Authors: A. P. Jensen
Johnny cupped her face in one hand and brushed his thumb over her lips. “I never forgot you… or them. Let me take care of you.”
To get away from his soul stripping gaze, she played possum and rested the side of her face against his chest. “No.”
“I want to help you, Demi.”
“Then let me go to a hotel.” Where she could grieve in peace.
“I can’t do that,” Johnny said, hand moving through her hair with hypnotic slowness.
“You can’t deny that what we had is still there.”
“You have chemistry with countless women.” She was proud that her voice sounded stronger now as grief ebbed enough for her to speak clearly.
“I know the difference between what I have with you and what I have with other women.”
“You got over me last time within two weeks. It shouldn’t take you long at all to move on this time.”
Johnny cupped her chin and tilted her face up to meet his blazing eyes. Tears continued to trickle down her face, she couldn’t stop them. She shot him a defiant look and wasn’t prepared when his head swooped down and his lips settled on hers. She pressed her hands on his chest in preparation to shove, but paused when she tasted peppermint. It was so achingly familiar that she hesitated. Johnny deepened the kiss and she was lost.
Demi needed to feel something besides the pain that dogged her every waking moment. She needed a reprieve and Johnny was presenting her with one. Just once, a small voice inside of her begged. She drank from Johnny as if he were the elixir of life. The taste of him was forbidden and addictive. She wasn’t sure how it happened, but her hands were suddenly beneath his shirt, touching hot, muscled flesh. She wasn’t sprawled across his lap, she was straddling him and her hands were all over him. His hands gripped her hips as they swiveled against his and when he groaned, the sound made her wild. Even as a teen, Johnny had been phenomenal. He was probably off the charts now. She had her hands on the button of his jeans when a sob caught her by surprise. Demi drew back and stared down at Johnny who looked mussed and hungry. He didn’t seem to mind that she still had tears leaking from her eyes and she was clearly distraught. What the hell are you doing, Demi? That thought broke through the spell and she stared down at him, warring with herself.
“Whatever you want, Demi,” Johnny said quietly, his fingers flexing on her.
Common sense replaced the reckless urge to lose herself in sex. Demi eased off of him. His hands contracted before he let her go. She was too tired to go far. She lay on the bed with her back to him.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
She wasn’t prepared when Johnny stretched out behind her, tossed his arm over her waist and drew her back against him.
“You shouldn’t be alone,” he said in a calm voice. “No one should grieve alone.”
It was so close to what her mother used to say that the tears began again in earnest. She grabbed a pillow and screamed into it. Life was so damn unfair. Johnny’s hands moved over her, but there was nothing sexual in his touch, just comfort.
“You’re not alone, Demi. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’m not staying here with you. I can’t go through this again,” she sobbed into the pillow. She was too steeped in grief to care if she sounded pathetic.
“We have time, Demi.”
“No,” she mumbled into the pillow as exhaustion weighed down her limbs. “We don’t.” Why did she feel so safe with him? Why did this feel so normal, so
? This was so wrong. “What’s wrong with me?” she whispered, voice thick with despair.
“There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“I have the worst taste in men.”
Johnny’s arms cuddled her back against him. “We’ll get past this, Demi.
I’m going to fix what I broke inside of you.”
He didn’t seem to hear her. He buried his face in her hair. “
When I lost you, I lost my best friend and biggest supporter. Now, I have her back.”
“You don’t have me.”
“I want what Holly has,” Demi said into the pillow. “A quiet, simple life. But, I want to be alone so I don’t have to lose anymore people. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t have anything left in me.” She let out a small sob and Johnny murmured soothingly to her. “You’ll forget about me when another woman catches your eye.”
“Yes, it is,” she argued. “I’m probably the only woman who’s ever broken up with you.”
“You stand alone for a lot of reasons. That’s one of them,” Johnny admitted.
“I need to get an apartment,” she said, even as her body began to relax.
“We’ll talk about it later,” Johnny said quietly.
“You shouldn’t touch me. You shouldn’t be in bed with me.”
“It’s the only way I’ll sleep tonight.”
“Come on, baby, wake up.”
She had to be dreaming. She knew that voice and it shouldn’t be in her vicinity. “Johnny?”
“Regan will be here in half an hour.”
Demi opened swollen eyes and blinked at the handsome face looking down at her. “Johnny?”
“You gotta get ready for work.”
Where would she work when she didn’t have
The Ashton Hotel
anymore? Demi frowned and then her mind lurched into gear. She rolled away from Johnny so fast that she fell off the bed.
“Yes, go away,” she snapped.
Johnny strolled out of the room whistling. Demi dropped her forehead against the mattress. Oh my God. Did last night really happen? She rushed to the bathroom and stared at her reflection. Her eyes were raw and swollen and her face was pale. She flushed with mortification. She cried in front of him, nearly had sex with him and fell asleep in his arms. How pathetic could she be? She didn’t even last two nights in his presence without kissing him. She had to get away from him ASAP.
Demi ran to the closet and pulled out an outfit. She paused when she noticed a mug of steaming coffee on the nightstand. The mug in itself deserved a minute of her precious time to examine.
It was misshapen and crafted by an impatient hand, but Demi liked the flaws. On the side of the cup it said, ‘Unicorns are the shit.’ She took a sip and her brows rose. It was sweet, just the way she liked it.
Demi made faces in the mirror as she got ready. Memories of last night made her want to hide under the covers. She didn’t know what to think of Johnny. He wanted her back? It was so ludicrous that Demi snorted. He didn’t want her thirteen years ago and he couldn’t want her now. Was he looking for wife number four and he thought she’d do? She scowled at her reflection. She may have broken down in his arms last night, but she wasn’t an idiot. She lost the two things that mattered to her—family and The Ashton Hotel. She wasn’t desperate enough to hand her heart over to a man who already proved how little he valued her.
