Insider, p.8

Insider, page 8

 part  #1 of  Exodus End Series

 




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  sofa. That was a very shitty thing to do.”

  “I’m fine, Logan.” Touch me. Hold me.

  “So you’re really cool with it? You’re not upset or hurt?”

  “Why would I be?” I don’t know how to tell you what I really want.

  He released a long relieved breath. “So we can be friends?”

  She stiffened. That was definitely not what she really wanted. Now she was upset and hurt. She’d heard the “we can be friends” line from a dozen too many men in her past. And none of those men had ever been inside her.

  “Yeah, sure,” she said around the knot in her throat. “Friends. What else would we be?”

  “You’re a sweetheart. I thought you’d bust my balls over this for sure. I’m glad we talked this out,” he said. “Sam and the guys would have been royally pissed at me if my perpetual horniness messed up this book experience or whatever it is you’re doing.”

  “Like I said,” she said, glad it was dark enough that he wouldn’t be able to make out her shell-shocked expression, “no big deal.”

  He replaced his lap with a pillow and stood. “I owe you some flowers,” he said. He bent over her and kissed her cheek. Paused. Kissed the tip of her nose. Hesitated. Covered her mouth with his and kissed her with that deep, devouring hunger that had gotten her so quickly out of her panties in the first place. Yes, this. This is what I want. Not flowers and friendship. I want passion. You.

  He tore away after a moment, his breathing raspy. “Damn, woman. How am I supposed to keep my dick in my pants if you kiss me like that?”

  Before she could respond that she didn’t want him to keep his dick in his pants, he left the room and slid the doors closed. She stared into the darkness, a jumbled mess of hormones and emotions and thoughts guaranteed to keep her awake all night.

  Six

  Logan hadn’t slept for shit. First he’d lain wide awake in his bunk for hours feeling like the biggest asshole on the planet. After everyone but the driver had fallen asleep, he’d finally found the balls to apologize to Toni for taking advantage of her inexperience. Then after he’d smoothed things over with her, he’d let his attraction to her get in the way of his judgment and he’d kissed her. After that stupid move, he’d lain awake in bed the rest of the night thinking about her. Dick half-hard. Stomach in knots. Mind tangled with thoughts of her. He surprised himself because only about half of those thoughts had been sexual in nature. He found himself wondering about her life. Her family. Her past. Her likes. Her dislikes. Strange. Maybe he’d try to get to know her a little better. They were supposed to be friends now. Friends talked about boring shit like that, didn’t they? Except he didn’t think it would be boring in the least. He actually hoped it was boring. Maybe then he’d be able to think about something besides her gentle brown eyes, sweet smile, soft hair, those enormous tits, and that oh-so-tight pussy that had never been filled with any other cock but his.

  Logan groaned and tossed his bunk curtain aside. Locking himself in the bathroom, he shaved and then took a long shower, which was sure to catch him grief. They had only a limited supply of water on the bus, and he’d used more than his share. When he emerged from the bathroom in his towel¸ he felt as human as a sleep-deprived zombie could feel.

  A startled inrush of breath came from the open door of the lounge. Those wide brown eyes—now hidden behind a pair of unflattering glasses—took in every exposed inch of his flesh. Sometime during the night, Logan had convinced himself that Toni had given her virginity to him because he’d been available, but there was definitely an attraction there. And it wasn’t one-sided. Logan couldn’t resist tormenting her. He loved to make her blush. He tugged his towel free and used it to dry his hair. He gave her plenty of time to get an eyeful of his naked body, and then he dropped the wet towel to hang around his shoulders.

  “Good morning, lamb,” he murmured.

  She lifted her eyes to meet his and they widened, as if she just suddenly realized she wasn’t invisible.

  “Put some clothes on,” Butch complained as he fumbled through a cabinet to start a pot of coffee brewing. “No one wants to see that first thing in the morning.”

  “I wouldn’t say no one,” Toni said, her cheeks pink. The wide grin on her face was self-indulgent rather than embarrassed. “It does look smaller than I remember.”

  Logan laughed. “I’m sure you can fix that problem if you try.” And by try all she had to do was stand there looking sweet and ruffled.

  “I would, but you said you want to be friends.” She slid the lounge door closed.

  “How about friends with benefits?” he called loud enough that she had to have heard him.

  “The coffee better be fuckin’ ready,” Steve grumbled from within his bunk. The man didn’t function before ten a.m. without half a pot. “Or Casanova is going to get his face rearranged.”

  “I think he’s more of a John Holmes,” Max said as he flipped his body out of his bunk. He froze when his gaze landed on Logan. “Butch is right. No one wants to see that first thing in the morning.”

  “I’ll save it for later then.” Logan pulled out the drawer under his bunk to find clean boxer shorts. He decided on a pair of black silk ones. They reminded him of Toni for some reason. Probably because they felt so silky against his flesh. Like her supple, untouched skin.

  Deciding that the guys wouldn’t want to have to stare at his tented boxers either, he put on a pair of jeans as well.

