Derek Valencia finally has the success he’s worked so hard for. His band is touring its debut album and great reviews are rolling in. But when pictures of him tossing naked groupies off a balcony go viral, it’s damage-control time. He’s assigned a “babysitter” whose sole job is to keep him out of trouble.
Violet Davis swore she’d never work in the music industry again, but being a minder for a rock star will earn her enough to pay off the mortgage on her wildflower farm. And for a girl brought up in the foster care system, owning her own home means more to her than anything.
Though at first the two bang heads, the rocker and the farm girl soon grow close and realize that they make sweet music together. But can a girl who craves the stability of life on a farm really make it work with a man whose life is spent on the road with his band?
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“You’re gonna give a girl a complex.”
Derek Valencia looked up from his phone to take in the woman coming out of his hotel bathroom. Licking her glossy lips, she cupped her big tits and leaned forward, giving him a view of lush cleavage. His pulse quickened, and he got hard.
He probably shouldn’t be fucking the woman who did publicity for the band, but it was rare to find a woman like her. One who genuinely wanted exactly what he did—the occasional night of hot, freaky sex, no strings attached. And when it ended, they’d both move on, neither letting it affect their business relationship. Careers came first.
And whichever role she played, Genevieve Babineaux played it balls-to-the-wall, whether she was in business, social, or sex kitten mode. He just happened to be the lucky bastard currently starring in her sex life.
Unfortunately, though, sex would have to wait. “You look gorgeous, sweetheart. But you gotta get dressed. Ray Montalbano’s on his way up.”
“Ray?” The seductiveness dropped right out of her tone, and her arms fell to her sides.
“How’d that happen?” She didn’t look happy, but then she hadn’t been the one to set up the interview.
“Ran into him in the green room tonight. Said if I had a few minutes, he’d like to ask a few questions.”
Music blasted through the walls of the adjoining suite, and he checked the time on his laptop. He hated to shut the party down so early, but with the most revered music critic in the country on his way up to the room, he couldn’t risk any problems.
Especially after the gig they’d just played. Only ten days into their tour to promote their first album, and they were killing it. He had no doubt they’d go gold by the end of summer.
They had to go gold. Not only would it be a reward for all the hard work they’d put in the last several years, but it’d ensure the tour would continue beyond the summer.
And, of course, it would shut his dad up. Irrefutable proof his son had talent.
“I love it.” Another thing he liked about her. No issues, no tantrums. Just business. She turned back into the bathroom, flipped the light on. “I’ll get dressed.”
Just as he got up to talk to the guys, he heard the knock at the door. That was fast.
No time to shut down the party, he pulled out his phone, and shot Ben and Cooper a text. Didn’t bother including Pete. He’d be too wasted to check his phone.
Shut it down. Ray Montalbano’s in my room right now.
A while back, when the partying had started getting out of control, the band had signed a contract with each other. Sure, they wanted the rock star lifestyle, but they wanted longevity in the business even more. So they’d made a line they wouldn’t cross—no drugs, no trashing hotel rooms . . . basically, nothing destructive.
The guys got it. He could trust them. Besides, Ray had said he’d only be there a few minutes. It couldn’t get too out of control.
On his way to the door, he leaned into the bathroom. “He’s here. You good?”
She smiled. “I’ll be better when he leaves and we can have some time to ourselves. It’s been too long, and I’m desperate for you.”
Fuckin’ A. He had a hot woman in his bed, they were taking the festival circuit by storm, and Ray Montalbano was here to interview him.
Life couldn’t get any sweeter.
Unlocking the security latch, he took a moment to get his head on right. He needed to be sharp for interviews, especially with the bombs his dad kept dropping all over the press. No matter how down and dirty his dad got, Derek would not respond. He’d stay focused on the band, the tour, on the music. The stuff that mattered.
He opened the door, and Ray gave him a chin nod.
“Hey, thanks for seeing me on such short notice.” With his scraggly dark hair and ill-fitting clothes, the guy came up to Derek’s shoulders. Seemed crazy a guy so unremarkable could wield such power in the music industry.
“Happy to do it.” He shook the guy’s hand, noticing the old Snatch T-shirt he wore. “Come on in.” He gestured to the shirt. “We’re gonna have to get you a new one.”
“I want this one. It’ll be a collector’s item one day.”
First order of business with Irwin had been changing the band name to Blue Fire. Derek had to smile at the original image of a beaver they’d come up with nearly ten years ago. They’d come a long way since then.
Leading the critic to the desk, he pulled out the chair. “Have a seat.” Derek sat on the edge of the bed.
“Awesome.” The guy flopped into the chair, took out his phone, and set it on the desk. He played with it for a moment. “You mind if I record this?” He touched the phone.
“Not at all.”
“Fuckin’ great show, man.”
“Yeah, thanks. It was pretty incredible.”
“How the hell’d you get those guys onstage with you? Was it planned?”
Pretty much everything Derek did was planned. Sure, they had a great label, they had Irwin Ledger, the best A&R guy in the business, and everything that came with it but, bottom line, it was his band. No one cared about his success or failure as much as he did. He couldn’t just hope things worked out. “Sure. We had a list of celebrities in town for the festival, so we invited the guys we knew played in bands to jam with us.”
“Brilliant idea—especially for a new band. Talk about generating buzz. That was fuckin’ awesome.” He shook his head, smiling, as though still in the audience, watching the jam. “You seen any reviews yet?”
“Just got back to the room, so no. You post yours already?” After a show, he and Slater had to do press, spend some time in the green room shaking hands. It ate up a lot of time.
Ray nodded. “You should check it out.”
“I definitely will.”
“No, I mean now. Read it now.”
An uneasy feeling crept down his spine. This was why he always took that moment to get his head on right. The look in Ray’s eyes . . . the guy was up to something, and it wasn’t good.
At that moment, the bathroom door opened, and Gen’s expensive scent came billowing out. She sashayed over to them, always the seductress, even in business mode. “Ray.” She reached for him, but the critic didn’t even get up to greet her, just stared, jaw hanging.
Gen did that to people.
She pushed right through the awkwardness, air kissing the guy on each cheek. “Was that a spectacular show tonight or what?”
“Honestly, Irwin’s convinced these guys are the next U2.”
That snapped him out of it. “They are. Huge potential. That’s why I wanted to talk to you tonight.” He homed in on Derek. “Go on and read the review.”
Derek reached for his laptop on the desk and dragged it closer. Once he logged onto the Beatz website, his pulse kicked up a notch in anticipation. Let it be good. It was one thing for his dad to fuck with him, but he couldn’t let it hurt the band.
He had to be careful. Ray wouldn’t want him reading the review right then if Derek’s reaction didn’t mean something. He had to stay cool and manage the situation. By tomorrow morning, everyone in the industry would have read this article.
Gen leaned around his shoulder. “So?”
A thrill shot through him seeing his band’s name in the headline.
BLUE FIRE ROCKS MIAMI JAM, STEALS THE WHOLE DAMN FESTIVAL
“Oh, Ray, that’s just wonderful.” Gen’s voice sounded sultry.
Derek gulped whole sections of the article, basically skimming all the praise—fuck yes, only good shit about Slater and the guys—and then his gaze slammed into his father’s name. An electrical charge rocked his body.
When asked how it feels to watch his son onstage performing with the likes of Russell Crowe, Jared Leto, and Johnny Depp, just like he used to do twenty years ago when Fusion Stream filled arenas, Eddie Valencia said, “I suppose the comparisons are inevitable. But I really think you’re dealing with apples and oranges.” He laughed. “Not sure you can compare ‘the jazz virtuoso’ to the ‘sex god,’ but okay. Let’s just say I’m glad to see him achieving the kind of fame he craves.”
“When did you talk to Eddie?” Gen spoke in the brisk tone she used for damage control. “He wasn’t at the show tonight.”
“I called him,” Ray said. “He’s been in the press a lot lately, right? It seems weird. He’s been out of the scene for years, and the minute his son breaks out, suddenly Eddie’s back? So I was curious. Wanted to find out his game.”
