Hell's Music by Nerine Dorman - Read Online
Hell's Music
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Sometimes trouble comes in a very appealing package.

It's never nice when your boyfriend leaves you for someone else. It's even more of a slap in the face when he leaves you for a man. Emily Clark has put her wild years and the boyfriend she considered "safe" behind her, ensconcing herself in a Luddite lah-lah land centered on her second-hand bookstore.

But when her self-absorbed sister runs away from home to end up on her doorstep, Emily discovers the past has a funny way of creeping back into her life. And when an alternative musician uses her shop as a hideaway from a nosy reporter, Emily finds herself falling for the enigmatic man. By the time she realizes his celebrity status, it's too late--she's head over heels for Simon van Helsdingen, a notorious shock-rocker. Not only must she deal with her sister's delinquent ways and their dysfunctional family, but Emily must navigate the stormy seas of being with a man whose reputation for trouble puts Ozzy Osbourne in the shadows.

WARNING: Sex, drugs and rock and roll.

77,943 Words

Published: Kensington Books on
ISBN: 9781616503147
List price: $3.99
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Hell's Music - Nerine Dorman

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Page 1 of 1







To the Green Man, wherever you are. Thank you for the music.

None more negative.


As always, thank you to Cat, Carol, Carrie, Manda, Annette, David and the rest of the crew at Writers of Extraordinary Visions, the Write Club Authors and the Adamastor Writers’ Guild.

Michelle, thank you for the coffee and for looking after the Big Green Monster Car. You remind me to slow down and take a deep breath.

Stef, you are an amazing editor, and you’ve helped me push my writing that little bit further with each novel we’ve worked on together.

As always, thank you to my dreadful husband.

Also, to the crew from BlackMilk Productions, thank you for the inspiration.

Chapter 1

Sister Mine

This is it. Rae stuffed a pair of knickers into her backpack. There wasn’t a whole lot else she could take with her. Oddly, the decision to run away made her feel lighter, as though she cut herself off from the dross of the past few years. Today had just been the final straw. She heard her mother downstairs at the front door, complaining shrilly to the police about that child. Her mother’s words stung and it would only be a matter of minutes before the smelly officer tromped upstairs. Goodness knew she didn’t want to have to please explain to some dumb uniform, or possibly be dragged down to the cop shop. There was no telling whether her mother would make good on her threat this time round.

For fuck’s sake, she was twenty and in college. She was supposed to be wild and letting her hair down. Now she’d made the decision to sever herself from home prematurely. Would any of her things still be here should she return? Would Ma tear down the posters and burn them? Would she bag the years of carefully selected vintage clothing and drop them next to the wheelie bin on garbage day?

All her books, her photo albums—the years of hoarded memories of good and bad times—she couldn’t take any of that with her. She’d stashed a small sketchpad and her pencils but had to leave behind her acrylic paints, her pastels. Not to mention all the artworks she’d already created. She’d give up her CD and DVD collection, her computer, but those she could live without. Rae patted the small pocket on her backpack to check that her MP3 player and cellphone were still tucked away safely.

The pink bedding she wouldn’t miss, and neither would she feel sad about the floral print curtains. Those things were of her mother. The gorge rose at the back of Rae’s throat and she spat on the floor. Damn Ma for being so nosy. Why must she always interfere? Granted, Rae had taken a stupid risk smoking a spliff on the back veranda, and being caught out was craptastic, but how the hell was she to know her mother had forgotten her cellphone at home after Uncle Reinhardt had come to collect her? Perhaps she should have waited another ten or fifteen minutes just to be sure.

Perhaps and maybe didn’t help her now and she was firm in her resolution. She’d scarper now before the cops came upstairs. She was young and had her entire life ahead of her. Somehow she could make this work. If her mother wanted to be such a royal bitch then maybe she didn’t love her daughter at all. A bloody nuisance, not a daughter, that’s what she’d heard her Auntie Bee say.

I can never do anything bloody right in any case. Bye-bye posters, bye-bye books, bye-bye bitch.

Rae hefted her bag, clambered out of the window and paused long enough to breathe in the evening air. This would be the last time she’d ever sneak out of her mother’s house. Balanced precariously so she could reach the old magnolia’s gnarled trunk, she shifted her balance to tilt just right and transfer from the house to the tree. Parts of the branch had been worn shiny over the years. Both she and her older sister, Emily, had used this route on numerous occasions. It made her laugh to think Ma had never caught on.

Rae paused before she shinnied down the trunk. Would going to Melissa’s be okay? She banked on sleeping over for a night or two. But Melissa’s home might not be the best since that would be the first place Ma would come looking. If she came looking. Hell, Rae didn’t have any other options, and if she stayed over by Davy’s, he’d probably expect her to give him more than a few sloppy kisses.

