Until Her Darkness Goes by RanaKelly by RanaKelly - Read Online



Rachael Sullivan is NYC’s top music producer and owner of Red Hand Records, a private record label and a legendary empire of recording studios across the globe. But the music industry is in the toilet. Rock is dead, money is dwindling, and Rachael is on the cusp of losing it all. One night in a dingy London bar, she happens upon a raw talent that makes her believe in rock and roll again. The band is Murder of Crows, and her saving grace is Nicky McCallum, the genius frontman who is overcoming his own damage. Both of them connect and find profound love, but they soon discover music and love isn’t enough. Drugs cloud the band’s success. Nick struggles with his addictions and demons, while Rachael fights her bipolar disorder and endures a harrowing loss that tests the strength of her soul. The two fight to save one another and remember what brought them together, before it’s lost in wreckage and blood.

Published: RanaKelly on
ISBN: 9781515001706
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Until Her Darkness Goes - RanaKelly

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For my children. I love you. May you never read this.

If you are reading this now, stop it.

For Mike. My Muse, Unfortunate Confessore,

and the Rapture that I drown myself in every day.

And for my Daddio. I love you. Having me

as a daughter makes you a war hero by



Rock n’ roll was dead, at least my version of it. The grim faces of my London team sitting across from me in my office started to blur and smear as I felt the tears drip down my neck.  My whole empire of music studios, my record label, my masterpiece, my universe, came crumbling down, dying all around me.

There is nothing we can do? I asked.

I’m sorry, Rach. It’s over, Ricky said.

Ricky had been my manager here since I set up third shop in London. Los Angeles: gone. London: going. New York, my last refuge, where I myself worked: would go as soon as I went home to it, and probably my house, my car, and maybe even my dog. I was tits up. Everything I ever worked for were now grains of sand in an hourglass. 

Twitter was overflowing with, Who da fuck is Paul McCartney? Kanye is going to give this man a career with this new song!! Free streaming online radio was killing all that was decent and good in my world, the artists. Draining their income, their life’s blood, out into the plumbing of the music business and diluting it all until it was nothing but bad pop stars and worse metal bands. Sewage. That was just the tip of the melting iceberg beneath my feet. The music industry had eaten itself and was taking me with it.

.  After everyone left my office, I wiped the tears from my neck and cheeks, slipped out of my pumps, and pulled my legs up to my chest in my chair and just rocked for a bit. There was no way out. I was well and truly done in.

Ricky popped his head in the door. Your cab’s here. You going back to the hotel?

Nah, I’ll find somewhere to drown my sorrows first, I said.

You sure? I could give you a lift.

In a car you can no longer afford because of me?

Any time, every time, Rach. And this is not your fault. We’ll be alright. Will you?

Probably not. At least I was honest.

When I slid into the sleek black cab, the driver asked me where I was headed.

What is the dingiest, nastiest club in close range, good sir?

I’d call that The Borderline. Calcutta of London. Are you sure you want to go there?

Do they have music that’s not pop or dubstep?

I believe they do, ma’am.

Let’s do it, man. Go.

There was a band setting up their own equipment on the stage as I walked down the stairs into the bar area. An indie band by the looks of it. I went straight to the larger bar, back turned to the stage. The crowd was pressing. The chattering hum was high and excited.  Bodies were starting to rack up the stairs, standing close. It was getting hot quickly. Was there no air conditioning in England?

The bartender came over and waited, saying nothing.

Who’s the band? I asked. More shouted, the way the voices were getting so loud.

Local lads, he yelled back. Called Murder of Crows. They’re a favorite, you could say. Every Friday night it’s like this. Five years now. Maybe longer. Since I been here, at least. You an American? 

I’m sure it’s pretty obvious.

With your accent it is, and asking about this band made it even easier. Everyone in London has heard of ‘em.  He brought me my Corona and walked off. I leaned against the bar to watch this ‘local favorite.’

They were actually not bad. The singer was nowhere in sight, but the other members’ groove was tight. They seemed to be old hands; still paying dues but unsuccessful thus far. No matter if a local band was a favorite, they were still local. They didn’t sound local. They had a southern American thing going. Very odd to hear in such places like London. I turned my back on the band again to order a double of vodka, because fuck it. Go for broke tonight. My expiration date was pending and I didn’t care anymore. I pulled my phone out to text Ricky, whose boyfriend Ginger could probably score me some coke when I was brought up short by the voice I heard through the amplifiers.

