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Lead (Stage Dive Series #3)

Overview

Stay up all night with the sexy rockers in Stage Dive, the epic New Adult series from New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott, author of Lick and Play.

Can rock n’ roll’s most notorious bad boy be tamed by love?

As the lead singer of Stage Dive, Jimmy is used to getting whatever he wants, whenever he wants it—now he’s caught up in a life of hard partying and fast women. When a PR disaster serves as a ...

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Lead (Stage Dive Series #3)

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Overview

Stay up all night with the sexy rockers in Stage Dive, the epic New Adult series from New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott, author of Lick and Play.

Can rock n’ roll’s most notorious bad boy be tamed by love?

As the lead singer of Stage Dive, Jimmy is used to getting whatever he wants, whenever he wants it—now he’s caught up in a life of hard partying and fast women. When a PR disaster serves as a wake-up call and lands him in rehab, he finds himself with Lena, a new assistant hired to keep him out of trouble.

Lena's not willing to take any crap from her sexy boss and is determined to keep their relationship completely professional, despite their sizzling chemistry. But when Jimmy pushes her too far, he just might lose the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Can he convince his stubborn assistant to risk it all and let her heart take the lead?

"I can’t express how much I love Lead and the entire Stage Dive series. Kylie Scott rocks!" –Red’s Hot Reads

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 10/20/2014
Scott’s third Stage Dive contemporary far outclasses the other two with a surprisingly delicate look at the underbelly of American rock and roll. Jimmy Ferris is the lead singer of a rock band; his brother, David, was the protagonist in Lick. Throughout the series, Jimmy has been a source of worry as he battles substance abuse. Lena Morrissey was quietly introduced in Play as a tough-as-nails lady with the thankless full-time job of keeping Jimmy sober. Scott has hinted that the answer to Jimmy’s trouble would come through love, and here she delivers on that tantalizing promise. Instead of avoiding the tedious and heartbreaking work of sobriety, she goes deep into the isolation and private pain, showing how the cruel kindness of firm-handed love can save a life. While retaining her mischievous and wisecracking signature style, Scott has also brought a tenderness and honesty to the material that is truly delightful. (Dec.)
From the Publisher

Praise for the Stage Dive series

“The stuff my rock star dreams are made of.  A thrill-ride. I felt every stomach-dip in the process. And I want to turn right around and ride it again. Every girl that’s ever had a rock-star crush, this would be the ultimate fantasy.” –Maryse’s Book Blog

“This book rocked my world!! Lick is an addictive blend of heart-warming passion and light-hearted fun. It’s a story you can lose yourself in. The perfect rock star romance!” – Aestas Book Blog

"An engrossing, sexy, and emotional read." - Dear Author

“Scrumptious and delicious. Firmly in my top ten best books this year!”—The Book Pushers

From the Publisher
Praise for the Stage Dive series

“The stuff my rock star dreams are made of.  A thrill-ride. I felt every stomach-dip in the process. And I want to turn right around and ride it again. Every girl that’s ever had a rock-star crush, this would be the ultimate fantasy.” –Maryse’s Book Blog

“This book rocked my world!! Lick is an addictive blend of heart-warming passion and light-hearted fun. It’s a story you can lose yourself in. The perfect rock star romance!” – Aestas Book Blog

"An engrossing, sexy, and emotional read." - Dear Author

“Scrumptious and delicious. Firmly in my top ten best books this year!”—The Book Pushers

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250052384
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/25/2014
  • Series: A Stage Dive Novel Series , #3
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 48,022
  • Product dimensions: 5.45 (w) x 8.17 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott is a longtime fan of erotic love stories, rock n' roll, and B-grade horror films. She lives in Queensland, Australia.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Jimmy was losing it.

The hotel room door shuddered, something smashing loud against the other side. Inside, voices were raised, but the words were indistinct. Maybe I’d just hang out in the hallway for a while. It was tempting. All of this was my own damn fault, I should have been dust weeks ago. The facts were, despite the great money, me and this job didn’t mesh. Every time I opened my mouth to tell him I quit, however, the words disappeared.

