Insider, p.24

Insider, page 24

 part  #1 of  Exodus End Series


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  Many of the male patrons at the bar cheered his boasting.

  Once Trey had collected his cock-blocking pest of a girlfriend and the game had been set up, Logan stood next to the knees of one participant and waited for the festivities to begin. He couldn’t make it obvious that he was losing on purpose; he’d never live it down. At the very least, he had to make it look like he was trying.

  “Go!” Steve shouted.

  Logan leaned over the woman’s crotch, used his teeth to pick up the shot glass balanced on her pelvis, and tilted his head back to pour tequila down his throat. He swallowed, dropped the glass on the floor and bent over the woman again to lick the salt off her belly. He took the next shot glass off her stomach, which was a challenge because she was fighting a case of the giggles. Logan dropped that glass as well and fished the lime from between her tits with his mouth. Good thing she was relatively flat-chested, so it didn’t take too many swipes of his tongue to retrieve the green wedge. He bit into the lime and spit out the rind, wincing at the tartness on his tongue. He then snorted the bump of cocaine off her collarbone. Logan stood abruptly, smacking himself in the eye when the rush went straight to his head. He produced a full-body shudder and peeked at Steve’s progress. Steve was still trying to get the lime out from between his girl’s tits. Probably because he was doing more licking than lime seeking. Damn. Logan rubbed his nose and sniffed, shooting a second rush of exhilaration up into his brain. Whoa! Good shit. He didn’t do coke often—he was hyper enough without it. But how was he going to lose if Steve was so far behind? He had only one task left to complete.

  Carla—was that even her name?—lifted a maraschino cherry toward him with her fingertips. Normally when he played this game, he licked and sucked the woman’s fingers as he attempted to get the cherry in his mouth, but in this case, he went after it with his teeth. He groaned when the first cherry fell to the floor and she had to grab a second cherry out of the bowl near her hip. He caught a glimpse of Steve snorting his bump of coke—finally—and going after a cherry without pause. That meant they were neck and neck. Logan might not have to throw the game after all. Holding the second cherry between his teeth, he moved to stand over the woman’s face. The idea was to get it from his mouth into hers without touching her lips. Which was way easier if he got up close and personal, but he dropped his cherry from full standing height and cringed as it fell toward her wide open mouth in a perfect trajectory. Shit! Why did this chick have to have a mouth like Steven Tyler? It was like dropping the cherry into a kiddie pool.

  The cherry hit her tooth and for a second he thought it might bounce out of the gaping orifice. But no, in it went. The riveted crowd cheered.

  His stomach dropped into his shoes.

  Well, fuck. Now what was he supposed to do?

  “That was a close one!” Steve said, coming over to pound Logan on the back. “But I won again. You suck at this!”

  Wait? He’d lost? Woo hoo!

  Uh, he meant damn. How had he lost? He’d been so far ahead before that first cherry had gotten away from him.

  “I’ll get you next time,” Logan said, punching Steve in the shoulder several times.

  Steve leaned in close to Logan’s ear. “You would have won this time if you weren’t so pussy whipped.”

  Logan shoved his laughing opponent out of his face. “Whatever.”

  He was relieved when Steve left with his two happy prizes. No one else would bother him about his disinterest in chasing skirts tonight. He thought about going back to the bus and crawling into bed with Toni, but even the small dose of coke he’d snorted made him way too fucking hyper. He’d never be able to sleep and would disturb her rest. So he burned off some of his excess energy by making an ass of himself on the dance floor. And then he burned off some more by talking like an auctioneer to anyone who would listen and to several people who weren’t listening. By the time he finally settled down, the bar was mostly empty and it was well after three a.m. Normally the cops would have come to make everyone go home after two. But police tended to look the other way when Exodus End was out on the town. Unless Steve stirred up a fight or someone was rushed to the hospital with alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose. Such things didn’t happen as much as they used to. The band members were slowing down now that they were all in their thirties.

  “We’re like a bunch of old ladies,” Logan said to a lamp post as he stumbled back toward the bus.

  One of the security team stopped him from walking into a fire hydrant. “I got this,” he assured the guy and patted him on the chest. “Do you think Toni is sleeping?”

  “I don’t know, sir,” the man said. He had a buzz cut and deeply tanned skin. But Logan mostly noticed his yellow shirt. That meant he was one of Logan’s own and he could trust him. “It is very late.”

  “I think I’ll wake her up.” He lifted his T-shirt to his nose and sniffed. “Does this smell like women’s perfume?” He offered the shoulder area of his T-shirt to the security guard, who was now walking beside him with his arms out, as if trying to save a toddler from falling on the cement and cracking open his skull. Perhaps Logan was stumbling to his left. But just a little. “Smell it. Smell it.”

  The guy took a whiff. “Yes, sir. It does smell like perfume.”

  “Shit. She’s going to think I’ve been messing around with other women. I didn’t though.” He patted the guy’s arm. “Why didn’t I?”

  “I don’t know, sir.”

