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Authors: Shiloh Walker

Beautiful Scars

BOOK: Beautiful Scars
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Dedication

For my kids and husband, always. I love you.

Chapter One

“You’re supposed to go to a party tonight.”

Marc Archer stopped in the middle of the song, the melody that had been dancing in the back of his mind crashing to an abrupt halt. “A party,” he muttered. Then he remembered. “Oh. Yeah. Caleb’s thing. Selene was going with me.”

“Hmmm. Yes. She was, that was the plan.”

Lifting his head, he stared at the angelic face of the woman who put up with his cranky, forgetful ass and basically made his world continue to function. Her name was Ilona Muñoz and if she wasn’t married to one of his best friends, he just might have married her himself. Not that she’d have him or anything, but he’d try. Just because she made life so much easier for him. When she wasn’t driving him crazy.

Because he thought better when he played, and because he knew she had a weakness for the song, he fell into a classical piece by Philip Glass, smiling a little as her brows dropped low over her eyes. “You play dirty, Marc,” she muttered.

“I didn’t know we were playing a game.” He continued to play and waited.

“Yeah, yeah. Well, your pleather-wearing Barbie doll can’t do the party. She actually left a message. It was in the mailbox when I got here.” Her eyes fell away and she suddenly took a serious interest in her nails. “I…uh…well. Here.”

She dropped a piece of paper on top of the Steinway and turned around, moving out of the studio so quick, she might as well have been running. She reached the door and looked back at him. “I’m sorry. I…well. I know you two had a thing for a while.”

Marc reached for the note.

A thing.

Hell.

What did he and Selene have exactly?

He met her at Blue’s, a local club that catered to those with…unusual tastes; it was crazy expensive and beyond private. Getting a membership was harder than hell. The members were expected to respect the privacy of other members, the one reason he felt somewhat safe indulging there.

Selene understood the kind of games he played; she got the rules, because they were her rules too. She wasn’t out to jerk him around, because he could do the same thing to her. It was safe that way. He’d played the game only with people who had a need to be just as careful as he was.

It was a lesson he’d learned the hard way.

He didn’t love Selene, but he liked her. Respected her. Enjoyed her.

Still, it was a bit of a punch to look at the note and read:

 

Marc,

We’ve had fun. But I’ve met somebody and I think it could be real. I know you needed me for something tonight, but I can’t keep this up when I’ve got a chance for something better.

S

 

Folding the note back up, he dropped it on the bench next to him. It wasn’t even noon. He’d worry about the damn party later.

Resting his hands back on the keys, he fell back into the music. It was better there, anyway.

 

 

“I need a date.”

Leaning back in her chair, Shera MacNeil sighed and picked up her nail file. As she stroked it along her index finger, she studied the man in front of her desk. It wasn’t terribly unusual for people to just show up in the office of
Escortè
, the companion service she’d taken over from her mother.

She provided a service. Companionship. Phone calls, dates, that sort of thing. Nothing else, although there were more than a few who thought otherwise. Her ladies, and the few men she kept on call, kept their clothes on. Period. Or they were terminated. Period.

Her employees knew that. The clients knew that. It was a good arrangement and a service that was highly in demand.

Most people called, though. Or used the Internet.

It was just more convenient. And easier for her when they didn’t pass her rather strict vetting.

The man in front of her had passed the vetting. He was also a repeat customer, despite his surly attitude and penchant for showing up late. The women she paired him with had to be damn good at conversation, because he
sucked
at it and the only time he ever needed her services was when he was going to some sort of party where he had to socialize. He used the companion to do all the talking for him, so he could do what he did best…stand there and brood. Until he got talked into playing or singing.

He was tall, pushing six foot three, and he was attractive enough, she figured. More than a few of her employees would love to be his companion for the night—and not just the women. But she had this little thing with people just barging in like this.

Especially
this
guy. He was about impossible to pair up with any of her ladies, despite being a great-looking guy, despite being a good tipper.

Lately, he hadn’t needed her company much and she’d hoped that would continue. Damn her luck, anyway. Studying his surly expression, she leaned back in her chair and crossed one leg over the other.

Well, surly or not, money was money. She’d spent too many years broke not to appreciate how much easier money could make things.

“When do you need a companion, Marc?”

“Tonight. I’ve got a big party and the woman I was taking decided to bail.”

“Hmm. Is this a temporary thing or a permanent thing?”

He bared his teeth at her.

She smiled back. “I’ll take that to mean it’s permanent. Damn. Such a shame. It must have something to do with your charming personality.”

“Are you going to help me or not? I can’t go alone.” He shoved a hand through his hair, but the thick, dark locks promptly fell back into his eyes. He needed a haircut. Something he usually put off until he couldn’t do it any longer and then he attacked it himself with a pair of scissors he found lying around the house. Which then required professional help to fix the damage before he went back on the road. Always fun.

“Now, Marc…you know I can’t go out on a date with you,” she chided. “That would be rather disgusting, seeing as how you’re my half-brother.”

“Ha, ha.” He flung himself into a chair and glared at her. “Are you going to help me out or not, Sher? I need a date for this party. If I go alone…” His voice trailed off and he hunched his shoulders a little, his mouth twisting into a scowl.

