COMING FRIDAY 7 PM PST. :JENNIFER ANN: THE AUTHOR OF: Oceanside Marine SEE EXCERPTS
7 PM PST.
THE AUTHOR OF:
Since returning to Brooklyn, I haven’t been able to shake Braden from my mind. And too many of the damn thoughts dangling in my head like a juicy steak involve him posing naked over me in Vegas. At least there’s nothing stopping me from taking that lovely image, along with the secret of what we did, to the grave. No matter how glorious the sex would’ve been, and I’m certain it would’ve been phenomenal, I made the right decision. At least I think.
There’s no doubt about it, my life has been lonely since both boys flew the coop as I haven’t really taken the time to date. Maybe the idea of hooking up with Braden was simply a way to prove to myself that I’m still desirable, even to someone significantly younger. Or maybe I find both his looks and his cocky personality irresistible.
He may be young, but it’s not like he’s fresh out of high school. As he pointed out, he’s already served a tour as a Marine. Other than that, I can’t say I know anything else about him. I’m not even sure what he does for a living. For as much as I know, he spends his days getting high and eating carry-out while playing video games. According to Connor, a handful of his friends spend their days doing exactly that.
And he lives way out in California. I need to continuously remind myself of that fact so I don’t get carried away and continue to dream up scenarios in which I give into my desires.
“Love, are you there?” Sharlo asks, tapping a marker against her sketchbook.
Jarred from my perverted thoughts, I look into the pretty blue eyes watching me from across the drawing table. As always, my sweet friend’s dressed in her impeccable style—today’s choice being a black flowing dress paired with a black moto jacket and chunky turquoise jewelry. Between the expert waterfall braid pulling her golden blonde hair away from her face that takes five years off her appearance, and the way she appears completely pulled together, it’s hard to believe she’s the mother of a seven-and-a-half-month-old baby.
But Franklin gurgles happily from the bouncer behind me, proof that she’s a superhero in disguise. I guarantee I never looked anywhere near that collected with either of my boys. I spent most days dragging my feet like a zombie with baby food splattered across my face.
“Yeah, I’m here,” I answer, wiping at my face. “I just…ah…jet-lag! I blame it all on jet-lag. That three hour time difference from Vegas has really kicked my butt.”
Sharlo cocks an eyebrow. “We’ve been back for nearly two weeks. Are you sure you’re feeling well?”
“Who cares about me. What about you? Why are you sitting there looking all cool and collected when you’re getting married soon? Aren’t brides supposed to be all jittery and whatever, freaking out about every last detail?”
“I don’t think that’s the norm. Evelyn may have been a bit out of sorts around the time of their nuptials, but I believe it was mostly her fear that the paparazzi would catch on. I have nothing to fear and simply cannot wait to make James Kendall my husband. I feel as if I’ve been waiting my whole life for this day.”
A flicker of jealousy sinks into me, but I push the ugly feeling deep down. Just because I’m nearing middle age and haven’t ever been married doesn’t mean I can’t be ridiculously happy for my dear friend. At least I didn’t ruin the concept of marriage by exchanging vows with the boys’ sperm donor.
“I seriously cannot wait!” I tell her. “You’re going to be the most stunning bride anyone has ever seen. I mean, oh my god! That big ol’ teddy bear of yours will light up brighter than the sun when he sees you in the beautiful dress we designed!”
To be honest, whenever I think of their wedding day, it’s a stark reminder that I’ll soon be forced to spend another weekend with Braden. How can I be expected to stand across from him during the ceremony without recalling what he looks like under the tux he’ll be wearing?
Shar’s phone dings and she plucks it from the table. Her perfectly shaped golden brows furrow as her eyes scan over a message. “Bloody hell. Sandra from production in San Diego is saying the patterns for the jumpers on our spring line have all been cut wrong. They’re trying to pinpoint where the problem started, but it’s mostly just a lot of finger pointing. She says it’s utter chaos.”
I grumble, holding a hand over my forehead. I meet her gaze and blow out a deep breath. “We’ll have to order a new batch of material. Do you have any idea how much that will cost us in the end?”
Tossing the phone back on the table, Sharlo laces her fingers behind her head and gazes across her living room to the awe-inspiring view of Manhattan. “Suppose I’ll have to fly out there straightaway to sort this out.”
“No way, sister. You’re still nursing, and you have to stick around in case the wedding planner needs something. And there’s no reason Ev needs to fly this close to her due date. I’ll go—I have nothing going on aside from an endless string of Netflix marathons.”
