Read Bedding The Bad Boy (Dalton Brothers Novels) Online
Authors: Virna DePaul
Tags: #magicians, #bad boy, #sequel, #twins, #contemporary romance, #baby, #sexy romance, #sweet and sexy
Max’s Magic Rule #1:
The only way to convince people to believe in magic is to first accept it doesn’t exist.
Twenty-two-year-old Max Dalton knocked on his girlfriend Nancy Morrison’s apartment door. As he waited for her to answer, he rubbed the promise ring in his pocket. He’d bought it for her last week and had carried it with him ever since, something his identical twin brother, Rhys, took great pains to tease him about.
“Finally, a girl who’s got you whipped,” Rhys had crowed before Max left. “Try not to fawn all over her when you see her again. You’ll ruin your heartthrob image. Hell, you’ll ruin
Max didn’t give a shit about images, his or theirs. He’d missed Nancy the past two weeks. He’d dated plenty of girls before her, but Nancy was the first to truly understand him. To make him feel special, not like an extension of his loving but crazy showbiz family. She was sexy and smart and deep. She understood he was more than a performer or jock. Even though they’d only been dating two months, he’d told her things he’d never told anyone before, including how he sometimes hated performing. How he sometimes wished he’d gone off to live on his own so people wouldn’t constantly be comparing him to his brother.
Now he had something else to share with her: he loved her.
He’d suspected it before, but being away had confirmed it.
He rapped on her door again.
As the minutes ticked by and Nancy didn’t answer, unease morphed into worry. She’d called him less and less lately, and she hadn’t been around to answer most of his calls. Of course, he’d assumed she was just busy with her studies, just like he was busy on the road with the Dalton Family Magic Act, but—
He heard her voice coming down the hallway before he saw her. His heart sped up when she rounded the corner, her blond hair floating around her shoulders and her pretty green eyes sparkling. He grinned—
Until he saw she wasn’t alone. Her arm was around the waist of a dark-haired guy with glasses. She froze when she saw him.
“Max? What are you doing here?” Her brows drew together and she dropped her arm from around the other guy.
But she didn’t move closer.
“I told you I was coming home today. Who’s he?” He jutted his chin toward her companion.
The guy shifted his feet uneasily then said to Nancy, “I’ll catch you later,” before walking away.
Nancy crossed her arms. “Don’t make a scene, Max.”
His eyebrows shot up. “That implies there’s a reason I would. Are you seeing that guy behind my back?” His voice sounded steady. Annoyed. Righteously indignant. But inside his heart hurt and he had to work to make sure his words didn’t quaver.
He gripped the ring in his pocket. This couldn’t be happening. She wouldn’t betray him like this.
“Don’t look so surprised. You knew it could never work between us. I’m just me. And well… you’re Max Dalton. Hot magician. The guy whose magic wand every girl wants.”
He stepped toward her. “I’ve never played around on you.” And he could have. Lots of girls came on to him on the road, but he’d never been tempted, not once, to cheat on her.
“Maybe not yet,” she said. “But it would happen eventually. I know you want to believe you’re more than that, but…”
Her trailing words felt like daggers. She believed all the hype about the Dalton Brothers after all. Believed he was all flash and no substance. “You’re wrong about me,” he said. “The way Rhys and I are on stage, it’s an act—”
“I’m not talking about Rhys. You might look exactly like him, but you’re not your brother. Even though Rhys likes to have fun, he’s solid. He’s dependable. One day he’ll have a wife. A family. But you’ll—”
“You’ll keep having fun. Just like I’m going to have fun while I’m in college. The difference between us is I’ll move on after I graduate. You’re a professional magician—your whole life’s about fun and games. So go back on the road and don’t act like you want to be chained down.”
A vise squeezed his heart, pain radiating everywhere. “Nancy—”
“Goodbye, Max Dalton.” She shrugged away his touch, slipped inside her apartment then quietly shut the door behind her.
Max stood in the hallway for minutes. Hours. He didn’t know. Finally, he walked away in a daze.
He was twenty-two and they’d only been dating a couple months—it wasn’t like he’d been considering marrying her or anything. But he loved her, he was committed to her, and she… what? Thought fun and games was all he wanted?
Anger built inside him.
Rhys was a professional magician, too. So was his dad. But that obviously didn’t matter. Something about
made girls only want him for a good time.
How often had his family and friends referred to him as “Max, the fun one”? “Max, the chick magnet.” “Max, the charmer.” They never spoke of his intelligence or his ambition, or his ability to care about others.
Maybe that’s because they knew something he didn’t.
Maybe they saw him for what he truly was.
And what he wasn’t.
Unless he wanted to hurt like this again, he needed to start thinking the same way.
Max’s Magic Rule #2:
The bigger the risk, the louder the applause.
Las Vegas, NV
Eleven years later
Max took his second bow of the night. The audience was on their feet, clapping and whistling, impressed by the show’s final trick, which he and his brother recently invented.
Glancing stage left, he saw Rhys standing in the wings, grinning. Of course, his grin probably had less to do with the crowd’s reaction than it did the woman standing next to him. Melina, Rhys’s wife, was beautiful, but six months pregnant with twins? She glowed with vitality, blushing when Rhys bent to whisper something in her ear. Max had never seen his brother happier.
When the curtain came down, Max strode toward them, laughing when Melina threw her arms around him.
“That was an amazing set, Max. Brilliant.”
