As a lawyer at Touchstone management, Tessa's position brings her up close and personal to some of the world's biggest heartthrobs. Sometimes that intimacy crosses professional lines, which is understandable considering Tessa's impressive contact list. But when rock star Brian Ellis set her aside for the girl of his dreams, Tessa can't help wonder if "spinster aunt" is her true vocation. Which explains her hook-up with rising star Brett Cherney at Brian's celebrity wedding . . .
As the lead singer of BroRide, Brett has lived the rock-n-roll bad-boy lifestyle to the very hilt. But when the girl of his dreams marries fellow rocker Brian Ellis, he buries his disappointment in the arms of an older woman. The following morning, Brett realizes what he experienced was only the beginning of a song he's been trying to write all his life. It's a seductive theme, which Tessa falls for again and again, but getting her to believe they have a hit is turning out to be far from a sure thing . . .
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Not Second Best
A Drawn to the Rhythm Novel
By Christa Maurice
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Christa Maurice
All rights reserved.
Tessa walked outside, maintaining her happy expression past the knot of smokers by the door. This wedding shouldn't bug her so much. Brian had gotten over his crush on her years ago. Shit, he'd been married before. She'd fallen off his pedestal a long time ago. So why did this marriage seem like the end of the world?
Suzi made a beautiful bride. One of her friends had designed the simple white gown for her. Ribbons of rainbow colors started as faint pastels across the bust and gained intensity as they wrapped around her body and down the back of her dress until they formed a brilliant train. Daisies wound through her upswept hair and complemented her pretty, sweet face. Brian looked rather sharp, too, in his white tux, open at the throat. His best accessory, though, had to be the expression of utter joy in his eyes.
It made Tessa want to puke. Not because they were happy. No, never that. Brian deserved to be happy. Suzi did, too. Apparently, everyone deserved to be happy.
"Nice show, huh?"
Tessa glanced at Brett who'd wandered up beside her at the overlook. Or maybe she'd wandered up beside him. The ocean smashed into the cliffs below as if it held a grudge against her. "Yeah. They look really happy."
"She's the Holy Grail," Brett said. He leaned on the guardrail, fiddling a cigarette between his fingers. "She was a total mess when she left Logan last year. I took her out to this place I go to. Never laid a hand on her."
Tessa nodded. Why did he think she should care? Everybody knew he'd pulled Suzi out of the party where she'd broken up with her last boyfriend, Logan, nearly a year ago. Tessa had been one of many people trying to figure out where the hell they'd gone for weeks before Suzi had reappeared at Jason's West Virginia place. "You're a big damn hero."
"Something like that." He flicked the cigarette off the cliff, unlit. "Brian's a good guy, right? He'll be good to her, won't he?"
"I've known him since he was a kid. He'd walk through hell for her." Brian was the best guy. Absolute heart of gold. If she'd been half awake ten years ago, she could have had that.
"Good. That's good. Cause next time I have to haul her away from some asshole, I'm not going to be so easygoing about letting her leave."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" She glared at Brett, but he looked like he'd been dragged backward through the desert by a tour bus, and she faltered. "What's wrong with you?"
Brett turned, stared at the ocean. "Probably the same thing that's wrong with you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, come on. How dumb do you think everybody is? You've known Brian since he was in elementary school. His daughter is named after you. The only person at this wedding who looks sicker about it is Logan." Brett bobbed his head. "And maybe me. You and Brian had a thing, or you wish you had a thing, or something. I'd say I could write a great song about it, but there's already been a bunch. Etta James did three or four."
"So, are you telling me that party-hearty Brett Cherney lost his poor little heart to the bride?" Tessa meant to smirk, but it came out twisted because of the sob she was trying to cover.
"Only as much as tough lawyer Tessa Callisto lost her heart to the groom."
Tessa stared back in the direction of the pavilion. Over six hundred guests. This wedding was almost as well attended as the Grammys. No point hiring a band because no local band could hold a candle to this audience, so music had been supplied by a running jam. Everyone was having a blast. They wouldn't notice a couple of people missing. "You know what the best cure for a broken heart is, don't you?"
