Authors: Farrah Taylor
Tags: #dad, #tattoos, #Janice Kay Johnson, #rock star, #Family, #Road trip, #Marina Adair, #tour, #Music, #nanny, #Catherine Bybee, #everywhere she goes, #older hero, #Children
Love Songs for the Road
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Farrah Taylor. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
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Fort Collins, CO 80525
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Edited by Stacy Abrams
Cover design by Jessica Cantor
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition January 2014
A Red-Blooded Woman
She’d always been great with kids. It was adults who gave Ryan trouble, those pesky grown-ups with their messy, complicated problems. To her, children’s needs were always perfectly clear:
1) Feed me.
2) Hold me.
3) Love me.
Oh, and don’t forget:
4) Don’t ever, ever leave me.
Ryan steered her Ford pickup with one hand and chuckled to herself, wishing that the men in her life, everyone in her life, could be that direct.
She thought about the many ways kids were different from adults. Kids were messy on the outside
running around in dirty diapers, tears streaming down chocolate-stained faces
but clean on the inside. Their desires were simple and their needs were predictable. But while the adults in Ryan’s life (except for one unfortunate University of Montana boyfriend who thought that showering only twice a week increased his animal magnetism) always wiped the food off their faces and generally got straight A’s in the hygiene department, inside they were messier than a toddler’s playroom—games strewn about, dolls and toys amok, like a hurricane had just torn through the place.
Adults, unlike children—whom Ryan kept on a strict schedule not because she enjoyed being a bossy nanny but because children
stability—were totally unpredictable. They might not have thrown tantrums infinity times a day or started food fights, but they (ahem, her sister, Phoebe) said one thing, then did another. Or they (her last boss, Mrs. Randall) silently judged you, storing up their frustration for months before unexpectedly exploding in anger. Or they (Mr. Randall) pretended to take an interest in your child development course load while they were actually trying to take sneaky looks at your cleavage while their wife was just down the hall. Or, worst of all, they (her ex-boyfriend Nick) pathologically lied right to your face, not telling you for seven months that they were sleeping with your soon-to-be-ex-friend Natalie on the side until you intercepted a text from her describing sexual positions you hadn’t even known existed..
Adults were crazy; kids were a piece of cake.
Ryan’s phone rang. It was Emily, one of her oldest friends and—this got complicated—the daughter of the landscaper of Marcus Troy, the filthy-rich, gazillion-album-selling rock star who desperately needed a 24/7 nanny for his upcoming American tour.
“Hey you,” Ryan said, spinning the wheel to take a right on Route 35. She drove like someone who had gone down this road, taken this turn, a thousand times before. “Almost there. I should hit Bigfork in fifteen or twenty. Don’t worry, I’ll be on time.”
“Of course you will,” Emily said. “You’re Ryan Evans. You haven’t been late since the third grade.”
“When was I late in third grade?” Ryan asked.
“Very funny. What are you wearing?”
Ryan looked down at her sensible outfit of tight-but-not-over-the-top jeans, a perfectly nice sweater that suggested her curves without actually putting them on display, and Converse low-tops
the sort of clothes she’d be wearing most days if she actually got the job
and said, “A tiny black dress, six-inch platform heels, and a tiara.”
“Very funny, Miss No-Nonsense.” Em laughed. “What are you actually wearing? Something slightly attractive, I hope? Please tell me you’re not wearing that stupid sweater your Mom made you for your birthday.”
“This sweater is cute. It’s a look. I am rocking a look.”
“And what look is that?” Em sighed. “The dying grandmother?”
“Nope,” Ryan said. And then, in the deep voice of an action-movie trailer: “Montana Nanny…she’ll take care of your kids, but she won’t take any of your crap!”
“Oh my God, Ryan. Do you want this job or not?”
“Why should I dress up? I’m interviewing to be his kids’ nanny, not his girlfriend.”
not the point. First, even if you were just interviewing with another loser like Mr. Randall
“Ew, please don’t talk about him.” Ryan shuddered. Even though it meant she was unemployed now, and she had no idea how she was going to cover her living expenses at the University of Michigan this fall, she’d been thrilled when the Randalls had unexpectedly packed up and moved. “I miss Daniele
what a little sweetie
but I won’t waste another thought on her mom and dad.”
