Playing At Love: A Rogue Series Novel

By Lara Ward Cosio

Music & musicians, General fiction, Romance

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Playing At Love


Lara Ward Cosio
Copyright © 2015 Lara Ward Cosio
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 0692549234
ISBN-13: 978-0692549230 (Rogue Publications)

pronunciation: / rōɡ/
1. A dishonest or unprincipled man.
1.2 A person whose behavior one disapproves of but one who
is nonetheless likable or attractive
(often used as a playful term of reproof)

Lara Ward Cosio
Copyright © 2015 Lara Ward Cosio All rights reserved.
ISBN: 0692549234 ISBN-13: 978-0692549230 (Rogue Publications)
“Thank you” is not big enough to encompass all the gratitude I feel for my amazing husband, Luis. I am forever grateful for his gracious and unwavering support and belief in me. This book would not have been in the hands of readers without the encouragement and many edits of my role model and mother, Nancy Brands Ward.
She made me a better writer and this a better story.
rogue pronunciation: / rōɡ/ noun 1. A dishonest or unprincipled man.
1.2 A person whose behavior one disapproves of but one who is nonetheless likable or attractive (often used as a playful term of reproof)


This moment was two months in the making. Sixty-three days, to be precise, in which Conor Quinn was mired in the wretched, sinking feeling that came with knowing he had hurt his friend as deeply as one could. And so now he greeted that friend, Gavin McManus, at the front door of his house, eager to ignore the fact that he was more than a half hour late. Hope was plain on his face as he watched Gavin, willing him to show some sign that all would be well. But it seemed they had exchanged personalities on this occasion. Gavin was self-contained, cool, and impassive, while Conor couldn’t suppress his emotions, looking to the other man with uncharacteristic neediness. With eyes averted and a barely perceptible nod, Gavin brushed past to make his way to through the house and out the back to the studio.

“Happy New Year, yeah?” Conor called after him. They were headed into the third week of January and hadn’t spent any of the holidays together as they had in years past. A recent falling-out meant their friendship had suffered, but so too had the band they started together over a dozen years ago. One couldn’t exist without the other. Conor had only been back in Dublin one day after a quick, and rather eventful, trip to New York when Shay, their drummer, called to say Gavin was ready to get back with the band to work on new music. The news was a happy surprise, as his thrice weekly calls to Gavin over the last couple months had been routinely ignored. Now Shay was playing the role of intermediary, which while helpful, was also completely foreign. 

As the lead guitarist of the popular Irish rock band Rogue, Conor had used his striking good looks, natural talent, and confidence to create an iconic image that transcended the music industry. Respected by his peers, he was also a paparazzi favorite, garnering attention for his dating life rather than any kind of scandal. His charm and status meant others clamored for his attention, but his loner tendencies made him highly selective with friendships. He and Gavin had been the best of friends for over two decades until everything came to light. 

Taking a deep, fortifying breath, Conor nodded to himself. Gavin was here now, which meant he was open to working with the band. If they could rekindle their writing partnership, there might be a way to also rebuild their friendship.

Conor headed out back to the detached studio in his garden. This space had been his salvation during the low times of the last two months. He had lovingly and painstakingly pieced the studio together over the years so that the band had a place to experiment and record demos. Oriental rugs, the obligatory design accent in the rock world, were scattered over the wood floors. The walls were adorned with a precise row of framed copies of each of Rogue’s four studio albums, along with a copy of their live album recorded at Wembley. The row beneath these held gold record frames certifying the band’s impressive sales. A set of well-worn sofas and a coffee table rounded out the setup.

Gavin was huddled with Shay and Martin, Rogue’s bassist. The three were speaking softly but with warm smiles and the occasional slap on the arm or back. Conor wasn’t used to being the one on the outside looking in. The vague jealousy that came with this wasn’t exactly new however, because if he was honest, he had felt jealous of Gavin before—jealous over Gavin’s talent, jealous over Gavin’s marriage.

