Blind with anger, he stalked the length of the room. He was the voice of the band. He’d always been the fucking voice. There were few things in his life that he could count on but his pipes, and even they were failing him. At sixteen, he’d known they were the only thing capable of dragging him out of the factory town that threatened to swallow him.
Each note that he missed, each time Richie had to carry him, and each morning that he woke up with fire for spit, it killed him. Even the few phoners he’d done that morning left him feeling raw. Hurling up almost a pint of Jack at 3 am probably didn’t help either.
As if the insult of his own instrument turning against him wasn’t enough, he also had to contend with Jamison. Continually torturing himself with watching James walk away with yet another willing groupie, wasn’t smart. Knowing he was a step away from losing control didn’t make it any easier to ignore her, only more aware.
James could tempt even the most devout priest with those dark eyes that were part heaven and part hell. Christ knew his own dick was a tuning fork for her. Boundaries were becoming blurred, but he couldn’t tell if it was just the fact that he wasn’t supposed to want her, or if it was James herself. You didn’t poach on your friend’s sister—period.
Especially when Richie was the brother. There was a closeness between them that he certainly didn’t have with his own brothers. She was literally one of the most important people on the earth to Richie.
And now this thing with Alec? What, one secret wasn’t enough? Now he needed to worry about keeping Richie from killing Alec? If Richie found out that any woman was mistreated, he’d go ape shit. His own sister? Alec wouldn’t have to worry about remorse or rehab, Richie would rip off his dick and feed it to him as a first course, then Jon would have to worry about hiding the body.
How could they be on top of the world with album sales and a tour that seemed to be gaining speed, and still be this fucked up?
“Fuck.” Jon headed for the wet bar, Jack Daniels would take the edge off, but he couldn’t afford to lose control. Not with the anger practically foaming in his mouth, and lust throbbing inside him like a tooth ache. Instead, he dropped the battered tea kettle he kept in his bag on the hot plate in their room and steeped another cup of tea. He drowned the tea bag with a thick coating of honey, even as his stomach curdled at the thought of swallowing it.
He hated honey.
The silence of the room closed in on him. He snapped on the radio, immediately turning it off when the announcer mentioned that his interview was up next. He couldn’t stand his own thoughts right now, he sure as shit wasn’t going to listen to himself.
“Fuck it,” he grabbed the bottle, splashing a dollop of Jack into the tea. “Just get through today,” he said to no one.
For once he was happy not to get an answer back.
Jon stood under the spray, resting his head on the battered white tiles of the locker room. It was empty—just the blessed pounding of water on his neck to concentrate on. Richie had come and gone from the showers before he’d managed to get back there.
Al was absent.
He’d been chasing him all over the damn arena, but the rat-bastard made sure he’d stayed scarce. Hell if he didn’t run off the stage after the show before final bows, the little fucker.
The show had been shit. The energy came back at him like a hurricane wind, but being out of synch with Richie all night couldn’t make up for the awesome crowd. For the first time in well over a year, they’d been on opposite ends of the stage during Wanted.
The hiss and crack of a popped beer top echoed in the room. He glugged down half the can with a healthy stream of warm water as a chaser. He couldn’t do a meet and greet after that piece of fuck show. He didn’t have a single reserve inside of him to play nice with the fans tonight.
As he finished the beer, he tipped his face up for a full blast of hot water. The husky laugh of a female instantly tightened his balls. Not just any female. No, his luck was just going to fuck him sideways today it seemed. It was James.
Wishing for another beer, he stretched his arm over his head against the cool tile and pressed his face into his forearm. Please don’t come in here. Just walk away. He wasn’t sure he’d have the strength to fight her off today. Not when his insides were scraped as raw as his useless cords.
Bracing himself as her voice moved closer, he realized there was someone else with her.
“C’mon, baby. There’s no one here but us.”
“There’s someone in the shower.” He heard a low voice whisper.
“Nah, they’re always leaving the showers running to steam up the room. Why don’t you show me how you can steam up the room, Larry?”
Her husky laugh brushed off the mistake. Involuntarily, his cock hardened at the mere hint of anything to do with that woman. He should be used to it by now, but it still blindsided him. She reduced him to a randy fourteen year old for fuck’s sake.
