Nobody's Hero, page 1
by Melanie Harvey
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Unless the characters in the story happen to be actual celebrities, in which case they are real, but their actions in this book are definitely made up.
© 2010 by Melanie Harvey
Second Kindle Edition
To contact the author, visit
Cover Images © 2011 by Joe Biederman
Cover Design © 2011 by John A. Moore
For my brother John,
who not only finds all remaining typos — we hope — he also letters book covers and loves every novel I write. Which makes him the absolute worst critic on the planet, but always and forever my very first reader. I’m really really sorry I dumped you out of that hammock when you were a baby.
And in memory of Micheal Larsen, aka Eyedea
You told me to use your name because none of it,
your name or your art, belonged to you anyway,
it belonged to the world.
I suppose that’s more true now than it was then.
I can’t believe you’re gone.
Please don’t believe the hype
Everything in the world ain’t black and white
Everybody ain’t a stereotype
Just because I look wrong
I’m about to do right.
1: It Ain’t About Luck
Carolyn Coffman stared at the picture of her sister on her cell phone, a sure sign of desperation, but her agent, her publicist, even her parents had all been as comforting as hot chocolate after a game of tennis on a sweltering August afternoon. In the digital photo, Eve’s middle finger blocked her face.
Don’t do it, don’t do it. But Carolyn did, she pushed the green button.
Eve answered on the first ring. “Carolyn, I’ll call you back later, I’m about to walk into a meet — ”
“Eve, there is no ‘later.’ I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Carolyn gripped the phone. No doubt the driver of the rented car had heard it all, but that didn’t mean he had to hear it from her. She whispered, “Eve … ” but couldn’t choke out more. Instead, she pressed a palm to her forehead. Was she getting a fever? That had worked for the original guest on the show, the lucky one who’d been allowed to cancel yesterday, freeing the spot for Carolyn. “Eve, I can’t do this.”
“Do what? Oh, the Letterman thing.”
An enormous blue sign jutted out from the front of a building. This was it, she was going to vomit in the backseat of this fancy car. “Yes, Eve, the Letterman thing.”
“Girl, you’ve been doing this for — ”
“Yes, but … ”
“ — months, so I don’t know why you’re calling. Not saying I mind, but I knew you were on the Today show last time because I flipped it on when I was on the treadmill.”
“Yes, but … ”
“So you don’t need moral support, just clothes. And didn’t I find a great dress for this?”
Carolyn sighed. “It’s different.”
“That’s what I thought, the second I saw it in the window!”
“Not the dress! The show!”
“Oh, please, Carolyn. Wait, I know — let’s trade places! You come back to Akron and try to keep my company from cutting all the employees’ health benefits again, and I’ll fly to New York, sit on a couch, and chit-chat about your book.”
“Just like you did with Matt Lauer last week!”
“Matt Lauer never put on an Alka Seltzer suit and jumped into a vat of water!”
Eve laughed. Laughed! Carolyn slapped the phone shut and threw it across the backseat.
Then the car slowed. Don’t stop, don’t stop, just drive by. But a crew in the street was moving orange cones, her driver did stop, and moments later her door opened. A young man with a disheveled haircut waited for her on the sidewalk. As if she would leave the car. Ever.
He leaned inside. “Miss Coffman?”
“Yes, I’m just … ” Carolyn glanced wildly around the backseat for an excuse. She grabbed her iPod off the seat, showed it to him, and a grin spread across his freckled face. He offered his hand. Carolyn jumped at the commotion to her left, but the crowd behind the barriers settled down the moment her sandals touched the sidewalk.
He led her to a steel door in the side of the brick building. “I’m Michael. I’ll take you back to the green room.”
Carolyn glanced back at the restless crowd. “What was that about?”
“They’re waiting for Guillotine,” he said. “You need anything?”
She shook her head. She’d forgotten his name and glanced at the tag on his jacket. Underneath the name — Michael — a city was etched in smaller type. “Canton, Ohio?”
“That’s where I’m from.”
Carolyn blinked. “I’m from Akron.”
“I know.” He grinned again. “Guess we’re neighbors.”
Michael led her through the back hallways of the theater, chattering about Ohio which almost made her forget that her feet were crossing the uneven floors in the old Ed Sullivan Theater. Almost.
“Right through here,” he said.
She heard voices and glanced in the room, fearing Guillotine and his entourage might be inside, but the voices were coming from a television. Carolyn breathed a sigh of relief.
Michael said, “About ten minutes, I’ll be back for you.” Then he was gone.
Carolyn tossed her iPod on the loveseat and felt her stomach turn again. She was supposed to be having dinner with the man of her dreams; instead, she was about to lose her hold on an ounce of airline peanuts.
A burst of laughter came from the TV.
I don’t think I’m very funny, she’d told her publicist. I’m sure my book isn’t.