Conor had always been drawn to those that possessed raw talent—both out of admiration and a tinge of envy. He was attracted to that intangible thing that elevated mere aptitude to something great, especially in music. By studying his favorite artists, he realized the key to their genius was an ability to channel the wounds of a damaged childhood into their art. Gavin, having lost his baby sister and mother when he was just seven, had that same wounded artist aura. And he had used it to impressive effect over the years.

With a stable home life, Conor had had the opposite experience. In fact, things had always come easily to him: academics, sports, girls, and especially music. He had shown exceptional ability with classical piano and violin, but he yearned for more. He wanted to lead from passion rather than proficiency, but doing so seemed dangerous. A cautious, only child to older parents, he was inherently risk-adverse. All that changed with the influence of Gavin’s unguarded friendship. Alongside his fearless and outgoing friend, Conor found a safe way to explore his passions, eventually funneling them into Rogue. Thus, the defining—and ultimately trite—conflict of his childhood was that his parents felt he was wasting his intelligence and talent by turning to rock music.

Rogue offered Conor the outlet to develop his talent, but it wasn’t until he fell for Sophie—Gavin’s wife—that his abilities reached new heights. It would take years for him to understand that part of his initial attraction to her had been a subconscious attempt to manufacture his own wounds to channel into musical inspiration. The anguish came, of course, from the fact that Sophie would always be Gavin’s, no matter how Conor might desire her. Or love her, as it turned out.

That unrequited emotion was a large part of what made Rogue’s second album such a standout success. It had been written when, after several years apart, Gavin and Sophie were reunited, and the songwriting he and Gavin did together took on a new urgency. Conor’s guitar playing on “You’re My One” had so well conveyed ache and longing in the first half of the song, with a sense of soaring ecstasy driving it home, it was often called Rogue’s “Little Wing.” With Jimi Hendrix being one of Conor’s guitar idols, he was hesitant to accept the comparison. But he did understand that he and Gavin had created something with that song that resonated with millions of people around the world. He knew his part in the song wouldn’t have happened without his tortured love for Sophie.

As of two months ago, Gavin knew that as well. “So, I’ve got something I want you to hear,” Conor said as he pulled a Martin HD-28V acoustic guitar from its stand, determined to forge ahead. The guitar felt like a natural extension of his hands. He had honed his skills so well over the years that he could manipulate the instrument like a toy. The three men stopped talking and turned expectantly to him. The comfort he’d gained with picking up the guitar evaporated along with the riff he had in mind, and he stood frozen. His announcement had been born more out of a desire to insert himself into the group rather than true inspiration. “Hang on,” Shay said. “I’ve got to hit the jax.” He removed his black flight jacket, tossed it on the sofa, and headed back to the main house to use the toilet on the main level. “You gotta take a look at the pictures of Celia and the kids from our trip to Disney World,” Martin said, pulling out his phone.

Conor nodded, sensing that Shay and Martin were colluding to alleviate the tension in the room. Their distraction techniques would only work so long. Eventually, he and Gavin would have to communicate. But he gladly looked at the photos of Martin’s wife and their three boys. Conor was their godfather, after all, and seeing the kids’ ear-to-ear smiles on the Tea Cups ride elicited his own grin. Shay returned and threw himself down on one of the sofas.

Martin soon joined him, leaving Gavin standing and Conor leaning against a stool, his guitar idle. “Well? Let’s have it, then,” Gavin said. Conor looked at Gavin, saw the challenge in his eyes. The hardness, too. Gavin was forcing himself to be here. There would be no “How have you been?” catch up session, no reassurance that they could begin anew. It was more of a straight in, no kissing situation, as the expression went. With a small nod, Conor launched into a riff he concocted on the spot, a variation, it turned out, of something he should have known better than to get anywhere near.

“Enough,” Gavin said sharply before too long and they all looked at him. “Fuck’s sake, it’s got the same vibe as ‘You’re My One.’” Shit. He sure as hell hadn’t meant to conjure that up. The last thing he wanted at this moment was to agitate the wound he had inflicted on Gavin when he slept with his wife.

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