EXCERPT: Rifts and Refrains - Author Devney Perry


EXCERPT: Rifts and Refrains



“The funeral is Saturday.”

I nodded.

“I know you’re busy, but if you could come, your father would . . . I know he’d appreciate the support.”

Beyond my dressing room door, a dull roar bloomed. Hands clapped. Voices screamed. The beat of stomping feet vibrated the floors. The opening act must be on their last set because the crowd was pumped. The stadium would be primed when Hush Note took the stage.

“Quinn, are you there?”

I cleared my throat, blinking away the sheen of tears. “I’m here. Sorry.”

“Will you come?”

In nine years, my mother had never asked me to return to Montana. Not for Christmases. Not for birthdays. Not for weddings. Was it as hard for her to ask as it was for me to answer?

“Yeah,” I choked out. “I’ll be there. Tomorrow.”

Her relief cascaded through the phone. “Thank you.”

“Sure. I need to go.” I hung up without waiting for her goodbye, then stood from the couch and crossed the room to the mirror, making sure my tears hadn’t disturbed my eyeliner and mascara.

A fist pounded on the door. “Quinn, five minutes.”

Thank God. I needed to get the hell out of this room and forget that phone call.

I chugged the last of my vodka tonic and reapplied a coat of red lipstick, then scanned the room for my drumsticks. They went with me nearly everywhere—Jonas teased they were my security blanket—and I’d had them earlier, on the table. Except now it was bare, save for my plate of uneaten food. The sticks weren’t on the couch either. The only time I’d left the dressing room was when I’d gone to get a cocktail and a sandwich.

Who the fuck came into my dressing room and took them? I marched to the door and flung it open, letting a rage brew to chase away some of the pain in my heart.

“Where are my sticks?” I shouted down the hallway. “Whoever took them is fired.”

A short, balding man emerged from behind the door where he’d been hovering. He was new to the crew, having been hired only two weeks ago. His cheeks flushed as he held out his hand, my sticks in his sweaty grip. “Oh, uh . . . here.”

I ripped them from his hand. “Why were you in my dressing room?”

His face blanched.

Yep. Fired.

I didn’t allow men in my dressing room. It was a widely known fact among the crew that, unless you were on a very short list of exceptions, my dressing room was off-limits to anyone with a penis.

The rule hadn’t always existed, but after a string of bad experiences it had become mandatory.

There’d been the time I’d returned to my dressing room to find a man in the middle of the space, his jeans and whitey-tighties bunched at his ankles as he’d presented me his tiny glory. Then there’d been the show when I’d come in to find two women making out on my couch—they’d mistaken my dressing room for Nixon’s.

The final straw had been three years ago. I’d been drenched from a show and desperate to get out of my sweaty clothes. Pounding on the drums for an hour under hot lights usually left me dripping. I’d stripped off my jeans and tank top, standing there wearing only a bra and panties, and reached for the duffel I brought with me to every show. When I opened my bag to take out spare clothes, I’d found them coated in jizz.

So no more men—short, tall, bald or hairy.

“S-sorry,” Shorty stammered. “I thought I’d hold them for you.”

Beyond him, my tour manager, Ethan, came rushing down the hall, mouthing sorry with wide eyes. Ethan was the peacemaker, but he’d be too late to save Shorty.

In a way, I was glad this guy had snuck into my dressing room and taken my sticks. I needed a target, somewhere to aim this raging grief before it brought me to my knees, and this asshole had a bull’s-eye on his forehead.

I almost felt bad for him.

“You wanted to hold them for me?” I waved my hand, Zildjian sticks included. The crew bustled around us, keeping a wide berth as they prepped to switch out the stage configuration. “Were you also going to hold Jonas’s Warwick? Or Nixon’s Fender? Is that what your job is today? Holding stuff for the band?”

“I, uh—”

“Fuck you, creep.” I pointed my sticks at his nose. “Get the fuck out of my sight before I use your head as a snare.”

