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Authors: Roni Loren

Wanderlust

BOOK: Wanderlust
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Titles by Roni Loren

Crash into You

Melt into You

Fall into You

Not Until You

Caught Up in You

Need You Tonight

Nothing Between Us

Call on Me

Off the Clock

Wanderlust

Loving You Easy [9/16]

Novellas

Still into You

Forever Starts Tonight

Break Me Down

Nice Girls Don’t Ride

Yours All Along

Wanderlust

Roni Loren

INTERMIX BOOKS, NEW YORK

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

WANDERLUST

An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2016 by Roni Loren.

Excerpt from
Loving You Easy
copyright © 2016 by Roni Loren.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

INTERMIX and the “IM” design are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information about The Berkley Publishing Group, visit
penguin.com
.

eBook ISBN: 9780399584404

PUBLISHING HISTORY

InterMix eBook edition / July 2016

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

To my readers: thank you for reading my stories, for asking for more, and for taking this wild ride with me. I appreciate you more than I can say.

Chapter 1

Southern gentility be damned. Nice was getting her nowhere. Aubrey Bordelon put her hands on her hips and attempted an I-mean-business face. “Look, I’m not here to get laid.”

The slab of beef serving as security guard raised his eyebrows and smirked. “I’m sorry to hear that, darlin’, but you’re still not getting in.”

He leaned his shoulder against the grimy frame of the door, blocking her view of backstage. She dipped her hand into her purse and felt around, pulling out her business card and holding it out to him. “I’m supposed to interview the band. I’m from the
NOLA Vibe
.”

“Yeah, you mentioned that.” He ignored her card and flipped the clipboard in his hand so it was facing her. She couldn’t read most of the names in the dim light of the alley, but she knew hers wouldn’t be there. “Problem is, you’re not on the list.”

“We’ve been over that.” She’d already explained in what she had hoped was a professional, polite tone that she was there as a replacement reporter, that the original guy was in the hospital.

“Yeah, well, you’re going to have to come up with a more creative reason to get back here. Half the people in this line claim they’re supposed to be on the list but were mysteriously left off. So unless you have a magic wand in your purse to make your name appear, you’re outta luck.”

She resisted the urge to throw something at his shiny head.

“Excuse me,” interrupted a perky voice. Aubrey turned to look at the blonde standing behind her. The girl pinned the bouncer with a sultry gaze.

“I
am
here to get laid. Does that make a difference?” She tilted her head to the side and somehow implied a wink without actually winking.

The guard gave the groupie an appreciative once-over and grinned. Aubrey rolled her eyes. Of course. Apparently wearing an outfit consisting entirely of leather strips and dental floss was the way to make nice with Mr. Clean.

“Look, doll, I’d love to let you in. But like I told Lois Lane over here, if your name isn’t on the list, my hands are tied. The boys don’t entertain company before a show. Come back after the concert and maybe I can get you in. They relax the rules a little then.”

The girl put a manicured hand on the guy’s chest. “I’ll hold you to that, sweet thing.”

Ugh. The night had turned into the girl with the skimpiest outfit wins. Aubrey huffed and turned to walk away before she was tempted to say something even more unprofessional than she already had.

She didn’t know if it was the smothering heat of the New Orleans summer evening, the putrid smell of the club’s Dumpster, or the fact that her plans had been shot to hell, but she was feeling downright combative. She shouldn’t be here. She wanted the promotion to head food writer that she’d been working so hard toward, but this was more than she’d signed up for.

She should be eating things with crabmeat and cream sauce at Pierre’s, the new restaurant she’d intended to review for her column. Not at some rock concert covering a band she knew hardly anything about. A band she couldn’t even get close to because her boss, Jordana, hadn’t bothered to notify security that someone was replacing Nick. But if Aubrey wanted a bigger job, she had to be willing to jump into any of the magazine’s departments when needed. At least that’s what Jordana had told her when she’d laid this last-minute assignment on her.

Aubrey pulled her phone from her purse, firing off a text message to her boss, warning her that this big story was in danger if she couldn’t get to the freaking band. But before she hit send, her pointy-toed boot caught an uneven piece of cobblestone, sending her body pitching forward and her phone flying. Choice words flew past her lips as her left palm landed flat in a puddle of what she prayed was water and she barely prevented a total faceplant on the sidewalk. Her phone clattered to the ground a few feet away.

“Oh, my god, are you all right?” A click-clack of heels sounded off to her left.

She glanced up to find the blonde peering down at her with concern and offering a hand, which made Aubrey feel like a jerk for having deemed the girl Rock Star Barbie earlier. Aubrey took her hand and got to her feet. “Yeah, I’m fine, just not paying attention. Thanks.”

