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Asha “Velvet” Kendall is this close to achieving her dream of headlining the legendary Temptation Festival as half of the DJ duo Bedazzled Beats. The EDM scene could use a powerful female presence, and Velvet and her bestie Candy are ready for their moment in the spotlight. A chance encounter with sexy-as-sin industry icon Isaak “Zazzle” Van Sandt is the cherry on top.
With a shared passion for music and an intense mutual attraction, the pair should be totally in sync. Instead, Zazzle’s reputation for hard partying has Velvet hitting Pause.
Zazzle knows both the high of superstardom and the darker side of the life. But six months after rock bottom, he’s got his feet firmly planted on a new, less destructive path. Next stop: wooing the curvaceous and tenacious “one that got away.”
But Velvet’s been there, done that, and she’s wary of risking her heart—not to mention her career—on someone in recovery. Earning her trust won’t be easy. If Zazzle can manage it, off-the-charts chemistry might just turn into once-in-a-lifetime love…
This book is approximately 83,000 words
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About the Author
For more on JN Welsh visit her website at www.JNWelsh.com
Read an Excerpt
"Where there is no Temptation there is no victory." Asha "Velvet" Kendall repeated the Italian proverb to herself as she climbed the stairs to the Temptation Festival's minor stage. She scanned the crowd, undulating like a loose-stitched quilt to the electric sounds of Bedazzled Beats. Their sound played through the speakers at one of the Temptation Festival's small stages. The sun beat down on Velvet's brown skin, but this was par for the course. She and her bestie Bonnie "Candy" Fairchild powered through, playing their music with smiles and energy that rivaled Ritalin for every attendee.
Velvet rotated a dial on the controller, layering an echo effect on the song. As the music approached its crescendo, the crowd thickened until the dense group popped like beans on a beating drum. This was what happened when they played. The participants swayed and waved, frantically waiting for the beat to drop. With her hand on her bedazzled headphones, Velvet continued to tease the crowd, and all the while the melody of Candy's song haunted in the background. Just as the anticipation became almost painful, Velvet picked up the mic.
"You ready, LA? Let's go!"
Both she and Candy released their faders and graced the place with bass. When the heavy beat trembled and the bass covered the crowd, the fans went wild.
Velvet loved these moments. Seeing people enjoy her music encouraged her to grind harder toward her goals. She wouldn't be satisfied until Bedazzled Beats played the main stage as headliners at this festival. The fans had voted them here, like they'd done for every other act. She would do whatever she had to do to get them to vote her and Candy to one of the most coveted spots in their industry.
"Thanks, guys, you've been awesome! We'll see you soon." Velvet whirled and bopped around on the stage, pointing at individual attendees, shooting out hand-formed hearts and mouthing to them. I see you.
Candy closed out their set with a remix version of "Be You," their hottest song. The excited cries of the fans echoed through the festival. The words were easy, positive and catchy, and the crowd sang along. If there was anyone there who didn't know who Bedazzled Beats were? They did now.
Velvet gyrated over to Candy, who was entranced by her own set. Velvet draped her arm around her friend's shoulders and couldn't think of a better person to DJ with. Their music styles complemented each other and they both wanted to be the best for the Temptation crowd.
Both she and Candy repeated their farewells into their mics before they unplugged their computers and hurried down the stairs.
Bernard "LED" Royal clapped his hands and pumped his fists. "You were fantastic, babe." He reached for Candy, and puckered for a kiss.
LED turned to Velvet. "Killed it."
Someone handed her and Candy towels and bottled water. "Thanks."
"The crowd was amazing." Backstage, Velvet weaved through festival staff, and passed artists on their way to or decompressing from the stage, and their entourages who hung around.
"Hell, yeah," LED said.
"This chick was fire. I love you, girl." Candy raised her hand and Velvet slapped her high five.
"The way you closed out was epic. I had to hug you to make sure you were real." Velvet laughed.
"The Candy and Velvet love fest is in full swing," LED said and others around them laughed.
