Authors: Erika Kelly
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Adult
Not just another fan . . .
Emmie smiled and shook her head. Even though they worked with bands for a living, everyone got all goofy and fawning when the artists came in.
Except Emmie, of course. She’d grown up around musicians. She saw beneath the glitter to their tortured, attention-craving, twisted souls. Everyone wanted a piece of them, to be the one to get in, breach the barrier. To win their hearts. But she knew better. They didn’t let anyone in. Not really. They drew people in with their dazzling charisma, and then pushed them back when they got too close.
Loving an artist
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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YOU REALLY GOT ME
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with ek Publishing LLC
Copyright © 2015 by Erika Kelly.
I Want You to Want Me
by Erika Kelly copyright © 2015 by Erika Kelly.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-18039-0
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / January 2015
Cover art: Man with guitar © Bad Man Productions/Shutterstock.
Cover design by Rita Frangie.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to my grandmother, who showed me the world through literature
Emmie Valencia’s boss hollered so loudly her teeth rattled. And there was a
between them. She pressed the button on her intercom and said, “Be right there.” He could be such a baby.
Seconds later, the office came alive with excited voices and laughter. Her coworkers hurried down the hall, heading for the foyer.
Frontierland was back from their tour. Which meant . . .
Her gut twisted hard. Briefly, she imagined ducking under her desk, maybe dashing to the mail room. But, of course, she wouldn’t do that. She could face him. No big deal.
In fact, that’s exactly what she
do. Talk to him as casually as she did the rest of the guys
She hated the way people looked at her whenever he came into the office. Besides, they’d ended it months ago.
One of the interns popped breathlessly into her office. “They’re here.” Her features flushed, she mouthed, “Flash,” and pretended to fan herself. Then she darted down the hall.
Emmie smiled and shook her head. Even though they worked with bands for a living, everyone got all goofy and fawning when the artists came in.
Except Emmie, of course. She’d grown up around musicians. She saw beneath the glitter to their tortured, attention-craving, twisted souls. Everyone wanted a piece of them, to be the one to get in, breach the barrier. To win their hearts. But she knew better. They didn’t let anyone in. Not really. They drew people in with their dazzling charisma and then pushed them back when they got too close. Loving an artist
Obviously, she’d thought Alex would be different. They’d grown up together. Their parents were best friends. Silly girl. Musicians were musicians. She’d
As she pulled papers from the printer, she heard, “Emmie!” in a far more upbeat tone than her boss’s. She spun around to find the boys from Frontierland crowding into her office.
Crap, was Alex there?
She’d keep her cool. Treat him exactly the way she treated the other guys. No big deal. Because
was no big deal. Not after what he’d done to her. Lifelong friendship be damned.
“Great job, you guys,” she said, as the drummer pulled her to him. They played an outrageous mix of rockabilly, country, and country rock, so they dressed like badass banditos in leather, vests, and straw cowboy hats. “Have you read the reviews yet?”
“Brenda doesn’t make those fuckin’ scrapbooks like you do, man.” The keyboardist pushed through the others to give her a hug. He smelled of whiskey and patchouli.
“Why couldn’t we score Irwin as our A&R guy?” another one asked.
She winced. Her boss wouldn’t sign them because she’d been dating their bass player.
As the next guy leaned in for a hug, Emmie made a quick scan of their faces. No Alex.
But right when the rhythm guitarist belted his arms around her and lifted her off the floor, Emmie caught sight of him.
Alex Paulson, clad in black leather pants and a stretched-out white T-shirt, flirted with the new receptionist across the hallway. Emmie hated that he’d do it right in front of her, of course, but mostly she couldn’t believe he thought so little of their relationship that he actually felt
doing it. Like their time together hadn’t really counted.
It had to her.
Flash, the lead singer, yanked her out of the other guy’s arms and said, “There’s my girl.” Gorgeous in a rough way, Flash had gotten his nickname because in the middle of every show he asked the girls in the audience to “flash me your tits” so he could take a photo on his phone and post it on the band’s website. Classy. “You gonna marry me yet?”
“I think I’d rather marry your fiancée. She’s hot.”
Just as his hand skimmed down her back heading for forbidden territory, she jerked her hips and pulled out of his embrace.
“You’re no fun, Emmie Valencia.”
A sharp pain sliced into her heart. Her gaze flicked over his shoulder to the office where Alex and the receptionist shared a quiet laugh. “So I’ve heard.”
