WILDER: A Rockstar Romance (5 page)

BOOK: WILDER: A Rockstar Romance
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Chapter 8

Scarlett

 

I flicked through the stations, annoyed that my cheap-ass rental car had no A/V input. I hated being at the mercy of terrestrial radio.

The scan alighted on a pop station, and the blaring bass of 'Cocky' by Jaxson Blue made the cheap speakers vibrate with an annoying buzzing sound. I hit scan. That song was played out last summer, and everyone I knew was sick to death of it.

Everyone except my old friend Myra, one of the first friends I made when I moved to the West Coast. She and I used to go to shows together, the loud music drowning out how incompatible we actually were as friends. I was the serious, studious journalist, covering bands for the local free paper and writing lengthy treatises on the influence of seventies disco culture on the club-kid scene. She was a social butterfly who didn't give a shit about the actual music but cared deeply for the celebrity factor. Myra Rains was a self-professed "groupie gadabout" who interviewed Jaxson Blue for her blog back when the song was breaking. She swore up and down that she 'almost' slept with the guy, but was "cock-blocked by fucking Annie Blue herself!"

Now, Jaxson Blue was hot, and his songs had a certain poppy charm, but the idea of Myra coming face-to-face with a legend like Annie Blue, his mother, had me seething with jealousy. That was the kind of interview I longed to do. "What did you say?" I begged her over drinks the day after this supposed cock-blocking occurred.

"I took his cock outta my mouth and told her I was a fan!" she giggled over her margarita.

My Catholic-school-girl ears heated up. Five years out of high school, and I still blushed like a virgin when Myra fired up her potty-mouth. I wondered if I'd ever lose that or if I'd still be embarrassed by sex in the retirement home.

"And what did she say?"

"Thanked me and told her son to put his dick back in his pants. The elevator took me back down after that." Myra stirred her drink with a faraway glance. "His cock was...pretty much as beautiful as you'd expect."

"Do you..." I dropped my voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Do you always do that?"

"Do what?"

"You know...sleep with your story?"

Myra looked at me witheringly, and I knew right then and there that I was being dismissed. I was terminally dorky, terminally uncool. They said these things didn't matter once you hit adulthood, but they absolutely did. Myra had the confidence and guiltless zest for life that marked her as a "public school kid." I could practically smell it on her. "I'm not a whore, Scarlett. I'm a slut. Whores sleep with guys for money. Sluts sleep with guys for fun. You really should learn the difference."

I didn't know the difference because sex had never been "fun" for me. In all of my experience—all two guys of it—sex had been serious business. Kevin, back when he was still wooing me, was fastidious beforehand, dutiful during and disappeared into the bathroom right afterward, leaving me lying there with the vague sensation of an itch barely scratched.

And Keir…well, Keir had been way different—enthusiastic and not always completely hygienic—but the resulting seriousness of what we had done together was something I couldn't ever shake.

Sex for fun? What was that?

The scan settled on an oldies station, and the familiar piano gymnastics of Billy Joel began. With a blush, I moved to change the station, but my finger lingered a moment, then fell away.

It was the first hot day of the year, the kind of day that made high school juniors crave summer vacation right down in their very bones. I usually walked home from Star of the Sea Girls Academy with Kerry Flanagan, who lived three blocks away from my house on Wallace Street, and that day we tied our white blouses under our breasts and rolled our plaid skirts as high as we dared before we set out into the blazing sun.

I was enjoying the warmth on my skin, feeling something tight under my breastbone unknot itself after the long, snowy winter. So I forgot to rearrange myself before I turned onto Wallace Street.

I heard a wolf-whistle from the direction of the Wilders' garage.

I hid my smile behind fake outrage and turned to glare at Keir. "Pig!" I called out.

He emerged from the garage, already tanned golden somehow. He was shirtless, of course, because the boy never let an opportunity to take his shirt off pass him by, and for that I breathed a silent prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Hormones. "Oink oink." He smiled at me. His grin turned into a leer, and his hands moved in an hourglass shape in front of him. "Seriously, Scar, what is this?"

I planted my hand on my hip. I liked the way he was looking at me right then, though I knew I shouldn't. "My uniform," I said primly.

