The client she can’t stop thinking about.
Workplace romance hits the road in this enemies-to-lovers romance from JN Welsh.
Luke Anderson needs a manager—fast. His last one quit, leaving his tour and his future in jeopardy. Now instead of focusing on his career, he’s forced to concentrate on damage control. Powerhouse manager Leona Sable is the full package—smart and talented, not to mention sexy as hell—but her past makes her impossible to trust.
When opportunity knocks in the form of talented EDM DJ Luke “The Musical Prophet” Anderson, Leona is ready to answer. But salvation doesn’t come cheap. Luke won’t sign until Leona agrees to his outrageous terms—including a no-sex-while-on-tour clause.
Dictating what she does in her personal life crosses a line. But Leona’s never been one to back down from a challenge.
One thing is for sure: if she has to suffer, so will he.
Let the tour begin...
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!
This book is approximately 95,000 words
Edited by Stephanie Doig
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If Leona Sable had known how this day was going to turn out, she would have stayed in bed, nestled against her boyfriend pillow with the covers pulled over her head.
How the fuck did I get here? A conversation with her boss and mentor, Abraham Wallace, that started with "The client only wants you" and ended with "Meet me at the Metro Hotel this evening at seven and be dressed for a night out." That's how.
Ever since that conversation a few short hours ago, Leona had been collecting intel on Electronic Dance Music DJ Luke "The Musical Prophet" Anderson.
Had Abe not looked so stressed and hell-bent on acquiring said potential client, she'd still be in hiding, paper-pushing due diligence forms.
Leona sat in the hairdresser's chair in Midtown Manhattan. Her tight corkscrew curls dripped wet onto the towel draped over her shoulders, while she pressed the cell phone to her ear.
"Dale, sweetie, you're telling me that Luke's manager left his tour? Just like that? Why?" Leona strained to hear above the light music playing in the salon.
Dale, her fabulous, long-time source swam in the know while others simply dipped their toe into the pool. "Allegedly, there was a mash-up of problems. Money issues and fraternization," he whispered into the phone.
Leona wasn't a gossip but she sometimes had to play the role of one to get the information she needed.
"They were dating? Was it serious?"
"Who knows in this industry? But I will say that hearts were broken. And ..."
Leona couldn't believe the next words that came out of Dale's mouth, and neither would Abe when she briefed him. "No!"
"Yes, but you won't find a lick about it in the rags. The family is wealthy and adamant about her privacy. They keep paying out."
"Then why would she do that?"
"I don't know, girl. Money got these people like ... whoa!"
"Stop." Leona laughed, assessing her milk chocolate brown image in the mirror. "Thanks, D. You gave me a lot to work with. I appreciate it."
"Listen, love. Please don't ever go underground again. I need my concert tickets."
"I promise." Leona hung up.
Her hairdresser started to work. "Let me get started on your twists."
"Change of plan, Kim. Geisha bun. Sleek and sexy."
Kim stilled with wide-toothed comb in hand. "You haven't had that style in a while. Does this mean you're back?"
Kim's excitement surprised her. "No." Leona's raised voice carried above the music.
"Okay, okay. Just asking." Kim's grin reflected in the mirror.
Leona surveyed the room and tapped her left earlobe. "The last thing I need is that rumor getting out."
Kim readied her tools — complete with blow-dryer and brush — for Leona's hair. "Maybe after tonight it won't be a rumor."
For the past year, Leona had stayed out of the spotlight. Lately, she had to admit that the administrative role Abe allowed her to perform was a snore fest, and she'd thought about waging a comeback and once again doing the work she loved. Though she was an experienced personal manager, with production and tour experience, the entertainment industry was fickle and would make her pay for her absence. More importantly, a nagging question remained.
Am I ready?
Leona checked her messages and returned a call to Tracy Ruiz, one of the resident lawyers at Wallace Entertainment. "Hey, Tracy. Got anything on Mr. Wonderful?"
