Insider, page 4part #1 of Exodus End Series
“Do you have luggage?” Logan asked. He placed a hand on the small of her back, and her entire body—from the soles of her feet to the top of her head—flushed with molten heat.
Whoa. What was that? She was much too young to be having hot flashes.
She turned her head and found him staring at her in bewilderment. Did he feel it too? Continual jolts of excitement buzzed through her flesh at the place where his hand touched her body. His eyes, an icy blue with a dark contrasting rim around the irises, held her gaze for an intense moment. Toni’s mouth went dry, her palms damp. She couldn’t look away. Was he getting closer? Or was she? His breath against her lips made them tingle. Her heart thudded faster. Faster. Blood rushed past her ears with dizzying ferocity. Wait. What was he doing? Was he about to kiss her?
Someone cleared his throat. Followed by someone else. And a third someone.
Toni turned her head to gawk at the other three rock stars. The three who were grinning at Logan and shaking their heads at him.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?” Toni asked. She pressed her fingertips to her face; her skin was on fire. Perhaps she’d contracted malaria, had a fever of 104, and was delirious. A hottie like Logan Schmidt kiss her? Yeah, right. No one kissed her unless they were losing at spin the bottle.
“Logan asked if you had any luggage,” Steve said.
“I did?” Logan asked.
His three bandmates laughed.
“I think so,” Toni said.
“Where is it? We need to get going,” Butch said.
“Uh.” Luggage? What’s luggage? Why wouldn’t her brain work? She really wasn’t an idiot. Usually. Yet she felt as if she’d checked her brain at the bus door. Oh yes, those suitcasey-type things. Her luggage. “Some guy put it under the bus when I arrived.”
“You won’t have access to it until morning,” Logan said. “If you need something to sleep in . . .” His eyes drifted over her frumpy turtleneck sweater, long corduroy skirt, and brown riding boots. He actually made her feel sexy, when she knew she was anything but. “Unless you sleep naked.”
“No!” she blurted. Was it possible to die of embarrassment? She hadn’t died of intimidation yet, but the combination of the two emotions just might do her in. “I have pajamas in my gym bag. It’s under the bus.”
Laughing, probably about her wearing pajamas, the guys headed up the bus steps in single file. Except Logan. He lifted a hand and touched her cheek with his fingertips. His thumb brushed her trembling lips. “A sweet lamb left to fend for herself in a den of wolves. Whatever will we do with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll see you inside.”
Minutes after he turned and climbed the bus steps, leaving Toni standing there with her heart thudding and her mouth agape, she could still feel the touch of his fingertips on her lips.
Logan grinned as he settled on the sofa next to Dare. “Three hours,” he said.
Dare chuckled. “Three days,” he countered.
“Never,” Steve said.
“Never?” Logan said. “Why would you say that?”
“She’s a good girl. She won’t fall into bed with you in three hours.” Steve raked his fingers through his long damp hair and used a band to tie it back.
“How do you know she’s a good girl?”
“If she wasn’t, she’d have already fallen into bed with me,” Dare said and offered a teasing wink.
“Doesn’t matter. Good girls are easy,” Logan said.
“Logan, don’t fuck with her,” Max said. “This is business, not for your twisted sense of pleasure.”
“I can mix business with pleasure.” Logan peered toward the open bus door. Shouldn’t Toni be climbing the steps now? He hoped he hadn’t scared her away. He found her incredibly attractive. He had a thing for women who understated their beauty, and Toni took understatement to a whole new level. And her rack? God, he could get lost between her enormous tits for hours. He hoped she wasn’t wearing a padded bra under that turtleneck sweater. He planned to find out really soon.
Dare thumped Logan on the side of the head. “You’re so full of shit.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You’re talking smack. You like her.”
“I don’t even know her. How could I like her?”
“Are you talking about me?” a soft, feminine voice said from the top of the bus steps.
Logan turned his head and smiled at her. “Of course not.”
“Oh,” she said, her face falling.
“I already know I like you,” he said.
Her hand moved to her mouth. She touched her lips with two fingers, and a pretty blush spread across her face. Sweet, shy, and female, a combination Logan could never resist. Especially the female part. Her fantastic tits were just a bonus.
“Have a seat, Toni,” Dare offered. He stood and took a gym bag from her hand. He set it on the floor next to the spot he’d vacated, making it clear that Toni should sit next to Logan on the sofa. Logan loved the guy. Such a thoughtful son of a bitch. Toni’s dark eyes, hidden behind a pair of thick-rimmed glasses, scanned the interior of the bus as if searching for refuge. Apparently the seat next to Logan was not it. Dare plopped himself down in the only available recliner and extended the leg rest, as if he had no intention of moving for the night.
“Th-thanks,” Toni said, pushing her glasses up her nose with one trembling hand.