I couldn’t explain it.

“Hey.” Ev wandered toward me in a simple black dress, her fingers twining nervously. Her blonde hair had been pulled back into an elegant chignon.

“Hi.”

“David’s in talking to him.”

“Right.” I probably should have worn a dress too, gone traditional. The last thing I wanted was to publicly embarrass Jimmy on a day like today. Only November in North Idaho could be butt-chapping cold. For a native of warmer climates, they didn’t make tights thick enough to combat this sort of weather.

The band and their entourage had been in Coeur d’Alene for just over a week and Jimmy’s mood had been black since our arrival. Worse even than normal. Mal’s mom had passed four days ago, losing her battle with cancer. From what I could gather, Lori had been like a surrogate mom to the Ferris brothers. Their own had apparently been little more than an oxygen bandit, abandoning them early. I’d only met Lori a couple of times. No one could dispute she’d been a beautiful soul.

More muted shouting. Another thump.

“Guess I shouldn’t have gone out for breakfast.” Coffee, French toast, and far more maple syrup than one woman needed, churned inside my stomach. Comfort eating sucked. “Thought I’d beat him back from the gym.”

“You can’t watch him all the time.”

“I’m paid to try.” I shrugged. “God help me.”

“And if you did, he’d fire you for getting in his face. Just like he did all the others. Giving him some breathing room is a good thing.” Ev flinched, another almighty crash coming from within the room of doom. “Usually.”

“Hmm.”

Jimmy didn’t fire all five of my predecessors, some he gently coaxed into quitting. Or at least, that’s how he described it. But I didn’t bother to correct her.

“David will calm him down,” Ev said, her voice absolute.

It was sweet, the way she hero-worshipped her husband. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had such faith in a lover. David and Ev had gotten married one drunken night in Vegas six months back. It’d been splashed all over the media. Apparently, it was one hell of a story, though I hadn’t managed to hear it all yet. Ev had asked me to go out with her and her friends a couple of times, but I always made excuses. Not that I didn’t appreciate the gesture, it just didn’t feel right with me working for her brother-in-law.

At any rate, dealing with Jimmy was my job. I gave Ev a small smile of apology and slid the room key through the lock. Time to don the hat of hard-assery which according to my ex, bless him, definitely fit.

Slowly, calmly, I pushed open the door. Four feet from my face a glass smashed against the wall, shocking the absolute shit out of me. I in turn hit the floor, my heart going manic inside my chest.

“Lena,” Jimmy bellowed. “Get the fuck out of here!”

God damn mother-fucking rock stars.

Seriously.

Lucky I’d worn pants after all. Carpet burned knees would not have been nice. Also, the minute we got back to Portland, I was either finally quitting, demanding hazard pay, or both. No way was I making enough for this.

“Throw one more thing, Jimmy, and I’ll shove my three-inch heel so far up your ass you’ll need a surgical team to extract it.” I glared up at him from behind my dark bangs. “Is that understood?”

He scowled.

I sneered.

Same old, same old.

“Are you all right?” David Ferris strode across the luxury suite, circumventing a broken side table and smashed lamp. He offered me his hand, helping me back up. Both Ferris brothers had looks, money, fame, and talent. Only one of them had any manners, however. Regardless of etiquette, my gaze stayed glued to the furious man on the other side of the room.

“Fine. Thanks.” I straightened my skewed glasses.

“I don’t think he’s on anything,” David said quietly. “Just having a bad day, you know?”

God, I hoped Jimmy hadn’t taken anything. For both our sakes.

“It’s a tough time for everyone, Lena.”

“Yeah. I know.”

Across from us, Jimmy paced back and forth, hands balled into fists. Normally, the man was a princess, a show pony, put together with perfection. Hair slicked back and designer everything. As eye candy went, his superior rock-god status made him ideal. I was safe to fantasize and indulge my libido while remaining well beneath his notice.

(Sadly, my sex drive hadn’t died when I’d taken my vow of no men. How much simpler life would be if it had.)