Sharlo opens her mouth, looking ready to protest until Franklin lets out a quiet whimper. I quickly spring from my chair to retrieve him, bouncing the little cutie in my arms. Until he was born, I had forgotten how much I miss the smell of babies and the adorable noises they make. When his big blue eyes look up at me and his two bottom teeth appear with a wide smile, I swear my ovaries sigh.
Raising the boys essentially on my own as a naive teenager was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There aren’t many fond memories I can look back on without cringing. Money was always an issue, and there was never enough time for me to study or spend time with friends. Franklin will never understand how easy he has it with two loving parents and enough funds that he won’t go a day in his life without the things he wants or needs.
“Tell Mommy she knows I’m right,” I sing to Franklin with a bright smile. “You need her to stay here with you, don’t you, my sweet baby boy?”
Sharlo lets out a long sigh before passing me a bright smile. As she searches for flights on her phone, it hits me that I’ll be mere minutes from where Braden lives.
But I’m going there strictly on business. There won’t be time for anything else. I have to stick to my guns and steer clear of the youngest Kendall. If I don’t tell him I’m coming out, he won’t even know I’m in the state. So the stupid flutter in my chest can’t be anything more than nerves over the flight. I refuse to acknowledge the feeling could be anything else.
Before long the small bar erupts with screams, whistles, and applause. Nolan appears on the stage, adjusting the microphone to his height and waiting as the noise dies down. “Thank you all for coming here tonight!” Sweat beads at his hairline as he brushes his fingers over the sides of his jeans. “It gives me great pleasure to bring to you one of Brooklyn’s own, a man who needs no introduction, the one, and only Charlie Walker!”
A man even bigger than Nolan with unruly dark hair swaggers across the small stage, black acoustic guitar in hand, and claps Nolan on the back. The decibel level increases until I worry I’ve popped an eardrum.
In person, Charlie Walker is ten times more handsome—and built—than he appeared in the “Coney Island Kid” video, possessing the charisma of a movie star. There’s a golden glow to his skin like there was in the video, though his face doesn’t appear as flawless, mostly due in large part to a light stubble growing along his jawline and a small scar nestled inside one of his eyebrows. With his extraordinarily good looks and the sculpted body of a gym rat, he makes holey jeans, flip-flops, and a faded T-shirt look like something right off a runway.
A confident flare ignites Charlie’s beautiful eyes, adding to the laid-back ease of his movements that must come with stardom. There’s a hint of something else to his dazzling smile that I can’t quite decipher, though it makes him all the more intriguing. I get the feeling that deep down, there’s something dangerous about him. He’s the worst kind of bad boy all wrapped up in a smoking hot body.
My heart races when I recall the way he flirted with the camera and his deep voice rumbled from my computer’s speakers while I brought myself to a blissful climax. If he had been the one touching me, I would’ve combusted on the spot. Just the thought of tasting his pouting bottom lip has me suddenly wet.
After casually settling on the wooden stool in the center, he sets the guitar in his lap and adjusts the microphone. When the women continue to holler like they’ve lost their minds, his full lips bend with a slow smile and his icy blue eyes spark to life. Laughing, he combs a hand through his hair, giving it that tousled look that only his type can perfect, before continuing to flash the crowd his million-dollar smile.
When the older blonde at my side blows him a kiss, Charlie answers with a wink that jars me from my fantasies. Then, as if drawn by a magnet, his icy blue eyes catch with mine and his smile slowly fades. Something deep inside my chest clicks into place as we stare at each other. Holy hell, the man is certifiably gorgeous. But why is he staring at me like he’s going to be sick?
“Someone's made an impression,” Sharlo teases, elbowing me in the ribs. “Be careful or you’ll become one of his groupies. Before you know it you’ll be preggers with his love child and following him on tour.”
Charlie’s eyes close and he shakes his head before his dazzling smile returns. His eyes avert away from me to the general crowd as he takes the microphone in his thick fingers. “Hello, Brooklyn!” he calls out in the same low, rumbling sound that brought me to orgasm when watching his video.
Hello, Brooklyn is right. The screaming resumes until there’s a dull ringing in my ears. Charlie knows the effect he has on every woman in the room, and he’s soaking it up. It’s a turn-off when I consider he’s probably slept with hundreds of groupies. Still, I can’t deny that I wouldn’t be able to turn down someone like him. My mouth waters as I envision my tongue licking the intricate design swirling down his monster-sized arms—some of which appears to involve a rosary and a woman praying.
