Authors: Christa Maurice
“Like let him in at two in the morning?”
“Like let him in at two in the morning and then berate themselves. It’s a no win situation. You either second-guess yourself if he walks or hate yourself for being a doormat. And you—you’ve got a bigger problem than usual. You have a hot young rock star on your doorstep.” Candy carved off another slice of brownie sundae. “You just have to figure out what you can handle. Being alone or being available.”
“He likes the fact that I’m bossy.”
“Great. Decision made. Set rules and make him toe the line.” Candy licked her lips. “And expect him to test the limits.”
Tessa nodded. Candy wasn’t completely on the wrong track. But she didn’t need to set limits on Brett. She needed to draw the line for herself. Like not get stupid and start to think he might be more than a momentary distraction.
* * * *
Brett parked in front of the office building where Touchstone had their offices and stared up at what he thought was Tessa’s window. He’d stopped by her house Sunday afternoon, but she hadn’t been home. Or just hadn’t answered the door. She might have seen his car in the drive and thought
. The further he got away from his stunt on Friday night, the dumber it seemed. Tessa was not the kind of girl whose door he could show up at in the middle of the night and expect her to be thrilled. She wasn’t a girl at all. Yeah, at the time she’d let him in and even let him have sex with her, but the second that door closed behind him, she had probably been cussing him out.
She had told him not to come to the office, but when Jody called yesterday to get his address so she could courier over the production contracts, he’d figured he had a great excuse to show up in person. Hopefully, Tessa wouldn’t throw him out on his ass.
He climbed out and headed up to the offices. When he pushed through the doors, Jody looked up from her desk and smiled. “Hello, Brett. I have the contract right here. You didn’t have to come in, though. I could have sent it to your house.” She writhed suggestively in her seat as she held out the contract. “I might have even brought it out myself and waited while you signed.”
Last time he came in, she’d turned on the come-hither, too. “No problem. I wanted to ask Tessa something, anyway.” He took the contract and scanned it. Tessa had written this. Damn, she was smart.
“Don’t you want to ask your own lawyers?”
“No. I know where her office is.” He started down the hall.
Brett ignored her and waved at the other woman who worked in the office as he passed her open door. She waved back, frowning. At the end of the hall, he could see their manager’s door open, but couldn’t see him. Quite a tight little organization.
BroRide used a management company that handled two other bands in LA, a law firm with offices in New York and London, and a marketing company that he was pretty sure only existed online. Half the time, nobody knew what was going on. He walked into Tessa’s office. “Hey, Tessa.”
She was wearing a white sleeveless silk blouse all professional like and cool, but she jumped about three feet in the air when she heard his voice. “What are you doing here?”
“I had to sign something.” He held up the contract and closed the office door. “And I wanted to talk to you.”
“I told you not to come here.” She stood, folding her arms.
“I know, but I figured I had a good reason.”
She pursed her lips. “That could have been sent to you.”
“Yeah, but that would have screwed up a perfectly good reason to see you.”
“I wasn’t aware you needed a reason. I thought you’d decided you could just show up at my house.”
Yeah, going to her house Friday had been dumb. Sunday hadn’t been too swift either. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”
“Sign the contract before you get distracted and forget.” She held out a pen.
“You might let me get distracted with you?” Her bare arms were sure as hell distracting him. He wanted to start kissing her fingertips and work his way up until they were both sweaty and naked.
“Sign the contract.”
He took her pen and signed his name on the last page.
“Did you even read that?”
“Brett, you are supposed to read everything before you sign.”
“You wrote it. You wouldn’t screw me. Legally.”
She pursed her lips again. “Did you just come here to pick at me?”
“No. I came to apologize for being a jackass. I tried Sunday, but you weren’t home.” Brett set her pen down. He hated having this desk between them. It kept her just far enough away that he couldn’t touch her. He could smell her, though. That light flowery whatever-it-was that she wore all the time.
“I was stupid and I messed up.” He shrugged.
“Come on. You’re not going to make me grovel, are you?”
“I kinda like you on your knees.” She walked around the desk and leaned on it.