"He doesn't have any priors, but there have been some disturbances of the peace. Mr. Anderson has had a string of episodes involving angry outbursts, but no one was hurt. Only a couple of scuffles here and there."
"This just gets more interesting by the hour. Okay, Tracy. Thanks."
What the hell did Abe get me into? A client with a shady business past and anger management issues ... Seriously? A shiver scuttled up her back and her shoulders shimmied in release. Just get him in the door, Leo, and you'll be done.
Kim took a brief break from pulling at Leona's kinky curls. "You cold, girl?"
"Oh, no, I'm good. Just some old ghosts trying to bully me."
Kim patted her shoulders.
Leona was tempted to contact Luke's family members for more information, but her experience with her ex-boyfriend gave her pause. The media craziness had adversely affected the Sable family. And though she only sought information — it was a line she was unwilling to cross.
With her hair completed, Leona thanked Kim and headed home. In her walk-in closet, Leona chose her outfit while she listened to one of Luke's interviews. He mentioned a fondness for animal crackers and she chuckled. "And not just any kind either." She loved researching potential clients. Sometimes their quirks and preferences were predictable, other times quite unexpected.
Her phone rang. She picked up when she saw it was Abe.
"Leo? I'm on my way to the hotel. What'd you find out, darlin'?" he asked. Though from Scottish and Spanish stock, Abe had been born and raised in North Carolina. He used the touch of Southern twang in his voice to sweet-talk anyone into doing his bidding.
"He's very into his fans. In fact, that's why this guy is all over the place and not just in the States." She put Abe on speaker and scrolled through some notes on her phone. "Yeah, Brazil, Australia, United Arab Emirates ... Yikes. The list of worldwide appearances goes on for pages. What a treacherous schedule."
"Hard worker. What else?"
"He's passionate about his music and active on all social media outlets. We like passion."
"Wallace Entertainment," Leona clarified. "People have nice things to say about him. But, Abe? There's a bit of controversy around his last management. His ex-manager stole some astronomical amount of money from him and —"
"That's an unfounded rumor. We need him, Leo."
There's that desperation again. "I get that you want him, but ..."
"No, Leo. The company needs him."
"The company? Okay, Abe. What's really going on here?"
Abe was silent. "I'm in a cab, coming up on 14th Street. We'll talk later. See you in a bit."
"Abe ..." she called to a dead line. Damn it. What the hell? She breathed deep.
She dressed in snug off-white leather bootleg pants and a fitted black shirt with capped sleeves. Sexy black lace accented the top of the shirt — from above her bust to her neck — and covered her back. It was the perfect day-to-night outfit, yet still professional. Too much time had passed since her life required such attire. The outfit felt foreign at first, until the old familiar part of her began to stir.
A sheer off-white shawl draped over her shoulders allowed the light material to pop off of her brown skin. Black peep-toe booties added four inches to her five-foot-four frame. She quickly evaluated her image in the mirror and extended her arm to the reflection, as if offering a handshake to see how her outfit moved. She hadn't done that in years. You're nervous. She wiggled her shoulders. Shake it off. This is old hat, Leo.
She didn't know what situation awaited her at the Metro Hotel but she was as ready as she'd ever be.CHAPTER 2
Pockets of fans gathered outside the hotel with cameras and signs ranging from I love you, Luke to Disciple of The Musical Prophet. Leona passed them and glided through the sliding doors, heading for the concierge desk.
"Hi —" she glanced at the man's name tag "— Sam. Leona Sable. Rooftop bar. Anderson party." The economy of words allowed her to catch her breath. Construction had turned her bright idea to take the subway into delays that had her booking it to the hotel. She hated being late.
The young concierge smoothed his pressed suit. "Ah yes, Miss Sable. You're expected. Identification, please." His moves were slow and deliberate.
Leona fished for her license and handed it to him.
Sam reviewed and returned the card. "Mr. Wallace has arrived. Mr. Anderson and his agent are guests of the hotel and await your arrival. You'll need this." He handed her a black hotel room key along with some instructions. "The key expires in two hours."
