Jon's eyes were downcast as he picked out the familiar chords of Wanted from the Sunburst. It sounded sad, and a little lonely and her reaction was to scrub her suddenly itching palm across her hip. Jon looked up at her, heat hit her like an amp on full blast before his eyes cleared and that insolent half grin returned. Just what had he been up to with Steph all day? His skin was tan, perhaps even a little red around the edges. His hair kinked around his shoulders even more than usual and there was an easiness to his shoulders that had been missing earlier. "Just what did you do today?"
He relaxed back in the chair, scrunching down until the guitar covered half of his chest. The lack of posture kicked his simple white button forward showing off his distracting chest that had her fingers itching again. He was wearing his Italian horn today and the white gleamed against the darkening tones of his beachy skin. He smelled like coco butter and salt and she wanted to get her lips on his neck. Male sweat and salt spray would taste good with a little tequila right about now.
Hooded eyes met hers and her mouth went utterly dry. A little relaxation was good for the soul evidently. "Steph and I headed to the beach since you two ditched us."
She shrugged. "Like you'd want to hang out in a guitar shop."
Jon ran a possessive hand across the body of her guitar and she fought the urge to squirm. Son of a bitch, she needed to find a guy and hammer out some of this agression tonight before she killed someone. She lifted the guitar off of him and her nipples instantly hardened at the obvious hard on he was sporting. He simply raised an eyebrow, his eyes raking over her too tight t-shirt and flipped his shirt tales over the lime green bulge. Yep, time to go. "I'm going to go play with my new baby."
Richie laughed, his brown eyes full of a sweet pleasure that made her feel even more awful for the insta-lust that Jon brought out in her. Steph was sitting next to Richie, her eyes fixated on his fingers as he played. Just as well, she wasn't sure she could take an inquisition from Steph right now anyway. She needed a cool shower and a man. The game she'd been playing with Jon just wasn't going to cut it right now. The want was at an irrational level right now and she'd make a mistake. Richie and Steph's laughter at her back convinced her of that even more.
She headed down the hall at a fast clip, her long legs eating up the ugly carpeting, passing armies of trays at doors and the sentry newspapers that hadn't been picked up earlier that morning. The furious banging as she got to her own door and Ashley's screams of porny delight pushed her a step away from screaming in retribution. "Son of a bitch!" She slapped the palm of her hand on the door. She'd just been in there to change less than an hour ago for God's sake.
Warm fingers on her wrist had her whirling and Jon's sand and sea scent backed her into the door. The strings on the fret dug into her palm as she closed her eyes. "Not now," she moaned. She'd had such a good day with her brother--enough to feel guilty at lusting after his best friend. She wanted him so bad her hair hurt.
Lips found hers, and she tasted all that salt and warmth and she fell on him like someone starving. Her guitar thunked along his back, driving him closer. As much as she wanted Jon, that guitar was not going to hit the floor. His knee came between hers, his hand drove under her shirt a clever thumb scraped over her nipple as his teeth bit into her lower lip. "Now," he said against her mouth. "I can't wait anymore. I'm going out of my friggin' mind. Maybe if I get inside you I can think again." He pressed his forehead to hers. "I was out all day, trying not to think about you, trying to convince myself that this wasn't a good idea." His teeth scraped down her neck then back to her mouth and his taste was better than any drug, any alcohol that the market could put out. "I told myself that I was going to come back and stop this insanity." His mouth was hard on hers, angry and hot with wanting her.
Suddenly he stepped back, his fingertips in the belt loop of her denim cutoffs, dragging her forward. His eyes were wild and reckless and there was no mistaking what he was asking her. Her feet made her decision for her, as if knowing that there wasn’t any way her brain could follow up with a no.
Grabbing her hand he ran down the hallway. She heard a door open and adrenaline took over, she pushed him into a room marked linens and her mouth was on his before the door closed. Familiar voices, Doc and his assistant, were having a heated conversation, but she couldn’t hear what it was about over the roaring in her ears. His tongue was a little too good at its job, leaving her breathless and just a little drunk on his taste.
The rasp of her zipper and Jon’s callous tipped fingers slipping along her slick lips cut off any thoughts of saying no. His whispered, “fuck,” and then he was deep inside her. Two fingers stretching her, curling up along the swollen folds and tissues of her pussy felt so good the moan came out before she could stop herself.
“God, I want to hear you scream my name, but not right now—not right here.” He said against her neck and up to her ear as he familiarized himself with her body in the dark. “I know you love that guitar, but put it the fuck down,” he breathed.
She laughed and felt around, finding a stack of sheets that would keep it safe. She tucked it on top and wrapped her arms around his neck, hooking her knee on his thigh to give him better access. “I knew I’d end up fucking you in a closet, Slick.”
He laughed against her mouth, turning his hand so his thumb found her clit. “I’d fuck you in the center of a room full of people at this point.”
“You kinky, kinky boy. I figured you for the watching type, not the exhibitionist.”
He stopped, his mouth rough on hers, but his fingers completely still. “I’d watch you do anything but fuck another man.” He bit hard on her lower lip. “That day I saw you with the guy in the shower I almost took his head and smashed it into the tile.”
