Manipulated: a Rockstar Romantic Comedy (Hammered Book 3), page 11
He nipped my lower lip and I moaned, beyond caring if he knew how greedy I was for him. The corner of his mouth ticked up. “I smell how much you do.”
I shut my eyes, overwhelmed. My whole body was alive and trembling, and I wanted to savor this feeling as much as it scared me.
Which was why I didn’t realize at first he’d moved. His weight shifted, as did the mattress, and my eyes flew open in time to see him back away from the bed. The sudden lack of pressure on my wrists seemed wrong somehow, as if I’d fast forwarded through a juicy movie and missed all the good stuff. I shook them out and sat up, bewildered and horny.
Neither of those conditions helped my mood.
“What’s going on?”
He was already halfway to the door. “It’s late. You need your rest.”
Now he was worried about my beauty sleep. After he’d made sure I wouldn’t be getting any. Jerk. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going back to my room to get some shuteye. Traveling always makes me cranky.”
I’d give him cranky in about five seconds. “So now what?” I yanked up the top of my nightie and pulled down the bottom. “You’re going to take off and leave me hanging?”
“Is that what I’m doing? I hadn’t realized.”
I snarled. Literally snarled. I hadn’t been aware I was capable of making that sound until this very moment.
From keening moans to animal noises in one evening. This was already proving to be an eventful trip.
“Look at it this way. At least I haven’t lost my shoes.” He opened the door and tossed a careless smile over his shoulder. “Sleep well, love.”
I grabbed the closest one with the biggest heel I could find and heaved it at the door, missing his head by inches. And damn if I didn’t hear the bastard laugh as he walked down the hall.
By the time Wyatt came to pick me up for our trip to the closed course, I’d texted Lila, sat through a band meeting, a management meeting, another security debriefing, and I’d picked at both my breakfast and lunch. Surprisingly, my appetite had vanished shortly after the Irishman who had disappeared from my bedroom.
I would’ve said he’d disappeared from my panties, but I hadn’t been wearing any and he hadn’t quite made it that far in any case.
Just tormented me with that lilting voice, and those sexy fingers, and his ridiculously gorgeous eyes.
I was quiet on the ride to the track, so much so that Wyatt finally turned off the music—Hammered, of course, so I could try to pick out the parts that might be Owen’s and imagine his hands cradling his bass—and made a c’mere gesture. “Okay, out with it. You told me to put us on so you’d get the full immersive band experience, but ever since I turned up the volume, you’ve been staring out the window and pouting.”
“I’m not pouting.”
Actually, I was. I was almost sure of it. Pouting because Owen had done to me what I’d done to him months ago, although the reasons were so different. They had to be.
I’d run from him on Halloween because I was freaked out about being so attracted to a man again. Hadn’t I done so well with managing my expectations on that front? Don’t engage, don’t get hurt. It had worked well until Owen.
He’d taken off last night as payback, not because he was scared. And I was, so much. No matter how I tried to hide my nerves under bravado and occasionally snarky comments, I was an insecure woman who didn’t feel confident in any area of her life at the moment. Oh, I knew I was a good photographer. I knew I was smart, and a decent person, and I had nice hair when I took the time to fuss with it. But self-assurance wasn’t something I possessed anymore. I’d given away my power to a man who ultimately had discarded it—and me—and in the aftermath, I was less than a shadow of who I’d been. More like a skid mark.
If only I hadn’t seen the sun, felt it warming my skin, then maybe I wouldn’t want so much. Him. Me. What I could be like if I found my way back to pleasure and excitement and freedom again.
“Do you ever feel, I don’t know, as if you’re not enough?”
Wyatt didn’t answer right away. He was too busy navigating the streets with an ease that belied his racing days were behind him. “First of all, make a statement and own it. Don’t qualify it. Don’t couch your feelings in a question.”
I swallowed. “Okay. I feel as if I’m not enough. I just got out of a bad marriage—one that I stayed in too long, and then he filed for divorce after he bled me dry financially and emotionally—and I gave up my career for too long. Now I want it back. I want me back. I used to be fearless.”