“Quinn.” Ethan collided with my side, putting his arm around my shoulders. He gave me a brief squeeze, then spun me around and nudged me into the dressing room. “Why don’t you finish getting ready?”

Behind my back, I heard Shorty mutter, “Bitch.”

Why was a woman a bitch when she didn’t let a man off the hook for this kind of shit behavior? If a guy were standing in my shoes, Shorty wouldn’t have dared enter the dressing room in the first place.

“He’s fired, Ethan,” I shot over my shoulder.

“I’ll take care of it.”

I kicked the door closed and took a deep breath.

Damn it, why was our tour over already? Why was tonight the last night? What I really needed was a packed schedule of travel and shows so that going to Montana for a funeral was impossible.

Except there were no excuses to make this time. There was no avoiding this goodbye, and deep down, I knew I’d hate myself if I tried.

Somehow, I’d find the courage.

Tears threatened again, and I squeezed my eyes shut. Why hadn’t I grabbed more vodka?

After this show in Boston, I’d planned to return home to Seattle and write music. The summer tour was over, and we had nothing scheduled for a month. Except now, instead of Washington, I’d fly to Montana.

For Nan.

My beloved grandmother, who I’d spoken to on Monday, had died in her sleep last night.

“Knock. Knock.” The door inched open and Ethan poked his head inside. “Ready?”

“Ready.” I clutched my sticks in my hand, drawing strength from the smooth wood. Then I followed him outside and through the crush of people.

The crowd’s cheers grew louder with every step toward the stage. Nixon and Jonas were already waiting to go on. Nix was bouncing on his feet and cracking his neck. Jonas was whispering something in his fiancée Kira’s ear, making her laugh.

“Are you okay?” Ethan asked as he escorted me toward them.

“Change of plans for tomorrow. I’m not going to Seattle. Can you make arrangements for me to go to Bozeman, Montana, instead?”

“Um . . . sure.” He nodded as confusion clouded his expression.

In all the years Ethan had been our tour manager, he’d never had to arrange for me to take a break from the show lineup for a trip to my childhood home. Because since I’d walked away at eighteen, I hadn’t been back.

“I want to leave first thing in the morning.”

“Quinn, are you—”

I held up a hand. “Not now.”

“There she is.” Nixon grinned as I approached, his excitement palpable. Like me, he lived for these shows. He lived for the rush and the adrenaline. He lived to leave it all on stage and let the audience sweep us away for the next hour.

Jonas smiled too, but it faltered as he took in my face. “Are you okay?”

Where Ethan was the peacemaker and Nixon the entertainer, Jonas was the caretaker. The designated leader by default. When Nixon and I didn’t want to deal with something, like a Grammy acceptance speech or hiring a new keyboardist, Jonas was there, always willing to step up.

Maybe we relied on him too much. Maybe the reason it had been so hard to write new music lately was because I wasn’t sure of my own role anymore.

Drummer? Writer? Token female?


Shorty’s damn voice was stuck in my head. “Some guy from the stage crew came into my dressing room and took my sticks. He was ‘holding them’ for me.”

It was better they think that was the reason I was upset. Ethan wouldn’t ask questions about my trip tomorrow, but Jonas and Nixon would.

“He’s fired.” Jonas looked to Ethan, who held up a hand.

“It’s already done.”

“Good luck, you guys.” Kira gave Jonas another kiss and waved at Nixon. She was a little less friendly toward me—my fault, not hers—but she smiled.

I hadn’t exactly been welcoming when she’d gotten together with Jonas. I’d been wary, rightfully so. His taste in women before Kira was abhorrent.

“Thanks, Kira.” I offered her the warmest smile I could muster before she and Ethan slipped away to where they’d watch the show.

Jonas held out one hand for mine and his other for Nixon’s. As we linked together, we shuffled into a shoulder-to-shoulder circle.

This was a ritual we’d started years ago. I couldn’t remember exactly when or how it had begun, but now it was something we didn’t miss. It was as critical to a performance as my drum kit and their guitars. We stood together, eyes closed and without words, connecting for a quiet moment before we went on stage.