“I just pretended he was you. I wanted it to be you. He barely got me off.” Incensed with the edge of orgasm, she wanted to slap a censor on her mouth but it just wouldn’t shut up. “Every guy I fuck, I want it to be you.” She was giving him too much control, too much info, but the dark made the truth so much easier.
He groaned, jamming his fingers harder inside her. “James.”
She dragged her hands through his hair as he pushed her against the wall. “If you think your fingers are going to be enough this time, you are on serious drugs.” She said into his ear, scraping her teeth around the shell until she found his lobe. A hoop there clicked along her teeth and she flicked around it. “If you don’t fuck me this time, I’ll just end up raping you in some darkened hallways when you least expect it.”
He laughed, the edges dark and just a little wild. “I’m going to bury myself inside you so many times that all you’ll remember is my dick.”
She laughed. “Arrogant ass,” she sassed, but in the back of her mind she was afraid that he was far too perceptive. Would she be able to stop with just one time? Wouldn’t she want him more?
The only thing that would stop the madness was if he sucked. But if his hands were any indication and that clever freaking tongue, she was going to lose her ever loving mind as soon as he got inside her.
No, it was just sex.
This was just supposed to get him out of her system. That was all it was supposed to be. She held onto him, wrapping her other arm around his neck. “Inside me.” She had to just get it over with.Then she would be better. Then she could think and have fun again.
“No,” he said against her neck, then her mouth.
She buried her face into his neck. He couldn’t say no now. She licked up his neck, finding that salt and sweat she’d wanted earlier. She nipped at his clavicle. “Oh yes.”
“Not until you’re insane.”
How much more insane did she need to be? She was already ready to commit murder for fuck’s sake. She dug at his bathing suit trunks finding him hard and ready. Her thumbnail traced the slit at the top of his head, finding that delicious drop of want right there. God, she wanted to taste it. She swiped it over his head and under along where he was most sensitive. He jerked against her, pushing into her hand.
“Oh Christ, James.”
Her body hummed at his nickname for her. She cupped his sack, rolling them slowly then pulling along the entire length of him. Scalding hot, so swollen with need. She knew he’d be a dark and angry red around his head. Knew that when he bumped against her hood that he’d be dying just as much as she was to get inside.
A voice came down the hall, but she couldn’t focus. All she could think about was getting him inside. Feeling him inside her—filling her up until all this messy need went away.
Jon’s hiss and his hand pushing her away was not what she was looking for. “No,” she muttered and tried to get back inside his trunks.
“God, James.” He clasped her hands together. “Stop.”
“If you think I’m stopping you--” She said and tried to free herself. Then she heard, “Housekeeping!” in a faint Spanish lilt.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” She moaned. “Not again. You'll cover for me if I kill her right?”
He didn't answer her, instead he just pushed the door open a crack and she stomped her foot. She wasn’t prone to tantrums but it was going to happen in three seconds. He peeked out. “Grab your guitar.”
“How do you know they’re going to come in here?”
“I don’t know what goes on in your room, but I tend to get new towels and sheets most of the time.”
“Fuck!” She whispered hoarsely.
He pushed open the door a little more. “Okay, c’mon before she finishes that room.” He clasped her hand again, and headed down the hallway at a run. He groaned.
“What?” She looked around, waiting to see Richie standing there or something. Because that was the kind of luck she had--shit luck.
“Running with a hard on is not cool.”
And just like that, lust stopped sucking at her brain like a damn alien. She laughed, following behind him.
“Sure you laugh, but if you had this digging into your hip while you ran, you would not be happy.”
She reached around him, molding the bathing suit around his erection, nipping at his shoulder. “This was digging into my hip just a second ago. And then when you dragged my leg up, it was my thigh. So close to my pussy.”
“Jesus,” he said ripely and dragged her around, bouncing her against the wall as they rounded the corner to the stair access. He pressed his cock into the V of her legs, sliding his tongue as deep as she could take it. “Roof.”
Her fingers tangled in his hair as she shifted her hips to get him closer. “Right.” She said and tried to get her hands into his shorts again.
She ripped her mouth away, his words making no sense. “What?”
“Roof. I’ll fuck you under the last of the sunshine.”
He whirled her around to the door and she managed to get her hand behind her as he focused on finding every corner of her damn tonsils. She slanted her mouth against his, sucking his tongue until he finally gentled.
“God, you make me nuts.”
“You?” She opened the door and turned, her guitar in her arms and his hand in hers as she climbed the stairs. He had to be kidding her. She was so wound, she couldn’t even think about thinking.
She popped the door on the roof, and jerked to a stop when Jon hauled her back so he could prop a cinder block against the door. “I want to get inside you, but if anyone else has to rescue us….”
She nodded, resting her guitar against the corner nook out of the last blast of sun. Before she could even turn around, he dragged her back, his dick lodged between her cheeks, his arm banded across her belly, his hand into her shirt already. He pushed her hair away and found her neck, his tongue trailing behind her ear until he could nuzzle into her hair.
He plucked one nipple, then the other and all the while he followed her hip rolls. "Every day, every endless day I think about getting inside you."
She closed her eyes, sunshine warmed her from the front and he took care of the back. She didn't need any more stimulation, she just needed him inside her. Anything to end this ache. Turning in his arms, she reached into his shorts and found him just as hard as before. He pulled at her shorts, frustration and need running parallel as she was backed into the wall. She didn't want to let him go, but getting all the boundaries out of the way was worth the three seconds that he wasn't in her hand. Brick pulled at her hair and the smoother cement of the wall dug into her back and then the head of his cock was finally pushing against her.
