Different Lives, Kindred Spirits
Working on the European tour with rock sensations Dream Defiled sounds like a dream come true. And for Becca Hall it is – at first. The plus-size beauty dedicates herself to reconnecting to the music business in her blood, and moving away from the pain she left at home.
But when a playful flirtation with the band’s troubled and seductive bass player, Dex, turns into something more, everything is at risk. Her job, her carefully guarded secret, and her heart.
Secret Pleasures, Huge Risks
Hopes and dreams are no shield from the ugly realities of life. Fame and success can create more problems than they solve. And just as the connection between Dex and Becca deepens, the couple has to face their most dangerous enemy – the darkness that threatens to consume Dex from within, and destroy everything they’ve both been working for, professionally and personally.
This book is also available in serial format of three novellas:
I hitched the strap of my purse up over my shoulder, took a deep breath, and prepared to enter the lion’s den. Almost literally, considering the people on the other side of the door would determine if I survived the next half a year.
Feeling like a new kid at a new school, I looked down at my clothes, second guessing my choice for the fifth time since I got dressed. Not that what I wore really mattered. In the nice slacks and elbow length shirt I’d chosen or a real suit or jeans or pajama pants, I wasn’t going to be any more comfortable with what I was about to do.
And even though I thought the pants managed to minimize the size of my butt somewhat and the light shirt distracted from my distinctly pear-shaped body, they couldn’t do magic. And certainly couldn’t erase my history.
So I took a moment to remind myself what the point of all this was. I’d come up with three good reasons. First, I needed the money. A steady paycheck would make all the difference. Second, subletting my apartment for six months would not only save me in rent, I’d actually be making a profit, assuming my sublet didn’t trash the place. Number two probably should have been a sub-item of number one, but it felt important enough to make its own entry on the list. And third, I needed to get away. Far away from my regular life. A vacation on a deserted island wasn’t in the budget, so this would have to do.
While I stood musing, the door opened.
“Are you coming in?”
“Yes. Sorry,” I said to the man looking down at me.
“Good. I only have a few moments to introduce you to the boys before my meeting.”
My heart skipped a beat. He was going to leave me alone with them? “Of course. I’m ready, Ryan.”
“Very good, Rebecca.” I winced. During my interviews he’d refused to call me Becca, and it seemed that trend continued almost a month later. But you don’t correct your boss on your first day of work, so I said nothing. He stepped aside and I walked past him into the room. His tall skinny frame made me feel even shorter, a feat I’d thought impossible.
I entered the room and plastered a pleasant smile on my face, hoping it hid my nerves.
The lounge was full of people. Some I recognized and many I didn’t. There was an air of celebration, blaring music, loud boisterous laughter, a lot of alcohol, and lots of attractive bodies draped casually all over the furniture.
From behind me Ryan yelled to be heard over the din. “Children, please. A moment of quiet.”
I could practically feel him glaring at them while the level of noise slowly lowered.
“Thank you. This,” he continued, placing his hands on my shoulders. “Is Rebecca Hall, my new assistant. She’ll be joining us for the European leg of the tour, and possibly longer, depending on how things go.”
There were a few muttered greetings, but most of the people in the room barely glanced at me and then went back to what they were doing before.
“I’m not done. As you know, your new management team has decided that given my close relationship with the band, it makes sense for me to serve as tour manager until someone else can be found to fill this position. And, of course, I am honored to do so. However, with my other responsibilities as well, I will be very busy. Normally I would never entrust your care to anyone else, but in this case I must.”
The hands on my shoulders squeezed hard enough to bruise and I could hear him gritting his teeth.
“Therefore, for your day-to-day needs, Rebecca will be the point person. She will be available to you twenty-four hours a day for any requirement or desire.”
A girl in a tiny tube dress snickered.
“Rebecca has been briefed on all of her duties, but as you know, we all work for you. Anything you need, anytime. If she can’t provide it, she will find someone who can. And when you inevitably get in trouble, it will be her job to get you out of it without alerting the press or the authorities. Think of her as a combination of babysitter and guard dog.”
Looking at the bored and annoyed faces I realized the band and their entourage were going to hate me if I didn’t do something about it soon. It was somewhat reassuring to see that Ryan was as much of a self-important jerk to everyone, but I didn’t want his obvious irritation at his sort-of demotion to rub off on me.
