Page 14

Author: Tracy Wolff

She was almost to the bathroom when Quinn said, “I put your suitcase on the bench in the closet.” His voice was much huskier than it had been even minutes before.

“Thanks. Let me take a quick shower and I’ll be down.”

“Sounds good.” He headed for the door. “Don’t forget your medicine.”

She made a face at his retreating back. Bossy man. Give him an inch and he’d take five miles.

After turning the shower on, she stripped out of her pajamas as she tried to figure out how to keep her cast from getting wet. She’d managed it at the hospital, but the nurse had been there to help her wash her hair. Today she was on her own and she wasn’t quite sure how she was going to get everything done one-handed.

But a glance down at her cast—the first time she’d seen it since he had put her long sleeve pajama top on her the night before—had her mouth falling open. All thoughts of washing her hair fled as she stared in wide-eyed horror at what Quinn had done to her cast.

He’d drawn penises on it. Lots and lots of penises. Some small, some big, some erect, some not, some anatomically correct, some more abstract in nature…he’d covered the gambit in male genitalia. So much so that her entire cast was drowning in the things. Red, purple, green, black, blue, orange, even rainbow. Holy shit! She was now a walking advertisement for those funky colored but otherwise anatomically correct vibrators people could buy in sex shops.

She was going to kill him.

This was payback for shoving him into the fountain. She knew it with every fiber of her being. And it was a good move, a bold one. One she never in a million years would have seen coming. The only question now was, what on earth was she going to do to top this?

Part of her wanted nothing more than to throw on a robe, stalk down the hall, and murder him where he stood. But he’d be expecting that. Hell, he was probably waiting for it with glee in his black little heart. No, she had to be smarter about her revenge. More subtle. Make him sweat it a little.

Eyes narrowed and brain in full plotting mode, Elise decided to hell with washing her hair. Instead, she pinned it up and took a quick shower while she tried to figure out what she was going to do about this latest development in the very personal game they were playing.

A part of her thought that maybe she should just let it go—they were mature adults, after all. Well, one of them was, anyway. And this wasn’t the old days, when one-upmanship had been a matter of pride between them. They were all grown up now, with no time for childish games. Surely, she could be the bigger person and just walk away from this. It was the smart thing to do.

She’d almost convinced herself to do just that—playing with him like this felt way too intimate—but then she made the mistake of looking at the cast again in all its multi-colored glory.

To hell with being an adult. Quinn was going down.

After the shower, she took her time getting ready. She spent way too long styling her hair. Applying a perfect coat of mascara. Making sure every inch of her body was coated in the strawberry scented lotion he’d brought her in the hospital. Then she took an inordinate amount of time picking out a tank top and yoga pants to wear. It was difficult, as she had to color coordinate with the monstrosity on her hand.

After she’d finally wasted a good forty-five minutes, Elise sauntered out of her room and down to breakfast. Quinn was in the kitchen when she got there, putting the finishing touches on a fruit salad.

He glanced up warily when she came in, even went so far as to slide the knife he’d been using into the sink behind him. Silly boy. Like she’d ever be that obvious.

“Anything I can do to help?” she asked sweetly. “Breakfast smells delicious.”

“I’m good, thanks. Why don’t you just sit down and rest a little?”

He might as well have said, Go sit over there, all the way on the other side of the kitchen, because it was certainly written all over his face. Too bad she wasn’t feeling particularly obliging this morning. “Because I just spent the last nine hours sleeping? I’m feeling pretty good, actually.” She reached for the bowl of fruit. “Can I carry this to the table for you?”

“Uh, sure. If you want.”

“I do. I may not be able to do all that much yet, but I definitely want to be helpful.”

She turned her back on Quinn as she crossed the kitchen, but not before she saw his eyes narrow speculatively. Good. If she had to walk around for the next week with giant cocks all over her cast, she was going to make his punishment as painful as she possibly could.

He followed her over to the table, and though he kept a healthy distance between them, it was obvious he had relaxed a little. Which was fine with her. It could only work in her favor if he let himself be lulled into a false sense of security.

“I hope you’re hungry,” he said, placing a basket of what looked like banana bread on the table next to the fruit.

“You made bread?” she asked, incredulously. “What time did you get up?”

“Actually, the woman who cleans my house and stocks my fridge made bread. All I did was slice it.”

Right. Because he was an über-rich rock star who made it sound like the most normal thing in the world that he had people who not only cleaned for him, but also shopped and cooked. Both of them had grown up in upper middle class homes, and while her career had kept her solidly in the high end of that tax bracket, every minute she spent around Quinn reminded her of just how much circumstances had changed for him since he’d walked away from everything he knew.

They’d changed for the better, which she was pleased about. But they had definitely changed. Which made her wonder, just for a second, if he had changed, too. Inside, where she couldn’t see the difference. And if he had, how?

She nipped that thought in the bud, though, along with the excitement it caused. No way was she going to set herself up by wishing for something that couldn’t happen. Changing who a person was on the outside was one thing. Changing who he was on the inside was something else entirely. She needed to remember that.

