shoving that goddam intercom up their—” He opens his arms for Grady; his look of annoyance slips away the moment they touch. “Anyway, I’m here.”
Grady sighs, crowds into Nico’s space, and tucks himself into Nico’s body. Much better, a perfect fit. “God, I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Nico sinks one hand into his hair, strokes the nape of his neck with other, breathes him in, and closes his eyes. “I’m so sorry. About the apartment and taking off and not being here yesterday, I tried to so hard to make it because I know how difficult it is for you. You shouldn’t have been alone.”
Grady sniffs and holds him tighter. “It’s okay. We’re okay. I’m sorry, too.”
Still ensnared in the sheets and duvet and barely awake, Gwen presses her hands to her cheeks and awws. “You guys,” she coos.
Grady lifts his head from Nico’s neck to smile at Gwen. “I wasn’t alone, though.”
“Mmm” Nico says. “And how much trouble did she get you into?”
“None,” Gwen says, defensive. Here she kept Grady safe and sound, searched all over Nashville and Las Vegas while he was off burying himself in work and what thanks does she get? None.
But then Grady smirks and says, “Kind of a lot.”
“Grady.” Gwen throws a pillow at him. “You’re such a tattletale, gosh.”
He bends to whisper something in Nico’s ear, and Gwen doesn’t miss the way his lips drag and linger on the shell of it, or the way Nico’s breath catches and his eyes roll back. When Nico lifts Grady’s shirt and traces around the tattoos with reverent fingers, Gwen takes that as her cue to extricate herself from the bed, put on some pants and a bra, and go fetch her luggage.
“‘Kay you guys have fun and make sure to change the sheets when you’re finished.”
“Wait.” Nico tugs Grady’s shirt down. Then he goes to the case he always has nearby. “You have trouble of your own, Gwen. Thought you might want to know about this.”
Gwen catches the magazine and folded-up papers he tosses her way: screen grabs from a few entertainment websites printed out in black and white.
Is This Clementine Campbell’s Girlfriend? Our source says, “It wouldn’t surprise me.”
Clementine and Gal Pal Definitely More Than Pals Sunning On Vegas Pool Deck.
Our exclusive source and close confidant of both says: Clementine’s married girlfriend “would cheat for sure. She was always touching her. There’s been an energy between them from the very beginning.”
There are pictures: her rubbing sunscreen on Clementine’s bare back, which looks far steamier in a fuzzy long-range picture than it actually was; a picture of them from the back at the store in the Venetian with their hands clasped and Clementine curled in close and her lips on Gwen’s cheek; and most damning of all, grinding together at the VIP club at the Bellagio just last night.
“I don’t—” Frantic and confused, she flaps the magazine and printouts in the air. “What is this? This isn’t— Nico, I didn’t, I swear.”
Nico holds both hands up. “Hey, I am well aware of the slander of tabloids. I get it.” He gives her a sympathetic look. “I’m just not sure Flora is going to.”
Lilah Suzanne has been writing actively since the sixth grade, when a literary magazine published her essay about an uncle who lost his life to AIDS. A freelance writer, she has also authored a children’s book and has a devoted following in the fan fiction community. She is also the author of the Interlude Press books Spice, Pivot and Slip, and Broken Records, which was named a Top Pick by RT Book Reviews Magazine.
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