So I stepped away from him and smiled wider at the group. “Okay, I think everyone gets the idea, Ryan. Instead of talking their ears off why don’t I just take a little time to meet the guys. We can talk about any other details later. I’m sure you have better things to do your last days in the States than listen to my job description.”
Of course, I already knew who a few of the people around the room were. Dream Defiled had become a hugely successful group over the last year. Their faces were all over magazines and the web. Their songs were all over the radio.
The first person to speak directly to me was a big reason for their fame. Front man Joe Hawk was remarkably good-looking, with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. He wasn’t just a wonderful singer and songwriter, his charisma was magnetic. Even in a professional setting it was hard to avoid being dazzled. He grinned at me and stood up.
“Sorry for the pathetic manners. Everyone’s hyper today.”
I nodded. “That’s understandable.”
“Yeah. I’m Joe.” He came over and actually shook my hand, which made me smile. “Nice you meet you, Rebecca.”
“You too, Joe. And please, everyone, call me Becca.” I cast a glance over at Ryan, hoping one day that request would penetrate his brain. Not likely from what I’d seen of him so far.
Matthew came over next. He made a gesture that was half nod and half shrug and then pushed past me to leave the room. It was abrupt, but not rude exactly. In all the interviews he didn’t seem to say much, so I didn’t take offense. Ryan cursed under his breath and followed, leaving me alone in the room full of strangers.
Joe put his hand on my arm. “Ignore Matthew. He had to talk for five whole minutes this morning and may never recover.”
I chuckled. “Noted. Matthew’s the quiet one.”
“And how. Now let me introduce you to the one you’ll wish was quiet.” He led me over to a couch where a tall, broad shouldered man was stretched out, holding a beer. “Becca, this is Dex. Dex, Becca.”
I scanned through what I knew about him. An Army brat of sorts, he’d spent his childhood with his British mother and American father on military bases around the world. According to his Wikipedia page he’d moved to the States at age sixteen when his mother died. Father eventually moved to England to be closer to his late wife’s family, but by that time Dex was entrenched in the music scene and stayed behind. Quite a history, I thought. Unfortunately his reputation for being a huge player tamped down any interest I might have in learning more about him.
Or, at least, it should have. Joe’s ability to draw in anyone was well-known, but there was something even more intriguing about Dex. I couldn’t tell if it was the hint of something more behind the humor in his dark eyes or just a feeling, but something in me reacted to him chemically. And physically. My eyes widened and my throat went dry just looking at him.
“Hey,” he said pleasantly. “Want a beer or something?”
“No, thank you. I’m working.”
“Of course. Little Joey here might get his head stuck in a toilet and you’ll have to get it out for him.”
“More likely I’ll get my boot stuck up your ass, buddy,” Joe replied with a laugh. Their good-natured ribbing of each other was a staple of their press appearances and stage show. It was nice to see the banter was genuine. So little was in this business.
Dex got up slowly, his long limbs stretching gracefully. “Oh, big man. When Liss gets here I’ll tell her you were rude to me. She’ll set you straight.” He gave Joe a playful shove and turned to look at me.
“Glad to meet you, Becca. We can always use another beautiful girl around here. Especially one who comes home with us for the night.” He grinned at me and something in my chest fluttered. Between him and Joe it was no wonder the band was doing so well. Even without their songs they could charm anyone.
“You might feel differently when I’m cracking the whip, Dex.”
“Mm,” he said, eyes roaming my body hungrily. “I like it rough sometimes.”
My mouth went dry and I’m sure I blushed down to my toes. I don’t think anyone had ever looked at me like that. Certainly not anyone as gorgeous and sexy as Dex Winters. My brain knew it was all part of his game, but my skin warmed and my head swam a little.
His eyes bored into mine as if he could see what I was thinking, and seemingly pleased with my reaction, he chuckled and strolled over to a table nearby that was covered in snack foods.
I watched his loose stride and couldn’t help but note the wide spread of his back that tapered to a narrow waist above a very round butt clad in tight jeans.
My admiration was cut short when two girls scampered over and started fawning all over him. Dex split his attention between them and the food with practiced ease, looking just as interested in talking to them as he’d seemed with me.
