He’s always saved her.
Now she’s going to return the favor…
Gray Duffy never thought he’d end up as the co-lead guitarist of Oblivion, one of the hottest rock bands in the country. Even better? He’s sharing the experience with his best friend, Jazz. Since the day she’d showed up as his family’s new foster kid, Gray has protected her. Loved her. And not just platonically either. After all these years of wanting her in his bed, he still doesn’t know what it would be like to have her mouth on his.
Except for that one time. The time he’d shared her with Nick. The best worst night of his life.
Now they’re living their dream. They’re making music together and spending every waking moment trapped in tight quarters. With success at their fingertips, the time is right for him to finally make his move toward the woman he needs.
He just never figured he would lose control. Or that she would find out.
*click me for an Excerpt*
“Gray, your new sister is here.”
Gray rolled over on his stomach and dragged the pillow over his head. He was still hungover from the party last night and wasn’t in the mood to play nice. Not while there were cymbals crashing in his skull. “Can I talk to her later?”
“No. You can talk to her now.”
Gray groaned. “Brent’s home for the weekend. Let him play welcome wagon. I’ll take the night shift.”
“Brent already went back to campus.”
Gray groaned. Figured. His older brother swung in for a night then swung back out again before the fawning stopped. Leaving everything to Gray as usual.
“Besides, I think you’re more suited in this case.” The mattress sank as his mom sat down at his side. “This one’s not had an easy time of it. I think a friend would do her good.”
Instantly guilt twisted in Gray’s already knotted stomach. Damn Mad Dog. He was never drinking that crap again, no matter how often Jimmy tried to tell him getting loaded would help their band. Bullshit. All it had done was give him a fucking headache and put him in a pisser of a mood. He rolled over and tossed his arm over his eyes. “How bad?” he asked tiredly.
“Pretty bad. Her mom kept her sister but turned Jasmine over to the state. Said she’d gone wild and she couldn’t handle her anymore. Since then, she’s bounced from place to place.”
“So she’s trouble.” He didn’t have time for that. He could stir up enough of his own.
“I think she’s just lonely. You have to meet her.”
The foster kids his mom and dad took in had usually come from rough environments. Some of the children were friendlier than others, which was understandable. But it had been six months since the last one, and he’d begun to think that maybe the Duffys had taken in their last kid. He and Brent would be off to college sooner rather than later and maybe they were looking forward to their empty nest.
But now they’d taken in Jasmine.
“Jasmine, huh? Like the flower?”
“Yes. Jasmine Edwards. You two actually have a lot in common.”
He snorted. “Oh yeah? Like what?”
“You’ll see.” She stood up. “I’m going to give you two some time alone. I’ll be in the den, okay?”
Gray grunted and waited until she’d left to haul his ass out of bed. He checked his appearance in the half bath off his bedroom. Lovely. Bloodshot eyes, check. Way too long hair that looked like someone had gone at it with shears, check. Dragon breath from puking in the bushes before he’d crashed that morning, triple check.
He brushed his teeth a couple of times, pushed a hand through his hair and sniffed his Dokken T-shirt before taking another run at his pits with his deodorant. Good enough. He headed downstairs, taking the steps two at a time. It wasn’t like he was meeting anyone he needed to impress.
Five minutes with this chick and he could consider his duty done. Then maybe he could get some practice in on Krystal Sword’s new material. He’d been writing this new song—
Halfway into the living room, he came to a halt. Everything stopped. His feet, his breath, his heart.
Curled up in one corner of the couch sat a tiny brunette, a guitar stretched across her lap. It dwarfed her, making her seem even smaller. Her fingers moved like a blur, coaxing out the most beautiful music from the antiquated acoustic. Scratches and welts covered the cherry wood, but it didn’t matter. She might as well have been playing the finest instrument that ever existed.
Head bent, she strummed and sang a song about a woman on her wedding day. Hope, fear, excitement. Crying tears of joy. He didn’t know the song—folksy type music wasn’t his thing—but he couldn’t stop listening. Or watching the way her perfect pink lips curved around the words she sang so effortlessly that she became one with the melody.
