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Authors: Lynne Connolly

IntheMood

BOOK: IntheMood
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In the Mood

Lynne Connolly

 

Book one in the Nightstar series.

 

The sound of a saxophone drifting
from a Chicago blues club sends Matt inside, hoping to sign the player for his
recording studio. Instead he finds V. Passion drives them from that moment on,
and Matt can’t get enough of her sweet body and generous spirit. But as a
former drug addict who spectacularly crashed out of the rock band Murder City
Ravens, he has a lot to prove.

V thinks she’s happy with her lot
until she receives an offer to join one of the most innovative and exciting
bands in the world. Joining Murder City Ravens could sever her from Matt
forever. How can she join the band when she’s spending her nights with the man
who nearly destroyed it?

Matt and V have decisions to make
that might give each their life’s dream, but could split them apart. Which is
more important—personal fulfillment or love? Is it possible to have both?

 

In the Mood

Lynne Connolly

 

Chapter One

 

A breath of a note shivered through the air as the club door
opened. Matt paused, then stayed to listen. It sounded great. Better than
great. Whoever was playing that saxophone knew how to wrench the heart out of
the music.

Abruptly changing his plans for the evening, he walked
toward the door. Chicago had managed to turn a thriving music area into a
tourist trap, but for those who knew where to look, a few of the old-style
clubs remained. Clubs that attracted tourists but were still all about the
music. After all, tourists loved music too.

This type of club didn’t have people queuing behind velvet
ropes and VIP areas or tourists turning up in droves. The savvy might pick this
place out, because it was small and laid back and looked as if it had been
there for some time.

The man at the door looked at him, then blinked and stared,
dark eyes widening. “Are you Maxx Syccoraxx?”

He grinned. “People ask me that all the time.” He was used
to the question by now. It was better than, “Didn’t you used to be Maxx Syccoraxx?”
Yes, that was who he used to be; lead singer with an up-and-coming rock band.
No more. Drink and drugs had finished all that for him, burned him out. Now,
with his body filled out and hair cropped short, he looked like a different
man, but sometimes people still recognized him.

He hadn’t done so badly. He was still here, unlike some of
the people he’d met in his wild years. And he had to admit, the band had gone
on to greater things without him, mainly due to his replacements and the way
they gelled with the other members. Though sometimes he had to grit his teeth
before he admitted it. Failure never came easy, but he was in the process of
mending his reputation and his fortune. That worked for him.

He strolled into the club. Inside, the place looked pretty
normal. A bar ran down one side of the room with stools set in front of it,
about half of them occupied, and the other side had small tables with bentwood
chairs or simple wooden stools arranged around them.

Every time he entered a place like this, chills of
recognition and excitement went up his spine. He just felt it, like coming
home. This was where he’d started, in the small, smoky, sometimes seedy clubs
and bars, in his case in New York. He never lost that excitement, and if he
ever did, he’d start worrying.

He’d arrived in time. The saxophonist was playing an
extended riff on
Summertime
, always one of Matt’s favorites. His mother
said she’d sung it to him when he was a baby, and it was true he couldn’t
remember a time when he didn’t know that song.

And now another time, another place, another version. A
magical version. He let the notes wreathe around him, luring him into listening
to more, but he wouldn’t look at the stage until he’d heard more. If the player
was male, he still wanted sex with him, just from the seductive music, although
his usual preference ran to something softer and rounder. The kind with gentle
voices, plump breasts and sweet, shivering bodies.

Shit, he was one sex-starved bastard. He’d been too busy to
think about sex recently but that had changed abruptly when he’d heard the
first notes of the song.

He bought a beer at the bar, then found a seat at one of the
small tables at the back. The man who served him glared at him, his gnarled,
brown hands showing nicks and scars from old brawls, but he didn’t comment.
Matt would bet this guy had made him for sure. Seen a lot of life, that guy.

He’d deliberately kept his attention away from the little
stage at the front of the room. He wanted his first aural perceptions
unaffected by anything he saw. Now, sitting alone at a small table, he looked
up. And lost his breath.

The sax player was tall and slim, with soft bits in all the
right places, and she wore a short, sassy dress in an antique gold color, a
foil for the blonde hair that flowed down her back and curled around her body.
Strands of it clung to her instrument as if they wanted to bind the two
together, player and sax.

