Dirty Pleasures (Page 21)


This is what it’s all about. This feeling makes it all worth it. This feeling is part of the reason why I walked into a hotel room and married a perfect stranger only hours later. Because I can’t imagine never feeling like this again.

I let my head fall back and stare up at the blackness before the roadies start rushing around the stage and clearing my stuff out. I take a deep breath, and my mind instantly goes to the man waiting offstage.

I felt his eyes on me the entire time. Before tonight, I might have worried that Creighton would spend the entire set watching and judging me, but his actions in the meet-and-greet room tilted everything off its axis. Not just the fact that he went after the drunk punk who decided he wanted a kiss, but Creighton’s own kiss after that. I expected the caveman or the possessive asshole, but what I got was something altogether different.

He’s already changing, and I still haven’t figured out the first Creighton I met. All day, he’s been nothing like I imagined he would be. He hasn’t once tried to make today about him or his business. He’s been, for the most part, at my side and supportively following me around.

Don’t expect it to last, Holly. Right now this relationship is a novelty to him. It’ll wear off soon enough.

He’s a thirty-three-year-old billionaire; how could he possibly be content to follow me around? He has an empire to run, and I don’t know how he can possibly run it from a tour bus. There’s no way he would have made it through the long haul before our Christmas break. Part of me wished this second leg of the tour was longer so I could let it test him.

And then the cynic in me—or maybe it’s the realist—also chimes in with much more pertinent and troubling questions.

What if he didn’t like the show? What if the best part of me isn’t good enough for him? Then what do I have to offer?

Self-doubt eats away the after-show high I’m riding, because what else do I have to offer? My pretty face and my apparently magic pussy? Is my only use in being seen—with my legs spread—and not heard?

The questions echo on repeat, kicking my heart rate up faster, until all I can hear is the rush of blood in my ears. At least that drowns out the sound of my mama’s voice telling me I’ll never be anything more than a girl from the trailer park, no matter how many stages I sing on.

A roadie accidentally clips me on the shoulder, and I stumble back into reality.


“It’s fine. I’m in the way.”

I regain my balance and walk toward the edge of the stage, trying to reinforce the crumbling walls of my confidence and self-respect.

Thousands of fans were screaming my name. Singing along. Begging for more. What is one man’s opinion compared to that? But he’s not just any man. He’s my husband.

Sweet baby Jesus. Why did I do this? I thought I could marry him and be unaffected, but already I’m letting the thought of his disapproval drive what little hard-won self-assurance I have into the ground.

With JC, I never had to worry about that. But I was the girl who chose to jump from a fake, mostly-gay boyfriend to a very real, very out-of-my-league husband.

I search the edge of the stage and see Creighton leaning against a speaker. Every woman in the vicinity has her gaze riveted on him, and I don’t blame them. His arms are crossed, and his golden tan contrasts with the rolled-up cuffs of his white dress shirt. Dark hair is sprinkled across his defined muscles. Even in jeans, which I’m still shocked he owns, he manages to look every inch the ridiculously rich playboy.

His eyes drill into me as I dodge roadies, cords, speakers, and instruments, telling myself that I have no reason to feel inferior to this man, but that doesn’t mean I believe it. I’m still in the fake-it-’til-you-make-it stage of the process.

I desperately want to know what he thought of my performance. The question is bubbling up inside me. I will not ask. I have to grind my teeth to hold it in. In my world, that’s just inviting criticism. Despite my vow, the question comes tumbling out as soon as I’m standing before him.

My smile I wear for the cameras when I really want to run away is in place. “So, what did you think?”

He uncrosses his arms and pushes off the speaker. My heart hammers in my chest as he opens his mouth and then closes it again without speaking. He takes one step toward me, his frown in place.

I wrap my arms around my body, prepared to ward off a verbal blow.

“I watched you last night.”

Shock zings through me at his statement. “In San Antonio? I thought you were just waiting outside to drag me home by my runaway-wife hair.”

“No. I watched the whole damn thing, and you’re insane if you think you shouldn’t be headlining these shows.”

I think my heart stutters to a stop . . . and then restarts with heavy, tripping beats.

“What?” I whisper.

“You’re too good to be an opening act. I don’t know shit about the music industry, and I didn’t think I’d like country music, but I like your music. You’ve got this voice that grabs a man by the throat and won’t let go until the last note fades.”

Speechless, I swallow. Creighton reaches out to wrap his hand around my upper arm and steady me.

I’m still recovering from his confession when he asks, “Where to now?”

“Um, backstage for a little bit, and then they’ll come get me for ‘That Girl.’”

His hand slides down my arm to lace his fingers with mine. I let him lead me out back into the hallway toward my dressing room. We hear chants and screaming from Boone’s room as we pass.