“The only one left for you to meet is Rick,” Joe said. I’d almost forgotten about him completely. Which said a lot about the effect Dex had on me, and not good things.
I looked around the room and spotted the last member of Dream Defiled, sulking in a corner by himself. “Is he okay?”
Joe leaned in to answer quietly. “No. He’s always a bastard but a hundred times worse lately. Don’t take it personally if he is mean or ignores you. He’s just pissed at Ryan, us, and the world.”
“What’s the problem?” It occurred to me that settling whatever issue Rick had might be a good way to get the band to trust me.
“Most of it’s genetic, I think. But he did get dumped a few months ago and hasn’t snapped out of it yet.”
“Oh. That’s a shame. But why is he mad at Ryan?”
“The girl who dumped him was Ryan’s previous assistant.”
“Sh-she had my job?” I squeaked.
“So he’s really gonna hate me.”
“Great. Thanks for the warning.”
“My pleasure. It’s nice to have a woman who can spell her own name around again. Liss will be excited to meet you.”
“Liss? That’s your girlfriend, right?”
He nodded, beaming, and I noticed his smile was a little crooked. This Liss was a lucky girl. “She’s coming to Europe with us. Last hurrah before she starts school full time in the fall.”
Joe was a lot nicer than I’d expected. And the happiness on his face and in his voice when he talked about Liss was obvious and very sweet. I wondered if anyone would ever talk about me like that. Maybe, but it certainly wouldn’t be a rock star who could have any woman in the world.
I shook off the negative thoughts and concentrated on doing my job, getting to know the band. Getting them to trust me. “That must be exciting for you. Long distance is hard.”
“Sure is. You’ll like her. Everyone likes her.”
“Except Rick, of course.”
I laughed. “Joe, thank you. For the information and for making me feel welcome. I appreciate it.”
He shrugged. “You are welcome. We’re act like a pack of wild dogs sometimes but we’re good guys. This tour is huge for everyone. I just hope we all have an amazing time.”
“You will. It’s part of my job to make sure you do.”
“Shouldn’t be too hard. As long as we’re well stocked in the food and drink department. And girls for Dex. Lots of girls for Dex.” He looked over at the bass player who had slung his arms over the girls’ shoulders. The three of them were laughing and making their way towards the door. My stomach sank.
“Well,” Joe continued. “I guess the meeting’s over. Such as it was.”
“I suppose so. Do you have any idea where Ryan went? I know you guys are stuck here for a photo shoot later but I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing for the rest of the afternoon.”
“He’s probably in his car out front. Moping or yelling at someone on the phone.”
I shook my head. “Okay, thanks. I’ll look for him.”
“Cool. See you later, Becca.”
I smiled and was about to slip out of the room when Dex appeared in front of me, without his new best friends. A wave of relief went through me for reasons I didn’t understand or want to probe.
“Leaving us so soon?” he asked, leaning against the wall.
“Nope. Just trying to find my boss.”
“Forget Ryan. Just hang with us. Let your hair down.” He reached over and brushed his hand over the side of my head where my long blond hair was scraped back smoothly in a bun.
My heart skipped a beat at his touch and I cringed inside. I’d been around rock stars my whole life, why was this one making me so jumpy?
“Sorry,” I said, a little shaky. “Hanging out is your department. I’m sure Ryan has a long list of things for me to do before we leave.”
He sighed. “Probably. But I bet none of them are as fun as partying with me.”
“I’m sure that’s true, but partying with you won’t get me a paycheck.”
“Maybe not, but it has all kinds of other perks.” The heat in his eyes was startling and then disappointing when he leaned in close enough for me to smell his breath. It reeked of whiskey and beer.
I took a deep breath and reminded myself that guys like Dex are just overgrown children, desperate for attention all the time. He’d flirt with a potted plant if a human being wasn’t around. Placing my hand on his chest to get his attention and trying to ignore how warm and solid he felt, I pushed him back a little. I had to set clear boundaries or none of them would ever respect me. “Go play with your friends, Dex. I’ve got things to do.”
Disappointment flashed across his face but was quickly replaced with the smooth smile he usually wore. “Fine, fine. But consider that a standing offer, love.”
“I-uh, bye.” Annoyed with myself for getting so flustered by him – again, I continued out the door to find Ryan and get started on some real work that didn’t involve fending off a drunk flirt.