Then Jonas squeezed my hand, signaling it was time.

Here we go.

I dropped their hands and, with my shoulders pinned back and my sticks gripped tight, walked past them to the dark stage. The cheers washed over me. The chanting of Hush Note, Hush Note seeped into my bones. I moved right for my kit, sat on my stool, and put my foot on the bass drum.


The crowd went wild.

Nixon walked on stage and lights from thousands of cameras flashed.


Jonas strode toward a microphone. “Hello, Boston!”

The screams were deafening.


Then we unleashed.

The rhythm of my drums swallowed me up. I escaped into the music and let it numb the pain. I played like my heart wasn’t broken and pretended that the woman who’d supported me from afar these past nine years was clapping in the front row.

Tonight, I’d be the award-winning drummer. The Golden Sticks.

Tomorrow, I’d be Quinn Montgomery.

And tomorrow, I’d have no choice but to go home.


“What are you doing here?”

Nixon shrugged from his seat on our jet. His eyes were shaded with sunglasses, and he was wearing the same clothes he’d changed into after last night’s show. “Heard you were taking a trip. Thought I’d tag along.”

“Have you even been to sleep yet?” I walked to his seat and plucked the glasses off his face, and the sight of his glassy eyes made me cringe. “Nix—”

“Shush.” He took the sunglasses from my hand and returned them to his face. “After nap time.”

I frowned and plopped into the seat across the aisle. His partying was getting out of hand.

The attendant emerged from the galley with a Bloody Mary. “Here you go, Nix.”

First-name basis already? This one wasn’t wasting any time.

“I want an orange juice,” I ordered, drawing her attention. “And a glass of water, no ice. And a cup of coffee.”

“Anything else I can get you?” she asked, her question aimed at Nixon, not me.

He waved her off with a grin.

“Do not get any ideas of taking her to the bedroom,” I said after she was out of earshot. “She’s probably already poked holes in a condom.”

Nixon chuckled. “So cynical this morning.”

“Helpful, not cynical. Think of how many skanks I’ve chased off with my prickly attitude. Think of how many ‘accidental’ pregnancies I’ve help you avoid. You could say you’re welcome.”

He laughed, sipping his drink. “So where are we going?”

“I assumed Ethan told you since you’re sitting here.”

“Okay, let me rephrase. Why are we going to Montana? You never go home.”

I stared out the window, watching the ground crew motioning to our pilots. “Nan died.”

Voicing the words was like a hammer to my chest, and every ounce of my strength went to keeping the tears at bay.

“Fuck.” Nixon’s hand stretched across the aisle, and his fingers closed over my forearm. “I’m sorry, Quinn. I’m so, so sorry. Why didn’t you say anything? We could have canceled last night’s show.”

“I needed it.” Of all people, Nix would understand the need to disappear into something for an hour to avoid reality.

“What can I do?”

“Don’t fuck the attendant until after you drop me off.”

He chuckled. “Done. Anything else?”

“Help me write a song for her. For Nan,” I whispered.

“You got it.” His hand tightened on my arm, then fell away as the attendant returned with my drinks. She set them on a table, leaving us to relax in the plush leather seats as the pilot came back to greet us and confirm our flight schedule.

When he disappeared into the cockpit, I put on my headphones and closed my eyes, listening to nothing as we prepared to depart. Nixon saw it as my signal that I didn’t want to talk and settled deeper into his chair. He was snoring before we were wheels up, soaring above the clouds.

And I was flying home, dreading the return I’d put off for nearly a decade.

The last time I’d seen Nan, or any of my family members, had been nine years ago. I’d left home at eighteen, ready to break free and chase my dreams. The first year had been the hardest, but then I’d found Jonas and Nixon and our band had become my makeshift family. With every passing year, it had been easier and easier to stay away from Montana. It had been easier to avoid the past.

Except the easy way out had also been the coward’s path. I’d missed the chance to tell Nan goodbye.

