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Jukebox: Excerpt from Gina Noelle Daggett's Latest Novel

Jukebox: Excerpt from Gina Noelle Daggett's Latest Novel

   After dinner, in their Amsterdam hotel room, Harper sat on the opposite end of the couch from Grace while they watched TV, her feet in Grace’s lap. Rain beat the courtyard window and a mist blew through the screen, filling their suite with storm, stirring Grace’s hair before lifting the magazine cover on the table.
    Midway through a subtitled episode of Friends, Harper went upstairs to her shopping bag from the day and dug out a box of incense. She lit a stick of Nag Champa on the loft’s ledge and headed back to the couch.
    Harper was halfway down the spiral staircase when the first bolt hit. Crack boom. Lightning struck nearby—so close there was no time to prepare for the thunderous explosion—knocking out electricity.
    “My God,” Grace said from somewhere in the darkness.
    Grace and Harper met in the suite’s foyer where the tall windows towered over the river.  
    In the dark, they watched the storm rip through Amsterdam, the town covered in an electric blanket.
    Shoulder to shoulder, with only lightning illuminating the night, they looked at each other.

    Grace lit a sconce in the bathroom so a soft light flickered against the porcelain sink while they got ready for bed. In the distant sparks of energy, Harper could see Grace step into her pajamas, an old Gamma Kappa shirt, while she brushed her teeth.
    Her panties, pink paisleys, peeked from the back of Grace’s shirt as she pulled back the bedding, which was already partially turned-down, a truffle on each pillow.
    Harper took a moment, told herself to relax. What the hell was wrong with her?
    After they slid into bed, incense layered the ceiling with smoke as Grace began tickling Harper’s back, predictable and perpetual, her soothing way of putting them both to sleep.
    Only it was different this time. And they both knew it.
    As she carefully scratched Harper’s back, their breaths deepened and the room heated as years of kindling went up in flames. It blistered Harper’s skin and forced her, abruptly, to the sitting position.
    “Do you want a glass of water?” Harper asked.
    Grace rolled away.
    “No. Thanks.”