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Authors: Roni Loren

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BOOK: Wanderlust
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She smiled and shook his hand. “Great, I’ll be there. Thanks, Pete.”

She spun on her heel, ignoring Lex, and strutted out the door.

Lex shook his head. Damn, she had a nice ass. Too bad there was such a big stick up it.

Chapter 3

Aubrey swirled the sweetener into her iced tea, watching it dissolve, wishing she could vanish as well.

Her mother huffed and set down the butter knife with a sharp clink. “Aubrey, you’ve barely said two words since we sat down. What’s the matter with you?”

“I’m fine, just a little tired.” She placed her teaspoon on the white linen tablecloth and a light brown stain spread around it. Her head pounded from the combination of her late night and lack of morning coffee. “They have me covering for Nick at work.”

Her mother pursed her lips. “That scraggly pothead?”

Aubrey resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “He’s not a pothead. He’s a great journalist. And you only think he looks scraggly because his hair falls past his ears.”

Okay, so Nick
could
be a pothead. He did have a fondness of burning incense in his office, but that was totally beside the point.

“I call them like I see them, dear,” her mother said and nibbled a slice of French bread.

The waiter placed bowls of soup in front of them. “Crawfish bisque. Our special of the day.”

“Oh, we didn’t order soup,” Aubrey said.

“Compliments of the chef,” he replied, smiling. “He was so happy with the review you did on the restaurant a few weeks ago, he wanted to say thank you. He’s getting the article framed.”

Aubrey grinned. “Well, that’s great to hear. He earned it.”

“Can I get you ladies anything else right now?”

“No, thank you. We’re great,” Aubrey’s mother said, waving him off. She waited until he walked away and then frowned across the table at Aubrey. “So if you’re filling in for Nick, does this mean you’re going to all those seedy bars in the French Quarter to watch bands?”

Aubrey nodded as she blew on a spoonful of bisque. “Mm-hmm.”

“So that’s why you look like hell.”

“Gee, thanks, Mom.”

Her mother’s expression was unapologetic. “I don’t know if I like the idea of you going alone downtown late at night. You’re not drinking, are you?”

Aubrey groaned. “Are you seriously asking me that?”

Her mother pinned her with a pointed stare.

“Mom, you know I haven’t had alcohol in a decade. Plus, last night was probably the only concert I’ll have to go to. I’m doing an exclusive in-depth thing with this one band, so I’ll pretty much be following them around for the next week.”

“Well, I hope you’ll still be available for your father’s campaign event tomorrow night.”

Crap. She’d forgotten about that. “Um, yeah, sure. I’ll figure something out.”

Aubrey dropped her gaze, shoveled soup into her mouth, and started planning a good last-minute excuse to bail on the party so that she could spend time with the band instead of her parents’ stuffy friends.

“Good, because I have a little surprise for you,” her mother said in a singsong voice. Aubrey glanced up and her mother’s eyebrows rose into a devious arch.

“Oh no,” Aubrey groaned. “Don’t give me that face. That’s the face you gave me when you set me up with Milton Robard the freshman homecoming dance.”

She smiled with feigned innocence. “What? He was a nice boy from a good family.”

“He was a nose-picker with Cool Ranch Dorito breath.”

She laughed. “Okay fine, but this surprise is definitely better.”

The waiter came by and dropped off their salads. Aubrey slid her soup bowl to the side and stabbed a tomato on her salad plate.

“Just tell me now. I hate surprises.” Not totally true. She only hated surprises orchestrated by Del Bordelon. Her mother meant well, but had a knack for putting her in the most awkward circumstances.

“Grayson is back in town.”

Aubrey’s fork stalled halfway to her mouth. Her mother could’ve said rogue hogs had just invaded the restaurant to demand pork be taken off the menu; that would’ve shocked her less. She placed her fork back on her plate, every muscle in her neck and shoulders seizing up.

Del leaned across the table and patted Aubrey’s hand. “Isn’t that great news?”

Aubrey took a deep breath, trying to release the tension in her muscles. She kept her tone even. “We haven’t spoken in five years. Why should I care?”

“Now what kind of attitude is that? He went off to get his MBA and a job. You can’t blame him for that.” She pointed her fork at Aubrey. “And he’s still single.”

Aubrey shoved in a mouthful of salad. She didn’t want to talk about Gray, especially not with her mother. She’d closed the door on that hurt and didn’t plan to open it again.

