Authors: Sarah Grimm,Sarah Grimm
“I’m not the type of woman men fall for.”
“I’ve fallen for you.”
“No, you haven’t. You…”
He pushed off the mantel and stepped in her direction. “I, what?”
“Finish the sentence, Isabeau.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Then let me.” He closed the distance between them. “You were going to say I haven’t fallen for you, weren’t you? You actually believe him? That you’re nothing more to me than convenient?”
Her pulse throbbed thick and hard. Heat radiated off his body. The scent of him filled her head. She wanted, more than anything, to press herself against him and relive the pleasure of his mouth against hers. Instead, she lifted her chin. “Maybe.”
He leaned in close. So close his breath brushed across her lips. “You believe him, but not me?”
“You are here only temporarily.”
“And I am just down the street.”
She ran her tongue over her dry lips. “So the whole thing does seem rather—”
“Don’t say it.”
Something dangerous came and went in his eyes. “Now I’m getting angry.”
His hands skimmed down her sides, slipped under her shirt and settled on her lace-covered bottom. Her breath went uneven. Searing need swarmed her.
“You want something to believe, believe this.” He pulled her into the solid ridge of his erection. She lost her concentration. “There is nothing convenient about the way I feel about you.”
Praise for Sarah Grimm
“A haunting, evocative love story; a story of finding love and redemption when you least expect it. Noah and Isabeau will reach out and grab hold of your heartstrings… Bravo, Sarah Grimm,
is a beautiful love story that will long live in my memory. It has earned a place on my ‘keeper’ shelves.”
~Eye on Romance
"Just as music seduces you with soft but exciting notes until you reach the crescendo, so does
, which is all about music. You will fall in love with Isabeau and Noah and share their angst as they fight their way to love. A great read. "
"Get ready for the ride of your life as Sarah Grimm takes you on an adventure...If you, like me, enjoy fast paced, nail biting, page turning, edge of your seat suspense then by all means get on board and try
NOT WITHOUT RISK
~Long and Short Reviews (Best Book)
“Sarah Grimm has done it again with a fabulous romantic suspense…this is definitely an author that will blow your mind away.”
~Night Owl Reviews (Top Pick)
"Ms. Grimm spins an exhilarating tale that grabs the reader instantly...This is one dynamic read that shouldn’t be missed."
~Fallen Angel Reviews (5 Angels)
"A romantic, adventurous, thrilling read."
~The Romance Studio (4 Hearts)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
2011 by Sarah Grimm
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press
PO Box 706
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0706
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Champagne Rose Edition, 2011
Print ISBN 1-60154-972-5
Published in the United States of America
To my husband.
See Chapter Twelve. The heels are for you.
And to Sloane Taylor and Jenni Holbrook.
Two wonderful authors who turned kind words, encouragement, and the occasional kick in the pants into an art form.
Isabeau Montgomery sat in the dimly lit bar and shook like an amateur before her first recital. Her gaze, blurred by the sudden threat of tears, settled on the keys before her. Her stomach cramped painfully, yet the need was too great to ignore.
With ability as natural to her as the color of her skin, she began to play. The waterfall of music filled the air, washed over her, completed her in a way nothing or no one else ever had. Against the razor sharp sting of memories, she fought…
She was young, vibrant, and born with a raw talent rarely seen. Classical, jazz, or rock and roll, she played it all. Loved all the genres—loved to create. All that mattered was her joy, her love for the instrument beneath her fingers and the music she was so skilled at creating.
For a good ninety seconds, joy returned, the rush of adrenaline and, conversely, the sense of belonging. In those seconds, time slowed, the lines between the past and the present blurred, and she was a child again. There was no longer pressure to be something she couldn’t be, no fear of what her future would hold.
And with the innocence of youth, no idea that everything she held dear could be lost in the blink of an eye.
The song built to a crescendo then quickly faded as pain, her old friend, returned with enough force to quash her joy. Her stomach roiled. Her breath caught.
