TEEN IDOL DAVY MOSS DIED ALONE ON A MOUNTAIN ROAD. NO ONE EVER FOUND HIS BODY.
Davy Moss died fifteen years ago, but his fans keep him alive. They "see" him everywhere. They hold reunions, listen to his music over and over again. They encourage him to haunt them. But Davy Moss already haunts one man. Josh Candless, the man Davy Moss became after that accident. Contractor, loner, a man who makes music in the quiet of his apartment. Until one fateful day when he gives an impromptu performance in a bar.
EMILY LUKOVICH HAS SWORN OFF MEN. THEN SHE HEARS JOSH CANDLESS.
Music promoter Emily Lukovich wants to make Josh Candless a star. Unaware of his past, she finds herself drawn to his music, his potential—everything about him. She realizes she could fall in love with Josh Candless. But Emily mixed business with pleasure once before, and it ruined her career. A relationship with Josh Candless might destroy her career all over again. And worse, it might destroy her. Because Davy Moss betrayed everyone he ever knew. And Josh Candless might do the same...
I felt something was missing in the bundle. When Kristine Kathryn Rusch suggested this contemporary tale to me and I read it, I knew she was right. This is a modern day story of hope and trust and love, found down a road that requires everything we have within us to walk it—and then demands a little bit more. – M.L. Buchman
"Rusch is a great storyteller."–RT BookReviews
The Death of Davy Moss is an original romance novel about a modern-day Elvis. Davy Moss was a pop culture sensation, until his alleged death in a terrible accident, fifteen years ago. The fans keep his memory alive, but Davy Moss himself has traded fame and fortune for the relative anonymity of his quiet new life as Josh Candless. When he crosses paths with music promoter Emily Lukovich, she recognizes his talent and wants to make him a star, unaware of his nigh-celestial past. The sparks of love begin to stir between this unlikely couple, but at what price? Davy Moss once abandoned everyone he knew; will Josh Candless do the same? Complex characters driven by multiple motivations form the hallmark of this serenade, especially recommended for readers who enjoy music as surely as they do romance.–Midwest Book Review
"Kristine Kathryn Rusch is one of the best writers in the field."–SFRevu
"A joy of clarity and lyricism. She is a new breed of writer: a Renaissance woman."–Charles de Lint, from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
This new guy was good.
Emily leaned back in the booth and stared. Until the new guy got on stage, she had ignored the band. Even Paul had apologized to her, saying that he had heard they were better than they were. Then the fight had broken out, and the new guy took the stage.
The man she had seen coming into the restaurant.
He looked even more familiar with a guitar in his hand. She squinted. Why was it that every musician these days had a little bit of Elvis, a little bit of Lennon, and a little bit of Davy Moss? The singer's style was all his own, but his voice had elements of all three, with Moss being the strongest.
Fortunately his music was different, and his features were sharp. Moss had always been slightly ill-defined, a skinny boy with a half-formed face.
And Moss was dead. This guy clearly wasn't.
"Wow," Bear murmured beside her.
He only echoed her thoughts.
The singer was taller than most musicians, taller than the kid he replaced, surely. He'd had to pull the mike up with one hand without, somehow, missing a beat. His shoulders were broad, tapering down to narrow hips. His shirt and jeans were faded, his tennis shoes scuffed with mud. He didn't dress like a musician.
But he played like one.
"Who's that?" she asked.
"Josh Candless," Joe said, and it sounded as if he were surprised.
"Candless." She hadn't heard of him, and with moves like that, she should have. That look. She had seen him perform before, she knew that much. But where and when, she couldn't place. His hunch over the guitar, the way his long bangs fell onto his forehead, all seemed familiar. She squinted. It was as if she weren't seeing him clearly, as if she were watching through a filtered lens.
She stood, and slowly made her way to the dance floor. The couples that had been milling a moment before were dancing again, and the drunk who had started the whole thing was leaning against a table, looking amused. Only the kid seemed dissatisfied. He had his arms crossed, head bent down in a deep and obvious frown. The bartender held the kid's arm tightly, as if he expected something to happen, and a cocktail waitress worked the bar.
God, the singer's voice was liquid sex. Emily could feel it run down her spine, caress her nerves, soothe her raw edges. She felt as if any man in the room could ask her to go home and she would, even though the singer was the man she wanted. This feeling didn't happen with just any good musician. Only a few held that power, and most of them didn't wear faded flannel and play hotel bars on a whim.
She glanced at the other women. The cocktail waitress had her elbows on the bar and was staring at the singer. The dancers were frenzied. And the older women sitting at the large table had their mouths open like teenagers suppressing their excitement over meeting John, Paul, George, or Ringo.
Gorgeous. And polished. He'd played professionally. She'd bet her career on it. But where? The music wasn't familiar.