She wouldn’t call me on Mondays anymore. There would be no more cards in the mail on my birthday, stuffed with a twenty-dollar bill. Nan wouldn’t boast to her water aerobics class that her famous granddaughter had won a People’s Choice Award, then call to tell me exactly what she’d bragged.

Tears welled as the sunlight streamed through my window. I blinked them away, refusing to cry with the flight attendant checking on us constantly, waiting for Nixon to wake up. I turned on my music and cranked the volume so loud the sound was nearly painful. Then I tapped my foot, matching the tempo. My fingers drummed on the armrests of my chair.

I lost myself in the rhythm, like I had last night, only this was someone else’s beat.

My own seemed fragile at the moment, like a pane of glass that would shatter if I hit it too hard. I was tiptoeing around my own talent, avoiding it, because lately I’d been questioning my ability to craft something new.

This creative block was crushing me.

Nixon’s deepening love affair with cocaine, alcohol and whatever other substances he was putting into his body had hindered his creative prowess as of late too.

Our record label had been hounding us for months to get going on the next album. Jonas was flying home to Maine to write new lyrics. Since he’d found Kira this past year—his muse—most of his recent songs were fluffier than we’d recorded on previous albums. Nixon and I had both vetoed a couple of his drafts, but some of it had great potential.

If we could match them to a tune.

That’s where Nixon and I came in. Jonas had a gift with words. Nixon and I wielded the notes.

Jonas’s recent lyrics needed the right amount of love in the melody. They needed a hint of angst to keep them interesting and an edge to be rock and roll. Explaining what I wanted in each song was simple. Stringing together something tangible was proving to be a challenge.

Things had been so much simpler when he’d only written about sex.

Now that we had a break in our schedule, I was anxious to get home to Seattle, where I could hole up in my apartment and sit behind my piano until it clicked.

But first I’d spend a week in Montana saying goodbye.

I loathed goodbyes, so I avoided them.

Not this time.

The knot in my stomach tightened with every passing hour. When the pilot announced we were beginning our descent, I shot out of my seat, raced to the bathroom and puked.

“You okay?” Nixon asked, handing me a piece of gum as I emerged and took my seat.

“Yeah, thanks.”


“Just nerves.”

Hell, I hadn’t been this nervous since Hush Note’s early days. I didn’t get keyed up before shows anymore, not after years and years of practice. Besides, the moments on stage were the best part of this life. Playing for thousands of people live or playing for millions of people on television, my hands never shook. My stomach was rock solid.

But this? Returning home to my family. Returning home for a funeral. Returning home to him.

I was terrified.

Nixon’s hand closed over my forearm once more, and he didn’t let go until the plane touched down.

“I don’t want to be here,” I confessed as we taxied across the runway.

“Want me to stay?” His eyes, clearer after his nap, were full of tenderness.

He’d stay if I said yes. He’d be miserable and bored, but he’d stay. A part of me wanted to use him as a buffer between me and my family, but his presence and fame would only make things harder.

My face wasn’t as recognizable on the street as his, and I didn’t get half of his attention because I wasn’t one of the guys. I wasn’t the lead on stage, singing into a microphone as I played a guitar. Nixon had been People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive three years ago. This year’s reigning man was Jonas.

The last thing we needed this week were swooning fans wanting autographs.

I wanted to get in and out of Montana without much fuss. I was here to pay my respects to Nan and then I was going home.


“No, but thanks.” The plane stopped and the pilot came out to open the door as I collected my things. “Where will you go? Home to Seattle?”

“Nah. I’m feeling somewhere tropical. Hawaii’s close.”

“Please don’t drink so many dirty bananas that you forget to pick me up. Next Monday. Should I write it down?”

“No, but you’d better make sure Ethan has that in his calendar.”

“I will.” I laughed, bending to kiss his stubbled cheek. “Thanks for flying with me.”


“You’re a good guy, Nix.”

He put a finger to his lips. “Don’t tell. It’s easier to get women into bed when they think you’re the bad boy.”