“Hey.” Tilting his head, he gave her a concerned look. “I’m just playing with you.”
“I know.” She smiled, hoping to brush away the uncomfortable moment. God, she had to get ahold of herself.
“But if I can’t get you to marry me, then can you at least get me one of those bags you got Irwin’s kid?”
“You want me to score you the latest Hermès purse?”
“For my fiancée.”
Emmie let out an exaggerated sigh. “What did you do this time?” She whipped her hand up. “Never mind. I don’t want to hear. And you don’t need me to do it—just get yourself on the list. Make a call like I did.”
“Oh, come on. We’re stuck with Brenda. She doesn’t do shit for us. Besides, I don’t have your connections. You make shit happen.”
“Yes, for Irwin. And I don’t
connections. I make them when I need to.”
“I could make shit happen for you.”
Their gazes caught. Behind his incessantly flirtatious vibe lived a shark of a businessman. “You offering me a job, Flash?”
A slow smile ate up his ruggedly handsome features. “Fuck, yeah.”
“What kind of job?”
“What kind of job you want?”
Wasn’t that just the question? She didn’t want just a
. She wanted
. Eight years on the periphery of the music industry as Irwin Ledger’s personal assistant was enough. She needed to take that next obvious step to A&R coordinator—discovering bands, working with talent—and Flash couldn’t help her with that. Only Irwin could.
“Flash?” his bandmate called. “Leave Em alone and get in here. Bob’s waiting.”
“We’ll finish this convo later.” Flash started to go.
“Hey, can you close the door behind you?” She didn’t need to watch Alex flirting.
Unfortunately, Flash followed her gaze, got an eyeful of Alex and the receptionist, and then looked back at her with a hint of pity. He pointed a finger at her. “Golden rule, baby. Never get involved with the talent.”
She smirked. “So we’re
getting married?” So much for her resolve not to make people uncomfortable. “You know what? Leave it open. I haven’t said hello to Alex yet.”
He gave her an appreciative smile before taking off.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” her boss shouted. “Emmie?”
“Coming,” she said into the intercom box.
“I can’t imagine what’s taking you so bloody long. I have a crisis, Emmie. Cri-sis.”
She pressed the button. “Crisis as in you scuffed your favorite Bruno Magli chocolate suede loafers and they don’t make them anymore so you need me to call the designer himself and get a pair custom-made? Or crisis as in the drummer from Wicked Beast fell off the wagon again and can’t make the show tonight so I need to get to the hotel and get him sobered up?”
“You mock me. I count on you, and you mock me.”
She smiled. “Two seconds.” Grabbing her iPad, she spun around to the door . . . only to catch the receptionist pressing her body against Alex.
Memories slammed her. His hard chest, the spicy scent of his soap, the creak of his leather. How many times had she held him just like that?
Alex’s hand wrapped around the woman’s waist, pulling her tight against him. That moment of intimacy, the way Val conformed her body to his, the way her hands cupped the back of his neck, her features soft—it struck Emmie right in her core.
It was so intimate, so sensual. And it hurt. God, it hurt. Because she wasn’t sexy like Val. She just . . . wasn’t.
Tucking the iPad to her chest, she leaned back against the wall, out of sight. Why did she let him affect her? It wasn’t like she missed him or even wanted him. He’d cheated on her.
The sex is fine. It’s just not . . . you’re not wild, you know? You
She cringed remembering his words.
A guy wants more than that.
Oh, God. She couldn’t bear the memories. She charged out of her office. Just as she turned into the hallway, she saw Alex capture Val’s leg, his hand cupping her thigh, as he murmured against her mouth. Val curled around him, her expression sultry.
. Emmie had never held him like that. Not with that kind of total abandon.
“Emmie?” Irwin shouted.
“I’m coming.” Seeing Val be the woman Alex had wanted
to be, the kind of woman who melted around a man, who lost herself in sensation, well, it just made it hard to breathe.
The worst thing was that she’d never felt that kind of passion, that urgency. Not for any guy.
She stood there a moment longer, contemplating barging in and greeting Alex, letting the whole office know she was cool with him. Letting
know he didn’t affect her anymore.
But then she realized something. She
cool with him. She wasn’t unaffected at all.
Because he flirted right under her nose with the receptionist.
And that was just a lousy thing to do.
Taking a deep breath, Emmie pushed off the wall and strode out into the hallway. She didn’t even spare Alex a glance as she hurried into Irwin’s office.
She came to a halt when she saw her boss’s expression.
