Authors: Jolyn Palliata
Tags: #Paranormal;Romance;Rock star;Rock band;novella;Twists of Fate;Souls
She was falling for him. Hard.
You don’t feel regret,
he murmured. It wasn’t really a question, but more of a self-reassuring confirmation.
No, I don’t.
Opening her eyes, Addison nestled into her seat and looked out the window again. She was pleased when she realized Rhys was distracted from the flight, and she then knew how to keep him that way.
Training her focus on the clouds blanketed out around them, she pictured images of her and Rhys. Together. When she heard the catch of his breath, she knew for certain he saw it with perfect clarity.
No way was she
going there with him when she was sitting on an airplane, surrounded by complete strangers, so she made sure to keep her eyes open. Hell, that would’ve given The Mile High Club a whole new angle, wouldn’t it? But she had no qualms whatsoever about putting Rhys through a salacious wringer.
She flipped through her memories of the other night, one-by-one, and then began making some stuff up, throwing it in there for good measure to Rhys’ obvious and vocal delight. She let her imagination be her inspiration; standing, kneeling, straddling, laying down. She pictured it all, and then some.
When she blinked, she could feel his hands…well, everywhere. So she made sure to keep her lids as low as possible to keep her eyes moist without having to close them too often. Her restraint proved to add a whole other layer of provocation as Rhys writhed inside her.
let me atcha.
Addison laughed inside, taunting him with an image of his darkly tattooed arms wrapping around her from behind.
You just wait until you go to sleep tonight.
He moaned as she shifted her thoughts and pictured them laying down, her belly arching into his ribbed abs as they came together.
to make you pay soooo good for this.
An involuntary quiver landed in her stomach as he shoved all his senses at her—the sound of his heavy breath, the feel of his hard body under his palm, the tingle of his arousal, the urgency of his needs. And yet, she keep her eyes open, even as she was being fully punished by her own recklessness.
In the end, it was totally worth the pained pleasure. The flight went by in the blink of an eye, or lack thereof, as the case may be.
Allowing Rhys to see along with her, Addison scanned the lingering crowd at the gate.
Everyone was rubbernecking for loved ones or acquaintances rushing off the plane. All except for one.
There he is
, Rhys said in her head, sounding worn out from her in-flight entertainment.
Addison was about to laugh at the implications of his tone, but stifled it when a sense of familiarity and remorse flooded inside her, followed by a burst of relief—Rhys’ reaction to seeing his brother.
Xavier stood several inches above the rest of the crowd with a mean-ass scowl on his face.
Despite the floppy hat and reflective sunglasses meant to serve as a disguise, she immediately recognized him from his picture.
Oh, my God. Xavier “Zander” Alexander…in the flesh. And he was intimidating as hell, just like his pictures. She’d hoped it had been a trick of the lens.
“Oh, yeah,” she mumbled under her breath. “There’s definitely some bite there.”
Go on. Get your ass over there. The guy’s a kitten. Don’t worry about it.
Addison walked up to the towering guitarist. He glanced at her and then away, looking straight over her head toward the gate.
“Zander,” she said firmly, trying to drum up some damn courage and tamp down the nerves.
“Sorry,” he said in his oh-so-deep voice. “Now’s not a good time. I’m waiting on someone.” He didn’t look at her when he muttered to himself, “Some crazyass bitch.” Her spine shot straight as her brows contracted, heat building with her anger.
Calm down. He thinks you’re a fan.
He just called me—
I know, sweetheart. Just let it slide. Remember, he’s stressed.
She gritted her teeth as she landed a fist on her hip. “One crazyass bitch accounted for.” She gave him a tight smile as his face tilted in her direction.
She found it disconcerting to be staring at her own reflection in his aviators, and it took her a sec to respond, making her all the more defensive.
“The one and only.”
“You’re…not what I expected.”
“And what did you expect?”
He said nothing. Without seeing his eyes, it was hard to tell if he was studying her, or zoning out.
