Dirty Pleasures (Page 16)

The woman is a workhorse—and I mean that in the most complimentary way imaginable. A trophy wife, she is not. She slipped on a pair of headphones the moment we climbed on the jet this morning, and pulled out a notebook. She was already scribbling away before takeoff. She waved off breakfast, barely looking up until we landed and I stood next to her, holding out a hand. I’ve never spent much time around creative types—all of my acquaintances tend to be like me—so this has been an education.

On the drive from the airport, I practically had to shove food in her mouth to get her to eat, as she seemed content to bob her head, hum, and scribble. She didn’t come out of her writing zone until we pulled up to the radio station, where she hopped out of the car, and I had to jog to catch up.

After a radio interview, dozens of autographs, pictures, and off-air questions, she headed back to the car. I began to feel like a chauffeur when she slipped her headphones back on and said, “We’re going to the venue next, right?” She didn’t wait for an answer before picking up her pen and starting to scribble again.

I couldn’t get her attention until we arrived at the venue. Well, to be fair, it wasn’t me that got her attention, but the giant new luxury coach I arranged to be delivered. And it didn’t actually catch her attention until she started to walk by it and I snagged her hand.

“This one’s yours.”

She stared up at the gleaming black-and-silver coach, eyes blinking. “No friggin’ way.”

I smiled at her unvarnished response. “Yes friggin’ way.”

My visions of christening the coach in style were obliterated when the members of her band climbed off the other bus, and she became all business. I was curious to watch their rehearsal, but a conference call had me climbing on Holly’s new bus and firing up my laptop. Alone. And I thought this marriage was going to be fucking convenient.

By the time I’ve finished up work, Holly still hasn’t returned. A look at the clock says it’s now almost six.


Did I miss it?


I flip my laptop shut and hurry off the bus, flashing the pass that some skinny guy dropped off about three hours ago. Something about all-access. At least tonight I won’t be trying to bribe some security guard the size of a giant to get backstage. That’s a marginal improvement.

I find someone who looks like she knows what the hell is going on, and after her eyes practically bug out of her head when she realizes who I am, she points me in the direction of Holly’s dressing room.

My knock on the door is answered with a simple “come in,” and I throw the door wide open.

Holly is surrounded by three people—a man going after her face with what look like makeup brushes and sponges, another man messing with her hair, and a woman running a lint roller across an outfit hanging from a hook on the wall. They’re fussing and clucking and doing God knows what.

They don’t pause when I enter, so I find myself a chair in the corner and settle in to check the e-mails that keep buzzing on my phone. A few other people continuously bang in and out of the room, tossing out bits of information that don’t catch my attention. I slip into my own little world, in a corner of Holly’s world, until Holly stands and undoes the top buttons on her plaid shirt.

I stand, calmly, and cross the room to pause in front of her chair.

“A moment, if you would,” I say. Again, calmly. And then I back her into a corner of the room behind a screen.

Her eyebrows are bunched together in confusion. “What’s wrong?” she asks, glancing beyond the screen and back at me.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” I growl from between clenched teeth.

“Changing.” Her slow, measured response suggests I’m a dumb fuck.

“Not in front of a roomful of people, you’re not.”

I jab a hand in the general direction of the door, which even now, I can hear opening and closing with what seems like more traffic than a damn freeway.

With a flip of her now wavy hair, Holly brushes off my concern and presses a hand to my chest in an attempt to shove me out of the way so she can get out from behind the screen.

When I don’t budge, she says, “Creighton, everyone in this room has seen me mostly naked dozens of times.”

An insane thought fires through my brain, and I shove it away. I shouldn’t be wondering if any of my companies have access to technology to create memory loss in humans. If she were any other woman, I wouldn’t care if the whole world saw her naked.

But this woman? I do. I very much do. Why? Doesn’t matter beyond the fact that she’s my fucking wife.

A caveman didn’t need to understand the urge to drag a woman back to his cave where the other cave assholes can’t see her perfect fucking body. This is a physiological reaction, millennia in the making, over which I have zero control. The rationalization makes my intense possessiveness easier to swallow.

“I don’t give a damn if every person in the entire fucking stadium saw you buck-ass naked before. You’re Mrs. Creighton Karas now. The rules have changed.”

The word “rules” brings color to her face, and I wonder if she’s thinking of last night when I asked her if she remembered the rule about me being in charge.

Turns out I’m wondering wrongly.

The hands pressing against my chest pull back and slam palm-first into my pecs. Unprepared for her shove, I stumble back a step and into the screen, scraping it across the floor.

“What the hell, Holly?”

“You’re such an asshole!” She whisper-yells this at me, but the chatter in the room goes silent.