Gypsy Hearts - Book 4

After years of recording commercials, Josie Tibbs longs to get back into the music industry. But the sound recording engineer had traveled that road once before and crawled back home with a broken heart. Wary of any man in the music business, she longs for a steady man and a great recording career.

Brock Gentry lived for the music and so became an extraordinarily talented country singer. On the fringes of success, he's ready to take his chance and go on the road to Nashville. But he and the recording company clash over his image among other things.

Hoping to find the right sound mixer he seeks out Josie Tibbs after hearing of her work with another country singer who's hit the big time. Although she wants nothing to do with him romantically, he wins her over professionally and she decides to come on the road with his band.

Together they blaze a trail to Nashville, her cat in tow, in the close quarters of life on the bus with the rest of the band. Despite the obstacles of life on the road, Brock and Josie find they can't keep their feelings from each other. But Josie's been through this before and knows the dogs of the music industry can bite hard. As they make it closer to Nashville, she fears a chance at success could spell the end of their love.


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Chapter One Excerpt

Josie Tibbs sat behind the thick glass wall separating the control room from the studio. She listened to the same voice-over for the umpteenth time in the last hour and watched her client. Victor Clyde, owner of Clyde's Dog Emporium, as his face screwed into a frown.

Darn it, she thought, stifling the groan that was making its way up her throat. She'd rather eat a dog bone than record one more take of this dog food commercial.

"I don't know," Clyde said yet again. "I don't think it is quite there. We're spending a lot of money on this ad campaign and it needs to be perfect."

Well, heck, it was perfect an hour ago. In fact, Josie would have deemed the whole radio ad perfection after the first take. It was dog food, for cripes sake!

"What seems to be the problem with this last take?"

"I sound a little flat." Victor Clyde was a stout man with gray hair thinning at the temples, and a nose that reminded Josie of a dachshund. He stood in the studio with headphones clamped over his ears, listening as the tape played again, and waved his arms theatrically. "I want it to sound exciting."

Exciting dog food. Well, there was something new. It wasn't as if the guy was singing the Star Spangled Banner at the World Series. But hey, to each his own.

"To be perfectly truthful, Mr. Clyde, the sound is coming through crisp and clear in here. Maybe the problem is that you're hearing it through headphones, which is not the way your customers will hear it. Why don't you come into the control room and I'll set it up to go through the small speakers. It will mimic more of what the general public will hear when they're driving down the interstate and hearing it through the car radio."

His face seemed to brighten up with that idea. Josie said a prayer of thanks for small favors.

While she waited for her client to come around into the sound booth, she cued the last master tape to the take they'd just finished. She could have chosen any one of the thirty takes Mr. Clyde had already done and she was sure he wouldn't know the difference. Once she'd set up the sound to play through the small, makeshift car speakers sitting on the panel, she hit play and settled back in the chair.

Watching the look on good of Vic's face, she decided she'd been played and played hard by her manager, Brian. He knew exactly what he was doing by giving her this job.

"I’ve decided to throw you a bone and give you some real exposure, Josie girl," he'd said in that same condescending tone he always used with her. "You've been with us long enough and your work has been good. You can handle this one."

She’d argued it was time for her to move on to some bigger projects, work with musicians again and do some producing, but Brian had always held those coveted sessions close to his chest or given them to one of the other sound engineers. He left the bones for Josie.

The more time that passed, the more she wondered if it was time to get out of this business altogether. She wasn't as cutthroat as were some of the other engineers who did sound. Aside from the politics in the studio, she loved her work.

Glancing at Mr. Clyde and recalling the afternoon she'd just spent, Josie decided to qualify that she loved her work with a big, fat, sometimes behind it.

The tape ended and she quickly recued it to play again. As Mr. Clyde listened to the playback once more on the mini-speakers, she gathered plugs that she'd used during the session and wrapped them neatly around her arm to keep them from tangling. She liked a tidy sound room. There was nothing worse than hunting for what she needed when she was in the middle of a project.

To her relief, Mr. Clyde appeared satisfied with the final take.

"Thanks, little lady. I'll be sure to pass on a good word for you with your boss."

She smiled, glad the day was finally done. "Brian will be in touch."

Mr. Clyde propped his cowboy hat on his head and tipped it once. "It's been a pleasure."

As the door closed behind him. Josie sighed with relief. It would only take her twenty minutes to straighten up the sound room, collect all the cables, mark the master reel and store it. What should have been an easy one-hour job had quadrupled into four hours. Dexter wasn't going to be too happy with her when she got home.

Josie heard the outer door squeak as it opened and then again as it closed. She groaned. Please don't let him have a change of heart.

"Did you leave something behind, Mr. Clyde?" she said, turning around and peeking into the control room.

But it wasn't the owner of Clyde's Dog Food Emporium. Instead, the man in the control room stood tall and lean, just staring at her. Slowly, he pulled off his hat and held it in front of him as he was probably taught to do as a child.