  “Breakfast ETA ten minutes,” Cade, their overnight driver, called from the front of the bus.

  Butch reached for the clipboard, pulled off the top page—yesterday’s schedule—and consulted the page underneath. He checked his watch and scowled. “Fifteen minutes behind schedule. You’ll have to eat fast,” he told the guys. “We have to be at the radio station at ten.”

  Logan went to dry his hair before the rest of the guys started fighting over the bathroom. If he didn’t take proper care of his longish waves, they became curls, and then an uncontrollable mass of tangled frizz that put 1970’s afros to shame. Max in particular was a bathroom hog, and with the brace on his wrist, it took him ten times longer to get his hair just right. They didn’t much care if they looked like shit most days, but when they had a public appearance, they were expected to look presentable. Sam was a real stickler about image. And Logan had been bashed a few too many times by the tabloids for going to events with Brillo-Pad bed hair. He looked forward to the days in their schedule when they didn’t have public appearances. On tour, those days were few and far between.

  “Is Sinners having breakfast with us?” Dare asked with an exaggerated yawn.

  Butch consulted his clipboard again. “Not this morning. I think they have an appearance in the next town over. Sam says we need to spread the awesome around a little.”

  “What about the radio interview?” Dare asked. He obviously wanted to hang out with his brother. Logan hadn’t seen his own brother in over a year, and he was okay with that. They didn’t exactly get along. Or even tolerate each other.

  “Nope, no Sinners on the radio. And you’re on your own at the meet and greet too.”

  “Stupid me thought I might get to spend some time with Trey on this tour,” Dare said with a sour frown.

  Logan switched on the hairdryer, calculating how much free time he’d have that day to spend with Toni. He’d definitely make sure he was sitting next to her at breakfast. Then in the limo between their various engagements. Maybe he could hang out with her backstage—or would she be working on her book while they did their events? Perhaps he’d see her more than he thought. He wasn’t sure how much they’d get to interact, but as long as she was in sight, maybe he could concentrate on what he was supposed to do instead of wondering where she was and what she was doing.

  Hair dry and mostly under control—it was so thick and wavy, it had a mind of its own, and sometimes he had a mind to shave it all off—Logan left the bathroom and knocked on the closed door of the lounge. He figured so
meone should explain to Toni how the day was going to go, and he volunteered himself before anyone else thought of it.

  “Just a minute,” she called.

  She slid the door open and gaped at his bare chest. Logan was doubly glad that he’d yet to don a shirt and that he’d worked out extra hard the day before. He gave her a moment to stare—because, hey, he liked the attention. The bus engine’s pitch lowered as it pulled off the interstate and began to slow.

  “We’re going to stop for breakfast and then we have a live interview at a radio station. Are you going to tag along and see what that’s like?”

  She smiled, her wide brown eyes sparking with excitement. “Yep. Can’t wait.”

  He grinned at her like an idiot for a long moment. She really did seem fine this morning and not mad at him. He didn’t understand why he felt such relief. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected. That she’d hide away and refuse to show her face. Cry for days. Send him scathing looks of hatred.

  “You’re beautiful,” he blurted.

  She rolled her eyes and shuffled around him to enter the corridor. She went to talk to Butch, asking him about how the schedule worked. Who set it up? Who enforced it?

  “If it wasn’t for me,” Butch said in his gruffest, most self-important tone, “these four guys would scarcely find the stage, much less tend to all their other responsibilities.”

  Toni looked impressed, which won Butch over instantly. She was a sly one. Butch knew more about Exodus End than any other person on the planet. If she wanted real dirt on them, she’d charmed the right person. Logan chuckled and rummaged around in his drawer to find a T-shirt. A woman had once told him that blue was his color as it drew attention to his gorgeous eyes. He wasn’t sure why that thought crossed his mind or why he had a powerful need to wear blue.

  “What are you so cheery about?” Dare asked him.

  “It isn’t because I slept well.” Logan glanced toward the living area where Toni was interrogating Butch without making it blatantly obvious that she was pumping him for information.

  “I bet they’re really grateful that you’re always saving their necks,” Toni said with unmistakable earnestness.

  Butch actually blushed with pleasure and smiled. “Well, I don’t know about that. They think I do it because I enjoy busting their balls.”

  “He’s a total sadist,” Max said, offering his coldest smile.

  Toni visibly shuddered.

  Uh, not happening, Max. Logan slipped his shirt on over his head, kicked his drawer shut, and rushed in the direction of his lamb in conservative clothing. He moved to stand between Toni and Max.

  “Funny how Butch forgets about all the times he’s fucked things up for us,” Logan said.

  He wrapped an arm around Toni’s waist and, with a stern look, telegraphed signals to Max. Not to be added to your collection of playthings.

  Max chuckled and shook his head at Logan. Then he put on his wounded animal face and tugged at Toni’s sleeve to get her attention. “Toni, would you help me with something?” He rubbed his wrist brace as if he’d suffered a war injury rather than a botched carpal tunnel surgery.

  “Depends,” she said.