“Ryan, you’re twenty-five years old. Even if you were interviewing with a regular family, you shouldn’t wear a sweater with a picture of an acorn on it. But you’re interviewing with Marcus Troy, a rock star. The most famous man in all of
“The most famous man in the entire great state of Montana!” Ryan cried out in her movie-trailer voice, wishing that instead of working this summer, she could be on vacation, floating down the Swan River and screwing around with Em and their friends, instead of having to earn a buttload of money for grad school. “I know, I know, you’ve told me a million times already.”
“Sooorrrry,” Em said, sounding a little hurt. “Should I not have recommended you for this job?”
“No, I want it!” said Ryan. “I really do, and believe me, I appreciate you looking out for me.” Ryan managed to bite her tongue
never an easy task for her
and didn’t add that while she did want this job, she certainly wasn’t planning to kiss up to anybody to get it, even a rock star.
After driving up a long, winding driveway, Ryan saw the house. It wasn’t what she had imagined at all. She had pictured the rock star living in one of the giant, soulless McMansions that summer people usually favored. But this house, a roomy log cabin, looked worn-in and homey. Behind it, the Swan River glided by carelessly and the Flathead Mountains, snow still clinging to their peaks, glinted in the sun. Ryan had grown up far from the river, with a view of nothing more than a clump of trees. She would have killed to live on a property like this.
She walked up the steps. The front door was propped open
Montanans never locked their doors, especially in summer
and only a screen door stood between her and the house. For the first time, she felt nervous, although there was no reason to be. Marcus Troy was simply a thirty-four-year-old single father who needed help with his two kids; Ryan would provide that help. The fact that Marcus was famous, incredibly handsome, and often shirtless—at least in the photos Ryan had Googled the night before—was not going to affect her sense of professionalism one iota.
Realizing she was standing in front of the door like a jerk, Ryan was about to press the doorbell when the screen door quickly swung open.
“Are you the nanny?” a young woman asked. She wore glasses, a pencil skirt, and a pale yellow sweater of an impossibly thin, luxuriant fabric. This stylish girl was not from here, it was obvious, but she was friendly enough.
Before Ryan had a chance to answer, the girl said, “I’m Serena, Marcus’s assistant. Follow me. Marcus is waiting.”
Inside, everything looked nice, and just right for the house, not movie-star-snooty at all. If Ryan had been alone in the place, she would have plopped down on the leather couch, rested her sneakers on one of the cowhide ottomans, or run her hand along the long, smooth expanse of the granite dining table that looked like it weighed about as much as the Ford F-150 she had driven over here.
Serena reached a closed door, put her ear to it, and knocked shyly. There was no response, so she knocked again. Still no response. Finally, with a little cringe, Serena opened the door. This seemed like a bad sign. How scary could this guy be that his employee was afraid of him?
Serena stepped inside, saying, “Hello?” and Ryan followed her into a large, sparsely furnished room. The man Ryan assumed was Marcus Troy lay in its center, blindfolded, hog-tied, and motionless. He wore a pair of black boxer briefs, unlaced and rugged-looking work boots
and that was all.
“Oh my God,” Serena said, shielding her eyes with her hand. “I’m so sorry, Marcus!”
“Whoa,” Ryan said under her breath. She had never seen a male form so beautiful. Marcus’s skin was perfectly bronzed, his chest bare and sculpted. His shoulders were broad as a swimmer’s, and his arms were covered in sexy, intricate tattoos. His brown hair had a slight wave to it. She couldn’t see his eyes, of course, though she did take note of his high cheekbones and strong jawline. To features like those, she had no objection. But it was his rock-hard abdomen that made Ryan feel so light-headed she found herself looking for the nearest place to sit. Even as Marcus lay still, his insanely defined abs seemed to shimmer when they caught the sunlight coming through the window.