He was a cowboy, through and through, Josie thought. Not just a wannabe like so many she'd seen pass through over the years. And she could tell the difference. This man didn't need dirt under his fingernails or sun-baked skin to tell his story. Although, he had the latter and she was willing to bet if she got up close and personal with this cowboy she'd see the freshly scrubbed dirt and callused hands.

"I'm not Clyde," he said, his voice low.

"I can see that. Can I help you?"

He smiled one of those high voltage smiles she'd seen on men in the business before. It usually meant they were charming the pants off someone for something. She liked to think she'd become immune.

"If your name is Josie Tibbs you can. Is it?"

"Well, that depends."

He gave her a crooked smile. "On?"

"Are you selling something?"

He laughed and even though there was distance between them, she could see the mark that made him truly magnificent. He had a deep dimple creasing just one cheek. His right. And with that lopsided smile, it made his whole face transform into something incredible.

She was in trouble.

"I guess I am at that," he said.

And her stomach fell. Why couldn't he be wearing a blue suit? Why did she have to meet him here instead of as she walked the aisles of the grocery store or something equally boring and coincidental?

"I'm not interested," she said flatly and went back to what she'd been doing.

"You don't even know what I have to offer."

She eyed him again. "Sure I do. It may be wrapped up in a different package, but I've seen it before."

"Ah."

Cocking her head, she said, "What's that for?"

"Nothing. I've just heard that about you is all."

Something prickled the back of her neck. He wasn't some dog food storeowner looking for someone to produce an annoying radio commercial. He was a musician. That much she already knew. Josie could smell out a musician a mile away. And she'd sworn off musicians years ago.

"Blue suit," she muttered to herself.

"What's that?"

"Nothing. I suggest you go back to talking to whomever you've been hearing things from. Like I said, I'm not interested in what you're selling."

Brian had to have sent this guy. Another bone, she fumed inwardly. This man wasn't slick, but there was a touch of arrogance about him, wrapped coolly around his charm. He didn't need to have a woman tell him he was handsome with his blue eyes and crooked smile. He had appeal. No doubt about it. And a woman would give herself away easily after just five minutes with him.

Josie turned away and continued her task, reaching for the last cord. "If you're looking for Brian, he'll be back around eight-thirty tomorrow morning."

"I already talked to Brian. That's how I found you."

She snapped her gaze around to him. She searched his clear blue eyes for the teasing, the crooked smile that would give him away, but it wasn't there. He was serious. He'd come looking for her.

She tried not to show her surprise that even after he'd spoken to Brian, he was now standing here talking to her. Brian usually snatched up all the sessions with musicians.

It was just as well, Josie thought. Yeah, she wanted creativity in her work and she longed to produce again, but the work she had was steady and it paid the bills. And although dog food wasn't exciting, it sure didn't break hearts. She wasn't wrong about this guy, was she?

"I need a sound engineer."

No kidding. There had to be a reason Brian passed this guy off on her. Maybe he stunk, both musically and literally. Brian wouldn't spend more than two minutes with the man if that were the case.

"For what?"

"I need to do a demo for a record company."

So he was a musician. And he definitely stunk. Brian didn't waste his time dealing with amateur work and didn't want his name attached to it. She'd been complaining so much lately that he had decided to send the poor guy her way. Take his money, let the kid think he had a chance at the big time and throw Josie another bone all in one shot.

Another banner day at DB Sound.

Josie sighed as she walked over to the control room and joined him inside.

"What's your name?"

"Brock. Brock Gentry."

"Never heard of you. I know most of the bands around. Are you local?" Just because she'd sworn off musicians, it didn't mean she'd tossed her love of music to the wind.

"I've been mostly playing around Steerage Rock."

"Steerage Rock? There's nothing out that way but ranches."

"Don't I know it. But there are a few local spots. Nothing big."

She nodded, folding her arms across her chest.

"I haven't done too many gigs in the city," he continued. "That's what I'm gearing up to do once this demo is complete."

"Is it just you or do you have a band?"

"Just me. But I do have some regular players that I’ve been working with on and off for a while."

He was bigger than he'd seemed when she was standing in the studio looking at him through the glass, Josie thought. He held his cowboy hat in front of him with both hands as comfortably as she imagined he'd hold a guitar. Big hands, she noticed, with long, graceful fingers.

Darn but he was young too. They all were these days. Young and filled with bright ideas and dreams of making it big. He was just one more. He'd soon learn very few ever made it past a quick handshake standing outside the record company doors.

An amused smile lit his face when he caught her staring at him.

"Well," she said, clearing her throat. "Did Brian set you up on the schedule?"

Brock shook his head. "He said I needed to talk to you first. He said if I insisted on working with you, you'd have to fit me in since your schedule is already tight. Said he normally does studio sessions with musicians and your forte is working on commercials and audio books."