When she finished, she glanced up and flushed. “Oh.”
Her eyes were bright blue, like the sky on a sunny day. Surrounded by blue flecked lashes, those stunning irises bored into his and left him mute. He couldn’t say a damn thing.
“I’m sorry. I guess I shouldn’t have been playing.” She set the guitar aside and brushed her hands off on her skintight white jeans. The denim was sliced all the way up and down her legs, and through the holes he could see glimpses of color on her skin.
“Tattoos?” he asked.
Her flush only worsened as she followed his gaze to her legs. “No. Markers.”
She pulled open one of the gaps on her knee and a drawn-on daisy appeared in the hole. “When I get bored, I draw on my clothes. And on myself, since I’m easier to wash off.” She gave a little hitching giggle and stood up, sticking out her hand. “I’m Jazz. You must be Gray.”
He clasped her hand, not the least bit surprised when heat flared between their palms. But she didn’t seem to notice. She just kept smiling at him, her huge eyes locked on his.
“Yeah.” He swallowed hard. “I’m Gray.”
“Nice to meet you. How old are you?”
“Fourteen and a half. But I feel way older.”
He looked her up and down. “You don’t look older.”
She threw back her shoulders. “Yeah, ’cause I’m little. But I could still grow. It could totally happen. I take my vitamins. I work out.” She flexed her tiny bicep under the pink sleeve of her T-shirt and he couldn’t help grinning.
“Sure. I bet you’ll end up six feet tall.”
“Nah. That’s as tall as you are. I’d settle for five-two.”
Gray glanced down at her red Chucks. “You could wear heels.”
“No way.” She scrunched up her perky nose. “I’d rather be short.”
He laughed and gestured to her guitar. “So how long have you played?”
“All my life.”
He tried to take a deep breath. Realized his lungs were still seized up like he’d just run a mile. God, she was cute and she was into music? And she’d be living in his house? Down, boy.
Dealing with chicks was no big deal. He’d never had any trouble acting cool around them before. This one was a little too young for him anyway. Fourteen-year-old girls weren’t going to be as easy to coax up into his bedroom, something he did on the regular. He loved girls. The way they smelled. Tasted. Felt under his hands. They were like guitars, all smooth lines and perfect curves. He adored pulling different sounds out of them, just like he did his ax.
But this particular one would be his sister. Sort of. Which made this squicky. Still…
He cleared his throat. “You sound like me. I’m in a band.”
“You play too?” Her eyes lit. “What instrument?”
The nerves finally disappeared as he slid his hand down the neck of hers. “Guitar,” he said with a grin.
The stage throbbed with the bass. Confetti from the New Year’s Eve celebration littered the stage and colored strobe lights swung back and forth, landing on each of the members of Oblivion in turn. Bouncing over the crowd, revealing individual faces caught in various stages of excitement. A big party night like this demanded a primo act. The first time they’d played at Frenzy, the crowd hadn’t been nearly as enthusiastic, at least at the beginning. They’d had to seduce them into the music.
Tonight they were all ready to fuck.
Gray Duffy closed his eyes and threw back his head, letting the beat take him. His head was spinning, his heart pounding with every crash of the drums behind him. Jazz was killing it tonight. He followed Deacon’s lead as he always did, tracing that heartbeat bass line that led into “Taste of Candy”. The song wasn’t his favorite, but he didn’t care. When the sweat was coursing down his face, the salt burning on his lips and tongue, and his fingers were climbing the frets, so fast that he wondered how any skin still covered the muscles and bone, he tasted every note. Became them. Even the dueling guitar played by the guy against his back—Nick—only heightened the experience.
They were a unit again. Not perfect, not sealed together without cracks. But when they were playing for their fans, especially in their hometown, none of the shit of the past few months mattered. The grin Nick flashed him as he goaded Gray into the solo near the end of “Taste” was as genuine as the shoulder nudge Gray gave him when he tried to cut him out too soon. They weren’t friends, exactly, but they weren’t enemies anymore either.