Derek really needed to say something, but the loud music from next door merged with the noise in his head, making it difficult to think.
The kind of fame he craves.
Fucker. What was his dad’s problem? Jesus,I’m his son. But he had to pull himself together. He couldn’t lose his shit in front of the press. Which was exactly what Ray wanted.
“Oh, it’s not a game,” Gen said. “He’s genuinely proud of his son. Tells him all the time.”
Ray’s gaze slid to Derek. With every bit of restraint he could marshal, he kept his features impassive. He would not give the critic a poisoned arrow to fling back out into cyberspace.
Think of the band. Think of your brothers.
“So they’re not digs?” Ray asked. “The sex god remark? Not a dig?”
“Well, come on, just look at him.” Gen practically purred. “Nicknames are given for a reason. Just ask his last two girlfriends.”
Why the hell had she brought that up? Like he’d dated them because they were supermodels. Give me a break. He’d worked with Adriana on a music video, for Christ’s sake.
Okay, this was bullshit. He wasn’t going to just sit there and let this guy try to provoke a reaction out of him.
Determination rose like a motherfucker inside him. He would not let his dad get to him. Would not let him into his head. Derek had left home at seventeen and never looked back for this very reason. His dad was toxic.
“You have to know my dad’s sense of humor. He’s just giving me shit because I play bass, where he played sax. He was the boss, and I’m in the background. He likes to joke around that I use the tats and girlfriends to make up for the fact that I stand behind Slater onstage.”
The taste of his father’s words on his tongue made him sick. But he knew he sounded convincing, and he hoped Ray printed it word for word.
“I guess I can see that.” But no, Ray didn’t look convinced.
Glass shattered in the adjoining room. Shit.
“Are you coming to any more shows?” Gen reached out to touch Ray’s arm. Her silky dark hair spilled over her shoulders, drawing the guy’s attention to her plump cleavage.
Great distraction. Thanks, babe.
“I’ll be at Madison Square Garden, of course.” He paused, shifting in the chair. “Your dad’s invited me into his studio, wants me to check out some new stuff he’s working on.”
“Yeah? Cool. It’s great. You’ll love it.” What new stuff? The old bastard hadn’t played a note in years.
“You got all those celebrities onstage with you tonight,” Ray said. “Ever think about jamming with your dad?”
“Apples and oranges, remember?” Gen laughed. “Trust me, Eddie’s brilliance would get lost on the stage with these five rockers.”
Derek blocked out the implied cut in her comment. Had to. “My dad can open his own show on any stage in the city. He doesn’t need to get up on mine.”
Ray enlivened. “I think he wants to. How would you feel about that? You and Eddie Valencia, jamming at MSG?”
A body thumped against the wall, the voices growing louder. Dammit. Derek got up. Fortunately, Gen continued the conversation with the guy, giving Derek a chance to go over there. He’d kill the party and, at the same time, grab a minute to calm his shit down. “Excuse me.” He headed for the door to the adjoining room.
His father wanted to get up onstage with him? After shutting him out of everything—every jam session, every road trip, every fucking meal or cup of coffee he’d ever had with his musician friends. And ten days into his son’s first headlining tour, his dad wanted in? What a prick.
An image flashed in his mind. Him, the little boy, standing outside his dad’s basement studio—the sound of laughter, deep voices, an instrument being tuned—peering in to see the greatest jazz musicians in the world preparing to jam. To this day, that feeling of desperation lingered within him. Talk about craving something? He’d craved being a part of his dad’s world. Nothing hurt worse than seeing his dad’s features harden at the sight of him. Watching the legendary sax player storm over and slam the door in his son’s face.
The boy’s whole body vibrating with the sound of it.
Why the fuck did that still hurt?
Unlocking the door, he pushed into the suite.
And froze. What had started out as a couple dozen people had turned into a full-on rave. His skin chilled. What if paparazzi had gotten in? They didn’t need any bad press.
Quickly, he made his way through the large room, scanning faces, looking for his friends. Finding Cooper in the kitchen, he grabbed him by the back of his shirt. “Shut this down right now. Didn’t you get my text? I’ve got Ray Montalbano interviewing me next door.”
Cooper’s eyes looked glassy, and he swayed.
“Snap out of it, Coop. I’m serious. You have to get everyone out of here.”
He had to get back to his interview. The last thing he needed was for Ray to come looking for him and find his bandmates getting fucked up.
Trusting Coop to get it done, he wove his way back into his room to see Gen at the door with Ray.
“Hey, thanks for coming by, man.” He shook Ray’s hand. The noises coming from next door grew louder, something else hitting the wall. Something heavy. Was furniture being thrown? He was going to kick some asses.
“Yeah, sure. Appreciate the time. Listen, hit me up when you get to the city. I’d like to sit down with—”
A piercing scream cut through the thumping bass.
Adrenaline punched through his system. He shot Gen a look, making sure she understood to get rid of Ray. Not a chance could that guy see what was going on in there.
Another shriek drove Derek to the connecting door of the suite. Once inside, he bolted the lock to keep Ray out. Gen could come in the other door with her key card.
It took him a few seconds to size up the situation. The sea of bodies seemed to be moving toward the balcony.
Derek pushed and shoved, fighting his way through the packed crowd. Once on the balcony, he found Pete greedily sucking on a girl’s tit, then lifting her naked ass and hauling her to the railing. Derek lunged, grabbing the girl around the waist and pulling her out of Pete’s hold.
“Hey.” Pete reeled, completely spaced out. “Give her back.”
Cooper slammed into him from behind, laughing hysterically, completely drunk. “Dude, toss her.”
Disappointment slammed him. Not Cooper. “Are you out of your fucking mind?”
Derek glanced over the railing, saw naked women treading water in the turquoise blue pool two stories below. “I told you to shut it down. Jesus, Coop. Look down there.”
It took a moment for Cooper to get it, but Derek saw the moment his friend sobered up. “It was just fun.”
He cuffed the back of his head. “What if one of them cracks her head on the side of the pool? Breaks her neck on the bottom? What’s the matter with you?”
A wash of color spread over his friend’s features. “Fuck, I don’t know.”
“Help me out, man. We gotta get everyone out of here.”
Cooper sucked in a breath, then made his way through the throng into the hotel room.
Derek set the naked girl down. She reeked of booze. “You okay, sweetheart?”
Eyes glazed, she nodded, reaching for the railing to steady herself.
“Where are your clothes?” He dropped to a crouch, looking on the ground, when a hand squeezed his ass.
“Oh, my God, you’re Derek Valencia,” a girl said.
“Hey, I saw him first.” This one pulled at his hair.
Derek got up, forcing the girls back.
The music shut off, and he heard Cooper shouting for everyone to clear out.
Someone moaned, and Derek swung around to find Ben sitting in the corner, his back against the railing. One girl kneeled between his legs, swallowing his dick; another straddled him, naked, her pussy in his face, his hands clamping her ass.
Jesus Christ. Derek snatched a T-shirt and some jeans off the ground and handed them to the girl. “These yours? Can you put them on?”
And then he turned to the crowd. “Everyone out. Right now. Party over.” Arms opened wide, he swept them off the balcony. Shooting Pete a hard look, he realized the keyboard player was too far gone to help. With an arm slung around a girl for support, his friend’s legs barely held him upright.
“Ben,” Derek shouted. “Get up and help us clear the room.” When the drummer didn’t immediately move, he snapped. “Get your fucking dick out of her mouth and get dressed. I need your help now.”
Ben jumped to action, wobbling before righting himself and throwing on a T-shirt.
Derek fished his phone out of his back pocket, texting Abe, the bus driver, to bring the bus around to the back of the hotel. He sent another to Vince, their trusted roadie, asking him to make a quick check around the pool to make sure no one was hurt. And a final one to Slater, letting him know the plan.
Finally, he gathered up all the clothing on the balcony and dropped it onto the patio below, so the women could get dressed.