Tears gathered in her eyes, and she dashed them away. Isabeau ran her hands up and over her face, pushing her long mass of ebony hair away from her forehead. She struggled to pull herself back together. Her fingers were chilled, cooler than normal, yet perspiration pooled at the small of her back. She closed her eyes, took a deep, slow breath
“I didn’t expect that old thing to be in tune.”
She jumped at the deep baritone voice, slamming her knees into the piano. The key cover abruptly closed, and she startled again. Heart racing, she rose and faced the double doors she’d obviously forgotten to lock.
She swept her gaze around the bar’s dim interior until she spotted a dark, male frame. “The bar is closed.”
Her tone was sharp, curt, and left no room for argument. Under different circumstances, she wouldn’t inflict such rudeness on a customer, but he intruded on her privacy, her pain. Her emotions were too close to the surface for niceties.
His voice rang with a clipped British accent and the tone of someone unaccustomed to being questioned. “I was here earlier.”
She remembered the voice and didn’t need him to step out of the shadows to recognize him, which he did anyway. She’d served him a few hours ago—dark lager, no glass—and shared with him a smile as powerful as it was sexy. “We were open earlier. Now, we’re closed.”
His eyebrow shot up. His mouth shaped itself into an ironic curve. “So you have said.”
“Then perhaps you should leave.” Hands unsteady, she bussed the table closest to her and carried the glasses to the bar. His words stopped her cold.
“You’re very talented. How long have you played the piano?”
No, no, no. This wasn’t happening. She closed her eyes on a wave of emotion, doing her best to will him away. But even then she knew. The man at her back was not going away.
She focused her gaze on his reflection in the mirror that ran the length of the bar. He was tall and lean, with eyes that shone with intelligence, even in the dim light. His hair was a mix of medium and dark blonde, worn long enough it fell across his forehead, nearly into his eyes, and brushed the collar of his shirt. Dark stubble shadowed his jaw.
The fine hairs on her arm stood on end as he crossed to her. She edged to the side and turned to face him. “I don’t play.”
“Of course you do. You were playing when I entered.”
“You’re mistaken.” She countered his step forward with one in retreat, ensuring that she remained out of arm’s reach.
With a frown, he stopped. “You have nothing to fear from me.”
It never occurred to her to fear for her safety, even though the bar was empty but for the two of them, the lights dimmed in deference to the late hour.
“Let me start again by introducing myself.”
“I know who you are.”
Of course she did. He was the person who brought back her desire to create, whose presence in the room made something inside her sing out. He was the reason she’d been driven to play tonight, after years of resistance. The reason the siren song continued to play in her head, louder than ever before. “Yes, I do.”
“And I frighten you?”
“Of course not.”
“Then why do you tremble? You’ve gone pale and look as if you’re ready to bolt.”
She dodged his hand when he reached out as if to touch her. Her breathing grew shallow. She waited for him to comment. Instead, he casually tucked his hands into the back pockets of his jeans and rocked back on his heels.
His gaze moved around the room before settling on the piano. “What is the name of the song you were playing?”
The walls were closing in on her. Her body trembled so violently she was surprised her teeth didn’t chatter. “I don’t play,” she reminded him acridly.
She desperately needed to put some space between them. However, so far he’d countered every move she made. He moved again, stepped close enough she could make out the intense green of his eyes. It was difficult to hold her ground and not flinch as he took his time studying her features, his gaze lingering on her eyes.
She was not a beautiful woman. Taken separately, her features held the potential for beauty, but together, with her mix of cultures, she had a face like a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces didn’t fit together. Her cheeks were too sharp, her lips too large, and her eyes, pale enough they all but disappeared beneath the dark tones of her father’s heritage. Neither blue nor gray, her eyes brought her the most displeasure. Most people spoke of her eyes as “peculiar” and “haunted.”
Isabeau couldn’t handle such a reference from him. “What do you want from me?” she inquired before he could comment.
“That’s a good question,” he replied, more to himself than in answer to her. “How about your name?”
The way he looked at her made it very, very hard for her to look away. “Isabeau.”