Simon slung an arm around Deacon’s neck and shoved the microphone in their bassist’s face, earning a growl that somehow fit the song. Simon laughed and pranced away, swaying his hips in his best Mick Jagger imitation. He hadn’t even bothered to zip his leather pants. Why bother? He’d be screwing some chick the second he finished the set. Maybe before, if the brunette in the front row who kept flashing her breasts actually made it up on stage.
And Jazz…Jazz kept banging her heart out on her kit, her wild purple curls flying, those sticks in her nimble fingers colliding with the skins with a kind of beautiful poetry he never grew tired of watching. Every time she smiled, his chest caught, the breath in his lungs stalling out until he looked away and his heart eventually gave in and started beating again.
The vibration of the stage under his boots brought him back to himself, to the solid reality of the instrument in his hand. The heat climbed up his spine, matching the fiery pressure in his fingers as he raced to keep up with the music inside him. Building, building. As potent as any orgasm, swelling to the point it finally exploded. And when Simon’s voice sliced through the screams of the fans, the tension inside Gray snapped, forcing him to his knees while he played for his fucking life.
Two hours later they dragged themselves into the back, higher than they’d been in months. Laughing, joking with each other. Deacon grabbed Jazz and swung her up on his shoulders, making her squeal. Gray grinned and tweaked her bare foot, pulling on a candy pink-tipped toe, and she kicked out at him, thrusting her hand in his hair while she struggled closer. He leaned up to meet her mouth, knowing the kiss wouldn’t be anything but a glancing blow. Just friends being friendly. His blessing and his curse. Then his gaze flickered to the woman off to the side, smiling at him with determined promise.
He stumbled back, mumbling an apology to Jazz. He didn’t see her face because he was focused on the woman dressed in the blue tube dress, her blonde corkscrew curls fountaining from the top of her head.
About goddamned time.
“Where the hell have you been?” he asked once he was at her side, gripping her arm to pull her close. “I called you five times last night, Cricket.”
“Oooh, such an appetite you have.” She leaned up and spoke against his ear. “Got a new supplier, Handsome. You’ll be ready to go tonight.” She reached down and grabbed his cock through his jeans. He gritted his teeth, hating for once in his life that playing always made him hard. “You’re ready to go right now.”
He grabbed her wrist. “Stop it. We’re not about that.”
“But we could be.” She licked her vamp red lips. “You have no idea what I could do to you.”
“Not interested.” He wished he could walk away. But she had something he needed more than he needed his pride. “All I want is what I pay you for.”
“You haven’t paid me for anything in quite a while. Your tab’s getting pretty long.” Her gaze drifted below his waist. “Let me help you settle your debt.”
Christ. It would be so easy to say yes, to just spread her legs and drill himself inside her until she stopped begging. But he was on the verge of begging himself, and not for the well-used landing strip between her thighs. “I have your money. Now it’s your turn to deliver.”
“Fifteen minutes. Outside.” Cricket looked pointedly over his shoulder. “Just you, Handsome.” Turning on her razor blade heels, she left him standing there.
He turned, knowing who would be waiting. Goddammit. He needed a hit before he faced those liquid blue eyes, so full of accusation. “Who is she?” Jazz asked, crossing her arms.
“A friend.” The words tasted bitter on his tongue.
“What kind of friend? A groupie?”
“Does it really matter?” He stabbed his fingers into his eyes. “I need a drink.”
A moment later, a damp bottle bumped his arm. “Here.”
He opened his eyes and accepted Jazz’s offering. Water. He couldn’t help smiling. Simon was guzzling whiskey right out of the bottle, but Jazz was drinking water. So that meant he was too.
He popped the cap with his thumb and tipped it back, sloshing the water into his mouth while he pulled her against his side with his other arm. He pushed the bottle at her next, holding it up for her as she swallowed. A few drops splashed her bare chest over her sharply V-necked top, but he didn’t allow himself to study the pattern of droplets on the tops of her breasts.