We’re Murder of Crows and this song is called ‘East End’ and it goes something like this. He started singing. Gravelly, like boots crunching on hail in a storm. Even with that crackly overtone he was still a perfect tenor. Voices like that only came around once in a very great while. Chills went down my spine and I was desperate to see what he looked like. He had to be spectacular to match it. He had to be incredible.

He was not. He wasn’t a token rock star at all. He was in grubby jeans and a white undershirt. No tattoos or piercings that I could easily see. Skinny, like a snake with a stick shoved down its throat. Long dark hair somewhat hiding his face. He sang with his eyes closed. Either he was lost in the music or he was hiding behind his eyelids. I bet on the latter. 

That voice. These days all the bands were makeup smeared or masked weirdoes that only sang about murder, zombies, and Halloween. Decent guitarists were fallen soldiers. All that was left now were non-passable bands who could play only halfwit, underachieving, angry noise through instruments they didn’t deserve. Or worse, synthesizers. I was an old school blues and metal fan, and I was grateful I had my own studio and the clout to refuse any client who couldn’t figure out a guitar. Call me old fashioned. Which was probably my problem. Looking down my nose at Beyoncé and Lady Gaga was not healthy for my overhead.

This band Murder of Crows was coming with me to New York, no matter what. They were going to be my last hoorah. Maybe even my last hope.

The younger people in the crowd had left at curfew, now it was full of seventeen and up kids, pink cheeked and raucous from moshing and beer. Shaggy hair, mohawks, tight denim, and Converse. They stuck themselves to the bar, packed in and milling like a rat colony. I was smack up against the larger bar with them swarming all around me until I started pushing my way towards the stairs to get to the front of house booth. Their sound and light guy, I guessed he was pulling double duty, didn’t notice me until I tapped him on the shoulder. I couldn’t see his face; all I saw was a copper pony tail and a pale cheek. I leaned over and yelled in his ear that I wanted to meet them and handed him my card. He glanced at it briefly then looked away. Then, he looked at it again and then up to me. It wasn’t often that musicians and the like didn’t know my name. I was the only female record producer currently in business, even failing as it was. And I was one of the best in the business. I was proud of that.

I’ll be at the big bar, I said in his ear. Send the singer. I pushed my way back to my spot, bodies everywhere. I was sweating at that point. I hated sweating. But, clubs like this, a crowd like this, they were special. I knew this was. They knew it was. There was magic and money to be made in here. If I was fortunate, I was this band’s lucky day and they were hopefully my saving grace.

I managed to get back to the larger bar, thanks to friendly, but lit people moving for me. I ordered another drink and watched the band. For their great sound, they were kind of ironic. Especially the singer. He was obviously shy and he had stage fright, which for some reason charmed the hell out of me. There was no artifice, no glimmer in knowing eyes, no ogling of the girls in tight jeans in the front row. There were no barriers, the crowd could probably see the sweat come off of him, but still, he didn’t seem really wrapped up in it quite like everyone else. Maybe because he was now watching me like I was watching him. My stomach jumped when we made eye contact. What was that about? I hadn’t gotten excited over a musician in ages. I was supposed to be a pro at this stuff. Not so much at the moment. Maybe it was the vodka, but I doubted it.

When their set was finished and people started slowly filtering their way out, the band began to tear down their own equipment. The sound guy hopped up on the very low stage, and started speaking into the singer’s ear. His eyes hadn’t wavered from me yet, even though I tried to look around and not pay attention. Then the sound guy made his way to the rest of the members as they unplugged and started winding up cords. They all started looking at me with furtive expressions. The singer then stepped down off the very low stage and weaved through the crowd toward me, getting slaps on his back from random crowd members the entire way.

Let's go upstairs so we can talk, okay, I said. A lot of the kids seemed to not be going anywhere, even though the show was over.

There’s nothing upstairs except a coat check and the merch table, he said. But, I'll buy you a drink. What’s your fancy?

Corona. I was already buzzed and I didn’t want to be too wasted while I was talking to this guy.

Wank. Whisky it is.

So maybe he wasn’t so shy.

I take it you’re Rachael Sullivan, record producer.

Indeed. And you are? I looked up at him. He was sweaty; more than sweaty he was sexy and smelled of that pheromone tang men got when they worked out. Despite the quiet understated look about him, he had an aura of mystery. His speaking voice was muted and low, very different from his singing voice. Almost whispery. He was most definitely a future rock star and my attraction to him was unhealthy. This was bad.  In my idiotic youth, I’d slept with enough gorgeous, heartbroken, cocky, tragic, long-haired little boys to know they are trouble, and yet...