Now, he just had to get the guys packed and on the road before the paparazzi got hold of the story. Heading back into the main room, he watched the stream of partiers making their way out the door. Gen stood among them, herding them out. When she saw him, she hustled over. “What the hell’s the matter with these guys?”
“They’re having fun. It was a big night.”
She planted her hands on her hips. “I thought you guys had some deal about how many they could take home with them.”
“How many of them?” Sometimes her detachment creeped the shit out of him. “Jesus, Gen. It’s not a deal. We’re just careful about it.”
“Well, obviously not. Can you imagine if Ray had seen what went on in here? Bad enough he heard it. Maybe I should set something up with him in New York—something with you and your dad—to buy his discretion.”
“Not a chance.” She had no idea what she was asking of him, but he didn’t care. At the moment, he had to get the band safely on the road. He checked the bedroom on the other side of the suite, found it cleared. Bathroom, too.
Fortunately, things hadn’t gotten too out of hand. Now, he just had to hope no one had recorded anything with their phones. Irwin wouldn’t stand for this shit.
“Okay, it’s cool.” Cooper met him in the living area. “Everyone’s gone.”
“Great, pack up. We’re heading out.”
“What?” Cooper said. “No. I’m too tired to hit the road. Let’s crash here.”
Ben joined them. “We’re not supposed to leave until tomorrow.”
“Yeah, that was before you tossed naked girls off the balcony. Let’s go.”
Pete slumped on the couch, head rolling back. “I didn’t get laid.”
“Guys.” He said it so sharply Pete’s head snapped up.
He didn’t need to give them a lecture, didn’t need to chastise. He simply held out his forearm, displaying the tattoo they’d all gotten last year. The Hand of Eris. It was a permanent reminder of the contract, of their promise to one another not to wade too deeply into the chaos of this industry.
When all of them looked away, Derek knew they got it. “Listen, the hotel’s swarming with press from the festival, so we’re getting out now. Pack up your shit.”
He needed to take one more look over the balcony, double-check no one had gotten hurt. But it should be all right. It was all under control.
They’d wake up in a new town, with a fresh slate. He’d talk to the guys, remind them what they were about.
He peered over the railing, and it took a minute to make sense of what he was seeing. The naked women formed a chain in the pool, arms wrapped around one another’s shoulders. Smiling for . . .
Oh, shit. For Ray Montalbano. Who aimed his phone right at them. Someone noticed Derek, and the girls looked up to the balcony. A minute later Ray swung the phone up, trained it on him.
With a chin nod, the critic said, “Smile.”
So . . . this is awkward.
Standing at the back of the restaurant, Violet Davis watched her former client tap his knife against his wineglass, quieting his friends, family, and colleagues.
He rose, resting a hand on the back of his fiancée’s chair, and addressed the room. “Thank you all for coming tonight.”
In his six-thousand-dollar custom-made Brioni suit, Joe looked nothing like the man she’d known three months ago. Back then, he’d worn soiled clothes, a greasy beard, and bruises. He’d also smelled like a man who’d been locked up in a hotel room with prostitutes on a three-day binge.
Probably because he had been.
This man? The one lifting a champagne flute, smiling with warmth and humility? This man was healthy, clean, and reunited with his former fiancée.
“I can’t begin to express what it means to stand here before all of you and announce my engagement to the love of my life,” he continued. “Yes, for the second time.” Some in the audience laughed. “But this time, I’m not letting her go.”
His future bride, a stunning blonde in a sparkling blue cocktail dress, wiped tears from her eyes. She reached a hand up to his. He clasped it, brought it to his mouth, and pressed a kiss on her palm.
The dissolute partier had regained his life, his company, and his soul mate. Violet could not have been prouder of him.
And now it was time for her to go and leave him to the people in his life who mattered.
“Am I the only one who thinks this is freakishly awkward?”
At the sound of the familiar male voice, Violet quickly shoved her foot back into the stiletto she’d kicked off.
Breathing in Randall Oppenheimer’s very masculine and expensive scent, she laughed. “Oh, no. Believe me, by the looks I’ve been getting all night, you’re in good company.”
Besides board members and Joe himself, of course, everyone in the room thought she was his ex-girlfriend. They’d “broken up” less than a week ago. All night long people had given her furtive and pitying glances. But she didn’t mind. She’d likely never see any of them again.
Randall tipped his champagne flute back, looking effortlessly sophisticated and cultured. With his khakis and light blue button-down, his short-cropped hair and boyish features, he could’ve been the poster boy for Yale frat life.
“You want to get out of here?”
I’d love to. Fortunately, she caught the words before they flew out of her mouth. “I’d better not.”
“Oh, come on. You don’t seriously want to hang around your former boyfriend’s engagement party, do you? Come on, we’ll get on my hog and ride like the wind.”
One eyebrow rose in disbelief. “You have a motorcycle?”
He looked away, half his mouth curling. “Nope. But it sounded pretty badass.”
More likely he’d arrived in his family’s limo. With his parents. The Oppenheimers’ law firm did a lot of work for Joe’s company, so she’d run into them often during the course of her “relationship” with Joe.
“Can’t really see myself straddling a hog in this dress anyway.” She’d chosen the sleek Armani sheath to fit in with the wealthy crowd but not stand out. In her line of work, invisibility worked in everyone’s favor.
“Oh, I can.” Still looking away, the other half of his mouth joined the first.
“Someone’s frisky tonight.” The worst part of her job? The lies. “You better go easy on me. I just got my heart broken.” But then, after tonight, she’d never see Randall again. They didn’t exactly move in the same circles.
“Come on.” He leaned in, so close she could see the ghost of his beard. “You don’t really think I’m buying the whole you-and-Joe thing.”
A jolt of fear shot down her spine. Did he know? Nothing mattered more to her business than client confidentiality. Her reputation was her bond. “Now, why would you say that?” She tried to play it cool, but his answer mattered.
“Because he’s old. And you’re . . .” His gaze took a slow ride from her mouth to the stiletto she was glad she’d put back on. “You’re . . . you.”
Oh, thank God. He didn’t know anything about her job. He just couldn’t picture her with Joe. Well, he was right about that. At forty-eight, nearly twice her age, Joe Capriano was definitely not her type.
“Well, thank you. But Joe’s a great guy, and I enjoyed my time with him very much.” Once he’d stopped fighting her anyway.
“You enjoyed your time with the guy? Doesn’t sound like he got anywhere near your heart.” He said it with a cute smile, but she couldn’t tell if he knew the truth or not.
He was a lawyer and worked closely with the board of Joe’s company. He could have found out. “Your point?”
He nearly spit out his champagne. “So you’ll date a man twice your age with a comb-over, but not me?”
What did she say to that? She couldn’t date anyone she met through clients. “That’s not a comb-over. That’s a side part. Just ask Donald Trump.” She smiled, hoping he’d drop it. Because he certainly wouldn’t be asking her out if he knew her real identity.
But then his gaze sharpened, the teasing tone gone. “I really would like to date you. I’ve watched you for three months, waiting for this moment.”
Her heart skipped, sending her pulse skittering. She almost lost her composure. Randall Oppenheimer had waited three months for her?
Well, of course, he didn’t know the real her. Her pulse settled down. He thought she was a twenty-five-year-old “consultant” who’d graduated from Williams, came from an “important” family, wore designer clothes, and had tamed major partier Joe Capriano back into a polished and sober CEO of a billion-dollar company.
That was the woman he’d waited three months to ask out. Not her.
“Well, thank you, Randall. That’s lovely of you to say, but I’m not really looking to date at the moment.” No way could she start a relationship based on a lie.
“I’ll tell you a secret.” He shoved a hand deep into his pocket, his cheeks turning rosy, and she could not believe how vulnerable this sophisticated, confident man had become. “I knew the moment I laid eyes on you that . . .” He blew out a breath. “Well, that you were special. And that I wanted to go out with you. And, come on, anyone could see there’s no fire between you and Joe. So I’m not going to give up.”
Her inner teenage girl gave a little sigh. That was about the sweetest thing a guy had ever said to her.
