Authors: Dawn Ryder
Tags: #Fiction, #Erotica, #General, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Music
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Copyright © 2015 by Dawn Ryder
Cover and internal design © 2015 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover art by Blake Morrow
Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.
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Kate Napier raised her head, shifting her focus from the strips of leather she had pushed under the industrial sewing machine she was using. Her partner only called her sweetie when he was nervous about something.
One look at Percy Lynwood confirmed it. All six foot four of him hovered in the doorway between the machine shop and the cutting room of their design studio. He was pulling on the measuring tape draped around his neck, looking at her with pleading eyes. She looked past him to find that their staff members had suspiciously disappeared into the prep room at the back of the building.
“This is part of the Stanton order, Percy,” she warned him. “He wants it for Sturgis in two weeks.”
Percy wrung his hands, looking like a gigantic teddy bear with his naturally curly hair framing his forehead. He shifted from side to side before taking a stiff breath and stepping onto the concrete floor of the machine shop.
Kate flattened her hands on the edge of the sewing machine table and narrowed her eyes. Percy grimaced and lifted his hands to keep her from arguing further.
“I’ll put Paula on it,” he said in a rush. “Giles just called with an emergency.”
She took the opportunity to stand up and stretch her lower back, arching all the way until her neck popped.
“Leather is my department. No offense to Paula, but she doesn’t fit ass like I do,” Kate said.
“Definitely not,” Percy agreed. “But this is an emergency on an epic scale,” he finished with a flurry of his hands.
Kate lowered her chin and locked gazes with Percy. His tone was downright miserable. “Okay, so what is stressing you out so bad?”
“It’s the Toxsin account.”
Kate lifted her hand and pointed to the wall behind Percy. Her personal operating rules were on a corkboard. Number one: no cuts to the front of the line.
“I know about your rules, Kate, but this is urgent!” Percy was back to wringing his hands. “Toxsin is going on stage in four hours, and there is some sort of problem with the lead singer’s leather pants.”
“As in Syon Braden?” Kate asked.
Percy nodded. “The Marquis.” He supplied the stage name of the man currently topping preeminent entertainer lists around the globe with a breathless sigh.
She moved around the large industrial sewing machine and jabbed her finger again at the corkboard on the wall that had her name on it. “Rule number two: I don’t do rock stars. Besides, are you really telling me that you don’t want to get your hands on the Marquis?”
Percy cracked a saucy grin through his worried expression. “You know I do, and I think even Steve will forgive me for it as long as I share every last succulent detail. That Syon is an animal.” Percy made a soft sound that was a cross between a moan and a growl.
“Glad we got that squared away.” Kate turned and headed for the leather pants destined for the biker paradise known as Sturgis. The end-of-summer rally held in Sturgis, South Dakota, drew bikers from all over the world. Making leatherwear for attendees was her bread and butter. “Have a blast with the Marquis.”
“But, Kate,” Percy whimpered again. “Showtime is seven, and they are playing the Staples Center downtown.”
“Ahhh…” Kate turned to look at the large clock on the wall next to her corkboard. Every staff member had a corkboard. Schedules were posted there, along with any rule anyone felt they couldn’t live with being violated. The boards kept the peace pretty well, but the clock read three sharp.
“With afternoon traffic, which will be even worse than usual with Toxsin playing, I’ll never make it down there in time. They’ve been sold out for months,” Percy explained.
“So why did Giles call us? It’s his account, his premiere account. Why isn’t he flying out to defend his turf?” Percy’s costume college buddy had jumped through flaming hoops to score the account with Toxsin.
Percy spread his hands in a pleading gesture. “Because he’s in New York, and it’s an emergency. They need something fixed immediately. He wouldn’t trust just anyone to deal with them. That’s why he called us.”
“Giles called you, not us.” Kate propped her hand on her hip. “I’m still a little sketchy on why you need me for this, Percy. I don’t drive any faster than you do.”
“They’re sending a helicopter from the Staples Center. That’s how desperate they are.” Percy looked miserable again. “You know I can’t stand heights.”
