“Ash,” I corrected. “My friends call me Ash.” My voice
sounded gruff from the weight of the things I wanted to explore further with
her. Things that I wouldn’t, couldn’t pursue. Bad timing to meet someone who so
intrigued me if the test turned out the way I feared. And even if it didn’t,
she was too young, too innocent. Not at all right for someone like me.
“Ash,” she repeated, my name sliding so easily between those
recently wetted ruby red lips of hers. I imagined them wrapped around my shaft
and knew I wouldn’t have turned her down if she had offered to do to me the
things the groupie had. My cock was certainly interested in her. It didn’t care
about timing or right and wrong. It was all about action.
“I’m sorry you got drawn into my mess,” she continued. “I
think that under different circumstances we might have been friends. It’s
difficult to find many of those in our profession. Genuine ones, I mean. But I
think it’s better if we just go ahead and say goodbye right now.”
“How so?” The lust thundering through me made it difficult
to focus, but I did get that she was giving me the brush off. And even though
wisdom dictated that I take the hint—it was the logical thing to do after all
given our differences—the alpha male in me said, ‘Fuck logic.’
“Because my stepfather wasn’t kidding around. He means what
he says. You don’t want to be on his bad side. I don’t want
you to be on his bad side. And that’s where you would end up if he thought you
were a friend of mine.”
“Someone who steps in front of him when he’s twisting your
arm and hurting you, you mean?”
Her eyes wide, she nodded.
“Well, fuck that bullshit.” My gaze grazed the red welt on
her arm. “He’s the one who should be worried about getting on my bad side.”
She smiled at my vehement response and smiling she was more
than just cute. She was a wrecking ball to my resolve, Prettier in person than
in any of the videos I had seen of her and so enticing in that little yellow
halter top with the tempting bow dangling between her shoulder blades. I
imagined untying it and taking those pins out of her hair. What would those
glorious red curls feel like around my…. No… I reined those thoughts back and
settled for tracing her subtle curves with my gaze instead. No sex. Not with
her. Not with anyone. Not for a while. Potentially not ever. I wouldn’t put
anyone at risk if there was even a chance they would get infected. Ironic to be
sure. Divine justice for my own irresponsible behavior over the years.
The familiar icy dread returning, I had to remind myself
that no diagnosis had actually been made. I had momentarily forgotten my
apprehension in her presence. That song of hers was so fucking full of hope it
had me expecting a miracle. And that hope sprang from within her. She was the
source. No wonder her star had risen so fast. Just a handful of minutes with
her was all it had taken for me to realize it.
“I…I wasn’t expecting to run into you tonight.” Her eyes
twinkled like stars emerging in the sky as the sun relinquished its hold on the
day. “I had hoped to, sure, you know, since I love…your music so much.” A few
more spirally crimson curls shivered free of their pins as her hands fluttered
in front of her chest. “It’s just now that I’ve actually met you for real.” She
gave me that utterly beguiling guileless look. “I’ll never be able to look at
your picture the same way again.”
“No reason to settle for a photograph, Fanny. You have your
things to do tonight, and I’ve got mine. But afterward, there are a lot of
parties. I’m sure we can manage to bump into each other again. Maybe talk some
more.” Unwise, Ashland. But yet doing the ‘whoever and whatever the fuck I
wanted’ rock star entitlement thing was a hard habit to crush. I might not be
able to take this where I wanted with her spread out on the sheets beneath me,
but I wasn’t ready for whatever the hell this was to end yet, either. So
shouldn’t I leave myself an opening? A contingency plan? I had been walking
around like a zombie. But what if the diagnosis wasn’t what I feared? What if I
received favorable news? What then? Who then? As I continued to stare into
those starlit eyes of hers, I felt something shift and lock into place that was
startlingly certain. Her. If I had a future on the other side of this, I wanted
that future to include her.
“There is a reason.” She shook her head. “Samuel Lesowski.
My stepfather. You two didn’t exactly hit it off.”
“You’re an adult. He doesn’t have to know everything you do,
“No.” Her face brightening, she shook her head excitedly and
more curls escaped.
“What do you say then? How about this? You be just you and
I’ll be just me. A girl from Beverly Hills and a guy from the beach. None of
the other stuff. It’s not important. I’ve got a hurdle I have to clear next
week, but afterward I can come back to LA. We could meet somewhere.”
“I don’t know.” She captured and wrapped one of her curls
around her finger while blinking uncertainly at me through the thick fringe of
her crimson lashes.
“There’s a coffeehouse,” I plowed over her reservations. “The
Cosmic Cup in Manhattan Beach. It’s by the water. Quiet. Close enough to where
you live, but a fair enough distance from the bullshit of LA. How about
Wednesday at ten o’clock?”
“But nothing. You wrote that song, ‘Tomorrow Today’, right?
Make every moment count. I believe that. We can’t control time, but who says we
can’t manipulate it. We bumped into each other tonight for a reason. Don’t you
think we owe ourselves a chance to find out what that reason is?”
Michelle Mankin is the New York Times
bestselling author of the Black Cat Records series of novels.Rock Stars. Romance. Redemption.
Love Evolution, Love Revolution, and Love Resolution are a
BRUTAL STRENGTH centered trilogy, combining the plot underpinnings of
Shakespeare with the drama, excitement, and indisputable sexiness of the rock
‘n roll industry.
Things take a bit of an edgier, once upon a time turn with
the TEMPEST series. These pierced, tatted, and troubled Seattle rockers are
young and on the cusp of making it big, but with serious obstacles to overcome
that may prevent them from ever getting there.
Rock stars, myths, and legends collide with paranormal
romance in a totally mesmerizing way in the MAGIC series.
Catch the perfect wave with irresistible surfers in the ROCK
STARS, SURF AND SECOND CHANCES series.
Romance and self-discovery, the FINDING ME series is a
Tempest spin off with a more experienced but familiar cast of characters. Exploring the sexual double standards for women, the ROCK
F*CK CLUB series is a what-if the groupies called the shots instead of the rock
When Michelle is not prowling the streets of her Texas town
listening to her rock or NOLA funk music much too loud, she is putting her
daydreams down on paper or traveling the world with her family and friends,
sometimes for real, and sometimes just for pretend.
OTHER BOOKS BY MICHELLE MANKIN
BRUTAL STRENGTH series:
Love Rock’ollection TEMPEST series (also available in audio):
Scandalous BeatThe MAGIC series (also available in audio):
Twisted Magic ROCK STARS, SURF AND SECOND CHANCES series
available in audio):
Oceanside FINDING ME series (also available in audio):
Keep MeROCK F*CK CLUB series:
Rock F*ck Club (audio coming soon)