His to Claim
Part 4: Wild Ones
By Opal Carew
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2014 Opal Carew
All rights reserved.
From Part 3:
"I'm saying you're not going." His dominating tone set her teeth on edge.
She scowled at him. "You don't have the right to tell me what I can and cannot do."
"But that's exactly what you just told me you wanted me to do."
"That's different. That's role-playing in the bedroom."
He sent her a hard-edged glare. "It's as real as you want it to be." He tugged her into his arms and his lips came down on hers. Hard. He possessed her mouth, claiming her as his tongue delved deep. "You are mine and I intend to keep it that way. You will not go on tour with the band."
She gazed up at him in a daze, fighting her blatant desire to melt against him and obey every command he gave her.
But she knew neither one of them would respect her if she just caved in to his demands. She steeled herself against her weakness, and with defiance in her eyes, she flattened her hands on his chest and pressed him back.
Melanie watched the scenery whiz by, mostly dense trees, as the bus sped along the highway. Once she'd agreed to go on tour with the band, things had moved pretty fast. They had been scheduled to leave the following week, so she'd had to hustle to get packed and tie up loose ends. Jessica had offered to handle subletting the apartment and had helped her pack up all her stuff and put it in storage.
All the activity had kept her mind off the fact she was walking away from her dream relationship with Rafe. At least, what she'd thought would be a dream come true, but had quickly come to a nightmarish halt.
She had refused to speak to Storm after their falling out, but now, with miles of road passing her by and little else to think about, she wondered how she had let it come to this.
"Hey, there." Diego dropped into the seat beside her. "You look deep in thought."
He and the other members of the band had been sitting at the back of the bus kicking around ideas for the upcoming show tonight in Washington.
"Not really. Just watching the scenery go by."
"And maybe thinking about a certain guitarist you left behind in Philly?"
She shrugged. She didn't want to talk about Storm. She didn't want to think about him.
She didn't want to miss him so badly.
"I thought you'd be sketching or something like that."
She gazed sideways at him. With his lips curled up in that charming smile of his, her heart began to thump loudly. Damn, she shouldn't be so affected by other men when she'd just ended it with Storm. Her heart clenched at the thought.
But the man had a point about sketching. It would be a great way to keep busy. Odd that she had no inclination at all to grab her sketch pad.
"I'm not really inspired."
"Well, belleza, anytime you want inspiration, I would be quite willing to pose for you."
With his dark, expressive eyes and his killer smile, a portrait of him could be very dramatic ... or playful, depending on how she chose to approach it. But she could tell by his teasing tone that he was talking about posing nude.
She tingled inside. That could be inspiring in many ways.
She grinned. "It's nice to know I have a willing subject if I need one."
He took her hand and brushed his lips against it. "Yes, indeed. Do let me know."
At the sexy glint in his eyes, she almost wished they were at the hotel they'd be staying at tonight so she could take him up on his offer. But once he got his clothes off, she wouldn't be sketching him.
Damn it, what was wrong with her?
Of course, she knew what was wrong. She knew as soon as she was alone in her hotel room, she'd start to miss Storm with a vengeance and then she'd question the wisdom of this move and begin to berate herself. And worse, reconsider her choice and think about returning home.
She wouldn't allow herself to wimp out like that. This trip was the opportunity of a lifetime. She'd spent her entire life allowing the people she loved to hold her back, and if she and Storm were meant to be together, then he needed to give her room to grow.
Diego reached under his denim vest and pulled something from an interior pocket. "I almost forgot. I have something for you."
He handed her a small package wrapped neatly in a red bandana, with a twisted blue bandana tied around it in a bow, like a ribbon. She pulled open the bow and unfurled the fabric to reveal a stack of small, white sheets of paper, a little larger than business cards, tied with a thin red ribbon. The paper was a good-quality, heavyweight artist paper with a vellum finish.
"Those are called ATCs — artist trading cards. You know about those?" Diego asked.
"I know the idea is that artists create original art on these cards and trade them with other artists, but I've never done it."
"I understand that the point of them is for artists to meet and exchange not only cards, but personal experiences. I think with you being on this journey of self-discovery, it would be good for you to meet with other artists. Find out what they've done, how they pursue their art. Maybe get ideas to help you develop as an artist."
She smiled at him and had to blink back a tear. He was so sweet trying to help her find her way.
"With us going through so many cities, I'm sure you'll get the opportunity to trade many cards and connect with a lot of fellow artists. I know that on the day we're in Savannah, that there is a trading session."
She smiled tremulously. "You checked that out for me?"
He shrugged. "You're a beautiful woman who is an artist. How could I not?"
He flashed her that stupendous smile again and her heart melted. Damn, she really was becoming a true addict when it came to these musicians. She never realized how soulful and intense they could be.
"Hey, Diego. We're going to do some jamming. You in?" Jimmy said.