  “Fuck it.” Logan stripped his T-shirt off over his head and tossed it on the ground. “Burn that,” he said.

  “Yes, sir.”

  Another of the security team that was trailing Logan picked up the discarded shirt.

  “I’m tired.” Logan felt himself fading. He just hoped he blacked out on something softer than the sidewalk.

  “Would you like to go back to the bus, sir?”

  Logan scowled. “Isn’t that where I’m going?”

  The guy somehow managed not to laugh. “No, sir.” He nodded in the opposite direction. “The bus is that way.”

  Logan turned around, squinted down the sidewalk, and recognized the bus almost a block away under a bunch of bright street lamps.

  “So it is.” He turned on his heel and started toward the bus. Again. “I think I might be drunk.”

  “It’s a possibility, sir.” Logan knew they hired a lot of military veterans to serve on their security team, but why did this guy keep calling him sir? It made him feel old.

  Logan ambled toward the bus, his thoughts—as always—on the woman he’d met the night before. “Do you think she really is my girlfriend?”

  Enough people had certainly mistaken her as important to him.

  “Who’s that, sir?”


  “I’m sure I don’t know, sir.”

  Logan sighed. “I’m sure I don’t know either.”


  “On your feet, soldier!”

  Toni sprang from a dead sleep to her best impersonation of an army private standing at full attention—complete with salute—before she realized she wasn’t dreaming. There really was a blurry drill-sergeant type standing over the sofa.

  “Not you,” the very large, very muscular man said to a half-groggy, half-terrified, completely confused Toni. “I’m going to make bread pudding out of your doughy boyfriend here.”

  Doughy? If Logan was doughy, then Toni was a bag of jumbo marshmallows.

  “Go to hell, Kirk,” Logan muttered before he buried his head under his pillow.

  Toni doubted he’d even been asleep three hours. He apparently thought it was his job to be that last person to leave an after-party. When he’d crawled onto the sofa and passed out next to her, it had been after three.

  “Wrong answer. Everyone else is already in the gym,” Kirk said. “Get your lazy ass out of bed before I embarrass you in front of your girlfriend.”

  Surely he meant Logan’s justfriend.

  It wasn’t even fully light o
utside yet, Toni realized as she blinked at the open doorway and out the just visible windshield. The bus door stood wide open and a cool breeze blew down the corridor, chilling her bare legs. She tugged on the hem of her sleepshirt, glad she’d decided to pull it on when she’d gone to bed the night before. Otherwise she’d currently be in the buff while she continued to salute Drill Sergeant Kirk. Feeling ridiculous, she dropped her arm, and then she found her glasses on the coffee table. She stuck them on her face and gawked at the giant of a man—he had to be at least six foot eight, with the shoulders of a gorilla and biceps bigger than her head. She was sure he could crush watermelons between his enormous thighs. The giant yanked the blanket off Logan and tossed it on the floor.

  “I’m not embarrassed,” Logan said to Kirk as his pillow was snatched away and thrown across the room. “She’s already seen me naked.”

  “But has she seen you hogtied and physically carried out of the bus before?” Kirk shouted.

  Logan smirked and opened one eye to look up at the man towering over him. “Is that a threat, Captain Kirk?”

  Toni pressed her lips together so she didn’t laugh as she pictured the hulking muscle man in a Starfleet uniform. In her mind’s eye, it was several sizes too small and bursting at the seams.

  “How many times do I have to tell you I was an enlisted man, not an officer?” Kirk asked. Well, he actually yelled it. Toni wondered if the “inside voices” speech she used with Birdie would work on him.

  “Sorry. I keep forgetting,” Logan said, sitting up and rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands. “Go back to the gym and torture the other guys. I’ll be there in a minute.”

  “If I have to come back to get you, I’m getting out my cattle prod,” Kirk said.

  “Promises, promises.”

  Kirk turned and seemed to actually see Toni for the first time. His scrutinizing gaze traveled down her body and back up again. He frowned and offered her a curt nod. “You should come with him.”

  She crossed her arms self-consciously over her not-even-close-to-rock-hard abs. “I was planning on it,” she said, wanting some candid shots for her project. However, she had no plans to work out and make a fool of herself in front of the fine specimen of a man on the sofa who was currently stretching like a sleepy cat and muttering negative slurs against the effects of alcohol.

  “Good.” Kirk left the room, his footsteps surprisingly light as he jogged the length of the bus and down the steps.

  “So that’s the band’s physical trainer, I take it?” Toni said.

  “No,” Logan said, his tone thick with sarcasm. “He bakes us cupcakes.”

  “Mmm, caaaake,” Toni said in the voice of a zombie craving brains. She wished Kirk really did bake cupcakes. Her sweet tooth hadn’t been satisfied once since she’d stepped on the bus. She was surprised by how healthy these guys ate. But then they probably wouldn’t look so fit and delicious if they subsisted on beer and Cheetos.

  “Caaaake,” Logan copied her.

  “Do you guys always exercise and eat well?” she asked as she found a pair of yoga pants in her bag and slid them on over her sleep shorts. She figured she could dress comfortably while following the guys around in the gym and no one would notice. She changed into a clean shirt as well.