Logan wasn’t sure what she was so nervous about all of a sudden. She’d seemed perfectly at ease when they’d been interacting with their fans. Perhaps she’d taken his comment about a lamb in a den of wolves to heart. He’d only been teasing, but he found her skittishness endearing in a world where most women threw all inhibitions to the wind when in the presence of any member of his band, much less all four of them.
The bus rumbled as it rolled forward. They were on the road again. Toni’s hands flew out as the unexpected movement threw her off balance.
She plopped down beside Logan, perching on the edge of a cushion as if the sofa’s back was made of shards of glass. Logan was pretty sure she was looking for the emergency exit. Her gaze settled on Butch, who was standing next to their driver and running over a strict schedule detailing how to get them to their next show in time while making a promotional stop between venues. Their schedule never had an inch of give. Their manager, Sam, was a genius when it came to getting the band the most exposure, but he had the tendency to believe that because they were a metal band, they were made of iron. They didn’t require useless things like down time and rest.
“So tell us more about this book,” Dare said, which was apparently the exact right thing to say to Toni, because her unease evaporated instantly.
“Have you seen the new interactive electronic textbooks?” she asked, her eager gaze moving from Dare to Max to Steve.
Logan was very conscious of the fact that she didn’t look at him once. He’d thought their attraction was mutual, but maybe not. He scooted several inches closer to her because he saw something he wanted and wasn’t one to sacrifice his personal needs for the greater good.
“Textbooks?” Steve asked. “Like for school and shit?”
“Yeah, that’s usually where textbooks are used,” she said, a teasing grin on her lush lips. When no one laughed, her face fell. Logan forced a guffaw about five seconds too late. That got his bandmates laughing. Not at Toni’s understated joke. They were laughing at his blatant stupidity. Nothing new there.
“I can’t say I’ve even seen a textbook since high school,” Steve said.
“These new interactive ones are amazing. Each topic has videos and pictures and links. It presents the information in a way that gets students who are used to constant entertainment excited about learning.”
“So you’re writing a textbook about us?” Dare asked, brows drawn together in a confused scowl.
“What kind of textbook would that be? A manual on mayhem and deb
Logan guffawed five seconds too late again. He was going to have to pay really close attention to what she said to figure out when she was joking. He didn’t think she lacked a sense of humor, she just looked serious. She’d definitely fit in better at a library than at standup-comedy night.
“The publishing company I work for designs and distributes these interactive textbooks,” she said. “Samuel Baily approached us to make an interactive book about the band, the first of its kind. He’s very forward thinking.”
That got the band laughing. “You might say that,” Max said. “Sometimes he’s a bit too forward thinking. He’s got every minute of our schedules booked for the next eighteen years. He thinks we’re robots or something.”
Toni’s eyes bulged. “Eighteen years?” she muttered under her breath.
Surely she knew Max was joking, so why did she look so unsettled? Wondering if he could make her blush again, Logan scooted a few more inches closer to her. His knee brushed her thigh, and she yanked on her skirt. Other than her hands and face, not an inch of bare flesh was showing. He wasn’t sure exactly what she was trying to conceal. Maybe she wasn’t open to his attempts to seduce her. Which made her a challenge. Which, like her tits, he couldn’t resist. Or maybe she had a nice boyfriend at home. His loss.
“Speaking of robots,” Steve said. “How are the prototypes of our androids coming?”
“Good until they tried to replicate my dick and ran out of materials,” Logan said.
Toni’s sudden intake of breath made him grin. That shocked her? Seriously? Too easy.
“If they ran out of materials, it had to be due to Max’s giant forehead,” Steve said.
“Or your enormous feet,” Max countered.
Toni grabbed a pad of paper out of her bag and started writing furiously. Logan leaned against her shoulder to read what had her so excited. She was writing down their conversation. In the margin, she wrote: Keep video camera close at hand when all band members are together. They’re hilarious.
He was close enough to feel her body heat and inhale the sweet fragrance of her fruity shampoo. He wondered if she tasted as sweet as she smelled.
“For the record,” Logan said in her ear as he pointed toward her notes, “I was the one with the big dick.”
Toni leaped from the sofa as if it were on fire. Her gaze darted from one guy to the next, and she pushed her glasses up her nose with the back of her wrist. God, he wanted to take those glasses off, take those clothes off, and do things to her. Naughty, devious, delicious things.
“Um . . .”
The twin bumps poking against her shapeless turtleneck drew Logan’s attention. Hard nipples? Did his crassness turn her on? That was all the encouragement he needed to behave inappropriately. Visible nipples also meant that her bra was not padded. There was so much win in that, he should have her name engraved on a trophy.
“What’s wrong?” Logan asked. “I won’t bite. But I will nibble. And suck. And lick.”