And he has the nerve to call
crazy? Are you sure he’s all there? I mean…he’s not on
drugs or something is he?
She took an involuntary step in retreat.
Jesus. Of course he isn’t.
Xavier flicked the rim of his hat. “How did you recognize me?”
“Did you seriously just ask me that?” She cocked a brow and double-tapped her temple with a slender finger.
With no other response than a nasty scowl, Xavier strode away, a tip of his head the only indication she should follow.
Letting out her breath on a quiet
, Addison wrung her fingers as she trailed after him.
The remorse for what she was putting him through still nestled inside her, but his biting attitude made it hard to acknowledge. She hoped once he realized the truth—that Rhys really was with her—it would ease his grief.
her guilt for enhancing it.
Still… Did he have to be such an ass?
Nice brother you’ve got there. He’s just a regular ball of sunshine, isn’t he?
Addison had checked her luggage directly on the plane, and already had it with her.
Skipping baggage claim got them out of O’Hare a helluva lot faster, but she found herself half-wishing they had a reason to hang back. The longer she could put off sitting alone in a car with this pissed off man, the better.
How does one soothe the savage beast again?
But you’re not alone,
Rhys pointed out.
You know what I mean.
She nudged at their barrier, the equivalent of a shoulder-shove.
looking forward to this. Look at him!
She conveyed Xavier’s image to Rhys as she studied his hurried stride, his rigid frame and his clenched muscles. Even under a leather jacket and jeans, she could see the wound-up tension racking his body.
seem a little more…intense than the norm. But who am I to judge.
Yeah, right. Pot, kettle, black and all.
Hey! I’m not tense! I just meant—
Oh, nooooo. Not you, Rhys.
She made a mental
sound as she walked to the passenger side of Xavier’s cherry red Charger, running her finger down the sharp line of its profile.
“Nice car,” she said, trying to break the tension with some light pleasantries. There had to be some way to get past all this ice to the man underneath.
Xavier grunted what could’ve passed as a thanks while he unlocked the doors. She threw her bag in the back and then buckled in, admiring the interior of the vehicle.
it just figures. Rock stars and their leather. But that was part of the attraction though, wasn’t it?
It wasn’t until after Xavier navigated out of airport parking before he said anything to her.
“So, do you normally get into the vehicles of men you don’t know?”
Good question, my man. I’d like to know this little nugget of info myself.
Rhys tone wasn’t just curious; it was slightly dangerous.
What the hell? Rhys had told her he was safe. Aaaand this was
Addison ignored the contradictory voice in her head to focus on the stranger next to her.
With a shrug—a pathetic attempt at normalcy—she said, “If you give me any trouble, I’ll just start poking you in the ribs.”
His startled glance actually proved to relax her some. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to convince him of what was going on after all. Hell, it would
his grieving process if he could just talk to Rhys, wouldn’t it? To be able to say his goodbyes, and all that.
“How…” He snapped his mouth shut, his jaw tightening.
Addison took the opportunity to draw out more of what Rhys had told her about Xavier, hoping the fond reminders would ease him towards the truth. “Rhys says you’ll bitch like a little girl—” She held up her hands when he pinned her with a glare. “His words, not mine. But he said you’d stop whatever it was you were doing. He said it was the only way he could win a wrestling match with you when you were kids.”
“Jesus,” he mumbled, twisting a hard grip on the steering wheel.
Addison watched as the muscles in his jaw worked overtime. She could all but hear him working things out in his head. As if he realized
there was no way she could possibly know all this, but instincts told him otherwise. His intelligence seemed to radiate in the shift of his gaze as the silence settled around them.
It made her wonder…
“Can I ask you something?”
“Shouldn’t I be the one asking the questions?” he countered.
Her eyes narrowed. “You
be, yes…I’ll give you that. But since you’re not, I have one of my own. Why did you ask where you and Rhys grew up? I mean, you
like a smart guy, and that was a pretty lame-ass question.”