The notes shuddered through him, through her, as they did
through the dozen or so patrons here tonight. An inner voice told Matt to
snatch her away, lock her up somewhere he could enjoy her and nobody else could
get to her. This was
his
music, she was playing for him alone.

His professional self rejoiced. Not many people had that
ability, to speak so personally to someone else. He’d seen it a few times on
the stage, with popular artists who could create a still point around them,
shrink a space the size of a sports arena to a small, intimate room. A couple
of actors, a ballet dancer, half a dozen musicians, all but one of them famous
and wealthy, or on their way to being so. An exception was the woman in this
club tonight.

The private part of him didn’t give a fuck. This woman
personified all his wet dreams. And she could play the sax too.

Her solo came to a breathy close and the rest of the quartet
came in. He’d hoped to hear better than good, but they were just—good. They
knew how to play, they could swing, but they didn’t have the extra something
that made a band special.

She looked so fucking beautiful. She’d make any audience
cream its collective pants.

He wanted her, and he didn’t just mean personally. She
confused him, because he didn’t know which he wanted more. As if appearing from
a wish or a prayer, she was just what he needed professionally right now. He hadn’t
expected the musician he’d been hunting all over the music world for in this
place—and hopefully available.

Shit, if anyone else had signed her, he’d still have her.
He’d pay anything. The band he was working with right now—his stomach knotted
at the thought. They were the reason he’d come out tonight, to get some rest,
some respite from a session that was growing far too intense for his comfort.

Forcing all thoughts of his day job out of his mind, he
leaned back, picked up his beer and listened to the band.

 

“Hey, girl. You did good tonight.”

V gave her uncle a sweet smile. “Thanks.”

“You know I’d give you a permanent place in the band if you
wanted one.”

She kept her smile firmly in place. “Thanks. But I’m not
looking right now.”

“I know that’s what you say, but you think about it, hey?”

After carefully putting down her sax, she leaned forward and
kissed his grizzled cheek. The stubble he retained as part of his image was
silver now, so much a part of him she couldn’t imagine him without it. “I
promise. But this is what I like. Coming in when I’m in the mood.”

Claud shrugged. “Can’t blame a man for trying. Ready to
leave, baby girl?”

She sighed. “I guess.” It felt like a letdown to go tamely
home and climb into her solitary bed. She’d played well tonight, she knew it,
but restlessness consumed her now. It wasn’t enough, wasn’t nearly enough. She
wanted more, but she didn’t know for sure what “more” was. Like that song from
West
Side Story
,
Something’s Coming
, she felt fearful, excited and
restless.

She ran her fingers over the stops on her sax, enjoying the
feel of the smooth pads.

“Funny it’s you who turned out to have the musical talent.”

She glared at Claud. “Racist, much? Blue-eyed blondes can’t
play the blues?” Only then did she see the twinkle in his dark eyes. She gave
him a mock punch, careful to keep it light. “Okay, you got me.”

“I told you,” he said softly. “Music has all the colors of
the rainbow, and then some.”

A deep velvet voice chimed in. “Pardon me, may I have a word
with you?” A strange sense of recognition shivered through her, but she’d never
heard him before.

She turned away from her sax case and knew why she’d had the
sense of a hot, concentrated gaze on her for the last half hour. She hadn’t
imagined it, because here he was. Tall, stern features, startling green eyes, a
true, deep green. That kind of mouth on a man shouldn’t be allowed either. It
promised far more than it could ever deliver, full and rich, the color like the
most sinful of strawberries.

Not that she was about to find out, she reminded herself.
She deliberately turned to crisp efficiency. “Is there something I can do for
you?” She didn’t have to turn around to know that Claud had moved a little
closer.

The man smiled. If she’d been the impressionable type, she’d
have fainted dead away on the spot. She didn’t because she wasn’t. In fact, she
didn’t show any emotion, except a glance at Claud to make sure he didn’t crowd
her too protectively.

“I’m Matt Sinclair. I own a small recording studio close by,
Kismet. You know it?”

She knew it.
Now
she knew why she thought she’d seen
him before. Sinclair was making quite a name for himself. Again. After blowing
his first chance, he’d reverted to his original name and started over. She had
to admire that, she supposed. And what he’d achieved in his short, meteoric
prior career.

