He was her high school sweetheart, the man Candy once dreamed of sharing her life with. But Ty was also a rock star on the rise with a flock of pretty groupies lining up to share his bed. So what makes Ty think that now that he’s ready to settle down, Candy will be his one and only? These days the single mom is older and wiser. Still, Candy can’t help but feel a stir of something at his hot pursuit….
Ty knows he’s got a lot to prove when it comes to winning Candy back. But his rambling, rocker lifestyle has also shown him that she’s a woman worth fighting for. No one has ever come close to captivating him the way she did from the first day they met, a sweet-faced young beauty who brought out his every protective instinct. That’s why when Candy’s family is in crisis, he’s willing to risk everything for the woman he’s never stopped loving….
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Keep Coming Back to Love
A Drawn to the Rhythm Novel
By Christa Maurice
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Christa Maurice
All rights reserved.
Candy leaned on the cash desk and studied the burnout roaming her section. Seventeen or eighteen, torn-up jeans, concert T-shirt under a black and red flannel, scraggly dirty blond hair, looked as if he hadn't had a decent meal in weeks. A walking cliché. But there was potential.
With a little bit of working out, his too-thin body would be hot. A decent haircut would show off his sweet face. Gawd, those jeans. When they were new, they'd been totally the wrong cut for him. The grease stains and holes weren't helping. He picked up a shirt from a sales rack. Flannel. Quelle surprise. A serious Seattle special. He had all the high points of grunge chic but none of the subtleties. Candy scanned the rest of her section. Not a soul. Four-thirty on Thursday was not a big shopping time, and she had thirty minutes before her break. Plenty of time for a project.
"Hi." She smiled and folded her arms behind her back to push her boobs forward. Thanks to the pose and tight shirts, she had the top sales for this section three quarters in a row. If she could keep ahead of that bitch in juniors, she'd win the five-hundred-dollar prize for top sales in the store. Burnout here wasn't going to contribute much, but every little bit helped.
"Hey." He grinned and it lit up his blue eyes.
Oh yeah, this guy had loads of potential, but what the fuck was he trying to do to his hair? Bleach all the color out of it? Straw had more sheen. "You need help finding something?"
"I suck at this." He studied the shirt in his hand. "I'm auditioning for this band tonight and I want to look good."
"Okay. What band? Anybody I've heard of?"
Touchstone. Candy kept her mouth from dropping open by clenching her teeth. They were hot. Musically anyway. Every one of them could be totally adorable if somebody would invest ten minutes in dressing them right, too. "They're good."
"What are you auditioning for?"
"Singer. Jason's been singing since they kicked out their last guy. I really need to look good for this. My mom gave me her credit card, but she's got conferences tonight so she couldn't come help me. I have her phone number at school if you need to call and check." He pulled a store credit card out of his pocket and flashed it before stuffing it back in.
Credit card. Maybe he could help out her sales. Company policy required the cardholder be present, but he did have the number. "No offense, but I don't think your mom is going to help you look good enough to front a band. I bet I can."
His gaze ran over her. Male hormones were her greatest sales aid. A low-cut top and a skirt that was really an inch too short for the store's dress code, but her manager wasn't complaining. Neither was this victim. "Great."
"First, I've got to get you out of those shitty jeans."
He grinned. "Best thing I've heard all day, uh —" He leaned down and looked at her badge. "Candy."
"All right rock star, let's start with these." She handed him a pair of jeans that would accent his long skinny legs in all the right ways and headed toward the shirts.
"How do you know this is my size?"
"I measured you with my eyes." She sent him a flirty grin over her shoulder. Three months ago the store had gotten a shipment of button-down shirts, some with pinstripes, some solid. The solids had flown out the door, but the stripes were piled at the edge of the sale table in the back of the section. Their time had come. A cotton button-down shirt would look striking. Something to show off what body he did have instead of drowning it in flannel. Nice vertical stripes with the narrow-legged jeans would make him look taller, too. Kind of early David Bowie. "You need something a little more impressive on top, too. This flannel thing is so yuck."
"Really? All the big bands dress like this." He plucked at his shirt.
"It doesn't do you any favors. Let's try you in this." She shook the wrinkles from a dark blue shirt with mint green pinstripes. A little odd or distinctive? If his hair was colored to a decent blond, it would be perfect. Jody was working at the store's salon tonight. "How long do you have before the audition?"
"I have to be there at seven."
Candy made a show of checking her watch. "How much of a makeover do you want to do today?"
His eyes narrowed on her. "Whatever it's gonna take to get into this band."
"Do you trust me?"
"I just met you."
Candy shrugged. "Do you trust me?"
For a long time, he stared at her. She could see the calculations running through his head. How much he needed to win this audition. How little he knew about dressing himself to look good enough to front a hot band. How cute she was. If he had any chance of getting in her pants. That was always a factor. "I trust you. If you get me into this band, I'll take you out."