He’d spent enough time torturing himself over Jazz Edwards.
Before she could question him further, he finished off the water himself and turned away, crushing the bottle in his fist. “Be back later,” he muttered, knowing she’d never hear him over the chaos backstage. Knowing it wouldn’t be enough. Nothing he ever said or did ever was.
“Gray.” Her abrupt cry cut through the noise and he stopped, expecting her small hand to close over his forearm. She had a crazy intense grip from playing the drums and a thrill of anticipation always buzzed down his spine when her strong fingers pressed into his flesh. Every time he imagined her touching him somewhere else, like she had that one time—
The one time he wouldn’t let himself think about, because it hadn’t been right. In all his fantasies about his first time with Jazz Edwards, there was never another guy there too.
But he hadn’t walked away. Even a saint couldn’t have turned away from those needy blue eyes, and God knows he wouldn’t be fitted for a halo anytime soon. The burn in his nose and muscles jangling under his skin proved that more than anything else.
He pivoted to face her and discovered she hadn’t moved from her spot. Her pale bare feet gleamed against the floor covered in spilled liquor and sweat and who knows what else, those pink-tipped toes speaking of the innocence she still possessed. She was the drummer for a band on their way to superstardom and she had a freaking clit piercing, for God’s sake, but the woman before him would never lose that inner core of sweetness and purity. He wouldn’t allow it.
“Where are you going?” She stepped closer, silently imploring him to stay. “The guys are heading out to Sharkey’s for an after party in the VIP room.”
Gray snorted. “What VIP room? That place is a dive.”
“They remodeled it, I guess. We’ve been away for a while.”
Talk about an understatement. Their whirlwind tour that had ended up getting extended when they switched management and record companies and their new team had wanted them to be seen in a few more key venues before they packed it in for a few months. Not that they’d be on vacation. They had a new EP to cut, a full one this time, which meant studio time as well as serious hours spent writing new material. They didn’t have nearly enough to go into the studio with yet. That also meant they’d need to put away the shit between the band members long enough to actually sit still and get some words and melodies together.
Long meet shot.
“Simon’s got a disguise too,” Jazz went on, clearly oblivious to Gray’s total disinterest. He hadn’t been all that fond of hanging out with most of his fellow band members before the Big Contract Brouhaha of 2013. Now he definitely couldn’t be bothered.
Especially when there was all that pretty blow, just waiting for him. Maybe. All depended if Cricket really would come through without him having to do her. Some females just had a thing for rock stars, even sweaty, hyper ones who were more interested in powder than pussy.
Still, he had to try to cue into this conversation and possibly even the afterparty. For Jazz if no one else. “A disguise? What the hell?”
“You know, so he won’t be recognized.” She rolled her eyes. “I think he stole your velvet hat too. I swear he was carrying that around with this freaking curly red wig that makes him look like Carrot Top.”
Gray frowned. “I was wondering where my hat went.”
She smiled faintly. “I was amazed you could go on without it. In the old days, you would’ve refused to play.”
In the old days, I would’ve refused a lot of things.
He rubbed his hand over the back of his damp neck. “Babe, I need a shower.”
“So? I do too. That doesn’t mean you can’t come to Sharkey’s.”
Rather than stand there and envision things he had no business envisioning—namely his best friend naked and soapy under a stream of hot water—he stepped back. “Look, I’ll—”
She gave him a pleading look that never missed its target. “It’s New Year’s Eve. A fresh start. Please, Gray.”
And those words right there? His undoing.
He sighed. “I’ll meet you there, all right?”
“No. Not all right.” Eyes narrowed, she closed the distance between them again. Apparently she had no intention of giving up easily tonight. “Who is that woman? I don’t like the looks of her.”
“You don’t like the looks of anyone.” He couldn’t resist tapping the side of her head, right above one of her bedraggled pink and blue ponytails. “Very suspicious mind you have in there, young lady.”
“Someone has to watch out for you.”