The thought of Davy naked made Rae feel odd, for lack of better description, so she pushed that thought far away and hurried across the lawn at the exact angle to avoid being seen from the study window. If she were quick about it, she could still catch one of the trains to town before Ma even knew she was gone. Besides, the southeaster had died down, the sky had bled to a gorgeous rose and the air was balmy. Even though it was a Sunday evening, it was still a perfect opportunity for adventure.

Rae jounced down the road, her smile grim as she touched each oak she passed, wishing luck from the trees’ rough boles while she fumbled in her jacket pocket for a smoke. It didn’t matter if the neighbors saw her now. It didn’t matter who they’d tell. Rae Clark was outta here.

* * * *

The last person Emily expected to see hunched on her doorstep on a Monday morning was her younger sister. Judging by the way she’d wormed her way between the potted ferns, it looked as if Rae had spent the night sleeping by the front door.

She recoiled from the sight. Rae! What in heaven’s name are you doing here?

The young woman flipped back her dyed-black bangs and squinted at Emily through reddened eyes. Her artfully smudged kohl looked a little more blurred than usual. She’d been crying. Hiya, sis. Rae sounded as though she tried to come across cheerful, but her voice was raw. She rose to her feet and slung a bulging backpack over her shoulder.

What… You should be in class or something.

College closed for vacs last week.

They stared at each other for a bit then Emily relented. Oh, well, come inside.

Emily wrinkled her nose as her sister brushed past her. Rae smelled of cigarette smoke and stale beer, and although her coffin-kid sibling was dressed all in black, her clothing appeared none too clean, either.

She followed her through to the kitchen where Rae collapsed in the breakfast nook and leaned on the scarred yellowwood table so hard it creaked. Fingers threaded through hair displayed chipped black varnish, nails chewed to the quick.

Emily sighed. What’s up? I’ve got to go open shop in less than an hour. You’re going to make me late.

Rae peered at her and bit her lip, as though she weighed her words. Mom’s kicked me out of the house.

Well, that’s hardly news. What did you do to finally push her over the edge this time?

The young woman gave a deep sigh, which ended in a gurgling cough that lasted for several heartbeats—long enough to make Emily worry her sister might have come down with an infection.

That sounded nasty.

Rae gave a small, embarrassed sort of laugh. "It’s nothing. The club was kinda smoky last night. As for the rest…well, ja. Ma kinda caught me smoking weed out on the veranda on Sunday afternoon."

Emily hissed. That’s really stupid. You know how she feels about that stuff. Hell, you know I’m done with that shit as well. She didn’t call the cops on you or anything, did she?

Rae shrugged.

So, what happened?

We had a small…disagreement.

A shouting match, in other words.

"Ja. Then the neighbors called the cops ‘cause they thought someone was being assaulted. That was after Ma threw one of her porcelain frogs at me."

Oh, Rae. What are we going to do with you? She regarded her sister through slit eyes. Then what happened?

While Ma was talking to the cops, I packed my stuff and slipped out the back. Figured I didn’t want to give her the chance to make it official. Went to Melissa’s place but she wasn’t in, so I hitched to town.

You hi— Never mind. What happened then?

They were some Argentinean navy boys. We went to Bob’s on Long and had a pint or two.

More like a pint or eight. You smell like a brewery. Emily could already imagine the place, filled with twenty- and thirty-something backpackers, a miasma of cigarette smoke creating sickly haze while men shot pool with their beer guts hanging over the felt.

Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Rae shrugged.

Then what?

They closed up shop at two. Roberto and Carlos invited me back to their pad but, erm… A sleepover was not an option since that meant… Rae gave a low laugh. So I told them I was going to the bog and I sneaked out and came up to your spot. I didn’t want to wake you.

So you slept on my veranda. Emily wanted to pass a comment about her sister’s near-shag experience with older men. She’d been just as crazy, if not worse, when she’d been her sister’s age, which wasn’t that far behind hers, and she was a fine one to consider lecturing now.

Didn’t exactly get much sleep but it was better than the other options.

Emily groaned then rose and clicked on the kettle. You must be starved. She didn’t look to see how her sister responded to that statement but, already resigned to opening late, she set about fixing Rae two slices of toast with cheese and a cup of Earl Grey tea for each of them.

May I? Rae had fished a crumpled packet of beedies out of her bag.

Emily fixed her sister with a basilisk glare.

Rae meekly slipped the packet into her sleeve. Guess not.

So, now Ma’s pissed at you. I gather Dad hasn’t found out yet? You could have called him, you know. He’d probably be more understanding. Their parents had split up a decade ago, their father now living in a Bantry Bay cottage with a sea view. He’d be more indulgent of Rae’s behavior.

Her sister merely watched her, which made Emily want to pass comments along the lines of You’re not a teenager anymore.

Emily sighed and brought the tea mugs to the table, followed by the toast. Her sister fell upon the offered meal.

