At her husky laugh, he looked up at her. "What?"
"Leave it to you to play one of the most sexual Zepplin songs while I'm sitting here."
"Hell no, Baby. There are way worse songs, but how about this instead?" The familiar notes that almost any guitar player forced himself to learn for a cover song filled the room, booming out of his travel amp.
Steph's eyebrow arched and a smirk tugged at her lips. The same lips he wanted to kiss for hours for the love of shit. "Start over."
He snapped the tip of his pick. "What?" Hell no. He'd only been playing around with a name that tune kind of thing.
She pulled the chair over from the corner and leaned forward. "So, this ain't the end, I saw you again today...I had to turn my heart away." Her voice transformed into her version of the smokey tones of Anne Wilson and he prayed for a quick death. This woman in singer mode was sex personafied. Anne may have had a voice, but he bet she wished she could control a man's libido like this woman.
"Smile like the sun, kisses for everyone," she licked her lips, her blue eyes dancing with the absolute torture of it. "And tales it never fails."
The song was all metaphore and of course she emphasized every line that would drag her vocals into the lower, darker registers of a growl. Pride kept him playing even as he wished he hadn't started it. He figured it would have suited his sister more, but Steph shrugged into the role of a temptress and sold the song enough that he could almost take himself out of the sexual haze and just sit there in awe of her power. In the end, it got to wrapped up in the music and the web that this woman weaved around him.
He was fucking sunk.
The door swung wide with a thunk against the wall. "Glad you have no lasting effects from your joy ride, Stephanie."
The guitar solo he'd been about to start jerked into a sour twang. "Hey, Doc." He slowly lifted his guitar off his lap and unplugged. "What's up?" He recognized the high color and too wide eyes. He recognized it just a little too well.
"What? I'm not sufficiently chastised, Doc?"
Richie's gaze swung to Steph, surprised that she'd sass back. The one thing she'd done since starting the tour was show respect to Doc--maybe a little too much for Doc's shitty behavior sometimes. Swiveling back to Doc, he asked again. "What's going on?"
"Oh, didn't your girlfriend tell you she stole a car with Jonny?"
"She what?" Richie laughed. They'd done some joy riding over the years, but that had been mostly on the second tour. It was too hard to get anywhere these days with the crowds. He crossed his arms, his smile wide. "C'mon."
"I'll admit that it wasn't my brightest shining moment, but Jon and I just had to get away from here for a little while. He really needed to to." Steph pulled a lollipop out of her hip pocket and clicked it around her teeth.
Richie tried to calm his instant reaction to that friggin' piece of candy and focused on Doc. "Okay, so they took a joyride. It's nothing worse than we've done in the past."
"You never stole a Porsche."
Richie whistled. "Nice."
"You are not helping, Sambora."
Richie stood up, shaking out the line of jeans, praying for some room to breathe. "C'mon Doc--"
"'Don't c'mon Doc,' me. I can't have your girlfriend dragging Jonny out into the public without some sort of bodyguards. Do you realize what could have happened?"
Richie frowned. She wasn't his girlfriend, first of all and secondly...Jonny needed to get out, just like the rest of them. Hell, worse the the rest of them. Jon hadn't had a break in God knows how long. "Is it that she left the premises, or that she took your precious meal ticket out to have a little fun? How many interviews did he miss, Doc?"
His face reddened even more and his ham sized fists clenched as he bore down on Steph. "That's not the point. This little bitch didn't think. You can be replaced you know."
Steph's jaw dropped. "We didn't do anything that bad! So, we have to play suck-up to the guy we stole the car from, but he's a fan!" she sputtered.
Richie took a step in front of Steph, putting a hand on his chest. His neck pricked and his jaw clenched. "Hold up. Doc, you don't know what you're saying. Let's all just relax."
"I know exactly what I'm saying," Doc stared up at him, his nose inches from Richie's chest as he tried to look around him. "Devotion's here as an opening act and any number of bands would be happy to do it. I can replace you in a less than ten minutes."
Steph surged forward and Richie blocked her with a hand to her waist. "Whoa there."
She pushed his hand away. "No, I have a right to defend myself. We've been an awesome opening act. We rarely go over time, we're always on time, we don't cause trouble--" She grabbed Richie's arm, her fingernails cutting deep as her voice shook. "This is shit!"
He smoothed a hand over her hair absently, but kept her behind him. "Okay, okay let's just relax here." Tempers were high, but he trusted Steph to hold onto herself more than Doc. Steph didn't have two nosefulls of coke riding in her veins like Doc did. He turned to Doc. "Where's Jon?"
Doc drilled a finger into his chest. "I don't know where that little fuck is. I'm dealing with her right now."
Reflexively, he wrapped his fingers around Doc's thick pointer finger and pushed him back a step. Their manager was mostly all bark, but he was built like a pitbull and could be just as mean when he wanted to. "No, you're dealing with me."