"What?" He glanced over his shoulder as if the answer to her question was back at the wedding reception.
She stared into Brett's eyes. Brett, who slept with every female who caught his fancy. And there were lots of those. What with his lean build and washboard abs, he was such a very good-looking specimen. "Wanna?" She arched an eyebrow at him.
His lips curled into a smile. "Sounds good to me."
"Your place or mine?"
"I'm thinking of some place more neutral."
* * *
Brett slammed her against the door as soon as it was closed. All the way here, she'd been teasing him. Running her hand up the inside of his thigh, dragging her fingers through his hair, toying with his earlobe. And every time he'd reached for her, she'd smacked his hand away and told him to watch the road.
"Your ass is mine now," he growled, pressing his face into the curve of her neck.
"I was hoping you wanted more than that."
"Believe me. I plan to have every inch of you before I'm done."
Laughing, she ripped his shirt open and shoved it down his arms. "Let's see if you can deliver on that promise."
"I can." He hiked up her skirt. "Pantyhose? Really? These fucking things are like a force field around your sweet spot."
"I was going to the wedding of an old and dear friend, not headed out for a sleazy tryst."
"Damn." Brett dropped to his knees and pulled at the pantyhose. Her heavy, lusty scent crawled through his brain and straight into his dick. "I didn't think women wore these things anymore."
"I'm not the kind of woman you usually undress."
"No kidding." He smoothed his hands down her soft thighs, down to — "Your fucking shoes have buckles on the ankles. Is there a lock on your pussy, too?"
She laughed again. He glanced up in time to see her toss her blouse across the room. Underneath, she'd worn a lacy bra. Hopefully, it had a normal clasp and not some exotic thing like her goddamn shoes. He fumbled with the buckle, but his fingers couldn't grasp it.
"Let me help you." She crouched, pinned between the door and him, trying to reach her shoes through the tangle of pantyhose. Her dark hair brushed his cheek, and he shivered. Tessa was hot. Way hotter than he'd ever thought.
"Screw that." Brett wrapped his arm around her waist and swung her onto the floor. "I can get to all the parts I need."
She buried her hands in his hair, drawing him into a deep kiss. Her tongue delved into his mouth as she ground her hips against his.
The urgent need in her touch sizzled along his skin. "You're a hell of a woman," he said, dragging his lips down her chest to the thankfully simple front clasp on her bra.
"Thanks, now quit wasting time."
"You on a schedule?" He flicked open the bra and curved his hand around the warm flesh of her breast.
"No, I just have a lot of work for you. You need to get busy."
"I love a take-charge woman." Reaching into his pocket, he located a condom.
"Then you are going to love me." She grabbed his pants and opened them. "You have a rubber? If not, I have some in my purse."
"I got it." He climbed to his knees and ripped open the foil. "Glad to know you have some, too. Wouldn't want to run out."
"I'm pretty sure the desk would send up more if we asked. I'm surprised they didn't give you a gift basket of them when we checked in." She stretched her arms over her head, which did delightful things to her shape.
"I don't bring women here." Brett lifted her nylon-bound ankles over his head and crawled between her legs.
"Except me." Tessa licked her lips. "And Suzi."
Her and Suzi. Brett closed his eyes as he thrust into her, trying to imagine Suzi under him and only feeling Tessa's hot, sleek body and wet, soft mouth. He wrapped his arms around her, riding her hard and fast, lost in the wild rhythm of their bodies sliding together. Her legs clenched around his hips as if she'd never let him go. Beneath him, her eyes were closed and her mouth open as she gasped. Her dusky skin was slick with sweat.
His control slipped, and he groaned. "I don't think I can wait."
"You'll make it up to me." She tightened her hold on him, arching her hips to meet his.
He came in a heated satin rush, his whole body aching in the crest. Throughout, he could feel her arms and legs around him. Cradling him. For once, he didn't feel like he was in free fall. Funny, but he didn't hate the sensation the way he'd always thought he would. It was safety. Security. It was ... "Tessa," he murmured.