“He’s coming to the benefit tomorrow night. He asked me if you were going to be there.”

“I probably can’t go. I have to work,” Aubrey mumbled, mouth still full.

Her mother shook her head. “No, you’re going to have to figure something out. It’s important to your father that the whole family is there to support him. What would people think if his own daughter didn’t show up?”

“That his daughter has a job.”

The waiter stopped by and asked if they needed anything else.

Aubrey had lost her appetite. “No, just the check.”

Her mother folded her cloth napkin into a sharp-cornered square and then placed it on the table. “Your father and I expect you to be there. It’s the least you can do. Please don’t disappoint us.”

Aubrey sighed. She knew this game too well. It was one she would never be able to win. She’d earned her lifelong ride on this guilt trip train. “Fine. I’ll figure out a way to be there.”

***

Aubrey slipped into the control room right as Wanderlust’s lead guitarist launched into a frenetic solo. At least, it looked frenetic. She couldn’t hear a thing through the large soundproof glass, but his fingers moved as fast as lightning and his tongue was stuck out the corner of his mouth in concentration. Lex had his head bowed with his fingers laced behind his neck as if listening carefully.

Pete was the only one in the control room. He removed his headphones and placed them on top of an electronic panel that rivaled the control deck of an airplane.

“Ms. Bordelon, I’m so glad you could make it.” He turned one of the many knobs, adjusted a dial, and then stood to shake her hand.

She smiled. “Please, call me Aubrey. Is this a good time?”

“Sure, as good as any. They’re just figuring out some songs.” He pointed to the chair next to his. “Have a seat. There’s an extra headset for you so that you can listen in. Just try not to hit any dials or switches.”

She set down her bag and sat. “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t want to inadvertently send a missile to North Korea or something.”

He laughed, and they both slipped on their headphones. As soon as they touched her ears, she jumped from the piercing volume of the guitar riff. Pete noticed and leaned across her to adjust a volume knob. He mouthed a cringing
“Sorry
.

She waved off the apology and turned toward the window, ears still ringing a bit, to watch the band.

The guitarist finished his solo and then turned his attention to Lex, an expectant look on his face. “So?”

Lex lifted his head, frown lines deep. “Sean, it’s good, but how does that match the rest of the song? It’s supposed to be dark, and you went all Eddie Van Halen on me.”

Sean blinked as if he hadn’t heard right and then his expression clouded. “Okay, so let me get this straight. Now I’m not good enough because I sound too
legendary?
I’m fucking over this. Screw you, man.”

“You’re seriously doing this right now?” Lex asked with a cutting glare.

Sean hauled his guitar strap off his shoulder and plopped into a nearby chair with his arms crossed. His spiked blond hair seemed to turn whiter as his face reddened. “Maybe it’s your damn lyrics. Ever thought of that? With tracks like these, we could call the next album
Songs to Hang Yourself By
. It’s not us. We’re not that kind of band. That’s not what our fans want.”

Lex threw his hands out to his sides. “Well, by all means, if you’re so enlightened as to what the fans want, why don’t you get off your ass and write the goddamned lyrics yourself? Show me how simple it is.”

“Fine,” Sean snapped. “Maybe I will.”

Lex turned his back and dragged his hands through his dark hair. When he raised his head, his eyes locked with Aubrey’s and widened.

She bit her lip, realizing she’d witnessed something Lex hadn’t wanted her to see. Last night she’d Googled the band and pored over articles to prepare for the interviews. In the media, the guys projected the image of being as tight-knit as brothers. If they were a band in turmoil, that would be big news. A big story. Front-cover material. An almost guaranteed promotion for her. She lifted her hand and waved her fingers in a silent greeting.

“Hell, Pete, you think you could’ve mentioned that the reporter was here?” Lex barked.

Pete bent forward and pressed a switch that was next to a small microphone, his stringy hair falling over his eyes. “I couldn’t really get a word in with all the yelling.”

Lex shot daggers at Pete. Then he flipped his expression and turned a devastating smile Aubrey’s way. “I’m sorry you had to witness that, Ms. Bordelon. We’re just messing around, you know? Getting the creative juices flowing. We would’ve watched our language if we knew there was a lady present, right, guys?”

The others grumbled and nodded half-heartedly.

