Manipulated a rockstar r.., p.9

Manipulated: a Rockstar Romantic Comedy (Hammered Book 3), page 9


Manipulated: a Rockstar Romantic Comedy (Hammered Book 3)

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  “Ms. Templeton,” he murmured as I approached. “Mrs. Crandall just sent me her opinion of your interview.”

  “Already? It was just like three seconds ago I left her office.”

  “Yes. It was a rather short text.” He waited until I reached him then showed me his iPhone. Only two words were in the bubble on the screen.

  Hire her.

  I glanced up at him, certain it couldn’t be that easy. “And?”

  He held out a hand and smiled. “Let me tell you about what we’re looking for, and then we’ll go from there. Come in and sit down, please.”

  Had he offered me the job? When I didn’t even fully know what it entailed?

  Forget fully. I knew nada, except I’d probably be sharing a shower with a man who made me want to bend over for the soap.

  Excuse the euphemism.

  He shut the door behind me and I took the seat he indicated in front of his desk, then forced down the rock in my throat. “What if it turns out that it’s not a good fit? I mean me and whatever you’re interested in. I mean looking for. As far as a photographer, not anything else, Mr. Lo—Lewis.”

  Jesus. I could shut up anytime now. I didn’t even know why he elicited such verbal diarrhea with me. He was attractive, but no more than Owen. And he didn’t have the Irish lilt to his voice, or those deadly blue eyes, or those hands…

  Owen won in every category.

  “We want intimate photographs of the band Hammered for their upcoming coffee table book. When I say intimate, I mean the kind that can only be obtained by someone spending time with them in close quarters. Total immersion. Your work fits the bill. You have a gift for capturing the inner essence of a person. That’s what we want, and we’re prepared to compensate you handsomely.”

  He named a figure that made me blink. Twice.

  Okay then. Guess I’d just have to deal with Owen and his hands.

  I spread mine over my portfolio and took a deep breath. “Tell me more.”



  What do you think I consider my favorite thing to do three nights after New Year’s?

  Sit in a band meeting, you say?

  Fuck, no.

  I scrunched down in one of the dozen plastic chairs that littered the back of the venue’s green room. Well, they liked to call it that—more like a shit brown most of the time, to be honest. Along with a lumpy couch of indeterminate color. Most of the time I didn’t care. Once you spent your summers under a car getting God knows what dripped on you, not much bothered you.

  As a matter of fact, rebuilding a car engine was number two under my special skills thanks to my da.

  Add refrigerators, air conditioning units and, as of this last trip, motorcycles to that résumé and I could find a decent job if this musician gig didn’t work out. At least that was my father’s plan. I was an apt pupil. More to have something to talk to my father about, than the learning of it. Eric Blackwell was a gruff man who only understood hard work, grease under his nails, and the love of a good woman.

  We couldn’t be more different save for the black hair and laser blue eyes.

  I tipped my head back. Fuck, I was in a pisser of a mood. Three weeks with my folks had been just a touch too long. My father’s voice was still a booming echo in my brain. His less than supportive stance on my music career didn’t help, but it was more the love of a good woman part of his mantra that had me snarling. They both wanted me settled down with Blackwell babies on the way. I was thirty-three years old for fuck’s sake. Plenty of time to practice making babies before I took the plunge thanks.

  And now Keys and Kennedy were squealing over honeymoon pictures. It was bad enough that I’d been in the wedding party last month, and had to stand directly across from Faith as she bawled her way through her wedding vows to Warden Cranky Pants. Now I got a firsthand account of the perfection of her honeymoon.

  Oh, and it had been someone’s fucking idea to go old school for this leg of the nostalgic-fucking-tenth-anniversary-tour and use a bus instead of hotel rooms. Okay, the bus was tricked out to the nines, but it was still a bus. And still a lot of bodies close together.

  Did I mention fuck me?

  The perfect capper to my long day of traveling.

  Everyone else seemed rested and relaxed. Beachy rested people brimming with laughter and excitement gathered in little groups around the room. Hell, even the ginger beastie had a bit of a tan to go with the freckles—all save me.

