His to Claim
Part 5: Breaking Storm
By Opal Carew
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2014 Opal Carew
All rights reserved.
From Part 4:
Storm's stomach tightened. He didn't like that Diego had noticed how sexy Melanie was. Though the man would have to be made of stone not to notice.
"Are you trying to tell me something, Diego?"
They arrived at his door. Diego fished in his pocket and pulled out his keycard, but had trouble fitting it into the slot, so Storm took it and opened the door, then handed him back the card.
Diego stumbled inside, then kicked off his shoes.
"I guess I am. 'Cause I feel guilty, you being my best friend and all."
"What are you feeling guilty about?"
"Well, for one, I kissed her."
Fuck, Diego kissed Melanie. And he'd been worried about Travis.
"Then, there was the night she showed us her tattoo ..."
Storm knew she'd only shown them a picture of it in her sketchbook. Or so she'd said. From the look in Diego's eyes right now, he was beginning to wonder what had really happened that night.
"Did you kiss her then?"
Diego shook his head. "No. I didn't." He gazed up at Storm. "But Travis did. And, man, they were both into it. It's a good thing you called right then, because I think clothes were about to fly."
Storm's gut clenched.
Heedless of his friend's rising anger, Diego gazed into space with glazed eyes, his lips turned up in a crooked grin. "You know, her tattoo really is beautiful. She's very talented."
"That's true," Storm said, his teeth clenched. "Now tell me what happened in her room."
Diego's gaze shifted to Storm. "Aw, fuck, you're mad now." He leaned forward in the chair. "Look, man, she really missed you. Don't get mad at her."
"Right now, it's not her I'm mad at."
Diego nodded. "Okay, if it'll make you feel better ..." He pointed at his face. "Slug me. I shouldn't have touched her. She's your woman."
"I'm not going to hit you. Now tell me what happened with Travis and Melanie that night."
Diego shook his head. "I don't think I better."
Storm leaned forward. "It's too late now. You already let the cat out of the bag."
Diego's lips compressed in a frown. "I didn't mean to cause trouble." He sighed deeply. "Look, Travis figured that with you forbidding her to come on this trip and all, that maybe you guys weren't meant to be together. That she was just going to get her heart broken. You know, like with Jessica."
Anger and pain flashed through Storm. "Fuck."
"Man, the thing is, she didn't go for it. There was another night ... before that ... that I kissed her at the door, then Travis did, too. Travis turned on his macho thing and it was clear it excited her. If she was going to do something, I think she would have done it then."
Storm seethed at this admission.
Diego clasped his hands between his knees and stared at Storm, looking more coherent than he had a few moments before. "But she didn't. Man, she's into you."
"Yet you and Travis went into her room and tried to seduce her."
"You do know Travis is still angry at you for hurting his sister, right? You guys have never talked about that, but it's so obvious to everyone else. And sure, Melanie kissed Travis back, but she was lonely ... missing you ... and probably confused. She might even have been tempted. I mean, we both know Travis can charm the pants off most women ... so you can't really blame her."
Diego stared at Storm. "But she really missed you." He grabbed Storm's shoulder and squeezed. "I'm glad you're back. You two are a great couple and I think you should do everything you can to make it work." His dark brown eyes grew intense. "She deserves it."
* * *
Storm quietly opened the door to Melanie's room and slipped inside. The lights were out, except for the one in the bathroom, which allowed him to see enough so he didn't stumble over the furniture.
He went into the bathroom and stripped down to his boxers, then brushed his teeth and headed into the bedroom. He set his clothes on the dresser and sat down at the desk chair by the window, then unzipped his bag, which sat on the floor by the desk, and pulled out his cell phone cord. He plugged it in.
He sat back in the chair. He still seethed at the thought of Travis kissing Melanie. And the thought of Melanie melting into Travis' arms, enjoying his attention, sent a sharp pang of jealousy through the pit of his stomach.
She was his woman and he didn't want her craving any other man.
He raked his hand through his hair. Fuck, he needed to get some sleep, but he couldn't bring himself to slide in beside her warm, delightfully feminine body right now.
Maybe he'd jot down some ideas he had for a new song. He turned on his phone, then activated a flashlight app, and pulled open the desk drawer for a pad and pen. A stack of papers, tied with a ribbon, caught his eye and he picked it up. He shone the light on the top one and ... fuck, it was a drawing of a man. Naked.
He frowned and untied the ribbon, then glanced through them.
Shit, it wasn't any naked man. It was him.
It was his Savage Kiss tattoo. It was his face.
He continued glancing through the stack. All of them were of him. Not all naked. But most were. And there were dozens of them.
He glanced at her sleeping face and smiled. She may have been tempted by Travis' kiss, but clearly it was Storm she was thinking of.
Diego was right.
Melanie had missed Storm.
And she deserved to have his full attention. Not be left on her own, wondering if he was really going to be there for her. Wondering if the relationship was going to work.
Before Jessica, he'd never really had a relationship. In fact, he'd avoided them. His dad had really done a number on him, making him believe he didn't deserve to be loved, but he was coming to realize that he couldn't let his father's attitudes continue to control him. He stared at Melanie. Her sweet face was barely visible in the low light, but he could make out her lovely features, so angelic in sleep. She was worth the chance.
