Rock courtship, p.1
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       Rock Courtship, p.1

         Part #1.50 of Rock Kiss series by Nalini Singh
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Rock Courtship


  ROCK COURTSHIP

  By Nalini Singh

  New York Times Bestselling Author

  Table of Contents

  ROCK COURTSHIP

  Shatter

  PART ONE

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  PART TWO

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  After the Tour

  Author's Note

  Excerpt from Rock Addiction

  Other Books by Nalini Singh

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  Copyright Information

  Shatter

  David shoved his hands through his hair and blew out a breath. He was a rock star; it said so in the magazine on Thea's waiting-room table. It even called him the Gentleman of Rock. Surely someone that smooth should have his moves down pat. "Breathe, David." Damn it, you'd think this was the first time he'd asked a woman out on a date.

  Yeah, okay, he'd been a little shy as a teenager, but he'd grown out of that. Or maybe not. When you were part of a rock band whose albums had gone triple platinum one after the other, women tended to ask you out. The first time it had happened, he'd just about fallen flat on his ass. Fox, Noah, Abe--he could see women asking them out, but him?

  That had been his reaction as a nineteen-year-old who'd been the shortest kid in his grade until he was seventeen. The fact he'd shot up to a respectable adult height the summer before his senior year and put on muscle during the course of that year had still been sinking in. All those women hitting on him after the band soared up the charts had altered things on a superficial level while leaving the deeper part of him unchanged. Inside, he remained the short, scrappy, brown-eyed, brown-haired kid who'd ended up in plenty of fistfights and never gotten the girl.

  He wasn't sure if any of the groupies actually saw him. For most, it was more about the cachet of being with the drummer from Schoolboy Choir--he could've been a drug-addicted fuckwit or a lech with no social skills and bad body odor, and he'd still have ended up with women who wanted to bang a rock star and weren't particular about the details.

  So yeah, that didn't exactly count as success in the female department, not here, not when he was about to ask out the girl, the one who made his heart kick and his body ignite and his tongue tie itself into knots. And of course she was taller than him, especially in the ankle-breaker heels she liked to wear. Without them... without them, the two of them were a bare two inches apart in height.

  He couldn't think about what that would translate to in bed or he'd walk into her office with a big fucking hard-on, and this was already going to be a tough sell. Thea was gorgeous and brilliant at her job. She was also an ice queen when it came to the clients for whom her firm handled publicity; the majority of those clients were male musicians used to women falling at their feet. They respected Thea for standing her ground.

  David just respected her, period.

  He wasn't doing this on a whim or to add a notch to his belt.

  He was gone for her.

  Seriously head over heels.

  He'd almost killed the bastard who'd been her fiance a thousand times over during the course of her engagement, but now she was rid of the loser. This was David's chance, the most important of his life, even more so than the break that had led to the album deal that had catapulted Schoolboy Choir into the stratosphere. If he hesitated now and some other man entered her life, he'd never forgive himself.

  Taking a deep breath and reminding himself of the points he intended to make to get Thea to agree to go on a date with him, he lifted his hand and knocked on her door. He'd deliberately arrived after the time he knew her assistant usually went home, so he didn't have to run that particular gauntlet at least.

  "Come on in!"

  A smile tugging at his lips at the sound of her voice--shit, he was so fucking gone--he opened the door and stepped inside.

  It was only because he watched her so often when she wasn't aware of him that he caught the flicker in her smile, the sudden wariness in those uptilted eyes of burnished brown. A split second and she'd smoothed her initial response away to replace it with the professional smile he'd seen her use on everyone from magazine editors to record executives. Beautiful and warm... and not real.

  A sucker punch to the gut couldn't have hurt more, but he was prepared for this reaction, took the blow without flinching.

  "David." She rose and walked around the glass desk she kept clear of the usual office detritus, but that was covered with documents relating to the million things she had going on at any one time--mock-ups of posters she had to sign off on, copies of magazine articles by journalists pitching to interview her clients, notes about useful promotional ideas, it was all there. Her phone sat where her right hand would be when she was in her chair, a cup of coffee where her left would be.

  The sight was so familiar it eased the knot in his gut. "Hey, Thea." There he went, being all smooth and sophisticated. "Busy day?" Okay, that came out as planned. Now all he had to do was work in the offer of a drink someplace where she could relax. He'd already scouted an upscale bar where the music was live but the volume low enough that they could talk.

  "You wouldn't believe it." She put one hand on her lower back and rubbed lightly, her slender body lithe and beautiful in the pale gray sheath dress she wore with chunky turquoise beads and strappy heels that drew his attention to her long, long legs. He had no idea how she walked all day on those ice picks, but God he liked the view.

  The fantasies he had about Thea's legs...

  "The magazine thing I told you about?" she said, her fine-boned face lit with laughter and the straight, silky black of her hair in a sleek twist that had begun to unravel just a tiny bit, her skin a flawless, smooth gold. "Well, turns out the photographer wanted to get you guys in a bathtub for an avant-garde shoot."

  David blinked, momentarily diverted from his path. "All four of us?"

  "Yes. Naked."

  "Jesus."