Steph peeked over his shoulder. "I can take care of myself!"
"Steph!" he warned and kept his eyes on Doc. "Devotion was chosen by the record company, not you Doc."
"I can make or break a reputation in this business!" Doc blustered.
"Just because we took a car out for an afternoon? I can't freaking believe this!" Steph backed away from him. He could hear her stomping around the room.
"Look, let's take a breath here," Richie said calmly, even though it wasn't even close to where his blood pressure was at. Between protecting Steph and his sister at the same time with the band crap, and now Doc growling at his--no, not his woman, goddammit!
"If this bitch thinks she's--"
Richie pushed Doc back a step. "If you call her bitch one more time, we're going to have a problem."
"What are you going to do?" Doc looked up at him, his eyes hot and blind on the rush of adrenaline and coke. "This little slut has a career because I say she has one."
One minute Richie was completely in control and the next, he had Doc backed into the wall, pictures crashing to floor with his forearm under his chin, lifting him onto his toes. He could hear Steph's voice in the distant background, but all he could focus on was Doc's mottled face. "She's not some groupie you can insult," he said through his teeth.
Steph's voice finally came into focus. "Richie! He can't breathe!"
Doc's eyes bulged and his color headed into purple. Rage pressed in on him for more. To hold on longer, to hurt him a little more. Steph's fingers dug into his shoulder and her pleading finally registered. He stepped back, letting Doc fall to the ground in heap. "Jon will deal with this mess. If I hear you threatening their contract with us again, I'll bruise more than your windpipe."
"You can bet I'll be talking to Jonny," Doc gasped out as he stumbled to his feet.
He wiped a layer of Doc's sweat off his forearm on his jeans and forced himself to take a breath. When that didn't help, he went over to the bag they kept their booze in and cracked a bottle of vodka pouring an inch into a glass and belting it back. He turned to Steph, his gut burning with vodka and shame at her startled look. "Aww shit," he muttered and pulled Steph in. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."
He pressed his lips to her hair, willing the crawling anger back down where it belonged. He so rarely lost his shit anymore. Five years ago Doc probably would have been in a hospital by the time he'd finished with him. Anger was something he didn't let out very often. He'd learned to channel the overwhelming part of him into music instead of anger that could flash so quickly to the surface. But when it came to Stephanie, things were never simple, and they were never easy.
Just one more reason to keep his distance. He had enough to deal with in his life than a woman that pressed every button he had. He let her slide away from him and groaned at her too bright eyes. Fear? He cupped her face, his thumb stroking along her cheek. "I'm sorry, Baby. I didn't realiz--" he cut off as she leaped into his arms, her mouth fastened to his.
He tried to back up out of her reach, knowing that her taste was going to take over. Her fingers fisted into his hair, sweet cherries and Stephanie flooded his mouth and he was done. He leaned down to her, surrounding her, his fingers snaking up her back with her hair dripping over his forearms. Teasing and tempting him to just give in. Why was he fighting it?
The lip lock popped like a seal as she broke the kiss. And without her mouth on his, he could think again. And he swallowed the fear, his thumb brushing her lower lip. He was fighting it because once he let her in, he'd never, ever let her out.
Her summer blue eyes were wild with excitement. "I've never seen you do something like that--like that for anyone, but definitely not for me."
He backed up. "I shouldn't have done that."
Steph's eyes went from pleasure to blazing anger. "What? The kiss or pulling that very impressive wrestling type move on Doc the Dick?"
"Both," he blurted before he could think. Fuck. Dammit, fuck, shit, motherfucker. He dragged his fingers through his hair. "Wait, I need to think."
"Thinking is your problem," she hissed. She grabbed his hand and pressed it to her cheek. "Stop thinking and just take. Please."
He closed his eyes against all that ernest passion. All he'd ever wanted was standing there eager and willing to be taken. And it wasn't just sex. He could have sex, he could deal with sex...if it was just sex he could have just gotten her out of his system. But with Steph it has always been more. It had always been all. He wanted to own her body and soul.
And that terrified him.
All that he could lose if he made a mistake--all he could lose if he wasn't her everything too.
She let his hand slip away. "I don't know why you just won't man up."
His eyes snapped open. All that anger was too close from his fight with Doc, his overwhelming feelings for her, and all his own baggage. "If it was just manning up, I'd have been buried inside you weeks ago and we'd have been done with it. It's more than that and you're deluding yourself if you think it isn't."
And for the first time she didn't say anything. She searched his face, her mouth slightly open in surprise.
"Do you know where Jon is?"
He stood up straight and jerked in surprise, turning to the door where Dave stood. He jammed his hands in his pockets. "No," he cleared his throat, "I don't."
"Doc's on the war path. We should probably warn him."
Richie nodded, when he looked back down at Steph she'd slipped out the door. "Son of a bitch."
Dave quirked an eyebrow, a slow smile spreading. "God, you're so fucked."
He snapped a salute at him. "Shutting up."