Bad-boy Luke “Lucifer” Blackwell is living the life. The lead singer for the rock group Riot 59 has brought him everything he could ever want—billions of dollars, endless parties, and enough groupies to last a lifetime. But when Luke’s wild life starts to wear him down, he returns home to Texas—and ends up in the arms of the one woman who’s always made his heart beat faster than a pounding drum…
Kaleigh Taylor likes being a small-town girl, so she’s always been wary of Luke Blackwell’s fast-paced life—and of Luke himself. Fully expecting never to see the sexy singer who broke her heart years before, Kaleigh is completely shocked to find him back home, avoiding the spotlight and pursuing her instead. Kaleigh knows this can’t be right—his heart was always devoted to his fans. But as they spend more and more time together, Luke is awfully convincing that his heart belongs to someone else…
Feed your e-reader at these retailers!
The tires of Luke Blackwell’s rental screeched on the pavement. He brought the car to an abrupt stop outside of what was once Joe’s, the coffee shop and bakery where he’d spent most of his formative years playing guitar and singing for extra cash. Now a trendy wine bar and bistro, only the brick façade was left to remind him of his past as he tracked the woman darting across the street toward the building. His gut clenched at the sight of her, his mind flooded with memories of bare skin, panting breaths, and endless hours of teenage lust that had fueled more than a few of his Top 40 hits. God damn. Just thinking about Kayleigh Taylor got his blood up. Seeing her in the flesh was enough to cause his cock to perk up like a hound after a rabbit even eight long years later. He guessed she’d kept to her word and stayed close to home. And here he thought returning to his old stomping grounds to lay low for a while would be boring.
He’d done his damnedest to fly under the radar of the media, his manager and publicist, and just about everyone else who had nothing better to do than look through the window of social media for a peek into his life. The band was on hiatus—between records and tours—and Luke knew that he needed to get away from the clusterfuck that threatened to take his career down in a tailspin. If he didn’t take the time to gather his wits and form a game plan away from the spotlight, the stress of it all was going to send him over the edge. He needed to get his shit straight. Now. Before he lost it completely and someone checked him into one of those facilities where celebrities went to get a little R & R.
After watching Kayleigh duck into the building where they’d spent so much time together as kids, Luke wondered just how much peace and perspective he was going to get on his little reality check. Without thinking, he pulled off the street and into a parking space in front of the building and cut the engine. Ryder wasn’t expecting him until tomorrow so it wasn’t like he had to hightail it out to the ranch anytime soon. Only his immediate family knew he was coming to town and he’d wanted it to stay that way.
What would she think, seeing him again after he’d walked out on her? He’d been a stupid kid with a wild dream and more ambition than brains back then. Now . . . ? Now he was the fucking master of all things rock. A king, worshipped on the stage and off. Luke was far from hard-up and never lacking for female companionship. He didn’t need the complications that hooking up with his high school sweetheart would bring but, damn. He couldn’t resist the opportunity to see her again. Smell her intoxicating scent. Allow himself to be entranced by the sweet tenor of her voice. There’d been a time when he would have sold his soul for just another night with her. Sort of fitting for the infamous “Lucifer” Blackwell . . .
She was the inspiration for every word he’d ever sung. Every note he’d ever strummed.
Luke pulled open the glass door and walked inside. The space had been totally renovated, the back corner that had once been set up for open mic night now sported a mahogany bar and wine tasting station. No longer greeted by the aroma of coffee grounds and yeast, he was welcomed with heady oak and tapenade. As he approached the counter where Kayleigh stood with her back to him, a bottle of wine clutched in her fists, he was overcome by the sweet fragrance of sage and lilacs. His gut bottomed out as another barrage of memories burst from a single spark into a raging inferno. But that was the thing about Kayleigh Taylor: she took him immediately back to a time and place when he’d been a wild, reckless kid. And so fucking in love that he didn’t know up from down.
Luke took his time. Watched her. As she dug through her purse, she knocked into an empty display table to her right and then tripped on her own foot as she tried to regain her balance. Totally oblivious to the world around her, he had forgotten how she had a tendency to get wrapped up in her own head. Luke suppressed the chuckle that built in his chest. She might have traded in English toffee lattes for wine, but there were some things that not even the passage of time could change.
Her hair was a little mussed, as though she’d been running her hands through it, and her shoulders hunched. Tired? Stressed? Had her day gone to shit, or were the auburn locks just wind tousled? Luke’s feet itched to take a step closer to her and he obeyed his body’s command. One step. Another. Until he stood right behind her in the checkout line. Empty-handed. As though that wasn’t lame as fuck.