Today, however, Jimmy seemed all too human, only half dressed with his dark hair falling over the sharp angles of his face and matching stubble lining his jaw. His usual airtight control was nowhere in evidence. The state of him and the room was shocking. Nothing seemed to have been left unharmed. I must have looked like one of those clowns at the fairs, the ones you where you lob a ball in their mouth to win a prize. My head kept turning this way and that, trying to take it all in.

“What a mess,” I muttered.

“Want me to get Sam?” David asked, referring to the band’s head of security.

“No, I got this. Thanks.”

He narrowed his eyes. “I can’t imagine him doing anything, but … he’s pretty wound up. You sure?”

“Absolutely. We’ll meet you downstairs.” Confidence was everything. I held the door open and he slipped through, giving me worried looks all the while. My fake smile apparently failing to appease.

“Maybe I’ll hang around,” he said. “Just in case.”

“You hired me to deal with him. Don’t worry. We’ll be fine,” I said, shutting the door on David and Ev’s frowning faces.

Jimmy paced on, ignoring my presence.

I took one deep breath, and then another. Nice and slow. Cool and calm. All of the usual pep talks whirled around and around inside my head. You didn’t need to be perfect to get a job done, you just needed to be motivated. And think what I might of the man, his well-being was my job, my priority. I would do my best by him. Glass crunched beneath my heels as I carefully made my way across the room. Around the toppled sofa and over the broken lamp. I didn’t want to guess what the bill for all this destruction would be. Security should have been up here already. Other guests must have heard the racket and complained by now, surely. Perhaps five grand a night bought some exceptional soundproofing.

Jimmy flashed me a dark look as I drew closer. His pupils seemed okay, normal size. He slammed his ass down on a dining room chair, displaying irritability and aggressiveness but excellent coordination. Maybe he hadn’t taken anything.

“What’s going on?” I asked, stopping in front of him.

No sign of blood though his knuckles were scratched and pink, tender looking. Legs apart, he braced his elbows on his knees and hung his head. “Get out, Lena. I want to be alone.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

He grunted.

“Isn’t this a little clichéd, trashing your hotel room?”

“Fuck off.”

I sighed.

All right, so aggravating him probably wasn’t a good idea. I pushed my glasses further up the bridge of my nose, giving myself a chance to think. Time to try something new. The man only had on black suit pants, no shirt, no shoes. And as nice as his inked chest and shoulders were, he couldn’t go like that to a funeral. Especially not in this weather.

“Jimmy, we’re leaving soon. You need to finish getting ready. You don’t want to be late, do you? That would be disrespectful.”

No response.

“Jimmy?”

“I hate when you use that voice,” he said, still staring at the floor.

“What voice?”

“When you try and sound like my therapist. You’re not, so cut the shit.”

With there being no right answer, I kept my mouth shut.

Veins stood out in stark relief on the side of his neck and a sheen of sweat outlined the musculature of his back. Despite the anger, however, his pose was one of defeat. The man could be more than an occasional arrogant dick, but Jimmy Ferris was strong and proud. In the couple of months since I’d become his babysitter I’d seen him in all sorts of moods, the bulk of them bad. Never, though, had I seen him beaten. It hurt. And the pain was as unwelcome as it was surprising.

“I need something,” he said, voice guttural.

“No!”

“Lena … shit. I can’t—”

“You can.”

“Just get me something,” he snapped.

“I won’t do that, Jimmy.”

He surged to his feet, face tight with fury. Every survival instinct in me screamed to step back, to run and hide. Dad had always said I was too stubborn for my own good. Even in my heels Jimmy towered over me, and the man’s favorite new pastimes were jogging and bench-pressing weights. The adrenaline surging through my system made sense, but Jimmy wouldn’t hurt me.

At least, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t.

“One fucking drink,” he roared.

“Hey—”

“You have no god damn idea what this is like. I just need one fucking drink to get me through. Then I’ll stop again. I promise.”

“No.”

“Pick up the phone and order it.”

“You smashed the phone.”

“Then get your ass downstairs and get me a drink.”