“No problem. Heels and NOLA sidewalks have put me on my ass before.” The girl made sure Aubrey was securely on her feet before letting go, bending down to pick up Aubrey’s phone, and handing it to her. “Those boots are totally worth the risk, though. Super cute.”

“Thanks, but clearly the wrong choice for storming away from idiotic bouncers.” She checked her phone to make sure the screen hadn’t cracked then dropped it in her purse and wiped her wet hands on her jeans. She discreetly sniffed her palm. Beer. Gross. Better than urine, but not by much. She dug a bottle of her ever present antibacterial gel from her bag and squirted some on her hand.

The girl smiled and tucked a lock of bleached hair behind her ear. “Oh, don’t sweat baldy. He’s just enjoying his power trip. We still have a good shot at getting in later. Wanderlust is known for letting a lot of girls in after the show.”

Aubrey smirked as they headed toward the club again. “I think I may be overdressed.” And under-stacked.

The girl looked from her own leather outfit to Aubrey’s simple jeans and black V-neck. “Well, maybe a little, but you never know. I’ve heard the bass player is really into brunettes, so he may go for you. Or have you seen the guys in Darkfall? I saw them perform in a club last year. Ohmigod, their drummer is
hot
. And members of the opening band are usually easier to get to because everyone is going after the headliners.”

“Super.”

The girl smiled and nodded, Aubrey’s sarcasm flying right past her.

They navigated to the front of the club and headed toward the line of people snaking out the main door. Loud rock music by Darkfall, the opening band, filtered out the doorway and mixed with the chatter of the people waiting to get inside.

“I’m Candace, by the way,” the girl said, as she rifled through her purse and pulled out her ticket.

“Aubrey.”

Candace tugged her skirt without breaking stride and lowered it a fraction, making both her belly button ring and hip tattoo visible. “So is this your first Wanderlust concert?”

“Yes.” Her throat tightened. This was her first concert of any kind in a long time. The last one had been exactly eight years, three months, and nine days ago. She took a steadying breath, trying to shake off the sick feeling that hit her anytime she thought of that night. It was exactly why she’d never volunteered to fill in for any of the live music reporters at the Vibe. Unfortunately, the universe had a crappy sense of humor. But she wasn’t going to be a chickenshit. She could totally do this. She turned her head to Candace and forced a smile. “How about you?”

“Oh, yeah, my first Wanderlust, but only because they haven’t toured here before. I would’ve seen them way before now if I could’ve. They’re so awesome. And gorgeous. But of course you know that. You were trying to get backstage, too.” She gave Aubrey’s shoulder a playful bump.

They reached the front of the club and took their place in line, which, to Aubrey’s relief, was moving quickly. Candace seemed friendly enough, but Aubrey couldn’t maintain an oh-my-god-how-hot-is-this-band conversation for an hour-long wait in line—especially when she knew exactly zero about Wanderlust.

Candace dug a compact out of her bag, flipped it open, and reapplied her lipstick. “I’m hoping to hook up with Lex Logan tonight. I can’t resist lead singers.”

Aubrey mumbled something noncommittal and checked the time on her phone.

“Don’t you think he’s hot?”

Aubrey shrugged. When Jordana had sprung the surprise assignment on her late that afternoon, she hadn’t had enough time to Google the band. She’d heard of them in passing. The
NOLA Vibe
had run a few syndicated stories on their album. But she’d never paid close attention. She wouldn’t be able to pick a band member out of a lineup.

“That’s right,” Candace said with a dismissive wave. “You’re going for the drummer. I forgot. He’s cute, too.”

“So do you do this a lot?” Aubrey asked, trying to change the subject.

“Oh, all the time.” She then proceeded to name the lead singers she’d hooked up with and each man’s various strong and weak points. Her final conclusion based on three years of calculated research: the higher pitched the voice, the lousier the bedmate. Therefore, she had recently given up on pop bands entirely.

Candace was rather entertaining when she told a story, waving her hands around and making faces. Aubrey found herself swept up in it and didn’t bother to interrupt her to tell her that she’d only been asking if she went to many concerts.

The man at the door tapped Candace’s shoulder. “Ticket, please.”

Candace turned, handed her ticket to him, and glanced over her shoulder at Aubrey. “Well, it was nice to meet you. Maybe we’ll see each other backstage later. But remember, I called dibs on Lex.”

Aubrey laughed. “Noted.”

