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Authors: Anthology

Tags: #Fantasy, #Fiction, #General, #Anthologies (Multiple Authors)

Hotter Than Hell (2 page)

BOOK: Hotter Than Hell
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Travis kept playing between songs, bow drawing out soft sighs and desperate moans, each sound the perfect counterpoint to Brandon’s patter as he introduced songs and the band and flirted with the audience, the band, and occasionally, his brother.

They took two encores and finally left the stage, Travis playing one last note that hung over the fairground. As it faded, Ali took a deep breath and sagged against Glen’s side, feeling like there wasn’t enough oxygen left in the world.

“My God, I’m…”

“Wet?”

She was drenched, sweat molding her t-shirt to her sides, her hair damp and sticking to the back of her neck but as she smacked him on the arm, she knew that wasn’t what he meant. “Enthralled.” Her voice sounded raw. Wanting. Everything seemed…more. The sky seemed bluer. The grass seemed greener.

The breeze didn’t just blow past her bare arms, it caressed sun-warmed skin.

No need to look to understand why Glen had worn his shirt untucked. Although, given how tight his jeans were, that kind of pressure couldn’t be fun.

The redhead sat straddling her boyfriend’s lap, his face against her neck, one big hand buried in her hair, the other splayed over the patch of creamy skin between her jeans and the edge of her t-shirt. She rocked her hips slowly, the gentle rhythm suggesting the main event was already over and they were just riding out the aftershocks.

Unable to help herself, Ali rocked forward to the same rhythm, seeking the minimal friction her jeans could offer.

There were a few couples still in the first three rows but most of the bales were empty.

“NoMan has a very hopeful fanbase,” Glen told her, shifting uncomfortably. “And backstage is probably one of the only private areas on the fairground. Even if you can’t nail the band you’ll still be able to take the edge off.”

“Charming.” She had control of her voice again and could only pray that her own need to take the edge off wasn’t showing on her face. She turned, scanning the fairground. Tom Hartmore was nowhere to be seen. If they were lucky, he was on his way back to the city to report to the boss and they still had time.

If they were really lucky, he was getting laid by some buxom farm girl and they’d picked up a little more time. If their luck truly sucked, he was already backstage. “Come on. We need to talk to the Noman brothers and we can’t do that out here.”

“So you want them?”

After the way she’d bitched and complained during the drive out from the city she supposed he had grounds but she still gave his smug, smarmy tone the response it deserved. “Bite me.”

“Yeah, I told you that you’d be…”

When his voice trailed off she turned, saw where he was looking, and smiled. Big guy, heavily built, mud on his boots and his jeans, straw cowboy hat, checked shirt, and eyes that tilted catlike up at the outer edges narrowed in a come-hither glare—as much challenge as invitation—directed right at Glen.

Who made a noise low in his throat, kind of cross between a growl and a moan.

She couldn’t say she blamed him. “Go ahead. Take the edge off.” Her hand resting in the warm curve of the small of his back, she pushed him forward. “Save a horse.”

“Ali…”

“Don’t worry. I can convince a couple of rock-and-roll cowboys to come into the office and talk without you by my side.”

“Not what I was worried about.”

“Oh please.” Her lip curled. “If Tom’s back there, I can handle him. And if not, well, I like to think I can handle myself in a honky-tonk orgy. You go handle tall, dark, and country over there. Play safe,”

she added as Glen started across the trampled grass. “I’ll meet you back at the car in half an hour.”

“Forty-five minutes.”

“Don’t tell me you’re going to talk to him too?”

He turned just far enough to flip her off.

She laughed and headed backstage. Competent musicians were a dime a dozen; to make it big a band needed to connect with its audience on a visceral level and NoMan could certainly do that. The brothers were exactly what she’d been looking for. Glen was right, she wanted them.

Backstage was a white canvas tent about twenty-five-feet long and maybe ten wide. It was a shelter for the sound board if the weather got bad, a place for the performers to pull it together before the show, and this far out in the country it could do double duty as a sheep pen for all Ali knew. It had the kind of sidewalls that could be tied up or staked down, depending. At the moment, these were staked down.

No big surprise if what Glen said about NoMan and how close they got to their fans was true.