"God, yes," she hissed even as he stopped. "What? Don't stop..." she gripped his hips and curled her leg around his smooth ass. "Inside me," she panted.
"I--" his blue eyes blazed, his hair flew around his face in the breeze from the rooftop.
"I'm on the pill," she said suddenly understanding. "Now!"
"Thank God," he said and plunged inside her.
She sighed in relief as all that empty space inside widened and accepted him. He lifted her, tipping her up for a deeper thrust. His eyes locked on hers for a long moment as they finally connected. It was more than she expected. Overwhelmed and suddenly scared, she pushed at his shoulder, breaking the emotional connection. It was just lust. It wasn't allowed to be more. He went for her neck and she held on as he shifted her higher, sucking her nipple through her shirt as he undulated against her.
Closing her eyes, she couldn't escape her body's visceral reaction. Pleasure overcame the fear and she let go, taking each stroke and hip thrust. Her thigh muscles screaming to hold on just another minute. Wrapping her arms around his neck all that hair stuck to the sheen of sweat she wore and still it wasn't enough. She fisted her fingers at the back of his head and fused their mouths together. Teeth clicked and she felt the scorching metal flavor of blood in her mouth as the strokes came faster.
Locked in a vice of pleasure, sweat, and madness she couldn't pry apart one orgasm from another. He ripped his mouth from hers and buried it in her hair. His breathing was as hoarse as a scream as he jerked against her. Sometime later he'd turned them around the stone was missing from her back. Breathing was harder than it should have been and in the end, the white noise became her name as they both slid down the wall in a heap of shuddering arms and legs.
Her cheek rested on his shoulder and she couldn't quite bear to have him slip out of her body yet. Slick with his release and hers, she held onto him by the sheer force of will. Slowly she became aware of the fading sun, the sweat that flooded between their bodies, and Jon's fingertips at the base of her spine. Slow circles as both of them calmed. The closeness after the electrical storm of their passion felt too good. It wasn't supposed to be anything other than a release.
She inched back and let him go, unable to look at him.
She cupped his face and looked anywhere but into his eyes. She kissed him, but this time it was all technique. Enough to let him know it was good and the smile she pasted on froze when she finally looked into his all too knowing gaze. She looked around for her shorts and stood, groaning as her muscles locked. Lime green shorts were bunched at his feet, and his shirt was now completely open. Dark hair and tanned skin made the shirt stand out even more. Just a block of lighter skin where his tanline ended and his semi erection lay.
She turned away from him. She wanted to crawl back on his lap and try a nice leisurely ride. And that's not what they were about. This was just to scratch an itch, just like any other man. She could hear him getting up behind her, a similar groan of protest from the frenzied sex. In the moment you just didn't care what kind of muscles you were using.
Stepping into her cutoffs she hopped until they were over her hips. He said her name again, but she couldn't look at him. He grabbed her shoulders and dragged her back to him, his chin on her shoulder, his mouth close to her ear. "I want it to be simple too," he said simply and walked around her to the door of the roof. "C'mon, let's get out of here before someone figures out where we are."
She grabbed her guitar on the way out, hugging it to herself and wished it was him.
Jon tipped the straw hat lower on his face. The fact that he’d gone about four hours without being recognized was a miracle in itself. The fact that he hadn’t been recognized without a full on disguise was another. Maybe Steph was right about the hair.
He slid into the car, connecting the wires one more time until the engine purred. Nothing quite like a Porsche. Well, if you couldn’t have a ‘Vette anyway. He pulled out of the mini shopping center and turned off the beaten path to one of the smaller shacks that lined the beach road. Spending most of his formative years in Asbury Park, he knew the little mom and pop stands would be best for food. California’s idea of a hotdog was pathetic.
Steph turned to him, her pretty sky blue eyes unfocused for a second before they sharpened. “Anything that isn’t mall food. What were they thinking with that hot dog?”
Jersey to her core, Steph had been just as appalled with their version of east coast food. Deciding against a hot sub--these Cali people would fuck that up too--he settled for a little surf shack with a line out the door. That was always a good sign. Half an hour later, still undiscovered thank fuck, they were back on the road.
Steph broke open the chips and sodas and they headed for one of the lesser beaches. As the coast got rockier, he turned around. He wanted the kind of sand that you could bury your feet and bake for a few hours, not crack a damn toe.
They passed the outdoor strip mall again and the houses grew more and more swanky. Weather beaten turned to stone and architectural giants. It seemed that there was either a battalion of cars or none at all, depending on the house. Taking a chance, he kept going until a three story museum of a building came into view, shaded by palm trees and flowers he couldn’t name with an encyclopedia—all of it lush and more beautiful than he’d ever seen in his twenty-six years.
Coasting to a stop, he looked around then into Steph’s eyes. “We’re here.”
With a chip halfway to her mouth, she gave him a blank look. “What?”
He opened the door. “We’re here.” Flipping the seat forward he grabbed their beach bag. “Grab the food, woman. We’re burning beach time.”