I shook my head.

“You work for me! I pay your salary. You answer to me.” He jabbed himself in the chest with a finger to emphasize the point. “Remember?”

“Yes. But I will not get you a drink. Make all the threats you like.” My voice wavered but I didn’t back down. “That is never going to happen. Never.”

He growled.

“Jimmy, you need to calm down now.”

His jaw tightened and his nostrils flared.

“I don’t want to bring anyone else into this. But I’m reaching that point. So please calm down.”

“Fuck!” The war he waged to control himself played out over his perfect face. With hands on hips, he stared down at me. For a long moment he said nothing, his harsh breathing the only sound in the room. “Please, Lena.”

“No.” Shit, I did not sound convincing. I balled my hands up against my stomach, summoning up some strength. “NO.”

“Please,” he pleaded again, eyes rimmed red. “No one needs to find out. It’ll just be between you and me. I need something to take the edge off. Lori was … she was important to me.”

“I know and I’m sorry you lost her. But drinking isn’t going to help,” I said, scrambling to remember all the wise words I’d read on the Internet. But my blood pounded making it impossible to think straight. I might not be scared of him, but I was terrified for him. He couldn’t fail. I wouldn’t let him. “Drinking is a temporary fix that’ll only make things harder in the long run. You know that. You can get through today. You can.”

“We’re going to put her in the ground.” His voice cracked and he slumped back onto the chair. “She fed us, Lena. When there was nothing at home, she sat Davie and me down at her table and she fed us. Treated us like we were her own.”

“Oh, Jimmy…”

“I-I can’t do this.”

Apparently, neither could I. And to prove it, I stood there utterly useless, my heart breaking for him. I’d wondered what had happened to make him so hard. Of course I had. But I’d never imagined anything like this. “I’m so sorry,” I said, the words not even beginning to be enough.

Truth was, Jimmy needed a therapist or a counselor or someone. Anyone but me, because I didn’t have a fucking clue how to handle this. The man was cracking before my eyes and watching him come apart felt like torture. I’d been so careful the last few years, sticking to the fringes and keeping to myself. Now suddenly, his pain felt like my own, tearing up my insides, leaving me raw. The room swam blurrily in front of me.

What the hell was I still doing here?

When I took the job, my instructions had been scarily simple. Glue myself to his side and never, on pain of death, dismissal, and whatever else his lawyers could think to throw at me, let him consume a drop of alcohol or an ounce of drugs. Not a single pill could be popped. Given he’d been clean of his own volition for almost half a year, it hadn’t seemed such a hard task.

Until now.

“I’m going to go find your shirt,” I said, blinking like crazy, doing my best to pull my shit together. Qualified or not, I was all he had. “We need to finish getting you ready and then we’re going to go.”

He said nothing.

“We’ll get through this, Jimmy. We’ll get through today, then things will be better.” The words tasted sour. I just hoped they weren’t lies.

Still nothing.

“Okay?”

“Why did I say I’d talk at the funeral? What the fuck was I thinking?” He scowled. “The guys should have known this wouldn’t work out, not to put me in this position. I’m in no god damn condition to do anything. But Dave is all like ‘you say a few words, I’ll read some poetry. It’ll be fine.’ What bullshit.”

“You can do this.”

“I can’t.” He scrubbed his face with his hands. “If I’m not going to fuck up the funeral of the best person I ever knew, then I need a drink. One drink, then I’ll stop again.”

“No.” I faced him down. “They asked you to speak because as much as they’d probably hate to admit it, they knew you’d do it best. You’re the front man. You don’t need a drink. Shining in the spotlight is what you do. It’s who you are.”

He gave me a long look. So long, it got harder and harder to meet his eyes.

“You can do this, Jimmy. I know you can. There isn’t a single doubt inside of me.”

Nothing. He didn’t even blink, just kept staring at me. The look wasn’t unkind, I’m not sure what it was, apart from too much. I rubbed my clammy hands against the sides of my pants.

“All right,” I said, needing to escape. “I’ll get your clothes.”