"Don't be jelly." Velvet pretended to kiss and make out with Candy.
"You guys are cray." LED had been witness to her and Candy's foolery since they'd been introduced two years ago.
"You know it." Candy patted LED's chest.
Velvet listened as the crowd cheered for the next performer. "I want the main stage. Headlining here would be everything."
"Tall order, but I can see it happening one day. One stage at a time." LED had always been supportive of her and Candy, but Velvet glimpsed a tinge of doubt. She'd gotten versions of that same line every time she announced her aspirations. Though LED's version lacked the level of flat-out amusement and condescending notes as others, it still bugged her.
Velvet didn't have much time to think about it before they glided down the conveyor belt of the festival assembly line. Hired handlers helped them secure their equipment. They stopped for photographers and videographers who snapped photos of their every move. Most of the cameras angled at Candy whose pixie appeal matched the festival standard. They were ushered to press for comments where she and Candy posed for additional pictures as well as ones in their signature face-to-face pose.
"How was your first Temptation experience?" a reporter asked.
"Absolutely awesome," Candy exclaimed. "The crowd gave us pure love."
"We hope the fans vote us back next year. We'd love to play the main stage." Velvet made her campaign for next year official.
"Those are coveted spots. Do you think you have a chance with the famous DJ lineups out there?"
Velvet smiled over her gnashing teeth. "The power is in the hands of the fans. Anything is possible." She raised her hands to the sky and jumped up, her showmanship unwavering. If no one had faith in Bedazzled Beats making it to the main stage, she'd just have to carry the mother lode until they did.
Another reporter jumped in with his question and almost blocked her. "You ladies have been a rocket on the rise. What's next for Bedazzled Beats?"
"Velveteen?" Candy lobbed it over to her.
From the beginning of their career many of the media folks had defaulted to Candy. Her friend's uncontested beauty, posh style and fair-skinned currency gave them what they needed. Access. They played the game when it was in session. Candy lined it up and Velvet hit it out the park. As women they still hit ceilings and walls but since the day they decided to pursue their music career there was no stopping them.
"We'll be doing more festivals and clubs and hope to get started on our album soon," Velvet spoke into the microphone.
"Yeah. We have a lot of great music coming for our fans so stay tuned." Candy pointed into the lens the reporter's camera guy had fixed on them.
"Very cool. If your album is anything like your performance tonight the entire scene will be after your tracks. Any label announcements?"
The reporter highlighted yet another gaping hole in her and Candy's plans. Tommy Boombox, their agent, had lined up a few label meetings but Bedazzled Beats were still label-less.
Candy deferred to her to answer. "We'll have news on that soon so make sure to connect with us on social."
"And sign up to our fan club via our website for Bedazzled Beats merch," Candy added.
They answered more questions and posed for more pictures until the press found another DJ to cover.
They really needed to find a manager and soon. Boombox had gotten them some really great gigs since they'd opened for Luke "The Musical Prophet" Anderson in Los Angeles almost a year ago. They couldn't have dreamed up that type of exposure. Her and Candy's hustle had paid off and now Tommy hustled for them, too. However, with their sights set on the Temptation Festival main stage, they were going to need a lot more help.
They reconnected with LED, and as they made their way backstage to the artist lounge, a member of the press stopped LED.
"I'd love to cover your Egyptian performance tomorrow. Any official press welcomed?"
"I'm sure my manager would love to help you out." LED communicated his manager's name, all while being a one-man bodyguard clearing the path for her and Candy.
Velvet fanned post-performance heat from her neck, in addition to the bit of envy hovering over her. She and Candy handled the aspects of their career not handled by Boombox and Velvet wished the manager volley that LED had just pulled was part of her repertoire. She reminded herself of the moving train she rode, and that eventually more things would fall into place for her and Candy. You'll get there.
"You're going to bring the house down tomorrow at the Egyptian." Velvet nudged LED.
Both Bedazzled Beats and LED were playing the nightclub after the festival closed tomorrow night. Velvet's fingers itched to play again and she had just finished her set with Candy.
