Richie climbed the stairs for the third time that day. Restless didn’t even begin to cut it. Jon was working on phone interviews and if he had listen to him give the same answer one more time he’d garrote himself with a guitar string. It was bad enough waking up to them at seven every morning. Who the fuck was awake at seven?
Jon was up at seven, that’s who.
He skimmed past the elevators, threadbare carpet held onto the stale smoke that hung heavy in the humid air. He made it around the corner just in time to hear the giggle of females. God knew if it was a fan or the girls from Devotion. He didn’t know which was worse—avoiding screaming fans, or Stephanie’s all too knowing gaze.
The way she looked at him, well there was nothing girlish about the way she stared him down.
“It’s all right, Richie, you can come out. It’s just us.”
“Damn,” he muttered and leaned back so he could see around the corner. Ashley and Veronica waved. Relief, then the kick of disappointment pissed him off when he realized Steph wasn’t with them. “Hey, girls.”
“Hey, yourself.” Ash, barely five feet even with her pixie bleached hair spiking around her head, looked like a child next to the statuesque, Veronica. Not to mention that she vibrated like cymbals twenty-four-seven. “What are you doing sneaking around?”
“I’m not sneaking. Just looking for something to occupy my time until soundcheck.”
Ash stood on her tiptoes and leaned on Ronnie’s shoulder. “He’s looking for something to do, Ron.”
“He’s not looking to do you, Energizer Bunny.”
Richie’s eyebrows shot into his bangs. “Uh.”
“See, now you scared him.” Ashley grinned up at him, slipping an arm through his.
She smelled like Hubba Bubba and trouble. “Uh,” he stammered again. There was no way he could touch any of the girls in Devotion. Except Steph. The qualifier did not bode well for the day. They’d been on tour with them for a few months now and it was getting harder for him to put Steph back in the box he’d put her in for nearly five years now. Hell, since she was fifteen if he was honest with himself.
It was safer to live with the lie.
“Don’t worry, I won’t let her hurt you, Richie.”
Ronnie shrugged, beaming a smile at him. “Least I can do.” She slid her arm around his other one and siddled up to him. Christ, this was a wet dream waiting to happen. Even a year ago, he’d have dragged the both of them into his room and let them have their way—any way—with him. “It’s not like you to be bored, Richie. You usually cure that with sleeping,” she teased.
He snorted, happy to be on even footing again. He was okay when palling around with the girls. He could almost see them as little sisters…as long as Steph wasn’t around. In fact, he’d learned to sleep behind locked doors around the girls. They must have been taking lessons from Jamie. Every one of them were sneaky, even the strait-laced Veronica had a twinkle in her eye that made him itch to take a step back. “What, so you can shave my chest again?”
Ash laughed and lifted his shirt. “C’mon, there’s so little there to shave.”
He batted her hands away and tugged down his Giants t-shirt. “You only managed it because I was shitfaced on Smirnoff.”
“Not my problem you can’t hold your vodka. Besides, there were only like three hairs to shave.” Ash was half his weight and could drink him under the damn table when it came to liquor. Texas girl to the blood.
“What’s this about vodka? And keep your hands off the guitar player, Ash. How many times do I have to explain personal space?”
Richie stilled. Steph’s throaty voice took him out at the knees before she ducked under his arm, letting it drape over her shoulder. Even through his t-shirt, his skin went haywire. She was a touchy sort to begin with, but around him, she was Velcro. And for the love of Jesus he didn’t want her to ever rip away from him.
Fucking dangerous thoughts there, son.
She smiled around a pink stained stick, the scent of cherries and tootsie rolls followed the click of the lollipop around her teeth. Her head fit right at shoulder height. They lined up perfectly.
“Looks like you don’t have any trouble with personal space,” Ashley drawled, reaching over to take an ever present lollipop from Steph’s hip pocket.
“Richie likes it.” Steph said with a pop of glistening candy. She waved it in front of his face. “Wanna lick?”
Fuck, yes. He cleared his throat. “No, thanks.”
She shrugged and stuck the lollipop back in her mouth. “Suit yourself.”
Double braids and a makeup free face gave her that All-American girl look, and reminded him—double time—just how young she was. His pits pricked and his skin felt too tight. Cherries and soap—he should be shot for even getting turned on by the scent. When she laid her hand on his belly—damn close to his snap—he stepped back. “You are all going to get me into trouble.”