She couldn’t believe she was in a small town in Montana, in Johnny Bentley’s house. Who knew that deciding to buy the ticket to his concert would lead her here?
Demi walked downstairs fifteen minutes after Johnny woke her. She was dressed in a gray wrap dress that looked great on her and made her feel marginally better. She came to a dead stop when she saw Johnny at the stove.
He handed her an omelet that was oozing and slightly burned. She looked from the plate to Johnny.
“You made this for me?” she asked, mystified.
“It’s your first day,” Johnny said. “Eat.”
She took a tentative bite. It didn’t taste as bad as it looked.
“It’s okay, right?” he asked.
“Its great. Thanks,” she said warily. “I was just going to have coffee.”
“You like food,” he said and the eyes that moved over her figure were frankly admiring. “And it looks good on you.”
going there, Johnny,” she said, memories of her straddling him clear in her mind.
Johnny tried to flip the egg in the pan without success. While he muttered under his breath, she flicked her eyes over him. Mandy and her entourage would pay good money to be this close to Johnny Bentley. She valiantly tried to ignore the intriguing tattoos on his body and refilled the unicorn mug.
“You have a fetish for unicorns?” she asked to fill the silence.
“Holly and Max’s son, Bobby, made it for me. It’s my favorite cup.”
Demi opened the fridge and blinked when she saw that it was filled to capacity with food. She grabbed the creamer and looked around the kitchen, which had been bare yesterday. Now there was a coffeemaker, pots, pans and dishes. She looked at Johnny who cursed and shut off the stove.
“You did a lot of shopping yesterday,” she said.
Johnny looked around the kitchen with a bewildered expression on his face. He didn’t look like a rock god now. He looked like an average Joe who had no idea what to do in a kitchen.
“I went shopping and the sales people gave me sets for everything you need in a kitchen. I can cook. Not well, but I can. I need to get furniture for the other rooms. It’s about time I settled in.”
Demi glanced around the mostly empty house, which had a lot of potential. The floor plan was airy and simple. Johnny had a fenced in back yard with a lone tree that looked like it was about to die. This was a family house that didn’t fit with Johnny’s public persona.
“Why’d you buy a house in the middle of a neighborhood?” she asked. “You could build a mansion or stay in New York.”
“I came here because of Regan.”
She tried to relax her death grip on the coffee cup. “Yes, she told me you were lovers.”
Johnny gave her a long look. “She did, huh? Remind me to thank her for that later. We were lovers for a couple days—”
“Two weeks,” Demi interjected.
Johnny rolled his eyes. “Okay. Two weeks and we remained friends. I used to visit her when I had time. She came home to White Mist and her family became my family. I had a key to Valerie’s house and realized how pathetic that was so I got this house. I like to listen to the kids playing in the streets while I write music. It keeps me grounded and reminds me of what’s important.”
They stared at one another. The events of last night were thick in the air.
“I’m sorry about your family.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said in a stifled tone and shoved down tears that were always right beneath the surface.
Johnny nodded. “Fair enough.”
She cleared her throat. “Can you recommend an apartment complex in town?”
Johnny put his hands on hips. “Really, Demi?”
Johnny took a step towards her and she held the coffee mug in front of her like a shield.
“Did you hear a word I said yesterday?” he growled.
“Did you hear what
said?” she countered. “I didn’t come here for this, for you. I came here to start fresh.”
“That’s what we’re doing, starting fresh,” he said though clenched teeth.
“There is no we,” she snapped.
He spread his arms wide. “What do I have to do to get you to forgive me?”
She stared at him. “That was thirteen years ago.”
“And now you want nothing to do with me because of it.”
“Aside from the fact that the two years we dated didn’t stop you from getting married within two weeks to a groupie.” She paused for effect and continued, “Why would I believe a word from a man who’s slept with more women than any other male on the planet?”
“Tabloids exaggerate,” he bit out.
“Most of the time, I’d agree, but with you, Johnny, I’m sure they’re just reporting facts.”
“If I screwed that many women, I wouldn’t have time to write any albums.”
She gave him a steely smile. “I’m sure you manage both just fine.”
Johnny’s obsidian eyes were moody and intense. “Demi, I’m not playing a game. I’ve changed and this time, there’s nothing standing between us.”
“There was nothing standing between us last time!” she shouted, losing her temper.
He cocked his head to the side. “So your father had nothing to do with our breakup?”
Demi glared at him. “My dad was worried and you know what? He was right about you.”
“I was young and didn’t know how to handle the breakup. You were the only family I had and when you ripped it away from me, I decided to make my own.”
“Don’t you dare blame me for deciding to get married!
made that choice.”
“I take responsibility for it. I was young and stupid. Don’t you think that when you showed up, I wished to hell and back that I didn’t marry her?”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Her eyes burned, but she’d be damned if she shed another tear over Johnny Bentley. She cried a river in the past thirteen years and she was so done.
“I’m trying to explain where my head was at.”
“Save it, Johnny. I don’t care
your head was at. All I know is you married her. Period. That’s all I care about.”
Johnny let out a long breath, visibly reining in his temper. “Okay, Demi, where do we go from here?”
“I go to work with Regan, get an apartment—”
“You don’t get a say in this!”
“You think not?”
One moment Johnny was across the kitchen and the next he had her pinned against the kitchen counter.
,” he breathed against her lips, “regretted anything more in life than not fighting for you.”
Her lips quivered under his and her hands tingled with the urge to dig into his flesh. Her heart pounded in her ears and her body heated as it he pressed into her.