Insider, p.35

Insider, page 35

 part  #1 of  Exodus End Series


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  “Nah,” Butch said, shaking his head. “I’m sure she’d think it odd.” He lowered his voice and said under his breath, “Not as odd as socks.”

  “And I’ll need a supply of all my usual junk food.”

  “You don’t even have to ask. It’s already in your room.”

  “And I have an unusual craving for strawberry shortcake.”

  “That is unusual,” Butch said, grinning to himself as he jotted a note on his schedule. “Got it.”

  Logan was going to write Butch into his will.

  “Are you still going white-water rafting tomorrow?” Butch asked.

  Logan scowled. He’d completely forgotten he’d scheduled a day trip with a couple of buddies he’d met while rafting the Mad Mile a few years before. Every time he came through Montana, the three of them headed down the Gallatin River. But not this time. He’d much rather spend all day in bed, though he planned to get little rest. “I’m going to have to cancel.”

  “I’ll take care of it,” Butch said, his grin broadening.

  “Thanks for having my back, man,” Logan said as he slugged him affectionately.

  “Any time.”

  Butch pulled out his cellphone to work his usual magic, and Logan headed to the back of the bus to join the others. There were no available seats, so he stood behind Toni and stroked her hair. He didn’t understand his inexplicable need to touch her at all times. It was as baffling to him as it apparently was to the three men gawking at him from around the semicircular booth. The only guy on the bus who seemed to understand his fixation was Trey Mills. Trey offered him a curt nod and knowing smile before wrapping an arm around Reagan’s shoulders and tugging her closer to him in the booth. She giggled when Trey whispered in her ear. They both turned their heads to look to the back of the bus where the door to the lounge stood ajar. Before Logan could blink, the lovers had risen from the table, sprinted through the open door, and slid it shut with a definitive bang.

  “And there he goes again,” Dare said with resigned sigh.

  “At least you aren’t competing with Ethan today,” Steve said. His gaze darted to Toni. “I mean, those two guys are great friends, you know?”

  “Inseparable,” Dare agreed.

  “I know about their polyamorous relationship,” Toni said, munching on a plain potato chip. “Reagan told me. So you don’t have to worry about guarding what you say. Why isn’t Ethan here with them?”

  “I’m sure he wanted to be, but he’s with the rest of the security team securing the hotel before we arrive,” Max said.

  “Are you guys really in that much danger?” Toni asked, pausing with her sandwich halfway to her mouth.

  “There have been incidents,” Max said, drawing his brows together.

  “There are a lot of crazies out in the world,” Logan said. “And for some reason, we attract them.”

  Toni reached into her pocket and pulled out her recording device. She set it on the table in plain sight. A red light blinked steadily on its top. Logan wondered how long the thing had been recording.

  “What kind of incidents?” Toni asked, her gaze on Max.

  “He’s usually bothered by beautiful women,” Steve said. “I’m the one that crazy dudes want to pick fights with for no reason.”

  “Can’t blame a guy for wanting to smack the smug off your face,” Logan said.

  “I’m not smug.”

  “So you’ve been in a lot of fights?” Toni asked.

  “A few,” Steve said vaguely, his gaze trained on the ceiling as he took a draw off his beer.

  A few? The guy had been in more fights than Mike Tyson. And he rarely instigated them. Dudes really did pick fights with him for no reason.

  Getting no further details from Steve, Toni turned her attention back to Max. “I assume women do some pretty desperate stunts to get you to take them to your bed.”

  “They try,” Logan said.

  “Max is very discriminating when it comes to bed partners,” Dare said, nudging Max, who was seated beside him, with his elbow.

  “I believe in quality over quantity,” Max said, looking amused as he scratched his nose with the back of his hand.

  “Unlike Logan,” Steve claimed. “He’ll fuck anyone.”

  So that was why guys picked fights with Steve.

  “Including me,” Toni said. Logan couldn’t see her face and couldn’t tell by her voice if she was upset or not. “Boy, he must have low standards.”

  “I didn’t mean it that way,” Steve said, reaching across the table to squeeze Toni’s hand.

  He was really asking for an ass-beating now. No one touched Toni but Logan.

  “Get your hands off of her,” Logan growled.

  “Or you’ll do what?” Steve asked.

  “Introduce your face to the bottom of my shoe.”

  Dare sighed and shook his head. “We get it, Logan. She’s yours. You don’t have to lift your leg and piss on her.”

  Max chuckled. “I’m actually enjoying this. How often do we get to tease Logan about his feelings for a woman?”

  That’s it, I’m going to have to kick all their asses. The queue for ass-whippings starts here.