“Oh really?” He cocked a brow, still a little sore from the ring he’d had put in yesterday. Pain was his new thing. At the rate he was going, he’d have tattoos and piercings all over his body. “I think that’s my job.”
“No, it’s mine.” She wet her lips and grabbed the lapels of the leather vest he’d worn over skin tonight onstage. That skin was currently soaked to the bone from their crazy ass set under the lights, but she didn’t seem to mind. Why would she? Her bangs stuck to her forehead in a thick clump. Even her lashes had tangled in the heat.
And that wet look only brought him right back to thoughts of her in the shower, her body pressed tightly to his from the tips of her teacup sized breasts to her shapely thighs and everywhere in between.
His dick veered against his zipper. Christ. He needed to get his head straight or else he’d make some serious mistakes while he was waiting for his fix.
Like indulging in an even darker, more dangerous one.
“I’ve been watching out for you since I was fourteen, Grayson Duffy.” Her fingers tightened on his vest, as if she suspected he’d been on the verge of pulling her away. “Nothing and no one will make me stop now. So get your ass into that shower, get cleaned up and presentable, and come with us to Sharkey’s.”
The devil on his shoulder—or in his pants—made him lean close to speak against her ear. No less than six miniature hoops cupped the curve of her lobe. “What, you don’t think I look presentable now? I think there are some ladies here who might disagree with you.”
She sucked in an audible breath before releasing him and taking an obvious step back. “Like that chick who was groping your dick in front of everyone?” Her eyes flashed. “I bet you didn’t think I saw that.”
“No. I didn’t.” Wished she hadn’t.
He didn’t have any reason to tread gently around Jazz, other than how much of a worrywart she was. They weren’t a couple nor had they ever been. But maybe it showed he was crazy that he still had a niggle of hope that things could change. That one day she’d stop looking at him as her best friend and see him as more.
Or at least he had hoped that, before. Now he didn’t want her anywhere near him. He loved her enough to know she deserved better.
His gaze darted to Nick, his arm slung around some random redhead wearing shorts that almost exposed her crotch. She deserved way better than that jerk too. He knew all about the backstage blowjobs she used to give Nick before shows. Hell, he’d practically walked in on once. What they had done after them was more than he wanted to think about.
It was bad enough that he’d never be able to scour the image of her riding Nick from his brain. Lord knows he’d tried. He tried every time he lined up coke on a mirror and shut his eyes. But nothing made the picture disappear.
“I see more than you think.” Jazz reached up to let down her hair. Tumbled wavy rainbow strands fell down around her shoulders, making her look even younger than usual. “I’m heading back to the bus to get ready. If you’re not at Sharkey’s by eleven-thirty, I’m coming to hunt your ass down. And you can tell that skank that I’m not afraid to use my drumsticks.”
He couldn’t help grinning. “I’ll be along soon. I promise.”
“You better.” She bounced from foot to foot, seeming to hesitate, then arched up on her tiptoes to kiss his jaw. The contact seared him straight to the bone as it always did. “It’s hard for me too,” she whispered.
For a second, that same stupid hope surged. That perhaps this was it. The moment he’d be waiting for since he’d realized he had fallen for the one woman he would never allow himself to have.
“Yes. They hurt both of us. Deacon too.” She sighed and rubbed her eyes, her exhaustion evident in even that simple gesture. “I don’t think Simon and Nick understand how much they fractured the band when they accepted that agreement. To them it was just about percentages. They don’t get that they hurt us by not trusting us enough to make us full partners.”
Of course. She hadn’t been talking about them. She was referring to Oblivion.
Where he wanted to be himself, as fast as humanly possible.
“Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll catch up with you guys at Sharkey’s soon.”
Before she could say anything more, he headed out to find Cricket. She—and her blow—was guaranteed to improve his mood.
Better yet, maybe he’d finally feel nothing at all.
They’ve loved each other through everything. But what if this time love just isn’t enough?
What people are saying about TWISTED…
I’m so in love with this series I think I could stay in bed with it all day – but this book… it’s amazing.