"Fuck me," he breathed. "And wear that when you do."

"You're disgusting."

He hummed a little melody I couldn't place and started singing something about Catholic girls starting late in that gravelly voice of his.

I didn't know what to do with the way his voice was affecting my body, so I feigned indifference. "Fuck off," I sighed, and started across his lawn towards my house.

He was laughing behind me, still singing the song I didn't know. It was the sexiest, most irritating thing ever.

I went home that afternoon and looked up the lyrics as I remembered them.

That was my introduction to Billy Joel. I listened to him, keeping him hidden from my parents, figuring that if Keir was singing it to me, it somehow must be dirty.

It wasn't until I got to
Grip
that I learned listening to Billy Joel was not "cool." But I still sang along with the radio, feeling my heart fill up.

I was going to see Keir. I shouldn't be so damn happy. I should be focused, maybe even frightened. But here I was, singing the song he used to tease me with at the top of my lungs.

The GPS chirped a perky little warning that my destination was on the right, and I pulled up short, swerving at the last minute into the curving drive of the Ventura Lofts Hotel. And then sat there, slightly stunned.

This was the place Keir chose for the interview, "because it's around the corner from my place," and I had arrived here in twenty minutes flat. The knowledge that he had been this close to me was messing with my head. I could have seen him walking the streets, run into him in a coffee shop or juice bar.

My hands trembled. He had been so close...for so long. Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes and I blinked them away, confused as to why I was crying.

The Ventura Lofts commanded a spectacular view of the water. After giving my name at the front desk, I tapped my fingers on the cool marble, waiting to be summoned up to the penthouse suite where Keir was waiting for me.

Keir was waiting for me.

"You can head up, miss. I've unlocked the elevator for you," the clerk said.

"Thank you." My high heels sounded echoingly loud against the marble floor. The elevator doors swished open soundlessly, and I stepped inside.

Keir was waiting for me.

I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the wall and swallowed as I remembered. "
Keir is waiting for me," I said to my brother. My voice sounded oddly pinched through the pain.

Clark stood in the doorway of his daughter's bedroom, looking at me. My brother's face was heavily shadowed with his new beard, and his eyes showed the weariness of new fatherhood. I was imposing on him by being here, especially with his wife Dayna due any moment with their second. He shouldn't have to worry about me, too.

But Clark was my best brother, closest in age to me, and the only one I could trust. I was grateful that it was him that found me that morning.

The late afternoon sun filtered pink through the princess curtains, casting a rosy glow over his grim face. Hailey was asleep in her crib, her chubby fist curled under her chin. The sight of her only made the pain in my belly worse.

"You can't worry about Keir now," Clark urged me. "I'll tell him. If I can. Dayna's on her way. She's going to take you to the doctor."

The elevator dinged open.

I stepped out, blinking, into the light-filled expanse of the penthouse suite. Outside of the floor to ceiling windows, the Pacific Ocean beat ceaselessly against the ribbon of beachfront. Inside was all blonde wood and white fabric, the open floor plan leaving nowhere for me to hide and collect myself. "Hello?" I called.

It's strange the way memories can cascade. One leads to another, and another, collecting the way a snowball becomes an avalanche bearing down on you from high above.

First it was the sound of his sigh carrying across the room. Then it was the way his footsteps hit the floor, the rhythm of his walk as familiar as my own heartbeat. I ducked my head away from the sight of him in the corner of my eye. That familiar shape.

Then his voice, ragged and gravelly, saying five years’ worth of things unsaid in only three syllables.

"Scarlett. Hi."

When he said my name, my head jerked towards him like it was tugged on a string. And though I had seen pictures over the years—magazine covers, album covers, publicity and tour shots—nothing prepared me for the shock of seeing Keir Wilder in the flesh.

His face had always been a jumble of beautiful contradictions. His dark eyes, so heavy and hooded, were somehow both sleepy and sharp. His lips, so full as to be almost girlish, were nearly hidden in the dark shadow of his stubble. A stylist had clearly gotten ahold of his hair, but as he watched me, he ran his fingers nervously through it, sending dark tufts up to stick out wildly in all directions.

My hand moved to smooth it down. I clenched it against my side.