Her eyelids opened and she gazed at him. Then she smiled and a crimp formed in the pit of his stomach.
"Hi." Her sweet voice was sleep-roughened ... and so sexy. "You coming to bed?"
He smiled back and shut off the light app. "You bet I am."
He walked around the bed and slid in behind her, and wrapped his arms around her. She rolled toward him and kissed his chest, her sweet lips fluttering lightly over his flesh.
"I've missed you so much," she murmured between kisses.
He tucked his hands around her face and tipped it up toward him. "I know you did, sweetheart."
He covered her lips with his own and kissed her, showing her how much he cherished her. Her arms wrapped around him and she melted against him. His heart swelled and he wanted to lay her back and join with her in a sweet union of bodies. But right now, he wanted this more. This loving tenderness.
When their lips parted, he stroked her cheek. "I missed you, too."
The warmth in her eyes as she gazed at him warmed his heart. There was a depth of feeling that reached deep into his soul and tugged.
"Storm, I love you."
* * *
As soon as she said the words, Melanie felt him stiffen. Her heart pounded and she drew back.
"I'm sorry, I ..." Her heart ached. "I shouldn't have said that."
She was a fool. Even though she knew that this was only a temporary thing — they were merely keeping each other company while they both went on this journey of discovering themselves — she still found herself believing that they might last. That he might come to love her as she loved him.
But at his reaction, that hope was shattered.
He frowned. "Melanie, I —"
"Please, just let's forget I ever said it." She had wanted to hear those words from him forever. Had dreamed of it night after night. But wishing didn't make it true.
He drew her close. "I can't forget it. I love that you feel that way about me."
"But you don't love me."
The sadness in his eyes tore at her heart. She fought back the threatening tears. He was here with her. At least for now. She should be celebrating that.
"It's just ... I'm sorry, Melanie, I wasn't prepared for that."
"Don't worry about it. I was just being stupid."
"It's not that I don't ... feel very strongly for you. But the only time I ever thought I was in love, it was with Jessica and it turned out to be completely wrong. If I believed that was absolutely real and it wasn't, how do I know this is real?"
She nodded. She had seen the love in his eyes when he'd talked to her about Jessica after he'd found her again. Melanie had believed he was truly in love with Jessica, too.
"Melanie, don't give up on me. I'll figure this out." He hugged her close. "I just don't want to hurt you in the process."
She reached up and stroked his whisker-roughened chin, loving the sheer masculinity of it.
"I want to be with you, Storm. I'll wait until you figure it out. Because no matter how you feel about me, I love you."
He kissed her, his lips brushing hers poignantly. Her heart ached at the sweetness of it.
"Baby, if I were to tell you right now that I loved you, you'd doubt it. You couldn't help it with everything that's happened." He tucked his finger under her chin and tipped up her face. "When I finally say those three words, there won't be a doubt in either of our minds that it's absolutely true."
* * *
"Hey, sleepyhead." Melanie dragged the tip of her fingernail over the leopard moth tattoo on Storm's chest.
Her fingernails were adorned with black-speckled aqua polish, one from the set he'd given her as a gift back when she was his secretary at Ranier Industries.
His eyelids opened and his gaze locked on hers. "Good morning."
The sound of his sleep-roughened voice, and the warmth in those sky blue eyes of his, warmed her heart. She wanted to climb right into bed, and snuggle in close. But she couldn't.
"The bus leaves in an hour. There's barely time for a shower and breakfast."
He grabbed her shoulders and tumbled her onto the bed, then rolled over her and kissed her soundly. "We'll have to make time for that shower." He grinned. "Because I'm a very dirty boy."
She laughed as he swept her into the bathroom with him, then stripped off her oversized T-shirt and panties and dragged her under the warm water with him. They got to the restaurant just in time to order something to take with them, then settled into the bus together.
"You two seem happy." Travis stood in the aisle beside their seats.
Storm gazed at Travis, keeping his smile firmly in place. "We are."
He nodded. "Good. Because I know Diego talked to you last night and ... just remember. He'd had a lot to drink."
Melanie glanced from one to the other of them. "What's going on?"
Storm ignored her comment and said to Travis, "But everything he said is true. Right?"
Travis shrugged. "Yeah, I guess it is."
"So you and I are going to have a little talk later."
"I guess we will." Then Travis headed to his usual place at the back of the bus.
Melanie stared at Storm with wide eyes. "What did Diego tell you?"
"That he kissed you. And that Travis kissed you, too." He stared at her flatly. "And that you were tempted to do more, but you didn't."
"Don't worry about it."
"I didn't cheat on you."
"I believe you."
She was confused. He was taking this too well. Last night, after Diego had told him, Storm had still climbed into bed with her and held her tenderly.
"You're not angry?" she asked doubtfully.
"I was at first, but I understand how it could have happened. And even though you let them kiss you, I believe you didn't do more." He smiled. "And I found the sketches in the desk drawer, so I know you were thinking of me every night."