But when she turned around to face him and realized just how close he was, Elise could barely remember her own name, let alone anything else. Her annoyance about the cast buzzed just under the surface, but for a moment anyway, it was totally overwhelmed by her reaction to all the smooth skin and hard muscle he had on display.

He’d obviously showered—his hair was damp—and while he’d put a shirt on since she’d last seen him, he hadn’t bothered to button it. Which left his chest and abs gloriously bare.

All of which would be fine—he wasn’t the first hot man she’d seen with his shirt off—if he also didn’t smell so damn good. Or have those gorgeous tattoos that literally made her fingers itch to touch them.

“Can I do anything else to help?”

He returned to the stove, where he dished up two plates of scrambled eggs and the home fries that had been her favorite post-concert meal as a teenager.

Another thing he’d remembered about her. She was beginning to think the man never forgot anything.

“I’d love some coffee.” He nodded toward the coffee maker in the far corner of the kitchen. “The cups are in the cabinet directly above it.”

She followed his bidding, adding a dash of cream to his cup before carrying it to the table. It turned out he wasn’t the only one who remembered things.

But they’d barely gotten settled at the long rectangular table that filled his breakfast nook when a knock came on the kitchen door. Before Quinn could get up to answer it, the door flew open and in walked two of the hottest men Elise had ever seen, present company included.

Both were dressed in worn jeans and tight, V-neck T-shirts with the sleeves rolled up to reveal tatted up arms and bulging biceps. Both had shaggy hair and intense eyes. And both looked very surprised to see a woman sitting at Quinn’s breakfast table, a fact that pleased her much more than it should have.

“Who are you?” the blond one asked, his blue eyes narrowed as they swept over every part of her he could see.

“Who are you?” she answered, a little shocked at her own rudeness. This was Quinn’s house, after all, and she was the interloper. These two looked like they fit right in.

He didn’t take offense, though. Instead, he shot Quinn an amused look as the other guy threw back his head and laughed. And could she just say, holy crap. She’d thought he was hot before. But laughing, with his eyes all crinkled up, he was breathtaking. And that didn’t even count the fact that sex seemed to roll off him in never-ending waves.

For a moment, she couldn’t help wondering if modern science had looked into bottling the pheromones that rolled off this guy. If they hadn’t, then they definitely should. Every man on the planet would line up to get himself a bottle.

She glanced at Quinn, who was watching her reaction to his two friends with his arms crossed and a small smile of his own. Okay, he wouldn’t need to line up for a bottle. With his dark eyes and darker emotions, he was definitely the sexiest guy in the room. The sexiest guy she’d ever seen. But normal men, certainly the ones who inhabited her regular world, would definitely get laid a lot more if they could get a hold of whatever these three guys had going on.

“These are my band mates,” Quinn told her. “That one’s Jared,” he said, pointing to the one who had demanded to know who she was. “He’s our lead guitarist. And that’s Ryder, the lead singer.”

Of course. The one all but radiating sex was the lead singer of the band. As she moved to shake their hands, Elise couldn’t help wondering if that kind of sex appeal was something they taught in a class on how to headline a concert or if it was something that the best lead singers just had in spades. Like confidence. And the ability to wear copious amounts of eyeliner without looking ridiculous. And really good hair.

“This is Elise McKinney,” Quinn continued, resting his hand on her lower back and guiding her toward the other men. “She’s a friend of mine from way back.”

This time, Ryder was the one who cocked his head to the side as he studied her. “The concert pianist?”

Her eyes darted to Quinn’s. Had he told these guys about her? When he’d introduced her, it hadn’t sounded like he had. But maybe she’d just read the situation wrong and there was something she was supposed to say. Some way she was supposed to handle this and she just didn’t know what that was. Just the thought made her nervous, had her fingers curling into fists. She’d never been one to do well without a script.

But they kept watching her with gorgeous faces and interested eyes until she finally agreed, “That’s me.” It seemed a safe enough answer.

“Awesome. I really like your stuff. It’s amazing. I’ve got all seven of your albums, though the Rachmaninoff is my favorite.”

Now she really was surprised. Which made her feel like a total jerk. She’d judged this guy on his looks, figured he wouldn’t know anything about what she did or who she played. But why shouldn’t he? Music was music. Just because she listened to the classical stuff didn’t mean she had no appreciation for rock or jazz or even pop. It was beyond snobbish to think any differently of Ryder just because of the tattoos and piercings and hair.

“It’s my favorite, too,” she agreed. “There’s just something about—”

“Rachmaninoff,” he finished for her with a grin.

“Exactly.” They smiled at each other in perfect accord, at least until he glanced over at Quinn and asked, “All those times I played her stuff on the bus, why didn’t you tell me you knew her?”

Quinn didn’t answer. But then she hadn’t really expected him to. Talking never had been his strong suit.

Ryder didn’t seem to expect an answer either. Instead, he walked over to the stove and grabbed one of the plates Jared had loaded food onto while she and Ryder talked. Then they were settling down at the table, joking and laughing as they began shoveling food into their mouths at an alarming rate.