He didn’t need to elaborate.

She knew. Marc had a bad habit of ending up in trouble with females if he wasn’t careful. Hell. He ended up in trouble even when he
was
careful. Sometimes she thought he was living under some sort of hellish curse or something, the luck he had going on lately.

He sat up, braced his elbows on his knees and twined his fingers. Staring down at the carpet, he asked in a flat voice, “Are you going to help?”

Before she could answer, the door opened.

Shera sighed, a headache of massive proportions building at the base of her skull as her best friend came to a dead stop. Chaili Bennett saw Marc, her eyes popped wide and she slipped back out. “Hmm. Bad timing. Hey, Marc. I’ll just go to the back and get myself some coffee.”

As the door closed behind Chaili, Marc got to his feet.

The siblings shared very few features in common. He was big, dark and had the brooding musician bit down to an art. Seeing as how he was wowing people on stage, putting out songs that steadily ranked high on the charts and was pretty much on the road to becoming a rock legend, she guessed the brooding artist thing wasn’t altogether bad.

Shera was petite, like their mother had been, and so fair she burned any time she spent more twenty minutes outside without SPF-50 slathered on. At least it seemed that way.

But they both had the same dark hair, the same eyes…Mom’s eyes. Pale gold, ringed with a rim of near black, surrounded by dark spiky lashes. He was older than her by two years. She adored him. He’d been the one who’d taught her how to ride a bike, had been the one to walk her home in grade school, waiting for her after he’d gone on to middle school. He’d helped her with algebra and lit, and the fact that she’d bombed chemistry was totally his fault, but that was okay, because why in the hell did she need chemistry, anyway?

She’d been in her sophomore year and he’d been a senior before things got easier at home and their single mother hadn’t had to work so many long hours. Still, Shera would never forget how many years it had been them. Just them.

Sighing, she said, “What time?”

 

 

Hiding in the kitchen, Chaili leaned against a counter and tried to make herself breathe. It was just Marc, after all. She knew him almost as well as she knew Shera, although half of the known world would scoff if she tried to claim that.

She’d known him when he’d been a struggling musician, playing in bars, at weddings, in the worst hellhole clubs known to man. And she’d loved him then.

She loved the way those slow, reluctant smiles would tug at the corners of his mouth.

She loved the way he expressed himself through music, because he was so hesitant to do it any other way.

She loved the way he adored his sister and their mother.

She loved the way he could be sitting in a room, seemingly oblivious to everything going on while he worked on a song, and then out of the blue, he could just jump in on a conversation and drop a line that could pretty much either turn the discussion on its head or stop it completely.

She loved the way he tried to think things through before he said a damn thing, a habit he’d started developing in the latter part of high school. He had what Shera and Chaili teasingly called
Open Mouth Insert Foot
disorder…a very blunt of way of stating things that had often landed him in trouble—with his mom, in school, with his friends, with his girlfriends, in his jobs, in life…

Not so much now with his professional life, because he tended to just stay quiet unless he had no other choice, or dole out bits and pieces through carefully worded press releases written by others.

She loved the way he didn’t feel like he had to do that so much around her. Not that she ever saw him anymore. Because he rarely came home.

Damn, she missed him. And instead of being able to go in there and talk to him for at least a minute, she was in here hiding, because something was bothering him. She’d seen it.

Glumly, she made her way over to the coffeemaker and poured herself a cup. Hell, if she hadn’t seen a mention of it on the news, she wouldn’t even know he was in town. He never emailed anymore. Ever since she’d stopped doing his website, it was like…

“Don’t think about this,” she muttered. It was sometimes
too
depressing to think about.

Not that she was upset he was doing so well. She was happy for him. He’d wanted so badly to make it with his music and he’d done it. He had a face that was regularly splashed across the Internet, and last year he’d been in the running for one of those crazy
World’s Sexiest Bachelor
things. His band was one of the most popular ones in the country…hell, in the
world
right now. She was happy for him.

But she missed her friend. And her heart ached for the bits and pieces she used to be able to console herself with.

The door to the kitchen swung open and Shera appeared there. The other woman’s gaze locked on the cup of coffee. “Gimme.”

Hunching over the cup, Chaili made a face. “Get your own.”

“I only made enough for one more cup. I was supposed to be the only one here today.”

Staring into Shera’s golden eyes, Chaili lifted the cup and took a slow, happy sip. As she lowered it, she smiled at her friend. “You make awesome coffee, woman.”

“You’re such a bitch. Everybody thinks you’re so damn sweet, but I know better.” She sighed and reached for the coffee beans. “What are you doing here?”

“Stopped by to talk to you about the updates on your site.” Chaili nodded toward her laptop bag sitting by the door. She had a website design company and one of her biggest clients was staring at the coffeemaker like it was capable of creating pure gold out of nothing. “You’d mentioned you wanted some pictures so I was going to take a few and see if I can get a feel for what you wanted.”

“Oh.” Shera rubbed the back of her neck, a gesture that was oddly familiar—Marc did that all the time when he was stressed or thinking. “Yeah, I think you mentioned that. My brother’s gone and fried my brain. Again.”

BOOK: Beautiful Scars
7.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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