She loves the spotlight, he prefers backstage. Can they still play love’s duet?
Nick Carter’s career as a piano tuner and teacher keeps him off-stage and allows him plenty of time to compose music he has no intention of ever publishing. Enter Louisiana Chalfont, the new symphony pianist who embodies the word diva. She’s exactly the kind of woman Nick has vowed to avoid, but when they’re cajoled into playing a duet he finds there’s more to her than he first thought.
Louisiana settles into her temporary role with the symphony in Washington, D.C., glad for the reprieve from touring professionally. She’s astonished to discover immense talent in the handsome man who keeps her piano in tune. Practicing for a duet at church gives her the perfect opportunity to get to know the real Nick.
As they play together, Nick and Louisiana develop a friendship that begins to morph into something more, but what happens when their diverging goals threaten to upstage their love?
Nicoló Carter, Nick to his friends and, well, just about everyone else if he had anything to say about it, finished adjusting the tuning peg of the shiny, black concert grand piano. This was the third of six pianos he was tuning today at the Kennedy Center. At nearly two hours per piano, it was going to be a long day, but that’s what he got for taking vacation so he could fly to Italy for his Nonna’s birthday party.
Not like he’d much choice about that, either.
He sighed and pushed his shoulders back, working out a kink before he sat on the bench, scooted it a little farther from the keyboard, and put his fingers on the keys. After listening to the silence of the practice room for a moment, he let the music work its way out of his heart.
Tuscany had been interesting. Mom had always emphasized the importance of family. In the ten years since she’d been gone, he and his brothers had drifted some, not really keeping in touch with their cousins scattered across the world. Cousins. Rachel. That had been an interesting twist. A new cousin no one had known about.
Nick cocked his head to the side as his fingers transitioned the piece into a minor key. Hm. Not a bad idea. He’d play with it tonight. It added...something.
The door to the practice room slammed open.
“I was told this room was reserved for me as soon as the tuner was finished.”
Nick leaned away from the fire shooting out of the woman’s eyes. At least cybernetic implants weren’t a real thing. Yet. She’d for sure opt for laser beams. That would put a dent in his ability to compose in his off time. He fought a smile and brought his piece to an end. “I just finished tuning. It’s standard practice, at least as I was taught, to verify the job when complete. The best way to do that is to play.”
“Fine. Are you quite done?” If it weren’t for the attitude pulsing off her in waves, she’d be beautiful. Long, brown hair and flashing blue eyes, and a figure that not even her dressy casual khakis could disguise. Too bad she was a diva.
“Let me just collect my bag and I’ll be out of your way.” Nick stood, tossed one of his tools into his duffel, and gave her a mock bow as he passed her in the doorway. “Enjoy your practicing.”
The woman sniffed and the door slammed behind him.
Nick didn’t bother to hold back the laugh. Diva. With a capital D. Frankly, she seemed to have more attitude than was strictly warranted, because he had no idea who she was. And he knew—or at least recognized—the majority of the piano talents that came to D.C.
With a shrug, he strode down the hallway. Since his plans to use his lunch break to work on his composition were a wash, he’d take his sandwich out onto the rooftop terrace and eat instead. Washington, D.C. was in the throes of spring, and that was worth savoring before the summer heat and humidity got to be too much. Not that it held a candle to Texas, where he’d grown up, but it tried.
He sat cross-legged on one of the wide planters, his bag of tools beside him, and unwrapped the peanut butter and jelly sandwich he’d made before leaving his apartment this morning.
Nick took a bite and raised a hand in greeting as Luke, one of the other piano technicians who freelanced here, settled onto the planter next to him.
Duh? “Yep. You eat?”
Luke shook his head and shrugged. “Forgot to pack something, didn’t feel like paying tourist prices at either of the places here. I’ll grab something for dinner.”
Nick frowned and dug in his bag, extracting his second sandwich. “Here. You need to be able to hear the notes, not your growling stomach.”
“You sure?” Luke took the food and studied it. “I wasn’t asking for a handout. Just thought I’d enjoy the sunshine with you.”
“I’m sure. I never eat them both.”
“So why pack two?”