She didn’t buy one bit of that lame explanation. He could give a flying crap about cursing in front of her. He was trying to cover his perfectly muscled butt. She moved toward the microphone. “Don’t worry about me. I’m just one of the guys this week, remember?”

He smirked. “Oh, yeah, I forgot. In that case, boys, let’s get our asses back to work.”

Pete flicked the microphone switch off as Lex directed the guys to try the first verse again. The calm tone of his voice seemed forced, and the band looked about as enthusiastic as a group of kids reporting for detention. Aubrey pulled her headphones off and tapped Pete. He lifted one side of his headset off his ear.

“Are songwriting sessions usually this tense?”

He frowned. “They’re just under a lot of pressure, Lex especially.”

“How come?” Her inner journalism nose twitched, sniffed.

He shifted in his chair like there was a burr in the leather seat. “If they want to talk about it with you, they will. It’s really not my place.”

She faked a no-big-deal smile. Her first journalism professor had taught her that. Never seem too eager because it made people shut down. “Oh, sure, I understand.”

She returned the headphones to her ears and focused on the band. Well, focused on Lex, really. Even though he was an egomaniacal jackass, a girl could still enjoy the view. The guy filled out a pair of jeans like denim had been invented for him.

The band worked in fits and starts for two hours, hammering out one verse and the bridge but stalling out on the rest and eventually admitting defeat for the day. None of them seemed pleased with the results, including Pete. Pete punched the mic button. “Guys, let’s take tomorrow off. This studio time is expensive, and I don’t want to waste another day. Try to regroup, and we’ll give it a go again in a day or two.”

The guys started to pack up their instruments. Aubrey stretched her stiff muscles and yawned. The combination of her late night, the lunch with her mother, and two hours in a cool, dark room had helped exhaustion set into her bones. The door behind her creaked open, and she spun around in her chair. Lex propped his shoulder against the door frame, filling up the space with a smug smile. “Not fading on me already, are you, Ms. Bordelon?”

“Aubrey,” she corrected.

“Right,
Aubrey.

Coming from his lips, her name suddenly sounded sexy and dirty instead of sweet and Southern like it did coming from anyone else. With a voice like that, he could probably read her grocery receipt and turn her on. Hell, at the rate she was going, he could blink and accomplish the same thing. Pathetic. She crossed her legs. Clearly, her two-year bout of celibacy was shorting out her system, making it react to the most ridiculous things. She dug her nails into her palms to refocus. “Why does it matter if I’m fading? You guys are done for the day.”

“We’re finished with
work
for the day,” he said, nodding toward the studio window. “Aren’t you supposed to be doing a slice-of-life thing? We do other things besides work.”

She cocked her head, suspicious of his friendly tone. “Okay . . .”

“We’re going to dinner and then out on the town. If you’re game, you can come.”

She leaned forward in her chair. “What’s the catch? Yesterday you didn’t want me to even do the story.”

He shrugged. “I’m over it.”

Uh-huh. Sure he was. She had a feeling Lex Logan didn’t easily let go of anything—especially when it meant not getting his way. But even if she didn’t buy his sudden change of heart, any cooperation on the story would make things a hell of a lot easier for her, so she’d take her shots where she could get them. “Great. Then I’d love to come.”

Something flickered in his eyes, and his mouth twitched as if he were fighting off a smile. “Good, we’ll be heading out in a few minutes. You can leave your car here and ride with us in the limo. We’ll drop you off afterward.”

She had that brief lamb and wolf thought again. There was something sinister behind those innocuous words. But what else could she do at this point but follow him?

Baaa
said the sheep.

***

“Damn, this is good,” Sean said through his mouthful of po-boy sandwich.

“Yeah, Aubrey,” Jared agreed. “Great recommendation.”

Aubrey smiled and licked a glob of mayonnaise that had escaped her sandwich off her thumb. Lex grimaced and forced his eyes down to his plate. He’d never noticed how sexy watching a woman eat could be, especially when the meal was messy and involved a lot of licking of fingers. Aubrey had a way of moving her mouth that made him think she savored each bite to its fullest, tasted every nuance of flavor. He found himself wondering if she’d savor a guy the same way. No, not a guy.
Him.
Would she take her time, close her eyes, and make those little happy noises like she was doing now when he slid into her mouth? Would that uptight demeanor disappear when she got all hot and desperate?

BOOK: Wanderlust
5.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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