  No beach for me.

  Three weeks in the damp Pacific Northwest had been my lot in life. Oh, and sitting through a parade of good Irish girls from the neighborhood. All of which either had designs on my swimmers or my money.

  So, yeah…band meeting three days after the New Year was the last thing I wanted to deal with.

  The heavy click of cowboy boots preceded our estimable manager. Indiana West came through the door with her straw hat pulled low over her eyes, a clipboard in hand—no iPad interface for our girl—and for once, her everyday clothing fit in with our surroundings.

  We were starting this leg of the tour in Austin’s Frank Erwin Center. Last I heard we’d officially hit sold out status for the two nights in residence. Damn impressive when the median age on the nearby campus was twenty. We were positively ancient in some of their eyes.

  “Hey guys. I know you want to get settled. We’re in hotels tonight, the bus is officially in Texas, but it won’t be here until late tonight.”

  Hunter dropped into the seat beside me and crossed his feet at the ankles. “All of us on two busses? Cozy.”

  “It was your idea, dickwad,” Wyatt muttered.

  Hunter craned his neck to where Wyatt was leaning against the wall, arms crossed. “Did you see the schematics on this thing? Talk about tricked out. It’ll be awesome.”

  Wyatt raised one ginger brow. “Yeah, awesome.”

  “Aww, not enough room for all your suits?”

  “Fuck off.”

  Hunter snickered.

  Indie rolled her eyes. “If you’re finished?”

  Hunter laced his fingers behind his head. “All right, Indie. What’s so important?”

  Keys curled into a chair in front of me. Tonight was white jeans and a lime vest and matching Chucks. She’d added bright green strips in her pale blonde hair.

  I leaned forward and tapped her shoulder. “I appreciate the Irish in your hair, love, but St. Pat’s isn’t for a few months.”

  She tossed a grin over her shoulder. “It’s leftover from Christmas. My mother’s still not talking to me for ruining Christmas pictures.”

  I snorted and leaned back into my chair again when Indie gave me the evil eye. I suppose I should be paying attention.

  “…a head’s up from Donovan that we’re going to try something different this leg of the tour.”

  I resisted the urge to groan. Something different, really meant “we’re going to fuck with your schedule and change everything, enjoy” with a middle finger for emphasis.

  Indie turned and waved to a blond standing inside the doorway. She was in a dark dress that made me think about watching Grease for the thousandth time with Keys.

  It hugged her upper body and swirled from the hip. Jolly Rancher-red shoes and a little matching bit of silk in her hair made her stand out. Fistable curls tumbled around her shoulders, soft and light as cornsilk.

  I sat up. Well, maybe today wasn’t going to be so bad after all. “And who might you be, love?”

  Indie crossed her arms, hugging her clipboard to her chest. “I guess we’ll introduce Owen Blackwell first. He’s harmless. Mostly.”

  “Don’t give away all my secrets, Indie.”

  She rolled her eyes and moved on. “The one in lime is Faith Keystone, Hunter Jordan, Zach Kane, Hudson Wyatt is there against the wall, and finally, Reed Mason will be here in a few minutes. He’s on a call. Our head of security, Quinn Alexander, is over there and head of our PR department—who isn’t usually on tour with us, she’s just here f
or the first show tomorrow night—Kennedy Jordan.” She took a deep breath. “Donovan’s hired Calliope Templeton here to shadow us for a project for Hammered’s tenth anniversary. I’ll let her explain it a little better.”

  The lush bit of perfection nibbled on her lower lip. Her white teeth flashed against her merlot colored lips. “Hi, everyone. You can call me Callie.” Her eyes tripped over everyone in the room except me. In fact, she completely avoided looking at me. “You won’t even know I’m here. I don’t want to get into anyone’s way. I just want to steal a few shots of everyone in their natural habitat.” She smiled winningly. Completely fake of course, but she was going for the gold with it regardless. “The road.”

  Zach linked his fingers behind his head. “Why the hell do we have to have someone following us around all the time? Don’t we have enough of that with the meet and greets and press crap.”