Leona evaluated the shiny metallic card, flipping it over between her middle and index finger. "Thanks."
She rounded the corner toward the elevators, regarding the beautiful black-and-white contrasts of the modern and artistic décor. Splashes of red and purple from fresh tulips brought life to the area.
In the elevator, she adjusted her clothing, pressed the heel of her palm against her forehead to pat away perspiration, and dabbed on tinted lip-gloss.
Leona thought she knew Abe's motivation for the meeting, but their last conversation had inserted a pressure element. Abe needed to sign The Musical Prophet and Abe never needed anything. Perhaps the company's money issues were worse than the water cooler talk had implied. Guilt rose within her. She pushed it down and straightened her slumping posture. Focus, Sable.
The elevator doors opened to a small corridor that led to the rooftop bar. The cool air was more brisk at this elevation. The Empire State Building loomed deceptively close enough to touch, and the Tower lights blazed signature white. The endless light pink and burnt orange colors of dusk surrounded the building and city skyline with the promise of night. I love my city. "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys played in her head.
When Abe spotted her, he waved her over. He was about five foot eleven, a powerhouse of a man, and stood taller among the handful of shorter folks in the bar.
"Leo, I'm glad you could join us," Abe said when she stood by his side. "And early as usual."
"I'm never late." Thank goodness that damn train ride didn't ruin my record.
Abe shot her a sideways glance. "Which I'm sure you obsessed about the whole way here." He spoke under his breath.
Abe really did know her well. She turned her attention to the man before her, who bore no resemblance to DJ Luke but was familiar to her. Tom "Boombox" Mills's hipster-style gray suit was highly tailored and close fitting, accompanied by a crisp, white shirt and violet-colored tie. Black-rimmed glasses matched his black hair, and a five o'clock shadow grew on his chin and cheeks. He held an old-fashioned glass filled with ice and amber liquid.
"Boombox, right?" She shook his hand and thought he was attractive in a detail-oriented kind of way. "Leona Sable. Please call me Leo."
"It's nice to finally meet you, Leo. The industry knows me as Boombox, but you can call me Tommy." His warm brown eyes smiled at her.
"A pleasure, Tommy." Leona knitted her fingers together.
"Abe and I were just discussing the success you've had with well-known clients. Impressive." Tommy sipped his drink.
"Thank you for the compliment."
Grapevine had it that Boombox's exclusive client list was a short five. She wondered why he and DJ Luke needed her.
Leona scanned the small deserted bar. Faint ambient music played, further emptying the space. Even the quiet movements of the bartender spoke of loneliness. Leona was anxious to meet Luke and add some realness to the larger-than-life artist Abe had inflated the DJ to be. "I don't see Mr. Anderson."
"He'll join us momentarily." Tommy swirled the liquid and the ice rattled against the glass. "I wanted to familiarize you both with Luke's present situation and the way he likes to do business."
Abe drained the remains of his highball glass. "Tommy has informed me that because Luke is playing at Aurora Nightclub tonight, he only has a short amount of time to meet with us. Tommy works out of California, something you two have in common."
"In common?" Tommy raised an eyebrow.
"I worked in LA for two years before returning to New York." Leona's fingers itched to play with her hair, and she wished she, too, had a drink. "No one ever remembers because most of my success has been here in the city."
"That's good to know," Tommy noted.
"Tommy's negotiating the terms of Luke's residency, so the event and his performance tonight are important." Abe's speech carried with it the scent of cranberries layered with the tinge of vodka.
"Nice." Leona adjusted her shawl as the chilled rooftop wind blew through her thin barrier. "Can we?" She referenced a modern lava-rock fire pit. The yellow and orange flames danced over the charcoal gray pebbles, beckoning her closer with their inviting heat.
"Sure." Tommy followed.
Abe trailed behind.
They sat on the java-colored rattan love seat with white cushions that matched her outfit. The railing and deck glass allowed for an ample view of the city lights.