And he wasn’t just some guy. He was a really good one. Not just his education, but his family. Sure, his dad ran the biggest law firm in the city and they had unbelievable wealth, but they were known for their down-to-earth kindness and generosity.
Okay, just stop it.
“Remember that night I dropped you at your apartment?”
She barely nodded. Of course she remembered that night. Seated in the back of a town car jockeying along Sixth Avenue with a gorgeous man she couldn’t have—sure, she remembered.
“I wanted to kiss you.”
She did not need to hear this. She couldn’t date a guy like Randall. And not just because of client confidentiality, but because everything he knew about her was a lie.
First off, he knew her as Scarlet. Not Violet Davis. But worse? She didn’t live in a Fifth Avenue penthouse. She lived on a farm. And this outfit? All the others he’d seen her in? Purchased for jobs, thanks to a lucrative salary.
If he saw her on the farm, dressed in her shorts and tank top, wearing no makeup, would he still get all shy about asking her out? She didn’t think so. “I should get going.”
His look turned intense. “Let me give you a ride home. Please?”
Gazing into those intelligent blue eyes, she allowed herself just a moment to imagine going with him. Tossing aside everything—her job, her responsibilities, her history, and just letting herself be a woman. A reckless, fun-loving woman who threw herself into passionate relationships.
But then the memory of the social worker’s words jarred her.
She’ll likely never be able to trust or fully experience love.
Well, hell. So much for giving her imagination the run of the place. She simply wasn’t that woman.
And yet . . . a tiny ember glowed deep inside her, the hint of hope that the worker could’ve been wrong. What if she could love? She’d had her grandma for four years, so maybe a seed had been planted. No, she hadn’t loved anyone yet, but maybe she hadn’t met the right man. She got that she’d never love like a normal person. But maybe she could feel something.
She’d never know unless she gave someone a chance. She looked at Randall. What if she gave him a chance?
Her phone chimed in her clutch. “I’m so sorry. It’s my work phone.” She gave him an apologetic smile. “It’s the nature of my business.” Well, no, it wasn’t, but she needed a reprieve from considering what she couldn’t have.
“Sure.” He gave her a warm smile.
Pulling out her cell, she saw Emmie Valencia’s name on the caller ID. “Please excuse me, I have to take this.” She strode around the periphery of the room, looking for the bathrooms. “Emmie?”
“Hey, V, how’s it going?”
“I’m all right.” Finding a long corridor, she made her way down it. “How about you?”
“Not so great. I’ve got a problem.”
Seeing that no one was waiting for the bathroom, she stepped inside and locked the door. “What’s up?”
“Are you interested in a job?”
“I am, actually.” Violet took in the dark red wallpaper, crystal faucet handles, and gold accents of the spacious bathroom. The rich scent of roses made her wonder at the source, and she noticed the bowl of potpourri on the counter. Ah—potpourri. What a great idea for her wildflowers. As soon as she got off the phone, she’d text herself a reminder.
“Oh, good. You did such an amazing job with Caroline, you’re the first person I thought of.”
Uh-oh. “Go on.” Emmie managed a rock band. Violet hoped very much she wasn’t offering her a job in that industry.
“Yeah, so this one’s pretty important to me. It involves my brother.”
“Isn’t your brother in a band?”
She hesitated. “He is.”
Now she understood why Emmie seemed wary. Violet had made it clear she didn’t work with rock stars. Businessmen could be decadent enough, but people in the music industry? She’d gotten only a glimpse of that world when she’d worked with Irwin Ledger’s daughter, Caroline, but it had been enough for her to tell Emmie to lose her number when it came to rockers.
“You still there?” Emmie asked.
What should she do? “Yes. I hate to disappoint you, but I think you know I don’t want to work with musicians.”
“My brother’s not a bad guy. He’s not an addict or anything.”
“Okay, but he is in that world. And it’s just not for me.” Although she shouldn’t be so dismissive. She did need a job now that this one had ended.
“I know, I know. Believe me, no one knows better than I do. But my brother’s not like that.” She exhaled. “Okay, bottom line. The guys are partying too hard, getting too much attention in the media for their behavior and not their music, so Irwin’s losing interest. They’re good, V. And I’m not saying that because of my boyfriend and brother.”
“Then again it is your boyfriend and your brother.” She kept her tone light.
Fortunately, Emmie laughed. “I know. I know how it sounds. Look, this is so important. And I know I can find someone else, obviously, but I saw what you did with Caroline. It’s the way you do it, you know? My brother’s really stubborn.” She sighed. “That’s not the right word. God, I’m so worried you won’t take the job that I can’t even think. Okay, listen, our dad’s always been really hard on him. Always putting him down and criticizing him. So Derek has a hard time taking suggestions. It has to be delivered in just the right way and, V, you do it just right.”
“I want to help you out. I do. But I really don’t want to work in the music industry.” Did she need the money? Of course. Who didn’t? But not at the cost of her sanity. Besides, she’d looked forward to spending some time this summer on the farm, developing new products. She closed her eyes, picturing acres of brightly colored flowers set against the stunning backdrop of ocean and clear blue sky. She lived on the most beautiful parcel of land in the world. And she rarely got to be there.
“I’m touring with them right now,” Emmie said. “So you know if I can handle it, you can, too. Derek keeps the groupies off the bus. He’s really respectful of me being there.”
Leaning against the wall, she kicked off her shoe and rubbed her foot. “If Derek doesn’t have a substance abuse problem, what exactly do you need me to do?”
“I need you to do just what you did with Caroline—give the guys something to do other than partying.”
“So I’m working with four guys?”
Emmie hesitated. “Yes. But, of course, Amoeba will pay you for all four.”
Holy cow. Four times her usual pay per month. “How long would you need me?”
“It’s a summer tour, so they’ll be on the road for three months. Well, two and a half now. Are you free?”
“Yes.” She’d hoped to put off choosing the next job for a little while, but she couldn’t turn down this kind of money. She had to at least consider it.
But four rockers . . . oh, boy.
“V, I know this is last minute, and I know you said no musicians, but I wouldn’t ask you if it wasn’t really important. Please. I’ll be here the whole time to help you.”
“Why don’t you give me some information, and I’ll do the research. Get back to you in a few days.” When Emmie didn’t respond immediately, she said, “Okay?”
“I kind of need you sooner than later.”
• • •
Violet wheeled her suitcase to the elevator, listening as Francesca filled her in on the day’s events.
“Cutlers says they can’t keep the ice cubes in stock,” Francesca said in her husky voice. “Customers are raving about them.”
A gush of satisfaction flowed through her. Luckily for her, tea had become trendy, and people loved the idea of loose leaf. But the leaves lost their flavor pretty quickly, and some people didn’t like the messiness of an infuser, so she’d had the idea to freeze the leaves—wrapped in pretty pink mesh—in ice cubes. Dropping one ice cube in six ounces of boiling water made a perfect cup of tea. They sold like crazy in the gourmet shops on Long Island.
She pushed the button for the elevator. Glancing down at her outfit, she wondered if the supershort shorts and thigh-high boots made her look more like a hooker than a groupie.
“Other than that . . .” Violet could hear her friend shuffling through papers. “Other than that, we’ve got a new order from Mirabelle’s for the tins. They’d like to try ten tins of each flavor.”
“Are you serious? Mirabelle’s in East Hampton contacted us?”
The doors opened, and she wheeled her suitcase inside, then pressed the button for the lobby.
“Yes. I got a call this afternoon.”
“Way to bury the lead.” Violet smiled. “Francesca, that’s huge. I can’t believe you didn’t call me as soon as you got off the phone with them. That’s fantastic.”
“You were at Joe’s engagement party. Oh, and if it sells well, they might include us in their catalog.”
“Are you kidding me? This is amazing. This could change our lives completely.” She could close her company, live on the farm full-time.