Have you washed your hands?

Rae looked up, her mouth smeared with crumbs. Eh?

You know, like used water and soap to get rid of all the dirt. But then again, the way you’re tucking in you look like a half-starved Ethiopian getting weevil-infested maize porridge for dessert, I’m hardly surprised you haven’t noticed what’s under your nails.

Her sister finished chewing then swallowed and spared a cursory glance at her hands. What’s up with you, sis? Ever since you and Adrian broke up you’ve become so… Dunno. Boring. What happened to the days you used to sneak me out the house and take me jolling at The Shack an’ stuff? You never get out. And it’s been… What? Two years now?

This again. Emily sat with a groan and took a sip of tea to cover her discomfort. My lack of obvious social life is not the issue here. You’re setting up a straw man.

"You never get out. You’re not fun anymore, sis."

Whether I’m fun has got nothing to do with you. I don’t need to get completely wasted every weekend and pull into every second guy who gives me a come-hither glance.

Living like a hermit.

"Hey, I like living like a hermit. Besides, I see people. I have friends who come ‘round to the shop for tea. You’re trying to distract me and it’s not going to work. You gotta sort your shit out, sis. You’re what, twenty-one next year? You can’t carry on like a spoiled brat anymore."

Her sister pouted then took another bite of toast, chewing while talking with her mouth full. Well, I can carry on for a bit longer, can’t I? College and all that. She grimaced.

The rate you’re going—

"Faaargh! College! What the hell am I gonna do with a dodgy art diploma anyway? I’m only going ‘cause Dad insisted. It’s all shit, anyhow. I’m gonna be famous one day. They don’t teach you how to get famous at college. You get that from getting life experience."

For what? Being a grade-A twerp? Get a life, Rae. Raw talent’s not enough if you’re so stoned half the time you don’t hand in your assignments. Maybe take a gap year or something then go study something practical like public relations or something. Don’t mess up your chances while you still have our parents’ support, such as it is.

Me an’ Davy’re gonna start a band.

Emily stifled a groan. Every time Davy gets a notion to do something with his life, he smokes another joint until the urge passes. Emily had met her sister’s friend a few times and none of those occasions had improved on her initial assessment.

Rae offered a ferocious scowl but all Emily could do was laugh. She remembered all too well how much hell she’d given their parents when she’d been her sister’s age and that time hadn’t been too long ago, either.

So you’re looking for a place to crash while your big sista passes ‘round the peace pipe.

Well, I certainly can’t go back there!

Didn’t say you were, but you can choose friends, but not family. I think everyone’s emotions are probably running a little high right now. Let me talk to Ma, check out the lay of the land then we’ll take it from there.

Rae hadn’t stopped scowling yet.

I know you don’t like it, sis, but you’re not moving in here. I like my space. You… Emily made vague hand gestures at the ceiling. "You’re disruptive. And just because I’m your sister doesn’t mean I’m going to let you do whatever. You can stay a couple of days. We let things calm a bit and see what we can do to resolve stuff, okay?

That means no smoking indoors, no bringing home your skanky friends and if you’re going to go out, I’ll need to know where you’re going and when you’re going to be back. And, for fuck’s sake, if you’re stuck somewhere, do me the courtesy of calling me so I can come rescue you. Doesn’t matter if you’re in Somerset West.

Rae burst out laughing. So you can come pick me up on your Vespa?

Hey, don’t dis my pony, okay? She’s older than both of us but she goes. Emily glanced at the wall-mounted clock. It’s getting late. Leave your breakfast for now and let’s get you sorted with some towels and fresh bedding. I’ve gotta go to my shop. I’m the only one paying my rent.

Rae followed her to the guest room, crinkling her nose when they passed through the lounge. You still don’t have a TV.

Nope. I’m a Luddite, remember. No landline and, for that matter, I don’t have a computer either, so no chatting or wasting bandwidth on social networking sites. In this house we read books. You know those rectangular objects with pages inside? Little words printed on them?

You must spend a fortune on internet cafés then.

Unlike you, I don’t live in front of a computer screen. Once every two or three days is fine for a healthy adult human. Now go take a bath and please wash your hair.

You sound like Ma.

Emily bit back a retort. She would have to do a lot of smooth-talking between the parents to sort out this mess. If her kid sister thought she’d lucked out with a convenient place to crash, she’d better think twice.

Chapter 2


It wasn’t too much of a slog to their father’s house, since Rae was pretty much used to walking just about everywhere she needed to go, but the incline up Kloof Nek was killing her calf muscles. Car after car roared past her on the windy road, the southeaster ripping through the tall umbrella pines that marched up the slope to her left. The mist boiled down Table Mountain’s ravines, never quite reaching the city limits.

