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 Jay Crownover

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Jet Keller was all kinds of temptation wrapped up in too-tight pants and with too many personal demons hidden in those dark, golden-rimmed eyes. He was every girl’s rock-and-roll fantasy, with an edge that made him just sharp enough to be hard to handle. And boy, oh boy, did I want to handle him in every way possible.
The trouble was that I was supposed to be making better decisions and walking a clean and much narrower path now. There could be no stops for the kind of things Jet inspired along the way, and no detours for the spontaneous combustion he brought with him. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on who was looking at the situation—it was a two-against-one battle, with my brain coming up short and my body and heart repeatedly overruling my better judgment.
Ayden Cross was a puzzle that, every time I thought I was close to solving, proved to have five extra pieces and no corners. For a long time, I thought she was a Southern belle, complete with mile-long legs in cowboy boots, but then she would turn around and do something that knocked me on my ass.
I had the feeling I didn’t know the real Ayden at all. I would gladly spend the time it took to unravel it all, to undo her in every way I could. But I knew firsthand what happened when two people who had opposite ideas of what a relationship should be tried to force it to work. I wasn’t up for that, even if she made all the parts of me that scorched and blazed manageable in a way no one else ever had.
So It Begins
It was totally against everything I was supposed to be doing in my new life—to ask a really cute boy in a band to take me home. There were rules. There were standards. There were simply things I did now to avoid ever going back to being the way I was—and sticking around to wait for Jet Keller was right on the top of the no-no list. There was just something about him, watching him wail and engage the crowd while he was onstage that turned my normally sensible brain to mush.
I knew better than to ask my bestie what was wrong with me.
She was all about boys covered head-to-toe in ink and littered with jewelry in places the Lord never intended boys to be pierced. She would just say it was the allure of someone so different, someone so obviously not my type, but I knew that wasn’t it.
He was entrancing. Every single person in the packed bar had their eyes on him and couldn’t look away. He was making the crowd feel—I mean really feel—whatever it was he was screeching, and that was amazing.
I hated heavy metal. To me, all it sounded like was yelling and screaming over even louder instruments. But the show, the intensity, and the undeniable vibe of power he was unleashing with just his voice—there was just something about it that drove me to drag Shaw to the front of the stage. I couldn’t look away.
Sure, he was good-looking. All the guys who Shaw’s boyfriend ran around with were. I wasn’t immune to a pretty face and a nice body; in fact, at one point those things had proven to be weaknesses that had gotten me in more trouble than I cared to think about. Now I tended toward guys who I was attracted to on a more intellectual level.
However, one too many shots of Patrón and whatever crazy pheromone this guy was emitting right now had me forgetting all about my new and improved standards in men.
His hair looked like he had just shaken off whatever girl had messed it up. At some point during the set he had peeled off his wife-beater to reveal a lean and tightly muscled torso that was covered from the base of his throat to somewhere below his belt buckle in a giant black and gray tattoo of an angel of death. He had on the tightest black jeans I had ever seen a guy wear, decorated with a variety of chains hanging from his belt to his back pocket, and they left little to the imagination.
That might have been why Shaw and I were nowhere near the only female fans at the front of the stage.
I had seen Jet before, of course. He came into the bar where I worked on a pretty regular basis. I knew that the eyes, now squeezed shut as he bellowed a note that was enough to have the girl to my left spontaneously orgasm, were a dark, deep brown that gleamed with easygoing humor. I knew of his penchant for outrageous flirtation. Jet was the charmer of the group and had no qualms about using that, combined with his heartbreaking grin, to get what he wanted.
I felt a warm hand land on my shoulder and turned to look up at Shaw’s boyfriend, Rule. He towered over the rest of the crowd and I could tell by the twist of his mouth that he was ready to go. Shaw didn’t even wait for him to ask, before turning to me with guileless green eyes.
“I’m going with him. Are you ready?”
Shaw and I had a “leave no man behind” policy, but I was far from ready to call it a night. We had to scream over the blaring guitars and the ear-splitting vocals bombarding us from our prime location, so I bent down to holler in her ear.
“I’m gonna hang out for a bit. I think I’ll see if Rule’s friend can give me a ride.”
I saw her speculative look, but Shaw had her own boy drama to handle, so I knew she wasn’t about to try to tell me any differently. She hooked her hand through Rule’s arm and gave me a rueful grin.
“Call me if you need me.”
“You know it.”
I wasn’t the kind of girl who needed a wingman or wingwoman. I was used to flying solo and I had been taking care of myself for so long it was really second nature. I knew Shaw would swoop in to grab me if I couldn’t get a ride home or if calling a cab took too long, and knowing she was there was enough.
I watched the rest of the show in rapt fascination, and I was pretty sure that when Jet threw the microphone down after his final song, he winked at me before slamming back a shot of Jameson. Even with all of the things I knew I should be doing pounding in my head, that wink sealed the deal.