Yep, how cute she was. That little glimmer of swagger could be nursed to a full-blown inferno if she played him right. "It's a date. You go try that stuff on and I'll call my friend at the salon."
"This isn't gonna cost a lot, is it? My mom will shit if I run up her bill."
So much for improving her sales. "Don't worry. Jody will give you the friend-of-a-friend discount."
"Super." The guy bounded off toward the dressing rooms. Lots of potential.
Once he'd turned through the door, she went to the cash desk and called Jody. "Hey, what are you doing this afternoon?"
"Fuck all. Literally, right now there's a blue-haired old lady getting a perm and three empty chairs. As soon as I'm done with cosmetology school, I am outta here. What about you?"
Candy stared in the direction of the dressing rooms. "I have a challenge for you."
"This guy walked into my section. He's auditioning for Touchstone tonight."
"No way! I love them. He trying out for Max Terry's spot?"
"I don't know."
"What's this guy look like?"
Candy frowned. "That's kinda the problem. The potential is there, but he's screwed up his hair and he looks like he buys his clothes from the Salvation Army while wearing a blindfold."
"He's auditioning tonight?"
"Plenty of time. You get him dressed and I'll sort out the hair. Can he sing?"
"I have no idea."
"Send him over anyway. I'm bored."
The guy stepped out of the dressing room. Her breath caught. Day for night difference. Tall, lean. Suddenly he had enough presence to walk in front of an audience armed with nothing but a microphone and attitude. Talk about hiding a light under a bushel. He scanned the section. When he saw her, his face brightened and he headed toward her. "You'll need to do something about his face, too. His skin's screwed up way beyond what a little foundation will fix."
"That's not going to happen by seven o'clock."
"I know, but you can start him in the right direction. We want him to look good when he hits the stage with the band."
"Gina's good at that."
"Great. I told him you'd cut him a break on the price."
"He gets in this band, I'll cut his fucking hair for free."
"I'll send him along when I'm done. See ya." Candy hung up the phone. "That looks great."
"Really? I thought it looked fruity." He tugged at the sleeves.
"First of all, you don't tuck it in." She pulled the tails of the shirt out of his pants, letting her fingers brush against his skin. Nice. "These colors are dramatic and bring out your eyes. If you're going to be the lead singer, you have to command people's attention so you have to look good."
He smoothed his hands over the shirt. "It fits."
Candy led him to a mirror and stood behind him. "It would be better if it were taken in a little on the sides." She gathered the material between her fingers. Gawd, he was hot. "You probably don't have time to get to a tailor."
"A tailor?" His eyes went wide.
"Clothes always look better when they're fitted to you."
He turned around and slid his hands down her arms, studying her face. "Is that why yours look so great?"
"Yeah. I tailor all my own clothes."
"And I thought it was the amazing body in them."
Candy curled one side of her mouth into a smile. "That helps, but the clothes accent it."
He pulled her closer. "How do you know all this stuff?"
"I'm going to study fashion merchandising in college." Not only was he hot, he was warm. Lean and firm. Might be the clothes, might be the boy in them, but he had charisma.
"You're in college?"
"No, but after I graduate." She licked her lips. Once Jody took care of his hair and Gina got his skin straightened out, he'd be way beyond cute. "So I called my friend and she's calling out the cavalry to get you set up. We've got the visual end covered, but can you sing?"
He smiled slowly and then sang Foo Fighters' "My Hero" with a surprisingly deep voice that caressed her skin like high-quality suede. As he trailed off, he leaned down and brushed his lips across hers. It should have been suave, but he flinched when he touched her and his hands were shaking, which made it adorable instead. "What do you think?"
"Wow." Candy swallowed so her voice would quit squeaking. "Jody works in the salon upstairs. Why don't you go take that stuff off and I'll see what I can do as far as tailoring your shirt and drop it off on my break." Which meant the last twenty minutes until her break were going to be spent pulling the thread out of the seams without breaking it so she could use it to stitch this shirt by hand and hoping no other customers showed up. This burnout had a lot more to him than miles of flannel and half destroyed oversized jeans. His little hesitation when he touched her sold it. He had some confidence, but not too much. How could a girl not go for that?
He tightened his grip on her arms. His hands were sweaty, but hers were too at this point. "You'd do that for me?"
"You're taking me out to dinner when you get into this band. Don't forget."
He leaned in again. "You gonna dress me all the time?"
"You bet." She rose up on her toes to close the distance he was hesitating over. "Go on. The sooner I get my hands on this shirt, the sooner I'll be done." Measurement. Damn, if she didn't know how much to take it in he was either going to be swimming or cased like a sausage. She measured the extra fabric with her fingers. Oh gawd, his name. She didn't even know his name yet. "Hey, what's your name?"
"Tyler." He leaned in for another kiss but changed direction to her cheek and tried to cover it by giving her arms a squeeze. Another thing she needed to work on with him, confidence. If he was going to front the hottest band in the area, he needed to have the confidence to charm Satan into doing good deeds.