“Fearless, huh?” He took his hands off the wheel and placed them flat on the roof of the car, steering with his knees. I didn’t scream. Didn’t even breathe heavy.
A part of me exalted in the rush of danger. I’d wanted that once. In limited doses, of course, since my preferred kind of shots were the boudoir variety. But in between, I’d dreamed about hanging out of planes to get just the right shot. Walking right up to the edge of a cliff and dangling over to snap a glimpse of water gliding over rock.
Sitting in the passenger seat with a crazy man with a wild nimbus of ginger hair blown back by the wind shearing us to the bone because of the car’s speed.
He was laughing.
I was laughing.
Jesus, it felt good.
Abruptly, he screeched the car to a halt at a light. We’d been lucky enough to have a relatively clear stretch for a couple blocks. Not so much anymore.
But it didn’t matter. The spell of my melancholy was broken.
If I wanted to be fearless, I had to stop being afraid. So simple and so very hard.
The next time Wyatt tried his racing tricks, it was when he was behind the wheel of a blood red Ferrari with racing stripes. I didn’t take note of model numbers or any of that, but what I did soak up was the pure joy revealed by someone in their element. Hudson Wyatt might be a rockstar now, but when he wrapped those big hands around a leather-wrapped steering wheel, he was all racecar driver. It was in his blood.
Without thought, I took out my iPhone. For once, I wasn’t all about my SLR or the right lenses or the perfect lighting. Photoshop could adjust sins. What was most important was capturing moments. Living them and having the proof afterward.
See, I was there. That was me with my hair in the wind. Me shrieking with laughter until tears formed at the corners and clogged my throat. This was what I was meant to do. Not worry and secondguess myself and everyone around me.
This was the only moment I had, and the time had come to live.
“Oh hell no,” Wyatt shouted. “You know I haven’t touched up my makeup.”
I giggled, and even that was a wonderful sound. Today I didn’t care if it was too high-pitched and sophomoric. I was going to laugh and take pictures just for me.
Hell, I’d even take a damn selfie and upload it to the band Instagram that I’d just been given access to that very morning. Normally, no one but essential band personnel was given that kind of clearance, but I guess I was being trusted with the public image of the band. And hello, rockstars. Anything I posted short of illegal stuff would probably up their status.
Some illegal stuff would likely be expected too.
I uploaded the picture of Wyatt then flipped the phone around to take one of me. Hair whipping crazily around the safety helmets they’d made us wear. Talk about being careful. But Wyatt had gotten them to break their rules and let us go out without a “safety guide” in the car with us, so we got helmets and assurances from the former racing god that hell yes, he could handle one-hundred miles or more in a Ferrari on a closed course, and of course, he wouldn’t cause any damage.
There might have been an exchange of cash too, but I’d looked the other way. I hadn’t wanted a chaperone either.
I took one picture of myself sticking my tongue out and one grinning crazily. I had barely enough time to upload them before Wyatt took a curve at two-g
Was I afraid? Nope. Not right now. I’d be damned if I invited that bitch to come in and sit down for tea again anytime soon. Forget scones. Her ass was on her own.
By the time we finished with our prescribed time on the track, Wyatt was smiling, I was smiling, and our safety guide was not smiling. Wyatt had taken an extra fifteen minutes, which he thought he was entitled to on account of the fact he hadn’t tried three different cars as the experience allowed for, just the one. To him, that changing car time would’ve added on so no problem if he used those extra minutes.
The couple in line next weren’t as understanding, but he smooth-talked them and offered them autographs—one for each on his racing gloves, which he handed off without a thought. He mentioned selling them on eBay for big bucks, and I would’ve sworn the couple nearly swooned.
I almost expected a ticker tape parade to accompany our exit.
“So didja have fun?” He grinned at me across the front seat of his much more responsible truck and I had to laugh.
“That was absolutely amazing.”