Diego brushed his lips against her hand again. "As much as I would love to sit with you all afternoon, belleza, duty calls." Then he winked. "And I think this is a good opportunity for you to start creating some cards."
He stood up and walked toward the back of the bus. Melanie grabbed her bag from under the seat and pulled out her small sketch pad and pencil, then pulled one of the blank cards from the stack and set it atop the pad so she had a hard surface to work on. With pencil in hand, she stared at the blank card.
But all she could think of was Storm.
* * *
When the bus arrived in Washington, Melanie grabbed her backpack and followed the others to check-in, then they headed to the the Fillmore Silver Spring, where the band would be playing tonight, and she helped set up the equipment. As the band practiced, she set up a table with merchandise to sell during the show. She donned one of the band T-shirts, then with SAVAGE KISS emblazoned across her chest in frenetic red and gold letters, she sat at the table ready for the crowd about to flood in.
It was exciting being part of the show, even if it was sitting on the sidelines selling T-shirts. Afterward, the band joined her at the table to autograph CDs. When they finally closed up shop, it was pretty late, but they were all hungry so they headed to a restaurant for some food.
"So how'd you like your first night with the band?" Diego asked.
"It was exciting. You guys were great tonight."
Travis grinned. "So were you. We've never sold so many T-shirts. I don't know why we never thought of having a pretty woman sell our stuff before."
"Yeah, except most of the people buying were women," she said.
"Well, that's because they saw how beautiful you looked in the T-shirt."
Melanie laughed. "With your silver tongue, I would say if you were at the table instead of on the stage, we wouldn't have enough T-shirts to keep up."
The waiter brought their check and Travis laid down his credit card.
Melanie opened her pack and fished for her wallet. "How much do I owe?"
"Nothing. All food and expenses on the trip are covered."
"There are a lot of perks traveling with a rock band," she said with a smile, then tipped back her glass.
Travis entered the tip in the handheld device the waiter had handed him, then finished his transaction and retrieved his card. Even though the check had been paid, most of the guys still had full drinks in front of them, so would probably be staying a while yet, but Melanie was tired.
"Speaking of expenses, I was going to head back to the hotel. Should I just grab a cab?" she asked.
"I'm going, too. We'll share one." Travis stood up and pulled on his jacket, covering the snake tattoo curling down his bicep.
She followed him to the door.
Travis hailed a cab and they were at the hotel ten minutes later.
As they rode the elevator up, Travis leaned casually against the wall. She wasn't immune to his sexy, masculine presence in the small space. His layered, sandy hair brushed his shoulders and she could see the three gold hoops in each ear glittering in the light. A part of her wanted to reach out and stroke his whisker-roughened jaw.
"I'm really glad you joined us, Melanie."
She smiled. "Thanks. I think I'm going to enjoy it."
The doors opened and she stepped out. He walked alongside her until they reached her door.
"Good night," she said as she pulled her keycard from the pocket on her pack. But when she glanced up, he stood watching her.
"I really like you, Melanie. And you know I'm attracted to you."
Tremors rippled through her. And Lord knew she was attracted to him.
If she pulled him into her room right now, he would make sweet love to her and that would drive away the thoughts of Storm haunting her. For a while.
He stepped closer. "I'd really like to get to know you better."
From the gleam in his eye, she knew he was going to kiss her. Her stomach churned. As he leaned in close, she seemed frozen to the spot, but at the final moment her hand flattened on his chest.
"I don't think this is a good idea."
"Really?" He grinned. "I think this is the best idea I've ever had."
He leaned close again, but she shook her head. "I know you like to steal women from Storm, but I don't want to be part of it. I appreciate how supportive and kind you've been, but —"
He pressed his finger to her lips before she could continue. "Is that why you're holding back, because you think I'm using you to get back at Storm? Because if that's what you think, Melanie, you underestimate yourself. I'm interested in you. Got it?"
His hand dropped to his side but his big body still stood mere inches from hers.
"Thank you, Travis. But I still can't. I'm sorry."
"Is it Storm?"
"I thought it was over between you two."
She bit her lip and his eyebrows arched.
She shrugged. "I'm not sure," she admitted. "We didn't really sort it out."
"The guy forbade you to come on tour with us. And then he let you go without so much as a good-bye. Are you really going to stay with him?"
She gazed into his blue-green eyes. "I thought you were his friend."
"I am. But that doesn't mean I think he's perfect. Especially when it comes to women."
"Are you mad at him for walking out on your sister?"
"No, of course not." His gaze captured her. "But he did break her heart." His finger stroked down the side of her face, his gentle touch sending shimmers of awareness through her. "I don't want to see that happen to you."
No matter what he said, she could see it in his eyes that he still harbored resentment toward Storm because he'd hurt his sister. Even though Jessica had found the man of her dreams. And yet the two of them had continued to play in the band together and socialize together. Men were funny creatures.