"Having a residency with consistent monthly appearances is a good sign that he's in demand. Any reason why he didn't choose Las Vegas? It's a hot spot for DJ residencies." If Leona were Luke's manager, securing a spot in Vegas would be one of her top priorities.
"Good observation. Right now, Luke likes the vibe in New York and Atlantic City, but Vegas is on his radar," Tommy clarified.
"I'm going to refresh my drink. Would you like something, Leo?" Abe inched toward the bar.
Leona would have loved red wine or whisky, but she wore white. To avoid the possibility of a crimson or rusty stain on her clothing she made the safer choice. "A white wine spritzer, please. Thanks."
"You got it." Abe left to get their drinks.
Leona was familiar with this chess game.
"Leo? Luke's talented and one of the front-runners in EDM. As you can tell by the fans waiting outside the hotel to get a glimpse of him, he's also popular. He's approaching a level many DJs aspire to, but he needs real management. It's what's held him back for years. I can get the gigs and appearances, but he needs a champion to propel him forward."
"Abe is the best in the business, so you'll be well taken care of." Leona tried to remain a queen protected by the knights instead of a pawn being sacrificed for the king. Check.
"Funny, he said the same thing about you." Tommy sipped his drink. "Listen, I'm sure Abe is great, but your work is respected throughout the industry. The success you had managing Ramsey is epic. The way you not only grew his fan base, but also his net worth, is the bar everyone tries to achieve to this day. It's the reason I suggested Wallace Entertainment to Luke."
"I see." Respected? Sure, she had an impressive resume, but after the way her ex-boyfriend and client, Paul Reese, had bad-mouthed her and Wallace Entertainment — claiming to the media that she caused loss of revenue and engaged in fraudulent transactions when they broke up — Leona wasn't sure respected was the word anyone would use to describe her reputation. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Before the shit hit the fan, one might have even hailed that her work with Paul was the best of her career.
Abe returned and handed Leona a glass. "Here you go."
Leona took a long awaited swig of her spritzer. The oaky wine added flavor more than any real potency.
"Before we continue, let me explain Luke's management preferences, so that there are no misunderstandings." Tommy again brought the glass to his lips.
Leona raised an eyebrow and peeked over at Abe. She pulled her shoulders back and puffed her chest, ready for whatever Tommy was about to share, when a man zoomed up to them. His swift movement startled her.
"Luke," Tommy called and they all rose to greet him.
Luke was well over six feet, olive-skinned, and muscular with short dark brown hair. He was now the tallest man in their party. He wore a short-sleeved green tee shirt that partially exposed a random pattern of thick, black, curving, inviting lines on his forearm that merged together into an intricate tribal tattoo. His dark blue jeans fitted snug against his strong thighs and he sported a pair of trendy black sneakers with white soles.
"Hey, Tommy, sorry I'm late." He put a hand on Tommy's shoulder and leaned close to his ear. "I've been trying to put my set together, but I've gotten three calls so far telling me sound check is in an hour. Shouldn't they be calling you instead of me? Anyway, I need flash drives to back up my music. I'm starving, too, so let's get something to eat after this."
The relaxed and friendly exchange between the two men made her smile. They interacted like genuine friends. Her first impression was that she liked Luke. He was easygoing with his agent, even though this was an important night for him.
"All right, man. I'll get it all straightened out." Tommy turned to Leona and Abe. "Luke, I'd like you to meet Leona Sable and Abraham Wallace from Wallace Entertainment."
Luke shook Abe's hand. "Pleasure to work with you, Mr. Wallace."
The rooftop breeze carried Luke's fragrance. A combination of musk, sandalwood, and patchouli hung in the air.
"Mmm." Leona's entire body melted into relaxation as if she had just snuggled under a warm duvet in the middle of winter. Whoa. Her potent response to Luke and his scent was unexpected.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "In Tune"
Copyright © 2018 Jennifer N Welsh.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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