“See, girl after my own heart.” He reached across the gearshift and patted my knee in a completely friendly way. Yep, no sparks whatsoever, but he was a charmer, all right. “Now what? Are you late for curfew? Hungry? Thirsty?”
I’d poked him after he mentioned a curfew, but the word thirsty perked me right up. As had the other idea I’d just come up with.
“What about the mall? You want to go shopping with me, right? I know you’re manly enough not to think you’re trading up for a V-card by toting around a store bag or two.”
His brow furrowed. “V-card?”
“Vagina card,” I said matter-of-factly as he chuckled. “And yes, you’d be trading up. Women are fabulous.”
“Picture girl, so are men. Unless you’ve been with the wrong ones.” He waggled his brows at me. “I know my boy Owen can’t be one of those. He comes from a country where they make love to their beer, for chrissakes.”
“Owen and I have not had intercourse.” My voice came out more prim than I intended, and Wyatt roared with laughter.
“Intercourse? Wow. That’s nice to know. How about some second or third base action, since we’re keeping it so clean?”
I didn’t flush, but only because I went somewhere else in my head where all I could hear was la, la, la.
“Anyway, let’s go shopping. C’mon, please? I need some nice clothes for the road, just in case we do anything fancy. Just a new dress or two. Maybe a pantsuit?” I bit my lip. “No, no pantsuits unless I can get a skull emblem on the jacket.”
He snapped his fingers. “I know just the store for that.”
“You do realize I’m a dude, right? And not your dude. Also, don’t even bother saying he’s not your dude, because he nearly hexed me last night with one of his Irish spells for being in your room.”
That fascinated me way more than it should have. “He knows spells?”
“It was a joke, but I wouldn’t put it past him. So why do you want to shop with me?”
“Because you’re fun and you’re easy and I don’t want to go home yet, if you have some time.” I pulled at a thread on my leggings. “If you’ve got stuff to do—”
“Nah, I don’t plan my life out that rigidly. Miss way too much shit that way, adhering to schedules and plans and all that business. As for me being easy, I’ve been known to be. But as I like my equipment too much to lose it to an Irishman’s bony knee, no easy here.”
“I really think you’re overstating Owen’s interest in me.”
Wyatt snorted. “Okay, sunshine. We’ll see. Wanna hit the mall or what? I can be patient and understanding for a while, but if you take me through three stores without buying one damn thing, the angry ginger inside me will jump all over your ass.”
“I won’t, I promise. One store should do it.” I swiped across my phone’s screen and went to my GPS app. “Nearest mall is Fairdale, it looks like. One sec.” I brought up my web browser and searched through the list of stores at the mall. “Let’s go to Veracity. Please. They should have what I need.”
“No Victoria’s Secret?”
“We can stop by there if you need something.”
He lifted a brow. “Your game face is impressive.”
“No, I’m serious. Anything you like is cool with me.”
“Glad to hear it. You may also be sitting in the back if I pick up a babe or two at the lingerie shop.”
I grinned and took another quickie picture of him, making him growl. “Please do. I’d love to get a picture I could caption ‘Wyatt and his two girlfriends’ for the book.”
He flipped me the bird as he took the exit for the mall.
A little less than an hour later, I’d found two perfect dresses at Veracity, as well as a couple of tops and skirts, and we’d both bought smoothies at a cute little shop. We were strolling through the mall, sipping and laughing over a random sign when something that sounded like a dog whistle nearly broke my eardrum.
“Christ on a cracker! Is that—could that be—oh my God, it’s Hudson Wyatt from Hammered. He’s huge!”
Wyatt glanced down at the front of his trousers. “Did I forget and put on the sheer pants again?”
I couldn’t believe he wasn’t running. Or hiding. Or even ducking into the nearest store. He was completely relaxed as he turned around to wave to the teenage fans.
“Hi ladies. Hope the shopping has been kind to you.” He grabbed my bags and hoisted them. “She spent all my money.”