But now Melanie realized why Travis stole women from Storm. It was a form of payback.
The ding of the elevator doors opening made Melanie start and shift back slightly. She glanced down the hall. Diego was walking toward them. She stepped back, but not before Diego's keen gaze took in their stance and how close they stood to each other.
His lips curled up in a half grin as he approached.
"Hey, man, that's not the way to kiss a woman good night."
He stepped up to Melanie and before she could protest, he swept her into his arms and planted his lips on hers. The feel of his strong arms around her, and his hard chest tight against hers set her off balance. His tongue nudged her lips and she opened, then it swirled into her mouth. He tasted like sin and smelled like pure musky male. His hand cupped the back of her head and she melted into his kiss, struggling to draw in enough air. When he let her go, she was weak-kneed.
Travis laughed. "Here, let me try."
Then Travis pulled her to him. His lips captured hers and his tongue slipped inside her mouth with authority. His arms tightened around her, crushing her to his hard body and leaving no doubt about who was in control.
God damn! Travis came across as sensitive and gentle, but when it came to kissing he was all hard, authoritative male. Which made her long to know how he would behave in the bedroom. Would he dominate her like she craved so much?
All she had to do was say the word and he'd follow her inside right now. In fact, if she wanted to, she could probably be with both of them.
Oh, God, images of both men, hard and naked, made her tremble. She'd come on tour to learn about herself, but she'd never expected this to happen. This fierce awakening of her own sexual need.
Travis released her lips, but still held her tight to his body.
Melanie drew in a deep breath. "I can't do this. Not until I figure out what's going on with Storm."
"Well, do it soon." He murmured the words quietly against her ear. She doubted Diego heard them. Then Travis released her.
"I ... uh ... better go. I'll see you in the morning." She stuck her keycard into the slot and hurried into the room. "Good night," she said as she closed the door behind her. Then she leaned back against it, trying to catch her breath.
"Darlin', I think you're still standing behind the door, and I just want to say if you change your mind, my door is always open."
"Mine, too, belleza."
Travis chuckled. "I sensed that you like a touch of authority from your man, and I want to assure you, I can give you exactly what you want. I can take total control. And if you like the idea of two men ..."
Her breath held as she waited for him to continue.
"We can accommodate," Diego murmured against the door.
"Diego and I actually work very well together," Travis added.
Her heart thundered in her chest.
"Good night, Melanie. Remember. If you change your mind ..." Travis said.
God, she wanted to pull open the door and invite them in.
But she couldn't.
At least, not until she knew where she stood with Storm.
* * *
Melanie walked toward the bed and peeled off her T-shirt then tossed it on the dresser. Seeing her half-naked form in the mirror, her black lace bra pushing her breasts up high and proud, she could imagine how Travis's eyes would darken if he saw her like this.
She scowled at her own reflection, then turned her back to the mirror and stripped down the rest of the way. She walked to the bathroom and turned on the shower. She washed her hair and scrubbed her body until it tingled, trying not to think of muscular, wet, sexy men doing it for her, then she stepped onto the bathmat and vigorously towel-dried her hair. With a towel draped around her, she grabbed the hair dryer attached to the wall by the mirror and dried her hair, then flicked off the light and returned to the bedroom.
She pulled on her PJs, then sat on the chair by the desk and grabbed one of the cards Diego had given her earlier. She picked up one of her artist's pencils and took a deep breath, then let the pencil glide over the surface. Allowing inspiration to guide her, she just went with the flow and let the form take shape. Finally, she put down the pencil and gazed at a perfect image of Storm staring back at her. His eyes intense, his expression somber. He wanted her.
God, and she wanted him. This little replica of him made her miss him even more. She pushed aside the card, then grabbed another blank one, but her pencil stubbornly churned out another image of Storm. She opened the desk drawer and swept them inside, along with her pencil, then slammed it shut.
She marched to the bed and climbed under the covers. As she stared at the ceiling, images of Storm, so hot and sexy in a tank top, tattoos along his arms and across his chest taunted her. She tugged down her camisole and gazed at her bluebird tattoo, then ran her finger along the outline, wishing it was Storm touching it like this.
Damn, she didn't even know if she still had a relationship with Storm. After she'd rejected his wishes, he'd probably written her off completely. He'd made no attempt to call her to say good-bye, and that had hurt. But then, she hadn't called him either. She glanced at the phone, tempted to pick it up and call him. To get a handle on where they stood. If she still had a chance with him.
But she'd known from the beginning that it wouldn't last. The very first time they'd been together, he'd told her he wanted a no-strings relationship. And why wouldn't he? The man could snap his fingers and women would come running. They'd even pull up their tops and expose their luscious breasts to him. (Continues...)
Excerpted from His to Claim by Opal Carew. Copyright © 2014 Opal Carew. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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