Book Birthday: The Road Home by Jane Ashley Converse

Title: The Road Home
Series: Backroads
Author: Jane Ashley Converse
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 18, 2019
My life was a dream…
 
Sold-out concerts, number one hits, and a different city every night…
 
I’d been coined America’s Sweetheart and learned to live by the rules. That was until I met him. 
 
Two years ago I practically threw myself at Charlie Higgins, my mom’s newest ranch hand.
 
With one kiss he took my breath away, but before it went any further, he turned me away telling me to forget about him.
 
I took my bruised heart back to Nashville and did what country singers do best and wrote a song about it. I just never expected it to be a number one hit.
 
Now I’m back for my cousin’s wedding. And Charlie isn’t as in love with the song as the rest of the world.
 
But the way he’s looking at me makes me think maybe there’s a chance…this time he won’t tell me to go. 
 
As long as the secret I’m keeping doesn’t scare him away. 

Chapter 1
 
The bright lights of the stage used to feel like a welcome mat. Now, like everything else in my life, that illumination has started to suffocate me.
 
The excitement of a different city every night wore off a long time ago. They have become an endless blur these days.
 
Each night as I walk toward the stage, the walls and floor vibrating from the deafening roar of the crowd, the same vibrations that used to set my soul on fire, is what now starts constrictions in my chest. I know once I get onstage, the excitement from the crowd will finally grab a hold of me, pushing me to give them the best performance I can, but the buildup has lost its luster.
 
Standing with my band backstage, I put on a mask of excitement as I try to come up with new words of inspiration for them, and myself, before we hit the stage for the next ninety minutes. I’ve been failing miserably for new words of inspiration for my “on the road” family and also for words for new songs.
 
That’s where the suffocation begins. My fear is I won’t be able to write another original song again. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been able to compose anything. No one knows about my writer’s block.
 
No one.
 
I’m Alexis Hale. The “wonder” child discovered after my grandmother pushed me into all those pageants so long ago. My talent is singing. My real talent is writing my own songs and music. But to be able to bring the song to life with my voice is where the magic begins.
 
My God-given talent is what has gotten me this far in the world, in this business, and now I can’t seem to write a song if my life depended on it. This thought alone is when my heart begins to race.
 
“Alexis, you with us tonight?” my lead guitarist shouts at me over the roar of the crowd, bringing me out of my thoughts and back to reality.
 
I shoot him my biggest fake smile to cover up my real thoughts, replying with as much enthusiasm as I can muster. “You know it, Mike!”
 
He looks at me skeptically and frowns. Mike has been with me since the beginning, as has most of my band, and he can tell something is off.
 
Winking at me to let me know he knows I’m full of it, he squeezes me to his side. “Just remember you’ll be seeing your mom next weekend for the wedding.”
 
He gets a real smile from me now. I’m excited to go see my mom and Holly.
 
But going home—and facing him—I could do without.
 
I close my eyes for a second and I can picture his brown eyes looking deep into mine. A shiver runs through me as I remember his hands running down my sides to pull me close.
 
I exhale the breath I’d been holding and shake my head, trying to forget the way his lips felt on mine.
 
He told me to forget him. But two years hasn’t been enough time to forget him.
 
What he doesn’t know is he’s been the only man to ever make me feel that way. You don’t forget how that feels when it’s your first—your only time someone has made you feel that way.
 
Setting aside my thoughts, I get my band’s attention. “All right, guys, are you ready to go rock this stage?” I say, jumping back and forth in my four-inch high-heeled boots, feigning excitement for them as well as for me.
 
Everyone starts jumping with me, as is tradition. “Hell yes!” they all yell in unison, smiles spreading across their faces as all eyes land on me.
 
“Ready to go blow these speakers?”
 
“Hell yes!” Their voices raise a few more decibels as my excitement starts to become real.
 
This is my family on tour, and since my life has been one tour after the other for the last few years, they are my everyday family. I count on them, and they count on me.
 
“Let’s do this, then!” I shout above the cheering fans beyond the stage.
 
I raise my hand as my band members, backup singers, and dancers start heading for the stage, each one high-fiving me on their way—another one of our traditions I can’t remember when we started.
 
My drummer, Dave, stops to give me a hug. “You look like you needed one, babygirl.” His arms tighten around me for a few seconds before he releases me.
 
Most of the guys call me babygirl; having been with me for so long and hearing my mom use it when talking to me, they all took up the name. Hearing it now breathes strength into me I hadn’t realized I needed, and I can hear my mom’s voice telling me to get out there and give them one hell of a show.  
 
“Thanks, Dave, I did.”
 
Mike starts playing a guitar riff to our opening song, making the crowd go insane. We both look at each other, smiling knowingly. It really is the best sound in the world being onstage knowing they are cheering for you.
 
We soak it up for a few seconds before I give him a small shove to get on the stage. “Go on, I need the beat of your drums so I can saunter my ass out there.”
 
He laughs and looks down at my feet. “Babygirl, with those boots you won’t have any trouble sauntering.”
 
“Shut up. You’re just jealous you don’t have a pair,” I joke with a teasing smile as I pop my hip out and place my hand on my hip dramatically.
 
He rolls his eyes and walks toward the stage, throwing over his shoulder with a laugh, “You’re not wrong there.”
 
It isn’t thirty seconds later his drums strike up with the rest of the band, and I wait for my moment when I will walk onstage with the opening lyrics.
 
This is the moment I still thrive for.
 
Where I let the excitement wash over me, causing my whole body to buzz from it. I let my songwriting anxiety fall away, and I’m able to set aside my thoughts of a certain guy.
 
I remember who I am and why I fell in love with my life. My fans came for a show, and that is one thing I can still give them.
 
Walking out on the stage and waving to the roar of the crowd, that’s just what I do.

 
Jane Ashley is from a small town in South Dakota. She spends her days dreaming up new characters and adventures for them to go on. 
 
When she’s not writing she tends to stay busy being outside during the warm summer months. During winter she grumbles about the temperatureand the snow, counting down the days till she can get her kayak on a lake. 
Publishing is a dream come true, and she can’t wait to share her next story with you.
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