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Authors: Roni Loren

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BOOK: Wanderlust
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Lex shoved his chair back with a loud scrape and stood before all his blood rushed south and announced his thoughts. Last thing he needed to be doing was fantasizing about the annoying reporter. “I’m going to the bar for another beer. Anyone need anything?”

All three band members raised their empty beer bottles. Aubrey shook her head. Because of course she wasn’t drinking—too professional and all. She probably flossed after every meal, too, and always returned grocery carts to their little corrals.

“I’ll go with you,” Jared offered, jumping out of his seat. “I think I may want something stronger than beer this time.”

Once they made their way to the counter, Jared ordered a Crown and water and the beers. Then he leaned against the bar. “So what do you think of reporter girl?”

Lex shrugged as he watched Aubrey laugh at something Sean said. Sean leaned over and nudged Aubrey’s shoulder with his. Lex’s jaw clenched. “Kind of stuck-up. She’s definitely a society girl. If we didn’t happen to be her job, I doubt she’d be seen out in public with guys like us.”

Jared tilted his head. “You think? She seems kind of cool to me.”

“She’s dangerous,” Lex warned. “She saw us fighting today. If we’re not careful, she could blow open all the shit we’re in to the world.”

“Dude, you and Sean can’t go a day without fighting lately. How are we going to hide that?” The bartender lined up their drinks on the bar, and Jared dropped money on the counter.

“We’re not going to have to hide.” Lex grabbed his beer and took a swig. “I’m going to get her to drop the story.”

“Oh, is that right?” Jared looked unconvinced. “And how the hell are you going to do that? The chick’s determined.”

Lex eyed the subject of his plan. “She’s determined, but she’s also a little terrified of us, even if she’s doing her best to hide it. So I’m just going to give her the full rock-and-roll experience, drag her so far out of her comfort zone that she’ll go running back to her stories about four-star restaurants.”

Jared ran a hand through his short-cropped black hair, glancing at their table. “Or I could just sleep with her.”

Lex whipped his head around. “What?”

Jared swirled his drink and took a sip, his dark eyes dancing with mischief. “If I fuck her, then we could claim conflict of interest on the story, get her pulled off of it. Plus, she’s hot. I’d totally be willing to take one for the team. That whole buttoned-up, good-girl thing totally does it for me.” He pulled the stir stick out of his drink and tossed it on the bar.

Lex’s blood roared in his ears and he had the urge to throttle his friend before the guy said another damn word. “You stay the fuck away from her.”

Jared lifted his eyebrows and then raised his drink as if toasting Lex. “Chill, bro. Don’t get your panties in a knot. It was only a suggestion. If you’ve got a hard-on for her, you could be the one to bed her.”

Lex couldn’t even form a response to that. “Look, I’ll handle her, okay?”

They made their way back to the table and handed out beers. Lex made sure to lean in between Sean and Aubrey to put the drink down so that Sean had to scoot his chair away from her. Seemed like everyone was ready to take one for the team with the reporter. Opportunistic motherfuckers. Lex slid back into his spot across from Aubrey. She had a pen in her hand and was making notes on a small pad she’d placed on the table.

Lex didn’t like the look of that. “What are you doing?”

She peered up at him. “I was asking Sean a few questions for the story. He was telling me how you all met.”

“Ah. All work and no play for you, huh?”

She twirled her pen in her fingers, considering him. “What would you like me to write? A story about which kind of sandwiches you guys prefer? I do have to ask some questions.”

“A sandwich story? Isn’t that what you usually do?” Lex asked, smirking.

Her eyes narrowed. “Something like that.”

Lex could tell he was annoying her despite her cool tone—that telltale shade of anger stained her cheeks. Good. “So how’d you get to be head food writer for the magazine anyway? You look too young to have worked your way up. Does your daddy own the company or something?”

Her jaw flexed, but her voice was all still water. “No, my father hasn’t done me any favors. But I guess you assume that’s how it works since I heard your dad paved your way into the music business.”

Gunner, his bass player, choked on his first sip of beer.

Aubrey threw Lex a cocky smile that gave him the urge to turn her over his knee and spank her smart ass.

Lex counted to three in his head to keep his composure. This girl didn’t back down. He wasn’t used to that. How long had it been since a woman had even questioned him? Two years of yeses and whatever-you-wants had left him unsure of how to handle someone like Aubrey. He met her eyes. “Don’t believe everything you hear. We’ve paid our dues.”

She held his gaze. “So have I.”

He didn’t buy that for a minute. She had “pampered” written all over her, but he let it go. For now.