He pulled back and flicked her nose, and his affection for Melina—whom he and Rhys had known since she was fourteen and they were sixteen—swelled inside his chest. Back then she’d already been in love with Rhys. Max had known it. Rhys had known it. Hell, everyone had known it. When Melina turned sixteen, Rhys had finally decided to ask her out but Max messed things up by kissing her. It had been a shitty thing to do, one motivated by jealousy on his part, and because of his rash behavior they’d all paid a heavy price. Rhys and Melina essentially stopped speaking to one another, and Max often sensed his brother’s resentment towards him. Luckily, last year, Max had the chance to make things right. By forcing Melina and Rhys into a sexually charged situation, he’d gotten them to confess their true feelings. Soon afterward, they figured out how to meld their different lifestyles, which is how they all wound up in Vegas. Now Rhys managed the act and continued to invent tricks while Max took the stage solo.
Max looked around but didn’t see Melina’s best friends, who were visiting her from California. “Where are Lucy and Grace?”
Lucy’s name rolled off his tongue with ease. Grace’s not so much. It never did. Something about the woman got to him, even when she was just a voice on the phone.
Melina’s eyes flickered slightly. “They said to tell you they loved the show. Lucy had a Skype date with Jericho, and Grace decided to head back with her. She has a lot on her mind. A few things she needs to work out.”
Well, that was certainly vague. And intriguing.
Lucy was a redheaded spitfire with a smart mouth but a kind heart. She also had a penchant for dating younger men, brooding artists with lots of passion but little stability. Her new guy, Jericho, was hitting it big in California’s Napa Valley and had an art opening tonight.
Grace was quieter than Lucy. Not shy exactly, but definitely more restrained, with a hint of a southern drawl and a propensity for idioms that called to mind hot sultry nights and smooth bourbon. She had an irreverent kind of humor that sometimes sneaked up on him, but on the few occasions he saw her, Max felt the wall she put up between herself and others. Each time, he was tempted to climb it. Partially because he was curious, and wanted to appease that curiosity. Mostly because she was so damn beautiful. The combination revved him up. Made him think of all the ways he could rattle her. Challenged him to explore just how long it would take to melt her reserve and have her clawing at his back, clenching around his cock, and screaming his name as she came.
Imagining her spread and under him had become a small obsession, one he sometimes had difficulty hiding.
The last thing he needed was to jeopardize his relationship with his brother and Melina by screwing one of Melina’s best friends. Grace wasn’t like him or the women he dated, out for some fun while it lasted. Besides, she wasn’t impressed by Max’s sex appeal or his notoriety. Hell, she barely seemed to notice him at all.
Still, she was Melina’s friend so…
“Anything I can help Grace with?” he asked.
Max could swear Melina blushed before she shrugged. “I’ll let her know you offered but she probably just needs a good night’s sleep.”
He was feeling tired himself. So tired, he just wanted to go home, shower and sleep for three days straight. But he couldn’t. Tonight he had a date. A big one. One that might help turn around a shaky situation that was casting a pallor on his family’s happiness.
Despite tonight’s enthusiastic applause, the theater had only been half-full. Their show had been spectacularly successful since they’d moved to Vegas last year, but sales had dropped the past few months thanks to their new competition—a dance and acrobatic revue—that had opened in the casino next door. Jeremy Pritchard bought the building with the theatre six months ago. Like the owner before him, he now got a cut of the proceeds from every show in addition to rent. Two weeks ago, he threatened not to renew their lease unless they brought sales back up dramatically. They’d upped their promotion budget and marketing efforts, but so far it hadn’t paid off.
Now they only had another month until their lease was up. While having to find a new venue for their show wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, it could generate weeks of missed performances, lost income and unnecessary stress for his family and crew. His parents, who were about to leave for a brief second honeymoon in Hawaii, would feel compelled to cancel or cut it short. Most importantly, Max refused to allow anything to mar Rhys and Melina’s pregnancy, which was going well but was still high-risk due to her small stature and the fact she was having twins.
“Did Jeremy show?” Max asked.
“I sure did,” Jeremy called from behind them.
They all turned.
Jeremy was of average height with a stocky build. He had graying light brown hair and a mustache. His ruddy complexion would bring to mind Santa if you didn’t already know the guy was a blow-hard and a schemer.
He slapped both Max and Rhys on the shoulder. “Great show tonight, guys.” He nodded at Melina. “You’re looking beautiful as ever.”
Melina smiled politely. “Thank you.”
He nodded then looked at Rhys. “Great applause, Dalton, but still not a packed house. For your sakes, I hope that changes soon. Goodnight,” he said before walking away.
Melina glared at him. “I do not like that man.”
“With the exception of the casino owners, not many do,” Max said. “Rumor is he’s got a gambling problem and has mortgaged this place to the hilt. He’s got to make more money one way or another.”
Rhys sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s too bad we didn’t get a say on who bought the building.”
Max’s already considerable anger at Jeremy flared as he turned to his brother. “I don’t want either one of you worrying about Jeremy or the lease.” Rhys opened his mouth to reply, but Max interrupted before he could. “I’ve got it under control. Concentrate on getting ready for the babies. Now, I’m headed to Lodi’s. You two heading home?”
Lodi’s was one of Vegas’s hottest new bars. The owner, Rick Lodi, was a huge fan of the act and referred a lot of customers their way. Max often stopped by the bar for drinks after the show, which usually led to a late night with a sexy vacationer or showgirl. Tonight, however, he was going to be focused on Elizabeth Parker, his ex-girlfriend and current Hollywood “It” girl who, for her own reasons, had suggested exploiting both her celebrity status and Max’s reputation as a playboy to bring buzz to Max and his show.
Rhys pulled Melina closer to his side. “Yep. Ladybug here’s been yawning all night so I want to tuck her in.”
She gazed up at him, her eyes filled with love and adoration.
, Max thought. That’s why he’d kissed her all those years ago. Because he’d wanted a woman to gaze at him the way Melina had always gazed at his brother.