Dirty Pleasures (Page 20)

“And me?”

“Holding out judgment until I see if you last more than one day on tour. This ain’t your billionaire-boys’-club lifestyle. This shit is hard work, nonstop, and it ain’t got nothing to do with you.”

Considering I’ve been trailing along like a lap dog today after Holly, I think I’m starting to understand what he means. The woman works her ass off and never seems to take a break. No wonder she ducked out of the penthouse at the first down moment she had.

Most women in my acquaintance would have spent their time checking out the designer wardrobe I ordered, but not Holly. And considering how she spent her morning, scribbling away in her notebook, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that she didn’t think twice about doing whatever she had to in order to work on her songs—including finding the nearest guitar. I wonder how many she’s written since the wedding, and what’s more, if she’ll ever play any of them for me.

I decide not to respond to Chance’s question, but instead ask, “When does her next album come out?”

He looks rather surprised that I’m asking. “It’s due out early spring. She’s got a break after the tour and then studio time back in Nashville. We’ve got a songwriter meeting up with us tomorrow to help hammer things out now that she’s got more songs due, from what I hear. She didn’t do too well writing when we were on the road before. She mostly stared off into space a lot and chewed on the end of her pen.”

“She’s been writing nonstop all day, and she wrote when she was in New York as well, so I’m assuming she’s got the situation handled.”

His eyebrows shoot up. “No shit? Then maybe you are good for something, Bill.”

Bill? What the fuck?

Chance reads my confusion as he sucks back another drink. “Billionaire. Bill. I do nicknames. That’s yours.”

I open my mouth to rip him a new asshole, when I hear Holly make a sound of distress. My attention zeroes in on her, and I’m across the room before I know what the fuck I’m doing.

There’s a guy, probably around twenty-five, bending her back over his arm, his mouth crushed against hers.

Not. Fucking. Happening.

I rip the guy away from her, and Holly stumbles back and steadies herself. My fist is already flying, catching the guy in the face with a right hook and then an uppercut to the gut. He drops to the floor and security is crowding around us. I don’t register the flashes coming from all around me.

Where the fuck was security sixty seconds ago?

I turn, finding Holly behind a mountain of muscle. About fucking time. He steps aside, and I take in her pale features and smeared lipstick.

I spin back around, intent on going after the guy again, but the same mountain of muscle is already dragging him from the room. Lucky prick. Otherwise he’d be spending the night in the hospital.

Chance starts clearing the room, but Holly speaks up. “No. It’s fine. I’m fine. I can finish the meet and greet. They’ve been waiting.”

I step closer and frame her face with my hands, my thumbs wiping away the smears of red on her lips and cheek. “You don’t need to do that.”

“They’re my fans. They’re the reason I have a career, and the only reason I’ll continue to have a career. It’s no big deal. It’s not like it’s the first time some guy has decided he wanted a kiss.”

My thoughts turn volcanic. “That security I mentioned? You will have two people on you at all times when you’re in a venue. That shit isn’t happening again.”

“It’s not necessary,” she argues.

I lean in and murmur, “It’s absolutely necessary. And if you don’t want me to kiss the fuck out of you right now to erase that asshole’s taste from your lips, you better say so pretty damn quick.”

“But the fans—”

“Let them watch. You’re mine. I don’t care who sees.”

Her mouth drops open into a small O, but she doesn’t voice a protest.

I take that as my green light and lower my lips to hers, but I don’t crush them to her like that motherfucker did. I kiss her softly. Gently. Softer and more gently than I’ve ever kissed her before. And in that moment, I wonder why I haven’t taken the time to savor her.

Her lips soften, her mouth opens, and my tongue slips inside, teasing and stroking hers. I release her slowly. Her closed eyelids flutter open, her brown eyes soft and warm.

She swallows as I pull away. “Thank you. I didn’t realize I needed that.”

“I didn’t realize I needed that so much either.”

I lower my hands from her face and step back. “I’ll let you get back to your fans then.”

The bossy woman from earlier steps up with an open bottle of water, a mirror, and lipstick. “Take a drink, then we’ll get you fixed up. But we need to pick up the pace. We’re running out of time.”

Holly’s eyes stay on mine as she accepts the water and takes a reluctant sip. I step away and return to my corner.

Chance has already arranged for someone to clean up the shattered remains of the beer bottle I dropped when I lunged at the prick kissing Holly. He’s holding out another beer when I return to the corner. As I grab it and take a long pull, he pats me on the shoulder.

“You just might do, Bill. You just might do.”

The heat of the lights.

The rhythmic beat of the bass guitar and the drums.

The sound of the crowd singing along to the lyrics of my first single.

I blink back tears as I hold the microphone out and empty my lungs on the final note. The lights go dark, and for a second the venue is silent before screams erupt. I close my eyes and bite my lip, laughing silently to myself.