Strong arms suddenly wrapped around me, pulling me in. I stumbled forward, only to be stopped by the hot face pressing into my stomach. His grip was brutally tight as if he expected me to fight him, to reject him. But I just stood stunned. His whole body shook, the tremors passing into me, rattling my bones. He didn’t make a sound, however. Something dampened the front of my shirt, making it cling.

It could have been sweat. I had the worst feeling it wasn’t.

“Hey.” None of the last two months had prepared me for this. He never needed me for shit. If anything, I inconvenienced him. We clashed. He tried to cut me down. I cracked a joke. The modus operandi had long since been established.

The man clinging to me was a stranger.

My hands hovered over his bare shoulders, panic bubbling up inside. I was most definitely not allowed to touch him. Not even a little. The one-hundred-and-twelve-page employment contract had been quite specific on the subject. Prior to this, he’d gone out of his way to avoid any and all contact, but now his arms tightened, fingers digging in. I’m pretty sure I heard my rib cage creak. Damn, he was strong. Just as well I came from sturdy stock, otherwise, he might have squeezed the life out of me.

“Jimmy, I can’t breathe,” I wheezed.

The grip eased a little and I stood there panting, my lungs working overtime. Thick arms remained around me. Clearly, I wasn’t going anywhere.

“Maybe I should get Sam,” I said in a stroke of genius once I’d caught my breath. Their head of security most closely resembled a thug in a suit. But I bet he gave great hugs.

“No.”

Crap. “Or David. Do you want your brother to come back in?”

His face shifted against me, moving first left and then right. Another no. “You can’t tell them.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

Silence rung in my ears.

“I just need a minute,” he said.

I stood rigid in his embrace, useless, a mannequin would have been as effective. Shit, I had to do something. Slowly, ever so slowly, my hands descended. The overwhelming need to comfort him far outweighed any threat of litigation. Heat kissed the palms of my hands. He felt feverish, perspiration slickening the hard contours of his shoulders and the thick column of his neck. My hands glided over him, doing their best to soothe.

It was disturbingly nice, being needed by him, being this close to him.

“It’s okay.” My fingers threaded into his thick dark hair. So soft. No wonder they hadn’t wanted me touching him, now that I’d started, I couldn’t seem to stop. I should have been ashamed of myself, feeling the poor man up at such a time. But he’d been the one to initiate contact. He’d grabbed hold of me seeking comfort and apparently, when it came to him, I had a scary amount to give.

“What am I gonna say?” he asked, voice muffled against me. “How can I make a fucking speech?”

“You say what she meant to you. They’ll understand.”

He snorted.

“No, really. Just talk from your heart.”

He took a shuddering breath, resting his forehead against me. “To top it off, she called.”

“She?” I gave the top of his head a sharp look. Damn it, he had seemed okay. Certainly not delusional. “Who called you?”

“Mom.”

“Oh.” This couldn’t be good news. Better than him imagining phone calls from the recently deceased, but still. “What’d she want?”

“Same fucking thing she always wants. Money.” His voice was harsh and low. So low that I had to strain to hear him. “Warned her to stay away.”

“She’s in town?”

A nod. “Threatened to crash the funeral. Told her I’d have her fucking arrested if she did.”

Hell, the woman sounded like a nightmare.

“Davie doesn’t know,” he said. “That’s the way it stays.”

“All right.” I don’t know how wise that was, but it wasn’t my choice to make. “I won’t tell him.”

His shoulders hitched beneath my hands, his misery surrounding us like an impenetrable shell. Nothing else existed.

“You’re going to be okay.” I bowed my head and hunched over, sheltering him with my body. My heart ached and emotional detachment was a dream. The compulsion to give to him was too strong. He was usually such a maddening man, so thoughtless and rude. Anger, however, made my job easier. When he behaved like an ass I could remain indifferent for the most part. These dangerous new feelings running through me, however, were soft and sappy, warm and weepy. No way could I afford to care this much.

Crap.

What the hell was happening to me?