“Habit, I guess. Worked out well for you, didn’t it?” Nick grinned. “I haven’t had a full day’s tuning scheduled in a long time. Any idea what happened?”
“Nope, but I’m not looking for explanations too hard. My residential tunings dropped way off over the winter.”
Nick nodded. His had been waning for the last year, it was one reason he’d started adding piano lessons to his schedule. “Lessons aren’t an option?”
Luke wrinkled his nose. “Not really. I don’t have the patience. Don’t honestly see how you stand it.”
“I like the kids. They’re trying. And it’s still fun to them, that’s the big thing. They haven’t yet decided it’s all about the prestige and glory like the people who come here to play.”
“Run into a diva this morning?”
Nick finished his sandwich and balled up the baggie before dropping it into his kit. “Yeah. I’d planned to play instead of eat, but the practice room was reserved for her.”
“Yikes. Who was it?”
“No clue. That’s what’ll make it hilarious later.” Nick sighed. “I try hard to make sure my students know no matter how good they get that they shouldn’t let it go to their heads. But I guess that’s a choice they’ll each have to make individually.”
Luke nodded and offered his empty baggie. “Thanks for lunch. I guess I should get back at it. Got a date tonight.”
“Yeah? Anyone I know?”
Luke shook his head. “Don’t think so. One of the ushers from the symphony performance I managed to snag a ticket to last weekend. College student.”
“College? Really? She know you’re twenty-seven?”
Luke laughed. “She thinks it’s hot.”
“Be nice to her.”
“Yes, Mom.” Luke rolled his eyes. “Don’t you have a piano to tune?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Nick chuckled and hopped down from the cold stone. “Catch you later.”
1. Tell us your name and a little bit about yourself? I’m Nick Carter. Nicolo, if you want to be exact, but no one calls me that. I’m a twin. My brother, Piero, got all the looks and charm. I tune and teach piano. That’s really all there is to say.
2. Tell us about where you live and why you choose to live there? I live in the D.C. area. I was out this way for college and ended up staying.
3. What is a quirk of your personality that most people wouldn't know? If I told you that, then they’d know and it wouldn’t answer the question anymore.
4. Name two things would you hate people to know about you? Is this different from the question above? I guess since I didn’t answer that one, I have to do this one. Let’s see—I have incredible stage fright. It’s why I tune pianos instead of playing them for a living. And two? I don’t really believe I have any talent. I can’t help writing down the songs in my head, but I don’t think I’ll ever believe they’re worth anything.
5. Tell us about your special lady. What makes her special? Louisiana. Even her name is special. Seriously, she has talent. If you hear her play, you’ll want to weep it’s so beautiful. And she’s so down to earth. People say that all the time, but this is real.
6. The first time you saw her, what did you think? Did you like her immediately, or did she have to grow on you? Hahaha. No. I thought she was one of those professional musicians who believed their own press clippings. Diva with a capital D. She improved with repeated exposure.
7. What would she hate people to know about her? Honestly? Just about anything. She’s very private and dislikes even the tiny bits of personal information she has to share as part of publicity.
8. What is your favourite thing to eat and drink? Pizza. My brother Marco’s pizza if I can swing it, but there are few good local pizza joints that do justice to the pie. Drink? I’m not so picky, but I like bubbly mineral water if it’s available.
9. If you had to fight, what would be your weapon of choice and why? Some of my tuning hammers could be pretty wicked in a fight if I could hit a person right. And they’re always close by. Seems like a weapon that’s handy is always better than one that’s hard to find.
10. Pepsi or coke. Dr. Pepper.
11. Tea or coffee. Coffee.
12. Elephant or tiger. Elephant.
13. Roast dinner / burger and chips (fries for our US readers) or pizza. Pizza.
14. Classical music or pop. Classical.
15. Sunrise or sunset. Sunrise.
16. Walk or run. Walk.
17. Chocolate or crisps (chips for our US readers). Chips.
18. What would you like on your epitaph? Something nice written by someone who loved me.
Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity. She loves to write about Christians who struggle through their lives, dealing with sin and receiving God’s grace.
Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website www.ElizabethMaddrey.com or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethMaddrey