“Recommended for lovers of rock star romances and those looking for fresh takes on the genre and its protagonists.” —Library Journal
“I tore through the chapters, hooked as always by the vividness of Zabo’s glam-rock world.” —The Seattle Review of Books
The tougher they are, the harder they fall.
Twisted Wishes bass player Mish Sullivan is a rock goddess—gorgeous, sexy and comfortable in the spotlight. With fame comes unwanted attention, though: a stalker is desperate to get close. Mish can fend for herself, just as she always has. But after an attack lands her in the hospital, the band reacts, sticking her with a bodyguard she doesn’t need or want.
David Altet has an instant connection with Mish. A certified badass, this ex-army martial arts expert can take down a man twice his size. But nothing—not living as a trans man, not his intensive military training—prepared him for the challenge of Mish. Sex with her is a distraction neither of them can afford, yet the hot, kink-filled nights keep coming.
When Mish’s stalker ups his game, David must make a choice—lover or bodyguard. He’d rather have Mish alive than in his bed. But Mish wants David, and no one, especially not a stalker, will force her to give him up.
This book is approximately 105,000 words
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Mish Sullivan hated hospitals. The harsh light, the antiseptic smell, the curtains and lack of privacy, and all the bad memories being in one dredged up. All those times back when she'd been a teen, sitting at her mom's side, waiting for the inevitable to happen. More recently, she'd sat at Ray's hospital bed, her heart in her throat for the leader and singer/songwriter of their little band when he'd had a horrendous allergic reaction after being roofied by their former shitbag of a manager.
Twisted Wishes wasn't so little now. They had a reasonable new manager, and they were about to go on their own headlining tour across the US. This time, it was Ray sitting by her bed, pale and upset while the rest of the band, plus their social media coordinator, lingered behind him, all looking shaken.
She really needed Ray to calm the fuck down before that expression of horror on his face spread to the rest of the guys. Last thing she needed was four nervous wrecks. The guys were all too strung out most of the time as it was.
"I'm fine, sweetheart, really." Mish patted Ray's hand. She was, too. Mostly. Yes, her right hand was sprained and in a brace, her knees were bloodied and bruised, and fighting off that shithead had ended with her ripping her brand-new patterned stockings. And she'd fucking loved those things. She had a few other scrapes here and there, but nothing major. "None the worse for wear."
Ray made a sound that was a weird combination of a laugh, a sob, and a grunt. "The fuck you are. He nearly broke your hand!"
Not quite true. She'd slugged that guy in the jaw before she'd lost her footing and landed weirdly on it. Bad piece of luck. The crowd at their pop-up concert had been so thick and the venue security too thin. She'd been knocked around and dragged in the rush to get the band out of there, and that certainly hadn't helped her hand any.
She'd had worse in bar fights. Nothing was broken this time, there was hardly any blood, and she hadn't needed stitches.
Zavier, their drummer and Ray's husband, put a hand on Ray's shoulder. His blue eyes locked on Mish's and the look he gave her, while sympathetic, was also worried. Fucking Zav. He was going to take Ray's side in this. Coddle her. He was usually the most levelheaded of the lot.
She cut him off even as he opened his mouth. "I fell wrong, that's all. I'm fine. They're gonna spring me from here soon, and we can all go home."
Though she wouldn't be playing until her hand healed. No way she could move her fingers on the strings of her bass when everything was this swollen. Thankfully, they had a couple of weeks before their tour. She'd exercise the hand as it healed. Keep it limber. They planned to marathon some practices before the tour started anyway. She'd be healed up by then.
"He came at you with scissors." Soft words from Dom, their guitarist. He was still in most of his makeup and all of his studded leather, but he'd turned back into the quiet, thoughtful version of himself.
"He just wanted some hair, the weirdo." She waved his concern away.
Behind Dom, Adrian — their social media/tech guy and Dom's boy toy — crossed his arms. He didn't say anything. Didn't need to. He was the oldest out of all of them and as even-keeled as Zav. His thoughtful frown wasn't a good sign.
"Adrian ..." Last thing they needed was him to go mushy-brained about this.
He shook his head. "It's not an isolated thing, Mish. You don't see the emails."
But he did. Mish flinched when her stomach tumbled. "I want out of here." Though it galled her that Adrian might be keeping secrets from her, she didn't want to hear that she had a stalker, or obsessive fans, or whatever it was that he was going to tell her. "Can one of you find a doc or a nurse?"
Before any of the boys could do what she'd asked, their band manager, Marcella, strode into the room. Thank god. Someone who'd understand that none of this was that big a deal. Just ... the normal stuff of being a rock star.
Mish turned to her. "Will you please talk some sense into these boys and tell them everything's fine?"
Marcella sighed. "You have a badly sprained wrist that will keep you from playing for several weeks, plus cuts and abrasions. The tabloids have photos of you bloodied up out there on the scandal sites, and people are speculating that the tour will be canceled. Everything is not fine."
"See?" Ray pointed at Marcella, as if to underscore the point.
"Fuck that. I'll be fine by then, and I'm not porcelain, Ray. I got a little banged up because of some dork — that's it. If I were Zav, would you be this upset?"
Probably the wrong person to pick. "If that had happened to Zav, to my husband, I'd be hiring a security guard for his ass."
Zavier frowned. "The hell you would."
"See?" Mish pointed at Zavier. "He doesn't need protection, and neither do I."
Ray stepped closer to Zavier, fire in his eyes. "The hell I wouldn't, Zavier ..."
Marcella cleared her throat. "Actually, you need protection. All of you. Hiring a guard for the band is a fantastic idea. You're too big now not to have someone working for you, especially with the more ... exuberant fans."
Like the one who'd come after her. "I don't need a damn bodyguard," Mish said, even as her arms and knees started to ache from the fall. "Besides, I bet that guy looks worse. That'll stop people."
"That guy is in a holding cell at the police station," Marcella said. "And the booking photos are on the internet, too, with comments about your temperament. Frankly, you all need someone watching over you. This isn't a you thing, Mish." She waved her hand around the room. "It's an all of you thing."
Ray nodded, and Zavier had a resigned look in his eyes. Shit.
Mish pushed her hair back. "Ray, no. I can take care of myself. Fuck it, I take care of you lot. And I don't give two shits what the press says."
The fucking press. They were all over her no matter what she did or didn't do. Too foul-mouthed, too sexy, wore too much makeup, never mind she wore less than Domino most of the time. Not a lady. Too much the whore.
Dom peered up at the ceiling, then back at Mish. "I don't want a bodyguard any more than you. I like it just us, but Marcella's right."
Adrian nodded and Zavier scratched the back of his head, looking younger than he usually let himself, and a tiny bit scared, too.
Marcella blew out a breath and turned to Ray. "So that's a yes?" "Yeah," Ray said. "See who you can find, and we'll interview them."
Great. This was exactly what she didn't want. Mish rose from the bed, thankful they hadn't hooked her up to an IV or made her change into a gown. "I'm gonna find a goddamned person to check me out of this fucking hellish place."
Even after she'd tracked down the nurse on duty, it still took another hour and a half to get released from the hospital. All that time, the band stayed with her. It was both endearing and absolutely frustrating. She loved every last one of them like her own flesh and blood, but damn it, she needed to process what had happened. Alone. Her insides were as ugly as a badly tossed salad and her nerves skittered and pinched, but the moment she let anything show, the guys would be all over her with even more worry and concern.
Didn't stop the thoughts swirling in her head. The warning signs she'd missed before the guy came at her, how she could have turned, moved, or lunged differently. Maybe if she'd put her hair up after the show ...
God, she didn't know. Her hand throbbed now, and a dull ache pounded behind her eyes, that pain she hated, that telltale sign that both her body and mind were done and her emotions were about to spill into reality.
She wasn't about to shed any tears in front of the guys, though. If they caught her tearing up, they'd lose it. Plus, she fucking hated crying, that betrayal of her body over her mind.
She was so grateful when they finally piled into the SUV Marcella had hired. Right after she belted herself in, she closed her eyes and tried to pretend that she was tired, not — overwhelmed. Hurting. Thank god there were no paparazzi with cameras here. Had there been, she might've punched them out, too, and that would've driven everyone bonkers.
Like it or not, the press — even the bloodsucking, shit-stirring scandal sites — had an impact on the band and they had to play nice. The guys got crapped on, though not as hard as she did. But they held it together. She could, too.
"Hey, Mish?" Adrian's deep voice sounded next to her, barely audible over the rumble of the car. Though he was the newest member of their little musical family, he'd woven himself seamlessly into their group, his relationship with Dom notwithstanding.
She opened her eyes and turned toward him. "Yeah?"
"Don't be too hard on Ray. He wants you all safe." He paused. "Us all."
The late addition made her smile. "Finally figuring out you're part of us?" He chuckled, but sobered. "Seriously, though."
"I don't need anyone taking care of me, hon."
His gaze was so solemn. "We all do, sometimes."
Mish grunted and rolled her head back. Maybe they did, but not her. Every time she'd let anyone try, it always went to shit, because "taking care" meant the other person taking over, and fuck that to hell. First her deadbeat father, then a string of her mom's boyfriends, then her jerk bosses. When she'd joined Ray's band, she'd made a stipulation: Ray could make suggestions, but he needed to listen to the band, too. They'd decide things together. And they had.
Ray's heart was in the right place, and Marcella's, too. Didn't mean Mish wanted a fucking bodyguard watching over her because she was a liability.
"I'm the one watching out for you boys. I don't need a caretaker."
"You can't punch out every too-rabid fan," he murmured.
Yeah, she could. And would. To keep them safe, to keep herself safe. Even if she already knew what was coming.
Because once Ray Van Zeller got an idea in his head, it was nearly impossible to shake it loose. Which meant, sooner or later, she'd be saddled with security and she'd probably end up taking care of whoever that was, too.CHAPTER 2
David Altet heard the argument floating down the stairwell as he made his way up to the third floor of the converted warehouse. At first, only tones filtered down, two strong voices straying over each other, one higher pitched than the other, both mirrors of intensity. As he neared the third floor landing, those tones sharpened into words.
"But nothing has happened in weeks!" Mish Sullivan had a lovely voice. Vibrant, with a sharp edge and gritty finish. The kind of voice he wouldn't mind whispering into his ear in bed.
"We haven't been in public in weeks. And Adrian's gotten some weird emails and comments on the accounts about you." That was Ray Van Zeller. He'd met Ray several times while interviewing, then hashing out the details of his contract while they both got a feel for each other to see if David could provide what Ray wanted and if David wanted to work with Ray and his band.
"I don't fucking need anyone protecting me." More grit there, and a rumble that was sexy and tantalizing.
Ray had warned David that the firebrand bass player who'd leveled her attacker with one punch wasn't taking kindly to the idea of a security detail. At least not for her.
From all the press he'd seen of the band, Sullivan was no-nonsense and sharp. Reminded him of several of the women he'd known in the army. Strong. Independent. Fierce. Yeah, a woman like that would not take kindly to having her back watched by someone she didn't know. On the other hand, that was exactly his job.
Twisted Wishes needed Mish Sullivan — and the rest of the band — safe.
He pulled open the door to the third floor, keeping the noise to a minimum. Part of securing the band was learning how they interacted with each other. All signs pointed to them being a united front. They'd weathered quite a lot in their short and meteoric rise to stardom, including Ray nearly dying by the hand of their former manager.
