Zane Larson has done everything he set out to do: conquered past demons, saved lives through his music, and toured the world as the frontman for one of the most popular rock bands in the world. This life—and an escape through music—was supposed to be everything he’s ever wanted, but after meeting Rowan, Zane’s no longer sure…
Soon after her husband’s death, Rowan Dugas learned she was pregnant. With grief and uncertainty her only companions, Rowan was only able to find an escape through music; specifically Zane Larson’s hypnotic voice. But after meeting the sexy lead singer of her favorite band, Rowan can hardly believe he’s interested in her. But Zane also has a painful connection to her unborn child - Zane's brother is responsible for her husband's death.
Torn between the only family she has left, and a life with Zane unlike anything she’s dared to dream about, Rowan’s decision will change her fate forever. Raw Need from New York Times bestselling author Cherrie Lynn is a heart wrenching, emotionally intense story that will leave readers breathless.
About the Author
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Cherrie Lynn has been a CPS caseworker and a juvenile probation officer, but now that she has come to her senses, she writes contemporary and paranormal romance on the steamy side. It's *much* more fun. She's also an unabashed rock music enthusiast and lives in East Texas with her husband and two kids.
You can visit her at http://www.cherrielynn.com She loves hearing from readers!
Read an Excerpt
By Cherrie Lynn
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Cherrie Lynn
All rights reserved.
What the hell did you wear for a night out with a rock star?
As Rowan Dugas stared into the depths of her walk-in closet, she realized what a rare question that was for one to ponder. If she were a Hollywood starlet type, or a model, or maybe even a porn star, she was certain she would have a closet full of slinky little numbers that would suffice. It wouldn't be an issue. But Rowan was none of those things, just a girl from New Orleans. A widow. A soon-to-be mother in that awkward stage where it was hard to tell if one was pregnant or if one had devoured an entire pizza a couple of hours before.
Besides, it wasn't as if this was a date. She didn't know what it was, actually, she only knew that Zane Larson had offered to take her out, and in a sort of numb state of shock, she had accepted.
He was her favorite singer. Ever. The music he made with his band, August on Fire, had gotten her through some of the worst times of her life, and by an insane stroke of fate, they'd become friends.
But that stroke of fate had begun with her husband's death.
Rowan didn't want to look, but she had to. Every time she walked in here, she was confronted with Tommy's side of the closet, which remained exactly as he'd left it four months ago when he packed to leave for a fight and never came home. Seeing his shoes tossed about in their jumbled pile was a fresh gut punch every day. One of his shirts still hung half off its hanger from when he'd carelessly yanked out the adjacent one and not fixed the disarray. It made her grit her teeth with the urge to straighten it, but she couldn't. And even though Savannah had offered to come over and help Rowan pack his life away when she was ready, Rowan didn't want to put her through it. As Tommy's sister, Savannah had lost him too.
Soon, Rowan assured herself. We'll do it soon. She didn't know what she would do with it all, because she couldn't bring herself to get rid of anything, but boxing it away in the attic to gather dust and cobwebs didn't seem right, either. Maybe someday she would simply become immune to seeing it there, but she wouldn't bet on it anytime soon.
Tearing her eyes away, she focused on her side — decidedly more orderly, clothes arranged by season, shoes stowed neatly in the shelves Tommy had built for her. She had plenty to wear — but she was probably a size or two above her dressiest ensembles, thanks to the little surprise visitor making his or her presence known in Rowan's belly.
Well, it wasn't doing any good to stand here gaping. She had several hours before Zane would arrive, but it was going to take all of them to figure this out. It was something she hadn't devoted much thought to in the days prior, because frankly, she'd expected him to call and cancel at any moment. He still might. Who knew what his schedule entailed?
From the bedroom, her phone came to life with Savannah's specific ring, so she had a moment's reprieve from the dilemma before her.
"I don't know what to wear," Rowan said in place of greeting. "Help."
"You don't know what to wear," Savannah said. It wasn't a question, but a statement dripping with disbelief.
"I haven't really been shopping for my new physique. Lately it's been all yoga pants, all the time. And I'm about to outgrow those."
"We'll fix that soon," Savannah promised. Their shopping time had been severely cut into since Savannah became serious with Mike Larson — world heavyweight champion MMA fighter, Zane's half-brother, and the man who had spelled Tommy's demise in the cage. It hadn't been his fault. Rowan had slowly — very slowly — been coming to terms with that, though some days it was still hard to swallow. Savannah was so happy. Anyone who put a smile like that on her face had to be an okay guy. And of course, if not for Mike, she would never have met Zane, and this night wouldn't be happening. Mike had been so anxious to do something nice for Rowan and Savannah in their grief that he'd arranged a getaway to Houston for them to attend one of Zane's concerts with all-access passes. It had been an amazing night, one she would never forget.
"I appreciate that. I just don't know what I'm going to do about tonight."
"Loose and flowy and short. It's hot."