“Beach…what are you talking about.” She scrambled out of the car, swearing as she had to go back for the food before she could catch up to him. He peered around the side of the house. A privacy fence wasn’t much of a deterrent, and it looked like there was just two cameras. He grabbed her hand, darting around the side of the fence before the eye of the camera panned back.
"Jon!” she whispered furiously.
“Live a little.”
“What is it about me that says, getting arrested is fine? Seriously?”
He lifted his finger to his lips. “We won’t get arrested if you be quiet and c’mon.”
“I had no idea you were such a felon,” she muttered, but he ignored her. It was far more interesting to see just what kind of beach there was on this kind of property. A long way from middle income NJ, that was for fucking sure. Dodging paparazzi cameras gave him a special eye and he dragged his current partner in crime behind a flowering bush.
The whir of the sweeping camera panned to the other side of the yard and he darted to stairs leading to the deck. “Holy shit!” the words were out before he could stop himself. Really cool, Jonny B. But Steph didn’t seem to care about cool factors, her jaw was just as unhinged. Palatial wasn’t the word for this place. Wide stone stairs curved up to a wall of glass. Plush leather l-shaped sofas and art he couldn’t begin to name gave an opulent feel to the house—fuck, the mansion. “I’m going to live someplace like this someday.”
Steph bumped his arm. “Think you can transport this to Jersey?”
“I’d do it stone by stone if I had to.”
She tugged on his shirt. “Look, if we’re going to use the private beach, that’s one thing, but if you think I’m breaking into that fortress, you’re nuts.”
“I left my lock picks in my other jeans.”
At her wide eyes, he laughed and steered her toward the stairs leading to the beach. “I’m kidding.”
“Right, of course you are,” she immediately agreed.
Deciding that he kind of liked having her think he was some sort of crook, he headed to the beach. In reality, his starter was always going on his piece of shit Chevy so he had to hotwire his own damn car, but she didn’t need to know that.
He laid out their blankets and opened up his turkey sub, figuring they couldn’t fuck that up. Nodding to her with a mouthful he patted the towel. “Much better than the public beach.”
Steph looked down the beach then back down at him. “Good thing we both can run fast if someone finds us.”
Jon’s eyes were on the crystal blue water, and the sun overhead. “Relax, take a load off.”
She dropped next to him, flipping off her shoes and digging in just like a good girl from the shore. He grinned, doing the same thing. After polishing off their food, they both oiled up with spf 5 and baked.
Two hours later, his watch beeped next to his head.
“No,” Steph moaned. “It can’t be time to get up.”
Jon grinned. Steph had been out minutes after they’d laid out. He envied her ability to shut off, his brain felt like it never stopped spinning, but he’d even fallen asleep with just the sound of the water and the sun soaking into him. “Nope, just time to cook the other side.”
She gave a grumpy little noise and rolled over, instantly out again. He did the same, but pillowed his head in his hands. Sleep was now off the table. He untwisted his hair from the girlie braid Steph had given him, shaking his hair out. It felt good not to have to make any decisions, field any calls, hell…even talk to anyone.
Part of him wished it was James next to him, not Steph. Although having a break from the constant lust was a good thing. It gave him some much needed time to think. The smart thing would be to walk away—to tell James that this thing between them was much more than he was willing to take on. Between her brother’s overprotective nature to the utter stupidity of going after a friend’s sister, they were doomed. The fact that they hadn’t been found out yet was a miracle.
It wasn’t like he was a saint. He’d slept with Lucky Mastriano’s sister Bev, back in the club days and he’d paid for it with a beating. Bev hadn’t been worth a beating, but James was. In his gut, he knew that whatever was between them was going to blow the damn top of his head off, but could he sacrifice Richie for her?
Him and Rich, they got into a room together and music made sense. Even shit he’d been fighting with for hours, one word or chord change and Richie could find the heart of the fucking song. Hell, they had a half dozen songs ready for the studio already. Did he want to chance that kind of fuck up if this thing with James was just lust that was going to burn out in a few months?
His dick heartily agreed, but he hadn’t let his dick make decisions for him since he’d hit his twenties…well, for the most part. Jamison Sambora was very dangerous to both his livelihood and his sanity. He really didn’t have a lot of roads leading out of sanity left.
He must have dozed off again, because the next thing he knew Steph was shaking him. "Jon," her whisper was hoarse and tight, instantly blinking him out of sleep.
Two people were headed for their strip of beach at a fast clip. "Time to go." Jon hopped out of the super comfortable lounger he'd spent most of the afternoon in. "Where's the bag?"
Steph snapped two towels off of the chairs and he dumped the contents of the table into the beach bag. Plunking his hat on his newly released hair, he grabbed Steph's hand.
"Hey! You there!"
"C'mon, time to pump those hot legs of yours, girl."
She panted behind him, but stayed close as they darted their way through the backyard one more time, less worried about being seen this time through. He got to the car, jammed all their gear into the back and swore as the two wires stubbornly wouldn't catch. "Shit."
"What?" Steph's wide eyes were looking out his window. "They're coming. Hurry up!"
He sliced more of the wire casing open and a fresh spark hit his fingertips. The high end engine roared to life and he put it into gear, fishtailing his way out of their parking spot. In his rear view he saw a couple with hands to hips, the woman yelling at the man. The man tipped his head back and Jon's shoulders relaxed. He knew that pose. That was exasperation with a side of 'shut the fuck up, woman' and he knew it well. "We're clear."