She stared at him with her mouth agape and her eyes wide. Her nipples strained against her sweater, begging him to do all those things and more to the tips of those luscious melons.
She glanced down at her tits and immediately crossed her arms over her chest. “Is, um, there a bathroom I can use?”
“At the back of the bus,” Dare said, nodding his head toward the end of the corridor.
“Don’t take a dump in there,” Steve said. “We stop at rest areas to do that business.”
Face flaming, she sucked in a deep breath, turned, and sprinted to the back of the bus. She fumbled with the closet door and when it popped open, a stack of towels that had shifted during transit tumbled out and pummeled her in the face.
Logan climbed to his feet to rescue her. He decided to take it easy on her for the moment. He wouldn’t want to traumatize her so much she decided to leave. They both bent to pick up the same towel at the same time and bumped heads. They jerked apart and rubbed their heads in unison. Toni looked up at him, her brown, doe-like eyes watery with tears. He wasn’t sure if they were tears of pain or humiliation, but seeing them in her eyes did strange things to his chest. He wasn’t sure why it was suddenly tight.
“It’s okay,” he said, deciding that though it was fun to tease her, he’d better tone it down a bit. She obviously wasn’t used to it, and he didn’t want to harass a woman who wasn’t receptive to provocative flirting. He hadn’t intended to upset her, just wanted to have a little fun and get under that conservative skirt of hers. “I’ll get the towels, Toni. You go ahead and do your business.” He opened the bathroom door for her.
She lowered her hand from her forehead to reveal a large reddened bump.
Logan winced and leaned forward to press his lips to the lump. She sucked a startled breath into her chest. Shit. There he went crossing the line again.
“Sorry,” he murmured. “I always kiss boo-boos.”
“I have a pimple on my ass that needs kissing,” Steve called.
Logan closed his eyes and shook his head. “One of the things you should consider stressing in your book is how little fucking privacy a man has while on tour with his band.”
“I can include that,” she said, “but I think fans are more interested in the size of your dick.” She backed into the bathroom. “I know I am.” She bit her lip before closing the door in his face.
Toni knew she had about two minutes to compose herself, or the band was going to think she was taking a dump and smelling up the bus. She wouldn’t want to break such an important rule right off the bat. Why was she so off her game? Probably because she’d never expected to be hit on by a man so far out of her league. She cringed at her train of thought. What was with the baseball analogies? She didn’t even watch sports.
But she couldn’t figure out why the band’s bassist kept hitting on her. Not only was Logan Schmidt rich and famous, he was ridiculously gorgeous with all that thick golden curly hair and those sexy blue eyes. And those lips. Dear lord, he’d kissed her bare skin. Yes, it had been her forehead, but it had been skin, by God. Logan must be toying with her for the sheer amusement of watching her behave like a gooftacular reject. There was no other explanation. She relieved her bladder and flushed the toilet before gazing at herself in the mirror as she washed her hands in a marble sink. As she expected, she hadn’t suddenly spawned supermodel good looks. Her mouth was too wide, dirt-brown eyes too big, dull brown hair too frizzy, glasses too thick, style too lacking for a man like Logan Schmidt to afford her a second glance.
She wasn’t going to let him make fun of her, though. She had to earn their respect as a professional. She was here to do a job, not get hard nipples just because some rock god brushed up against her and told her his dick was big. She checked her chest to make sure her high beams were under control, straightened her spine and exited the bathroom. She hadn’t expected Logan to still be in the hall shoving towels back into the linen closet. Her hand moved automatically to her forehead—the memory of his lips brushing against her skin had her belly quivering.
“Do you need an icepack?” he asked, his eyes trained on the lump on her head.
“No, thank you. I’ll be fine.”
“He’s got a head like a brick,” Steve said. He was standing a few steps away at a small refrigerator with the door wide open. He grabbed a beer and closed the door.
“Tell me about it,” she said.
“Would you like a beer?” Steve asked, tilting a brown bottle in her direction.
“Maybe later. Right now, I’m on duty.”
“So tell us more about this book,” Steve pressed. “What are we supposed to contribute?”
Max and Dare joined the little huddle in the corridor near the bunks. Four rock stars watched her expectantly. Her deodorant was certainly demonstrating its worth tonight. She’d have to remember to apply twice her usual amount for the rest of her assignment.
“Smile!” Logan sang. “You’re on candid camera.”
Toni laughed. “I promise not to play practical jokes on you.” She made the mistake of looking at Logan. He completely shattered her concentration. If she shifted her body a few inches, she could discover firsthand what it felt like to be pressed against that hard chest. More than anything, she wanted to bury her hands in the silky-looking loose curls of his hair and taste his lips.
“It’s going to be hard to be ourselves knowing someone is watching us twenty-four seven,” Max said. His deep voice was like