Amidst the obnoxious racket of women, I pretend to check my phone for messages. In reality, I’m completely unnerved by Charlie Walker. It’s ridiculous for me to think he showed any real interest in me, even if I wasn’t turned off by his smug attitude. If anything, maybe he was staring at me because he’s shocked that I didn’t dress up for him like all the other women. That would make perfect sense.
As he starts strumming the guitar and crooning an easy-going, beautiful melody, I lose myself in the music, forgetting about the strange interaction between us. Damn, the guy can really sing. In “Coney Island Kid” there was so much background noise from the electric instruments that I wasn’t able to appreciate the deep, raw roll of his voice.
Sharlo shimmies up into my side and I laugh, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and shaking my body along to the beat. A couple of months ago, I never would’ve pictured myself standing here instead of busting my butt for minimum wage in a town I despised for most of my life. I’m in New York with a friend I’ve been dying to meet for years, free to do whatever the hell I want. Things are stellar enough on their own. Who needs a gorgeous rockstar?
Every single fucking time I sneak a look at the sexy brunette with intense eyebrows, my dick stirs inside my jeans, begging for permission to play. I do my best to ignore it, instead of using the energy to make this my best performance. Yet I can’t shake the intense moment when our eyes met. With that one heated look, she completely unmanned me. Beneath those curved, dark eyebrows are the most alluring honey colored eyes that make me want to tangle my fingers in her long dark hair and break one of my most coveted rules of not kissing groupies.
What in the hell am I doing? Women are nothing more to me than a casual good time. Something to keep me busy and satiate my needs. Beyond that, they’re not worth any serious kind of investment. Danny always said that we didn’t need chicks getting dragged into our crazy shit and messing with our heads. So what is it about this one—who is so far from my normal type it’s like she’s in a different zip code—that made me want something more than a casual fuck?
For starters, she’s not dressed desperate like 99% of the others, and she bobs her head along to the beat like concerts are her thing. Like it comes natural and she doesn’t give a shit about putting on a show to impress anyone. And she makes the reporter I invited look fake as shit. Damn it, I shouldn’t have made that Gwen chick think she’d be getting a private show after the interview.
Unlike the groupies that come after me, the brunette seems genuine in every way. Braided hair, a collection of dark freckles that spill from her little nose down onto her cheeks, she’s fucking cute. Both her eyelashes and tits appear to be the real deal. Most of all I appreciate the fact that she isn’t falling all over herself for a chance to touch me like everyone else by the stage. For a heart-stopping moment, I wonder if she’s into women the way she’s touchy-feely with the chick on her other side.
With every glance, I find myself fantasizing in different ways. I want to fist her dark, silky hair. I want to kiss every last one of her freckles. I want to cup her tits beneath her shirt that make a sweet curve beneath her top. I want to make her come with my mouth and find out what her voice sounds like as she cries my name. But above everything, I want to run my tongue over every inch of her sun-kissed skin and sink my teeth into her ripe bottom lip.
Jesus, Walker. Focus.
Though the crowd continues yelling like crazy, I could play the theme song from Law & Order and they’d probably still lose their fucking minds. How am I supposed to gauge my talent as a solo artist on a crowd driven by hormones? Stacking the audience with women was one of Lorenzo’s least brilliant ideas. I nearly bust a gut laughing when I catch him cozying up off stage to a set of blonde twins that could work for Hooters. The guy is more driven by pussy than I’ve ever been, which is saying a lot.
I catch the brunette’s interested gaze a second time when my set’s nearly over. Her pouting lips part slightly with a silent sigh and she stops moving as I watch her. Those big brown eyes fill me with the kind of warmth I haven’t felt since I was a kid that got off on campfires and hot cocoa instead of women. When I imagine her lips all over my skin, sliding up and down my cock, it throbs painfully and I lose my place in the song. The brunette’s body jerks and she snickers inside her hands.
She laughed at me.
Goddamn, she’s really something special.
Jennifer Ann is the author of ten contemporary romance novels with complex love stories. Like her characters, she's in love with the city of New York, trips on airplanes or the back of her husband's Harley, and everything rock and roll. Sometimes you can catch her driving a tractor alongside her husband in southern Minnesota while trying to keep up with the madness of their four active children.
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