She paused, one hand on the tent flap. The honky-tonk orgy crack had been a joke but if even half the NoMan fans who’d headed back here had been as turned on by the music as she’d been—as she still was—well, orgy might not be too strong a word for it. Not something she wanted to walk in on, mostly because the way she was feeling she wasn’t entirely certain she could walk out again.

Still, the band wasn’t signed and if she didn’t want Michael Richter to grab them first…

And grabbing them sounded like a damned good idea.

Telling herself to focus, she slipped in under the tent flap…

…where things were almost anti-climactically low key.

Like the redhead and her boyfriend, the fans present seemed almost postcoital. They milled about in the front half of the tent looking dazed and a little like they were starting to come down off a very pleasant high. Eyes were half closed, smiles contented as hands lazily stroked bare arms, and cupped the backs of necks, and ran up under the edges of shirts and down under the edges of jeans but no one seemed to be taking things farther than they might late at a party with close friends.

At least not in the front of the tent. In the back, behind the sound board and a card table holding a box of NoMan CDs, a scrawled sign indicating they cost ten dollars, and an open cashbox, the drummer had his hand shoved in through the front of the bass player’s open jeans and was slowly jacking him off.

Without breaking his rhythm, he took a swallow from the bottle of beer in his other hand; leaned forward and pressed his lips to the other man’s mouth. Ali watched mesmerized as a line of liquid escaped the kiss running along the bass player’s jaw and down his throat. She wanted to move forward and catch it on her tongue, capturing the taste of the beer and sweat, licking her way back up past his tats until…

The edge of the sound board caught her in the thigh and the pain brought her back to herself. As she gasped, the guitarist, sprawled in an Adirondack chair, flashed her a satiated smile and waved a sloppy salute with his nearly empty bottle.

The Noman brothers were nowhere around. Nor was Tom Hartmore. If they were together…

Pleasantly startled by the images that evoked, she hastily dropped a ten in the cash box, shoved a CD

in her purse, and slipped back through the crowd to the exit, ignoring the moments of warmth as bodies brushed against hers. Definitely past time to leave.

Once outside, she took a deep breath. The smell of grease and cotton candy wafting over from the midway combined with the odors of large farm animals and diesel fumes cleared her head and she felt like she was thinking clearly for the first time since Travis Noman had set bow to strings. Thinking back, the concert seemed wrapped in sensation, her memory of everything but the way it made her feel already fading.

It wasn’t the strangest concert experience she’d ever had, but considering it had happened in a sunny field in the middle of the afternoon, it was in the top ten.

It shouldn’t have been so hard to find the car. After all, it was parked in a field—a big, flat field full of lines of cars parked nose to nose that all seemed to look alike. After wandering around for nearly fifteen minutes, Ali spotted what she thought was the rusty pickup Glen had parked beside and headed toward it, skirting rear bumpers.

She spotted the cowboy hats first.

Realized who wore them as she moved closer, finding a path between two ancient Buicks.

Realized they weren’t alone when she’d gotten too close to turn back.

Didn’t actually think of turning back.

Brandon and Travis Noman leaned back against the hood of the pickup, side by side, shoulders touching. Kneeling at their feet in the strip of grass between the truck’s bumper and the bumper of the car parked facing it were the pair of blondes from the front row. Although the car blocked all but the top of their heads, it was obvious what they were doing and from all the giggling, they certainly seemed to be having a good time doing it. Travis was still wearing his sunglasses and his head was back, exposing the long lean line of his throat. Brandon’s head was tipped forward and Ali knew he was watching.

She shouldn’t be watching.

She couldn’t stop watching.

It wasn’t like she could actually see anything…

Travis moaned—the sound broken, on the edge of shattering and his fingers, long and tanned, threaded through golden hair as his hips came up off the truck.

No, not a moan. Or not only a moan. Brandon was humming one of the songs from the show while Travis added a weirdly erotic bass line under it.

The girls’ heads moved to the beat.

Hardly aware she was doing it, Ali slid her hand down into her jeans, past the edge of her underwear.

Still aroused from the concert, she fell easily into the rhythm of Brandon’s song, fingertips moving in unison with the quartet filling her vision. And then she had to bite her lip to keep from laughing because quartet made her think of chamber music and they weren’t in a chamber, they were in a field and anyone could walk by just like she had and God, the memory of the music left her feeling stoned.