Obviously, she was entertaining and had no idea he was there.
He had to get out of there. For God’s sake he couldn’t take anything else tonight. The muted thud of a body against the tiles on the other side of him was like a blow.
“Now, let’s get you out of these jeans and see what I have to play with.”
He wanted to blame her actions on drinking, but her voice was definitely on the sober side. His fingers curled into a fist. Jon knew James was definitely up with the partying aspect of touring. And considering the amount of women he’d been with, he had no room to talk, but nothing about James landed in the sanity column.
He couldn’t take that, not right in front of him—partition or not.
The throaty moan tugged at his already frayed nerves. Now was not the time to unravel. He stepped outside the stall, the tissue thin towel only made him that much more aware of his dick. It was a painful ridge against his belly.
Surely she’d stop if she saw him.
A man in leather and frayed jeans with what was supposed to pass for long hair, had her pushed up against the tile. One of her unbelievably long legs was hooked over his hip as he ground into her. Her neck was arched back, eyes shut, with his lips fastened to her neck like a starving animal.
Every muscle in his body tightened. He wanted to drag him off of her, to hammer him into the tiles until he was gone, until the fuck-tard wasn’t touching her. Rage blew in his ears like white noise.
Then she opened her eyes.
Instead of being startled or repentant, she smiled.
That was supposed to be him against her—inside of her, pounding out every single shred of aggression that was building inside of him. It was him that should be surrounded by the heat of her, the heady jasmine scent of her that haunted and taunted. The heavy fall of her silky hair should be twisting around his skin, along his belly as she rode him.
His chest heaved.
She was going to kill him slowly.
It was as if she’d known he’d been listening—watching—wanting her. Her nails dug into the thick leather of the fuckhead’s jacket as if daring him to do something about it. He could feel the tingle all the way down to the balls of his feet. The need for action—to drag him off her, to brand her as his—it took over everything in his mind.
It was exactly what she wanted.
She pushed and pushed, figuring he’d break down and let her have her own way. If she only knew how close to that edge he was maybe she might think twice about her games. But giving Jamison the upper hand was dangerous.
James wasn’t for him. She was the one thing he couldn’t have, no matter how hard he worked, and how much he sacrificed in his personal life. He couldn’t let hormones get in between what he and Richie had going with the band.
He took two steps back, then a third, forcing himself to turn around—turn away from her. Again.
Of course he fucking wanted her.
That was why he avoided her. That was why he stayed as far away from all the girls of Devotion as he could. Stephanie could tempt a sack of grain for fuck’s sake. She had curves that made you want to spend an entire weekend finding out just what every inch tasted like. The willowy, fresh faced teen that had moved in next door when he was seventeen, was a far cry from the woman she was now. She’d had power as a teen, now she was lethal.
Before he did something stupid—like drag her off the lounger—he forced himself to turn around and walk out the door. Taking extra care not to slam the door, he let it close softly behind him. If he let the rage out, the damn hinges would bust. Then she’d really know just what kind of effect she had on him. Hiding it was becoming harder with each day.
The feel of her under his hands—the curve of her body with skin softer than any man should have to withstand. If he didn’t put the lotion on her, she’d have known something was up, so the silent torture had been the only option. Steph was like a terrier when it came to getting what she wanted—and if she even had an inkling of what he’d been thinking, he’d have been toast.
If she knew what he’d wanted to do to her, she’d either run like hell or dare him to do every single depraved thing to her. He was afraid that when it came to Steph, it would be the latter. She wasn’t ready for him. Oh she thought she was, but he had a world of experience that she didn’t—and shouldn’t—have.
She was too good for a man like him. She wouldn’t be a fling. Somewhere deep inside, he knew that she wasn’t fling material. Whether it was their background, or something more tangible, he wasn’t going to analyze it. She mattered, and he was man enough to own up to the fear to himself. The minute he touched her, the minute he held her, and the minute she knew he’d loved her for years, life would be different. He knew it. But he wasn’t ready for forever, and she was too young to know what she wanted. All she saw was the excitement right now.