“So what’s next?” Jared asked, tapping two straws on the table like they were his drumsticks. “It’s not even ten yet.”

Lex smiled and leaned back in his chair. “Well, I figured since we need to get some songs written, we should do something for inspiration.”

Sean examined his reflection in the window next to their table, touching the tips of his blond spikes. “Like what?”

“I’ve got a few ideas,” Lex said, slowly peeling the label off his beer. “I was thinking we’d go old school.”

Jared gave him a knowing nod. “Gotcha, I’m in.”

“Aubrey, how ’bout you?” Lex asked.

She gave him a pointed look and tucked her notebook into her purse. “As long as it’s legal, I’m up for whatever.”

He attempted his most angelic smile. “Of course we wouldn’t ask you to do anything illegal.”

Chapter 4

Aubrey tried to keep her face impassive as she strolled up to their next destination. Music blared from the open doorway and a short, stocky man called out to people as they passed. “Beautiful ladies for you! Only twenty-dollar cover! Totally topless! Come on in and experience Bourbon Street the right way!”

Lex scooted between her and Jared, placing his hand on the small of her back in a possessive gesture. She ignored the uptick in her heartbeat when the heat of his palm bled through to her skin. “Have you been here before?”

She gave him a you-gotta-be-kidding-me look, and he laughed.

“Yeah, it’s my first time, too. I have a buddy who lives down here, and he said the girls here are the best. Vegas quality.”

“Super. I’d hate to be subjected to crappy strippers.”

His smile was wry “Hey, if you want to go home, I can have the limo take you.”

Oh, so that’s what he wanted. He was trying to get her to leave. Good luck with that. “No, I’m great. Let’s go stuff dollar bills in G-strings.”

His self-assured expression faded a bit. He lowered his hand, dug a few bills out of his wallet, and then handed them to the doorman. The guy gave her a head to toe evaluation. “You too,
cher?

Lex threw an arm over her shoulder. “Yeah, she’s with us. This was all her idea.”

Aubrey shot Lex an eat-shit-and-die look.

The man grinned and nodded. “Ah,
nice.

As soon as they stepped into the club, Aubrey jabbed her elbow into Lex’s ribs. He dropped his arm from her shoulders and grabbed his side. “Hey!”

Jared walked by and clapped him on the back. “You deserved that one, dude.”

Aubrey straightened her shoulders and flounced past Lex to catch up with Jared. She prided herself on being an independent woman, but a seedy strip club filled with mostly drunk, definitely horny guys was not the place to wave her feminist flag.

Jared slowed his step, allowing her to catch up with him.

“Thanks,” she said over the music as she fell into pace beside him.

His expression was impossible to read in the dim pulsing lights of the club, but she sensed he was amused. “No problem. Lex was just being an ass.”

She nodded. “He’s good at it.”

He chuckled and rubbed his hand across the back of his neck. “You could say that.”

The others caught up to them, and Aubrey put her energy into ignoring Lex. Being a Saturday night, the club was already swarming with customers and tourists. She fielded a few curious glances, but most eyes were focused on the stage, where a girl crawled toward the crowd wearing Mardi Gras beads and not much else. The stage was an inverted T-shape, like a fashion runway, only with poles and without fashion. Unless sequins and G-strings were your thing.

The band commandeered a large table near the edge of the stage. And despite her best efforts for avoidance, Lex managed to snag the spot next to her. He leaned over until his lips were right next to her ear. “You look right at home here. The girls are going to love you.”

She pressed her lips together, smoothing her lip gloss, determined to not let him push her buttons. “So how exactly is this songwriting inspiration?”

He reclined in his chair and spread his hands wide. “This is perfect for inspiration. Naked girls, good music, overpriced liquor. What more could you ask for? This is a classic inspirational spot.”

She gave him a droll look. “Classic? What great songs have been inspired by a strip club?”

He scoffed. “Like half of Mötley Crüe’s catalog.”

“Hey, boys, can I get you something to drink?” The cocktail waitress bent over and put her hands on the table, letting the guys get a full view of her barely contained cleavage. Sean started rattling off the order, but the girl’s eyes locked on Lex’s. They got wider and wider until Aubrey worried they were going to pop right out of the woman’s head.

“Oh. My. God. Are you Lex Logan?” The waitress turned and examined the rest of them, her mouth forming a silent O. “Holy shit. You’re Wanderlust! I was at your show last night.”

Lex’s lip curled into an arrogant smile. “We are, but we’re kind of playing it low-key tonight, so can you not mention it to anyone else?”

