Read Rock Star's Ballad (White Mist Series Book 3) Online
Authors: A. P. Jensen
“So, are you saying you’re going to take a break?”
She blew out a breath. “And what are you going to do?”
He gave her a tight squeeze. “Become a family man.”
She laughed up at the stars. “Johnny Bentley, rock star turned family man.”
“I can still rock with kids.”
“Yes, you definitely will.”
His thumb brushed over her fingers and then he asked, “Why didn’t you marry your ex? You were engaged to him for over a year.” Demi tensed and he brushed his lips against her temple. “According to your dad’s standards, he was perfect. He was wealthy and loved you. You lost your family, you thought he supported you… Why put off the wedding?”
“Honestly, I don’t know.” She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer of thanks that she never gave in to setting a wedding date. “It never felt right.”
“And this?” he murmured.
“Feels too easy.” When he didn’t reply, she shrugged. “I mean, shouldn’t there be more obstacles? I was free and clear to move, you’re ready to settle down, Regan offers me a job. The only blip since I’ve come to White Mist is Barry. I guess I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“And what could that other shoe be?”
“You realize you’re not ready to settle down and figure out I’m not what you want,” she said with brutal honesty.
“That won’t happen. What will it take to make you realize I know what I want? I’m not going to change my mind, Demi.”
She didn’t respond and he tightened his hold on her.
“I’ve had one passion in life that got me through everything. Music. When we started dating, you became my second. You were everything I wanted—my complete opposite. You grew up surrounded by a loving family. You took care of me when I was in town, you fed my creativity and you were fucking sexy—a triple threat.” He chuckled when she snorted. “I’ve never been able to find someone who challenges and satisfies me on every level. I busted my ass to be where I am today to prove to your dad, to you, that I could be successful.”
“I don’t care about that.”
“I know. Only recently, I realized I don’t care about it either. I’ve played in every country, won every award I wanted. What’s left?”
When Demi didn’t answer, he tipped her chin up so she’d look at him. His eyes were dark pools in the moonlight.
“What’s left is the rest of my life with the one woman who makes me feel like a teenager again.”
He kissed her with such gentleness that her eyes pricked with tears.
“I love you, Demi.”
“I love you too, just give me time,” Demi said and saw a shooting star streak across the sky.
The next day the kids were in the water by eight and the adults watched from the dock with cups of coffee and prayed they wouldn’t have to jump in before ten. It was a replay of the day before and it was so perfect that Demi wished it wouldn’t end. Johnny was more than happy to jump in the water with the kids and she wandered over to Regan who sat on a deck chair in the shade.
“What happened to Bethany yesterday?” Demi asked her.
“I don’t know. Do you think she’s mad at me?”
! You lied to her and then abandoned her so you could spent a couple of hours having sex with your husband!”
Regan grinned. “I can’t feel bad about that.”
“You should. She didn’t even get a ride back, she took a taxi. Give me her number. I want to call.”
Regan recited Bethany’s number and Demi paced along the shore and dialed. It went straight to voicemail.
“Hey Bethany, this is Demi. Just checking to make sure everything’s okay. Call me if you need anything.”
She hung up and shaded her eyes to look across the lake. Her phone rang and she picked up immediately.
“Demi, how could you do this to me?”
She froze. “Barry?”
“I love you so much and you left me for that playboy rock star!” he raged. “I can give you whatever you want! What does he have that I don’t?”
“What will it take for you to come back?”
She gripped the phone. “I’m not coming back. Ever.”
“It’s him, isn’t it? That’s really why you left me. Were you cheating on me?”
“Of course not! This has nothing to do with Johnny!”
The phone was plucked out of her hand. She whirled as Johnny put it to his ear.
“My lawyer will be in touch with you,” Johnny said and hung up. His face was cut into hard, unrelenting planes of anger. “If that ass calls, you do
pick up the phone!”
“I thought it was Bethany!” Demi snapped.
“That fuck is obsessed with you. You don’t pick up unless you know who’s on the other line.”
“I was handling him!”
Johnny got in her face and she took a hasty step back.
“Were you? From the sound of it, it sounds like you were trying to placate him.” She opened her mouth and he growled, “You don’t fucking talk to a man who assaulted you! Do you hear me?”
“Everything okay?” Guy asked, appearing at their side, wearing his expressionless cop face.
“No, that fuck called,” Johnny said.
Guy looked sharply at Demi. “Why’d you pick up?”
She clenched her fists at her sides. “I thought it was Bethany!”
“This guy is mentally ill. You don’t want to encourage his behavior,” Guy said coolly.
“You think I was
“Responding to a stalker in any way gives them the attention they want.”
“We’re leaving,” Johnny said and grabbed her arm.
He didn’t say a word as he led her back to the house and shoved their clothes back in suitcases. She tried to help, but he shoved everything into the SUV with such violence that she stepped back. Johnny was enraged and she didn’t know what to do to stop it. They said their goodbyes to everyone. Johnny had such a forbidding look on his face that he scared the kids.
“You were all so great. Thanks for inviting us,” Demi said.
“Anytime, Demi,” Mama said.
Johnny hauled her to the SUV and she looked out the window as they drove back to White Mist. Okay, so maybe she shouldn’t have answered her phone without looking, but Barry was so far off her radar that it never crossed her mind that he would call unless…
Johnny shot her a furious glance. Demi turned in the seat to face him.
“The reason why I never checked my phone before I answered is because he never calls!” When Johnny didn’t react, she shoved his shoulder. “Do you know what that means?”
Silence from Johnny.
he saw me walk away from everybody and knew I’d have the phone in my hand. That’s why he called. It wasn’t a coincidence.”
