Copyright 2016 Nicola C. Matthews
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
A division of X-Isle United Press
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, or to any other written publication is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover art and interior graphics by
Bloody Feather Graphix Team
Ember grunted as the email alerts on her cell phone began going off one after the other, the vibrating of the silenced device so violent it was stealthily shaking its way across the bathroom counter. She silently wondered for perhaps the hundredth time why in hell she had agreed to have her work emails synced to her phone. All it meant was she went from being a salaried employee working for ten hours a month for free to being on-call twenty-four hours a damn day, seven days a week.
She had spent the last eight years of her life trying to climb up what constituted as the ‘corporate ladder’ in the multi-million dollar tech company she had been working for ever since she had finally graduated from college. She had spent all that time working her ass off doing twice the work for one-third the pay a man would have received for doing the same job. And despite her boss telling her four times she was receiving a raise, she was actually making less money now than she had been five years ago. She still hadn’t figured out how the fuck that was even possible.
She frowned at her reflection in the mirror. Just the thought of all the hoops she was forced to jump through on a daily basis made her blood boil. While she knew she had been passed over for promotions time and again because she was female, she also knew there was jack-shit she could do about it.
The company was owned by a man, every vice president in the company was a man, and after so many years of clawing her way up that joke of a corporate ladder, she knew she should just be thankful they hadn’t hired a man to come in and take over the project management position she currently held. Never mind she had not only created the management process their company had adopted, but she also had been single-handedly handling all their project management since the company decided to implement the process.
She sighed, picking up her phone in one hand as she tried to apply mascara with the other one. Her bright blue eyes darted back and forth between the screen on her phone and her own reflection, praying she didn’t accidently stab herself in the eye. At least if that happened she might actually get a damn vacation day for once.
She looked at her email alerts, seeing more than two dozen new emails sitting in her corporate inbox. She forced herself to click out of it. She would be in her office in less than two hours. No matter what was in the email, there wasn’t much she could do until she was logged into the company project management system. Until then, her audio-visual team would just have to wait until she finally made it to her desk.
Ember tossed the phone to the side, giving it a sideways glance as a new Snapagram message alert popped up in her alerts menu. Curious, she capped her tube of mascara and opened the app, wondering if maybe she had finally broken the five-hundred mark on her followers. She had been posting under a fake name for the better part of two years now, mostly ridiculous memes she had found online, but she also posted the occasional burlesque-type selfies as well.
She had a love of metal and rock music, so most of the accounts she followed were band accounts and their individual musicians. Every now and again one of the bands or members would start to follow her account, oftentimes making her giddy with happiness. Her regular job was so damn boring and stressful, it was always a treat for her when she was able to connect with artists. She dabbled in graphic artwork and photography, so the musicians, the music, the tattoos, the body modifications and everything else which went along with the scene greatly intrigued her.
She eyed the little comment alert, wondering who could possibly be looking at her profile this early in the morning. Her thumb hovered over the tiny icon before pressing it, her phone making a cute swooping noise as it pulled up the latest message.
@theEternalEmber Thanks for all the likes!
She looked at the name attached to the comment, recognizing it immediately. Her small, pink mouth popped open as more notifications came in on Snapagram – three “likes” on various photos of her, and a new notification that Micah Vaughn, the drummer of the alternative metal band Tempered Souls, was now following her account.
She paused, smiling like a dumbass. She didn’t know why it excited her so much to hang out with musicians. It was just a painful reminder of how her music journalism career had somehow morphed into her getting a business degree and working herself to death to make some other fucker rich. Despite her dreams not panning out quite like she had hoped, she still had a fierce love of music, concerts, and anything related to the music industry and the musicians behind it.
@TSMicah You’re welcome! I’ve been stalking you guys for a few months now.
She hit the send button on the comment and tossed her phone to the side as she squirted hair gel into her hands, quickly rubbing it into the roots of her strawberry blonde hair before picking up her hair dryer. She ignored her phone when it started vibrating a few seconds later, thinking it was just more work related emails.