She grinned and bobbed her head like she’d agree to absolutely anything he said. “Right, sure, no problem. Can I get an autograph, though? I tried to get backstage last night, but they wouldn’t let me in.”

“A travesty.” Lex waved her over and she handed him her pen. He signed the cocktail napkin and passed it to the rest of the guys. When Sean gave it back to her, she pulled her halter top down a few inches, exposing everything and tucked the napkin inside her transparent bra.

“Oh my god, I cannot believe y’all are actually here. You’re even hotter up close.” She stared at Lex like she wanted to eat him.

“So . . . Bridgette,” Aubrey said, reading the girl’s nametag and dialing up her Southern to her mother’s bless-your-heart level. “How ’bout them drinks, hon? Being surrounded by all this hotness makes a girl mighty thirsty.”

The girl straightened and smiled. “Right, I’m sorry. Y’all are making me forget myself. Four beers and a Sprite. Let me go get those.”

Lex coughed over his laugh. “Wow, that’s a knife-wielding accent if I’ve ever heard one. Not a fan of Bridgette?”

“She was about to pounce on the table and attack you. I just saved you from a mauling,” she said dryly.

“Maybe I don’t want to be saved. She could serve as great inspiration.” The corner of his mouth kicked up into a challenging grin.

“Yeah, you could call the new song ‘Manwhore,’” she offered. “Or maybe ‘I’m So Easy.’”

He threw his head back and let out a loud laugh. The other guys threw curious glances his way, but then turned their heads back to the stage.

“That has a nice ring to it. And Ms. Bordelon, if I didn’t know better, I would say you’re acting a little jealous.” He smiled and tilted his chair until it rested on its two back legs.

“Jealous? Yeah, okay. You go ahead and tell yourself that.” But she could feel her face going hot and hoped that the dark lights would conceal her reaction. She
was
acting jealous, like an overprotective girlfriend. What the hell was wrong with her? If Lex wanted to bed the whole waitstaff, why should she care?

Lex let his chair drop back to the floor with a thud and leaned forward until he was inches from her. His eyes went multihued in the blinking lights, dangerous temptation dancing in them. “Maybe you want to volunteer to be my inspiration?”

The dark suggestion in his voice slipped over her skin like warm milk. A vision of him, naked, perched above her flashed through her mind—sweat glazing that tattooed skin and those eyes that made her want to lose herself staring down at her. She cleared her throat. “Don’t flatter yourself.”

He chuckled.

Bridgette dropped off drinks and then positioned herself on Sean’s lap, apparently assuming Lex was taken, and going for the next available band member. Aubrey resisted the urge to roll her eyes and instead stirred her soda while she scanned the room. Men of every shape, size, and age filled the cheap velour seats. There was one other woman customer besides her across the room. She was smiling, watching her date get a lap dance from a pixie-size redhead. Aubrey shook her head. To each her own, but she didn’t get it. She wasn’t into sharing.

She sipped her soda and blanched. Blech. She touched Lex’s arm. “Hey, I’ll be right back. My drink’s flat, and our waitress seems a little preoccupied.”

He nodded absently, and she headed toward the bar. The thick crowd of testosterone around the counter made room for her as soon as they noticed she was female. When she finally squeezed through, she was standing in front of a familiar blonde bartender.

“Hey!” Candace said, her face lighting up. “I know you. What are you doing here?”

Aubrey peeked back at the table. “It’s a long story, but I’m working.”

Candace stood on her tiptoes following Aubrey’s line of sight, and her mouth fell open. “Holy shit! You’re here with the band?”

“So it seems.”

Candace dipped her head and tipped an imaginary hat. “Girl, I didn’t give you enough credit. That’s impressive. Damn.”

“Thanks. So how’d it go for you last night?” Aubrey hated herself for being curious, but she was dying to know.

She frowned and gave a shrug. “Lex totally shut both me and this other girl down. He was nice and all, but kind of a drag. So we partied for a while with Sean and a few of the guys from Darkfall. Sean was too wasted to be much company, but the others ended up being a lot of fun.”

Aubrey tried to ignore the relief that went through her at knowing Lex had turned the women down. Stupid. “Guess it turned out okay then.”

“Yep.” Candace said with a little wave of her hand. “I was just out for a fun night anyway. I’m not one of those starry-eyed women who’s deluded enough to think she’s going to be
the one
for guys like that. You just gotta enjoy it for what it is. Ya know?”

“Right,” Aubrey agreed, though the words were knocking around in her head, holding some silent warning she couldn’t quite grab onto at the moment.