"How do you know?" Steph tossed a nervous look over her shoulder.
She frowned at him, but faced forward. "Where to now?"
He studied her profile. He didn't want to disappoint her, but the sun was heading for the horizon line and people would be worried. As much as he wanted to blow everyone off, the headache would be more than the fun factor. "I think it's time to head back."
She nodded. "Kinda what I was thinking." She blew sandy bangs out of her face. "I had a good time playing Escape from Reality with you."
He smiled at her. "Yeah, me too Lolly."
"Stop calling me that."
He stepped on the gas, his smile even wider. "Nope."
When they pulled into the hotel's parking lot, a furious Doc was striding out the front door. "Uh oh." Jon pulled the car into the spot he'd borrowed it from. Steph jumped when her door swung open. He touched her forearm. "I'll take care of it."
She looked at him for a long moment. "Are you sure? I was just as much to blame."
He grinned at her. "Are you conveniently forgetting that I dared you into it?"
"I'm a big girl, it was my decision."
Doc ducked in and she shrank back against him. "This is very touching, but what the fuck were you thinking?"
"Step back, Doc. Let her out. We'll talk."
Doc loomed over her, both hands on top of the car. "She's not going anywhere until we figure this out."
Jon's fingers tightened on the steering wheel. He'd needed a day away from all this, but the snarling anger crept back before he could even appreciate it's absence. "It's okay, Steph. Just go on upstairs. I'll take care of this. Step back, Doc!"
Doc slapped the overhead and Jon almost smiled when Steph didn't even flinch. Nothing quite like a jersey girl. Show 'tude and you'd get it back ten-fold. She slid out of the car, her chin up and her eyes hot for battle. "Give us a break, Doc. We just wanted to go out for the day."
"I will deal with you later," Doc growled. Jon swung his door open, digging their bag out of the back. "You know better! What the fuck were you thinking?"
Anger roiled in his gut. He thought he was getting away from everyone for a full fucking day. He thought he was just going to get a little time to decompress. He thought he'd get away from the fucking phone, and fucking people, and fucking reality. Obviously that was too much to ask for. Instead of answering he just crossed his arms and stared at a point over Doc's shoulder.
Doc grabbed his arm. "Look at me and give me an answer, boy."
He ripped his arm away from Doc's thick, sausage fingers. "Who the fuck are you calling a boy? Sue me. I wanted a few hours away."
Doc's color was high, and a vein popped at his temple. "Then you tell me and I'll arrange it."
"What part of away weren't you getting? I didn't want anyone to know where I was."
"I'm your manager, It's my job to know where you are!" Doc spun around and looked at the car. "You stole a fucking Porsche? Are you stupid, or just crazy?"
"I vote crazy," Jon said in a deadpan voice.
Doc whipped around, his finger pointed right at him. "Don't start, Jonny. You're lucky that the owner of this car is a fan."
Relief flooded him, but he forced his face to remain neutral. "So how much ass do I have to kiss?"
"A lot." Doc waddled by, his face still a mottled color that screamed heart attack.
Jon shouldered the beach bag and inwardly groaned as a few dozen people swarmed the entrance. He put on his game face and smiled, took pictures, and signed shirts, skin, programs and tickets. The fact that Doc left him alone with the fans told him just how much of a shitstorm he was going to have to face for the next few days. It took twenty minutes to disengage, the netting of his bathing suit now held two hotel keys and a lot of pieces of paper. He escaped to the elevators, waving at the single security guard that had come on duty for the evening.
He leaned on the rail and watched the glowing numbers until he reached his floor. Excited voices came from his room. He recognized one shriek and one low, dark laugh and wished to God he had his own room. Upon entering, he saw James sitting in the center of his bed, her legs crossed, an endless stretch of tanned legs had one of the keys biting into his suddenly happy cock. Fuck. He reached in, took out the keys and slammed them on the dresser by the door. The low, moody strum of her fingers brought his focus back to her. As if it could go anywhere else for the love of shit.
A gorgeous guitar sat in her lap, the telltale sunburst at the center of the guitar had him so distracted the snap of the waistband of his shorts jerked him back to reality. What the hell was she doing with a guitar like that? Richie was in a similar state, his small amp set up and an echoing melody answered James' acoustic flavor.
Richie grinned up at him. "Would you look at this beauty?" He held up the--
Jon took a step forward, wincing when paper stuck to his skin. "Is that--"
"A 1954 Goldtop, son."
He whistled. He didn't know guitars like Richie, but he knew vintage when he saw it. "Nice." If Richie would go into hock for anything, it would be a guitar. He reached into his shorts and peeled away a phone number and dumped it into the wastebasket.
"Classy," James said with a laugh.
He gave her a sidelong look. "You get them stuffed in your bra, I get them down my pants."
"There's no room for notes in her bra," Richie cracked.
"Or too much room," Steph retorted.
"All right, let's not go there." James looked at Steph's overflowing bikini top. "Some just weren't graced with tits. I only got talent."
Steph shot a bottle of suntan lotion at her head and she caught it an inch from her face. James climbed off his bed and handed Jon her guitar. "Weep with want, Slick."