"By the way, I have a special guest that's going to blow the roof clear off the spot." LED wrapped his arm around Candy's waist, despite the oval sweat mark on her lower back.
"Yeah? Who?" The cool breeze from the air-conditioning backstage blew against Velvet's scalp of her half Mohawk.
LED pressed his index finger against his lips. "He's going to come through after he does a little press."
"Oh. A secret DJ? Is he performing tonight?" Velvet inquired.
"He performs tomorrow night and then will do the Egyptian with us," LED responded.
"Closing out the festival? Wow. Those are all big guns on the main stage. That can only be Tekko, The Musical Prophet or Tres Armadas."
"I'm excited to see all those guys," Candy cheered.
Joe "Tekko" Kim and Luke were their friends and wouldn't be in town until tomorrow. Velvet looked forward to seeing them play. She hadn't officially met the members of Tres Armadas but she had seen them perform a few years ago. Back then, Velvet played underground clubs spinning vinyl and she and Candy attended festivals as fans researching their future career.
"Guess we'll just have to see who shows up." Velvet strode toward the snack bar, gulped an energy drink, and fed her face with a granola and fruit yogurt cup.
Candy participated, as well.
"If you ladies want something more just let them know, but the festival food is tight. Performers eat free," LED informed them.
"We know," Candy mumbled through a cheek full of chips.
"Post-performance hunger is no joke." LED laughed at them as they finished up their snacks. "Well, our performances are done for the day. Now it's all about networking and enjoying the festival."
Music from the ongoing performances played in the club-lit lounge backstage. Neon bars and signs provided shelter from the sun as well as an evening feel. Candy danced around her, yanking Velvet back to the moment. Velvet marched in place and in time to the music. Damn, I love music. "I Love Music," by the O'Jays played in her head, engulfed in one of Candy's sexy, groovy house beats. She grabbed Candy's hand, twirling her bestie.
Velvet shared her O'Jays remix and Candy lit up at the idea to add to their future DJ set. "Let's do it with some underground groove house."
"Now you're talkin'." Velvet's familiarity with those lifted brows and dimpled cheeks spanned back to nights, after college classes, and weekends under the "turn-tablism" tutelage of their mentor DJ Reynard "FeNom" West. They later became never-ending students of dance music history and culture. The bittersweet memory of their time with the DJ made her pulse flare and Velvet tried to shake it off. They owed it to themselves and their teacher to blow the scene up.
"That's my cue to get you ladies some drinks."
"Thanks, Bernard," Velvet said. She was glad Candy had chosen a less possessive and more fun boyfriend than the last nightmare she'd gone out with. Though pansexual, Candy settled into LED like she'd finally found her emotional and romantic match. LED treated Velvet like a sister and she liked it when they all hung out together.
"Stop calling out my government name, Asha. There's beauty in anonymity."
"All right, all right." Velvet pulled a Charms Blow Pop out of a clip she used to attach it to her hair. She unwrapped the lollipop. "Let me just grab Nuts so we can take her with us."
"You and that scooter are inseparable," LED ragged on her.
"You're just upset because you don't have your own wheels to push." Velvet popped the lollipop in her mouth. She enjoyed riding her through the festivals ever since she was an attendee, whether festival policy allowed it or not. Nuts and Blow Pops, her must-haves, went with her wherever she traveled. She left to reclaim her scooter. "Don't do shots without me."
Velvet walked a fair distance to a secure area to retrieve Nuts from one of the attendants backstage. She glided back to her friends and navigated through make-shift corridors, false partitions and moving bodies.
"Great show, Velvet," someone called to her, and she returned the greeting with a wave.
When she returned her eyes forward, she found herself a split second from crashing into some dude walking ahead. His neon rainbow tie-dyed shirt and black and yellow hat blared like a stop sign on a city street. She swerved Nuts to a halt and tapped the ass of her victim with one of her handlebars.
"Ow." He regarded her and her scooter over his shoulder.