She stopped in the center of the room. Maybe something would be funny tonight. Was that good? Matt Damon was having an animated conversation with David Letterman, both of them grinning, and the audience laughing along. And under Letterman’s desk, a copy of Fighting the Pheromone Factor was waiting. For her.
Carolyn muted the television and spun away from her immediate future, spotting her iPod on the loveseat. Her hands shook as she unwound the earphone wires and sat down. When she scrolled to shuffle and pressed play, sarcastic lines flowed over the beats and filtered through her nerves. Perfect.
Don’t go fainting on me now, girls this ain’t no damn cartoon.
She’d played this one for Eve once. A mistake.
You just slowing down the progress we was making toward the bedroom!
Eve had chastised her for thinking it was funny. Carolyn still thought so — sorry, sister — but her smile faded when the door flew open and crashed into the wall. Anger radiated off the man who appeared in the doorway, enough to fill the room. She couldn’t stop staring.
It don’t matter none what you imagine and assume …
She might have stared anyway. In spite of a clear break in his nose and a scar across the right side of his square jaw, and even though she didn’t usually go for guys with silver hoops in their ears. Red and white stripes bordered the brim of his black stocking cap, beneath letters under a logo she couldn’t make out. The Nailers? Who were the —
I can bust a nut while you dream Orlando-fuckin-Bloom.
She started to grin at the line, but suppr
But don’t start talking Rings …
Carolyn glanced away from his hard eyes, and her gaze fell to his left hand. No rings, just letters tattooed between his knuckles. She read them upside down, N-E-V-E on his fingers and an R on his thumb, because the word was too long, just like in that song. Just like it. Her eyes flew to his right hand. Again. That was the song.
Impossible, but could anybody else in the world...so he had to be...
She looked up as if he would nod, say yes, you’re right, who else would I be? Instead, Ricky Rain shot her a look so filled with contempt that she shrank back against the sofa, his rhymes still playing in her ears, sounding like it was all a big joke.
The man himself looked like nothing had ever amused him in his life. His hands clenched, and she exhaled slowly when he finally turned toward the refrigerator in the corner. Carolyn pressed pause in time to hear him for the first time. Live.
Apparently the contents of the refrigerator didn’t please him either. But it was him all right. She’d know his voice anywhere.
He strode back to the door, Timberland boots thumping on the floor, and leaned into the hallway, his right hand gripping the doorframe. “Hey, you! Ain’t no goddamn root beer in here.”
Well, that was one way to ask for it. The intern — oh, she’d forgotten his name again — appeared in the doorway. His apology was met with a grunt and a door slam before the rapper spun back around.
And stared straight at her. “So what’s your fucking problem?”
He forced a hiss of air between clenched teeth. “Not that it’s any of your damn business,” he said. “But my last few days ain’t been so — ”
Carolyn pointed at the door. “So now that’s his problem, too?”
He spun back at the knock, a split-second after she clamped a hand over her mouth, but before she remembered her lipstick. Damn it.
He started to close the door on the intern, then seemed to change his mind and disappeared into the hallway. Carolyn sank into the sofa, unable to recall the last time she was so surprised at herself. Or so utterly and foolishly disappointed. What was he even doing here?
Her agent had told her he’d be here, and she’d checked Guillotine’s website to learn that tomorrow Guillotine would be scowling above glinting platinum chains draped over oiled brown pecs, front and center on the iTunes store’s home page. Clearly, the news of the century.
Carolyn was only interested if the trumpeting mentioned a guest appearance by an underground rapper who shared his hometown of Cleveland. Instead, she’d found the damn duet streaming, and now — oh, just a little late — she realized why. Guillotine was here all right, and not to perform his solo single that had clogged the radio for two weeks.
But the other half of the duo wasn’t partying with the entourage. She could see his hand wrapped around the door, blue letters standing out against his pale skin.
I can’t go out again shoving cash in my pocket / I slam the door and lock it / but the lock won’t keep me in / grab my pad and pen but the words don’t change within / my hands keep shaking / I don’t think I’m gonna make it / till I swear the promise in my skin / Never Again —
The door swung open, and the lyrics running through her head stopped as the man who’d written them cut his eyes to her. She didn’t breathe until he turned to pace the length of the room. He dropped two pop cans on the table, then paced back without a glance, his right hand beating against his thigh. Carolyn watched him stride away. What would he think if …
If he caught her looking at him again. Halfway through his turn, he stopped in his tracks and narrowed his eyes. She waited, but he didn’t ask if she had a problem, and a second later Carolyn realized she had stood up. What was she doing?
His head cocked to the side, probably wondering the same thing.
“Do you think you could come over here?” Was that her voice? It was.
He didn’t answer. When he finally moved, he only shifted his weight to his back foot.
