Others a celebrity bad boy.
Me? I call him the arrogant bastard who stole my concert venue.
His apology? To take me and my violin on tour with the band.
It’s an offer I can’t refuse, even if it does come with strings attached.
Because Rey Thomas isn’t who he seems.
Life isn’t pretty behind the deviant frontman’s facade.
It’s raw, ugly, and at times downright painful.
But it’s real.
And far better than the lie he presents to the world.
The man behind the face of Dark Tide is beautiful in his chaos.
All I have to do is keep him alive long enough to see that too.
The quiet guy who offered to help me carry it heads for the counter, and is immediately assailed by some desperate woman with a napkin.
“You’re really something, huh?” I muse as I lift my coffee to take a sip.
“I like to think so.” His gaze bores into mine despite the fact the horn bag with the napkin is lining him up in her sights. “What kind of music do you play?”
“What do you care?”
We enter what appears to be a staring contest while he formulates his answer; piercing eyes fix firmly on me as I hold my coffee to my chest. His black hair is spiked haphazardly, yet a few loose tendrils across his face give him the mysterious edge that I imagine his groupies love. The T-shirt he wears is torn, fashionably so, and just enough that I can get a glimpse as the ink he hides below.
I sip my coffee with a smirk.
He leans forward, the studded cuff on his left wrist making a soft clink as it hits the timber surface.
“Ohmygod,” the horn bag breathes in one rushed syllable as she arrives at my table. “I can’t believe you’re in here.”
The cocky asshole drags his gaze from me and smiles at her, laying on the charm. “Good place to get a coffee, right?”
“The best,” she gushes, oblivious to the intense standoff she interrupted.
I sit back and sip my latte, sizing up the woman. She seems to be in her late twenties, early thirties at most. What surprises me is that she’s dressed like a soccer mom. Not exactly what I’d expect a fan of a man kitted out in denim, leather, and enough chains to rival a prison warden to look like.
“Can you sign this?”
“Kris leave me any room?” He takes the napkin from her, brushing his fingers over hers.
The woman damn near comes on the spot. Slick move, asshole.
“I think there’s a space up here.” And in one swift move, Soccer Mom transforms to Desperate Housewife with the tilt of her hips. The blouse that mere seconds ago demurely hid her assets now hangs like a slack sail in the Dead Sea, giving the cocky asshole to my left the perfect view of her ample tits.
Shoot me if I ever turn into one of those.
“Thanks.” He takes the pen she offers and then scratches a quick message for her like he probably has a million times before.
She leaves with her smile a little wider, and her panties more than likely a darn sight wetter.
“Excuse me.” I pull my phone out, amused to find him frowning at me in my periphery.
“What are you doing?” He leans closer to see my screen, wafting what has to be pure pheromones under my nostrils. How the fuck do they make men’s cologne so addictive?
“I’m googling your name, since you won’t introduce yourself properly.”
He laughs, the rich sound traveling throughout the shop as his bandmate, Kris, returns with a table number.
“Shouldn’t you have like a private coffee shop, or something?” I sass. “Don’t celebrities like you get places shut down so they can drink in peace?” The result comes up on my screen, along with an assortment of very hot performance shots. Damn, this man can rock studs.
“She’s kidding right?” Kris mumbles to the cocky asshole.
“I don’t think so.” He smiles at me, leaning back casually in his seat. “I can’t believe you don’t know my name.” The jerk spreads his legs wide, a denim-clad knee perilously close to my thigh.
“Do you know every stranger you meet’s name?” I lift an eyebrow at him. “Rey?”
“Babe, I’m not a stranger.” Fucker still smiles. “I haven’t had to introduce myself for the past four and half years.”
“Since we first made Billboard,” Kris adds quietly.
I like him. He’s not in-your-face like this jackass to my left. He’s quiet, humble even. He actually makes me want to hold a conversation with him.
Rey, on the other hand…. “You’re a little full of yourself, aren’t you?”
Kris smiles behind his linked hands, elbows on the table.
“Would you prefer to be full of me?” Rey wiggles a pierced eyebrow.
“You have to be shitting me,” I mumble, looking away.
“You never answered my question, Tabitha,” Rey taunts. “Or can I call you Tabby, since you’re like a wild cat, all claws and snarl?”
I almost smile at his comment… almost.
“Tabitha.” I look back at the guy, pissed at myself for recognizing that he is in fact pretty damn good-looking. Bastard. “And I play classical. A little bit of crossover.”
“Classical.” Rey looks like he’s fit to burst. “People still listen to that?”
“They do.” I give him a hard stare, and then shift focus to Kris. “In all honesty, I am surprised you two don’t have security or some kind of protection if you’re that shit hot.”
He lifts an inked finger and points to a burly guy outside the shop. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the man was Joe Public. He’s big, sure, but he’s dressed in sweats and a T-shirt. No earpiece, no Secret Service-style shades. He just looks… normal.
“I think his name’s Pete,” Kris mumbles. “He turned up late. Hence why you got in.”
“You think his name is Pete?” I snort a laugh.
“He’s not our normal crew,” Rey fills in. “Hired while we’re in town.”
“Oh.” Frustrated by how quickly the conversation has turned comfortable, I redirect back to the issue at hand. “Can I ask why you’re at my table?”
“We need coffee.” Rey shrugs.
“At my table, though?”
“Figured we got off on the wrong foot.” He wrinkles his nose. It’s cute. No it’s not. Focus, Tab.
“Can’t blame me for that.” I take a nonchalant sip of my coffee… and promptly choke on a bubble of foam that gets stuck on the roof of my mouth near my throat. Slick.
“Can’t blame us, either,” Rey retorts.
It’s okay, asshole. I don’t need a pat on the back or anything. Just unable to breathe for a beat there, but you just take it easy, okay?
“Rick organized the whole thing,” he finishes, unfazed by the tears teetering on the rims of my eyes.
“Yeah, Kris. I am now. Thanks.” I wipe the moisture away before I end up looking bat-shit crazy with mascara down my face.
“Where you from?”
“Pardon?” I glare at Rey.
“Your accent. You’re not American.”
I give the muppet a slow clap.
His nostrils flare when a few customers look across at our table. “Are you Austral—”
I lift a palm to stop him. “Don’t say it.”
“Don’t you dare assume I’m Australian. There’s more than one country down there, you know.”
He stares at me, blank. Fuck my life.
“Kris, help him out here.” I down the last of my coffee.
“New Zealand,” he murmurs to Rey.
“Oh.” His face stays blank as a clean slate.
“You’ve heard of it, right?” I ask.
“Of course I have,” he scoffs.
“But you didn’t know where it was.”
He smiles, and damn it all if that doesn’t make me do so too. Stay strong. I can’t fawn over this guy like every other female on the planet, not when my objective is to make his life hell. Not that I know how I’m going to do that just yet.
“Geography was never my thing,” he explains as Kendall brings their drinks over.
She sets Rey’s down first, and then throws me a sneaky look behind his back before setting Kris’s before him.
“Later,” I mouth while both boys are distracted adding sugar.
She gives me her don’t test me eye, and then leaves.
“Well,” I announce, pushing my empty cup to the middle of the table. “This has been swell, guys, but I really must press on.”
I get halfway to my feet before a strong hand to my thigh shunts me back in the chair. Holy hell, that was intense.
“Sit.” Rey stirs his coffee, eyes on the amber swirl. “I’m not finished with you yet.”