“Can I get you something to drink? Ladies drink free.”

“Just water with lemon.”

Candace grinned. “Sure you don’t want any vodka mixed into that?”

“Nah, not drinking tonight.” Or ever. She traded her flat soda for the water and headed back to the table.

By the time Aubrey got back, a half-dressed girl with jet-black hair was rubbing Lex’s shoulder and leaning over him with her boobs basically in his face. Aubrey had the brief urge to shove the girl out of the way, some weird flash of possessiveness flipping her bitch switch. But she managed to resist and slid back into her seat, pretending not to notice.

Lex sent the girl a bored look.

“Don’t you want a lap dance, baby?” the stripper purred. “I’d make it worth your while. I’d even let you touch a little if you’re a good boy and don’t tell.”

Lex sipped his beer, not even looking at her. “Maybe some other time.” Then he glanced around her, noticing Aubrey’s return. “Hey, maybe my friend here wants one. Aubrey? My treat?”

The girl turned her catlike eyes on Aubrey and gave her a seductive smile.

Aubrey quickly dug in her purse and pulled out a twenty. “I’m good, but thanks for keeping him entertained while I was gone.”

The girl snapped the bill from Aubrey’s fingertips, her expression turning businesslike, and tucked it into the band of her boy shorts. “No problem, sweetie. Anytime.”

“You should have taken the dance,” Lex said after the girl prowled over to another table. “Maybe it would’ve loosened you up a little.”

“I’m fine.”

“Sure you are. You’re as taut as a guitar string. Never saw a naked girl before?”

She sniffed. Her tension had nothing to do with topless girls. “I just feel like I’m not getting any work done. I’ve barely been able to ask any of you anything.”

He gave a resigned sigh. “What do you want to know?”

The music was blaring so loud she could barely hear him, hardly a good environment for a proper interview, but she’d have to take what she could get. “Okay, how is the second album coming along? How does it compare musically to the first?”

He crossed his arms in front of him on the table. “I bet you don’t even know anything about our first album.”

“Not true,” she bluffed.

“Okay. Then what was our biggest hit?” He laced his fingers behind his head and leaned back in his chair—all smugness and spread knees.

She forced her gaze not to travel the length of him, the blatant male posture beckoning her to look. “I don’t have to prove myself to you.”

“Heh, well, maybe I don’t want someone writing a story about me when she doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about.”

“It was the song you closed with the other night,” she said, jutting out her chin, trying to appear confident. “Bring the Night.”

“You guessed.”

She totally had. But she hadn’t been able to get the song or his voice out of her head all day. “I know enough, Lex. I may be a food writer, but at one time in my life, I was really into music. It’s just been a while.”

“Prove it.”

She huffed. “How am I supposed to do that?”

He stuck three fingers in the air. “If you can name the next three out of four songs, artist and title, I’ll believe you.”

Jared spun in his chair to face us. “Are you making a bet?”

“Eavesdrop much?” Lex asked him.

Jared’s grin was unapologetic. “I love bets. That’s how I ended up with my Harley. That idiot drummer from Absinthe thought I would never pierce my—”

Aubrey’s palm shot upward. “TMI, Jared. Even reporters don’t want to know everything.”

He snorted. “Fine, your loss. So, what are the stakes?”

The calculating look on Lex’s face caused her stomach to turn over. He steepled his fingers in front of his chin like a dictator contemplating world domination. “You lose, you give me a lap dance, right here at the table.”

Immediate protests bubbled to her lips.

He held a finger up, halting her. “If
you
win, I promise a few solid hours with me tomorrow for a serious interview. No bullshit.”

Jared interrupted. “No, your part is too easy. I say if she wins, you do that plus give
her
a lap dance. That’s more fair.”

Lex grinned with full confidence. “No problem. I’ve got this locked down anyway.”

Aubrey opened her mouth to decline, but then bit her tongue as an idea popped into her head. It was a risk but could work. She put her hand on the table. “Fine, I’m in. Let me get another drink first and then we’ll start.”

“Right on,” Jared said and began tapping the other guys to let them know what was going on.

When she returned to the table, she had a refilled water and a knowing smile. “Let’s do this.”

Lex stared at her for a moment, as if questioning her sudden eagerness, but nodded finally. “All right, this song is almost over. We’ll start on the next.”

The other three band members ignored the pole abuse on stage, ready to watch the bet play out. She wondered what would entertain them more—her humiliation or Lex’s.

BOOK: Wanderlust
13.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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