What a shit show that must have been, and all the more reason for Sullivan and the band not to trust an outsider. However, public fronts and what happened behind closed doors could be vastly different, even if Ray'd said they were like one big family.
Families fought. Like now, apparently. David slipped down the hall, too aware that he was an interloper.
"It's the whole band," Ray said. "Not just you."
"Yeah, right. 'Cause you have Zav, and Dom has Adrian, so who're you sticking this dude with, huh?" Silence, then a sigh from Mish. "Kiddo, I know you're trying to do the right thing."
David continued toward the open studio door, the scent of concrete, brick, and moisture lingering in the hall on this humid, late spring day. New York was soupy as fuck. Would only get worse in the summer.
"Then let me do the right thing." Ray's voice was pained. "You haven't read the stuff Adrian has."
"You haven't let me."
David had read them, though. Most of the mail, comments, and replies Twisted Wishes got on their various social media accounts were benign. Excited and appreciative fans, especially queer ones. Notes to specific band members that were gushing or of the "I love you!" variety, but harmless in nature. Lovely and endearing stuff. Twisted Wishes had a stellar fanbase, one that they seemed to enjoy and interact well with.
But there were the few pieces that weren't like that. Those were about Mish and seemed to be from one sender, going by syntax and style. Details about her hair and skin, and what he wanted from her. A date. To talk. A kiss on the cheek. To hold her hand. Run his hands up those legs of hers. Creepy, creepy stuff.
Even if there hadn't been the attack a couple of weeks ago, the band sure as shit needed to be taking this seriously. Especially considering the guy who had gone after Mish wasn't the one who'd sent those messages. That guy was in jail and couldn't have sent the latest batch, though David was certain Internet Dude had some connection to that event.
Mish Sullivan had an obsessive fan, and he was dangerous.
"You shouldn't have to see that shit." Ray's voice sounded pained.
"I don't need you or Adrian protecting me. You've both got enough on your plate."
And that was David's cue to step into the doorway and rap his knuckles on the frame.
Five heads turned to stare at him, and David got his first personal look at the core of Twisted Wishes. Ray Van Zeller he'd met during his interview, and he knew Zavier Demos, Mish Sullivan, and Dominic Bradley — known as Domino Grinder — from the music videos, publicity, and news stories. The other guy had to be Adrian Doran, Dominic's lover and their social media guru.
Ray looked relieved. "You found the place."
David gave a shrug. "GPS is a wonderful thing." Ray'd given him the address, but he'd also checked the fan spaces online and found the same location, which explained the gaggle of people outside, all with cell phones and some with cameras. David had walked around the building and found a door that'd been propped open by workers doing a reno job on the second floor. No one had bothered him when he'd made his way up the fire stairs, despite this being a secure building.
He wasn't about to lead with that, though, so he smiled at the band members and their media guru.
Ray turned to the rest of the group. "This is David Altet. He's the guy I hired to be our security."
There were murmurs of hellos as David made his way into the room, all except from Mish. She was glaring at Ray. When that same gaze was leveled at David, she crossed her arms, defensive and wary.
He didn't blame her. Couldn't. He understood the desire, the absolute need to be who you were. And Mish Sullivan was a woman who was equal parts protector and individual. No doubt she'd chew David out if he gave any of her bandmates flak.
"I suggested to Ray that meeting you all before the tour would be a better plan than showing up at your first gig, barking orders." He found an old stool that had a few paint splashes on it, and propped his ass on the edge. "Though I don't bark all that often."
"Well, that's good, since I don't take orders." Mish shoved a hand into her red curls and peered at Ray. "Please don't tell me this is the guy I'm gonna have to take care of."
David couldn't help the quirk in his lips, which of course Mish caught. She raised an eyebrow at Ray, then focused on David. All six foot one inch of fire, strength, and beauty strode right up, and those sweet hazel eyes, tinged green in the light of the studio, bore down on David. "You're tiny."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Reverb"
Copyright © 2019 Anna Zabo.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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