The music. She'd been focusing so hard on him that she hadn't really listened to the music. He was playing what some stations would call hard rock, but it had bits of rockabilly and jazz. The drum carried a rock rhythm, but the bass progression was sweet jazz. And the guitar part that he played had strong country overtones.
Finally the lyrics caught her. He wasn't singing about lost loves or sex. He was singing about faded dreams — the kind of blue-collar blues songs that Billy Joel made popular in the early eighties with hits like "Allentown." Yet it wasn't imitation Joel. It wasn't imitation anyone. This sound was new and rich, and embodied with a pathos that would appeal to anyone from the most hardened CEO to an out-of-work logger.
He backed away from the mike, hit three concluding chords, and suddenly it was done. The revitalizing air that had swept through the bar vanished with the last reverb.
The cocktail waitress and the women at the table burst into applause, followed quickly by the dancers. The drunk whistled, and someone "woo-wooed" as if they had just heard the last set of a really fine concert.
He looked shocked. He took step forward and handed the kid the guitar as if it burned him. The kid took the guitar, said something sharp to the bartender, and stalked out. The rest of the band watched, stunned, as if they didn't quite know what to do.
The dancers swirled around the singer. He shook his head, held up his hands, and seemed absolutely miserable. She almost approached, but then decided against it. She had just told the casino board she wasn't interested in locals. She didn't need to go back on her word immediately.
But she would speak to him.
He was too talented to remain in hotel bars forever.
She returned to the booth. Bear had scooted sideways so that Paul could see. She slid into her place.
"What do you know about that guy?" she asked. She was still trembly. Sex. The best performances were all about sex.
"All I knew about him was that he was one damn fine worker," Bear said.
"Yeah," Joe added. "He was on the construction crew for the casino."
"He was more than that. He did some of the fine work in the casino, master carpenter work," Paul said. "I hired him. He had a valid contractor's license, had worked in Portland, and was looking for honest work. He was so good he was hired on by the biggest contractor in the county, and within a month had become a foreman. He did the fine work for us as a favor when the cabinet maker we contracted for never showed."
A contractor. She would never have suspected it. All the musicians she knew were very protective of their hands.
"But you didn't know he was musical?" she asked.
"Musical? He never even whistled while he worked," Joe said.
"Only guy I know who preferred the radio off," Paul said.
"How odd." She leaned forward. The drummer was apologizing to the bartender. The keyboardist was packing up his Casio, and the bass guitarist was standing in the service entrance, arguing with the kid. That little performance had shredded any sense of unity the band might have had.
The dancers were surrounding the singer, laughing and shouting and slapping him on the back. He wasn't laughing. His smiles were courteous, but they never reached his eyes.
What a powerful mix of emotions in his body language. Tight shoulders, small movements, a darting gaze. Shame, surprise, and a bit of something else.
The man who had performed had been fearless. But offstage, he looked lost.
"Excuse me," she said to the board. She grabbed her coat and slung it over her shoulders. Then she made her way to the dance floor.
The conversation around her was strange:
Jesus, man, you're good.
You been holding out on us.
You should have your own band.
And through it all, he said nothing. Merely smiled, nodding once or twice. What she had taken for fear seemed more like sadness and a sense of loss. She wasn't sure why she understood this man, or if she didn't, why she felt like she did.
He didn't see her as she made her way toward him.
His hands were at his side, and clenched. He was inching toward the door, but people kept stopping him. The drunk was hanging on him, repeating, "You showed him, man. You really did."
Loss, fear: Whatever the emotion he felt, it was clearly secondary to his need to leave. And the crowd, thrilled as they were, weren't about to let him.
She'd seen this with performers a hundred times.
She knew how to solve it.
"Mr. Candless," she snapped in her best business voice. "You need to come with me, sir."
Her voice penetrated and stopped the conversation. He raised his head, saw her, and looked startled. Almost as if he'd recognized her. But she'd never spoken to him before. She would have remembered.
"Mr. Candless," she said again, using that same commanding tone that could turn multimillion-dollar performers into whimpering children.
"Ah, sorry, guys," he said to the people around him. He pushed his way past them, and she took his arm, leading him away from the crowd.
His shirt was warm, the flannel soft and well used. She could feel muscles beneath the fabric: real muscles, not gym-created, oversized things.
"You looked like you needed to be rescued," she said, softly.
He glanced down at her. His eyes were a radiant blue, what her mother used to call Paul Newman blue. Emily hadn't expected that warm feeling to run through her again. At least, not without the music. It almost made her let go of him. The last thing she needed was another musician in her life.
"Thanks," he said, and his voice was as musical as it had been when he was singing. Deep and warm and fine. "I did need rescuing."
Then he slipped out of her grasp, bounded up the stairs, and disappeared out the door. She froze, startled by the suddenness of his escape.
He'd done this before. He knew how to get away.
Well, she'd done it before, too. And she didn't want him to disappear. Not yet, anyway. Not until she found out why a world-class musician was wasting his time in a small Oregon town.