He gripped my rounded hips and turned his face up to me, unguarded for once. All of his usual sharp edges were dulled by pain and if anything it just made his beauty more obvious. I licked my suddenly dry lips. Fingers tensed and tightened against me and his forehead bunched as he scowled at the damp patch on the front of my blouse. “Sorry ’bout that.”

“Not a problem.”

He let go and my legs wobbled, weak at the loss.

Intimacy fled and awkwardness rushed right in like a tidal wave. I could almost feel his walls slamming back into place. Mine were slower, weaker, damn them. Someone, somewhere along the line, had swapped my titanium for tinfoil, leaving me wide open and exposed. It was all his fault. For a moment, he’d actually stepped down from his self-imposed pedestal. He’d been real with me, shown me his fears, and I’d just sort of mumbled some vaguely comforting shit. Honestly, I couldn’t even remember what anymore. Little wonder he’d closed up on me again.

Also, we were unnaturally close, positioned as we were. There were mere inches between us. Jimmy gave me a brief embarrassed look to enforce the fact, just in case I hadn’t noticed. Obviously he regretted this. I mean, he’d cried on the hired help, for Christ’s sake.

“I’ll get your clothes,” I said, grasping at the first useful idea to enter my head.

Blindly, I stumbled across the room. Thoughts and feelings were running rife through me, all of it a blur. I needed to talk to mom. Far as I knew, there was no history of heart ailments in the family. Leukemia took Uncle John. Grandma died due to smoking a pack a day. I think Great Aunt Valerie caught some strange fungal infection in her lungs, but don’t quote me on that. Mom would know for sure. Whatever my heart was doing, it couldn’t be good. I was only twenty-five, much too young to die. Probably about the right age to become a complete hypochondriac, however.

I grabbed a shirt and tie from out of his walk-in closet in the monster-sized main bedroom. My room, on the other side of the suite, wasn’t bad. This room, however, put the Ritz to shame. Sheets, blankets, and pillows were strewn across the gigantic bed. Not from any crazy sex antics because as far as I could tell, the man was either asexual, abstaining, or both. Still, he obviously hadn’t slept well. I could just picture him, tossing and turning, his big strong body thrashing about on that large, sturdy bed. Completely alone with all his bad memories. And I’d only been in the room across from him, also alone and not sleeping particularly well. Some nights my brain just wouldn’t shut up or shut down and last night had definitely been one of them.

I stood frozen, mesmerized by the tangle of sheets and blankets.

Again, my heart did something strange. Something totally out of context. What happened between my legs was best ignored. I’m certain something in the employment contract outlawed any and all wetness on my part, especially if it pertained to one James Dylan Ferris.

“Hey,” he said, appearing at my side, startling the crap out of me.

“Hi.” I hesitated, a bit breathless again for some reason. Perhaps I should have my lungs checked too just to be sure. “You need a quick cleanup. Come on.”

He followed behind me like an obedient child. The lights in the white bathroom were blindingly bright after all the emotional turmoil, dazzling me. Okay, what next? Bottles and tubes were spread out over the counter. Still my beleaguered brain offered up nothing.

“We have to hurry,” I muttered, mostly to myself.

I placed his shirt and tie on the counter, grabbed a facecloth and wet it. If I hadn’t already done my makeup, I’d have splashed my face with the bitingly cold water, let it wake me up from all this weirdness. Meanwhile, Jimmy stared off into the distance, his mind obviously far away once again. When I held up the cloth he didn’t react at all. Forget it, we didn’t have time for this, I’d do the job myself. The cold damp cloth made contact and he reared back, nostrils flaring.

“Hold still,” I said, and embarked upon my first ever sponge bath. Basically, I scrubbed at him like a mad woman. I even washed behind his ears in my fervor.

“Christ,” he mumbled, ducking to try and escape me.

“Keep still.”

Next came his neck, then his shoulders. I wet the cloth again and moved on to his chest and back, rushing through the process. It was best not to think, just to see him as Jimmy, my boss. Better yet, the body beneath my hands was stone, not real in the least, despite the goose flesh erupting all over him. Base desires didn’t matter when a job was at stake, surging hormones and emotions both could take a backseat. I could do this.