  "No?" A teasing question, her smile no longer so agonizingly professional.

  "Hell, no." He shuddered. "We don't like each other that much. How the hell would he fit the entire band in a tub anyway?"

  Thea snorted with laughter and suddenly, she was the Thea he knew again, the one who wasn't so icy behind her professional facade and whose sense of humor had a wicked bite. "Only way to find out is to do it." Smile deep, she arched an eyebrow. "Should I give the photographer a call?"

  "Very funny." Realizing he was in danger of getting totally off track, he bit the bullet and laid his heart on the line. "So, I was thinking we could grab a drink, unwind together." He'd gotten back into L.A. an hour ago after an out-of-state gig at a music festival; it was as good an excuse as any to put her at ease, make this seem less "datelike."

  Smile fading from her eyes though her lips remained curved, she said, "I wish I could, but I have a dinner meeting with a television producer about a new entertainment show."

  Not about to give up, David slipped his hands into the back pockets of his jeans and said, "Tomorrow?"

  "Another working dinner, I'm afraid."

  The knot in his gut was now a jagged rock that made it difficult to breathe. "Lunch?" he asked with a grin, making light of her rebuff and giving her the opening to suggest another time, another meal, a simple fifteen minutes to grab a drink or a coffee. Anything.

  Thea's laugh was rueful. "Booked into next year."

  "Working, huh?" he managed to get out, though he felt as if he'd had the stuffing kicked out of him.

  "You know me, a workaholic." She glanced at the thin silver band of her watch. "Speaking of which, I'd better get back to it. I need to call someone in Tokyo, and I know the man I need to reach will be in his office about now." Smiling that perfect smile that cut like a knife, she walked him to the door. "It was nice to see you."

  Gutted at the absolute rejection, for all that it had been professionally delivered, he just went. He understood when a woman meant no, and he never ever wanted to make Thea feel cornered or threatened. But he had to make sure she had meant no, that he hadn't misread a signal that said "try harder." So he did something about which he wasn't proud--but he'd long ago stopped being proud when it came to his feelings for Thea.

  Parking his car half a block up from her office in a refurbished house in Beverly Hills, he waited. When she came out forty minutes later, he followed her to her destination. It wasn't a restaurant or even an office block where she could've conceivably had that dinner meeting.

  It was her apartment building.

  And because she had a window seat where she settled in with her laptop a few minutes later, her hair down and her dress replaced by what looked like a tank top over what must be shorts, he knew she wasn't expecting professional company.

  Thea hadn't had a working date. She hadn't had any kind of date.

  She just didn't want him.

  Thea finally stopped trying to get some work done and went to raid her stash of Peanut Butter Creme Oreos. Grabbing a tall glass of milk, she sat down at the round kitchen table that had come with the apartment and methodically demolished four of the cookies. She didn't tear them apart, didn't eat the creamy filling and the cookie separately. She bit directly into each one, chewing the bite dry before chasing it down with milk.

  It should've been intensely satisfying, a treat she saved for days when she'd dealt with too many dickheads and idiots. Today... today she'd had a tough day, but it had ended even tougher. Not because David was either a dickhead or an idiot, but the opposite. He was smart, talented, bone-meltingly sexy.

  Gorgeous eyes of light brown she'd seen turn gold with his mood, rich mahogany hair with strands of bronze, a strong, muscled body, and warm-toned skin that made her want to run her hands all over him--he couldn't be more delicious. Throw in that heartbreaking smile and his personality, and David was a bitably perfect package of man.

  He was also a client.

  Schoolboy Choir as a group was her biggest client by far. Even more importantly, they were clients she liked.

  Fox, Noah, Abe, and David had their moments, but for the most part, the four were amazing to work with--they took their music seriously and extended the same courtesy to her. Even when one or more of them bitched about the publicity she organized, they were consummate professionals on the day. Okay, so Abe had gone off on a reporter last year, but the little weasel had been asking for it.

  In no universe was it a good idea to shove a picture of a man's not-yet-ex-wife under his nose after he'd come off a turbulent red-eye flight, especially when that picture showed said not-yet-ex-wife pregnant with another man's child. Thea would never admit it to Abe, but she'd cheered a tiny bit inside when he slugged that reporter.

  And she was babbling inside her head because she didn't want to think about what had happened in her office.

  "David asked me out," she said to the eggshell-white walls that had been a screaming pink when she moved in. That had been six months ago, three hours after she found her fiance with his face buried between the thighs of an ex-cheerleader shopping for a corporate husband.

  Slamming the door shut on that ugly memory because she refused to allow Eric and his bimbo to steal any more of her emotional energy, she rubbed her hand over her face. Damn it, why did it have to be David?

  Four Months Later...

  Chapter 1

  David didn't bother to tell any of the others he was heading out. The rest of the band, as well as the long-term crew, all knew he liked to take a long, quiet walk the night before a show. Sometimes it took a bit of fancy footwork to slip out unnoticed, but on the whole, it wasn't too bad. He was lucky; he tended to attract far less media attention than Fox, Noah, and Abe.