  Toni lifted a hand to cover his. He hadn’t realized he was squeezing her shoulder so tightly until her gentle touch brought attention to it. He immediately loosened his hold and tried to smooth out any damage.

  “He doesn’t have feelings for me,” Toni said. “We’re justfriends.”

  She was so very wrong about that, but he was still too much of a chicken shit to correct her. Why were jumping out of airplanes and doing back flips on his dirt bike and playing concerts in front of a hundred thousand people easier than telling this sweet woman that he was over the moon for her? It made no fucking sense to him, but it was a fact. Sharing how he felt terrified him to the bone.

  “Of course he doesn’t,” Steve said, laughing hysterically.

  Several hours later, they left the tour bus parked in the lot behind the arena and a limousine shuttled the band members and their weekend luggage to the hotel—because limousines were far less noticeable than tour buses. Right. Logan convinced Toni to leave her cameras and recording devices locked under the bus, but she insisted on bringing her laptop in case she had time to make progress on her book. Logan, however, was determined that she wouldn’t have a second to spare on work. Tonight and tomorrow were all about play.

  “It doesn’t feel right to make someone else do my laundry,” Toni said on the elevator after Logan had collected his room keys from Butch.

  She’d wanted to bring her dirty clothes so she could head off to a laundry and wash them. She wouldn’t have time for that nonsense either.

  “It’s not a big deal. We pay someone to come clean up after us on every off day. It’s their job. You wouldn’t want to deny them their job, would you?”

  “I suppose not, but I should at least pay them out of my own pocket.”

  Logan chuckled. Then he brushed her hair behind her ear with one hand. “I don’t think they’ll notice a few extra socks in the mix. Unless they drive themselves batty wondering why the mates to those socks have vanished.”

  “I hope they don’t discard them. My sister would be so upset.”

  “Your sister?”

  She pushed her glasses up her nose with the back of her wrist. “It wouldn’t interest you.”

  “When are you going to figure out that everything about you interests me?”

  Her slight smile and the blush on her smooth cheeks made him want to kiss her.

  “Birdie had a very hard time learning how to dress herself,” Toni said. “One morning she came into my room before the sun had risen, so proud of herself for having picked out her clothes and put them on without help. Her striped shirt was on backwards and her floral print leggings were wrong side out and she had on two different socks.”

  The look of love on Toni’s face as she talked about her younger sister made Logan’s heart swell. He wondered if anyone would
ever wear that expression while thinking of him.

  “I was tired and not ready to get out of bed yet, so I told her she’d done a good job but her socks didn’t match. I was hoping she’d let me sleep a while longer, to be honest. So off she went to find matching socks. But then she couldn’t find the mates, and she was so upset. I helped her search and we eventually found them in my sock drawer. I put them on as a joke and it made her so happy that we were both mismatched, but matching, that it became a regular thing. Every time we go to a store we buy several pairs of socks and divvy them between us. That way we’re always mismatched but matching. It makes Birdie giddy.”

  Logan kissed her forehead. “And here I thought you were just quirky.”

  She grinned up at him. “I’m plenty quirky,” she said, “but mostly I’m a slave to the happiness of those I love.”

  She said the word love so freely, he had no doubt she felt it deeply. And he envied her for both abilities. The elevator doors opened on the top floor just in time to stop him from spouting some sentimental bullshit he was sure to regret saying later.

  “This is a nice hotel,” she said, studying the narrow corridor. “Which room is mine?”

  “You’re staying with me.”

  “Are you sure you don’t mind?”

  “You’re kidding, right?”

  She poked him in the gut. “Yep.”

  He released an exaggerated sigh. “I thought I was going to have to resort to jerking off.”

  “You can still do that,” she said so quietly, he almost hadn’t heard her.

  “You’d like to watch, wouldn’t you?”

  She shrugged, but he remembered what had happened the last time he’d stroked his cock in her presence. She’d become a self-taught expert at sixty-nine.

  “I know it turns you on.” He slipped his key card into the slot on his door, glad the rest of the band had decided to stop at the restaurant for dinner before heading to their rooms. With the exception of a rather discreet member of their security team camped out next to the elevator, the corridor was empty. “What else turns you on, Toni?”

  “I’m not sure,” she said, scowling with introspection. “I do plan to find out tonight.”

  “And all day tomorrow.”

  “I doubt we’ll need the extra day to figure it out. I’m not all that complicated.”

  “You’re the most complicated woman I ever met,” he said as he opened the door to their room.

  She laughed when some of the balloons blocking their entrance floated out into the hall. “Is this the right room?”

