Heart Throb

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Hearts of Metal, book 7

ISBN: 978-1729566817

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Irascible, grumpy, rude, tetchy, remote - scared. Viciöus's bassist, Brand Kife is hiding a secret, and it takes everything he has to ignore Lexi, until he can't.

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Bassist for heavy metal band, Viciöus, Brand Kife is known for his scowl and inability to form meaningful attachments. When he meets Lexi Adams, the director of the documentary being filmed about Viciöus, Brand wants the smart, sexy woman, but knows he's not worth having. Staying away from the alluring beauty becomes impossible, but he has secrets he'll never share, not even with Lexi.

AND SEEK
Lexi Adams isn’t ready to settle down and may never be. Every time she’d tried to date, the man wanted to put his needs first. Her first boyfriend had forced her to choose between him and film school. Her second had wanted her to support his film career. And now that Lexi’s career has finally taken off, she doesn't have time to look for a third. Until Brand Kife, who seems more than happy to keep his distance, until he can't, and evermore becomes a reality she embraces with her whole heart and soul.
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Chapter One

 

Brand glared at Viciöus’s lead singer in furious disbelief. Quinn had done it again. The arrogant, autocratic son of a bitch had made a decision without consulting the rest of the band. Like so many others, this pre-tour band meeting was nothing but an empty formality where Quinn told them, rather than asking them, what would be going down. And this particular detail was a big fucking deal.

“No.” Brand leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

One of Quinn’s black eyebrows shot up. “Excuse me?”

Brand fixed the singer with a glare. “You can’t drop a huge disruption like this and expect us to be fine with it.”

“Disruption?” Quinn laughed and shook his head at Brand like he was a child. “I thought you’d all be happy to learn that an established filmmaker is going to do a documentary about Viciöus.”

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Tony, the drummer, nodded with his usual cheerful grin. “I’m happy about it. That means more money and more exposure. What’s your deal this time, Brand?”

Brand’s frown deepened at the patronizing undertone in the drummer’s voice. “My deal is that first off, we weren’t consulted, and second off, having some jackoffs follow us around with cameras, asking stupid questions, is going to be disruptive as hell.”

Quinn held up his hands in mock surrender. “Okay, you’re right. I should have told you and Tony about it, and yes, having the director and camera guys along will cause some distraction and crowding. But Brand, can you think about the long-term? Our reputation took a hit with our rift with Bleeding Vengeance—”

Your rift,” Brand reminded him. Quinn’s wife and lead guitarist, Kinley, nodded in agreement and nudged Quinn with a stern frown.

Quinn had the decency to look ashamed. “You’re right. My rift.”

When Cliff Tracey, lead singer of Bleeding Vengeance, had begun dating Quinn’s little sister, Quinn went nuclear and declared Bleeding Vengeance, a band that had been their best friends in the industry, to be enemies for life. Quinn eventually pulled his head out of his ass and now treated Cliff like a long-lost brother, but the damage was already done. The media had had a field day amplifying the hostilities, and some fans turned against Viciöus because of Quinn’s behavior. Even worse, a planned collaboration album and joint tour was put on hold, costing both bands God knew how much money.

Quinn ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “Look, I fucked up, I know that. But this documentary will go a long way in humanizing us, making us look friendlier to our fans.” At Brand’s scowl, Quinn smirked. “Okay, maybe not all of us, but hey, your ‘man who never smiles’ thing can be a good gimmick too.”

“Gimmick?” Brand growled. “Fuck you, Quinn.”

“I don’t think Kinley would approve,” Quinn retorted. “Anyway, your grump ass doesn’t change the fact that this documentary will be awesome good for us. Thing Productions won best documentary at the Emerald City Film Festival for Headbangers Abound, and the Audience Choice Award at the Seattle International Film Festival for their film on the history of the metal scene. That one’s on some streaming services and they told me the film they want to do on us is practically guaranteed to get the same. That means some good subsidiary income on top of a cut of the royalties from physical copies, which we can also sell with the rest of our merch.”

Okay. Quinn had a point. Brand’s shoulders slumped. Quinn usually did. That was why he was in charge of the band, for the most part. But the rest of them still should have a say in matters. Brand narrowed his eyes at Kinley. Why wasn’t she speaking up?