He remembered the days when the excitement of a new day was all he looked forward to. Meeting people, experiencing life and everything it had to offer—that’s where she was right now. She didn’t need to be saddled down with a man that was looking thirty in the eyes. She still had so much living to do.
As much as it killed him--Christ, just having her perfect body pressed into him twice in a day nearly killed him—he had to think with more than his dick for once. She deserved that at the very least.
His skin still felt too tight, and the cocoa butter scent on his hands reminded him of her lush curves that had been right there for the taking. She was so small, just one arm around her ass and he could have had her up against that half wall with his cock buried inside her.
He slapped the wall, but the sting did nothing to ease the hard-on banging on his zipper. The thought of a caging elevator was too much to deal with right now, so he took the stairs to his floor. He swore, patting pockets as he reached the door. “Fucking key,” he muttered and used the side of his hand to pound.
Jon opened the door, the phone growing out of his damn ear. He brushed by him without a word, both of them glaring at each other. He grabbed his acoustic guitar and collapsed into a sagging chair in the corner. Even the familiar weight of his favorite guitar didn’t ease him.
Putting her out of his mind, he concentrated on a song he and Jon had been working. The boy-girl song grated on him quickly—and if Jon’s reactions were any indication, it wasn’t working for him either. He kept shooting glances over his shoulder.
Switching out to a few riffs that had been rolling around his head, he finally felt the blood leave his damn lap. As always, the guitar was his solace. It never needed to be understood. In fact it did all the talking if you let it.
Eventually Jon hung up t he phone, and surprised him by dragging a chair over from the table, his beat up acoustic in hand. Richie couldn’t’ remember the last time he’d dragged it out for anything but a radio spot or show. Jon listened for a few minutes, and as always they fell into a familiar rhythm.
A few different chords added as they found wordlessly built a song. Again and again, they stopped and started over. Just a gesture, or yelling out a minor or major chord change.
This was a new song. And the words that dumped out of Jon stirred an emotion that had been missing between them. This—the love of the music without an audience—it had been missing from his friend for what felt like ages.
I’m just one man, and I can’t pretend.
A heart’s just a heart, and souls have to end.
Dreams will be dreams, but friends will be friends
Now and Forever
Unsure where the sentiment had come from, he followed Jon’s lead. His song drifted, the words not quite right anymore. The chorus was more than solid, and the guitars bled into a sadness, he wondered how much was his, and how much was Jon’s.
Christ, they were both a mess.
Jon stood, dumping the guitar into the chair.
“What’s up, Jon?”
“Nothing.” His voice was cool now. Where warmth and emotion had poured from him a moment ago, now there was this stranger that was becoming far too familiar to him. This was the Jon he didn’t want to be around anymore. Lost in his head, preoccupied and a shadow of the person he’d started this circus with a few years ago.
This is what they’d been working for. Getting the music out there, doing what they loved without reservation. It was what he’d always wanted. For Jon it was becoming a duty—a job.
For fuck’s sake, he’d become a musician so he didn’t have to have a job. This was the brass ring, but instead of enjoying it, Jon was always looking for the next milestone. Before he could talk to him, Jon had the damn phone to his ear again.
The buzz of conversation became background noise. The interviews and the radio spots were a necessary evil, and he was happy to do them—if they’d want him there. It was Jon’s pretty face that everyone wanted lately. And Jon felt obligated to continue to get the word out, but he’d lost the joy. Even his answers held very little of the charm that had first won over every disk jockey from NY to NJ.
Jon’s voice went from low tones to a hesitant weariness. One of the only two weeks off that they had scheduled in the last two months perked up his ears.
“Yeah, I’m going to be in the area, but we don’t have a show until Wednesday.”
He shot out of his chair and rounded to Jon mouthing, “What are you doing?” Jon just waved him away, but Richie turned him back around forcing him to meet his eyes.
“I’d be happy to come out and hang with the kids before the Special Olympics start.”
“Fucking shit.” Richie spun away. Jon’s pet project since the beginning had been the Special Olympics. He knew in his head that he couldn’t say no, but Christ Jon needed a break. Those two weeks were supposed to feed them through the end of the tour. Personally, he planned on sleeping through at least three days of it.