He had the clothes back out in a few minutes, paid, and headed for the salon. After he left, Candy leaned against the desk. Lots of guys hit on her here. Some of them she'd even dated. She'd never let one kiss her though. Technically, she wasn't supposed to have let him use his mother's credit card, but if he was going to steal a credit card, he'd have gone for Master Card, Mr. Visa or Ms. Discover, not a department store card that confined him to a place mainly catering to up and coming professionals, soccer moms, and blue-haired old ladies.
Candy shook herself. She had a little more than an hour between now and the end of her break to take in the seams on this shirt and deliver it. With more time and a sewing machine, she'd have deconstructed the whole thing, but she'd never figured out how to fit her sewing machine into her purse. If she had, she could have made a lot more money and a lot more sales for the store, tailoring between customers.
The phone rang. "Who do you think I am, Doug Henning?"
"Jody, if anybody can make him look good, it's you." Candy picked the first side seam out and smoothed the fabric out on the desk. If she could take it in enough at the waist, the stripes would make it look like he had shoulders. A gym. The boy needed a gym desperately.
"Then nobody can make this dork look good."
"Trust me. All he needs is the visual and that dork will be a swan."
"To get a swan you have to start with some kind of bird. You sent me a daddy longleg spider."
Daddy longleg spider? He didn't look like a spider. Tyler was adorable and sweet and pretty damn charming already. With a little work, well, Jon Bon Jovi had better start thinking about his pension. "Ask him to sing for you."
"I'm going to have to take two inches off to get rid of the split ends. I think he's been washing his hair with bar soap."
"Ask him to sing." Candy searched the desk. Somebody must have thrown out the pins she was hoarding. Paper clips would have to do.
"Fine. I'll see what I can do, but Gina's freaking out. His skin looks like he's been beaten with a bag of nickels. A dirty bag."
Ouch. No fair. They better not be saying this stuff in front of him. It wouldn't do anything for his confidence. "So you can start by washing his face. I'll be up there in a little while with his clothes. I have to do a little alteration for him."
"Fine. He's out of wash anyway. See ya."
Candy hung up the phone and went to work on the shirt.
"Hi there. I didn't know you did alterations here."
Candy glanced up. Middle aged Romeo starting to gray. He'd be good for at least a hundred bucks. "Well, only for very special customers. Can I help you find something?" She arched a little to show off the assets without pausing in her tailoring.
"Maybe you can. Unless you're busy."
"I can multitask."
"Okay. I need a couple of new shirts for work. My wardrobe is looking stagnant and the clients are starting to drift."
"Really? What do you do?" Candy tucked her needle away. She had time. Even if she had to skip dinner, she could have one shirt done by the time Jody was finished.
"Advertising and public relations."
"So you need something fresh." She walked around the desk editing her original assessment of his potential. If he needed a new look for work, she might get him for a couple hundred, which would secure her lead over that bitch in juniors. "Let's see what we can do."
Forty-three minutes later, Candy skidded through the doors of the salon. Tyler sat in a chair with highlight foils on his hair, green goo on his face, and a copy of People magazine in his hands, chatting with the little old lady next to him.
Jody shuffled over, slouching as though she'd been breaking rocks all day. "I am a miracle worker. Next time you want me to rescue somebody, give me six months' lead time so I can trim and style over time instead of doing damage control."
"I'll do my best."
"He's got an amazing voice though. He had the old cow in the chair next to him about in tears because he sang 'Moon River.'"
"Good, good." Candy headed for the chair. "How's it going, Tyler?"
"Great. This is fantastic. I thought I'd be buying a shirt or something today."
"You need to look good for your big audition." The lady next to him patted his hand. "He's going to be famous. I know it. You better hang onto him, young lady."
Candy glanced at Tyler to see how he was taking the optimism, but the facial covered most of his reaction. He rolled his eyes, but that could be anything. "I'm sure he will be. Hey, I got this shirt done for you. Can you try it on under the smock to make sure it fits?"
"I've got a T-shirt on. Is that okay?"
Jody was right, next time they really needed a head start on these emergencies. "Okay, never mind. We'll have to cross our fingers. I was kinda talking while I was finishing it up."
"Who were you talking to?"
"A customer. He's got me tailoring five shirts for him to pick up next week."
"Do you do this for everybody?" Tyler's eyes narrowed under the mask. Already possessive. Good.
"No, but he saw me working on yours and asked if I could do his. Decent money, too." Really decent. The college fund was looking more hopeful all the time.
A timer dinged and Jody pushed her out of the way to poke at Tyler's hair. "Time to rinse. Cross everything that this works."
Gina edged in and touched the facial mask with her fingertips. "Try not to get this wet. It needs to dry completely before we take it off."
"I'll do my best."
Candy checked her watch. Who needed food? "I better get back. Try the shirt on before you go so I can fix it if I have to."
Excerpted from Keep Coming Back to Love by Christa Maurice. Copyright © 2016 Christa Maurice. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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