His grip on the wheel loosened a bit, but the lift in his shoulders offset any appearance of easing back. “I was going to listen for a keyboard to see if you were looking shit up. Then I was going to work my way around to the stuff you wouldn’t be able to find. Basically, feel you out, flush you out.”
Her brows arched as she tipped a nod. Made sense, she supposed, but it sure looked like the long way around to her. Of course, he is a guy…and they never do things the easy way.
He’s got a point there, Addi.
She rolled her eyes, the guilt-nerves-preservation combination making her snappy.
paranoia run in your family? Or is it just a side-effect of being a perpetual asshat?
Measuring up Xavier, she decided on a different approach—straight-forward.
He’d never see it coming.
“Rhys said you’re gonna look for my tell, to make sure I’m not lying.” His head snapped around and she wasn’t sure what to worry about first—the fact that his eyes weren’t on the road, or about the condition of his neck after a roundabout like that.
She shook her head, and forced herself to stare at the dash. If she was gonna die, she didn’t want to see it coming.
“I don’t think I could even make up something like this, Zander. Xavier.” She waved an impatient hand in the air. “Whatever your name is.”
“You want to know what I think?” Xavier asked, his tone dark and foreboding.
She kept her voice calm and flat in response. “I’m riveted.” He did a double-take, then let the sarcasm go. “I think you must’ve been one of Rhys’
women. I mean, what…? Did you go to New Guinea with him? Had some nice fucking pillow talk?”
Her jaw dropped as her eyes got wide, jealousy stinging deep. “Excuse me? One of his
? Just how many
are we talking about here?”
Awww. Are you jealous, baby?
Rhys cooed in her head.
Hell yeah, she was! But he didn’t need to point it out…or be so damned proud of it!
Taking a deep cleansing breath, Addison closed her eyes and opened herself up. When she felt Rhys’ arms come around her, she mentally snuggled close, and then introduced one very sharp elbow to his solar plexus.
As she opened her eyes again, she heard Rhys say in a strained, breathless voice,
mistake. I must’ve read you wrong.
“He’d had lots of women,” Xavier said smugly, obviously enjoying her discomfort.
“Anyway, that’s how I figure you know all this shit.”
“Including the color of your first car, huh? Are you telling me that your brother was such a Lothario in the sack that the best after-bliss pillow talk he could come up with revolved around little ‘ole you?” She crossed her arms in disgust. “Or are you truly that self-involved to where you’d expect as much?”
He laughed, a genuine from-the-gut sound. “You’ve got some sass in you, don’t you girl?
Rhys sure would’ve liked you. That’s for damn sure.” He nodded in reluctant approval. “So, Addison, if you weren’t one of his women, you mind telling me the full story? No halfsies either.
Spill it all.”
Addison glanced around the lobby of the five-star-hotel as she waited for her key, pointedly avoiding eye contact with the leather-clad man leaned against the counter next to her.
Xavier doesn’t skimp, does he?
she said to Rhys, studying the crystal chandelier illuminating the space.
Naw. My brother always had taste for the finer things.
He made a scoffing sound.
You sound like you don’t approve.
Well, what the hell do you need a fancy-ass hotel for when you’re just going there to—
She sensed their connection snapping closed, as if Rhys had mentally smacked a palm over his mouth to stop the words from flying out.
Care to finish that statement, Rhys?
The link opened back up.
Not even a little bit.
She knew perfectly well Rhys’ past was no more her business than hers was to him, but she couldn’t stave off the twinge of jealousy.
It makes me curious though…just what kind of place
did you take your women to?
“Your key, Miss Calomino.”
Awesome timing, my man.
His relief was palpable.
Addison turned to the concierge with a touch of irritation. “Thank you.”
“Would you like assistance with your luggage?”
“No, thank you. I’ve got it from here.”
As she picked up her bag, she could feel Xavier’s stare. She had managed to put him off this long, but the time had come to spill the beans. Face the music. Look the executioner in the eye.