He stepped behind the white sofa as if he wanted to keep something between us, something he could hold on to. It was
him
. The first man I loved. The only man I had ever loved, truth be told. The best, most wonderful moments of my life were spent with Keir Wilder, and suddenly, they all hit me at once.

"Hi, Keir Bear." I smiled.

He blinked at my nickname for him, rearing back as if slapped. His eyes narrowed, and he turned on his heel.

"Fuck," he snarled. He sounded like he was in pain.  "This was a fucking mistake. I can't do this."

"It's okay," I said. Numbly. Mindlessly.

"No, it fucking isn't."

I ducked my head. "I know."

He looked at me. "Don't do that."

"What?"

"Look all hurt. You don't get to do that."

A flash of anger heated my blood. "I don't 'get' to? How do you think you have the right to tell me what I can and cannot feel?"

He was breathing deeply, like a bull ready to charge. "You need to go."

For a moment, I forgot my job. I forgot that I was here to interview him, to play a role. To be impartial. How did I ever think I could be impartial? I was seeing him again after five long years, and he was already cutting me off.  "Wait!" I demanded, lifting my chin. "Are you really going to tell me to leave? Now? After all this time?"

His shoulders sagged, and for a second, I had him. I knew I had him. I almost smiled.

Then he turned his back on me. "I mean it. Get the hell out of here."

Chapter 9

Keir

 

I stood in front of the elevator right up until the moment I heard the gears start to grind. Then I moved away, out of spite.

I wanted to see her before she saw me.

Was that petty of me? Fine, I could accept that. I wanted her to feel just a fraction of how off-kilter I was feeling.

Then the doors opened and everything tilted sideways.

Her hair was still honey blonde, but the California sun had kissed it platinum in places, and she had cut it into a short bob that swung against her long neck in a way that made me swallow hard. Something about how her neck was bare to me, right there and ready to be kissed, licked and bitten...

"Hello?" she called, and fuck, I was gone.

I had to lean against the back of the couch, slouching to hide my completely inappropriate hard-on. "Scarlett," I said, tasting her name. "Hi."

Five years had taken some of the baby fat from her face and strengthened the determined set of her jaw. But otherwise, she was the exact same girl I loved so long ago. She looked so goddamned eager that it broke my heart. "Hi, Keir Bear," she said softly. Then turned pink at the intimacy of the old nickname.

Fix this,
a voice in my head insisted. And I should have been able to. After all, it's what I did.

But what happened between Scarlett and me—that was beyond fixing. Not after so long.

It was her, she was here, and all I had to do was ask her and five years of wondering would be over. But my pain choked the words from my mouth.

I swallowed, hearing an audible click where my anger closed its fist around my throat. Rage was a living, breathing thing inside of me. I exhaled. "Fuck, this was a mistake."

She tried to protest, but my blood was boiling in my veins, my heart sounding in my ears. I wanted to shout at her, grab her and shake her. I wanted to throw her down on the couch between us and kiss her until her lips were raw. I wanted to feel her nails gouge rivers down my back as I fucked her so hard we had no choice but to be one heart again.

"I mean it. Get the hell out of here. "

I didn't mean it. Of course I didn't mean it.

But Scarlett turned to leave all the same. Her shoulders sagged. She had always held her head so high, even when life gave her no reason to do so. A flicker of pain passed across her face, and my heart squeezed hard in my chest. As angry as I was, I still wanted to hurt whatever had hurt her.

And right now I knew it was me.

"Don't," I said. "Stop."

She turned slowly, keeping her eyes on me, wary of any sudden moves. I hated how she was looking at me right now.

Her voice was so low I had to lean over the couch to catch her words. "Why did you agree to see me if you didn't want to talk to me?" she half-spoke, half-whispered.

"Because—" I struggled with the words and finally decided to just fucking say them. "Because you
called
me."
Finally,
I didn't say, but she definitely heard it. "Because it sounded like you were ready to talk. Are you ready to talk, Scarlett?"

Her eyes darted everywhere but my face. My anger, which had softened just a little, rose each moment she refused to look at me. "This is my job, Keir," she said. I hated the note of begging in her voice. That's not how I wanted her to sound. Not to me. I didn't want her begging anything from anyone.

