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Authors: Roni Loren

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BOOK: Wanderlust
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“Fun.” He blew across the top of his coffee. “Was that the Mercedes parked in front of your house?”

She bit off a big chunk of beignet, getting powdered sugar all over her fingers, and lifted a shoulder as she mumbled, “Probably.”

“Blond guy?”

She nodded.

“That douche almost took off the front bumper of my rental car when he was pulling away from the curb. I didn’t curse him out ’cause I figured he was your neighbor. I should’ve let him have it.”

Aubrey couldn’t help but smile at the thought of Lex lighting into Grayson. Gray wouldn’t have known what hit him. He probably would have taken one look at Lex’s inked-up arms and called the cops.

“So what’s the deal with him?”

Aubrey licked powdered sugar off her fingertip. “It’s a long, boring story.”

“I’ve got time. Plus, you want to dig into all my dirty closets. It’s only fair I get to see some of your clutter, too, right?”

She stirred her coffee. “Fine. The gist is I met him when I was in high school and dated him through college. I thought we’d be together forever. So when he asked me to dinner the night of his college graduation, I assumed he was going to propose. He broke up with me instead.”

“Ouch. Harsh. How come?”

“He was going for his MBA at the University of Florida and wanted breathing room. Of course, he decided this after I’d already made plans to transfer to Florida with him.”

“Thoughtful of him. Sounds like he did you a favor.” He split his beignet into two and shoved an entire half in his mouth.

“Didn’t feel that way at the time. Now he’s moving back and wants to work his way right back into my life like he never left.”

Lex coughed and a puff of powdered sugar came out of his mouth. “Now that’s a jackass move. Like you were supposed to be waiting around until he decided to come back? Screw that.”

“Yeah,” she said half-heartedly. Wasn’t that exactly what she’d been doing? Sitting around waiting for him or some clone version of him to appear and sweep her off her feet. “I agreed to go out with him tonight.”

“What the fu— hell?” he said, catching himself at the last minute.

“Seriously, don’t worry about watching your language around me. I work at a magazine. As for the date, my dad has a thing I have to go to at the Fremont Hotel tonight, so I’m letting Grayson take me.” She shook her head and waved a dismissive hand. “Never mind. Why am I even talking to you about this?”

He licked the tip of his finger, capturing the sugar there. “Because you like me and want to tell me all your deepest secrets. Or fantasies. Let’s start with filthy ones, shall we?”

The last bite of beignet tried to lodge in her throat when she saw the flash of mischief in his eyes. Dammit. No man should look that tempting. She dragged her gaze away.
Focus, woman.
“I finally have you alone in a quiet place. I should be interviewing
you.

He ran his finger along the rim of his cup, watching the steam rising off his coffee. “I could think of better things to do while we’re alone in a quiet place.”

Her brain took a moment to sort through his words and the hot suggestion in his tone. She swallowed hard. “Lex.”

He brushed his hair out of his eyes and attempted an innocent look. “What, not attracted to me?”

“It’s not that . . .”

He grinned wide.

“Dammit, Lex.”

“See, gotcha to admit it. Don’t you feel better now?” He leaned forward, smile playful. “So I turn you on, huh? Have some dark, bad-boy fantasies hiding in that head of yours?”

She groaned. “You’re a jerk, you know that? I’m surprised you were even able to fit through my front door with that giant ego of yours. And it doesn’t matter if I’m attracted to you or not. We’re working together.”

He dropped his elbow onto her table and put his chin in his hand. His clear blue eyes didn’t blink as he met her gaze, all humor gone now. “I won’t tell anyone if you won’t. You’re driving me a little crazy, too, to be honest.”

Oh. God. Her mouth felt stuffed with cotton candy. She stood, needing to escape his stare, and dumped her coffee in the sink. Pressing her hands against the edge of the counter, she peered out the window to her backyard, not really seeing it. Thoughts raced through her head. It would be so easy to say yes. To let go and follow her impulses. Her body knew what it wanted. Anytime the guy touched her it was like setting fire to hay, the urgent desire consuming her in the blaze.

Every girl deserved a crazy, ill-advised fling at least once in her life, right? He was gorgeous and so different from any guy she’d ever been with. Not that her list was long, but still. She had no doubt the physical connection with him would be explosive. She’d never had such a visceral, down-and-dirty reaction to any man. Every molecule within her ached to give in to him so she could see just how mind-blowing it might be. She lowered her head. “Lex, I can’t.”

He rose from the table and stepped up behind her, so close that she could feel heat radiating from him. Her body gave a little jolt as his hand grazed her shoulder. He moved her damp hair to one side and brushed his lips against the curve of her neck. Everything went white-hot and glowing inside her.

God, why did he have to have such an effect on her? When she didn’t protest, he stepped closer, pressing himself to her back and changing the gentle touch of lips to an open-mouthed tasting of her skin. She moaned softly as the length of him pressed against the back of her hip.