She worked the dryer through her short hair, pausing to rub more styling gel into the roots before she finished drying it. She washed her hands, glancing at her phone as it let out another long buzz. Wondering who could possibly be sending her emails at five in the morning, she picked it up, surprised to see Micah had sent her another message.
@theEternalEmber That’s awesome!
Ember paused for a few seconds, that silly smile on her face again. She debated on responding, figuring he wouldn’t keep messaging her. She had had a few bands chat with her through social media from time to time, but it was usually nothing more than a few quick words, thanks for being a fan, check out our new album, and that was it.
She shrugged. Why not? The most he could do was ignore her.
@TSMicah I was a bit upset when I saw your tour dates for the rest of the year L
She went to set the phone down again, only to have it immediately begin to buzz as a new alert came through. She swiped the screen open, once again surprised to see Micah had answered her.
@theEternalEmber Why is that?
@TSMicah You guys aren’t coming anywhere near me.
She quickly opened up their profile, double-checking their tour dates. Yes, the closest they were going to be in the next few months was an entire day’s worth of travel from Louisiana. There was no way she could make that even if she were able to get a day off from work.
@theEternalEmber Sorry to hear. Maybe next time? I would love to meet you.
Ember stared at her phone, somehow managing to frown and smile at the same time.
@TSMicah Aww, I’d love to meet you, too! Just remember us metal-head rednecks need love too
@theEternalEmber LOL I’ll keep that in mind. How long have you been a fan?
She thought back, not really sure how she had come across the band or when. She was bad about watching music videos and just letting them play in the background as she worked, the videos playing an oddball assortment of various bands in the same genres. She had found so many of her new favorite bands this way, but she honestly had no idea how she had come across Tempered Souls. She had purposely clicked on the link they had posted on their Snapagram profile to their last music video, so she knew she must have already had them on her friends list prior to even listening to them.
@TSMicah About six months I think?
@theEternalEmber That’s great! Maybe we’ll catch you next tour.
She smiled, trying to think of a witty comment that didn’t come off as being too snarky.
@TSMicha That would be great. Hope you don’t mind eccentric people. I can get a bit crazy at times.
@theEternalEmber Crazy is cool.
@TSMicah Good. Most people don’t get my weird sense of humor.
@theEternalEmber Same here.
She smiled again. She couldn’t believe she was having this conversation with the drummer of one of her new fave bands. She had had bands reply to her comments on their posts, but never had she had an actual conversation with any of them.
@TSMicah Do you laugh at weird things that most people don’t really get? And they look at you like you’re nuts?
@theEternalEmber YES!! All the time.
@TSMicah LOL me too.
She glanced at the time on her phone, cursing silently as she realized she had spent the last half-hour chatting with him.
@TSMicah Fuck! I’m going to be late for work. It was nice chatting with you. Hit me up anytime.
@theEternalEmber Sure thing. Have a good day.
Ember smiled as she struggled to get her small tits into her bra, tossing her phone into her purse as she strolled past the bar which separated her small living room from her kitchen. She had a lot of paperwork to do for her side business, and she was now officially running late. She decided it didn’t matter. For the first time in months she felt like a regular person with a real, interesting life which someone else was willing to peek into, if only for a moment.
Sighing, she dug out a pair of charcoal dress pants and slipped them on her long legs, pairing it with a nice sweater which did little to emphasize her round hips and slightly tapered waist.
She once again wished she could afford to stay home and create book covers and photographs like she had always dreamed of doing. She wished she had more willpower to stay away from the late-night chocolate binges which kept the extra fifteen pounds sitting around her thighs and upper arms. She wished she could afford a private trainer to put her sagging ass back where it had been twenty years ago. But perhaps more than anything, she wished she had someone in her life who would actually listen to what she had to say, and not tell her he didn’t care how stressed she was at work.
That was the problem with dreams, though. No matter how hard and fast she chased them, they always seemed to slip further and further away just as she reached out to grasp them.