“Annnd you’re also a pig.” I frowned as the attendant came over, batting her eyelashes as she handed Nixon a cocktail. When had he even ordered that drink? Maybe I should make him stay with me and force him to be sober for a week. “Don’t go crazy. Are you going to be okay?”

“I’m a rock star, baby.” He flashed me a smile, the devilish one he saved for his fans and women. It was the stage smile that masked his demons. “I’m fucking awesome.”

Lies. He was far from awesome, but I wasn’t sure how to help him. Not when he was on a mission to lose himself in sex and booze and drugs like he did every summer.

“Thanks again.” I waved. “Enjoy your flight attendant.”

“Enjoy your time home.”

My stomach pitched at his parting words. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and headed toward the door. At the base of the jet’s stairs, my suitcase was waiting with the pilot.

I nodded a farewell and fished a pair of sunglasses from my bag, sliding them on before crossing the tarmac. The path from the private runway to the terminal was marked by yellow arrows on the charcoal asphalt.

The sunshine blazed hot on my shoulders as I pulled the hood on my black jacket over my blond hair. It was the best way to keep from being recognized, and with the mood I was in, it would do no good to be spotted by a fan today.

The summer breeze blew across my face, bringing that clean mountain air to my nose. We’d spent too many days breathing recycled air in buses and planes and hotels. I might have traded my country upbringing for a life in the city and preferred it as such, but this fresh, pure air was unbeatable.

Montana had a wholly unique smell of mountains and majesty.

I reached the terminal door too soon and stepped into the air conditioning. Ethan had reserved a rental car and a hotel suite for me, and as soon as I was checked into my room, I was planning on a long, hot shower. Then I’d unpack and go through the hotel move-in routine I’d perfected over the years.

My toiletries would be lined up beside the bathroom sink. I’d put my clothes in drawers and stow my suitcase in the closet. Then I’d search for a TV channel in a foreign language. I didn’t speak a foreign language, but I liked the background noise to drown out any sounds from the hallway.

It was a trick I’d learned in Berlin on our first European tour. These days, I couldn’t sleep in a hotel room without the TV blaring some drama in Spanish, French or German.

If it was loud enough, I’d be able to cry without fear someone would overhear.

I spotted the rental car desk, but before I could aim my feet in that direction, a familiar face caught my eye.

The world blurred.

Standing in the lobby of the airport was the boy I’d left behind.

Graham Hayes.

Except he wasn’t a boy anymore. He’d grown into a man. A handsome, breathtaking man who belonged on the cover of People beside Jonas and Nix.

He stood motionless with his eyes locked on me. The airport had been remodeled since I’d left, but the spot where he stood was almost exactly the place where I’d left him nine years ago. He’d been standing at the base of a staircase, watching me walk away.

I wouldn’t fool myself into thinking he’d been waiting here for my return.

What the hell was Graham doing here? I wasn’t ready to face him yet. I wasn’t ready to face any of them yet, but especially Graham.

He broke out of his stare and unglued his feet. His strides were easy and confident as he walked my way. His square jaw was covered in a well-trimmed beard, the shade matching the brown of his hair. It was longer than how he’d worn it as a teenager. Sexier. The man he’d become was beyond any version that I’d imagined during many lonely hotel nights.

I gulped as he neared. My heart raced.

This was not the plan. I was supposed to rent a car, go to my hotel and regroup. I needed time to regroup, damn it, and time to prepare.

Graham’s long legs in dark jeans ate up the distance between us. The sound of his boots on the floor pounded with the same thud of my heart.

Before I was ready, he stood in front of me.

“Quinn.” His voice was smooth and deep, lower than I remembered. He used to say my name with a smile, but there wasn’t a hint of one on his face.

“Hi, Graham.”

He wore a Hayes-Montgomery Construction T-shirt. My mother had sent me one of the same for Christmas two years ago.

He was the Hayes.

My brother, Walker, was the Montgomery.

The black cotton stretched across his broad chest. I’d spent many nights with my ear against that chest, but it hadn’t been as muscled back then. It had held promise, though, of the man he’d become.

The man he had become.