Words formed and dissolved on his tongue. Could he simply start up a conversation with her after leaving her alone all those years ago? He swallowed down a snort. He was Lucifer Blackwell, for shit’s sake. Women threw their goddamned panties at him. Showed up in his trailer buck-ass naked, more than willing to fulfill every single one of his fantasies. In less than a decade, Luke’s life had turned around. No longer the poorest kid in town with barely enough food to keep him full, now he had fame, more money than he could spend, and willing pussy in spades. He sure as shit had no reason to feel unsure anymore. So why did his goddamned heart feel like it was trying to pound right out of his fucking chest?
Why was currently standing in front of him in line, digging through her purse.
Kayleigh was beginning to think that kindergarteners were scientifically engineered to suck the life right out of her, leaving behind a dry husk of a woman with the mental capacity of a zombie. They were cute little buggers, but man did they tire her out. She’d left work and headed for the bistro with one thing on her mind: wine and how many glasses it was going to take to erase her hectic week. As much as she wanted to avoid the renovated coffee shop where she’d spent most of her teenage years—and every summer during college—it was the only place in town that sold the Merry Edwards Olivet Lane pinot noir that Spencer had specifically requested for tonight’s dinner party. Did that make him a wine snob? Probably, since a bottle of Boone’s Farm from the Quickmart would’ve gotten the job done for her.
The place was almost unrecognizable from the space it had once been. But despite the fancy plaster and paint, the high-end sofas and local art on display, she could almost smell the dark roast of coffee and her eyes inevitably wandered to the far corner where Luke used to play, his eyes glued to her like they were the only two people in the world . . .
“Can I help you?”
Kayleigh started as the cashier broke her from her reverie. Talk about being a nostalgic sap. She handed over the bottle of pinot and continued to root around in the bottomless pit that was her purse for her debit card. A line had formed behind her and her cheeks grew hot with embarrassment. “Sorry,” she mumbled as she continued to dig. Good Lord in heaven, she really needed to clean out her purse. Besides too many tubes of lip balm and gloss, she was carrying around an extra pair of shoes, an empty bag of Swedish Fish, an unopened package of raw almonds, three packs of gum, and a Snickers. If anyone got a peek inside, they’d be sure to discover the bar by which she set her snacking priorities.
“I used to know a girl who said that when a guy shows up with a bottle of wine it’s because he’s hoping to get her out of her panties in a hurry. So in the interest of expediency, why don’t you let me buy the wine?”
A long, muscular arm marked with tattoos reached over her and handed a stark white credit card to the cashier. Kayleigh’s stomach toppled over her hips and landed somewhere near the soles of her feet. Her spine went starch-stiff as she took in the sight of the cashier, the other woman’s eyes glazed over as a silly grin spread across her face.
Holy crap, that voice. Her own words quoted back to her in an almost lewd tenor rippled over her skin like rings on a pond, stretching outward until she was covered from head to toe in microscopic tremors. She didn’t dare turn around. Couldn’t. She was more afraid to confirm with her eyes what her ears were already telling her. It was impossible. Just, no.
“Aren’t you a sweetheart!” The cashier gushed, effectively ignoring Kayleigh as if the floor had opened up and swallowed her whole. Big surprise there. Standing out amidst their present company was like being a twenty-watt lightbulb in the presence of the sun. “And ohmygod, can I just tell you that I absolutely loved your last album!”
Well, no need to turn around now to confirm that the one man she never thought she’d see again was standing right behind her, close enough that she could feel the heat from his body buffeting her back. Kayleigh took a step to the right, anything to put a little distance between them. Besides, it wasn’t like the starstruck cashier was even remotely interested in dealing with her anymore.
Indecision warred within her, the need not to turn around and face him greater than her desire to hang around and accept his charity. Stupid freaking pinot! While the cashier continued to gush, proving her fan status by reciting lyrics and band trivia to Luke, their small talk faded to the back of Kayleigh’s mind. She closed her eyes, blocking everything out. The old, if I can’t see it, it’s not there tactic seemed to work well enough for five-year-olds. Maybe she could get it to work for her as well. She gripped the straps of her purse to keep her hands steady even though the rest of her was shaking like a leaf. Every woman’s fantasy was to run into her ex looking fabulous: thin, put together, and eat-your-heart-out gorgeous with an equally yummy stud attached to her arm. Too bad she was currently rumpled, wearing ten hours of exhaustion and the curves of almost a decade’s worth of unhealthy eating habits. Not to mention she was covered with dried glue and glitter from today’s art project. Totally impressive. Gah!
“If you’ve closed your eyes so you can picture me naked, you should know that all you have to do is ask to get the live show.”
The remains of her splattered stomach rocketed up into her throat with the force of a projectile being launched into space. Cocky. Well, at least one thing about Luke Blackwell hadn’t changed over the years.