I hadn’t been on the wild side in too long and Jet was the perfect tour guide for a quick refresher course.
He disappeared off the stage with the rest of the guys in the band, and I wandered back over toward the bar where everyone had been posted before the band had started playing. Rule’s roommate, Nash, had apparently been dragged home by the lovebirds. There was no way he was making it out of the bar under his own steam. Rowdy, Jet’s BFF, was busy sucking face with some random girl who had been giving Shaw and me the evil eye all night. I gave him a you could do better look when he came up for air, and then found an empty stool by the bar.
The thing about heavy-metal bars is that there are heavy-metal guys in every corner.
I spent the next hour fending off come-ons and free drink offers from guys who looked like they hadn’t seen a shower or a razor in years. I was starting to get annoyed and, in turn, nasty when a familiar hand with a plethora of heavy silver rings landed on my knee. I turned to look up at laughing dark eyes as Jet ordered me another Patrón, but got water for himself.
“Got ditched, did ya? The way those two were looking at each other, I’m surprised they made it halfway through the set.”
I clicked the tiny shot glass against the rim of his glass, and gave him the smile that I had always used in the past to get whatever I wanted. “I think Nash had a fight with the tequila and the tequila won.”
He laughed and turned to talk to a couple guys who wanted to congratulate him on the show. When he turned back to me, he looked a little embarrassed.
“I always think that’s so weird.”
I lifted a dark eyebrow and leaned a little closer to him, as I caught sight of a redhead in too-tight clothes circling. “Why? You guys are great and obviously people like it.”
He tossed back his head and laughed and I noticed for the first time he had a barbell through the center of his tongue.
“People, but not you?”
I made a face and shrugged. “I’m from Kentucky.” I figured that would explain it all.
“Rule sent me a text saying you needed a lift home. I have to go pull Rowdy off that chick and help the guys load the van, but if you can chill for, like, thirty, I’ll totally give you a ride.”
I didn’t want to seem too eager. I didn’t want to let him know how much I wanted him to give me a ride of an entirely different kind, so I shrugged again.
“Sure. That would be nice.”
He squeezed my knee and I had to suppress the shudder that moved through me from head to toe. There was most definitely something up if just a little touch like that could make me quiver.
I turned back to the bar, ordered myself a glass of water, and tried to close my tab. I was surprised when the bartender told me it was already taken care of and a little annoyed that I didn’t know who to thank. I swiveled around on the stool and watched closely as people fought their way through a bar full of overly enthusiastic guys and overly obvious girls. I wasn’t a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but I really had no respect for any girl who was willing to degrade herself, to offer herself up for a single night of pleasure, just because Jet looked hot in tight pants.
Whatever was happening to me went deeper than that; I just couldn’t name it. And tonight I was drunk enough—and missing some of my old self enough—to ignore it for now.
By the time Jet came back, I was faking interest in a conversation that some guy who looked like he had raided Glenn Danzig’s closet was forcing on me. He was telling me all about the different genres of metal and why the people who listened to each different kind either sucked or ruled. It was all I could do not to shove a stick of gum in his mouth to stop him from breathing heavy, boozy fumes all over me.
Jet gave the guy a fist bump and hooked a thumb over his shoulder.
“Let’s roll, Legs.”
I made a face at the generic nickname because I had heard variations on it my whole life. I was tall, not as tall as his six-two, but I towered over Shaw’s five-three and I did indeed have very long, very nice legs. At the moment they were a little wobbly and a little unsteady, but I pulled it together and followed Jet to the parking lot.
The rest of the band and Rowdy were piling into a huge Econoline van, and shouting all kinds of interesting things out the window at us while they peeled out of the parking lot. Jet just shook his head and used the control on his keys to pop the locks on a sleek black Dodge Challenger that looked mean and fast. I was surprised when he opened the door for me, which made him grin, so I folded into the seat and tried to plan my attack. After all, he was a guy who was used to groupies and band sluts throwing themselves at him on a daily basis, and the last thing I wanted was to be just one more.
He turned down the music blasting from the obviously expensive sound system and wheeled out of the parking lot without saying a word to me. He had found the time to put his shirt back on and it was now covered by an obviously well-loved leather jacket, complete with metal studs and a patch of some band I had never heard of. The combination of cute rocker boy, too much tequila, and the heady scent of leather and sweat was starting to make my head spin. I rolled down the window a little and watched as the lights of downtown bled by.
“You okay?”
I tilted my head in his direction and noticed the real concern in his dark gaze. In the dim light of the dash, the gleaming gold circle that rimmed the outer ridge of his eyes looked just like a divine halo.
“Fine. I shouldn’t have tried to keep up with Nash for the first hour.”