Sometimes life gives you what you need, even if you don’t believe you deserve it.
Kate Daniels wants it all—a big, crazy life, lots of kids, and an adoring husband. Someday. For now, she’ll be happy just to survive her first semester of college. Billy McDonald wants it all, too. Since the day he got his first guitar, he’s had one goal—to prove he’s worth something. His dream is so close, he can almost touch it.
Thrown together during a freak snowstorm, Kate and Billy’s lives become permanently entwined. On the outside, they have nothing in common, but scars aren’t always visible and abuse doesn’t always leave a mark. Kate keeps the pain of her past buried, while Billy carries his like a weapon.
In spite of finding love, Billy continues to be haunted by his childhood and tempted by the excesses of the music industry. He struggles to keep his career on track and his inner demons at bay, until one night, he makes a mistake that could cost him everything. Kate may have found her happily ever after, but for Billy, the nightmare has just begun.
Set against a backdrop of heavy metal and emerging grunge, At This Moment is the first book in the Of Love and Madness trilogy. A love story that unfolds over twenty-five years, it’s the tale of two damaged people trying to make their way in the world without destroying themselves or each other in the process.
Billy didn’t say a word when he picked them up at the subway station, and he did little more than grunt when he dropped Joey off at his station a few blocks later. He remained quiet as they drove through Brooklyn, over the Williamsburg Bridge, and into Lower Manhattan. Kate tried several times to engage him in conversation, but he just stared straight ahead, saying nothing.
After they pulled into the parking lot behind their apartment, he turned off the van and sat drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. She waited until he got out, then followed, expecting to help carry his bags.
“I got it,” he snapped.
“Fine.” It was her turn to get angry. She’d only agreed to do this video because of him. Plus it was his idea—or Christa’s, the little blond weasel—that no one know they were a couple. It wasn’t her fault she caused a stir. Not totally.
She bolted ahead, letting the door slam shut as he approached, and stomped up the stairs and down the hall to their apartment. Throwing her bag on the couch, she went into the bathroom to take off her makeup.
When she came out, Billy was sitting on the bed.
“You think you’re pretty funny, don’t you?”
“Me? I think I’m hilarious.”
As she stormed past him, Billy grabbed her by the hand and pulled her into his lap, locking his arms around her. She sat stiffly, staring straight ahead, her jaw tight, not willing to look at him.
“I’m sorry,” he said finally, pressing his forehead into her shoulder. “I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at me.”
“That makes two of us.”
“I’m an idiot. I shouldn’t have talked you into this, and I shouldn’t have agreed to keep you a secret.”
“Are you saying that because you didn’t like Bailey hitting on me or the other guys looking at me?”
“I didn’t like any of it. I also didn’t like you having to walk in without me and leave without me, even with Joey—who hates me, by the way.”
“He doesn’t hate you.”
He snorted. “I’ll call Christa tomorrow. Tell her we’re not doing this.”
“No. That we have to do. But I’m not making believe we’re not a couple. I don’t see the need for it. I’m not in this for the women. I’m a musician, not a gigolo.”
“You don’t want to be both?”
He shook his head.
“Aww,” she purred. “Too bad.”
He looked up, surprised. “What does that mean?”
“So what was your favorite part?” Billy asked as they waited for a table at the deli across from the Winter Garden Sunday evening. That morning he’d surprised Kate with tickets to Cats. The entire weekend was costing him a small fortune, but when the lights went down and the overture began, the look on her face convinced him it was worth every cent.
“I loved it all,” she gushed. “But if I had to pick my favorite, it would be ‘Growltiger’s Last Stand.’”
“I love that, too, but when they started singing opera, I felt it.” She placed her hand on her heart. “I have no idea what they said, but it touched me. It’s how I feel sometimes when you play, especially the acoustic. It’s so beautiful, I could cry. Don’t you ever feel that way?”
“I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a piece that made me cry.” He thought for a moment, then laughed. “Although, to be honest, bagpipes make me want to bawl my eyes out. Guess it’s my Scottish blood.”
Smiling coyly at Billy, the hostess motioned for them to follow her to a two-top in the back.
“So, you like opera?” he asked after they were seated.
Kate picked up her menu and shrugged. “After hearing that, I’d be willing to give it a shot. It would have to be something romantic, though, and Italian.” She crinkled her nose. “I don’t know that I could get all teary about a German opera like Die Fledermaus, especially if it’s about a real mouse.”
He tried not to laugh. “Pretty sure that’s a comedy. And die fledermaus is a bat.”
She shuddered. “Even worse. So what was your favorite part?”
Watching you, he wanted to say. He’d found himself spending more time glancing down at Kate’s face than he had watching the show, and finding her way more captivating. Could he possibly get any cheesier?
“Oh, I think it was all pretty good.”
She flipped her hair over her shoulder, and he imagined the weight of it dragging across his chest. He wanted to lean forward and kiss every freckle from one cheek to the other, then get lost in her gray-green eyes. He wanted to skip dinner and go back to the hotel. Instead, he fumbled with his menu and asked what she was going to have.
“Chopped liver with onion and a giant pickle.”
“Jeez, I hope that comes with a side of Listerine,” he muttered.
Her face fell. “Do you want me to get something else?”
“No, that’s OK. I’ll just eat onions, too, and hope for the best.”
Later, as they walked back to the hotel, holding hands and taking in the lights and the sounds of the city, he asked if she’d ever want to live there.
“As much as New York has to offer, I’d rather just visit. I like the peace and quiet of the country. I like to see the stars. What about you?”
“The big city’s pretty exciting. It might be fun for a while. I guess it would be difficult with kids, though.”
“So now you’re having kids?” She poked him gently in the ribs. “You weren’t even sure you wanted to fall in love.”
He guided her over to a store window, out of the path of the other pedestrians. “A guy can change his mind, can’t he?” Then he leaned down and kissed her.
Karen Cimms is a writer, editor, and music lover. She was born and raised in New Jersey and still thinks of the Garden State as home. She began her career at an early age rewriting the endings to her favorite books. It was a mostly unsuccessful endeavor, but she likes to think she invented fanfiction.
Karen is a lifelong Jersey corn enthusiast, and is obsessed with (in no particular order) books, shoes, dishes, and Brad Pitt. In her spare time she likes to quilt, decorate, and entertain. Just kidding–she has no spare time.
Although she loves pigeons, she is terrified of pet birds, scary movies and Mr. Peanut.
Karen is married to her favorite lead guitar player. Her children enjoy tormenting her with countless mean-spirited pranks because they love her, or so they say. She currently lives in Northeast Pennsylvania, although her heart is usually in Maine.
“At This Moment” is her debut novel.