I'll just bet. "Did he?" She gave Brock a quick smile.

"But I told him I wanted you or no go. I want you to do sound on this. That's the only reason I came to this studio."

She wished her shock didn't show on her face, but Josie knew it did. And because it did, Brock laughed. There were a hundred studios between Steerage Rock and DB Sound Studio and Brock could have chosen any one of them. Some at half the cost of what he'd be dishing out to record here.

"What’s the deal? Why me?"

"I heard the demo you did for Grant Davies a few years back."

It was Josie’s turn to laugh. "That was about a million years ago. How did you come to hear that demo? I thought all the extra copies Grant didn't bum were taking up space in a landfill somewhere."

Block tossed his hat to the table by the soundboard.

"You must have been fresh out of high school when you worked with Grant Davies on that project."

"Something like that. And you were fresh out of what? Diapers?"

He ignored her slight jab at his age. In reality, he was probably only a few years younger than her. "I've been listening to music a long time. I like your style. It's too bad Davies moved in the direction he went. I'm not a fan of his work these days."

Josie wanted to say she'd stopped being a fan of Grant Davies the day he'd broken her heart. But in truth, it had taken a while to get to that point. Musically, she couldn't agree more with the kid.

"Grant had a lot of potential. He's used it to his advantage."

Brock sputtered. "Well, he's made a name for himself. I'll give you that. But I favor his earlier work. The stuff you worked on."

She quirked a smile of pride and actually used one of the "f words she hated. "I'm flattered. There aren't a whole lot of people who've heard his earlier work. Or care to."

"That's too bad. It's good. So what do you say?"

Josie sized him up. Time-wise, she couldn't have been more ready. In the five years she'd been working at the DB Sound Studio, she'd had plenty of days like today, thinking she couldn’t handle doing one more commercial. It was easy work that didn't require a whole lot of creativity on her part. The hardest part was suffering through take after take while the Clyde's of this world made up their mind that the commercials she recorded on tape would make them millions.

The hours were good and the jobs were steady, but the creativity on her part was zero. She'd missed that. Like so many of the young faces that strode through those studio doors, hoping to make a demo that would shoot them straight to stardom, Josie had her dreams too. But she'd learned all too quickly that dreams had a way of fading when reality came knocking at your door.

"I'm late for an appointment."

It wasn't a total lie, but it did send a prickle of regret picking at Josie. Dex would take major exception to be considered an appointment. But then, her eight-year-old double-pawed tabby took exception to her treating him like the cat he was.

"Good-bye, Brock," she said, and turned to go back to what she was doing.

Brock took in Josie Tibbs and had to keep from acting like a fool. The woman was beautiful with her long brown curls and ocean blue eyes. He hadn't expected that. He'd been all set to come in here and convince her to work with him on this demo.

"Wait. Maybe we can talk about this later, say over dinner?"

She did a double take, her sleepy eyes getting wide so he could see their color fully. They were the color of the sea with gold flecks that reminded him of sunshine glimmering on the water. She was a few years older than him. He knew' that from what little he'd been able to uncover about her background. And there was definitely something captivating about her that caught him off guard.

Brock swallowed. Major fool. He knew better than to look at any woman and see only what was on the surface. His whole fife he'd hated it when people assumed things of him. He wasn't assuming she was beautiful; Josie most definitely was. He just didn't want to have that overshadow his reason for seeking her out in the first place.

Josie Tibbs was a good sound engineer. He wasn't shining sunshine on her when he'd made the compliment. With so many musicians clamoring for their chance to be noticed by studio executives, Brock had heard a lot of knockoff bands trying to imitate the same sound as whatever was the current trend in music, hoping for the same success.

That wasn't the way Brock wanted to go. Based on what he'd heard of her studio work, he knew Josie was the ticket to getting the sound he envisioned for himself.

"Don't you think you’re a bit out of your league, cowboy?" she said, her chin lifting just a fraction of an inch.

He laughed, tipping his hat. Darn if he didn't feel the blush creep up his cheeks. "No."

Cocking her head to one side, she smiled. "You forgot the ma'am."
He looked directly into her eyes and said, "No, I didn't. I wouldn't make that mistake."

"I have to go. I'm not sure why you're here and what you want from me, but Grant Davies was a long time ago. Brian should be able to help you out with what you're looking to do." She picked up his cowboy hat from the table and handed it to him.

"I don't think you've heard me right," he said as she started to walk away. 
 
Turning back, she chuckled. "Look. I've seen a lot of guys come into the studio over the last few years. I'm flattered." Good grief, she'd used it twice in one day. "Not many people remember the studio work I did with Grant. Unfortunately, the record company didn't agree with my vision and Grant seemed to share their opinion. If you really want to make something of yourself in the music business, you don't need me. You need someone who can give the record companies what they want."
 
"Now see, that's the reason I'm here. I don't want what they're looking for. What I want is you."


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