Of course, she didn’t own the farm yet. Doubt worked its way back into her consciousness. She tried hard not to worry about things out of her control, but come on. Hard not to worry when all she had to prove ownership was a paper napkin contract. If it came to it, she’d fight, of course, but the more money she earned, the sooner she could own the land outright and put her fears to rest.
“Okay, anything you need me to do before I go?” Violet asked.
“You’ll need to transfer funds into the business account, but other than that we’re all set.”
“I can do that electronically, once I’m in the car.”
“V, with all we’ve got going on, what about skipping this job and spending time on the farm?”
A little jolt of energy passed through her. She would love nothing more than to spend the summer out there. They’d gotten a firm handle on the wildflower tea products and were ready to launch the soap. She’d planned on developing stationery and honey next. Oh, and potpourri. She’d have to remember that one. Easy, simple to package.
“That sounds amazing, but I need the money.”
“The sooner we get the products into the marketplace, the sooner you won’t need to take jobs.”
True. But she’d have no peace until she owned the farm outright, so she needed the income. “You could ask Mimi to come out and help you. Just until she finds a job.” Francesca’s twenty-four-year-old daughter had recently graduated and hadn’t found a job yet. “Would she like to work on the stationery this summer?”
“I think she’d love it. But you know she’s not going to give up her dream of working with her dad. So, no, I don’t see her coming out here. Even if we both know it’s where her heart is.”
The elevator rocked to a stop. “Okay, I have to go.”
“So you’re going to take the job?”
She had to. Ever since Jedidiah Walker had died, Violet had waited for someone to show up and kick her off the land. She knew he had two adult children. One lived overseas—Tokyo, she thought. The other, in the city. Neither one had ever visited him on the farm in all the years she’d known him, so she clung to the possibility they simply didn’t care about the little bit of land at the tip of Long Island.
But another part of her knew better. They—or their lawyer—would show up—any day now—wanting to put it on the market. Would they accept her handwritten contract?
Even so, at the rate she was going in the lease-to-own plan they’d agreed on, it’d take twenty years to finally own the land. So any chance at earning a big chunk of cash . . . “Probably. I have to meet them first.”
The elevator doors parted.
“Okay. Let me know how it goes.”
“Thanks, Francesca. Talk soon.” She tucked the phone into her leather messenger bag, hitched the laptop case higher on her shoulder, and reached for the handle of her luggage. Moving forward, she walked smack into the hard wall of a body. “Oh, my God, I’m so sorry.”
Randall stood before her, eyeing her oddly. He clearly didn’t recognize her.
He cocked his head, gaze narrowing. Once recognition hit, his eyes widened comically. “Scarlet?”
Violet’s gaze shot to Louis. The doorman gave her a barely noticeable shake of his head. His expression said, You’re in trouble now.
Well, hell. Should she tell Randall her real name?
No, of course not. Then she’d have to explain why her boyfriend of three months had called her Scarlet. Oh, brother. She turned back to Randall. “What’re you doing here?”
And just like that his features shuttered. “You left so quickly, I was worried.” Gone was the earnest man she’d left in the restaurant.
“I have to work.”
“So you said.” He gave her a long look, and she hated that he was seeing her in this outfit. “On a Saturday night?”
She couldn’t even imagine what he was thinking about her, standing in her Upper East Side lobby, wearing thigh-high boots and supershort shorts. How did she get out of this one?
“What kind of consulting do you do, exactly?”
She gave an uncomfortable laugh. Normally, she had an easy, professional answer for everything. But it was Randall. And an hour ago he’d surprised the heck out of her by wanting to date her. Now . . . God, now she stood before him in thigh-highs.
“I’m afraid I don’t have time to explain, Randall. I’m heading to the airport.”
Giving him a warm smile, she stepped around him, continuing across the marble-floored lobby. “Maybe when I’m back in town, we can grab a coffee and catch up.”
“Scarlet.” His commanding tone made her stop to face him. “Can you please tell me where you’re going? I don’t understand.”
She flashed a look to Louis, but he just rocked back on his heels and pressed his lips together disapprovingly. “God. I hate what you’re thinking right now.” She blew out a breath. “I really am sorry, but I have to go.”
Randall’s nostrils flared, and she could see him fighting for self-control. “Go where, exactly?” He strode over to her, leaning down to her ear. “Please tell me right now what kind of consulting job requires you to dress like . . . like . . .”
“Like what? What do I look like?”
“Well, frankly, like a hooker.”
“I look like a hooker?” Oh, hell. She had gotten it wrong. Did she have time to change? A lot of the groupies she’d Googled had worn jeans. Plain—but tight—jeans. She turned to Louis for help.
The fifty-eight-year-old father of two tipped his head, giving a jerk, indicating she should come closer. “What’re you supposed to look like?” he asked quietly.
Mouth in a tight line, he assessed her thoughtfully. “The boots.”
“Too much? Okay.” Resting a hand on his desk for support, she pulled the boots off.
“Scarlet,” Randall snapped. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I don’t want to look like a hooker.”
“You . . . What are you talking about? What do you want to look like? None of this makes any sense.”
Ignoring him, she laid her suitcase on the floor and dug through it until she pulled out a pair of wedges. She held them up to the doorman, who nodded with confidence.
“Okay.” She slid her foot into the sandal. “Great. Is my car here?”
“Waiting out front.”
She stuffed the thigh-highs into the suitcase, zipped it up, and gave Louis an appreciative smile. “Thanks so much.” Swinging the messenger bag over her head, she turned to Randall.
He looked a mixture of worried, angry, and confused. “Wait. Tell me what kind of job requires you to dress like that. Can you just give me that?”
“Give the kid a break,” Louis murmured.
Randall probably thought she’d been Joe’s escort for three months. God. How humiliating.
Louis relieved her of the suitcase, holding the door open for her, while Randall followed them out. It was fairly chilly for June, and she wished she’d brought a wrap. She’d only thought of summer and outdoor concerts.
Louis loaded the suitcase in the trunk as the driver set her laptop case and messenger bag on the backseat. Just before she slid in, Randall appeared at her side.
“I’m sorry for saying you’re dressed like a hooker. That was uncalled for.” Frustration pulled on his features. “I just . . . I don’t understand. Did you bail on the engagement party to go to a concert, is that it?”
“No, of course not. I really do have a job to get to. I wish I could explain. I do. But it’s the nature of my work . . .” No, she couldn’t talk to him about client confidentiality. He might put the pieces together and figure out the truth. That would be devastating for Joe.
“I don’t want to leave you with terrible thoughts, but there’s not much I can tell you. I really am dressed like this for a job.” She smiled, because she knew that comment made it sound like she was a hooker. “But trust me when I say I don’t do anything illegal, unethical, or immoral.”
“I know that. Of course I know that. I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry, Randall.”
“Can we talk later?”
“I’m not sure how long I’ll be gone.” She moved to get into the car, but he reached for her.
“Wait. Just . . . wait.” He stood there confused. “I knew it didn’t make sense for you to be invited to his engagement party. That’s all kinds of messed up. And you just stood there, smiling, like you were proud of him or something.”
“I am happy for him. She’s the right woman for him.”
“I don’t understand . . . nothing rattles you. The whole time I’ve known you, you’ve never shown an ounce of emotion.”
Way to hit a girl where she hurts. “Joe and I had a nice time together, but it wasn’t a love affair. Not like what he has with Judy. I’m happy for him.”
“Is that all you want out of a relationship? Something nice?” He jammed a hand through his short blond hair. “Do you remember that closing dinner? When you first started dating him? I was there, Scarlet, right behind you when he came out of the bathroom with another woman. You didn’t yell or cry or anything. You didn’t even look upset.”
Well, of course she’d been upset. But jumping into the drama with her coked-out clients accomplished nothing. Her handling of each situation built the foundation of trust, cultivated an attitude of willingness with them. “Joe and I worked out our issues.”
“Jesus, listen to you. Are you always this flat emotionally?”
He was really twisting the knife, wasn’t he? No, she wasn’t a passionate person—and she hated that about herself—but she certainly couldn’t show emotion on a job.