“You liar. It was my money.” Well, technically it was the credit card company’s money right now, but whatever. I elbowed him and he chuckled.
Almost in unison, the girls gave me a trio of dark looks. “I hate gold diggers.”
My eyebrows shot up. Okay then.
“We should go.” Wyatt smiled at me, then at his admirers. “First, would you like me to sign anything?”
One of them marched forward and started to pull down her tank top, but he held up a hand. Good thing, since my bottom lip was about to scuff the floor.
“Let’s keep it to paper, please. Legal will have my a—behind otherwise.”
“I’d like to have his behind,” Teenager number three muttered about as subtly as a Lear jet.
I still couldn’t believe the first girl had been so brazen. Here I was, so insecure that I had trouble showing Owen my breasts, and this near-child had been about to flash those babies in a mall.
Owen probably encountered this kind of thing on a daily basis too. Women of all ages flinging their body parts at him. I’d known that before, in theory. Now I’d seen it.
What had I gotten myself into?
Nothing. Nada. You and Owen aren’t a couple. That cute little skull dress with the tiny pink straps and flared skirt you bought hoping he’d check you out in it didn’t mean a thing.
Wyatt and I escaped to his truck a few minutes later. More whispering had been occurring and he’d wisely signaled to me that we should retreat.
My happy, buoyant mood had deflated like so much hot air.
“Quiet again, huh?”
“How do you put up with it?”
He sighed. Heavily. “Public adoration? Yeah, it’s hideous, but God made me beautiful, so what can you do?”
I snorted. “You can’t possibly be as cocky as you seem.”
He tapped his thumb against the wheel in time to some beat only he could hear. “And you can’t possibly be as self-conscious. So maybe we both should adjust our personas.” The corner of his mouth twitched. “You first, picture girl.”
He had me smiling again, so I didn’t even bother trying to be annoyed. “Thanks for today. It was really fun.”
“Thank you for coming with me. So, on a scale of one to ten, how much do you want to bet Owen is so jealous right now his baby blues have turned green?”
“What?” I laughed, but at the back of my mind, I wonde
“Except that I make you smile. Potent magic, milady.” His thick brogue caused me to duck my head. “Okay, let’s keep the money simple. If he’s jealous, you take me to lunch sometime soon. If he’s not, I’ll buy you a round of drinks one night.”
“I’m not a big drinker.”
“Don’t worry, he’ll be jealous. And I am a big eater.” He patted his stomach and winked. “Growing boy.”
“Your head at least.” I rolled my eyes at him. “So, hey, feel like an early dinner?”
“Woman, you are demanding. Just like all your brethren. Let me guess. You want some salad joint.”
“Nah. I could go for some tacos.” I rubbed my rumbling stomach. “Like six of them.”
“Damn, now you’re talking. Find me some kickass Mexican on that app of yours and we’ll do it up. Share a pitcher of margaritas.”
“Didn’t I just say I wasn’t a big drinker?”
“You did. Whoops. Guess more for me.”
An hour and a half later, I let myself into my hotel room, giddy and a little drunk. Probably giddy because I was a little drunk. Just the slightest bit buzzed, really. A cool shower would take off the edge of it, but I was enjoying the warm, floaty feeling.
Anxiety? What anxiety? I was free and loose Callie, ready to take a quick shower and relax for an evening. I might just crawl into bed and watch something really ridiculous like Termites 2. That should be fun.
On the way into the bathroom, I detoured to my suitcase and dug out my vibrator. I only checked over my shoulder three times to make sure my suite hadn’t been invaded by snoopy hotel guests who wanted to see me with my sex toys.
Toy. Singular. I only had one along for this trip. I wasn’t an addict.
Besides, I was going to chill for the night, so why not enjoy some water fun first? Might leave me in better shape to deal with Owen, if I’d already pre-gamed and his tongue of destruction couldn’t leave me in tatters.
TARYN ELLIOTT SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Manipulated: a Rockstar Romantic Comedy (Hammered Book 3)Rocked
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