"Oh, man. My bad, I wasn't looking." She hopped off and walked Nuts past the wayward fan. The smell of cherries, maybe almonds, or both awakened her senses. She glanced at the shadowed face and more words followed.
"What?" The tone of his question rested between bass and baritone.
Velvet sounded perfectly clear in her head, but forgot she had a big, red ball of hard candy in her mouth. She pulled at the white stick and stepped back. "Sorry. That was negligent driving on my part. You all right?"
"Yes." His response carried an accent she couldn't quite place due to his economy of words. But as far as accents went, he definitely had one.
"Cool." Her shoulders sagged back down to a normal level.
"Be careful with that." Many of her fellow DJs hailed from the Netherlands and based on the d pronunciation of th he used, Velvet identified him as Dutch.
She shrugged. "Okay, byeeee." She didn't need a lecture on scooter safety. She pushed off her strong leg, balanced on Nuts and glided to LED and Candy, who were gathered around a high table glowing with blue light. A centerpiece tray of too many shots decorated the middle. Velvet braked and rested Nuts against a chair.
"What is it?" Velvet asked over the thudding music.
"Fireball," LED said and clinked shot glasses with them.
"Blessed be." Candy readied the glass to her lips.
"Ah! He's here. Come here, man. Have this shot with us," LED called to someone behind her and Candy.
Velvet aimed her attention in the direction of LED's head movements. A man emerged from the shadows in a rainbow tie-dyed shirt. He took off his black and yellow hat and raked his fingers through his hair. Velvet's heart stilled. Isaak "Zazzle" Van Sandt of Tres Armadas, the most famous DJ trio in dance music, headed to their table.CHAPTER 2
His swag enveloped every step, snaring Velvet in a trance. Her body swayed as Candy wiggled her arm, bumping her out of his spell. Velvet blinked and widened her eyes to regain her bearings.
"Hey, man." Zazzle came over and took a shot glass from LED.
Zazzle's gaze lingered long enough for Velvet to notice and the heat from her center shot up and traveled throughout her entire body.
What the hell? This is the same guy I nearly ran over?
Her novel reaction to him was more than she could endure. Candy again touched her arm. Pulling her attention away from Zazzle's honey brown eyes required a level of difficulty that made Velvet's pits sweat. She fixed her gaze on Candy's brimming smile, which informed her that any poker face she thought she had was a false facade.
"Zaz man, meet Candy and Velvet, the powerhouse ladies murdering the scene right now. Ladies, meet Zazzle from Tres Armadas."
"Pleasure to meet you," Zazzle said to Candy.
Candy waved so fast her hand blurred. "Nice to meet you, too."
Zazzle then turned to Velvet. "You grabbed my ass." He flashed her a smile that somehow discovered a new erogenous zone she didn't even know she had.
"What?" Candy asked.
"I didn't." Velvet's face flamed. "It was an accident —"
"Way to go, Velvet," LED teased her, then addressed Zazzle. "What are you wearing, man?"
"I don't get recognized if I'm not wearing black." Zazzle and the men of Tres Armadas always wore a uniform of signature black in photos and when they performed. Another reason, perhaps, why she hadn't recognized him when she nearly ran him over.
"Where are the rest of the guys?" LED asked.
"They're doing their thing." Zazzle seemed to lack interest in the whereabouts of his bandmates but Velvet had only just met him. Maybe that was his version of resting bitch face. "I saw your set earlier on the Sugar Plum stage. It was great," he said.
"You saw our set?" Candy's eyes bulged.
"Yeah. I like to scope out the new DJ/producers joining the party." Zazzle's melodic voice lulled her like a magical harpsichord.
"We love your stuff. Right, Velvet?" Candy tried to help her recover.
Velvet still worked to resist getting drawn into the magnetic pull of Zazzle's vibe. Am I dreaming this up? Did he feel it, too? "Yeah."
Candy stifled a laugh.
"Since when are you a woman of so few words?" LED frowned at Velvet. "I bet if he asked you about the origins of dance music, you'd have something to say."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "In Rhythm"
Copyright © 2019 Jennifer N Welsh.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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