"Just finish the job." She dug her fingernails into his back.
He thrust against her again until she came apart in his arms.
Sighing, she let her head loll on the carpet. "That was distracting."
"No problem." Brett swallowed his disappointment. Distracting? He'd never been called that before. The women he'd had lately had been a little more impressed. Fame was very impressive to a groupie. But Tessa was no groupie. She'd been in the thick of fame when he was still singing in the school holiday pageant. "Glad I could be of help."
"I hope I was just as distracting for you." She ruffled her fingers through his hair.
"Definitely." Brett slithered down her body and between her legs. She sat up as soon as she could and went to work on her shoes as if he wasn't even in the room. Okay, weird. Though he wasn't sure why it was so important she pay attention to him. He'd gotten what he wanted. He should be happy she didn't want to cuddle. Standing, he pulled his pants up. "I guess I'll take a shower."
"Go ahead, but I'm just going to get you dirty again." She didn't look up from her shoes.
"Good. I'll get really clean so you have to work harder." He went into the bathroom and turned on the water. Then he leaned on the door and listened to her walk around the other room.
The famous Jason Callisto's sister and lawyer, Tessa, had always been unattainable. She not only outclassed him in fame, but in brains, and at the reception had appeared totally together until she'd walked away. That was the reason he'd followed her. Because she'd stopped looking cool and started looking more like he felt. Except that just now, she'd been utterly chill.
Brett ducked under the water. He should have known better than to think he knew her this quickly. They had one stupid thing in common. Being second best.
But Tessa was a pretty awesome second.
The bathroom door opened. Tessa peeked around the shower door. "Mind if I join you?"
Brett stepped back to give her room. "You got the shoes off."
"They aren't difficult. They just defeated you." Smirking, she draped her arms around his shoulders.
"Ha ha. I have some buckles that might defeat you." Brett let his hands slide down her sides with the flow of the water.
"I might let you try those out." She leaned on him, her skin velvet against his.
"I thought I'd distracted you enough."
"That was then. This is now."
"I think you can fulfill my demands." She picked up the soap and traced down his chest with it. "You were concerned about being dirty."
"You're not going to give me a chance to get clean, either." Brett studied her eyes, trying to figure out where she was going. Five minutes ago, she'd all but told him to get lost, and now, she was crawling all over him again.
"On the contrary, I'm going to clean you up." She rubbed the soap on a cloth and started sweeping the cloth across his chest. "How's that?"
"Take notes, because it's going to be your turn in a minute." The cloth dipped lower.
"I look forward to it." He did love a woman who knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to spell it out.
"I'm sure you do," she purred. "You always were a show off."
"What do you know about me?"
"Everything I need to." She stroked with the cloth along his length, which was very interested in the stimulation.
"Everything you need to?"
"You're a sleazy little party boy riding on the success of his first little hit and sleeping with every willing female you can find."
"You have no respect for me at all, do you?"
"I have lots of respect for you." She shifted him into the water to rinse him off and handed him the washcloth. "Right now I need a little party boy to fuck me thoroughly, and you are just the one to do it." Her breathing was heavy and slow.
"Thanks." He ran the cloth between her full breasts. She looked great naked. How old was she anyway? Jason was about forty. She must be a couple years older than her brother. Had he been overlooking an entire group of hot women because none of the chicks he'd picked was over thirty?
"Think nothing of it."
He soaped around her ass. Bigger than most of his girls', but tight and toned. Tessa had some substance to her. He slid between her legs from behind, drawing her against him and getting a sweet moan out of her. Her mouth curved into a lush smile.
"I knew you'd be frisky enough." Then she pulled away and rinsed off. "I've never heard of this place. How did you find it?"
"One of the guys my mom went with brought her here."
"Oh?" Tessa lifted her hair and rolled her neck under the hot water. "She was a backup singer, wasn't she?"
"OD'd about ten years ago?"
"How did you know?"
Opening her eyes, she turned off the water. "My job is to know things."
"About me?" Brett followed her out of the shower. He'd thought he went after her at the reception, but maybe it was the other way around. She was smart. Maybe she'd lured him outside.