Kate’s stomach knotted. Percy could get woozy on the third story of their building if he got too close to a window. He’d turn green just looking at a helicopter.
“Wear a blindfold and think about what you’ll get for your courage,” she said.
Percy gave a sigh, which was pitiful until she coupled it with his overall size. He had the body of a linebacker and the heart of a 1950s suburban housewife. A mouse sighting would send him screaming. When it came to his marriage with his husband, Steve, Percy was the wife all the way.
“I tried the blindfold in Alaska, but I still threw up all over Steve before we finished the helicopter tour of the glacier. And it was his birthday present too. I tried so hard.” He shook his head sadly.
The knot in her stomach was tightening with the help of guilt. She did love Percy, but rock stars drove her insane. She chewed on her lower lip as her partner looked at her pleadingly.
Yup, hungry, starving baby bear.
“Take a bucket,” she suggested.
“I’ll arrive as weak as an infant and light-headed. Definitely not professional.” He pointed at the three phrases posted above everyone’s corkboards. They were the operating foundation of their business, Timeless Custom Creations:
Always push the creative boundaries.
Always wow the customer.
Always be professional.
“Shit,” she cussed as the word
cut through her personal phobias. “Just…craptastic!”
Percy sent her a relieved look. She was folding, and he knew it. “I always fucking cave in when it’s our image on the line,” she said. “Giles is so going to owe me.”
Percy tried to soothe her. “You’ll be just fine, sweetie.”
“Don’t ‘sweetie’ me.” She pointed at him. “You’d better tell them I’m a lesbian, because if even one of those arrogant asshats pinches my butt, I’m going warrior princess on them.”
Percy rolled his eyes. “Hardly. You’re so strictly dick, I get jealous when you sit next to Steve at lunch.”
“I’m not a home wrecker,” she defended herself.
“But you are a little uptight lately…maybe it will be good for you.” Percy was back to being saucy. “Find out if they know how to use those succulent bodies for more than dancing. You know, just ’cause you got great buns doesn’t mean you know how to fuck worth—”
He ducked when Kate chucked a chair cushion at him. It collided with the wall, making a soft, unsatisfying sound before sliding to the floor.
Percy was laughing when he peeked between his hands at her. “Is that a definite no? Because the Marquis does have a whole lot of yumminess going on. I bet he could make you forget all about Todd—”
“Rule number five, no kissing on the first date,” Kate reminded him.
“Technically, it’s not a date,” Percy pointed out with a smirk. “You should exploit that loophole darling, or let it exploit you!”
Kate groaned and stomped off to take a shower. Working with leather was a sweaty business. The water restored her confidence in her appearance, but she was still chewing on her discontentment when she heard the helicopter landing in the back parking lot.
Rock stars. Geez.
Just what she didn’t need. Todd and his two-timing had been more than enough.
But at least she could dress how she liked. She pulled on a pair of leather pants and tightened the laces that ran up their sides from ankle to hip. They fit her like a second skin, and she admired the way the blood-orange leather cupped her ass.
No one fit leather like she did. She couldn’t help it. She loved the stuff—the scent, the feel, and most especially, the look. She added a thin silk tank top that fluttered over her buns like a teasing veil, ending right at the curve of her butt, and shrugged into a leather corset top with brass closures. Once it was tight, her cleavage was halfway to her chin.
At least she had one good thing to say about rock stars: they had good taste in clothing.
* * *
“You’ve got a full set kit.” Percy pointed at the black cases being loaded into the helicopter. “So no matter what the issue is, you should be fine.”
Kate wasn’t sure what she’d expected, but the sleek black aircraft in her parking lot wasn’t it. The thing was plenty big enough for the eight heavy-duty traveling cases that made up their “on set” kit. The pilot hadn’t even needed to disembark, because he had two burly assistants to help him load everything. They were outfitted in tuxes, and
the off-the-rack variety. She knew a custom job when she saw one. They kept those suit jackets on even as they lifted and stowed her gear, which meant only one thing: they were bodyguards too. Had to have something to hide their chest harnesses.