But she couldn’t explain any of this to him. “No, Randall, I’m not the most emotional person. So maybe it’s best we don’t date, after all.”
He shook his head, looking frustrated. “But I want to get to the woman underneath.”
Oh. Oh, that was so nice. Okay, enough. She really couldn’t take any more of this. “I’m sorry, Randall. I have to go now.”
“Jesus, do you feel anything? Is there a woman underneath?”
And just like that she flashed back to the social worker talking to her grandma.
I’m afraid children without touch or nurturing lose the ability to form attachments for the rest of their lives.
She’ll likely never be able to trust or fully experience love.
I wish I could be more encouraging, but it’s unlikely she’ll ever have normal relationships.
The pain of those words still packed a wallop. “God, I hope so. Good-bye, Randall.”
Did she have the right bus?
Violet peered through the tinted window of the door. She could see the driver locked in conversation with a figure that certainly looked like Emmie. Why weren’t they letting her in?
She pulled out her phone and texted. Outside the bus.
Within seconds, the door whooshed open, and Emmie charged down the stairs. “Oh, my God, I’m so sorry. I didn’t recognize you at all.” Her hands covered her mouth. “I thought you were a groupie. A really determined one.” In her pretty summer dress, she stepped back up. “Come on in.”
The bus driver reached for her suitcase. “I got that.”
“Oh, thank you.” Violet held out her hand. “I’m Violet Davis.”
“Abe, the driver.” He motioned for her to go ahead.
Relieved to get out of the humid Florida air, Violet followed Emmie into a wood-paneled living area. Black couches on either side of the aisle, a long table, and a big flat-screen TV in the wall made up the space. She pulled off her messenger bag and set it and the laptop case on the table.
“Oh, my God, look at you.” Emmie’s eyes sparkled with mischief.
Gesturing to her outfit, she said, “Yeah, so hooker or groupie?”
“Can I say a cross between the two? Although, to be honest, you’d be amazed what some of the nymphs dress like.”
Nymphs? “You should’ve seen me in the thigh-high boots.”
Emmie’s eyes widened. “I can’t even imagine you dressed like that. You’re always so elegant and polished.”
“Yeah, well, my doorman made me take them off. But I brought them just in case.”
“Where do you want this, Em?” Abe asked.
“How about the lounge until we figure things out?” Emmie looked to Violet for confirmation.
“Sounds good.” She hadn’t considered sleeping arrangements on a band’s tour bus. Where would she sleep?
Abe edged around them, carrying the suitcase close to his chest, as he angled down the narrow hallway.
“What time will the guys get here?” Violet thought about changing her outfit, now that Emmie thought she looked like a hooker. The right presentation meant everything to a successful job. She needed to fit in seamlessly, so they didn’t view her as an outsider.
“The show ended about fifteen minutes ago. Right now they’re doing some press. So we have, maybe, ten minutes or so to talk privately.”
“How long does it take them to run the gauntlet through the army of groupies?”
“Yeah, it’s not easy dealing with them. You can’t really run through the nymphs. The guys have to stop and sign autographs along the way. You want to keep the fans happy.”
“Nymphs?” Violet smiled.
“Irwin doesn’t like the word groupies. He prefers to call them nymphs.”
“Got it. Okay, well, I guess I’ll be learning all about it soon enough.”
“You don’t have to worry, though. Derek does a great job of managing everything. He gives the guys an hour or so to party on the bus, but then he kicks the girls off.”
She’d seen throngs of groupies as the car had driven through the festival grounds. They surrounded the artists, hovered outside the buses. How did Emmie do it? “I know tonight you’re waiting here for me, but you usually stick with the band, right?”
“Not every night. I don’t like all the chaos.”
“You leave Slater with all those girls?”
It was interesting to see Emmie’s features soften. “Oh, sure. He’s . . . he’s not into all that.”
With her long, dark hair and lovely figure, Emmie Valencia was indisputably a beautiful woman. She stood out from the fans with her fresh-faced, girl-next-door beauty. Still, Violet wasn’t sure she’d share Emmie’s confidence. Not with all the temptation thrown at these guys.
Emmie motioned to the couches. “We’ve got a few minutes before they come on board, so let’s talk. What can I do to convince you to take this job?”
Abe came back down the aisle. “She brought her entire wardrobe. I wouldn’t worry too much about whether or not she’s taking it.” He gave her a wink.
Violet laughed. “Hey, I had to come ready to work.” It wasn’t like she could fly back to New York. The job would start immediately.
Abe went back to his seat, flicking on an overhead light to read his cell phone.
“Okay, so what happened exactly?” Violet asked. “Why am I here?”
“Well, things have been building. The guys are partying harder, which is a problem in itself, but it’s worsened by the fact that my brother has developed a relationship with the media. He likes to tip them off when he thinks he can get some good press for the band. Unfortunately, when you get the press involved, they’re not looking to post a nice, clean story. And last night was a perfect example. Derek invited some paparazzi to the show because we had some celebrities jamming with us at the Miami festival. Well, of course, they wanted more than just shots of Jared Leto rocking out with the guys. They followed us back to the hotel, hung around waiting, and . . .”
“And they got their shot.” Violet had spent the car and plane ride looking up Blue Fire and Derek Valencia. She’d seen the shots of naked women in the pool, and Derek looking down at them.
Emmie cringed. “Yeah, but I have to tell you, Derek was only on that balcony to make sure no one had gotten hurt. He wasn’t throwing girls into the pool. In fact, he’s the one who shut the party down. Unfortunately, Irwin saw the picture of Derek and assumes he was the ring leader.” She let out a breath. “It’s not good. Irwin’s not coming to the show tonight. He’s going into the studio with another band instead. Which, in Irwin-speak, means he’s losing interest.”
“So he asked you to hire me?”
“Oh, believe me, he hasn’t said a thing. No, I met with their publicist. We’ve been racking our brains trying to come up with a way to get Irwin’s attention back on the guys before it’s too late. And I thought of you. He trusts you. If you’re involved, he’ll believe the guys will get their heads on right.”
“And what about the guys? What exactly do they know?”
“Slater, of course, knows everything. I don’t keep any secrets from him. But you told me not to clue the others in yet, so I haven’t.”
“Okay, so let’s start with Derek, since he seems to be the leader. How do you think he’ll react to having a minder?” It never went well. And, in fact, it only worked if the client wanted to keep his job more than he wanted to party.
Emmie looked uneasy. “His initial reaction won’t be good. But once he gets that it’ll keep Irwin, he’ll go along with it.”
“Let me ask you something. What does it mean to him? Why is it so important to have Irwin, specifically, as his A&R guy?” The answer would determine the outcome of the job.
“Well, it’s kind of personal.”
“Everything about my involvement with him will be deeply personal. That’s how I’ll be able to help him.”
“Right. I know. But . . .”
“He’s your brother.”
She smiled. “Yeah. But I know how much this means to him, so I’m going to tell you what I can because he absolutely won’t get what he wants if you’re not involved. Okay, so I told you about our dad, and the way he’s constantly criticizing Derek. Well, as soon as Derek signed with Amoeba Records, my dad started nosing around the industry again. He tried to get me to come back and work for him. I mean, knowing I was Derek’s manager, he still wanted me to quit my job and work for him. That sums him up right there. It’s all about him. Total narcissist.”
“I read some articles on the way here. Your father makes veiled remarks about modern-day musicians with their scandals and preoccupation with social media. He’s obviously talking about his son. Is that why Irwin doesn’t think Derek’s taking his music seriously? Could Eddie Valencia, jazz virtuoso, have that kind of power over Irwin?”
Emmie sat back in her seat, looking a little stunned. “Uh, yeah. Wow. You’re good, V. I mean, incredibly good. We haven’t even gotten started yet. How can you be this insightful at twenty-five years old?”
She smiled. “I had to grow up fast.”
“Well, as much as I’d like to say Irwin can’t be influenced, I think it’s hard to dismiss the opinion of someone who stayed on the Ledger List for ten years.”
“The Ledger List?”