“Yeah, just get the itinerary to Doc and we’ll make it happen.” Jon hung up the phone. Silence hung heavy between them. “You know I had to.”
“I know you think you have to. You have to learn how to say no to some things Jon.” When his eyes flashed with temper he went on anyway. This had been building for weeks now. “You’re goddamn exhausted. Jesus, Jon you can’t keep this up.”
“I know what I’m doing.”
“We’re in this together, Jon. All of us, whether you believe it or not. You keep going on like this and there will be nothing left for the stage.”
“I do my job.”
“Jesus, when did this become a job to you? This is the dream, man. This is what we gave up relationships and time with our family for.”
“Grow up, Rich. I love going out there and singing and I sure as shit love the writing, but this shit? The shit I do with the radio stations and goddamn reporters—It’s a fucking job.”
Discouraged by the defeat in Jon’s eyes, he tried to calm down. “That’s not what we signed up for.”
“Reality is a world of difference from what we thought this would be.”
“You make your own reality Jon. That’s always been what you’re best at. Focus and drive got us here, but you don’t take the time to enjoy even a second of it.”
“I don’t have time to enjoy it,” Jon muttered.
“And who’s fault is that?”
“Just leave it, Rich. I know what I’m doing.”
“Yeah, that’s why I’m carrying you on half the songs, right?”
Defeat went hot as Jon’s eyes flashed. “Fuck off.”
“Between the interviews, the magazines, the newscasters, and the stage your voice is beyond fucked. You need those two weeks to get back to center, man. We need you to get back to center. We’re drifting, Jonny. Can’t you see it?”
“If you can’t handle the life that’s your problem.”
Richie stepped back. If he’d punched him dead in the face, he couldn’t have surprised him more. “If that’s what you think, then you’re more fucked up than I thought.” Grabbing his keys and jacket he headed for the door.
If he stayed any longer, Jon’s shredded vocal chords would be the least of his problems. This time he slammed the door behind him. Fuck him, and fuck the whole goddamn day.
Steph tipped her head forward, letting her braids fall onto the lounger she’d bribed off the lifeguard. The thought of being at a public pool on her only free afternoon had been depressing, but a well played flirtation had netted her a pretty sweet deal. Of course Tony, Terry…Todd? Whatever his name was, had been looking for company when he’d spilled about the rooftop access. She’d even thought about it for a moment. Tanned and lovely, he’d probably have been a nice diversion for the day. The only problem was she was tired of settling for diversions.
The man looming behind her was the only one she was interested in. She didn’t know if Richie was really oblivious or just trying damn hard to ignore her. She wasn’t sure she was happy with either option. It felt like she’d wanted him her entire life. And each day that she had to pretend she didn’t drove her a little more nuts.
She could feel his eyes on her back. The air was alive with his indecision. Seriously, was he looking for a way to get out of touching her? Sometimes she could feel something between them. Oh, he tried to hide it. Damned if she could figure out what the big deal was. They were two adults—unattached adults to be exact. She was well over the age of consent and she wanted nothing more than to feel his hips between her thighs…to start.
She understood lust and she sure as hell understood sex, but when she was around Richie everything she’d ever experienced before felt like a prelude—like there was something more waiting for her. Something with Richie’s name on it.
The calloused tip of one finger dipped between her shoulder blades and the gentle tug on a stray curl stirred a line of goosebumps up her spine. He lowered himself onto the chair beside her and tucked the curl over her shoulder. Without a word, a pool of lotion followed that same line.
She couldn’t have stopped the groan if she wanted to. His hands, smooth and gentle, kneaded into her skin. He skimmed along the sides of her breasts, pausing for just a moment when she raised her arms higher to give him more access.
When he only continued to the small of her back, she closed her eyes. She wanted him to cup her, to see just how sensitive he made her. Just the slightest touch had her nipples so tight she was tempted to cup them herself to ease the ache. She was even more tempted to take his hands and make him do it.
Did he know what he did to her?
The blasted man hadn’t said a word and she was lying there dying at the thought of his hands on her tits for God’s sake. He’d probably just laugh at her. Richie had his hands on more females than she cared to think about. Her flesh probably meant little to nothing to him.