“Lex, we can’t,” she whispered, dampness gathering between her thighs, and heat filling every inch of her.

“Why not, baby?” he asked in that sexy, cajoling tone. “You don’t need to walk the line all the time. Aren’t rules meant to be broken? Isn’t that the point?”

She shivered and gripped the edge of her sink, his words sending an old, creeping fear into her gut. She remembered saying those same words to her sister that night all those years ago—
rules are meant to be broken
. The same night she had learned that breaking rules could lead to shattering consequences. She whirled around, put her hands on Lex’s chest, and pushed him back gently. “Just stop, okay? I’m not one of your groupies. I don’t jump into bed with someone I don’t even know. Especially someone I’m working with.”

His frown was deep as he stepped back and rubbed a hand along the back of his neck. “Come on, Aubrey, you can’t tell me you don’t want this, too. Don’t you ever let yourself have fun? Do something outside of the neat plan of your life?”

She shook her head. “No.”
Not anymore.

***

Lex almost opened his mouth to protest again. There was no way Aubrey hadn’t been feeling it as much as he had. She’d damn near melted against him. But something in her face made him swallow back his words. She looked . . . spooked. Not exactly the result he’d hoped for. He took a breath, trying to calm his racing heart and his burgeoning hard-on. Putting his lips on her skin had sent his body into instant overdrive, but he knew when to back off.

“Sorry, okay? I didn’t mean to freak you out. I’ll behave.” He raised his palm in a pledging motion. “Scout’s honor. For the rest of the day, I promise I won’t try again to get my sexy reporter naked.”

That’s all he was promising, though. And for today only.

A small smile cracked through her grim expression. “I’d bet the last beignet that you were never a Boy Scout.”

He held his arms out to his sides. “What? I don’t seem wholesome to you?”

“About as wholesome as a shot of Jack Daniel’s.”

He strode over to the table, grabbed the beignet, and tossed it to her.

She caught it in a cloud of sugar and laughed. “Yeah, I thought so.”

Chapter 6

Aubrey emerged from her room with freshly dried hair and a touch of makeup, looking confident and steady on her feet again. Lex frantically punched away at his iPhone, typing out an idea for a song that had popped into his head. He saved his notes and tucked the phone back into his pocket. “So where are you taking me for this dreaded interrogation?”

She rolled her eyes. “Are interviews really that bad?”

“Yes,” he said, deadpan.

“Well, I’ll try to go easy on you. Let’s get going.” Her sandals smacked across the worn wood floors, and Lex took his time getting off the couch. She peered over her shoulder. “Are you ready?”

He dragged his eyes away from the length of her smooth legs and the curve of her grabbable ass.

“Yep.”
Ready for a lot of things.
He followed her outside and rocked on his heels as she locked the door. “Are we going someplace public or private?”

She headed down the stairs of her porch and then turned around to look up at him, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand. “I’m definitely not taking you anywhere private.”

He laughed. “Can’t control yourself, huh? I understand. I have that effect on women.”

“Your humility is overwhelming. Now get in the car. I’m driving.”

“Give me a minute. If we’re going someplace public, I need to do something.” He jogged over to his rental car and yanked open the back door. He slipped out of his Green Day shirt, leaving on the plain white one he’d had underneath and then grabbed an LSU baseball cap that he’d picked up in a shop next to his hotel. Aubrey leaned against her late-model Honda watching him intently. He put his aviators back on and strode over to her. “Do I blend in?”

She looked him up and down. “You’re a virtual frat boy.”

“Really?”

She clicked the unlock button on her fob. “Not hardly, but hopefully it’s enough to keep your adoring fans at bay. The lack of guyliner helps, too.”

He laughed. “Not a fan?”

She peeked at him over her shoulder. “I never said that.”

Well, then. Someone was a surprise at every turn.

After twenty minutes of driving and random chitchat about the city, Aubrey pulled into a sprawling parking lot filled with minivans and people pushing strollers. Lex stared at the sign in disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding. You’re taking me to the
zoo?

She removed the key from the ignition and turned to him. “Is that a problem? Remember I won the bet, place of my choice.”

“It’s a hundred freaking degrees outside.”

“It’s ninety at most, and don’t be such a wuss. We can’t all live in California.” She reached over him and unlatched her glove compartment. Her right breast shifted precariously close to his thigh, and the citrusy scent of her hair filled his lungs. He wanted to reach out, gather her onto his lap, and bury his face in that smell. She grabbed a rubber band out of the box, returned to her side of the car, and then swept her hair into a long ponytail. “You ready?”

“Why the zoo?”

She shrugged. “Audubon Zoo is beautiful, first of all. But I figure you can’t misbehave when there are hundreds of children around. And if you do, I’ll push you into the alligator exhibit.”

