Page 2

 Jay Crownover

  • Background:
  • Text Font:
  • Text Size:
  • Line Height:
  • Line Break Height:
  • Frame:

“Yeah, that’s not a good idea. Those boys can put it away.”
I didn’t answer because generally I could hold my own with anyone when it came to matching shot for shot, but that wasn’t something I liked to talk about. I changed the subject by running a finger over the obviously new and pristine interior of the car.
“This is a supernice ride. I had no idea screaming into a microphone paid so well.”
He snorted a laugh and gave me a sideways look. “You need to branch out from cookie-cutter country, Ayd. There are all kinds of great indie country bands and even some amazing Americana bands I bet you would totally dig.”
I just shrugged. “I like what I like. Seriously, is your band famous enough that you can afford a car like this? Rule said you guys were popular in town, which was clear after tonight, but even with that crowd it doesn’t seem like you would make enough to live on just playing music.”
I was prying, but it had suddenly occurred to me I didn’t really know anything about this guy other than he was making my heart race. He was also making my head create all kinds of interesting scenarios that involved both of us and a whole lot less clothing.
He was tapping out a rhythm on the steering wheel with his black-tipped fingers and I couldn’t look away.
“I run a recording studio here in town. I’ve been around a long time so I know a bunch of bands and guys in the scene. I write a lot of music that other people end up recording and Enmity is big enough that I don’t ever have to worry about starving. Lots of people make a living just playing music. It’s just hard and you have to be dedicated to it, but I would rather be broke and do something I love, than be wealthy working a nine-to-five job any day.”
That was something that just didn’t make any sense to me.
I craved security and a future with a foundation rooted in safety. I wanted to know that I was going to be able to support myself; that I would never have to rely on anyone else for life’s basic needs. Happiness had nothing to do with it at all.
I was going to ask more questions but the apartment I shared with Shaw was quickly coming into view, and I hadn’t even tried to let him know that I was interested in more than a lift home.
I turned my entire body in the seat so I was fully facing him, and plastered my best do me smile on my face. He lifted an eyebrow in my direction but didn’t say anything, even when I leaned over the center console and put my hand on his hard thigh. I saw the pulse in his throat jump, which made me grin. It had been a long time since I had been so overtly interested in anyone and it was nice to know that he wasn’t immune to me, either.
“Want to come up and have a drink with me? Shaw is staying with Rule, so I’m sure she’ll be out of commission for at least a couple days.”
His dark eyes grew even darker with something I didn’t recognize, because we really were strangers, but he put his hand over mine and gave it a gentle squeeze.
I wanted to inhale him; I wanted to get inside him and never come back out. There was just something there, something special about him that pulled on all the strings I thought I had neatly trimmed away when I had left my old life behind.
“That sounds like a bad plan, Ayd.” His voice was low and had undercurrents floating through that I couldn’t identify.
I sat up straighter in the seat and with my other hand turned his face to look at me. “Why? I’m single, you’re single, and we’re consenting adults. I think it sounds like a fabulous plan.”
He sighed and took both of my hands and placed them back in my lap. I was watching him carefully now because, while I might have undergone a dramatic life change over the last few years, I was still smart enough to know I was way better looking than most of the bar trash who had been circling him all night. That—and no guy ever turned down no-strings sex.
“We have friends who are dating. You drank half a bottle of tequila tonight, and let’s be real—you’re not the type of girl who takes a guy she barely knows home for the night. You’re smart and ambitious, and you have no fucking idea what that Southern drawl does to me or how fast it would cause us to end up naked and tangled up. You’re just a good girl all around.
“Don’t get me wrong. You’re beautiful, and in the morning when I replay this conversation over and over in my head, I’m going to absolutely want to kick my own ass, but you don’t want to do this. Maybe if I knew for a fact we would never have to see each other again, never have to spend time around each other, I could do it with a clean conscience, but I actually like you, Ayden, so I choose not to mess that up.”
He was so very wrong.
I totally wanted to do this; to do him, but something about him thinking he knew what kind of girl I was shocked my libido like a bucket of cold water. I jerked my head back so hard that it hit the passenger window and the car suddenly felt like a coffin. I scrambled to open the latch and bolted out. I heard Jet call my name, heard him ask if I was all right, but all I needed to do was get away from him. I jabbed the security code into the door and ran into the apartment.
It wasn’t until I had the doors locked and had a hot shower pouring over me that I realized how close I had come to letting everything I had worked for unravel around me. Whatever it was that Jet made me feel tonight, it was far too dangerous to try to act on. Not only had it ended in humiliation and panic, but I had also risked all the things that mattered to me now, and I just couldn’t allow that.