Already weeping. He dropped into one of the armchairs and strummed. "I see you have the same lusty reactions to Gibsons that your brother does."
She stroked her fingers lovingly along the neck and around the tuner. "I don't think I've seen anything more beautiful."
He pulled the guitar closer to him and swallowed a groan. The woman was going to kill him, that's all there was to it. The mere fact that he wanted to be a part of that focused attention should have been enough to jerk him out of the danger zone, but it only made it worse. His friggin' dick was going to bust a hole through her brand new toy. He pressed his lips together and strummed once, immediately following in the footsteps of the melody they'd started. He wasn't as accomplished as either of the Samboras, but the guitar seemed to give a sweeter tone to the room. He quickly looked up at James.
"That is why I now owe Lloyd Chiate half my soul."
His fingers curled tighter around the neck. Coveting her guitar was bad enough, but he wanted very much to hear her say the same thing about him, and that was more dangerous than simple need.
Stephanie dropped the fifteen pound dumbbell she’d been using tone up her arms. Christ, she hated the gym more than life, but not more than flabby grandma arms. She lifted it again and did another set, focusing on her triceps.
She’d thought sweating out some frustration while Richie and Jamie had gone off to enjoy their day off would have made her feel better. For God’s sake, Jamie had stolen out of the hotel like a thief. What, was she afraid she’d want to go out with Jamie and her precious brother for the day? Well she didn’t want to drive out to some stupid guitar shop when they’d driven for what felt like days the night before.
Stupid plane out for repairs again. Stupid tour with the stupid budget that Doc was spending on executives and suits instead of important things like equipment and transportation. They were selling out every single venue, how could they be short on cash? She wiped her brow with the bottom of her shirt and flipped the tape in the cassette deck before she climbed onto the stationary bike.
The sexy kick of Michael Hutchence’s voice filled the makeshift gym at their hotel. She liked the poppy beat and it helped her pound out three miles in half the time that it would normally take.
Ashley ran through the room, a security guard hot on her heels. Her wild laugh and shriek as the guy got closer told her that cuffs would definitely be used for a far different reason when Taz got done with him. And of course, she was busting her ass in the gym and Ash would burn calories simply breathing or fucking.
And man, she tried not to hate her for it, but sometimes she wished she could be that carefree. She wanted to run around the hotel and just play all damn day, but no, she’d been up at six am to do the early-early morning show interview for radio. Like anyone had been listening, but promotion was promotion. She’d gotten a call from the record company pressuring for a date on a second album. They wanted to capitalize on the tour, but writing on the road was one thing, recording was something completely different.
She and Jamie had written a handful of songs over the last few months, but she had no idea if any of them were any good. The minute she focused on anything but getting through the next day, she froze up. One song was haunting her, and she’d seen 3AM before it let her go last night. Add in some eye crossing frustration named Richie Sambora and she was a damn mess.
The last stretch of her third mile ticked on the meter, frustration and anger throbbed in her thighs and calves until her heart rate pounded in her temples and her breath wheezed out. She climbed off the bike, bending at the waist to catch her breath.
Taking the stairs she went to her room and took a shower, dragging on comfortable cutoffs and a pink tanktop. As per usual, she and Ronnie had a crap room where the a/c belched and rattled more than gave out cold air. She propped the door open so she could at least get some air in the room. The suicide windows didn’t allow for anything like real air.
Of course, if you were staying in a dump like the hotel they were, suicide was a factor. Her roommate was MIA, again, not unusual. Ronnie and Mike were getting more acquainted as the tour went on and they’d probably snuck off somewhere together. Disgusted with her options for the day, she snatched her room key and purse on her way out, slamming the door just because she could.
The snap of her flip-flops gave her away, and Al peeked out from his room. “Hey, baby, where you headed?”
Fighting the urge to tell him to shove his baby where the sun didn’t shine, she forced a smile. “Hey, Alec.” When his eyes raked down her legs, she gave up all pretense of polite. “Anywhere away from here.”
He didn’t catch the hint, instead he followed behind her like the Chihuahua he resembled. And his eyes were on her ass. Great. Resisting the urge to pull her t-shirt down to her knees—as if it was an option—she ignored him.
“I’m not doing anything.”
His smile became more brittle but didn’t fade. “C’mon, what’s it gonna hurt if we hang for a bit? I guarantee people will notice.”
Steph bit back a sneer. Yeah, the press would think she was seeing Alec. Then she’d have to break one of the suicide windows and take care of business. “Look, Al. I’m trying to go off and be incognito. If you go with me, people will recognize you,” she said in her best I-can-flatter-your-male-ego voice.
His eyes shifted, then settled. He cracked his knuckles and smiled at her, the Muppets quality of his laugh grated. The boy was getting twitchier every day. “Yeah, you’re right.”
She nodded, patting his shoulder. “You understand, right?”
He bobbed his head on his scrawny neck and held back, stuffing his hands in his pockets. Making her escape, she fled around the corner and down the stairs, too impatient for the elevator.
God, had he changed his mind? With shoulders hunched, she kept going.
Her head whipped around. Definitely not Alec. “Where the hell did you come from?”
Jon hurried down the stairs after her. “My room.”
She squinted at him. “You’re such an ass.”
He laughed. “I heard you in the hall. Boy do you know how to work Alec.”