Kinley’s gaze flicked to meet Brand’s then darted away evasively, uncharacteristic of the direct woman he knew her to be.

Oblivious to the odd exchange, Quinn resumed his spiel on why having a film crew on the road with them was such a wonderful idea.

Brand only half listened. Justified as his irritation with the situation was, the documentary would be good for them. Fans bought those videos like hotcakes and a streaming deal could bring them new fans. Hell, Quinn even had a point about the documentary possibly redeeming them to those who viewed them sourly after the thing with Bleeding Vengeance. Maybe the director would stick around long enough to catch them when they started writing songs with the other band, show the world on screen that they were friends again.

Even if they didn’t, the collaboration album was back on. The contract had been signed and they would be getting together as soon as Viciöus’s tour wrapped up. They’d even have a preliminary meet-up during the tour, when Viciöus would play at Bleeding Vengeance’s Denver gig.

Brand suddenly found himself looking forward more to writing songs with Bleeding Vengeance than touring. Even though he’d never been the best at making friends, he had to admit that he liked Bleeding Vengeance. The Quinn thing had bothered him more than Brand had expected. And then when it healed, he even found himself befriending Cliff when the guy had moved to Seattle to be closer to Christine, Quinn’s sister. The guy was a chatterbox, but not nearly as vapid as Brand had thought him to be. Reluctantly, Brand admired the guy for having the balls to pursue the forbidden princess. When Cliff and Christine moved to Denver with the rest of Bleeding Vengeance, Brand was surprised that he missed him.

That said, if it weren’t for this upcoming disruptive documentary, Brand would choose touring over song writing any other day.

Quinn could list all the financial benefits to the project that he wanted. That still didn’t make Brand comfortable with having a camera breathing down his neck day and night for the next several months. He was a bass guitarist. Not a fuckin’ movie star.

Also, something felt off about this whole thing. Brand glanced back at Kinley. It wasn’t like her to let Quinn do all the talking. He knew that now, but in the beginning of Kinley’s days with Viciöus, Brand had assumed that she would go along with whatever her husband said. She’d long since proven that she had her own opinions and often sided with Brand or Tony on decisions about what happened on the road and in the studio.

Brand’s eyes narrowed further. “Who did Thing Productions approach?”

Kinley finally spoke. “Me. The director and I have been friends online for a couple years.”

“Ah.” A mirthless laugh escaped his lips. Although Quinn was a bossy bastard, he’d submit to Kinley’s wishes almost every time. In fact, he’d eventually listened to her and made things right with Bleeding Vengeance, although it took Brand’s and Tony’s efforts, combined with Kinley’s, to talk sense into Quinn on that issue.

Brand turned back to Quinn, “So since the two of you were on board, you figured it was a done deal. This is why it’s bad to have a couple in a group. Totally destroys the democracy dynamic.”

Tony shook his head and laughed. “Oh, come on, Brand. We were never a democracy and you know it. In fact, we were more of a dictatorship before Kinley. She softened Quinn up.” He smiled at the singer. “Sorry, Quinn, but it’s true.”

Softened. Brand suppressed a sneer. Tony would know. Brand had to listen to the guy getting all sappy with his wife over the phone every night they were touring. And although Quinn hadn’t turned into a pile of mush with Kinley—that woman was too tough for that stuff—he had definitely changed since falling in love. And while the melting of Quinn’s brisk exterior was probably good in the long run, something about the change unnerved Brand in an unvoiced, yet primal way.

Turning his mind back to the situation at hand, he attempted another feeble protest to the documentary. “Is there even room for a film crew on the bus?”

Quinn sighed. “They’re bringing only four people. The director, who is also the producer, the co-producer, and two camera guys. The director and co-producer will be on the bus with us. The camera guys will be in the equipment truck with our merch crew. It’ll be a tight squeeze, but it’ll work.”

Finally, Tony had a complaint. “I knew we should have gotten around to getting a bigger bus.”

“With the money this documentary will bring us, we’ll be able to finally upgrade.” Quinn nuzzled Kinley’s neck. “We’ll get one with bigger bunks.”

Brand rolled his eyes at the happy couple. He hoped he never fell in love. He couldn’t go soft. Soft meant vulnerable.

And he’d long ago vowed never to be vulnerable again.