She merely nodded. “You’re not going to say I’m a star and
you want to make an album with me. Please say something more original than
that.”

The grin turned lopsided. “Kind of. But not as dramatic.”

Beside her, Claud grunted. “You’re not the first person to
try somethin’ with her. How do we know you’re really this guy Sinclair?”

V nudged him. “He is. Take my word for it.”

Sinclair’s dark brows rose in surprise and she grinned. “Not
as famous as you think, then?”

“Nah,” he said. “And I wish—” He broke off. “The point is,
I’m making a new album for a band, and they want to locate a sax player for a
fill. One track. Interested?”

Fuck, yes. But maybe— “What band?”

“Murder City Ravens,” he said, meeting her gaze directly.

The world shrank to two people. She forgot what she’d asked
him, what he’d said. Sounds ebbed away until she heard her uncle’s gruff tones.
“Are you all right, girl?”

She shook her head, feeling her hair tickle her cheek as it
drifted forward and stuck to her lip gloss. The cosmetics people should really
concentrate on inventing a nonstick version.

She pulled the strands aside with a hand she realized was
shaking. It wasn’t the job offer that affected her this way. She must be tired
or something. “Your old band?”

A light she could have defined as anger, or maybe a spark of
vitality, something, lit his eyes. “The same. If you’ve heard their stuff,
you’d know they don’t usually use a sax, but this track needs one. Something to
soar above the main riff, something with a touch of sexy.” His eyes gleamed
again, or maybe it just looked that way because he shifted and the reflection
changed.

She realized something else with a shock. Shit, her mind was
working slow tonight. “They’re doing their new album with you?” The man
standing in front of her had crashed and burned, and nearly taken the band with
him. Their reputation was climbing fast, and they wanted him to produce the
crucial third album, the first one with the new members?

She met his eyes again and knew he’d read her thoughts. It
probably wasn’t the first time he’d seen that question in someone’s face. He
shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a great producer.”

Laughter broke the tension. Claud stepped back, giving her a
little space. He ran his gnarled hand along the yellowed ivory keys of his
piano and closed the lid. He’d told her once that every time he closed the
instrument he moved a little closer toward closing it for good, so he always
did it reluctantly.

She turned to finish stowing her instrument in its case, but
when she snapped the last fastener closed and reached for the handle, someone
else’s hand got there first. From the wrinkles on the back, she recognized her
uncle’s. “I’ll take care of that for you. Do you want it dropped at home or
your apartment?”

“Home, please.” Except she’d be going with it, of course.
She frowned when he batted her hand away from the handle. “I managed to carry
it all evening.”

“So let me take the strain for now. You just relax, darlin’.
The club don’t shut for another hour—stay and talk business with this guy
Sinclair.”

“This guy Sinclair can hear every word,” a wry voice said
from behind them.

“I am fully aware of that,” Claud said without turning
around. “I recall who you are now, so you get a chance with her. Blow it and
you don’t get a second.” He put his arm around her waist and urged her to turn
around. “I’ll drop the sax off for you.”

“Thanks.” She’d never felt attached to her instruments,
although this one meant more than the others because her mother had given it to
her. She’d played
Happy Birthday
to her last month and at last, her
devoted ma had approved of her playing. Although she still told V not to give
up the day job.

Like most of her family, V was drawn to music, but her
mother didn’t want anything more for her baby girl. She’d lived in Chicago a
long time, she told V, and seen artists come and go. Mainly go, dragged down by
the lifestyle or the substances freely available in the community.

Now a man with eyes as green as the Chicago River on St.
Patrick’s Day wanted her to take another step. But she felt comfortable with
it. When she didn’t, she wouldn’t do any more. “I can fit in a little session
work,” she said to Claud.

Her uncle smiled, easy. “Sure you can. It could be a good
gig. If you do this one, then you can do another.” Unlike her mother, her uncle
encouraged her to push forward a little, to go beyond her comfort zone.

“Do I get any say?” Sinclair folded his arms over his
admittedly powerful chest.

Claud flapped a hand in his direction. “Some. You look after
our little girl, y’hear?”

“Sure. If she does the job, I’ll put her name on the list if
she does it right.”

He meant the list of session musicians available for hire. A
great opportunity and regular money, and yeah, she could do that too.

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