  “Could you help me fix my hair? I have a hell of a time getting it to cooperate since I can only use one hand. We’re already late. And golden boy was hogging the bathroom earlier.”

  Women would pay cash money for the opportunity to run their fingers through Maximillian Richardson’s hair. Logan watched Toni for her reaction.

  “Sounds like a job for Butch,” she said.

  Logan could have kissed her. If he wasn’t trying to be on his best behavior, he probably would have.

  Max took her wrist in his braced hand and stroked her fingers with his other. “But these are the hands I want to touch me. So soft and gentle.”

  Toni stared up at Max as if in some sort of trance. The bus stopped, and Logan took Toni by the shoulders. He turned her toward the exit.

  “Too late, Max,” Logan said. “We’re here. You’ll just have to go to breakfast looking like roadkill.”

  “If roadkill looked like that, I’d get a job with the highway department and bring my own shovel,” Toni said under her breath.

  Max chuckled, looking very pleased with himself.

  Shit! Was she attracted to Max? Was any woman not attracted to Max? Logan had to regain Toni’s full attention.

  “Your hands weren’t so gentle last night when they were tangled in my hair.” The second he said it, he wished he could take it back. While it effectively told Max that Logan had claimed her first, it wiped the smile from Toni’s face. She set her jaw in a harsh line. “I wish,” he added, hoping to play it off as if he’d been joking instead of bragging.

  Max and Steve laughed at his misery. Dare gave him the evil eye. Logan was usually so smooth with women. What in the fuck was wrong with him?

  “I guess I’m going to breakfast looking like roadkill,” Max said. He extended an elbow in Toni’s direction. “Care to join me?”

  She looked at Max uncertainly for a moment and then slid her hand into the crook of his elbow. Her dazzling smile reappeared.

  Logan stifled the urge to say fuck repeatedly and followed them off the bus. Their entourage of stage crew, security, and band members meandered toward the restaurant. Toni was asking Max how they’d managed to arrange having the entire place to themselves. Questions Logan wanted to answer for her.

  “Sam always does things in a big way. Even before we made it, he insisted on keeping us broke by renting limos and throwing parties we couldn’t afford,” Max said.

  “I’m sure you can afford it now,” Toni said.

  Max chuckled. “Is that your way of asking how much money we rake in?”

  Her eyes widened. “Oh no, I didn’t mean it that way at all. That would be crass.”

  “We can afford it,” he said.

  Logan really wanted to kick Max in the back of the knee. Why should he get to talk to Toni? Just because he was the lead singer. Bassists were important too. Logan scratched his head. Well, bassists should be important. Someone grabbed Logan’s arm and pulled him to a halt. Dare’s piercing green-eyed gaze made him feel about three inches tall.

  “Will you stop?” Dare said.

  “Stop what?”

  “Toying with her.”

  “I’m not toying with her.” Logan tossed a hand out toward Toni’s retreating form. “Max is toying with her.”

  “Max won’t take it too far. You already took it too far.”

  “Why? Because she was a virgin?”

  Dare cringed. “I was hoping my suspicions were wrong.”

  And Logan had just stuck his foot in his mouth. “Just because I took her virginity—”

  “Keep it down,” Dare growled. “I doubt she wants you to broadcast that to the world.”

  “I didn’t know, all right? Not until it was over.”

  “How could you not know, Logan?”

  He didn’t appreciate being berated and belittled by a bandmate. “I’ve never had one before.”

  “Just stop thinking with what’s in your pants and try thinking with what’s in your head. If you don’t stop this now, you’re going to hurt her.”

  “I couldn’t have hurt her too much. She didn’t cry or anything.”

  Dare pinched the bridge of his nose as if he was talking to a toddler and his patience was at its limit. “Okay, let me try this again. You know those girls who you sleep with and they think it means you’re in love with them?”

  “Yeah, naïve girls.”

  “Who are the most naïve girls on the planet?”

  Logan’s face fell. “Virgins.”

  Dare nodded. “So unless you want her to think you’re in this for the long run, you have to proceed with caution.”

  But maybe he wanted to be in it for the long run. Did the month she’d be on tour with them count as a long run? It did for him. “Got it, boss,” he said.

  Once inside the restaurant,
Logan was crushed to find that while Dare had been giving him advice he didn’t want or need, Toni had been seated between Max and Steve in a booth at their reserved table. It wasn’t that he wasn’t happy to see her eating with them. What he didn’t like was that she was flanked by two men who weren’t him. He was willing to undergo an experimental cloning procedure just so he could sit on either side of Toni. Reagan was sitting across from the trio chattering away about how she won their rhythm guitarist spot in a contest. Toni took notes on a napkin, her expressive eyes wide with fascination. Max was toying with a strand of Toni’s waist-length, wavy hair, but she didn’t seem to notice. Logan loved how absorbed she got by anything she was focused on. He just wished she was always focused on him.

  He slid into the booth next to Reagan, who paused in her soliloquy to give him a hug. “You look tired,” she said. She
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