“Okay. Shirt.” I picked up the thick rich cotton and held it open for him. He threaded his arms through, smooth skin brushing against the back of my fingers making tingles run up my arm. I fumbled my way through doing up the buttons. “We need cuff links. And I don’t know how to do the tie.”

“I’ll do that.”

“Okay.” I passed him the neat strip of black silk. All good, I just needed some air, the colder the better.

Jimmy stepped around me, walking back into the bedroom. From the top of his dresser he collected a pair of silver cuff links and secured them to the sleeves of his shirt. Actually, they were probably platinum, knowing him. I could see tattoos peeking out from beneath the cuffs of his shirt and above the collar of his neck. There could be no disguising him as anything other than the rock star he was. He hadn’t been made to hide or blend, the man was much too beautiful for that.

“Do you need anything else?” I asked, following him like a little lost puppy. My toes stretched and strained while my hands hung limp at my sides. No way did he need to know he’d made me jittery.

“I’m good.” Socks and shoes waited at the end of the bed. He sat down, getting busy. His suit jacket hung over the back of a chair, a long black woolen coat folded atop it. We were fine, everything set.

“You’ve got your speech?” I asked.

The frown increased. “Yeah. It’s in my pocket.”

“Great. I just need to get my bag and jacket.”

His chin jerked and his gaze skittered over me. “You look nice, by the way.”

“Ah, thank you.”

“Just stating a fact. You look good.” He turned away.

I, however, didn’t move. At first I was stunned at the compliment, but then for some reason, leaving Jimmy alone didn’t feel right. It niggled. What if he got upset again and I wasn’t here to talk him down? His sobriety was too important to risk.

Lips fine, he studied the slowly drying patch on the front of my blouse. “You definitely won’t tell anyone?”

“No. Never.”

The air hissed out between his teeth and his expression calmed. “Okay…”

I nodded, giving him a small smile.

“Listen, Lena?”

“Hmm?”

He turned away. “There’s nothing in here, no pills or booze. I haven’t scored. I’ll do a spit test if you need it, and you can search the room…”

“No, I know,” I said, perplexed. “If there was, you wouldn’t have wanted me to get you something and we’d currently be having an entirely different conversation. Either that or you’d be back in rehab and I’d be out of a job.”

“True.”

Neither of us said anything for a moment. I crossed my arms over my chest, my face stiff, tight with tension.

“You can leave me on my own,” he said. “It’s fine, go get your stuff. Do whatever so we can leave.”

“Right!” One of those false embarrassed little laughs startled out of me. Crap. I’d completely forgotten. “Yes, okay. I’ll get my stuff.”

“Great.” He pushed a hand through his hair the same as he’d done maybe a dozen times a day since I’d come to work for him. It was nothing new. Immediately, however, my heart did the drop-and-squeeze thing again.

No. NO.

It couldn’t be connected to him, I refused to believe it.

“Are you going?” His face skewed with annoyance and thank God for that. His open irritation relieved me no end, we were back to normal.

“Yes, Jimmy. I’m going.”

“Now?”

“Right now.” I strode out, slamming the bedroom door shut behind me.

I did not have feelings for Jimmy Ferris. What a ridiculous thought. He was a former addict. And while I admired and respected him for taking charge of his life and fighting that battle, I did not need to get involved with someone who’d barely been dry half a year. Also, Jimmy was not a particularly nice guy the bulk of the time. A general lack of interest in, and consideration for, everyone else inhabiting the planet was his go-to setting.

But worst of all, the man was my boss.

I didn’t have feelings for him. I couldn’t, no way. I’d fallen for unsuitable, unstable, and outright criminal assholes in the past, but I was done with that. Especially the asshole and unstable portion. There’s no way I had feelings for him. I’d really grown as a person and shit, right?

I slumped against the nearest wall. “Fuck.”

I took a deep breath, focused on the funeral.

Things would get better.

Copyright © 2014 by Kylie Scott

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