It’s September when Via Sorenson stumbles into a Seattle
strip club, drunk and alone on her twenty-first birthday. Mattias and Nick—best
friends, bandmates, and bouncers—can see she’s not like the other girls and do
their best to shield her from their shady, sadistic, cocaine-trafficking boss,
Carlos. They don’t realize her daddy issues come with a forty-million-dollar
trust fund and a legacy she would do anything to escape.
She is actually the adult version of Violetta Rabbotino, the
tragic little girl who had been all over the news ten years earlier when her
father, an acclaimed abstract artist, came home in a rage, murdered her mother,
then turned the gun on himself. Violetta was spared, hidden behind the family
Christmas tree, veiled by the mysticism of its pretty lights whose
unadulterated love had captivated and calmed her.
Now, desperate to shed her role as orphaned victim, Via is
attempting to recast herself as a party girl by stage diving into a
one-hundred-day adventure with Matt and Nick, the bassist and drummer of
popular nineties cover band Obliviot. At first the rock-and-roll lifestyle is
the perfect distraction. She gets high on true love, but the rush terrifies
her. As Christmas looms closer, she can no longer deny her demented past. But how
will she ever untangle herself from her twisted string of pretty lights?
for mature audiences due to explicit language, sexual content, and drug use.
against the side of the 7-Eleven and pounded her third mini bottle of
chardonnay. After leaving the Space Needle, she had walked around the same
block three times, past that same Pink Elephant Car Wash, three times. She
couldn’t find her car to save her life, which was proof she had no business
behind the wheel anyway. She had called a cab company, but they could only take
her as far as the West Seattle ferry terminal. If she were to walk onto the
ferry, she would have to go to the upper deck and just knew she would run into
people from church. And she didn’t want to go home anyway. Her chest felt
scarfed down her last mini powdered donut and threw away the wrapper. It was a
sign, an actual, literal sign. In the next parking lot over, the Hotties
marquee changed colors for the two-hundredth time—hot pink to purple to white,
and then red, red, red, and then hot pink to purple to white. The letters
flashed, “Gallery Night. She’s a Masterpiece. Amateur Night. Win $750.”
nowhere else to be. Screw it. Why not? Before she’d started dating Dan, she and
her college roommates had often gone dancing at the Blue Tonic, a bar just over
the Canadian border where the drinking age was just nineteen. Its big dance
floor had two dancing platforms, each surrounded by a gilded cage awash in
spotlights. Toward the end of the night, the bouncers invited a few girls to go
inside and dance a song or two. Ceremoniously opening the side doors, the
bouncers escorted the chosen ones inside. There was no lock. The bars were wide
enough that the girls could climb out at any time. Via had gone in often and
never gotten out early—not once. Drinks could wait, her bladder could wait,
flirting could wait. A fire alarm could wait, because her time there had felt
precious and fleeting, and her soul had wanted to stay and dance forever.
Rarely making eye contact with the men watching her, she’d felt their lustful
stares. She had fed on their energy and lit up from the inside out.
how it is supposed to be, she had realized, lost in the lights. Her
opera-obsessed parents had chosen this life for her the day they had chosen the
name Violetta over Brunhilde. The day they had chosen Verde over Wagner. They
could have named her after a Norse warrior woman who rode a flying horse and
kicked ass, but instead they’d chosen an Italian slut who coughed blood into a
hanky. She could have gone by Hilde or Hil. Maybe she could have been brave. A
Hotties sign drew her in even more. The flashing neon began to morph, then hum
and buzz. She blinked. Wait, she realized. Wait, she knew those lights. Their
unadulterated love blazed toward her. They danced and shimmered just for her.
They vibrated their epiphany. Pretend,
pretend, they urged. Don’t you
remember? The recollection teased her, but retreated before she could fully
recognize it. Instead she softened her focus, and let them blur and buzz and
snap her into a new state of being.
her last mini bottle into her purse for later. While crossing over into the
Hotties parking lot she tripped, but caught herself. She just laughed it off,
too wasted to care. Should she take her mother’s ring off? She wondered. No, it
would be safest right where it was. She skimmed her thumb back and forth over
it for luck, for courage. She didn’t let herself pause at the tinted double
doors for fear she would change her mind. Just one night dancing. Lost under
the lights. She couldn’t stand being alone with herself, so she would just be
somebody else. Just for the night.