Carolyn dropped her iPod on the loveseat. “You were heading back this way, weren’t you?”
That probably wasn’t amusement crossing his face, but he did lift a shoulder and start to amble over, in no hurry at all, be sure about that. When he made it across the room, his slouch combined with her heels put her almost eye to eye with him.
Carolyn took a deep breath. “I just wondered if we could try this again.”
The rim of his knit cap shifted. He shrugged, body language communicating his unspoken ‘whatever.’ She held out her hand, palm slightly up. He glanced down.
Then Rick Ranière smiled. Not with his mouth, only with his eyes. If she hadn’t been looking she might not have seen it, but she was looking, and she saw his eyes light up, like emeralds glinting in the sun. She’d had no idea they were even green.
The amusement stayed in his gaze as he gripped her hand, his palm calloused and hard against hers, warm on her chilled skin. He looked at her as if to say: So we’re shaking hands. Now what?
She’d almost forgotten what.
“Sometimes introductions help,” she said. “For example: Hi, I’m Rick Ranière.”
His eyes widened. “You don’t look like Rick Ranière.”
“Did you forget the words already?”
“I don’t forget shit. Hi. I’m Rick Ranière.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ranière,” she said. “And you’re right, I look more like Carolyn Coffman.”
He actually smiled again, but this time the corner of his mouth tilted, and she felt like she’d almost won a carnival prize, clobbered the weighted milk bottles with the softball. They hadn’t cleared the platform — when did they ever? — but knocking them down was still a thrill. A sharp heat spread through her. The undeniable good looks. His familiar voice. The prize of seeing that hint of a smile.
The lack of distance between them. Whatever had made him so angry had raised his body temperature, intensifying the scent that reached her when he moved inside her ring of personal space. She knew exactly what it was. She was in this room because she’d written a book about it.
But she’d never experienced the pheromones first-hand like this before.
Carolyn stepped back, released his hand, and forced a smile. “Was that so bad?”
Rick dropped his gaze down the length of her body. “Nah.” His eyes finally met hers again. “Not bad.”
She felt a retort rising, but he nodded, made a noise that sounded like ‘huh,’ and resumed his pacing. She dropped back to sit on the sofa and reached for her iPod. Orlando Bloom. He must have been joking; they couldn’t possibly be dreaming about anyone else. And with little encouragement, neither would she.
One look at the clock whisked that distressing thought away. She wrapped the earphone wires around the player, her hands shaking again.
“What was you — ” He stopped when she jumped. “ … listening to?” he finished slowly, nodding at her iPod.
Carolyn glanced at the darkened screen. When she looked up, he raised his eyebrows, but she couldn’t answer. Instead, she stood and smoothed her skirt, because her sister would check for wrinkles. Like Rick’s website, his CDs had no photos; only stunning pen and ink drawings of a man standing, arms outstretched, water pouring from the sky. The credit inside was to Jesse Hayes. Was it the same Jesse, the baby brother in his songs?
I was listening to you.
Rick’s eyes narrowed slightly.
To you … the first albums I loaded up. I’m a big fan?
Please. It sounded lame enough in the privacy of her head.
The intern appeared in the doorway to rescue her. “Ms. Coffman? We’re ready.”
“Then I guess I am too.” But her voice wavered, she still hadn’t thought of anything funny, and she had no choice except to follow him out the door.
Rick lifted his chin. “Good luck.”
He sounded so sincere that she exhaled with relief, and he took a half step backward. That overly indebted look must be on her face, like she’d seen on her fans at her book signings. Like they really knew her.
She tried to rein it back. “Thanks.”
His body relaxed. Some. Maybe she looked even more bizarre to him. At least she knew her readers had actually heard of her.
Carolyn caught the door frame and leaned back into the room. Rick looked up, and before she knew it, the words rolled off her tongue.
“‘But it ain’t about luck,’” she quoted, “‘it’s all about skill.’”
His jaw dropped, and she ducked into the hallway before she burst out laughing.
2: A Safe Distance
I’m Rick Ranière. It took him ten seconds to finally close his mouth. Yeah, that’s me, baby, but goddamn — who the hell are you?
He might have stood there ten minutes trying to figure out what just happened; he never could keep track of time. He could keep track of his own rhymes, though, even the ones he wrote five years ago. Rick shook his head and reached for a can of root beer. It ain’t about luck.
Whoever she was, she didn’t even look the type to be listening to him on her iPod. He turned and saw Carolyn Coffman on the TV he couldn’t hear. He sat down when Letterman’s eyes flew open.
“Yo, Ricky.” Terrance leaned in the doorway, his newly shaved head gleaming like an eight ball. “You ready?”
Rick watched her segment as he finished off his pop. She reached across the desk, shook Letterman’s hand … damn. She wore this white dress that set off her —
“Ricky … ”