Candace gave a little wave and disappeared into the throng of music and cigarette smoke. Aubrey shook her head, unable to hold on to her initial annoyance with the girl. Dibs? The image of a herd of women charging the lead singer, yanking one another’s hair extensions and tripping their competition came to her.
But I had dibs, bitch!
each would cry. Aubrey handed her ticket over to enter the club, the amusing image lifting her mood.

Inside, the venue was pure New Orleans—worn, unique, and undeniably hip. She had visited the restaurant section of the building once before to review its jazz brunch for her column, but hadn’t seen the club side. Dark, reclaimed wood covered every available surface including the ceiling, giving the space a cozy feeling despite its relatively large size. Painted designs ranging from flames to religious symbols decorated the walls and the bases of the two large bars that lined the back and right sides of the room.

A guy pushed past her to the few stairs that led down to the main floor in front of the stage. The opening band was wrapping up a song, and a few people were heading for a beer or bathroom break. But the place had to be close to capacity, and finding a good spot was going to be tough. She glanced upward. People pressed against the walnut railings of the balcony, jockeying for position. She needed to jump in now before the beer-run people made their way back.

After a lot of strategic maneuvering and gently prodding elbows, she managed to claim a sliver of a spot near the stage. If she had gotten to the band before the show, she’d probably be watching the performance from side stage. That would’ve made it possible to take actual notes, but this would have to do. She was two rows of bodies from the front barricade, flanked by a guy on her left and a woman on her right. The guy looked like he hadn’t cut his hair since KISS had a hit, and the woman had on even less clothes than Candace. A bright red pin that read W
ANDERSLUT
was pinned to her bustier. The woman would probably be cat-fighting later with Candace over who got to lick Lex’s shoes. Though, Candace would win, of course, because she’d called dibs. Duh.

Aubrey bit back her smile and turned toward the stage. The opening band really was good. She shook her head when she caught herself checking out the blond drummer Candace had declared was hot. The guy was nice to look at but his drumming skills were what held her attention. He looked like a man possessed. She made a mental note to research Darkfall. Maybe the magazine could do a story on them. They had a regular column about up-and-comers.

Aubrey managed to stay focused during the end of Darkfall’s performance, putting her journalist hat on. But when they left the stage, time seemed to crawl. Bodies shifted. Voices were too loud. Claustrophobia started to claw at her. Maybe this had been a bad idea. Maybe she couldn’t handle this. But the third time she checked the time on her phone, the smoky lights of the club dimmed, indicating the start of the show.
Here we go.
She took a deep breath. Within seconds, the voices of a thousand rabid fans whipped into a screaming frenzy.

A few seconds earlier, she’d worried that bad memories were about to overtake her, but now she found herself leaning forward in anticipation, the trapped feeling falling away. The energy of the crowd pulsed through her, the excitement infectious. Her foul mood from earlier began to slip from her shoulders like the shedding of a heavy coat. The band members, barely visible silhouettes under the cover of darkness, filed onto the stage and took their posts. The drums sliced through the roar of the crowd first—a
thump-thump-thump
so loud her bones vibrated. When the strobe lights began flashing and the guitars kicked in, a crush of bodies pressed against her as everyone surged closer to the stage in one collective mass.

All of the band members were in place except for the lead singer. The woman next to Aubrey screamed Lex’s name and hopped like a caffeinated rabbit, waving and flailing her arms. Wow, Aubrey couldn’t remember ever being that excited about anything—especially not about
anyone
. If the chick wasn’t careful, she was going to pass out from sheer anticipation—or from excessive bouncing in a way-too-tight bustier. Either one could lead to fainting. Luckily, she didn’t have to wait long.

Aubrey heard his voice before she saw him. Gravelly, dark, and powerful—the vocals of Wanderlust’s Lex Logan washed over her with a rush of heat. Goose bumps pricked her arms. Center stage was still black, but she craned her neck, trying to get a glimpse of the man behind the sound. As if responding to her silent desire, the spotlights flipped on and illuminated the singer. The screams in the audience rose to an octave only female voices could reach. Aubrey wanted to shout along with them, but all air had evacuated her lungs.

The crowd around her became a blur of noise and colors, and all she could focus on was the man at center stage. If she had seen pictures of Lex Logan, she
really
must not have been paying attention. The six feet of lean, hard-bodied rock star sent her pulse into instant overdrive. Dark hair. Bright eyes. And full sleeves of colorful tattoos. Holy hell. She shifted to the left and stood on tiptoes to get a better, full-length view. Heat rippled across her skin as Lex looked out at the audience and curled his lips into a smile. Confident. Seductive. Wicked. That smile said volumes. That smile made promises.

BOOK: Wanderlust
4.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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