***

Lexi clutched her camera on her lap as Ramon, her head camera operator at Thing Productions, and her co-producer, wove through the back streets of Seattle. Unlike her, he’d grown up here and knew how to avoid traffic better than Susan, the name Lexi had given the voice on her phone’s map.

The closer they got to the record studio, the more her excitement grew. Viciöus had agreed to meet with her. And although Kinley Black-Mayne, the lead guitarist, had acted like it was a done deal, Lexi still needed to get past this initial meeting with the whole band and make a good enough impression for them to agree to sign the contract.

“Tony should be cool,” Kinley had told her over the phone, “but Brand can be a grump-ass sometimes.”

Not only that, but after talking with Quinn Mayne, the lead singer, Lexi got the impression that if the contract wasn’t worded exactly to his liking, the deal would be off. Thankfully, she’d had a solid contract attorney draft it.

If everything went well at the studio, Lexi would be embarking on her first dream: creating a documentary on her favorite heavy metal band. And Kinley and Quinn both assured her that she would be able to start right away. First, they would give her a tour of the studio where they had recorded four of their five albums while Ramon filmed.

Then she’d spend the next week observing them hanging out, coaxing them into forgetting the camera and being themselves. That would need several takes. It was against human nature to ignore a camera, but Lexi had a talent for direction. That’s what her first teacher in film school said, anyway.

And Viciöus wouldn’t be the first band she’d filmed. Though they were the first major one. But at the end of the day, they were people who were living life and doing a job like all the others she’d filmed. Lexi needed to keep that in mind so she didn’t get star struck. It helped when she remembered that the lead guitarist, Kinley Black-Mayne, had gushed over her Thing Production’s documentary, Headbangers Abound, like Lexi was the big celebrity.

She allowed a brief sunburst of pride to swell in her chest. That had been the project that got her established. Her sixth film had won both local and national awards. The sight of the Emerald City and Seattle International Film Festival Audience Choice trophies still brought a lump to her throat every time she looked at them, even though the engraved pieces of glass had sat on her desk for six months. Even her mother, who’d done everything she could to discourage Lexi from pursuing filmmaking, had been bursting with praise.

Triumph poisoned with bitterness surged through Lexi’s being at the memory. After subjecting her to torture by forcing her to compete in child beauty pageants, and then engaged in teen torment with constant pressure to chase a modeling career, Marcia Adams had finally surrendered, allowing Lexi to pursue her dreams without further discouragement.

In cynical moments Lexi wondered if it really was the awards that made her mom stop telling her she’d chosen the wrong career, or if it was the fact that Lexi was pushing thirty.

Probably both.

And now Mom had latched on to a new mission to disrupt Lexi’s life. It had started subtly two years ago, with her throwing a dinner party every time Lexi came to visit. Dinner parties that happened to have a guest list that was disproportionately male. Then last year, Mom blatantly tried to set Lexi up on dates with the intention of her finding one to marry. Now she couldn’t have a single conversation with Mom without being asked when she’d be ready to settle down and give her some grandchildren.

Lexi wasn’t ready to settle down and might never be ready. Every time she’d tried to date, the man would want to put his needs first. Her first boyfriend had even forced her to choose between him and film school. Her second had wanted her to support his film career. And now that Lexi’s own career was finally taking off, she didn’t have time to look for a third.

That was for the best. Falling in love was the worst thing she could do at this stage. After having her mother try to hold her back her whole life, she wasn’t about to let a man do the same.

Ramon interrupted her reverie as he parked his Jeep. “We’re here.”

Lexi took a deep breath through her nose and nodded. “Here’s hoping for the start of another successful film.”

As they headed toward the studio entrance, Ramon turned to her with a sideways smile. “Here’s hoping we don’t make asses of ourselves. The guys in Viciöus are hot as hell.”

“They’re all straight and married,” Lexi reminded him.

Ramon wiggled his brows. “The bassist isn’t married.”

That’s right. Brand Kife was single. And he was indeed hot as hell. However, he wasn’t known as “the man who never smiles” for nothing. Lexi shrugged and smoothed her hair. “Brand’s the incarnation of Oscar the Grouch. I’ll be fine.”