  “Only when we’re under Sam’s thumb,” Logan said. “You’ll get to watch me lounge around and binge on junk food tomorrow.”

  His day off. She smiled, looking forward to having his undivided attention and no social engagements. She couldn’t really complain anyway. He’d done a remarkable job of spending time with her, even though he was so incredibly busy with the tour. Well, except for leaving her alone while he’d stayed at the party. She wondered if he’d had fun while she was sleeping like a rock.

  “Assuming I can lift my hands as high as my mouth after Kirk is finished with me,” Logan added.

  With a sigh, he stood and made a pit stop in the bathroom—taking a lengthy pee with the door wide open. The man had no boundaries. He then swallowed a few painkillers with a sports drink he grabbed out of the fridge—still deliciously in the buff—before putting on a pair of tight briefs.

  “Gotta keep the boys from flopping about,” he told her with a wink. He covered his black underwear with a pair of shorts, and they sat side by side on the sofa to put on their socks and trainers.

  “Pink and blue zigzags today,” Logan said as he waited for her to grab her camera and other equipment.


  “Your socks.”

  She hadn’t paid attention to what she’d put on.

  “Do you approve?” she asked, snuggling into his side when he wrapped an arm around her and directed her toward the door.

  “Seeing what socks you’re wearing is like getting an extra little surprise every time I get you naked.”

  “You don’t have to get me naked to see my socks,” she reminded him as she stepped in front of him so she could take the narrow stairs to the ground.

  “But I prefer it that way.”

  Logan shivered when he stepped off the bus. He hadn’t put on a shirt. And Toni couldn’t resist running a hand over his gooseflesh and the taut nipples that were now begging for her attention.

  “Why is it so damned cold?” Logan rubbed his hands briskly over his upper arms.

  “Probably because the sun isn’t even up yet.”

  “Yeah, well, most of the gyms will only accommodate us taking over their facility if we do it in their off hours. So we get to work out at oh dark thirty.”

  Toni wrote a note on her hand about asking Butch how they coordinated gym time. Sounded like a huge hassle just to exercise.

  “Can’t you work out at the hotel or something?” she asked.

  “We do. But every three days, Kirk insists on free weights.”

  “Of course he does,” Toni muttered under her breath. The man could probably deadlift a tank.

  The gym was a surprising flurry of activity. She’d anticipated seeing the band members of Exodus End, but most of the crew—including Butch—and two members of Sinners—lead singer Sed Lionheart and the short guy with spikey blond hair, whose name and instrument escaped Toni at the moment—were already working up a sweat. There were a couple of women she didn’t recognize on the elliptical machines. Toni was pretty sure the one who looked like a supermodel was Sed Lionheart’s wife. Reagan wasn’t with the other women. She was curling a set of large dumbbells and making faces at herself in the mirror that spanned one large wall. Her hunk of a tall, dark, and handsome bodyguard was keeping a close eye on her while he performed squats.

  Toni turned on her video camera and waited for some magic to happen. She didn’t have to wait long.

  “Behold!” Logan said raising both arms in the air and flicking his wrists to wave his hands down at himself. “Lo.”

  “I think you mean lo and behold,” Dare said as he slid a black disk labeled 25kg on the end of a weight bar.

  “Prepare to be shocked and amazed,” Logan continued. He spun in a slow circle as he scoped out the room.

  Toni couldn’t help but giggle at his attention-seeking theatrics.

  “We’re all amazed that you’re here,” Max said as he pulled his chin over a bar. “What time did you get to bed?”

  “Three a.m. Five. I don’t know.”

  “Did Kirk have to carry you off the bus again?”

  “Shut up,” Logan said in Max’s direction. “He’s only done that once.”

  “For being late, you can drop and give me twenty,” Kirk shouted as he handed an upside-down Steve a weight to hold against his chest as he did inverted crunches. That would explain Steve’s eight-pack, Toni mused as she snapped several pictures of said eight-pack.

  “Twenty?” Logan said. “Is that all?”

  “For your cockiness, make it thirty,” Kirk said.

  “You’re boring me, Kirk.” Logan rolled his eyes and examined each person in the room. “I challenge you,” he said, pointing at the bleach-blond m
an from Sinners, “to a push-up duel.”

  “Me?” the guy said, looking flabbergasted.

  Dare grumbled, “Here we go again,” before he used his teeth to tear the tape he was wrapping around one hand and wrist.

  Sed burst out laughing and pounded his bandmate on the back. “Go kick his ass, Jace.”

  Jace Seymour. Sinners’ bassist, Toni recalled suddenly. Apparently her body was out of bed while her brain was still asleep. Jace was the smallest guy in the place. Toni wondered why Logan had singled him out.

  Logan rotated his arms in wide circles and then stretched them over his head, jogging in place next to a mat as he waited for Jace to join him.

  “What’s a push-up duel?” Jace asked as he stepped next to Logan.

  “A game I never lose,” Logan said.


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