  Keys tossed her empty Solo cup at Zach. “Rude.”

  “What? I don’t mean it…well, okay, maybe a little rude. But seriously, I’ve got enough cameras in my face all the damn time.” Zach sat forward in his chair. “Soul-sucking paparazzi parasites are getting tipped off where we are all the fucking time.”

  “I won’t be in your face like that, I promise.”

  “What if we don’t mind?” I asked.

  Again, she ignored me, keeping her gaze straight ahead. “My job is to observe and record. Honestly, you’ll barely know I’m here.”

  Indie clapped her hands. “All right, you guys can go do your warmups.” Indie turned to our new photographer, and lead her over to the Warden. “Callie, we’ll get Quinn to set you up with your security passes, all right?”

  I watched her and Indie move across the room. There was something about her…Did I know her? She was a photographer, so maybe I’d seen her around. I’d been to enough Hollywood parties over the years to have a rolodex of people in my brain.

  I was pretty good at figuring them out.

  I’d figure her out too.

  Keys nudged me. “So, what do you think?”

  I shrugged. “I’m not wild about worrying about a camera over my shoulder, but not enough to get pissy about it.”

  “No, I mean she’s pretty, right?”

  “I have eyes, so that’s a yes. Fucking stunning if you want to get particular about it.”

  “You should go for her.”

  I frowned at her. This was a fucked-up conversation. Six months ago, it wouldn’t have been, but now…just weird. “Just because you’re all blissfully married doesn’t mean you have to play matchmaker, darling.”

  “I know, but she’s totally your type.”


  “You’re a bit more discerning than that, no matter what Bats says.”

  “Bats has no room to talk.”

  Keys sighed. “No, he certainly does not.” She scanned the room. “Where the hell did he get to? Zach is ready to kick his ass today.”

  “He’d best get in line. I’m the one that has the room next to him tonight. If he has another screaming match with that—”


  I swallowed a snarl. “I’ll change our room assignments and then you can come talk to me about having a kind word for that she-devil.”

  She laid her hand on my arm. “I’ll talk to him.”

  “Good luck finding him. Or better yet, that he’ll stand still long enough for you to actually talk to him.”

  “Are you okay? It’s not like you to be so…angry.”

  I blew out a breath. She was right. I was definitely overreacting about the Bats thing. Yes, it bugged the shit out of me, but not to this degree. Evidently my family Christmas was following me around even more than I thought. “Nothing you need to worry about, love.”

  “Don’t ‘love’ me. I can tell something’s up.”

  I shrugged. Not like I could tell her what my problem was.

  Oh, sorry, as far as I’m concerned you picked the wrong man. Now I have to get over you. Oh, and my family reminded me just how alone I am every single day.

  Other than that, no issues at all.

  “Just a little family hangover.”

  “Oh, yeah. I kinda skipped that dramedy this Christmas. Warden and I only had to do Eve and Christmas Day. And everyone was too happy for me actually being married to give me any crap about the usual subjects.”

  “As if ten years wasn’t a clue that this wasn’t ending.”

  Her blue eyes sparkled. “Ten. Holy crap, that’s just crazy.” She looked over her shoulder at our new photog. “Could be kinda fun to document it. Maybe she can do some crazy head shots for us—you know ridiculous ones. We’re almost at three million followers on Instagram.” She hooked her arm through mine and hauled me across the room. “Best to throw her in the deep end right away.”

  “Might want to let her breathe for just a second, yeah?”

  Nope, guess not. We headed right toward her.


  Callie turned with a hesitant smile. Her gaze skipped over me, barely landing.

  “Hi, I’m Keys. Irish here is harmless. We wanted to welcome you to the tour.”

  Callie glanced at me with narrowed eyes before focusing resolutely on Keys.

  I frowned. What the hell? I understood if she didn’t want me to get all up in her business, but to treat me as if I were a piece of glass in her shoe was something else.

  I slung my arm around Keys shoulder. “We’re the easy ones for pictures. And generally run the social media things. And she’s right, mostly harmless.”