He put a finger beneath her chin and gazed deep into her eyes. "And now that I'm here, I'll ensure that I keep your full attention."
* * *
After the show that night, Storm packed up his guitar then headed back to the dressing room with the others. Travis was sucking back a bottle of water. Storm grabbed a bottle from the cooler, then settled into the chair beside him.
Travis glanced at Storm. "Is it time for that talk?"
"As good a time as any."
Diego, who sat beside Travis, stood up and turned to the others. "Hey, guys, let's go help Melanie pack up the table."
Once the door closed behind them, Travis leaned back in his chair. "So, you got something to say about me hitting on Melanie?"
Storm compressed his lips and shook his head. "Actually, no."
Travis raised an eyebrow.
"What I really want to do is apologize to you," Storm said.
Travis frowned. "I don't get it."
"Look, man. I hurt your sister." Storm clasped his hands together between his knees and stared at them. "I feel bad about it and there's nothing I can do to change it. I wish I could." He glanced at Travis, who watched him with emotionless eyes. "I can tell you I walked away from her because I thought it was best. That I wasn't who she thought I was and ... well, I didn't know who I really was. I was trying to figure that out ..." He chuckled mirthlessly. "Still am. All I know is I couldn't do justice to loving someone else until I could love myself. And I couldn't even start to do that until I knew who I was."
"I don't get it. You're Storm. You seem to have your shit together, except for not knowing when you've got a good thing going with a woman. Other than that, you're confident, you love music, and you're your own man. You don't let anyone else define you. If you want to move on, you do." He shrugged. "What's the problem?"
"The problem is I'm not that guy." He interlaced his fingers and sighed. "I never told you why I moved to Philly."
"'Cause you figured out that's where Jess was. You went to get her back."
He shook his head. "No. I was there because that's where I grew up. That's where my life was before I hit the road."
"I went back there to take my place at Ranier Industries. My father owned the company and when he died a while ago, my brother and I inherited it."
"That's the place where Jessica and Melanie worked. It's owned by Dane, Jess' fiancé."
"That's right." Storm locked gazes with Travis. "He's my brother."
Travis tilted his head. "You're a Ranier?"
Storm stuck out his hand. "Rafe Ranier."
"Shit, man, you're a billionaire?" Travis chuckled and shook his hand. "Then you buy the first round of drinks tonight."
Storm grinned. "No problem. Does that mean I'm forgiven?"
Travis shrugged. "Sure. Why not? You're going to be my brother-in-law." He grinned. "And my sister did wind up with the better brother."
Storm laughed. "Yeah, thanks."
Travis leaned forward again. "Look, man. All kidding aside, I'm sorry I hit on Melanie. It's one thing to punish you by stealing groupies on the road, but another to go after Melanie." He shrugged. "You can't blame me, though. She's a great girl. But she obviously loves you. And you love her."
Storm took a swig from his water bottle and Travis' brow furrowed.
"Look, I don't even know who I am yet. I sure as hell don't know how I feel."
"Bullshit. You are clearly in love with Melanie."
"You say that, but I thought I loved Jess."
Travis slumped back in his chair. "Sure, but even I can see the difference. I thought you loved Jess, too. That's why it hit me so hard when you walked out on her. But when you look at Melanie ..." He shook his head. "God damn, man. It's clear as day."
The fact that Travis was so definite about it gave Storm a ray of hope.
Travis' eyebrow arched. "You haven't told her yet?"
Storm shook his head. "I didn't want to lead her on like I did Jess."
"Ha. That ship has already sailed. Melanie is stuck on you, no matter whether you've declared your feelings or not. But you do love her, so there's no problem."
Storm sighed. "Last night, she told me she loves me."
"Shit, and you left her hanging?"
"I know. I fucked up so badly. But I couldn't say it because I didn't know it was true. Love isn't a word I take lightly. But, man ..." He rubbed his hand across the back of his neck. "Yeah, of course, you're right. I do love her."
Travis nodded. "Okay, make some grand gesture then."
Travis scratched his chin, turning thoughtful. "Let's think about this. What does Melanie really want?"
"She wants to find out who she really is. She wants to be free from rules."
Travis nodded. "And she wants you."
"Fuck, she wants you, too. And Diego."
Travis grinned. "Yeah, she does. But that's not an option."
Storm gazed at him, an idea taking shape in his brain. "I don't know about that. Maybe it is."
* * *
Two days later, a breeze fluttered through Melanie's hair as she laid the stacks of T-shirts on the table, preparing for the crowd to come. They were at the Delta Classic Chastain Park Amphitheater in Atlanta. There were other people setting up tables around her, some with merchandise for the other two bands playing this afternoon and evening.
Storm had told her he had a surprise for her after the show. Savage Kiss was scheduled to finish at about five or so, so it would be the first full evening they'd had to spend together since Storm joined the tour. She was looking forward to some romantic time together.
Once the show started, the crowd was energetic and enthusiastic. They applauded so long and loud that Savage Kiss had to play three encores.
Finally, it was time for Melanie to pack up, and excitement about the evening to come fluttered within her. (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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