Everything about Graham seemed to have changed, even those golden-brown eyes. The vibrant color was the same as I saw in my dreams, but they were colder now. Distant. A change I couldn’t blame on time.

No, that one was on me.

“Let’s go.” He ripped the handle of my suitcase from my grip.

“I have a car reserved.” I pointed to the rental kiosk, but Graham turned and walked toward the doors. “Graham, I have a car.”

“Cancel it,” he clipped over a shoulder. “Your mom asked me to pick you up.”

“Fine,” I grumbled, yanking my phone from my pocket. Texting Ethan while keeping up with Graham’s punishing pace was difficult, and I looked up just in time to stop myself from crashing into a wall.

Oh, hell. It wasn’t just a wall. It was a wall holding a framed Hush Note poster, and there I was, in the center. My hair was thrown back as I pounded on the drums. Jonas was singing into a microphone while Nixon riffed on his guitar.

It was the poster our label had made for tour promo last year, and the airport had embellished it with a banner strung over the top.

Welcome to Bozeman.

Home of Quinn Montgomery, Hush Note’s Grammy Award-Winning Drummer.

Graham paused and looked back, likely wondering what was taking me so long. When he spotted the poster, he shot it a glare that might have incinerated the paper had it not been protected behind glass. Then he marched through the door, his strides even faster.

I jogged to keep up but was too far away to stop him from throwing my suitcase into the bed of a truck—an actual throw far more damaging than I’d ever seen from airline personnel.

“Get in.” He jerked his chin to the passenger door.

“Okay.” I bit my tongue.

Since my rental car was out, my new plan was to survive this ride to the hotel. Graham was upset, and I’d let it blow over. Ten minutes, fifteen tops, and we’d go our separate ways. I was here this week for Nan and causing drama with Graham would have upset her.

So I climbed in his truck and took a deep breath.

Graham’s scent surrounded me. As a boy, he’d smelled fresh and clean. It was still there, familiar and heartbreaking, but with a spicy undercurrent of musk and cologne and man. The heady, intoxicating smell wasn’t going to make this trip to the hotel any easier.

Before I had my seat belt buckled, Graham was behind the wheel and racing away from the curb.

I swallowed and braved conversation. “So, um . . . how have you been?”

His jaw ticked in response, but thankfully the radio filled the silence.

The Sirius XM Countdown continues with “Sweetness” by Hush Note. A song that’s been number one on our countdown for

Graham stabbed the off button with his finger.

I faced the window.

So Graham wasn’t just upset. He was furious. Clearly nine years apart hadn’t turned me into a fond memory.

“I have a reservation at the Hilton Garden Inn. If you wouldn’t mind dropping me—”

“You’re going home.”

Right. End of discussion. Graham was doing a favor for my mother since my family would be busy on a Sunday morning. He’d been sent to retrieve me before I could disappear to my hotel.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry to leave the East Coast.

The drive through Bozeman was tense. I kept my gaze fixed outside, taking in the new buildings. The town had boomed over the years. Where there had once been open fields, there were now office complexes, shopping centers and restaurants.

It wasn’t until we approached downtown that the streets became more familiar and I was able to anticipate Graham’s turns. When we reached my childhood neighborhood, I marveled at the homes. Had they always been this small?

Then we were parked in front of my parents’ home. My home.

Finally, something that hadn’t changed. Slate-blue siding, white trim, black shutters and Mom’s red geraniums planted in a whiskey barrel by the front door.

“Thanks for dropping me off,” I told Graham, risking a glance his way. “Just like old times.”

He’d always insisted on dropping me off at my house even though he lived next door.

Except back then, he would have smiled and kissed me goodbye.

But that was before.

Before I’d broken his heart.

Before he’d shattered mine.

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  1. AJ Marks said:

    Riffs & refrains is going to pull at my heart strings, and beat on my brain until I can read the book in it’s entirely! So good, what a tease!

  2. Janet said:

    Wow!! Can’t wait for the whole book!

  3. Joy Avery said:

    Can’t wait for this!

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