"Yeah." Already beginning to sweat, Rowan plucked at the collar of her robe, catching sight of herself in the full-length mirror across the room. She wasn't sure she much liked what she saw. Her green eyes were darkened by a sad, haunted wisdom, and every day she seemed to discover a new line or wrinkle in her once smooth skin. Grief had definitely made its mark on her. Downturned mouth. Bags under her eyes. Everyone assured her that pregnancy agreed with her, that she looked beautiful and glowed with health, but she didn't feel it at all. "Do you think it's okay that I'm doing this?"
"You deserve a night out, Ro. Go have fun. It's okay."
"I bet your mom wouldn't say that."
"Then repeat after me: don't tell her."
"Yeah, but that's so ... deceptive."
"No, it's not. Where is it written that she has to know every move you make?"
Nowhere, surely. But Regina Dugas had been so wonderful to her. Rowan wouldn't have made it through any of the tragedies of her life without Tommy's family. Their disapproval would be unbearable, but like Savannah said, was going out for one night so awful? She wasn't going to drink or do drugs or have sex. The very idea was laughable — Zane was probably only taking her out because he felt sorry for her. Mike or Savannah had probably put him up to it. Come on, man, take one for the team and show the grieving, knocked-up widow a good time.
Maybe she should call the whole thing off.
"If you don't feel up to it yet, then don't go," Savannah said, and Rowan had to wonder, not for the first time, if Savvy could read her mind. "But if your only concern is Mom or what Tommy would think, then just stop. Mom can be too controlling and Tommy wouldn't want this isolation for you."
Savannah probably didn't know just how jealous her older brother had been. Not in a threatening way — at least not to Rowan — but he'd never stood for another man showing her attention.
"Or are you just chickening out?" Savannah teased. "Pressure too much?"
"Are you daring me?" Rowan asked with a grin.
"If you want to look at it that way, go for it. I dare you to go out tonight. I dare you to have a good time."
As if from nowhere, the memory of a dress she'd purchased in Houston the day after seeing August on Fire live in concert flashed in her mind. A high-waisted tank dress loose enough around the tummy that she just might get away with it. She'd actually felt pretty good that day, and then she'd had the worst crash since Tommy's death. It had taken her weeks to climb out of that pit of despair, and some days she still slid a foot or two back inside. "I think I know what to wear."
"Thank you for being cool with this."
"I'm cool with whatever makes you happy. And we'll go out shopping soon, I promise."
After hanging up, Rowan wandered into the baby's unfinished nursery and straightened everything, even though nothing was out of place. Loneliness was like a heavy blanket over her head, and she liked to think once the baby got here, the silence would no longer be so deafening. She really needed tonight ... she did. An opportunity like this should have overwhelmed her with joy. Maybe it did, somewhere deep down in her heart where the grief and numbness were so loud they muted everything else. On the surface, though, it seemed like something else she was going to have to get through, something that was a disaster waiting to happen. She would bore Zane Larson to tears. She had nothing to talk about.
Only, that hadn't really seemed to be the case the first time they met. Zane had been amazingly charismatic but, at the same time, totally approachable. She'd been a little overwhelmed, but somehow the babble had erupted from her like a tidal wave, and she'd gotten the feeling he not only heard every word but cherished them too. Since then, they'd spoken on the phone a few times, but this was the first actual offer from him to get together again. He was coming here to New Orleans just for her.
Her favorite vocalist in the world. Rowan had never been one for celebrity crushes ... except when it came to him. She'd expected — almost hoped, given their crappy timing — that he would turn out to be an egotistical asshole, but nothing like that had surfaced in their conversations yet. If he turned out to be too perfect, and insisted on continuing with this bizarre interest in her, she really didn't know what she was going to do. Run away, probably, or chalk up this fascination to still being starstruck by him.
Tall, lean, black-haired, with the voice of an angel or a demon depending on what his deeply personal lyrics required, Zane had been captivating her musically for years. She couldn't decide if the thought of spending time with the man behind the godlike voice filled her with dread or excitement ... but she would most certainly know within the first five minutes of his company which it was, and which way the evening was going to go.
Those first five minutes. They would tell the tale.
* * *
Zane Larson leaned back in his chair, fingers laced across his stomach, and watched the woman in the vocal booth sing her fucking heart out.
Ava Marks, currently one of his favorite vocalists, was the frontwoman for Decider, and it was a little hard to believe she was in his home studio right now, laying down a vocal track for one of August on Fire's new songs. She could have done this anywhere, but she'd wanted to come down to Houston and work closely with the band to make sure everything was perfect. Zane couldn't help himself; it didn't matter how long he had been doing this, even he got a little starstruck sometimes.
Shaking his head, he glanced over at Deke, the lead guitarist who sat to his left with his shiny black Gibson in his lap. "This is gonna be insane."
Deke ran a hand over his multicolor Mohawk. "It's on a whole other level."
On the other side of Deke was their producer, Maddox Hamilton, who sat at the mixing console stuck in his pensive producer pose, hand to his mouth, elbow propped on the arm of his chair. Zane thought both Deke and Mad looked half in love already. Hell, he probably did himself. Ava's voice soared up there with the satellites. Zane had already recorded his part, and their harmonies were spectacular, a perfect blend of dark and light.
Finally, the song ended, but the spell didn't.