She went still as his thumbs brushed over the dip of her suit into the high curve of her butt. He teased under the bottom half of her bikini. Knowing Richie, he was worried about a burn line.
What she wanted to do was strip the stupid bottoms off and get onto her knees and beg him to fuck her for God’s sake. She wasn’t sure that would even do it. She’d need hours of good, hard loving at this point. And Richie was the only one could possibly get it done.
Now that she knew just how it felt for him to touch her—even a platonic touch—was going to drive her crazy. She sat up, making sure her back was to him, but the quick hiss of his breath made her feel a little better.
Okay, so maybe he wasn’t totally unaffected. She looked over her shoulder catching a flash of something in his eyes. The quick smile that usually tugged at his lips was missing—in its place was a serious face that she recognized on Jon, not her Richie.
Frustrated, she corrected herself—just Richie.
He wasn’t hers. Not yet, anyway.
“I’d ask you to do my front,” the hot glint in his eyes gave her hope, “but I wouldn’t want to be called a tease.” Nope, definitely not unaffected.
He stood up. “Is that what this is about?” The brutal crack of a knuckle punctuated each word.
She quickly put her top back on, stalking around the chair before she had herself fully tucked back in her top. His eyes were hidden by darkened lenses again, pissing her off all the more. “You’d know it if I was teasing you, Richie Sambora. You couldn’t handle it.”
“Think so? I’ve had a lot of practice seeing through women, baby. You’re still in the minor leagues.” His chin lifted, arrogance and the slicing edge of cruelty colored his voice. “You’re not ready for someone like me.”
The cocky smirk was what did it—at least she was pretty sure that’s what she’d use for blame later. She was more than ready for him. She’d been waiting for him for ten years. Anger and the need to prove herself pushed her into his space.
She snaked her fingers around the back of his neck, dragging him down to her. Surprise had him jerking back a full step. Undeterred, she pressed him into the half wall that enclosed the corner of the roof. Games were for girls and women who didn’t know what they wanted.
This—him—and all the pieces in between were what she’d been waiting for since she was a teenager. She needed to make him see that.
The man was forever in a tanktop, leaving half of his chest open and the heat of his skin distracted her. She’d wanted to know how it felt for so long. Part of her had always wondered why he wore so little, but now she knew. His skin was hot—like a damn furnace.
She wanted to know every inch of him. She flattened herself against his chest, undeterred when he went absolutely still. This is what she needed to get past. Whatever it was that stopped him from touching her, from taking her when she knew in her heart that he wanted this as much as she did. Somehow she would find a way around whatever it was that was holding him back.
The one word held warning and heat all at once. She knew it was there. Her knee slid between his thighs, when the hard line of his cock dug into her she rode the flood of lust. Her fingers curled into his shirt, into the muscle and the slit along the side of his tank shirt.
He grabbed her wrist, pushing her back. She stared up at him. “Why are you making this so hard? I know you want me at least as much as I want you.” Determined, she brought her finger up to the fullest part of his lower lip. “Kiss me.”
She wrenched her wrist free. “Why the hell not? I can feel how much you want me for God’s sake.”
“I’m a man, Steph. It’s a physical response.”
She couldn’t read him behind the damn sunglasses. The first tingle of unease had her stepping back. Pride wouldn’t let her back down. “I know the difference between a man who’s just horny and who wants me, Richie.”
And in that moment, she remembered when he’d walked away from her in New York. Doubt, swift and relentless, bore down on her. She wouldn’t watch him walk away again. She threw him a careless smile and stepped back. “Your loss.” She turned away from him this time.
She’d been so sure of him. It couldn’t be one sided when she felt like this. The quick sting of tears had her settling back on her lounger with her own pair of sunglasses.
“Steph, I didn’t—“
“Save it. You’re obviously not the man I thought you were. A lot has changed in the last few years, I guess.” She rolled onto her stomach, shutting him out. She wasn’t going to embarrass herself anymore. He could go to hell for all she cared.
I'm no songwriter, so I snag music through the ages. Reality has no business in this story, so if I like the tone of the song, the words, the fun--anything goes. You'll see songs from 80's, 90's & Today. click on the links above for vids and downloads.