“Ha, ha, very funny.” He unhooked his seatbelt and cocked an eyebrow her way. “And don’t underestimate my ability to misbehave. Alligators don’t scare me.”

“Proves you’ve never met up with a hungry one.”

***

After Lex’s initial protest, Aubrey worried her choice of location was going to be a bust. She figured he’d complain the entire time because, although she would never admit it to him, it
was
Hades hot outside. The air was so thick and sticky that it was like breathing peanut butter. Even the animals in the African Savannah exhibit looked ready to take a holiday to Alaska. But Lex didn’t mention the heat once after his comment in the car. In fact, he ended up surprising her with his enthusiasm. Once they loaded up with monster-size frozen lemonades, he made sure they hit every attraction and diligently took photos with his phone. He even answered a few of her interview questions without sarcasm.

“I’m changing my mind about the alligator,” Lex decided as they finished the Louisiana Swamp section of the park. “He looked pretty badass.”

“Told ya,” she said, smiling. “Guess that means you better continue to stay in line today.”

He took off his hat and ran his fingers through his sweat-dampened hair. “Noted. Want to take a break?”

“Sure. Let’s go up there.” She jabbed her thumb to the left.

“Up that hill?”

“Yeah, it’s Monkey Hill, highest point in New Orleans,” she said and, without thinking, held out her hand. His fingers slid around hers before she could change her mind.

He eyed the hill. “This is the highest point? No offense, but it doesn’t look very impressive.”

“Well, New Orleans is a bowl. This was built in the 1930s to show New Orleans kids what a hill looked like.”

He snorted as they traipsed up the hill. “That’s kind of sad.”

They reached the top, where a five-story treehouse sat. Kids of every age climbed in and on it like ants in a mound. “Can we sit for a minute so I can take a few notes?”

They settled in the grass. Lex leaned back on his elbows, his cap shielding his face from the sun. She took her notepad from her purse and started perusing the notes she had made the previous night at dinner. “So what’s the deal with your dad? Sean said he helped y’all break into the business?”

Lex groaned. “Is this really that important?”

Aubrey frowned at the deflection. “Sean seemed to think so.”

“Sean has a big mouth. Always has.”

“Where you came from has a lot to do with who you’ve become. I think it’s important for your fans to understand how you got to where you are.”

He tilted his head back in resignation. “Fine. Let’s talk about my daddy, Dr. Freud.”

“Thank you. Now, how did he help you?”

“My dad is, well,
was
a singer, too. He had a hit in the seventies called ‘Open Road’ with his band The Menace.”

The name sounded vaguely familiar. “What happened?”

Lex sat up, the shadow of his cap concealing his expression. “He screwed himself. He was on his way to superstar status when he managed to knock my mom up. She refused to raise a baby on the road and gave him an ultimatum. He needed to quit the band and marry her or she was going to bail and take me with her.”

“Wow, I guess he chose her.”

Lex nodded. “Yeah, and he never really forgave her for it. He lost his career. His band replaced him and went on to have pretty decent success. Dad spent what little money he had left on blow.” He looked over at her. “Cocaine.”

“That’s awful,” she said, wondering what it must have been like to be born into that kind of drama. “Where did that leave you?”

“Me?” A touch of bitterness entered his voice. “My dad saw me as the reason for all his failure. The bane of his existence. That is, until my voice changed at fifteen, and he realized I could sing. Then, suddenly he was interested in being my dad.”

Lex’s tone was flippant, but Aubrey sensed the hurt behind it. “Did you let him?”

“No. I had already left home by then and was living at Sean’s house. His mom knew I had a shitty situation at home, so she was nice enough to take me in even though they were barely scraping by. I started writing songs, and Sean taught me how to play his guitar. Then things just happened from there.”

“But I thought Sean said your dad helped you break into the business?”

“He made a few calls to get our demo heard. I let him. I figured he owed me that after all the crap he put me through.” He plucked a few blades of grass and started shredding them. “Now, of course, if anyone asks him, he takes all the credit.”

“Do you still talk to him?”

He let the grass clippings fall from hand to hand. “Sometimes. When he goes through his brief periods of sobriety. I won’t talk to him when he’s using. Part of me feels sorry for him, but everything is his own damn fault. He shouldn’t have gone and got some girl pregnant. That was stupid.”

“But then you wouldn’t be here,” she pointed out.

He brushed his hands on his shorts, as if dismissing both the grass and the conversation. “Yeah, that would suck for me.” He glanced at her notepad. “Can you leave most of that off the record? I forgot who I was talking to.”

She considered him for a moment and then tucked her pad into her purse.

“Yeah, no problem.” God knows she was no stranger to daddy drama, and she certainly wouldn’t want hers published.

“Thanks. I promise I’ll give you enough for an article. I’d just rather not dredge up family shit for it.”