Rae hated the wind. No matter how hard she tried, her hair always came loose from whichever attempt she’d made to restrain it, obscuring her vision, with tendrils getting stuck in her mouth and making her gag when they went down her throat. A motorcycle license probably wasn’t such a bad idea. Then she could borrow Emily’s Vespa, or even save up for one of her own, if she got a job. The problem was, she didn’t want to end up as a waitress but it sure beat working in some retail hell like Davy.

So, off to Daddy Dearest it was. She was pretty sure he’d open his wallet, especially once she’d spilled the story about how horrible her mother was, but that meant she had to shake it to get to her father’s house before Ma called him to bitch and moan about their delinquent daughter.

One of their delinquent daughters. Rae smiled at the thought. Ma was most likely berating herself for being a failure, yet she couldn’t find it in her heart to feel pity for the woman who’d made such a hash job at parenting.

It wasn’t their fault. After all, she’d had Emily to look up to, so certainly she couldn’t be blamed for turning out like her sister, not when their mother pretty much drove them to it at every angle every time she tried to prevent them from exploring their interests.

Rae turned away from those thoughts, content to concentrate on the burning in her muscles, putting each foot before the other. When she reached the top of Kloof Nek, she turned to look upon the city sprawling below. The leafy-green suburbs of Oranjezicht flowed into Gardens with its cluster of Victorian-era homes to the heart of the CBD and Foreshore where skyscrapers fought for dominance. Glass-sheathed buildings flashed with the bursts of sunlight that lanced through the cloud cover. It was good to be based in the city. She far preferred its bustle to half-asleep suburbia.

The rest of her journey would be easy now. She could have taken the bus but she hadn’t wanted to bug Emily for the change. Penance for her sins from the other night. It was too late to dwell on the foolishness of blowing the last of her cash on that beer before the guys had started buying her drinks. God, and her head still pounded. One tequila too many. Rae turned away from the city and continued walking, glad her route took her downhill.

Of course in the light of day her escapade didn’t seem like such a good idea. Her sister had been right about her needing to finish her education, though she hadn’t wanted to agree at the time. It all seemed so senseless. Most of her friends were already talking about what they wanted to become: physiotherapists, beauty technicians, accountants, graphic designers or brand managers, none of which appealed to her. She couldn’t see herself spending so many hours reading and reading then reading some more.

In that regard, she was not like her sister, whose love of books consumed almost every waking minute of her life to the point where she’d even dated one of her professors. That pale, pasty creature had turned her sister into such a wallflower. No way was she going to let some guy dictate to her what she could or couldn’t do with her life.

She still had plenty of time to decide. The holidays lay ahead of her, six weeks of sorting out the conflicting options in her head and figuring out the way ahead. First off, she had to speak with her father. Even though it was tempting to try to hitch a lift down to Bantry Bay, Rae kept walking and lost herself in an easy rhythm.

Typical of her father to rent a place that suited the playboy image he’d invented for himself since he’d left their mother. Not that she blamed him. Their mother was a bit much to handle most of the time, but it still stung that he’d left, even after a decade of getting used to the idea. His home was a sea-facing apartment above the main drag, and though she took a chance, assuming he’d be there, she was gratified to see his Mercedes SLK parked outside the garage. That meant he’d already been out and had returned. Ben Clark was an architect by trade, worked from home and could afford all the trappings accompanying the lifestyle he’d chosen.

Rae smiled. And he could definitely afford to open his wallet to his younger daughter, especially if she found a way to turn on the charm to result in a little fatherly remorse.

She allowed herself a smoke before she rang the buzzer, and watched the cars pass. Did her pa bumble about in his apartment? The sliding door leading onto the balcony was open but she detected no movement. Ben wouldn’t be pleased about her latest stunt—that much was for sure. If she played the little girl who was hard done it might work. A phone call beforehand might have been a good idea but she wanted to catch him off guard. She ground out the butt of her beedie, rubbed her face to smudge her makeup and redden her eyes, then took a deep breath and crossed the road.

She had to press the buzzer three times before someone answered with a sleepy Hello. A woman’s voice.

Rae’s hackles rose. "Tell my dad his daughter, Rae, is outside."

The woman paused and Rae heard faint strains of classical music playing over the speaker. Okay.

She counted to twenty-seven before the gate unlocked. The stairs leading up the side of the house she took two at a time to reach the front door, which didn’t budge when she rattled the handle. Locked, damn it.

The waifish woman who came to the entrance looked about Emily’s age and wore the navy blue dressing gown Rae had bought her father for his birthday last year. Her blond hair looked mussed, as though she’d just risen. Rae groaned inwardly. Talk about catching her father with his pants down, almost literally.

She shoved past the young woman with barely a greeting but plastered a smile she didn’t feel like sharing to her features as she entered the kitchen where Ben busied himself making coffee. Morning, Dad! What’s for breakfast?

* * * *

Glad to escape the mid-morning glare of Long Street, as well