But as much as she was enjoying the view, Ryan was a little freaked out, too. What was going on here? Had a girlfriend of Marcus’s tied him up and left him here after a kinky sexcapade? Had a groupie stalked him and inflicted some kind of horrible revenge fantasy on him? She covered her eyes with her hand, but then, she peeked through her fingers. It seemed wrong, but she just couldn’t help herself.
Slowly, a smile curled across Marcus’s lips, but still he said nothing. He seemed to be waiting for something, moving his neck slightly as if to better listen. Turning his head toward Ryan and Serena, he raised his index finger to his lips. Why was he shushing them?
Suddenly, a closet door across the room swung open, and two children ran out toward Marcus, screaming—a boy of four or five carrying a plastic ax and a girl who looked about ten wielding an enormous Nerf bat and wearing a football helmet. Their battle cries were so shrill that Serena stuck her fingers in her ears, while the children began beating the hell out of their dad, who tried and failed to defend himself against the punishing blows.
“Do you surrender, prisoner?” the girl demanded. She kept her game face on. She was something fierce.
The boy was giggling, though, as he repeated his sister’s words. “Surrendah! Surrendah!”
“I give up! I’ve had enough,” Marcus cried, his fear and terror sounding real enough. “Just don’t hurt me anymore. I can’t take the pain!”
The children collapsed into giggles and fell upon their father. Of course, it wasn’t every day that Ryan interviewed with a gorgeous, captive man, but she was nearly as surprised by the sexy prisoner’s parenting skills. By all appearances, Marcus was a fantastic dad, easy and affectionate with his kids, not someone who would leave the child-rearing to professionals while he wrote chart-topping singles and bedded breathless groupies.
He took off his blindfold and hopped over to Ryan and Serena, still struggling with the cloth ties that bound his ankles and wrists.
“Hi, are you the nanny?” he said excitedly.
“That’s me,” Ryan said, as calmly as she could manage, though her heart was making an unholy racket in her head. “Ryan Evans, at your service.” She instantly regretted using the cheesy expression, but the fact that she could speak a coherent sentence in front of this man was a miracle in itself. His eyes were a shimmering, cobalt blue, so clear and bright, they seemed almost unreal. As if his body weren’t enough, those eyes took the breath right out of her.
“I’m Marcus,” he said, grinning like someone who knew perfectly well the devastating effect he would have on any red-blooded woman. “I’d shake your hand, but I’m all tied up at the moment.”
Marcus Troy had been called “shameless” before, and he’d never once denied the charge. Instead, he’d embraced it fully, naming his second album
and going triple platinum in the process.
But he didn’t think there was anything embarrassing about being caught in just his Timberlands and his snug-fitting boxer briefs by his new assistant and the girl who was interviewing to be his tour nanny. These were people who were being, or would be, paid handsomely to assist him and the kids virtually around the clock. Marcus was comfortable in his own skin, plain and simple, and didn’t censor himself for anybody. This wasn’t the last time they were going to see him in his skivvies, so they may as well get used to it.
“Okay, Charlotte, time to release your prisoner now,” Marcus said. When after a moment she didn’t budge, he added a groveling, “Pretty please?” With that, his daughter smiled and kneeled down to loosen the rags she’d used to bind his limbs so effectively.
Once freed, Marcus shook out his arms and legs and cracked his neck before extending his hand to the prospective nanny, who was surprisingly sexy, even if she was wearing the most hideous holiday sweater he’d ever laid eyes on. “Marcus Troy,” he said, flashing his best high-wattage smile. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Me, too,” she said, giving a polite half smile, but mainly looking like she’d just swallowed something sour. Marcus kept eye contact for a beat, then snuck in a quick glimpse of the rest of her. She had wavy brown curls cut just past her shoulders and a taut, athletic body that was nonetheless curvy in all the right places. Best of all, she had piercing green eyes that sent a shock right through him. They seemed to sparkle more brightly when she got on one knee and said in a friendly voice, “And who are these two?”
“These two,” he said, putting a hand on each of the children’s heads, “are the loves of my life, Miles and Charlotte.”