Authors: Ava Lore
Tags: #rock star romance, #rock star hero, #second chance, #second chance romance, #tattooed hero, #bad boy hero
Published by Brittle Divinity Press, 2014.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. April 3, 2014.
Copyright © 2014 Ava Lore.
Written by Ava Lore.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For everyone who needs a second chance...
’d just managed to fish a much-needed cigarette out of my purse when Damien Colton, lead singer and guitarist of The Hollow Men, walked into my elevator.
My heart stopped beating.
Not for the reasons you’re thinking of, though. I’m not a starfucker. I don’t even get starry-eyed when I bump elbows with famous people, which I do all the time because I work in one of the most prestigious hotels in New York City. It happens so often that it’s unremarkable to me now, and most of them are assholes anyway. Except Bill Murray—that guy is tits.
But Damien Colton was different, and not just because he was sinfully hot.
I froze where I stood in the corner of the elevator, as if I were a mouse and he a hawk.
Please don’t look at me,
I prayed. The humiliation would be just too much.
I tried to pull my eyes away from him, but it was useless and I knew it. For all the years I’d known of his existence, I’d never been able to keep my eyes off of him.
I studied him with panicked resignation.
He was dressed up as what he was—a rock star who made millions and probably had a panty collection to rival that of a Japanese businessman. Kohl-smeared eyes and a day’s growth of beard gave him a sexy, post-coital air, and the smell of beer and faint cologne filled the small space. He wore a heavy black winter trench coat with more buckles than were technically necessary over a silvery button up shirt, and his jeans were expertly faded in the most expensive way. Streaks of blue peeked between thick locks of dark hair, and his body was still just as incredible now as it had been when I’d last seen him in person seven years ago.
All of those memories and thoughts took approximately two seconds to run through my head before the elevator doors closed behind him and I was trapped.
I was staring at him. I knew I was. Staring and hoping for deliverance. That the doors would open again and someone else would get on. That the lights would go out. That the cable would snap and we’d plunge twenty-three floors to our untimely deaths.
...Okay, that was probably going a little too far. In my defense there are only so many options in an elevator, I could always escape through the ceiling, but that would require asking Damien to give me a boost. Then he would notice me for sure.
Our eyes met.
For a moment the world stopped spinning, and I knew it was all over.
But all that happened was that Damien glanced at the cigarette pinched between my fingers and gave me a hint of that handsome, devilish grin that I remembered so well. “Going to risk the wrath of management?” he asked. We were a nonsmoking building.
I shook my head, my mouth dry. “Top floor,” I managed to croak. “To the roof.”
He raised his brows. “Cold up there tonight,” he said, taking in my prim wool skirt and stockings, the sensible heels the hotel made me wear even though we were cleaning rooms, and the entirely inappropriate hoodie I’d thrown on over my uniform. He looked like a disapproving mother. Any second now I was certain he was going to tell me to put a hat on.
Stop looking at me, I thought. Stop looking at me, stop looking at me...
His brilliant green eyes lingered on my face for just a moment longer than was comfortable. Then, to my relief, he turned away and punched the button for the top floor, stepped back, and watched the numbers go up.
For a second I relaxed. He hadn’t recognized me.
Then I was insulted. I remembered him—why didn’t he remember me? Was I just not important enough?
Which was stupid. Because I
important and that was the whole reason I didn’t want him noticing me
Then I realized that he hadn’t hit a second button.
Was he... was he going up to the top floor
Well of course he would. The best suites were on the top floor. We were stuck together for this ride.
Shit. Shit shit shit.
As though he’d heard my inner panic attack, Damien glanced at me again from the corner of his eye. Jamming my cigarette between my lips I grabbed my purse and pulled it in front of me, popping it open and rummaging around for my phone. Old receipts and loose tampons and a couple of dry pens attempted to foil me but at last my fingers closed around the rubber casing of my cell. I pulled it out. A few stray receipts came with it and fluttered to the floor.
Sneaking a glance at Damien, I saw him still studying me from the corner of his eye. He’d crossed his arms over his chest and was leaning against the wall next to the button panel. The well-tailored lines of his coat pulled across his broad shoulders, emphasizing his athletic physique, and when I forced myself to crouch down and gather my trash I remembered just how
he was, too.
My cheeks burned with embarrassment as I straightened and stuffed the receipts back in my purse, but I made a valiant attempt to stay cool by turning my phone on and checking my texts. I was supposed to meet my downstairs neighbor, Dwayne, for a night of mutual liver-destruction, and I wanted to make sure that was still on. I needed it.
Except my phone was out of batteries. The blank screen mocked me.
I angled my body towards Damien so that he couldn’t see my screen and pretended to scroll and read.
Stop being such a loser,
I imagined my text messages saying, loving reminders from my friends to get my shit together. The thought made me scowl.
I started and looked up.
Damien was staring openly at me now. He wore a faintly puzzled expression, and I realized he was trying to place my features. He
Good. Fuck. Good. No, fuck.
“Uh,” I said. “Not really. Just drama.” Reaching up I grabbed the hood of my sweatshirt and pulled it over my head. Gripping the phone with both hands I stared at the blank screen with fixed determination. If I’d been smart I would have taken my headphones out while I rummaged for my phone—I hadn’t lived in New York City for the past seven years without learning a thing or two about putting up a Don’t Fuck With Me force field—but I was doing okay A solid B plus. Hood up, phone out.