“Or . . . maybe you’re simply deep in thought.”
Kayleigh’s core clenched as the rough tenor of his voice vibrated over her skin. Blocking him from her vision only heightened the allure of the voice she’d heard countless times on the radio. And damn it if he wasn’t better live.
“My manager has been suggesting meditation for years. It’s never worked for me, but maybe that’s because I’ve never tried it in the middle of a crowded bistro. You might have something there, baby.”
Baby? An angry flush settled on her cheeks. He had no right to call her anything but Kayleigh. Or Miss Taylor. God, he’d probably get off on that . . . Oh good Lord, would you suck it up already and just look at him! You’d think that laying eyes on Luke Blackwell would cause her flesh to melt, or catch fire or something. Though, he was the only man who’d ever truly commanded her attention. Left her speechless. The only one to ever make her body tingle with sparks of electricity. The only one to shatter her heart into millions of tiny pieces.
And after eight years, it seemed that his effect on her hadn’t diminished in the slightest.
Her eyes snapped open but she kept her gaze averted. “Funny, I’m the one buying the wine tonight. So I guess that means I’m trying to get someone out of their . . . uh, panties.” Well, that was smooth. Rather than backpedal, Kayleigh sprung to action like a reanimated corpse, digging through her purse in a disjointed, frenzied effort to keep her gaze anywhere but focused on him.
“Sounds like a party,” Luke remarked, smooth as aged bourbon. Even with her gaze averted, she knew his eyes had narrowed with humor, his full mouth spreading in a sensual smile.
“Let me pay you for the wine.” She’d let him continue on with his current train of thought over her dead body. “I’m sure I’ve got a few twenties in here somewhere . . .” She felt like an animal caught in a trap, readying to gnaw its arm off in order to break free. “I just have to find my wallet . . .”
“Are you going to look at me anytime soon or are you going to keep pretending that I’m not standing right in front of you?”
Damn it. Kayleigh let out a gust of breath that did nothing to slow the pace of her racing heart. Her eyes met his torso first, every bit as lean and muscular as she remembered, and up past the wide breadth of his chest and shoulders. She’d forgotten how tall he was. How overwhelming his presence. He towered over her, and she had to crane her neck up to meet his face. As though she couldn’t help it, her eyes narrowed into a squint as she took in his whiskey-brown eyes, strong, square jaw, and full mouth. Exactly like looking into the sun.
“So, how’ve you been, Luke?” It took an actual effort to push his name past her lips. It felt stiff and rusty, like an old screen door that hadn’t been used in a while. Her heart clenched at the sight of him as memories—mostly painful ones—assaulted her. It wasn’t fair that he could look so self-possessed, so goddamned gorgeous after so many years living the fast and loose life of a rock star while she was the one who looked as though she’d been rode hard and put away wet. What in the hell was he doing here, anyway? Shouldn’t he be off in some hotel somewhere, sleeping off a night of hard-core partying beneath a pile of naked groupies?
“You’ve got something in your hair.”
Kayleigh’s breath left her lungs in a nervous rush as Luke reached out. His touch was gentle, slow as he brushed his fingertips through the length of her hair. Heat rose to her cheeks and she thought she might pass out from embarrassment. God only knew what was floating around in the tangle of wild curls. Dried macaroni? Tissue paper? Glue? A groan rose in her throat and she swallowed it down. Somehow, almost a decade later, Luke found a way to add insult to injury.
He inspected the glittering plastic disk and a smile lit his handsome face. “Sequins? You leadin’ a double life I don’t know about, Ms. Taylor?”
Sweet Lord, that drawl. It was like fresh honey out of the comb, sweet and thick. The sort of cajoling tenor that could convince a woman to do just about anything. “You don’t know a damned thing about my life.” His sultry Texas charm might have coaxed the panties off droves of women—her included—but not anymore. Sexy and as tempting as the devil himself, he’d earned the nickname “Lucifer” long before he’d become famous. Though at thirteen, the moniker had been given to him more for his mischievous nature than his sex appeal. She dug through her purse, working hard not to lose her cool and finally found her wallet. Tucked in a side pocket were three twenties—her latte and snack money for the next couple of months—and she slapped the bills into his palm. “For the wine.” His fingers grazed hers and Kayleigh suppressed a pleasant shudder as she turned away.
Luke wrapped his long fingers around hers and held her fast, pulling her gently back to him. “I just got into town and you’re gonna turn away, just like that? Let’s go get some dinner.” He flashed her a wide grin. “Maybe we could share the wine after?”
So, so confident. Typical. It was her turn to feel smug for a change though. Kayleigh squared her shoulders and returned his smile. “No can do, Blackwell. I’ve got a date.”