The sound of happy screams made them both turn their heads. Two kids rolled down the hill at a rapid pace, fresh-cut grass flying behind them.

Aubrey cocked her head in their direction. “I used to do that every time I came here when I was little. My mother would warn me and my sister before we even walked through the entrance not to do it because, according to her, grass stains were laundry detergent’s last unconquered frontier. But, of course, I would do it anyway.”

“And your sister?”

“She would listen to Mom. I was the rebellious one.”

He adjusted his hat. “I can’t imagine that.”

She gave a ghost of a smile. “Things change. Everyone has to grow up at some point.”

He stared at her for a moment. Then he hopped up and offered his hand to her. “To hell with that.”

She let him pull her to a stand. “What do you mean?”

He curved the bill of his baseball cap and shoved it in his back pocket. “No one has to be grownup all the time. Let’s do this.”

“Do what?” she asked, confused.

“Relive your rebellious childhood.” He pointed down the hill. “Last one to the bottom has to wash the grass stains out of the other’s clothes.”

She laughed. “You’re going to roll down the hill?”

He lay down on the grass and crisscrossed his arms over his chest.

“No,
we
are going to roll down the hill.” He tilted his head to the left. “Lay next to me. I’ll give you a few feet head start.”

Looking at him lying there, she almost forgot that he was Lex Logan—rock star extraordinaire. A guy who had girls throwing themselves at him nightly. A guy who, just a day ago, she couldn’t stand. A guy who would be leaving town before she knew it to return to his glamorous, debauched life.

She shook the thoughts from her head. For now, she wanted to imagine that he was a normal guy—one she happened to be having a good time with. She joined him on the ground, clutched her purse against her body, and then turned her head to face him. “All right, on the count of three.”

His grin was pure boy. “One, two, three!”

She threw her weight to the left to propel down the hill. The world around her started to fly past her like a movie on fast-forward as she tumbled down the slope. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to keep from swallowing grass. How had she done this as a kid without puking?

Lex’s voice rumbled behind her. “Holy shiiiiiiitttt. . . .”

Aubrey would’ve laughed if she could’ve caught her breath. She hit the bottom of the hill with an
oomph,
feeling like she had been through the spin cycle in the dryer. She peered over and saw Lex barreling toward her. She scrambled to sit up, but he crashed into her before she could escape, rolling right on top of her and flattening her. “Oof!”

Her back pressed into the ground and his chest vibrated against hers with his deep laugh.

“You okay?” He braced himself on his elbows above her, giving her breathing room and shook the grass out of his hair, sprinkling it onto her cheeks. Unfettered exuberance lit his face. “That was awesome. We should do it again.”

His face was inches from her, flushed from the sun, blue eyes sparkling, and his hard body had her pinned in the best way possible, the weight of him against all her good parts driving her to insanity. Hard against soft. Heat against heat. All sense of decorum and right or wrong began to bleed right out of her as they lay there. “Lex.”

Lex blinked at her. “What? Oh, right. I should probably get off of you.”

“Wait.” The word was out before she realized it, and she didn’t think. She grabbed his T-shirt and dragged him down. His eyes registered surprise and then closed as their lips met in a hungry, seeking kiss. A groan rumbled through him. Relief. Need. She wasn’t sure what. Just knew she felt it, too. All of it.

Her hands twined in his shaggy hair, and she gave herself up to the sensations, letting Lex take over. Soon, his lips were coaxing hers to open to him, deepening the kiss. He tasted like the kettle corn they had eaten earlier in the day—salty and sweet and sinful. His tongue explored her mouth with gentle but urgent desire, like he was barely balancing on the edge of his own control. She knew the feeling. Parts of her body that had long been dormant stood at attention, reporting for duty with full enthusiasm.

A growing firmness nudged her thigh, and she inadvertently shifted to seat him closer to where she most craved the feel of him. God, she had never wanted someone so much. She was ready to strip him naked right there in the blinding heat of the sun.

A chorus of giggles interrupted her X-rated plans. They both froze and then simultaneously broke away from the kiss. They swiveled their heads toward the tittering. Two little girls, who could not have been older than seven, were pointing and laughing.

“Ooh,” one called. “They’re
kissing.
He must be her
boyfriend.

The other girl giggled in response.

“Oh, god,” Aubrey groaned and rolled from beneath Lex. The girls scampered off toward their parents, bubbling with laughter. The mother sent an admonishing look her and Lex’s way. Mortification burned bright within Aubrey. She turned to Lex to find he was still on his stomach.

He gave her a chagrined smile. “I may need a minute. Don’t want to give the kids too much of an education.”

She covered her face with her hands, the reality of what had just happened hitting her. “I cannot believe I did that.”

He tapped her knee. “Hey, don’t be embarrassed. I doubt we scarred anyone, at least not permanently. Although, those shorts may be a loss.”

BOOK: Wanderlust
5.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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