“Irwin puts out an annual list of the best rock and jazz musicians in the world. My dad stayed on the list for a decade.”
“What would it mean to Derek to be on that list?”
Tears glistened in Emmie’s eyes. Oh, Lord. She must’ve hit on something. She waited for Emmie to pull herself together.
“I don’t even know what to say. You got it. You just friggin’ nailed it.” She wiped her eyes. “It would mean everything to him, V. I mean, he’d never say it out loud—I’m his sister and he’s never actually said it to me—but I know it would mean the world to him. The whole thing about having Irwin as his A&R guy means he’s made it. Something our dad told him would never happen. Losing Irwin’s interest just confirms everything Dad ever said about him. But making the Ledger List? It would be proof that he’s got true talent. On his own, outside of the band. It would make him believe in himself.”
Violet couldn’t help picturing the little boy, looking up with adoring eyes at the dad he revered and seeing pure rejection reflected back. She could imagine the hard nut of pain in the little boy’s heart. God, it made her sad for him. “Got it.”
“So what do you think? Will you take the job?”
“Normally, I come in after rehab. Sure, I can see hiring me to get a handle on the situation before it gets so far that they need rehab, but if no one has a substance abuse issue, then I’m not sure what my role would be. Other than, obviously, winning over Irwin. And that doesn’t feel right to me. This is my livelihood, you know? My reputation is my calling card. Not to mention, Irwin was nothing but good to me. As much as I want to help you out, I’m not sure I’m willing to spend my summer on tour with a bunch of hard-partying rockers just so they can keep their A&R guy.” Of course, she needed the money, but she only got jobs on referrals. She couldn’t ruin her reputation.
“Oh, no. I’m so sorry. I’ve given you the wrong impression. Everything’s just happened so fast. The pictures went viral this morning, Irwin bailed on the show tonight, and I’ve just been going crazy trying to figure out how to get him back. Last night showed us—all of us—that the guys are out of control. So, yes, we want you because we believe it’ll get Irwin back, but the guys do need your help in finding ways to manage life on the road without drugs and too much alcohol.”
“That makes sense.” And that she could definitely do.
“See, when they were opening for Piper Lee last fall, they started to go down the wrong path. That’s why . . .” Emmie held out her wrist, revealing a small black tattoo. Two arrows pointing toward each other, their heads merged. “We all have these. It’s basically a symbol for balancing opposing forces. The music industry is really chaotic, and we need to keep our heads on right and find our balance, so we can enjoy it without letting it destroy us.”
“I like that. A lot.” She wondered if Emmie knew how lucky she was to be part of this tight-knit band. She belonged to these guys.
Emmie’s phone buzzed, and she picked it up off the table. A smile lit her features. “They’re on their way.” She turned a hopeful expression on Violet. “So what do you say? Please tell me you’ll do it?”
The quadrupled fee would nearly buy the farm outright. And she couldn’t resist the force of Emmie’s passion for her guys. “I’ll do it.”
“Oh, thank you. Thank you so much.” And then she drew in a breath. “What do you need from me?”
“First, when you say partying, I need you to be specific.”
Emmie nodded. “Alcohol, for sure.” With a troubled expression, she looked at her hands. “I know they’re doing drugs. Pete, especially. Not Derek, and of course, not Slater. I’m pretty sure Cooper and Ben are doing stuff, too, but not nearly as much as Pete.”
“Listen, I know we’re talking about your boyfriend and your brother, but I’ll need some time to observe. I hate to start off with deception, but I really do need to assess the situation. The moment they know I’m a minder, they’ll hide their drugs and alcohol and their sources. Can you give me some time?”
“I can’t keep anything from Slater but, then, he’s not the problem. Lie to my brother?” Clearly, Emmie didn’t like that. But she had to see how important it was not to tip anyone off until she figured out who was doing what and who was supplying. “How much time?”
“Twenty-four hours. Can you give me that?” Even that wouldn’t be enough, not with the craziness of touring—the unfamiliarity with venues, the hangers-on. But she had to consider Emmie’s relationship with her brother.
Deep male voices and shrieks of girlish laughter drew nearer.
“They’re here,” Abe said. The doors whooshed open.
Emmie slid out of the bench seat, her smile luminous. “Jonny wants a few minutes alone, okay? Just to meet you.”
“Jonny?” Violet asked.
“Sorry, Slater. His real name’s Jonny. That’s what I call him.”
Violet nodded, her attention turned to the big hand grasping the rail, pulling up a huge, muscled body. Slater Vaughn topped the stairs, latched his gaze on to his girl, and strode right to her. He scooped her up, arms banding around her waist, lifting her so her feet dangled. Angling his mouth, he kissed her like he’d just come back from war.
And then Emmie’s legs wrapped around his waist, and he gripped her bottom, pushing her back against the wall.
Excerpted from "I Want You to Want Me"
Copyright © 2015 Erika Kelly.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for You Really Got Me
"Lovable characters and pulse-pounding chemistry make this one of my favorite reads of the year!"Laura Kaye, New York Times Bestselling Author
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Erika keeps ramping up the angst! Loved it!
Got a great beat and it's easy to dance to... Really enjoyed the story and the characters. Would recommend this series to anyone looking for a musician story.
Really liked the series
I Want You to Want Me by Erika Kelly is the second book in her Rock Star Romance Series. This is the story of Derek Valencia and Violet Davis. Violet is a minder. She is discreetly hired to manage people with certain issues. Kind of like a sober companion but more discreet. When she is pulled on board to help Emmie keep Blue Fire (Snatch's newer and cleaner band name) from going too far over the edge of rock star fame she can't say no - it is four times the pay and will be a big help in paying for things at her farm. Derek is furious at first. He doesn't need a minder and neither do his band mates, but when problems arise and their record exec starts to lose interest he realizes that the composed and calm Violet may be just the solution they need. This book is another slow burn with gentle ups and downs but is no less impactful for it. I feel like this series is only going to keep getting better as we get further in and I'm excited for more from Erika Kelly.
Great story-loved Derek & V.
This one is good but I liked "You Really Got Me" more! Erika Kelly is great.
Way better than the first book and that was a book I couldn't put down. Hope there is more to come:)
This was so incredible! A wonderful, detailed story with fantastic characters. It was just awesome. It’s my second book by this author and once again, I am blown away! I was pulled in from the very beginning and I ignored everything while I read and immersed myself in this book. Violet and Derek had this great animosity towards each other, it helped create a ton of sexual tension and chemistry! Violet had a lot of past issues and they created this fun, sexy, yet turbulent ride between the two. I liked her so much and even though she had her issues, I found her to be a strong woman. I loved her feistiness! Derek had his own things going on and I loved how it all evolved and connected. They had their ups and downs, there were times I wanted to strangle them both but those moments just seemed so real, pulling me into the story even more. This was just such a solid story, very well developed. Captivating, entertaining, and really hot! There was also a lot of tension, it was emotional, and heartbreaking at times. I loved this all consuming need Derek and Violet had for one another and all the complications they encountered, it made for a heck of a story. Not only are Derek and Violet fantastic, but the band members are equally awesome. There are some serious things going on and it was really great how it all intersected and played out. All the guys have really distinct personalities and passions, they can be both super fun and really intense. I thought it all had a really great balance. I really can't say enough good things. I was just a well if emotion while reading, so caught up in everything. Excellent read from start to finish but that last 20%, I was a mess. I was just so into it, I was consumed. Excellent ending. I loved the first book You Really Got Me, it was a 5 star read for me. But this one, this one was better. Truly Fantastic. Erika Kelly has an engaging writing style that really pulls you into the world of these characters. A must read! Complimentary copy received for honest review.