“Isabeau.” His voice brushed across her senses like a lover’s caress. His hand settled upon her arm. His very large, very warm hand.
She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Trapped by the contrast of his pale skin against her darker, golden tones, her mind blanked. He dwarfed her, which at five foot three wasn’t all that difficult to do. Her heart raced. His scent snaked into her lungs with each breath she took.
The scent of him broke her from the spell and filled in the gaps. She shifted away from his touch, understanding what brought him back after closing. She’d found it, tossed carelessly into the corner of a booth—his black leather jacket. Soft as butter, it held his scent. Subtle, masculine, and just enough to stir her blood as she’d carried the garment into the kitchen for safekeeping.
Where, with no one to witness the act, she’d pressed her nose to the lapel and inhaled him.
Her cheeks grew warm. She shot him a look from under her lashes. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”
She felt his eyes on her as she returned from the kitchen, and crossed to stand before him, his coat in hand. Felt them still as, without asking how she’d figured out what he needed, he removed the garment from her grasp and slid his arms into it. Finally, she lifted her gaze to his.
“I like your place, Isabeau.” His tone hinted he liked more than her place. And even though everything inside her screamed to get him out of there, it was impossible not to get a little bit lost. He was so inherently sexual that any woman would have to be blind not to be affected by his virile good looks and confidence. “Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.”
She watched him go, pressing her fingers against her pounding temples. As the door shut behind him, the pain eased, the noise in her skull dropped to a more tolerable level. Five minutes passed before she dared draw a deep breath for fear his scent lingered. She didn’t need further reminders of his visit. The music that pulsed through her system was reminder enough.
He thought he would see her again, but she knew he wouldn’t. Not because the chances of him returning were too slender, or even because a man like him could never truly be interested in a woman like her.
Because she’d been waiting thirteen years for someone to truly see her.
So far, no one had.
Isabeau knew it was him before he cleared the second set of doors. Her stomach fluttered. An overture sprang to life behind her eyes. She stepped out of the kitchen as the inner doors swung in and
stepped through. Noah Clark—the front man for the famed rock band Black Phoenix. Who ten years previously topped the charts, dominated the industry.
Until the sudden, tragic death of their drummer.
Noah Clark, who two nights prior walked into her bar and tipped her world on its axis. Not because he was famous, or had been in his day. Because he made her yearn for more. To be whole, complete.
Something she could never be.
She wanted to retreat. Instead she stepped behind the bar, grateful for its barrier between them. No matter how minor. “I don’t suppose it would do any good to tell you the bar isn’t open yet?”
The slap of plastic against wood echoed like a shot in the large room.
“You lied to me,” he accused, his accent made stronger by his irritation.
“You haven’t even looked at what I brought you. Why don’t you take a look?”
“No, thank you.”
He plucked something off the bar, waved it across her field of vision. A compact disc. One of hers. “You told me you didn’t play.”
Her insides clenched. She kept her face blank even as her nerves scrambled. “I don’t play. Not anymore.”
“Why?” He sounded so bewildered she nearly answered him. But what exactly did he question? Why she didn’t play anymore, or why she’d lied to him? Neither answer was simple or painless enough to share with him.
Silence stretched between them. He finally broke it. “Why, Isa?
His voice was low, intimate, and set off a stirring deep inside.
“Don’t call me that.”
“What would you have me call you?”
He stared at her, his gaze probing, pinning her in place. She couldn’t look away. He wouldn’t look away.
“No,” he said with a shake of his head. “Izzy doesn’t fit you.”
Nothing fit. Not even her skin. Not since the accident.
Desperate to escape his penetrating stare, she looked down at the bar, at the three CDs stacked before her.
“You’re missing one,” she said absently. “The most important one.” Unable to keep from touching them, she lined them up in chronological order. “People lie all the time, Noah, about any number of things. I would think being a recognized musician you would know that better than most.”
“So you do know me.”
“I know your name, what you do for a living. I don’t presume to know who you are.”