I’m Nicky. Well, Nick. McCallum.

You’re very good.

That’s what the English are good for, ledde-‘evy metew. He turned up a Cockney accent, sounding like a little orphaned Oliver, and winked.

No winking.

Okay, he said.

Are you really English? You don’t sound like it. His accent seemed a little bastardized. I sipped my drink. I was sipping whisky, sipping, in the U.K. I was a girly American. I gave in and knocked it back. Good, good stuff. Smooth, not too sweet, went down loose, then revved up like a Charger. Tennessee was now officially off of my map and I was moving to Scotland.

Go on wiv yerself, don’t you know nuffink? Fashion is for the fecking French, leave rock n’ roll tew us, he said, staring at my throat while I knocked back a second shot. And no, you’re on. I’m Scottish. I moved to a shithole called Willenhall when I was eight with family. Then, I moved to London when I was fourteen. His eyes shuttered a bit. Something was sore there, but then the look was gone and he was smiling again. Not going to touch that.

See, for God and Queen, we Brits own the grass roots of decent music today. You Americans are emancipated, yes, but you are still owned.

Yeah right, we’re still owned. America created rock n’ roll by way of blues. Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Hands down.

You people spurned blues by the time the sixties rolled around and never looked back. We picked up the pieces after the civil rights movement. Took all of our hats off for the old school. 

Still what did you do?  You got bowl cuts and silly suits. Good trade.

Why are you looking at me like that, he asked.

Like what?

Like you want to eat me and throat punch me at the same time?

I grinned. It’s a passionate subject for me.

I can see that. So what else . . . The Darkness. Mötörhead. Judas Priest. AC/DC.

I nodded. You also have Def Leppard, I said. And AC/DC is Australian. Keep up.

There went his eyebrow. I loved the eyebrow thing. When someone could lift one eyebrow and give you that smug-snotty-cute look. On women it was the bitch brow. On men, meow.

Wank! You have Journey and Bon Jovi. And Australia is our Commonwealth. Still ours.

Party foul. Journey rocks, I said. We have Guns N’ Roses. We have Nirvana, who changed the face of music as we know it today, yada yada. Dave Grohl is amazing. It just sucks that Kurt killed himself. Also, we have Seether and My Chemical Romance and Marilyn Manson too.

He pshawed. Stay with me here, Rachael. Guns N’ Roses went complete shite after their first album, and MCR? Wank, wank, wank! Now you’re going all emo on me. Marilyn Manson wears hosiery and has an absinthe boy that follows him around everywhere and makes sure his glass stays full. Prat. Total prat. 

Okay, I give you that one, but two points, here. One, Metallica and two, Aerosmith.

No, no, no, wait. Two points. He set down his pint glass and counted them off with his long, blunt fingers. One, Seether is from South Africa. Two. Iron Maiden.

Oh, no, do not go there. You used AC/DC so I get to use Seether, they have dual citizenship. Technically, they’re African Americans. Besides, we have The Doors and KISS.

His face went straight.

Go ahead. Admit defeat, mister rock star.


Eh, Clapton sucks. Elvis and Chris Whitley and Jack White. One hundred points to me. Yes.

Who the hell is Chris Whitley?

Okay, now you’re just ignorant.

He must be bollocks if we ain’t heard of him. But I bet you've heard o’ The Beatles and Stones an’ Black Fucking Sabbath.


And Led Zep-

Don’t you dare say Led Zeppelin, I said.

Are you taking the piss? Led Zeppelin? Anyone in there? He reached down, made a light fist and knocked me twice on the head, like my skull was a door. Who did that? I looked up at him. He smelled good and had a crooked smile. But I wasn't dumb. Maybe.

Perfectly serious. That band sings about hobbich, oops tipsy. Hobbits. I said, enunciating. On the something murder, I something something girl with long hair."

No, really? he asked.

Yes really. Twenty points for me. Good game.

Don't you mean Mordor? he asked.

What? Oh, yeah. Great.

Elf geek. Deduct five points from the rock star. I groaned. Change the subject.

And besides, Mr. Brit, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Oh, why is that, now?

Robert Plant ripped off his vocal style, not to mention one of their biggest hits, from a British band far better than themselves that you didn't even mention. The Small Faces and-

Humble Pie, he said. I didn't think you would know them.