Although Derek Valencia and the guys from Blue Fire agreed that they wouldn't become poster children for the rockstar lifestyle, they're early into their first tour when things start to go south. Enter Violet Davis, minder extraordinaire. If she can help them clean up their acts, they'll be able to achieve their dreams. But when close quarters have Derek and Violet spending a lot of time together, things really start to heat up. I WANT YOU TO WANT ME is the second book in the Rock Star Romance series by Erika Kelly. I absolutely loved this book. Derek and the boys are like an über-talented version of the Lost Boys, and Violet is their Wendy. Both Derek and Violet know what it's like to live without encouragement and affection, and neither is looking for a relationship. Miscommunication and preconceived notions about themselves and each other make their love match difficult at times, but thank goodness for Emmie, Derek's sister, and Slater Vaughn, lead singer of Blue Fire. These two, crazy in love themselves, are the voice of reason and reality for Derek and Violet, helping them see what everyone else does, that they are much better together than apart (yeah, I'm a fan of the HEA...). I thoroughly enjoyed I WANT YOU TO WANT ME. The story is well-written, and the characters are absolutely wonderful. I have to go back and read YOU REALLY GOT ME (Book 1), and give this book a solid 4.5 stars. Add this one to your TBRs, book lovers, because it is a must-read for fans of the rockstar romance.
I Want You to Want Me, by Erika Kelly, was a sweet, passionate, enjoyable read. This book is the second installment in the Rock Star Romance series and can be read as a standalone. The author did a great job at bringing to life the story of Violet and Derek. I have read a few Rock Star romance novels since the beginning of the year and I have to admit that books in this genre are starting to add up on my TBR list. In this book we follow Violet and Derek. These two characters have worked so hard to achieve their goals. Violet's work is far from easy. Working with celebrities and getting them back on track is not always a piece of cake. Her career is important to her, but what she really wants is a place to call home. She will do whatever it takes to save and keep her wildflower farm. Even if that means working in the music industry again. Derek is not your typical rock star. He's got the looks and the fame, but what is really important to him is to succeed with his band. They are on top of the music industry and he has worked really hard to get there. When the band gets into some trouble, Violet gets hired to set them back on track and stay away from trouble. Derek is captivated by Violet from the moment they meet. As days go by, Violet and Derek get closer and their feelings start to grow. Violet knows she's playing with fire when it comes to Derek. She needs stability in her life and she's scared that Derek won't be able to give her that. Will Violet take a chance with Derek or will she keep running away from the man that is finally making her feel alive? What I really liked about this book is how Violet and Derek grew as a couple. They both had their fears about taking the next step in their lives, but together they achieved their ultimate life goals. Their chemistry was amazing and I loved how they completed each other. I really liked how the author wrote about their pasts and how what happened to them affected the life choices that they have made until now. Violet was a strong and lovable character that I loved from the very beginning. Derek was a sweet and passionate hero that made me swoon. I could really feel the love that he had for Violet. My heart broke for him when Violet was pushing him away. He knew that together is what was meant to be for them, but her fears got in the way of their relationship a couple of times. The secondary characters were great! I'm not sure if all the other members of the band will be getting their own book, but I really hope they do! Emmie and Slater, which are the main characters of the first book, were pretty awesome! I'm adding their book to my TBR list because their chemistry was super hot! I give I Want You to Want Me, by Erika Kelly, 3.5 entertaining, sizzling, follow your heart stars!
I Want You To Want Me is a fantastic story that won my heart and boy has Erika Kelly done it again. She has caught me up in a romance that I couldn’t put down. I picked this one right up after reading the first book, because I had to read Derek’s story. I fell for him in the first book, because you see that he is the heart of the band, and I wanted to know what drives him and more about his past especially concerning his father, which we get a bit of a teaser about in the first book. But in this one we learn how horrid his father really is, I mean his father is just awful at times, and tends to try to bring Derek down and sabotage him quite too much, but you see how Derek is strong enough to battle the tide and not let it affect him too much, and in this story we see how much he NEEDS to actually prove himself, not just to his father or those in charge of their album or press, but also to prove that he is talented and can be a success. Now Violet is so good for Derek in many ways. She lets him see who he truly is, but keeps him humble at the same time. And she is one tough lady, I loved her from the beginning. Because she gets how bad the situation is and doesn’t let anything faze her from getting the job done. You have to admire that. Their relationship is rocky many times, even after they admit that they love each other, that is not the end. Both Derek and Violet have personal issues they need to face before they can be with each other fully. Many moments it was heart breaking how these two hurt each other without meaning to, and how they struggle to form a balance in the bond they have together, but we also see how much they are meant to be together, and despite everything they still fight for one another. I adored everything about this book, but it definitely brought a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat, because I got so caught up in the story I couldn’t help that my heart just ached for these two to find a common ground and be happy together and just love one another…it does happen but it takes time for each of them to realize what they have and go after it.
Derek Valencia was my favorite side character from You Really Got Me (Rock Star Romance #1), so I was so excited to see he was getting his book next. What was great about this book is that Derek's relationship with Violet was only one of the key relationships in his life that is explored, and all of them were fascinating. Anything involving Derek would be. Derek has always been the heart of Blue Fire, in addition to its bass player. He was the business manager and the publicist before they could afford to hire professional ones. He mother henned the other guys in the band and always tried to keep them on the straight and narrow in the face of all their new-found fame. But, not even Derek could prepare them all adequately for that. Which is where Violet comes in. She's a minder - someone who insinuates herself into someone's life so as to keep him or her or them away from the bad things and substitute them for good. Needless to say, her presence in the band's life isn't very welcome at first. But, the thing about Violet is, she is used to it. In her line of work, she gets berated a lot. And, Violet is well suited to her job since emotion isn't something she was brought up with, so it's not something she engages in. She can approach her job stoically and distantly. Violet doesn't think she's capable of love. Honestly, Violet frustrated the hell out of me. What she went through as a kid was awful - being abandoned and growing up in foster care. So, I can understand why it might be harder for her to trust others and to give her heart away. Even Derek saw that about her, which was why he was infinitely patient with her. Once Derek got to know her, he saw so many things about her that he liked. She is beautiful and smart and compassionate and giving. But, she doesn't let anything about herself that is real out, and Derek becomes determined to help her do that. But, Violet has talked herself into a box, and she absolutely refuses to think outside of it. No matter how many times Derek or Emmie or her friends Francesca and Mimi tell her that she IS capable of feeling the full scope of emotions - including love - she refuses to believe them. Even after Derek shows her time and time again what love is, she refuses to see it. And, even after Derek begs her to take a chance on him and on their relationship, she refuses to do it. And, it was all I could do to keep from throwing my book across the room. Derek is a complex guy. He's fighting an uphill battle with Violet, but he also has this terrible relationship with his father to deal with too. His dad is a former famous jazz musician that is looking to ride his kid's coattails for an additional 15 minutes of fame. To do that, his dad blasts him in the press, shows up at events to antagonize and embarrass him, and is constantly putting down his talent and his choices. Derek has been looked over his entire life by the people who are supposed to love him, and my heart broke for both the little boy he was and the good man he grew into. Derek's relationship with his dad is interesting and complicated and so sad. But, Derek's relationship with his band mates is incredible. They are the family Derek and Emmie should have had growing up, but didn't. Slater, Cooper, Pete, Ben and Derek are super tight, and I loved their banter and joking with one another. When one of them has a hard time, the others rally around him. And, when tough love has to be shown, it's done with no pleasu
✦Spotlight, Review & Giveaway: I Want You To Want Me (A Rock Star Romance, Book 2) by Erika Kelly http://wp.me/p3d0RZ-2HN Publication Date: July 7, 2015 Reviewed by: Reading in Pajamas/ Cori Rated 5 Stars REVIEW: I adored this book! I loved Derek even more than I loved Slater and I really loved Slater in the first book. Derek and Violet were perfect for each other. I devoured their story. I Want You To Want Me was the perfect mix of emotional, fun and hot romance. It's a rock star romance with a HEA ending. This is the second book in Erika Kelly's Rock Star Romance Series, but each book can be read as a standalone. They each feature a band mate. I recommend both books. They're beautiful love stories that will stick with you long after you close the books. Erika Kelly is an author to watch and I can't wait to see what she has in store for us next. *Review copy provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.