Johnny swerved so violently that she screamed. His arm slammed over her chest as he pulled the SUV onto the side of the road and fished out his phone.
“Guy? Yeah. This is the first time that fuck’s called her. She walked away from everyone and made a call to Bethany. The phone was still in her hand when he called. Find out where he is. Yeah. Bye.”
Johnny pulled back onto the highway with a vicious yank of the wheel and she held onto the door handle. Maybe she shouldn’t have told Johnny what she deduced. What if it was a coincidence that Barry called when she had her phone in hand? Highly unlikely, but possible.
There was a crackling force of rage surrounding Johnny. Neither of them said another word as he parked in the garage. He told her to stay in the car with the doors locked and went inside. She gnawed on her bottom lip as he checked the house and came back to get their bags and her.
“You don’t leave the house!” Johnny barked and walked into the recording studio and closed the door behind him.
Had the other shoe just dropped? They just had a great weekend and a conversation that barely lasted two minutes ruined everything. Damn it, Barry! Even though he dragged her off the sidewalk and stole The Ashton Hotel
from her, she couldn’t get away from the fact that prior to all of this Barry hadn’t shown psycho tendencies. She couldn’t get it out of her mind that she could reason with him. He was a brilliant businessman. Maybe if she told him to his face that she didn’t love him, he would move on… Ugh! Why the hell was her life so jacked up?
To give herself something to do, Demi washed all of her new clothes and hung them in the closet. She cleaned both bathrooms, stripped the bed and went through the fridge. She prepared baked potatoes and steak while she did her last load of laundry and made the bed before she knocked on Johnny’s door.
“Dinner’s ready!” she called.
She sat at the dining table and ate, willing the doors to open. She didn’t care if he was in a rotten mood, she just wanted him near. He didn’t come out. She cleaned up the dishes and put the leftovers in the fridge before she went upstairs to shower. When she entered the bedroom, she half expected to find Johnny lounging on the bed, but it was empty. She wanted to knock on the recording room doors again, but if he needed time, she’d give it to him.
She got into bed, grabbed her cell phone and stared at it. No missed calls. She called Bethany again and got her voicemail. She called Regan who picked up on the third ring.
“Guy said you suspected your ex was local,” Regan said when she answered.
“It’s a theory I had. I don’t even know—”
“Guy found him. He was in a cabin across the lake.”
She shot up in bed. “What?”
“Yeah. Guy didn’t tell Johnny till your ex left the state.”
Demi dropped her face in her palm. “Shit.”
“How’s Johnny doing?”
Regan clucked her tongue. “Ooh. Not good.”
“Well, just let it ride. I’ll see you at Ever After tomorrow.”
Demi sat there for a minute, staring straight ahead, gripping the phone in one hand. She just had the best weekend in what felt like forever and Barry watched… How did he know where she was going to be? Did he have someone spying on her? She shuddered and any thought of talking sense into him vanished. He crossed a line. There was no reason to watch her unless he was waiting for an opportunity to do… what?
She got out of bed and walked downstairs. She stood in front of the closed doors of the recording studio for a long minute before she knocked. No response. She twisted the knob and was surprised to find it unlocked. Johnny sat on the couch with his guitar and his eyes were on her. She couldn’t read his face. She forced herself to walk in and sit on the opposite end of the couch.
“Regan told me that Guy found Barry in a cabin at the lake.” She twisted her hands together in her lap. “I’m sorry.”
“Bringing all this crap with me. I didn’t know—”
“You have nothing to be sorry for. It’s not your fault he’s obsessed with you.”
“I can’t believe he’s doing this,” she said, shaking her head. “He’s not that type of guy.”
“He is,” Johnny growled.
She winced. “I know that now.”
He put the guitar aside and pulled her across the couch until she was cuddled against him.
“I don’t like knowing he was so close. The last time, he came to collect you against your will. Honestly, I know how he feels. I’d fight for you, but I don’t have to. You gave yourself to me willingly.” His thumb rubbed over her ring finger. “I don’t like that you need time.”
She tensed and he shushed her before she could speak.
“But I understand why you need it and I can give that to you. I don’t like that I feel like you could slip away from me and now some fucker is following you around, threatening you. I don’t know how to handle it and… I didn’t handle it well today. I’m sorry if I scared you.”
“I know why you were angry,” she said quietly. “I don’t know what to do about this.”
“You don’t have to do anything. I’ll take care of it. Just know I’m going to work with you for a while.”
“No negotiating. Regan knows.”
She sighed loudly. “This is so messed up.”
“It’ll pass,” he said, voice firm and sure.
She curled up against him, hand splayed over his stomach. He didn’t move or speak. The rage was gone and though she sensed he was still angry, it wasn’t coming off of him in waves. She was relieved. Hearing the thump of his heartbeat beneath her ear comforted her and she drifted off to sleep.
When Bethany arrived at work over an hour late, she took two steps into the shop and was confronted by Johnny, Regan and Demi.
“Where the hell have you been?” Regan demanded.
Bethany stopped in her tracks and looked at Johnny, Demi and Regan who had her hands on hips. Bethany looked the same as she always did, hair slicked back in a bun, but she looked pale and tired. Demi elbowed Regan in a warning to tone it down.
“We were worried. Regan thought you got into an accident or something. She called Guy three times,” Demi said.
Bethany blinked in surprise. “Why?”
“Why?” Regan barked. “Because you’re never late!”
Bethany’s hands fluttered over her slick hair. “My grandma had a second stroke. I was delayed at the hospital, but I’m here now.”
Regan drew back. “You were at the hospital this morning? Why didn’t you tell us?”
“I turned my phone off,” Bethany said.