She stroked his shoulder like a patient parent. “Every boy needs his ego stroked a time or two,” she said and continued down the stairs.
His bark of laughter fed hers and they ended up racing down the stairs. At the bottom, he shook his head. “And the purpose of that?”
She pushed her hair out of her eyes, enjoying this easier, less stressed Jon. He still had too many shadows under his pretty blue eyes, and the hair that had once been a source of pin up drooling, was overgrown and on its way to fried, jammed under a trucker hat. “No purpose, I just like to leave you in my dust every once in awhile, Mr. Famous.”
“I’d kill not to be famous for just an afternoon.”
She looked him over, flipped the hat off and spun him around.
“Hey!” He looked over his shoulder. “What are you—“
“Be quiet and face forward, pain in the butt.” She gathered his hair into a tail, surprised when it was actually soft. She scraped it back, unrolling the black hair tie she habitually wore on her wrist until she could get most of his hair into the band.
He stepped forward, pushing at her hands in his hair. “Ow!”
She batted his hands back. “Don't be such a baby.” She plunked the hat on, and turned him to face her. She pushed the shorter pieces from up front into the hat. “Jesus, you’re way to pretty to be a guy.”
Jon crossed his eyes. “Gee, thanks.”
She lightly tapped his cheek and grinned up at him. “Welcome.” His cheekbones were definitely one of those features that screamed Jon, but then again, he usually had his hair hiding most of his face, so he actually looked like a totally different person. “Take off your jacket,” she said and gave him the gimme fingers.
He shrugged off the leather fringe jacket. “And why am I letting you order me around, again?”
She looked over his battered and holey jeans and well-worn grey t-shirt. He looked like any other guy on the street if you didn’t look too close. ““Because you want a normal afternoon.” She flicked the brim of his hat. “And I’m going to give it to you.”
She dragged him out the door, sliding her arm around his hip until he caught on and slung his arm around her shoulder in an easy familiarity. His voice was low in her ear. “If this turns into a clusterfuck of screaming women I’ll have David hold you down while I shave your head.”
Batting her eyelashes, she pulled all her acting skills out of her butt long enough to get them out of the hotel lobby. It was early enough in the day that the fans hadn’t found out where they were staying, so it was smooth sailing until they hit the parking lot. “Richie would kick your ass if you cut my hair.”
“That’s why it would be David,” he said sweetly.
She shook her head and looked around the parking lot.
“So, I’m thinking transportation wasn’t part of your plan?”
“Shut up and let me think.” God, that man brought out her bitch. A black Porsche Boxter, a Suburban, and shuttle bus were parked right near the building.
Jon sauntered to the sleek black car like he owned it and tried the handle. He smiled over his shoulder and slid in. He shrunk down in the seat and twisted a few wires and the car roared to life.
“Holy crap!” Steph ran around the passenger side. “What are you doing?”
“Get in.” He gunned the engine, waggling his eyebrows as he jammed sunglasses on his face.
“We can’t steal a car!” Her eyes darted around the parking lot for a bellhop, but this hotel wasn’t exactly bellhop material. “Jon!”
“Get in! Live a little.”
Her heart slammed in her chest. “Me and jail would not get along,” she whispered furiously. He inched forward and she swore. She threw her bag to the floor. “If you get me arrested, I’ll kill you,” she warned one last time and hopped into the car.
He fishtailed out as he punched the accelerator and the car reved, the short shifter easy in his hand. She shrunk down in her seat, staring at him.
“Do I want to know how you know how to boost a car?”
The corner of his lip quirked. “Misspent youth,” but his words were heavy on the Jersey accent and youth sounded more like yute.
She looked over her shoulder nervously, then back at him, into the side mirror and then faced forward.
“If you keep looking nervous people will think we stole the car.”
“We did steal it!” She shrunk down even lower, her fingernails digging into the super-fine leather as he merged onto the highway. California highways were like NASCAR and she slammed her eyes shut in reaction to him weaving in and out of traffic, finally settling into the fast lane.
His fingers curled and uncurled on the steering wheel, the glee apparent on his face. The little jerk was enjoying being a criminal. “So, where are we headed?”
She slowly sat up, the initial shock wearing off under the sun searing through the windows and the a/c keeping them cool. The radio was up, Belinda Carlisle sung about heaven and just then and there she believed the song. “Shopping and the beach, driver.”
Jon grinned and downshifted as he slid over a lane at the Newport Beach exit sign. A Ferrari roared in front of them and over four lanes of traffic, brake lights lit up like fire all around them. She clicked her seat belt and Jon laughed. “I’m not going to kill you.”
“Considering you’re trying to break the sound barrier, I’ll go with the seat belt, thanks.”
Jon downshifted and his speed dropped from Mach1 to city driving as he pulled off the exit. Immediately the ambiance changed. It felt like home. It felt like the shore. Sand encroached on pavement, bikinis and board shorts were the uniform of choice. She lowered the window and Jon followed suit. The air smelled of brine and grilled onions, and Mexican food from the vendors hocking their wares.
She missed home. It was galling to admit it since this was the dream, but she needed to see her friends, her parents, her cousins and aunts and uncles. She needed the noise of the comforting Loran clan and even her obnoxious brother. She needed her own bed, her mother’s cooking, and her swimming pool. She needed a piece of her old life to feel real again.