  I was charming, dammit.

  Calliope was utterly blank-faced. Up close, I got a better look at her heart-shaped face.

  She kept averting her eyes. There was something there.

  Keys nailed me in the ribs. “We’d love to talk to you about doing a few things for our Instagram. We just hit a milestone. Thought we could do a crazy picture before the show?”

  She nodded. “Yeah, definitely. Get everyone together and let me know.” She looked over her shoulder to Quinn. “I should probably get my credentials taken care of. And rescue my equipment from the big…really big guy—Patrick? Was he a fullback in a former life or something? Anyway, he had to make sure there was no weapons of mass destruction in my gear.” She blew out a breath. “I’ll dismember him if he damages my equipment,” she mumbled as she walked away.

  I detangled myself from Keys. No way.

  I knew that babble and threat.

  I’d heard that voice every damn night since the Halloween party. I sprinted after her and circled her upper arm. “Hold on, love.”

  She turned to me. “Want to lose a hand, Black—well.”

  “Don’t you mean Blackbeard?”

  She pulled away, already prepared to flee.

  That was her usual MO.

  “Hold up, Bettie,” I said in a voice just shy of a whisper.

  She scrunched up her shoulders.

  “Or should I just stick with bunny?”



  Bunny, huh?

  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to chat. I was swept off in one direction, and Owen did whatever he had to do. And I stewed.

  After I went off with Quinn and got my security clearances and heard a spiel about safety, I was treated to another from the band’s manager, Indie. This one was about the band’s grueling schedule and the importance of giving the band their space to create magic—though she said it in much cruder terms—I had just one question.

  What the hell had I done?

  I hadn’t had a bazillion lovers. I hadn’t even made out with a bunch of guys, though that term was sophomoric at best. The amount of rockstars I’d seen in the altogether?

  None. Still none. Probably would always be none, since the bastard didn’t remember me.

  At least I didn’t think he remembered me, though the bunny comment seemed…odd. But I’d sneaked in a few surreptitious glances his way during the meeting, and he’d acted completely
blasé. He’d been flirty, but as if I was any other woman. Not one he’d spent half an evening with, laughed with, licked—

  Okay, the licking was irrelevant. To him, and now it would be to me too.

  I had my vibrator. I had no use for phalluses that didn’t buzz.

  You gave him a fake name. You had fake hair. It was dark, and it was months ago. Can you really hold his memory lapse against him?

  Normally, no. But I was a little sensitive right now, even if I was being ridiculous. Knowing that my thoughts weren’t logical didn’t stop the flood of feelings, mainly because he was just as overwhelming to me now as he’d been on Halloween night.

  And I was going to be stuck on a bus with him for weeks.

  You only took a week off from Rocky’s. If you can only hack it for seven days, Lord Lewis still has to pay you. In any case, you’ll still have valuable work experience to add to your portfolio.

  I blew out a breath. Sure, I’d have a week’s worth of priceless experience. I’d also have a rep for flaking out while on an important job. I’d been hired by a powerful man with lots of contacts. I couldn’t just skip out because my hormones were all aflutter. Or because it was awkward, for me at least.

  Even if I wasn’t ready to let go of Rocky’s for the unknown…well, the unknown had me in its jaws now. If I flailed, I’d only end up bloodier.

  Yep, no more watching Jaws marathons at two a.m. when I couldn’t sleep.

  Speaking of sleeping, it was late. I’d had a long, confusing day, and I’d never finished my rewatch of Wrong Turn. I’d never had any idea that morning at breakfast the whirlwind day I had in store—from the interview with Lila and then Donovan at Ripper Records, to a plane ride in Lord Lewis’s jet to meet the band in Austin, to actually seeing Owen and having him look right through me.

  But that “bunny” line confused all of it. Of course I’d had to jet off with Quinn for his security seminar before I could look Owen dead in the eye and accuse him of being a manwhore.

  One I really wished I’d gotten to enjoy more fully before I’d rabbited the first time.

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