To my deep chagrin Damien didn’t take the hint. “Shit,” he said. “Drama? Fucking
me about it. I got drama up the ass. What’s your drama?”
Yeah. Damien was not a New Yorker. But I knew that. He wasn’t a New Yorker any more than I was, and I’d had more time than him to adapt. Unfortunately I still had the residual Midwest politeness tickling my guilt reflex and telling me to answer the nice young man’s question.
I had to talk to him, didn’t I? Blindly I groped for a bit of workplace gossip to feed him so he would stop staring at me and leave me alone. Lucky for me, the workplace was brimming with gossip.
I didn’t look at him as I answered. “It’s nothing. Just this guy I work with,” I said.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Damien still staring at me. Inviting me to fill the silence.
Don’t do it,
I told myself.
It’s a trap!
But reflex took over.
“He, uh... keeps trying to sleep with our supervisor,” I added. He kept staring, so I pressed on. “And she’s married. He likes to keep me posted about his progress.” That, at least, was a true story. Stupid Randy.
To my shock, Damien threw his head back and laughed.
Except it sounded weird. Stilted. Nothing like the laugh of the boy I remembered.
“Shit,” he said, oblivious to my inner observations. “I wish my drama was that amusing.”
I couldn’t help the reply that leapt to my lips. “It’s not amusing,” I said, “it’s irritating.”
“But it’s drama that’s not happening to
he pointed out. “It’s happening to someone else and that makes it funnier.”
I opened my mouth to say that it
happening to me because Randy wouldn’t shut the hell up about how much he wanted to motorboat Stacia’s boobs, but then I remembered I wasn’t supposed to be talking to him for fear that he’d recognize me.
I threw him a shrug. “I guess,” I said, and turned back to my phone.
“What’s he say?” Damien asked.
Goddamn, I thought. Mind your own business, son!
But he was staring at me, his green eyes dancing with humor. He was like a dog with a bone. He had something, and he wasn’t letting it go. Why he wanted to talk to
of all people, someone he only vaguely recognized, was blowing my mind. I wasn’t a fan, I hadn’t asked him to give me his autograph, nothing at all like that, so why...?
Okay, fine. Maybe
was why he wanted to talk. He probably wanted to be a normal human being for two minutes. The Hollow Men were hot, on every newsstand and in every video, on every talk show, playing on every radio, spreading across the internet like wildfire every time they so much deigned as to string three notes together in public, and remixed into every club hit. Everyone under the age of twenty-nine knew their faces and music whether they wanted to or not. They were so pervasive I was certain that even homeschooled kids in Utah had somehow absorbed knowledge of their existence by osmosis.
And here I was, trying to pretend like I didn’t know him. Maybe he wanted me to recognize him, or maybe he just liked the novelty of a woman who hadn’t asked him to autograph her tits.
Well, I wouldn’t have said no to the tits part. But at least I wasn’t acting like it.
I gave up. He wasn’t studying me anymore as though trying to place my features, so it was probably safe to talk to him. With a sigh, I dropped my phone back in my purse just as the elevator reached the roof. Well, floor 53. I had to climb the stairs to the roof from here.
The doors hissed open and I held my purse close to me as I passed Damien. I turned as he exited the elevator and started walking backwards towards the stairs. “I guess it
kind of funny,” I admitted. “He says he thinks he might get our supervisor to give him head in the kitchen.”
“That sounds unsanitary,” Damien said. And he started to follow me.
...All right. Now I was kind of freaked out. I stopped walking.
He stopped as well. We stood there staring at each other for a long, awkward moment.
“Well,” I said, “I’m headed to the roof. Where’s your room?”
“I was hoping to bum a cigarette,” he said, suddenly sheepish and totally innocent. “I used to smoke and had to quit...but like I said, drama. I could really use a cigarette right now.”
Any other man and I would have told him to fuck off and gone back down to the lobby—getting raped and stabbed on a roof in Manhattan was not how I had envisioned dying—but, well...this was Damien Colton. Famous rock star. Not incredibly likely to be the murdering type.
And besides. I
him. Or I
known him, once upon a time, and the boy I’d known back then was chivalrous and respectful of women, despite the privilege of his god-given gifts. He hadn’t smoked, but I supposed that the music world could have changed that.
I huffed. “Fine,” I said. “I smoke menthols, though.”
I turned my back on him, wondering if I could break into a run and somehow escape, although since escape would necessitate either falling down eighty-three flights of stairs or waiting for the elevator again I was probably shit out of luck. The longer we spent time together, the more likely it would be that he would recognize me. Maybe. Or maybe I really was completely unmemorable.
needed a cigarette.
“Is this allowed?” Damien asked as I pushed through the door leading to the stairs.
“Not really,” I said. I suppressed a shiver at the coldness of the stairwell. “It’s more like an employee perk.”
“You work here?”
. “Yeah. I clean the rooms. Housekeeping!”
“Wow! That sounds interesting. Got any good stories?”
I stopped and looked down at him. His voice had been completely sincere, but no one, and I mean
, had ever told me my job sounded interesting. I mean, it
interesting, in a certain sort of underbelly-of-humanity way, but no one had ever asked about it. I squinted at his face, trying to see if he’d been poking fun at me or not, but he gazed back with total innocence. “What?” he said.