"When you and Suzi took off together, Jason had me hunting you. Best place to start looking was your past. Your dad is a nice guy." She walked from the bathroom, still dripping.
"I called him trying to find you. So how did you end up being the guy to rescue Suzi?" She shoved open the patio door and stepped outside.
"Right place, right time."
Tessa cocked an eyebrow at him. "And she just ran off with you."
"When we were on tour, I got to know her, and I happened to be right there when she needed to leave." Brett hoped the heat on his face was sun and not embarrassment.
"You wanted to get next to her."
"Fuck yes, I did." Blushing. Definitely. "With a nickname like Randy Mirandy and a hot bod like hers, who wouldn't?"
"Indeed." Tessa stepped into the infinity pool and settled where she could stare out over the desert.
Brett clambered into the water next to her. This place was his refuge. After he'd come here with Suzi, it had also been his place to regret. He'd spent hours soaking in this pool, wondering what kind of moron he'd been to let Suzi get away and if there had been anything he could have done to stop it. "What about you? You knew Brian since he was a kid. He was married before. Why's it a crisis now?"
Tessa lifted one leg, put it down, and lifted the other, pointing her toe at the sky before lowering it into the water. "Brian had a huge crush on me when he was a kid. Well, up until he was about twenty-two, but I wasn't interested."
"So now you want what some other chick has?"
"No," Tessa snapped, glaring at him. "It's just an ego blow that he's not going to be following me around anymore."
"Right. Because he was before."
"In a little bit. I'm comfortable now."
Tessa slouched in the corner. "I just can't believe all those guys got married like that. Bear and Maureen. Jason and Cassie. Marc and Alex. Now Brian and Suzi. Another one bites the dust. I've known all those guys since we were kids."
"Ty's not hitched up yet."
"He's probably meeting his one true love as we speak. I'll be running background checks on her tomorrow. My mother is dating a guy from Cassie's hometown. Connie's even dating."
"Everybody's married but you."
"I don't want to be married," she growled.
Brett held up his hands. "Hey, don't look at me. I'm not looking for a wife here, either." He eased into the water. "I love this place."
"It's nice. Very relaxing. What made you bring Suzi here?"
"I knew a shitload of people would be hunting for her, and she needed some time away. Nobody would look for her here."
"This where she had her miscarriage?"
"That must have been rough."
"I took care of her." Brett shrugged. He'd stood outside the bathroom door, fretting about what to do. She hadn't wanted him to call a doctor, but she'd been in so much pain. And then she'd cried all night. Holding her and not being able to do a damn thing to help her had sucked, but it had been better than standing outside a door.
"She's one of those women who doesn't have babies easily. Brian's already got the two, so he doesn't care," Tessa said.
"Do we have to talk about Brian all the time?"
"I thought that's why we were here. Because we both came in second."
"Then maybe we should call Logan. He came in second, too."
Tessa shrugged. "Go ahead if you want to, but I'm over my orgy phase. You two have fun. You can sit around and talk about how perfect Suzi is."
"Suzi's really nice." Brett scowled. Suzi was nice. Really friendly and approachable. Every time she'd joined them on the road when his band was touring with her ex's band, she'd found time to sit and talk, even though Logan had wanted her chained to his wrist whenever he was offstage. Tessa could be as bitchy as she wanted, but she'd better not start talking shit about Suzi.
"I know. She's a great girl. Always has been. Did you know she tried to patch up Brian and Bonnie's marriage? I could have told her it was a waste of time."
Brett couldn't decide which was worse. Talking about Brian or talking about Suzi. "I'm hungry. I'm going to order some dinner. You want anything?"
Tessa frowned at the desert. "Rum and Coke. Steak, well done. Baked potato, butter, no sour cream. Steamed summer squash. And chocolate frosting."
"Frosting without the cake?"
She smiled at him. "It's for later."
Brett grinned back. At least if she was going to torture him by talking about Brian and Suzi, she would make up for it.
Excerpted from Not Second Best by Christa Maurice. Copyright © 2015 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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