  Tonight it had been even easier than usual. Most of the media hounds had gone home, and the ones still hanging around weren't going to waste their time tailing the "Gentleman of Rock" when they might get a titillating shot of one of the others doing sexy things with a beautiful woman.

  Leaving the area immediately around the Sydney hotel where the band was staying pre-concert, he flipped up the hood of his dark gray sweatshirt, shoved his hands into the pockets of his black pants, and started walking. He should've changed from his tailored white shirt and black pants to jeans and a tee, but he'd wanted to get out of the hotel too much to waste even five more minutes.

  He could remember exactly when he'd begun to take these walks--way back during Schoolboy Choir's first ever national tour. Overwhelmed by the attention and the constant demands from people who wanted a piece of him, he'd just needed to breathe. Ironic how that was. When he'd been a kid in a tiny apartment in the Bronx, he'd dreamed of a shiny car and a big house, and when he could afford all that and more, the only thing he wanted was the anonymity of walking the city streets.

  Sydney was a city he'd visited before with the band, so instead of sticking to the main drags, he wandered off the beaten path. It was on his way back to the hotel over an hour later that he found himself on what appeared to be the fringe of a red-light district. The shadowed and slightly seedy streets filled with strip clubs and hole-in-the-wall bars suited his current mood.

  "Get over her, David," he told himself, not for the first time. "Take a woman home and fuck it out."

  Except even as he spoke, he knew it wasn't that easy. He'd tried after Thea made it clear she had no interest in him. Two nights after her rejection, he'd found himself at a party overflowing with leggy models who had a soft spot for rock musicians. A raven-haired beauty with pillowy lips and generous breasts had draped herself all over him, whispering an explicit invitation in his ear. It had involved the bathroom floor and her on her knees in front of him.

  How fucked up was it that he'd turned her down? As fucked up as the fact that he was being faithful to a woman who didn't want him. Frustrated with himself for still being so damn hurt, he shoved a hand through his hair, pushing off the hood as he came within sight of another random bar with a beat-up black door and no bouncer.

  Deciding he might as well get a beer if he was going to brood, he walked into the dark and dingy place full of scarred wooden tables and hard men. They looked like the construction workers and bricklayers he'd run errands for as a boy, before he'd won the scholarship to the boarding school where he'd met his best friends.

  His shoulders eased.

  He felt far more comfortable in a place like this than in the five-star restaurants and fancy clubs where everyone expected chart-topping musicians to hang out. "Beer--whatever you have on tap," he said to the grizzled bartender and grabbed a stool, his eye on the rugby game in progress on the TV screen bolted above the bar.

  He'd hardly taken a sip of his beer, the dark liquid bitingly cold, when he felt a presence at his back. Instincts honed by a childhood in one of the toughest areas of New York had him focusing on the mirror behind the bar to check out the situation before he turned. A big, bald, and heavily muscled male with a spiderweb tattoo on his neck was standing behind and just to the side of David, a smirk on his pockmarked face.

  Belly heating, David turned with a slight smile. "Problem?"

  The bald man bared his teeth and, laughing, looked to a table to his right. "Hear that, boys?" he called out to his friends. "The pussy rock star here wants to know if there's a problem."

  Laughter and shouts from that particular table, while the rest of the men in the bar went quiet. David didn't move, taking a measure of the players without letting it show. "Always know your opponent" had been one of the first things his father had taught him--Vicente Rivera didn't believe in turning the other cheek; he believed in teaching his sons how to put bullies on the ground and keep them there.

  "Yeah, there's a problem," the bald guy said, shoving at David's shoulder. "This is a real bar for real men. Not pussies."

  Like that, then. Good. He was in the mood to do some violence. Lifting his beer, David took a long drink, then slammed it down... and punched Bald Head in the jaw at the same time that he kicked out with his foot to connect with the other man's knee. The jackass went down like a ton of bricks.

  Roaring in rage, the man's friends came at David.

  He grinned and started to show them what this "pussy rock star" could do.

  It wasn't until they'd broken a table and several chairs, and the bartender had called the cops that David realized Thea would have to deal with the fallout from this. Fuck, fuck, fuck, he thought as he was shoved into a cell alone, his erstwhile opponents in the cell opposite. Sliding down the graffiti-marked wall to the floor, he thought about the phone call the desk sergeant had said he could make and decided against it.

  Fox had Molly with him--the band's lead singer had been waiting for his girl to arrive since the instant Schoolboy Choir set foot in the city. As for Noah and Abe, they both had their own plans. He knew any one of the three men would drop those plans in an instant to come to his aid, but since the cops had made it clear he'd be spending the night in a cell no matter what, why mess up their plans?

  "You do or say anything that'll hit the media, you call me. Day or night. I hate surprises--so don't you dare surprise me."

  Thea had given that order to all four of them when she'd agreed to act as their publicist. Her up-front nature and dedication to her job was part of the reason they'd hired her; Thea was the best and she didn't take any shit from her clients. He wasn't doing himself any favors by not calling her.

  Right then, David couldn't find it in himself to care. It wasn't as if she could hurt him any more than she already had. And Jesus, how long was he going to carry this torch that was burning him alive? "Fuck, fuck, fuck," he said aloud, banging the back of his head against the wall.

 
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