  Logan batted his way through the red balloons, sending them bouncing off each other and the ceiling and Toni. There were several vases of flowers, tiered trays of chocolates, a silver bucket with chilling champagne, and the biggest strawberry shortcake he’d ever seen sitting on a table. Several sacks, which Logan assumed contained the requested sex toys, were lined up against the far wall, and half a dozen sets of lingerie had been artfully arranged on the bed. The outfits ranged from a sweet but short white lace teddy to a flirty babydoll made of a pink gauzy material complete with fur trim to a leather corset and thigh-high boots. Butch had overdone it again.

  “It’s the right room,” he said, a blush coursing up his neck. When he’d requested such items, he hadn’t realized it would look like he was taking his brand new lover on a freaking honeymoon.

  “What is all this?” She came into the room, glancing around wide-eyed, and set her messenger bag down by the door.

  Embarrassed, he shrugged. There was no way in hell he was admitting that this was his idea. “I guess the guys thought it would be funny to tease me about our first night together in a hotel.”

  He turned his head to peer at her sidelong. Was she buying it? A balloon bounced off his face when she volleyed it in his direction with the palm of her hand. He sent a barrage of balloons back her way, but very few managed to touch her. The helium kept sending them toward the ceiling before they could connect. But she was laughing as she fended off his attack with a swatting hand, and his embarrassment over discovering he was a romantic sap was quickly replaced by a buoyancy in his heart. Must be the balloons. He grabbed one in his hand and Toni’s arm in the other, tugging their bodies together with the balloon squashed between their bellies.

  “What are you doing?” she asked, her face flushed with laughter as she stared up at him.

  His arms circled her back and his hands slid down to her ass to tug her closer. “There are too many balloons in this room.”

  The balloon squeaked in protest as their bodies came closer together.

  “Don’t break—”


  They both jumped at the sound and then burst out laughing. He couldn’t resist kissing her smiling lips. When he drew away, she cocked her head to the side and scrutinized his face.

  “So how did the pranksters know I like strawberry shortcake?” she asked.

  Just play dumb. “What strawberry shortcake?”

  “That family-sized one over on the table. I can’t wait to devour it.”

  Logan turned his head to pretend to notice the pizza-sized cake covered with strawberries and whipped cream for the first time. “That is huge. Strange coincidence that it happens to be your favorite.”

  “Uh-huh,” she said, not sounding the least convinced. She pulled away and darted across the room. “So what’s in the sacks?”

  She’d probably believe his bandmates would tease them by filling their room with sex toys, so he didn’t try to stop her.

  Her brow crumpled as she pulled a package out of the first bag. “Socks?”

  She held up a clearly marked package containing a dozen pairs of plain white tube socks.

  “More socks?” She pulled out another pack of tube socks and another.

  Logan snorted and burst out laughing. He hadn’t been specific about the kind of socks.

  “Why do you need so many socks? Are your feet cold?”

  He shook his head. “Toss me a bag and I’ll show you what they’re for.”

  He ripped open the package she tossed to him and rolled up the sock, tucking the bulk of the sock into the open end so that it formed a soft ball. Standing next to the far side of bed, Toni watched him as he did the same on about half the socks in the pack, setting each ball in a neat pile on his side of the mattress between her new corset and lace teddy.

  “That’s a strange way to fold socks,” she said, fingering the soft fur that edged a tiny pink thong.

  He lifted one of the balls and tossed it up and down in one hand.

  “Sock ball fight!” he announced before throwing the sock at her and catching her in the shoulder. He managed to pummel her with several sock balls from his pile before she dove behind the bed for cover. A moment later her head poked up over the mattress and she threw a recovered sock ball at him, missing him by a mile. He bounced a ball off her head before she disappeared below the edge of the mattress again.

  “No fair!” she cried. “I don’t have any ammo.”

  “You have five bags of ammo,” he said, tossing another sock ball at her.

  “No prepared ammo!”

  He heard the sound of plastic tearing. A sock went sailing over the bed in his direction.

  “Sock snake!” she yelled. “It’s poisonous.”

  The poisonous sock snake landed on the bed near his hip. She peeked up over the bed to see if her projectile had hit its target. Logan seized the sock, pretending to fight off its venomous fangs. The harder she laughed, the more he escalated his theatrics. He flopped onto the bed on his back, struggling to keep the sock from tearing out his throat, until the vicious creature got the better of him and connected with his jugular. Sock still gripped in his hand, he threw his arms wide.

  “He got me,” he gasped and then went still.

  “Oh no!” Toni cried. “I need to suck the poison out.”

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