“I am so jealous,” Percy whined. “These guys are premium…”
Kate rolled her eyes. “There will be at least a hundred starstruck fangirls willing to grease their poles just for the chance to get near the band.”
“I know, Katie girl, but I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind playing games with any of them.” He made a sound of enjoyment and smacked his lips.
“You’re married,” she reminded him.
“But not dead.” Percy batted his eyelashes at her. “You look like a blood orange. Sweeten up a little and stop letting Todd make you into such a bitch. It’s his loss.”
Kate offered him a genuine smile. She felt a little tug on her heart, because she did love Percy, quivering insides and all. He had an unparalleled eye for color and could draft a pattern like a fairy godmother.
“Todd who?” she purred.
“There’s my girl.” He reached out and patted her hair. Newly washed, it was rising up into a cloud of tiny copper curls. She had it clipped back, but there was no way it was going to lay flat. “I think they’re ready for you.”
Kate looked up to see one of the private security men moving toward her.
“Be careful with the warrior-princess thing. I hear the Marquis likes his women wild,” Percy added with a suggestive grin.
Kate stuck out her tongue at him before striding toward the sleek aircraft. One of the security men opened the sliding door behind the copilot seat and offered her a hand as she stepped up into the cabin. The seats were plush and covered in black leather. The security guy waited while she pulled the seat straps over her shoulders and secured the chest harness. He pointed to a set of earphones hanging from the ceiling. The rotor was beginning to spin, filling the cabin with noise.
She pulled the earphones off the hook and fussed with them until she adjusted them small enough to sit on her head. They were the sort that covered each ear completely, and a microphone stuck out in front of her face.
“Once I take off, I’ll turn on your feed, Ms. Napier. Push the button on the side of your headset before you talk.” The pilot’s voice had an electronic quality to it through the headphones, and there was a click the moment he finished talking. The helicopter shuddered as the rotor reached full speed. They began to lift off the ground, Kate’s belly doing a tiny flop at the sudden weightlessness.
She leaned forward to look out the window. There was something thrilling about being able to lift up and over the afternoon traffic. They flew over the freeway, confirming her suspicion that there was no way she would have made it by car. It was bumper-to-bumper rush hour in the Los Angeles basin. No one was going anywhere fast.
Unless they were in a helicopter. She smiled, enjoying the moment of being someone important. Because it sure wouldn’t last. There was a pile of leather waiting for her back at the shop and a line of impatient bikers to deal with.
In the distance, the towers of downtown Los Angeles rose up. The air was surprisingly clear, and the sun sparkled off the glass-sided skyscrapers. The pilot was talking to some air-control personnel as he made a wide circle around the Staples Center. It sure was a different picture from the air. She’d been to the huge arena plenty of times, but she’d never seen the top of it.
There were three helicopter-landing circles, complete with blinking lights set into the concrete. There was also a ramp that had two black SUVs parked on it, facing away from a glass entry into the arena. A burly bodyguard was standing near the driver’s door, watching the helicopter hover over one of the landing circles.
What a different world.
“They are waiting for you, Ms. Napier. We’ll get your gear unloaded and down to you.”
Someone opened the side door before the pilot stopped talking. The rotor was still winding down, and air rushed inside. The suit jacket on the guy at the door flipped up, giving her a peek at a shoulder holster and the butt of a pistol.
Yeah, different world completely.
She pressed the release buttons on the latch holding her harness and managed her way to the open door. The wind and noise were dying down, allowing her to hear something else: the unmistakable sound of people cheering from the street. It was like a roar coming over the top of the building.
It sent a tingle along her spine.
“Don’t mind them. They just think you’re part of the band arriving.”
The bodyguard offered her a hand, but she grabbed the handle on the ceiling of the aircraft. He cupped her elbow the moment her feet hit the pavement and guided her toward the glass entry port from the roof. Now that she’d landed, she could see painted walkways leading toward two huge double doors.
“You don’t need to hold on to me.” She lifted her arm, earning a stern look from the bodyguard.
“Let’s go over the rules.” He kept hold of her elbow as someone inside opened the door for them. “No touching the performers.”
“That’s going to make fixing a costume issue challenging,” she remarked.