He picked a shady spot at the edge of an outdoor shopping center. “Don’t lock it,” he reminded her.
She crossed her arms and followed him to the central hub where a fountain gurgled swimming pool blue water, bored teenagers milled around, and the grating sound of skateboards on pavement vyed with a boombox blasting out Metallica. It was mid-week, but they were in high summer and the beach butted up to the shops with California’s version of a boardwalk. They ducked into a kitchy tourist trap and found flip flops, a beach bag and cheap bathing suits along with a cover up, sunblock and two straw hats.
Jon dug for his wallet and pulled out plastic, but she grabbed his arm. “Do you want the world to know that you-know-who is in Newport Beach?”
He looked at his credit card, then at her. “I don’t have enough cash for all this stuff.”
Steph rolled her eyes and pulled out her card. “You have fake names for everything but credit cards, huh?”
His eyebrows lifted into the shade of the brim of his hat. “That’s a great idea. I should totally do that.”
Jon snickered as she paid. No one gave them a second look. Of course he kept his shades on even in the store and played pack mule without complaint. “Can we use the dressing room to change?”
The bored teen behind the counter nodded, blowing a purple bubble before going back to his comic book. Jon grinned and steered her to the back. She slipped into the pink bikini, a little more conservative than she would normally buy in deference to their incognito status. With the white mesh cover-up and straw hat, Jackie O shades, she looked like every other twenty year old on the beach.
She met Jon outside the dressing room and laughed. Lime green shorts brushed his knees with his hairy monkey legs and furry chest on display. He had a white, lightweight cotton shirt open for comfort, but not showing off his body. His hair was out on his shoulders again and she pushed him back behind into the changing room.
“It doesn’t fit under the hat.”
“Where’s that rubber band?” He shrugged, and she rolled her eyes. She turned him around in the mirror. “Those shorts are seriously hot.”
“It was either lime green or pink.”
She stood on tiptoes and met his eyes in the mirror. “You’d look sexy in pink.”
Laughing, Steph quickly plaited his hair into a french braid.
He jerked away from her. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m braiding your hair.”
“That’s for girls!” He batted her hands away yet again.
Amused by his Italian sensibilities coming out loud and proud, she tried not to laugh. “No one’s going to see it under your hat, stud.” And sure enough the little braided tail was easy to tuck up under the hat. Again, he was all cheekbones and sunglasses, his skin already tanning up with the few days off that they’d had while in the midwest states.
She tugged him out of the dressing room and out to the food court. “I’m starving.” They ate hot dogs that were supposed to be like Coney Island, and as far as she was concerned they were an epic failure. They walked their sham of a boardwalk and drifted in a companionable silence.
His shoulders relaxed the longer they were out and no one recognized him. They found a pier full of fisherman and the lulling hiss of water lapping. The tide was coming in and the crashing waves reminded her of August and the shore with the Samboras. She must have tagged along a dozen times through her childhood and the smell of bait and saltwater, even if it was the Pacific, unknotted some of the loneliness and frustration she’d been drowning in.
“Why do you do this?”
They both leaned on the weather beaten rail staring out into the horizon. His eyes were unreadable behind mirrored lenses, but she honestly had to know. Sometimes she wondered if Jon was even happy on tour anymore. He was quiet for a long moment then he took off his aviator glasses and turned to her. “I love it, Steph. I know you guys don’t think I do, but I honestly do. I can’t be anything, or anyone else than a songwriter. I need to get on that stage, I need to make music. I just wish I could do it without the other crap.”
He squinted at the fiery sun that sat in the middle of the sky. It wasn’t even noon and they had an entire day ahead of them. She propped herself on her elbows, looking down at the waves as they pounded at the legs of the pier. “Is it worth the other crap? You seem so on edge lately.”
He tipped his hat back and closed his eyes. “I ask myself that every morning that I do an interview—the same interview, over and over by the way—and pose for one more picture, sign one more tour program, pretend that I like some suit that’s only backstage because he wants the story to tell his buddies at work the next day. But then I get on that stage, and all of it goes away.
She understood that, and turned back to the sea, shoulder to shoulder they went quiet. There was no need for words or conversation right then. The forty minutes Devotion was allotted each night made it worth it for her too. Impatient to grow, to have more time on the stage she would steal another five minutes some nights, but Jon seemed to understand her hunger because he never said anything.
Kindred spirits, as hard as that was to believe, that’s what they were. She looked up at him, shading her eyes with her hand. “So, think we can kick the depressing shit and go lay on the beach and bake for a few hours?”
He smiled and his face transformed into the man that made women follow the band to the ends of the earth. It held its own power and she was very glad she was immune. This man would not be an easy man to love.
She hooked her arm in his. “We have to find something a little more private though. You go flashing that chest and we’ll be attacked.”
His shoulders went back and the preening peacock came out. “It’s an impressive chest.”
“Yeah, if you’re a sixteen year old boy.”
Laughing, he slung his arm around her neck and led her back down the pier. “Did anyone ever tell you that you’re a ball buster?”
“Jamie taught me.”
His smile froze for just a moment before the laugh was back. “You learned from the best.”
Steph hiked the beach bag onto her shoulder, instantly suspicious. “Something I should know?”
Why didn’t she believe him?
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.