Her summer sky eyes smiled at him, even as she took a long pull on the fucking candy. “Nothing you can’t handle,” Steph said and tucked the lollipop in her cheek. She tried to look innocent, but each roll and click of the candy around her mouth left her lips slick and his dick aching.
“So says three out of four girls that glued Dave’s door closed.” He tried for levity. He did not have enough sleep under his belt to deal with Steph or the girls.
Ash smirked. “He owed me twenty bucks. You welsh on poker, you’re going down, buddy.”
Richie crossed his arms over his chest. “I was in there too!”
Ronnie grinned. “Collateral damage.”
Richie laughed. “Evil, every one of you.”
“You have no idea,” the three of them said in unison, then laughed.
Ash hooked her arm through Ronnie’s. “I’m starving! Let’s find something to eat.”
“We’ll see if we can con anyone in the kitchen to give us a late breakfast.” Ronnie looked over her shoulder. “Coming, Steph?”
“Nah, I had a granola bar, I’m good.”
“More like loaded up on Tootsie Pops,” Richie muttered.
All hope of escape was dashed when Steph caught his wrist, slipping her hand in his and dragged him down the hallway. Her touch felt too good, and as always his skin craved it like a drug. “C’mon, I’ll entertain you.”
Her compact little body wiggled just enough ahead of him to do the most damage. A T-back tanktop hugged the center of her back, leaving her shoulders bare and tan. He tried not to notice the lack of bra straps, but it was too late—the thought already had his jeans begging for mercy. She’d missed a curl of hair in her quick twisting braids, leaving it to snake down to tease the top of her cutoffs.
Like a neon arrow pointing to the promised land, her perfect, two handed ass was framed with fraying strands of denim. He’d never wanted to be a pair of daisy dukes more in his goddamn life.
She looked back over her shoulder. “You’re quiet.”
He mustered up a smile and tried to untwist his fingers from hers, but she held on tight. “Stupid phoners at the ass crack of dawn.”
“Yeah, I had to do two of them myself. Jon’s not the only one who gets asked stupid questions at O dark thirty.”
“Then why aren’t you in bed?” He wanted to slice off his tongue. Christ, do not think about her and a bed, Sambora.
“I’m too keyed up. Ten hours on the bus and then getting cooped up in a hotel room is not my idea of a fun afternoon.”
“Well, you and the girls should go out shopping or something.”
Steph smirked over her shoulder. “Oh yeah, with what money?”
He smiled easily for the first time that morning. He remembered when they were the opening act. Ramen noodles and beer were about all they could afford. “Understood.”
She led him down the hallway, past her room, past the elevators, past the ice machine room. A little sign stated stairs. Where the hell was she taking him now? She swung the door open, the stairs putting a whole new wiggle in her step. Fuck.
Just then, he’d follow her, and that stupendous ass to hell. But instead of hell, she led him up a few flights to the roof access. She opened the door with such pleasure and pride, he didn’t have the heart to make excuses to get the hell out of the danger zone. Two folding loungers with towels and a sweating bottle of Coke tucked in an ice bucket was a helluva lot more inviting than the hotel room waiting for him.
“Expecting someone?” He sucked back a groan. That sounded bitchy and way too female-jealousy for his taste.
“Sort of. I was supposed to meet Jamie up here to get some rays, but I think I’d rather hang with you.” She lifted her tank. “Wanna get some sun with me, Richie?”
His breath backed up as smooth flesh, tanned a dusky gold, wiggled out of her tight tank. The heavy curve of her breast peeked from the bottom of her screaming yellow strapless bikini top. His mouth went dry and he was pretty sure he could feel each individual tooth of his zipper dig into his cock. Shit.
She flicked open the snap of her jeans and wiggled once. They pooled at her feet, leaving a black and yellow strip of bathing suit to hike up to her damn ears. She reached down into a bag beside her chair, the perfect curve of hip and cheek—with no tan lines—made his fingers itch.
He jumped as a bottle of Coppertone flipped in front of his face. He caught it reflexively.
“Gotta protect my skin,” she said with a wink and dropped onto her chair. She flipped to her stomach and released the catch of her top. “Help me out?”