Whatever, not even just The Small Faces either, I said.There is absolutely nothing original about them. They ripped off Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, Jake Holmes, Anne Bredon, Cochrans, Bukka, Bob Dylan, even Deep Purple, for Christ's sake. I mean, the list goes on and on!

Nick said nothing. He was just staring at me.

I’m obviously better schooled in music than you are. I leaned away from him and almost fell over but he caught me. How could you think I wouldn't know Humble Pie? They're like, one of my favorites, man. Steve Marriott? Are you serious?  Drunkypants, that was me. 

You just scored major points, but, what about Rory?

You mean Rory Gallagher?

Oh, bloody hell, you know Gallagher then, too?

Hell yeah, dude! ‘Bad Penny!’ I’m a music producer. Do you really think you could take me on like this? Yeah, I love Rory. I love that name.

Yeah, I always loved that name, as well. Wanted to name a boy Rory if I ever had one, he said.

Thirty points to the rock star, penalty twenty-five to the gullible woman hooked by said rock star. Good thing I was drunk and shitty at math.

Okay, well, I said, I have two more weeks here before I go back to New York. I need to make a phone call and you need to get me a demo and yourself a passport.

What are you banging on about, mare? Phone call? He put his hands in his back pockets and puffed up his cheeks and then he smiled wide like the blue and purple Cheshire. He really had no perspective of what was coming with a record deal.  If we were both really, really lucky and the stars aligned and the market was perfect and the wind was North East or whatever. This was by no means a slam dunk. But he had lucky rolling off of him like musk and I was not stupid. This could very well work.

Your future record company. Did you just call me mare?

I did.

Not cool. When can I get that demo?

He smiled in his slight, crooked way. Oh God, I should be rolling my eyes right now but I just couldn’t.

Give me a week and I'll have it to you. Thank you. Thank you. He reached down and picked me up, smacked a big lager flavored kiss somewhere around my mouth and gave me an alligator smile.

You have two days. Have the desk at my hotel call me before you come.

Before I come? Really?

Yes, just before, so I can back up and bail out, asshole. Don't push it.

Where you staying?

41, I said. He did that eyebrow thing again.

They won’t even let me in the elevator.

Just bring a pizza and tell them you're the delivery boy. They’ll let you in. Just ask for Rachael.  I winked at him. He laughed and hugged me hard again, turned and headed for the stairs, black hair glowing gold beneath the yellow lights.


Rachael Sullivan wants you to pop over? Are you fucking kidding me, Nick?

I’m not fucking you about. I’m going as soon as it pops out of the oven.  Rachael had been spot on when she asked for pizza. He was a delivery boy, after all. Winner.

The Rachael Sullivan, owner of Red Hand Records invited you over?

You’re the one who brought her card to me, dude, said Nick.

Cable had been his best mate since childhood. When Nick moved to England, he was eight and they had already been mates. Cable stayed with his family in Edinburgh until he was ten, moved Nick in with him and his parents, then they both moved to London at their majority. There hadn’t been a day that passed, not really. Just a shift of the earth. A few blurred spins on what was for Nick, a hopeless merry go round. The loss of his parents. The gaining of a burden by way of blood and kin.

Cable had picked his cousin Colin up on the way to London and brought him along as well. His brotherhood with Cable fell in sync exactly like it had always been; the lost poet and the ginger Scot friend that had pluck when Nick didn’t. They just talked about fanny a whole lot more.

Yeah, but I didn’t know you chatted her up.

Of course I talked to her. Gave her a bit of fuss. Do I want my band to go far or not?

There is that.  Cable was rolling out dough, flour on his hands and face. Nick had his own flour issues, what with it smeared all over his shirt and down on his apron. He went to the sink to wash his hands.

Well, what are you doing now?  Are you going to just drop off the pizza, pop ‘round for a cup of tea or what?

Nick dried his hands on his apron, smearing flour right back on to them. He looked away and said nothing for a moment.

I'm giving her a demo.

You fancy her, don’t you?


You are taking the piss. You fancy her. I’ve known you for over twenty years, Nicky boy.

I’m taking her the CD. We hurried up and recorded it at Red Hand in two days and it is the fucking sauce, mate. The fucking sauce.

You won’t admit it, but I see it, you’re gagging for it. You want a piece of her, don’t you?  Cable wouldn’t stop laughing at him, but Nicky didn’t think it was so funny. He did fancy her. A little too much. The way he needed to look at her. The way she wiped away his shyness. Even when she was off her face she was elegant, smart, sharper than any whip of a woman he’d ever met. That quick kiss the other night that he didn’t plan on proved it. He didn’t do anything unplanned ever. His body had told him what to do and it should have been what not to do.