"Bullshit. You've got too much integrity to pull something like this without reason." I narrowed my eyes. "Or maybe you actually don't? After all, you never had the fucking integrity to tell me why you left."

Scarlett went on her toes and turned, jabbing her finger into the down button on the elevator. "This
was
a mistake. You're right. There's too much shit. It would take too long to hash out. I'm just going to go."

Anger licked like flames along my cheek. "No," I roared.

She flinched, which only made me angrier. I hated that I was scaring her, but I hated her leaving even more. "You don't get to do this. You don't get to saunter casually back into my life after five fucking years, Scarlett! Why did you leave? That's not a fucking question, that’s a demand. You owe me a fucking explanation."

She lifted her chin, and I saw her jut out her lower jaw in a pretty good imitation of what Rane called my "bulldog face." Scarlett always did that, mirrored my faces with her own. It made me careful back then, but now I didn't give a shit. "I left," she said, her voice impossibly low, "because I needed to, Keir. And that’s all that should matter if you loved me."

"If?" I was shouting now and I couldn't seem to stop. "
If
I loved you? If you knew me at all, you know that there never was any such thing as
if
, Scarlett. Why don't you tell me the real reason?"

She twisted her fingers around her left hand, and my eyes went to where the ring should be. Five years later, who knew where we'd be if she still wore it? Maybe we'd be parents already, with a house on the coast. Two little kids running around, one blonde, one with dark hair, and both of them with her face.

She opened her mouth, and I braced myself for the revelation that never came. Instead, she let out a small, stifled sob. "Keir, please. I need this interview. My job is on the line, and I have rent coming due, and I had to rent a car to come out here because mine's in the shop. Could you please...just help me out?"

I opened my mouth, then closed it. She knew. After all these years, she still knew my fucking kryptonite. She had a problem. A problem I could fix for her.

"Yeah," I heard myself saying. "Yeah. I can help you."

Then I stepped aside and let her back into my life.

*****

When it was done, when it was over, and I had given Scarlett what she needed, then ridden down in the elevator with her like some true fucking gentlemen, I watched her walk away from me, her pretty little heels clicking across the marble lobby floor. She was happy; I had given her what she needed, an exclusive interview that revealed more than I ever wanted to share with anyone… But it was her, and once I started talking, I realized I could keep her there, in my presence—there in the room with me where I could watch her laugh and tuck her hair behind her ear to expose her throat to me—for as long as I kept giving her what she needed.

Never mind what I needed.

I stood like an idiot, like a fucking castrated mule, my hands shoved in my pockets like a chump, watching Scarlett Sawyer leave me. Once again, I had to let her go.

When I got back on the elevator, my fist connected with the metal paneling so loudly that it rang like a church bell in my ears. Anger and hurt wrapped around my heart like a noose, drawing up tighter and tighter.

I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing Scarlett Sawyer again, and while I may not have been happy about it, at least it would have been preferable to the way my heart was squeezing now, a slow motion heart attack.

When I got back to the room, I poured a shot. Then another, then another, then I abandoned the shot glass entirely and began to drink straight from the bottle.

It was over. She was going to go back to her life, and I was going to continue with mine. The tour was starting, only a few more details to hammer out, a few more shows to book. The bus was taken care of, a sleek silver thing that looked more like a jet plane than something roadworthy. Every single bit was ready to go.

Except, suddenly, for me.

How could I let her walk away from me again?

If anyone from the band had been there, maybe they would have talked me down. If my brother had been sitting next to me, he might have called me out on my obsession, distracting me from the tendrils of possessive desire that were snaking through my body like treacherous ivy. If I had been with anyone else, and not alone, maybe I wouldn't have done it.

But I was alone, and more than a little drunk now, and filled with a potent mix of whiskey and regret.

I stumbled a little as I made for my phone. The phone numbers for the editors at
Grip
were publicly available. I didn't even have to call Keith, our manager, to make a contact. There was no need to call in any favors, to wheedle or cajole. I didn't have to grease any palms or bribe any middleman. All I had to do was dial.

All I had to do was dial and I could have Scarlett again.

BOOK: WILDER: A Rockstar Romance
6.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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