Ava emerged from the vocal booth grinning after that final take, knowing she had nailed it. Her stage presence was wild, sexy, and unrestrained, but the woman who stood before them right now was cool and casual, her ripped jeans showing an expanse of tanned, tattooed thigh, her white-blond hair in a topknot above a pretty face in little need of the minimal makeup she wore.
Deke grabbed her up in a bear hug while she laughed; Zane settled for a handshake after Deke set her back down. "Ava, thanks so much for that. It's been a complete honor watching you work. Really."
She smiled up at him, her pale gray eyes an odd, haunting contrast to her coloring. "I think this calls for a celebration. You boys could always take me out and show me some Houston nightlife."
Damn. "I would have to bow out," Zane said. "I have to catch a plane in a couple of hours." Checking his cell phone, he grimaced. "A little over one hour, actually. I'd better cut out now."
"Where you off to?" she asked, and for one completely insane moment, he thought she was flirting with him. Ava Marks. Flirting with Zane Larson. While in the public eye, he might be on her level, inside he was still the geek who got his ass kicked around the schoolyard when his brother Mike wasn't around to save him.
"New Orleans," he said. "I have a date."
"Wow. Flying to New Orleans for her? Lucky girl."
He shrugged, thinking maybe he shouldn't have divulged that part. One wrong word to the wrong person and Rowan's life could be turned upside down. That was the last thing she needed; she'd suffered enough upheaval in the past few months. "We're just friends."
Of course, no one was convinced of that.
He left the others in the studio, instructing them to alert his housekeeper if they needed anything. His house was like Grand Central anyway; it was a rarity if no one was hanging out in his studio or drinking his booze or holed up in one of his many bedrooms. Mike was always on his ass about that, but then on any given day, Mike was usually on his ass about one thing or another. Zane was used to it.
After settling into his first-class seat, he pulled his cap low over his eyes and feigned sleep to discourage conversation and possible recognition. Besides that, Jase provided a formidable wall between him and the rest of the passengers. Jase was his personal bodyguard, his confidant, and, as Zane often jokingly warned him, someone he would have to kill if Jase ever quit his post in order to protect all his secrets.
It wasn't often that Zane needed protection in public, but there had been a couple of uncomfortable incidents where he'd been glad for the backup. He'd caused a bit of a riot at his brother Damien's club a few months back, but that local crowd could get crazy. Jase had insisted on coming along to New Orleans, though Zane was going to try his best to ditch the big guy at the hotel before he headed over to Rowan's. The thought of sweet little Rowan being any kind of threat was laughable.
"Did I meet this girl?" Jase asked as the plane began its descent into New Orleans.
Zane straightened his seat back and pushed his cap up. "I don't think so. You might have seen her, though. My brother arranged for her to come over to Houston for the last show, remember?"
"Oh, the widow."
Right. The pregnant widow. Mike had felt so guilty and responsible for Rowan's husband's death in the fighting cage that, upon hearing she was a huge fan of Zane's, he'd set up a private meet-and-greet for them. Zane had been eager to do it. Both times he'd been in Rowan's presence — once at her husband's funeral and then at the show a couple of months later — she'd enchanted him.
She was a fan, though, which always threw up a red flag. While he loved and appreciated each and every one of them, he had to always be on his guard around them. Mostly their intentions were good. Sometimes they weren't. Sometimes people were enamored by the music and put him on some kind of fucking pedestal he could never dream of living up to. And sometimes he just needed to fucking hide from them. Being among them was like wandering blindfolded through a room full of strangers, and you had no idea who was holding the knife ... but you knew someone was.
Rowan seemed real. She was in pain, and she seemed more comfortable talking about it to someone who was practically a stranger, someone who wouldn't judge her or scorn her, than she did to the people in her life. She'd told him that once. And she knew he understood that pain ... his lyrics told her so, of course. They'd spent hours on the phone, talking about nothing and everything, and he'd grown a little addicted to her sweet, sad voice in his ear.
It was a little fucked up that the first time he'd ever seen her was at her husband's funeral. He'd tried to talk Mike into not going — Mike considered himself responsible for that funeral, after all — but since his big brother had insisted, Zane hadn't let him do it alone. Rowan's reaction to Mike's presence was to be expected, but it had been all Zane could do not to chase after her when she stormed off, to apologize on behalf of his idiot brother, to try to make her feel better. The absolute devastation on her beautiful face had wrecked him. This was a woman who should be laughing in the sun, seeing the world. Hell, kissing under the Eiffel Tower or sunbathing on the French Riviera or something. Being romanced and living life, not putting a young husband in his grave.
Petite and blond with big, innocent green eyes ... when he usually preferred tall and brunette and, well, not expecting. He didn't have anything against kids or maybe even having some of his own someday. It just immediately threw up an impenetrable wall of impossibility between them right now. Despite that, though, he was looking forward to seeing her again. Making her smile. Maybe getting a laugh or two out of her. As friends.
God knew she was right: Zane had suffered tremendous loss and knew some of what she was going through. No one deserved it. No one. If he could make it better for her, even for one night, then he was all in.
Excerpted from Raw Need by Cherrie Lynn. Copyright © 2017 Cherrie Lynn. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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