Yeah, I fancy her, but stop taking the piss for fuck’s sake. It’s not funny.

Yus it is. The pie’s about ready. Go make yourself pretty before you go.  Cable fluttered his eyelashes. You fancy your future boss, mate. Canny wait to see what trouble this causes me.

Nick sneered at him, turned and went to the loo to run his hands through his hair. So much worse. Baseball cap it was. Fuck, he was nervous. He hadn’t been sure what he was expecting when he started to approach her.  Nick never expected her to actually be interested. Really interested. Or be beautiful. Drop dead. He always had a weakness for brunettes with light eyes. He wasn’t sure what color they were but they were staggering and attracted every light in the room.

Cable stuck his head in the door. It’s ready, mate, get it sorted.  Get it sorted, indeed. Nick pulled in a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then let it go with a tiny prayer. Okay a massive one. Massive, massive.

Whoa, mate. Be cool. Dinnae want to be a twat with her. Now. Block it out. Cable waved a hand over his face several times. Block it out. Be cool.

By the time Nick approached the desk at 41, pizza in hand, he was near shaking. The bird at the desk didn’t look impressed.

What suite?

I dunno. It’s for Rachael Sullivan.

The girl picked up the phone. Ms. Sullivan, hello. Did you order a pizza?  He’s on his way.  She looked back up at him. He may have been loads taller than her, but she still managed to look down her nose at him.  It shouldn’t have wounded him. He was used to the odd looks given what he did for a living, but it hurt like little mincing knives, every single time.

Take the elevator up three flights, her door is the only one there. She said and then ignored him.

Ta. Nick strode to the room’s door and knocked on fate’s door. It took her a while to answer, but when she did, she was even more fit in the light of the suite than in the dark of the club. He made quick eyes around the living room of the suite and almost pissed himself. It was what they, whoever they were, called cosmopolitan. All sleek and black and white and glowing and cold. But the bed looked warm. . And the view. The view. London Bridge and the Eye and the Thames stretched out in front of the window in a wide swath. Even at night it glittered, but there was a full moon.

This kind of view cost money he could not imagine and yet, here he was. His palms began to sweat.


There was a light knock on the door when I was bending over the bathroom counter for a bump of coke. This was stupid. Unless he was dumb as a box of hair, he’d be able to tell I was on something. Stupid, but fun.

I loved my blow. Not Amy Winehouse style, not every day, not even every month. I used to be horrible about it, starting at sixteen and up to the age of twenty, it’s all I did. Daddy’s spoiled brat, bored and overindulged. When I admitted my faults to myself and everyone else, I had grown up, gotten off, but as of the other day, I was falling back and I didn’t really care.  Drinking just to get drunk last night and now coke.  Not proud of it. But it’s not like I had much else going for me. Should have fun while I could afford it, right? I rinsed my face, blew my nose, and went to answer the door.

One spinach and basil pizza for the lady, he said. I opened the door further and peeked out at him.

What lady? I arched my brow and gave him my sideways, wolfish grin.

You’re not a lady, then?

Of course not. I have four body piercings, two blue streaks in my hair, and a back full of tattoos. As far as my mom thinks, I’m a freak. I smiled to let him know I was only teasing him.

He was looking down at me from beneath a yellow trucker hat. His eyes were huge and dark and kind, with long lashes that dipped as he smiled back at me. He really looked different than he did the other night. He was wearing a black t-shirt and Converse, so it wasn’t his clothes that were different. It was the hat, it gave him a youngish air. He looked like a Teenage Wasteland skate punk.

He took a look around the suite and went a little pale. 

You really do deliver pizza, don’t you?

I do.

Seriously?  I’m so sorry. I was just kidding.

What are you sorry for?  I’m not cleaning toilets, at least. I'm skint. It barely pays the bills, but it does pay them.

Yeah, true story. I might be delivering pizzas in no time, so I was no one to judge.

He pulled the pizza box out, handed it to me, tucked his thermal bag under his arm and waited.

I’m here on vacation, you know. Well, mostly vacation. There were some very important meetings about staffing and financial shit with my studio here and I thought, fuck Skype, let’s go see Abbey Road for real. It wasn’t wholly a lie.

I needed to maintain the upper-hand in this conversation. Especially when I was going to tell him that I’d hopefully make him muy famouso. I couldn’t lose my composure in front of him again and I damn sure wouldn’t