So much for the desk keeping them apart. And she was wearing a peach skirt without pantyhose. Had she planned for him to come in? “I thought you didn’t want to do that in your office.” He shifted to face her.
“I don’t.” She slipped her finger inside his shirt between the buttons and brushed her fingernail along his skin. “But you are here.”
“I’m here.” Should he reach for her? His hands ached to touch her, but he wasn’t sure what the reception would be. Uncertainty was hot. She might let him move on her, and she might kick his ass out. Either way, he couldn’t stand not to try. He reached for her.
She backed away, and her finger slipped out of his shirt. “No, not in the office.”
“Then let’s go have lunch.”
“It’s two o’clock in the afternoon.”
“We’ll have a late lunch. You can skip out early. You work for your brother.” Brett licked his lips. He wanted to lean over, press his lips to her neck, and taste her skin. She would taste like summer. Warm and rich and lush.
“No. I don’t want to.”
“Yes, you do.”
She raised an eyebrow.
Where had this woman come from? He didn’t remember her being this hard, this demanding. But he liked it. “Come on. I can make it worth your while.” He leaned closer to see if she would move away again.
She didn’t. “I’m sure you can, but no.” She cocked her head, her nose millimeters away from his. “You can come to my house tonight at seven. If you stand me up again, it’ll be the last time.”
“Don’t get smart.”
“No danger of that.” When he brushed his lips across her cheek, she still didn’t move away so he pressed the advantage by trailing the tip of his tongue to her earlobe. She did taste lush. A fine, complex flavor he didn’t need to identify to appreciate.
“You aren’t dumb.”
“But I’m not smart enough to stay out of trouble with you.” He eased closer until his body had light contact with hers. Nope, not smart enough at all. Hadn’t she just said
not in the office
? And yet here he was, caressing her bare forearm.
“You were smart enough to get out of trouble, though.”
“Am I out of trouble?” He let his fingers slide inside her elbow. So far she hadn’t smacked him down. Would she? When? His cock felt like iron, and he wasn’t sure she’d give him any relief.
“You’re on probation.”
“For how long? Thirty days? Sixty days? Ninety days in the hole?” As he grazed his teeth across her jugular, she tipped her head to give him better access.
“Until I decide to end it.”
He didn’t stop his assault on her flesh, but her words ran down his back like ice and settled in his stomach. End it. She could leave him high and dry any time she wanted. Wrapping his hand around her waist, he pulled her closer and kissed her so she’d stop saying shit like that. For a woman who didn’t want to fool around in her office, she was awful responsive. Her fingers tangled through his hair, melting the ice down his back. “I thought you didn’t want to have sex in your office.”
“I don’t.” She nipped his bottom lip and put her hand in the middle of his chest to push him back. “You should go. Be at my house at seven. Bring dinner. Surprise me.”
“I’ll be there.” Brett forced himself back. He needed to get her to realize this could be more than two bodies bumping in the night. Then she wouldn’t be able to quit him as if she was switching brands of pop. “Right on time.”
* * * *
He was late. Tessa stood in front of her living room window staring out at the empty street. She should have given him what he’d wanted—what she’d wanted—in her office this afternoon. Brett had probably left her and gone directly to some bar, picked up a girl, and was trying out all kinds of new moves on her right now.
Might be for the best. This thing they had going on was ruining her life. At night she stared at the ceiling thinking about being with him. Not just the sex, but talking to him. Holding him. Being held by him. The way he made her laugh and challenged her. He let her feel like she was running her own show instead of watching someone else’s from backstage. Then all day she sat around wondering why she wasn’t doing all the normal adult stuff, or even any of the normal adult stuff. There had been men she could have married. Good bets who were not entertainers. Over the years, she’d turned down a couple of proposals and headed off a couple more before they happened. Watching her sisters’ divorces hadn’t inspired confidence in her, but that didn’t mean she needed to swear off marriage for life.