I was going to have to keep Jet Keller locked in the box where I kept pre-Colorado Ayden. Only now, I was going to make sure that the lid was on so tight, there wouldn’t ever be a chance of it coming off. The risk just wasn’t worth it.
Chapter 1
Ayden, One Year Later
I had my computer open and was working on something for my biochem class. My roommate Cora was sitting on the couch in the living room painting her nails a startling neon green before she left for work, when the door to the bedroom at the back of the house opened. I pushed the glasses I was wearing up on my nose and gave Cora the look. She swiveled around on the couch, so that her arms were dangling over the cushions.
We waited and we watched.
This had become our ritual over the last three months, since Jet had come to live with us. At least two to three times a week, we subjected whichever random chick he had brought home with him the night before to a (humiliating for them, hilarious for us) walk of shame.
Cora and I had taken to ranking them on a scale of one to ten depending on how thoroughly worked over they looked the next day. So far, Jet was coming in with solid sevens or eights, but a couple of the girls had left so pissed-off at his lack of interest in a repeat performance, that we had to give them fours and fives. The one who had locked herself in the bathroom and refused to leave until Cora threatened to mace her got a one.
This one today was pretty good.
She was a blonde and was all big boobs and long legs. Yesterday’s makeup didn’t look so hot running down her face now, but she had a nice whisker-burn going on under her chin and she had that dreamy, lovesick look that most of them wore when they came wandering out of that room.
I automatically upped her score because, instead of wearing her bra, she was clutching it in one hand like a lifeline. I was pretty sure her silky top was on inside-out. Her gaze shot from Cora to me and back again, and an embarrassed blush heated her face.
I couldn’t figure out why Jet never told these girls he had female roommates. I assumed it was because he was a sick bastard and liked the fact they had to run this gauntlet when he was done with them, but he never confirmed or denied it when I asked him about it.
“Uh, hey.” The poor thing stammered out an awkward greeting, which had Cora grinning like a lunatic. Cora was mouthy and loud on a good day; give her ammunition or show her a weakness, and she was like a piranha that smelled blood in the water.
My roommate looked like a pint-size fairy princess; well, a princess gone punk rock for the day. Cora’s diminutive size often left the poor things that trekked through the living room unprepared for the attack she was just waiting to launch. This one was all blissed out on a postorgasmic high, and I knew it was only a matter of time before Cora unleashed all of her East Coast sass and brass.
“Did you have a good night?”
It was an innocent enough question, but coming from the feisty blonde with the two different-colored eyes, I knew it was anything but.
“Sure. I’ll just, uh, be going now. Tell Jet I left my number on the dresser.”
Cora waved a hand around in front of her. “Sure, because he is so totally calling you again. Right, Ayd? He won’t want to lose that number.”
I didn’t like it when she tried to draw me into her verbal games, so I just shrugged and lifted my coffee mug up to my face to hide a reluctant grin. It was like watching a car accident happen in front of my eyes.
Cora waved her arms around in a dramatic sweeping gesture and told the bewildered blonde, “I’m sure he called the redhead that left yesterday morning. I’m sure he called the brunette that stayed the entire weekend, and I’m absolutely sure he’s probably going to call you. Right, Ayd?”
She rolled her eyes and flopped back on the couch, as if she hadn’t just demolished this poor girl’s romantic hopes and dreams.
The girl looked at me and then back to Cora. I saw her mouth tighten before she uttered “bitch” and stomped out our front door. I upped her points even more when I saw she had her panties from the night before sticking out of her back pocket.
Without looking up, Cora held her hands up over her head and extended seven fingers in the air. “She didn’t even have any fight in her. I would’ve given her at least an eight if she had told me to fuck off or get bent. Anything.”
I shook my head. “You were kind of a bitch.”
She snickered. “Gotta find my fun somewhere. What do you give her?”
I was about to answer when another figure came out of the room. You’d think that after three months of running into him coming in and out of the bathroom we shared, or catching him running around without a shirt on while he was getting ready to go out, or even watching him dance around half naked onstage I would have built up an immunity to seeing Jet Keller’s bare chest.
But as he made his way down the hall, pulling on a plain black T-shirt, I forgot every single thought as my mind blanked, just like it always did.
After the disastrous incident outside my apartment last winter, we had developed an odd sort of friendship. I knew what boundaries I had to keep Jet within, and he treated me like I was some kind of virginal goddess he wasn’t allowed to mess up. That was working for us, sort of.
When Shaw had ultimately decided to go live with Rule and Nash, Cora and I had worried about who was going to take up her share of the rent. Luckily, the girl Jet had been living with went bat-shit crazy, and dumped all of his stuff on the lawn while he was on his last tour, not mention she found someone else to take his place when she got lonely. He ended up homeless and in need of a place to crash, so here he was. I saw him every day and spent plenty of time just hanging out with him.