And close.

Really, really close.

Both men were breathing hard, the rhythm of the song beginning to stutter. The girls sped up and Ali sped up with them, linking her finish to theirs. Tension was building, low and sweet…

When it happened, it happened like flood waters finally breaching a levee. Brandon. Travis. Then both girls. A heartbeat behind them, Ali trembled on the brink until Brandon looked up—his pupils dilated, his irises reduced to a pale, narrow ring of blue—and the open, fucked-out expression on his face pushed her over the edge.

Riding the wave, Ali sagged against sun-warmed metal and concentrated on keeping her knees from buckling. The world went white around the edges and she closed her eyes, just for a moment. Just long enough to draw in a long, steadying breath. She opened them again as she eased her hand from her jeans and she may have made a noise because Travis raised his head and smiled at her over the honey-blond curls of the girl in his arms. Something in that smile said he—they—knew she’d been there all along. Still smiling, he slid his sunglasses forward…

A flash of gold.

And she was standing alone, facing the rusty pickup parked next to Glen’s car. Power chords blared from the midway’s speakers, nearly drowning out the screams of children riding the ancient Octopus and Scrambler. The world no longer wore the sheen given it by NoMan’s music—the sky was more gray than blue and the grass underfoot dry and yellow. If not for the evidence of her own body, she’d have thought she’d imagined the whole thing.

Glen was right. If Bedford Entertainment could sign these guys, they were saved.

The CD wasn’t bad but it was strangely flat.

“Not evoking much of a reaction,” she murmured as they sped back to the city.

Glen laughed. “After that performance, I’d be amazed if you had a reaction left in you.”

He had a point. And he hadn’t seen the encore performance out in the parking lot.

NoMan had a barebones website that held a picture of the band, a headshot of the brothers—Travis had his sunglasses on—a song list, and an order form for the CD plus a link to their mailing list. There was no concert schedule and the mailing list was the only way to contact them. Ali added the email address for Bedford Entertainment, including in the body of the message their business number, the URL for the website, their MySpace address, and an assurance that Bedford Entertainment was definitely interested in representing them. Professional bases covered, she paused a moment, remembering, then typed We nearly met in the parking lot.

“They’re twins.”

She hit send before looking up to find Glen raising a brow in her direction. “What?”

“You’re flushed.”

“It’s warm in here.” It wasn’t. “Who are twins?” Like she didn’t know. Like she’d been thinking about anyone else for the last twenty-four hours.

Glen moved a stack of eight-by-ten glossies out of the way and perched on the edge of her desk.

“Travis and Brandon Noman, twenty-seven, born in Tarpon Springs, Florida.”

“So they’re American.”

“They’re carrying American passports,” Glen allowed. “Their mother was a Greek national named Thea Achelous. Travis is older by nine minutes.”

When he paused, Ali frowned. “That’s it?”

“That’s it. And getting that much was like pulling teeth. They’re living almost entirely off the grid.”

“You said you heard about them from a friend…”

“And that’s who told me what I just told you. He’s a fan in the whole fanatic sense of the word and if he can’t pull information on them, well, it’s not there to be pulled. I’ve left messages with the people who booked them for that fair but we’re talking volunteer labor and they haven’t called me back.”

“All right…” Staring at the exceedingly unhelpful webpage, Ali tucked a lock of hair back behind her ear. “The good news is, if we can’t find them then Mike can’t find them and…”

The intercom buzzed. Wondering what was up—she had nothing on the books until after lunch—she hit the connect.

“What is it, Brenda?”

“There’s a Michael Richter to see you.”

“Speak of the devil,” Glen muttered.

“Don’t even joke about that,” Ali told him, more than half seriously.

She didn’t get the chance to ask what Mike wanted before Brenda added, “He wants to speak with you but he has no appointment.” Her tone, while polite, suggested she’d never heard of anyone named Michael Richter and couldn’t imagine why he’d be dropping by. Mike had heard some of Brenda’s voice work and wanted Vital to represent her until he discovered she weighed just over three hundred pounds. Too much work to make presentable had been his final judgment.

BOOK: Hotter Than Hell
8.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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