Frank. Frank was an excellent example. Working with Jerry, he did have to travel, but not all the time. At least nine months a year he was right here in LA. He would do anything she asked. Jerry had produced Touchstone’s first three records and made them superstars, so she and Frank had been bumping into one another regularly for over twenty years. Most of Brett’s life. Frank was reliable, connected, pre-vetted, and would be overjoyed to have her.
Brett was unreliable and needed her connections, and that was all the vetting she needed on him. Why did he have to be the one to make her all swoony and stupid?
He pulled in the drive.
Tessa stepped away from the window and watched him duck back into the car to retrieve a bag from the passenger seat after he climbed out. He moved with a kind of lethal energy. Every motion made him the center of attention. Her thighs shivered as he bounded up the stairs two at a time. No matter what he’d spent the last five hours doing, he was eager to get to her.
“Sorry, I’m late,” he said when she opened the door. “The restaurant got the order wrong and had to fix it.” He kissed her cheek as he charged past her into the house and upstairs to the kitchen.
Tessa touched her cheek. What was that about? She followed him.
“I got steak fajitas.” Brett opened her cupboards. “Where are your plates?”
“Yeah, the flat things you eat food off. Unless you want me to feed you.” He grinned over his shoulder as he opened the correct cupboard. “Here we are.” He found the silverware on the first try, too.
Tessa trailed him into the dining room. Brett had left his bag on the table. “What are you doing?”
“Setting the table. I figured you would be hungry.” He spread cardboard food boxes on the table around the plates and silverware.
“Then let’s eat.” He straddled a chair.
Tessa watched him opening up boxes and assembling his fajita. The food smelled great. Spicy and hot. Looked good, too. Colorful, juicy. Utterly unsexy. Her stomach growled.
Brett looked up at the sound. “You waiting for something?”
“I’m trying to figure out what’s going on.”
Brett glanced at the table and then back at her. “Dinner?”
“Dinner? Like normal people?”
“No, like two people who are going to need energy later.” He grabbed her hand and tugged her toward a chair. “Come on. Eat. You told me to bring dinner.”
Tessa sat down next to him. “I never use this table.”
“You never use this floor.” He gestured to the living room.
She followed his hand. The living room had a dark oak bookshelf along the wall with a high backed wing chair and couch facing it. “Why do you say that?”
“It’s downstairs. What if I read a lot?”
“No cups, glasses, coasters. Nothing out of place.” He laid a tortilla on her plate and put meat and vegetables on it. “Will you eat already? The food is getting cold, and you’re going to faint from hunger. It’s not drugged.”
“I never said it was.” She picked up her fajita and started to eat. It tasted as good as it smelled.
Brett finished and leaned back in his chair, watching her.
“Now what are you doing?”
“Looking at you. Damn, you’re suspicious.” He grabbed his plate and carried it to the kitchen. “We’re leaving to record with Jason next week. The other guys are already bitching because Jason said no partying at his place.”
Next week? The ink was barely dry on the contract. “He’s got his daughters to think about.”
“They aren’t coming.”
“Really? I can’t believe Cassie would miss a chance to hang out in her hometown.”
“I don’t think she wants Andi and Sonya around us until she knows she can trust us. We have a reputation.” He returned to the room and leaned on the wall. “So what’s his place out there like?”
“Nice. Very peaceful. It’s on the side of a mountain.” Tessa pushed her plate away. “There’s a town in the valley, but there’s not much to it. Nothing to interfere with recording.”
“Good. We have a lot of work to do.”
“What are we doing?” Tessa asked.
“Talking?” Brett grinned.
Tessa stood up and placed herself in front of him. “You don’t have any tattoos.” He was wearing the same shirt he’d been wearing when he came to her office. White with orange pinstripes. This afternoon, she’d wanted to unbutton it and run her hands over his chest.
She started unbuttoning his shirt. “How come?”
“Not my thing.” He flattened his palms on her back and tried to pull her closer, but she resisted. “Aw, come on. Please?”
“Patience, grasshopper.” She brushed her hands over his chest. He felt just the way she’d imagined he would this afternoon. Firm and smooth. Did he wax? He liked to go shirtless in concert. She’d spent enough time in the last week and a half searching for photos of him online when she was supposed to be doing something productive.