Lips drawn into a taut line, he held the phone to his ear. She walked right up to his ultramodern chair, which hung from the ceiling like a hammock, and he looked at her with utter relief. Immediately, his features turned slack, and he thrust the phone at her.
Placing it to her ear, she had about two seconds to get up to speed, not having the slightest idea who was on the line.
“He wants me to be there, Daddy. I’m, like, his muse. He said he for sure can’t do his best work unless I’m there. Do you want this track to suck?”
“Caroline,” Emmie said. “Who’re we talking about?”
The girl exhaled roughly. “James. He wants me in the studio with him.”
Honestly, Emmie did not have time to deal with this nonsense. “James is a drug addict, Caroline. Your dad had to drop him from the label because he couldn’t fulfill his contract. Do you see why your dad wouldn’t want you hanging out with James while he’s out of the country?”
“So, what, I’m supposed to be all locked up because my dad’s out of town? I’m an
“Not when your dad’s paying your bills, including the lawyer he keeps on retainer for your
“Oh, my God—”
“Last weekend the sound engineer got you so drunk you blacked out. Your dad and I spent seven hours racing around the city, out of our minds, trying to find you. You can’t blame him if he’s not comfortable giving you the run of Manhattan when he’s not around.”
“You don’t even know what you’re talking about. Rory didn’t
me drunk. I thought I was drinking iced tea. I didn’t know they were
Iced Teas. That’s not his fault. We were just hanging out. Besides, it’s not like I’m going to be
. You’ll be here.”
Tipping her head back, she blew out a breath. “Caroline. You know I’m going with your dad. Look, hanging out with James the drug addict is obviously out of the question, but let’s come up with a few—”
“No, you’re not.”
“I’m not what?”
“Going with my dad.”
“Of course I’m going with him.” She glanced to Irwin, found him examining his cell phone, swinging in his chair. He didn’t have a formal office, the kind with the big oak desk facing two guest chairs, a potted plant, and a filing cabinet. Why would he need a desk? No, he had a plush couch, a world-class sound system, a pinball machine, a dartboard, and a Picasso hanging on the wall.
Movement from the corner of her eye made her turn to the door. Alex stood in the threshold, a hint of remorse on his face. Her heart pounded, and her nerves tingled. But before he could take one step into the office, Irwin flew out of his chair, stalked to the door, and slammed it in her ex’s face.
Irwin stalked back to the chair, gripping the metal arm, and set it off rocking again.
“I’m not talking to either of you anymore,” Caroline said. “I’m going into the studio with James because I’m his muse and he needs me. And if my dad doesn’t like it, then you can just come with us and hang out in the lounge.”
“I won’t be able to come with you because I
am going to Australia
Irwin got up, leaving the leather and chrome chair swinging. He went to the built-in media center that took up one wall and got busy shuffling through his CDs.
“You’re not going to Australia! Dad said. God, why are you being such a bitch?”
Emmie closed her eyes, taking a moment before responding. “And so ends my efforts to help you. Here’s your dad.” With that, she handed the phone back to Irwin. “Hold your ground. She shouldn’t be anywhere near James Beckman.”
He put the phone back to his ear. “What did you say that made your auntie Emmie hand me back the phone?” His gaze kicked up to Emmie’s. “Nothing? Are you sure? She’s usually so indulgent with us.” His brow furrowed. “A bitch? Ah, well, then. I’m afraid you’re on your own on this one, darling. Must go, my love. Kiss, kiss.” He hung up on her. “Wretched child, isn’t she?”
Emmie smiled, knowing how he adored his only kid. But the smile quickly faded. “So, Australia?”
“Yes, right. Slight change of plans.” He ran his hand through his messy, floppy hair. Only the silver streaking through his dark hair made him look anything close to his forty-nine years.
“We’re not going?”
“That would be a
change of plans. Slight means only one of us isn’t going.”
“Irwin. We leave tomorrow.”
“Emmie, darling, I’m sorry, but I can’t leave Caroline alone for six weeks. I’m going to need you to stay here.”
For months Emmie had planned this trip. Two weeks ago one of the producers had realized his passport had expired. She’d had to wave her wand, cast spells, and rub magic lamps in order to push his renewal through. She’d planned every detail down to the minute of their time there. Down to using MapQuest to find the coffee shops closest to the recording studios. She’d booked reservations, arranged delivery of industry periodicals to his hotels, and spent months researching and contacting up-and-coming bands.