But the moment she and Ramon entered the studio to greet the four heavy metal icons, Lexi met Brand’s hazel eyes and felt a jolt of potent heat.

Suddenly, she didn’t think things would go as smoothly as she’d hoped.

COLLAPSE

Tempting Beat

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Hearts of Metal Book 6

ISBN: 978-1720667803

YOU NEVER KNOW…

Bleeding Vengeance’s drummer, Roderick Powell knows he’s a sod for feeling glum, especially after moving into a beautiful new home in a smart Denver suburb. But all his mates are partnered or married, and dreadfully happy. It’s enough to make a rockstar rethink his options. And even though his sexy neighbor has given him the brush-off, he’s decided to have another go – at this point he has nothing left to lose, apart from his heart.

WHAT LIES BENEATH

Gwen Mason’s romantic past has been bumpier than most – twice divorced by thirty, she’s had enough of broken promises. An ER nurse who keeps a brutal schedule, she’s happy to become known as the neighborhood crazy cat lady. But…the most delicious man has moved next door. He’s British, he’s famous, he’s a rockstar. And, hard as she tries, Gwen can't keep Rod Powell from breaking all her rules, and suddenly she sees a future she never believed possible.

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Chapter One

Gwen bit back a cry of despair and closed her eyes against the hideous sight before her. Maybe she’d imagined it.

Nope. When she opened her eyes, the abomination gleamed in the soft, white light above her bathroom mirror. Still, Gwen reached up with tentative fingers, hoping the hideous thing would vanish.

It was long and crooked and had a stiff and unyielding texture. Her first gray hair; a blight among the blonde.

“Happy birthday,” she muttered to her reflection.

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The desolation in her voice made Gwen roll her eyes. The gray hair wasn’t a herald of doom. Turning thirty-five wasn’t the end of the world. She’d been through worse things, and other people endured far more terrible fates every day. Besides, she had two days off for the first time in months and had a relaxing day planned before a night out with her friends. All in all, a much better birthday than previous years. Like the first time her second ex-husband forgot her birthday and she’d sat at home, dressed to the nines, suffering in silence as he’d spent the afternoon in his office and then went out for a late meeting without even a kiss goodbye. It wasn’t long after that Gwen had learned he was having an affair. He never did remember her birthday after.

Gwen shook her head and stormed out of the bathroom before she started looking for wrinkles. More gloomy thoughts. She resolved to shrug them off as she tied the belt of her fuzzy bathrobe and went to the kitchen to make tea.

Once she was settled in her favorite chair with Alfredo, one of her four cats, on her lap, Gwen brought her favorite mug to her lips and sighed with bliss at the relaxing purring and the sweet taste of Earl Grey. Maybe staying single and being a crazy cat lady wouldn’t be so bad. After all, there were benefits to life without a man. She didn’t have to clean up after him. The TV wasn’t constantly blaring; she didn’t have to waste long hours wondering who he was with and when he’d come home. There was no one to criticize her body, or guilt trip her into catering to his whims, no one to squander her savings.

But there was also no one to talk to. No one to hold at night.

The screech of a semi-truck outside made Alfredo jump off her lap, stabbing her legs with his little claws. Tortellini and Ravioli scampered to the window while Linguine fled from Alfredo. Gwen tightened her grip on her mug as her tea sloshed in the cup and rose from her chair to investigate this disruption of her peace. Big trucks rarely came through her nice neighborhood in Lilac Grove, a secluded suburb outside of Denver.

When Gwen stepped out onto her porch, it seemed her neighbor, Mrs. Kersh, had the same idea. Gwen saw her striding across the street before Gwen looked over and saw the moving truck next door.

“Our new neighbor has finally arrived,” Mrs. Kersh said in a somewhat scolding tone, as if the new homeowner was tardy in taking up residence. “I do wish I’d been home to see more of the prospective buyers touring the property.”

Gwen nodded. As an ER nurse, she worked twelve-hour shifts alternating between three and four days a week and almost always on the weekends, when most people perused houses for sale. She’d been working during the open house, and also missed the people who came after to look at the home. “I hope whoever bought the place is a nice person.”

Mrs. Kersh huffed. “I hope they’re quiet and don’t have a dog. The last people were atrocious, leaving that mutt in the yard to yap all the time.”

The last people were also major jerks, Gwen thought as she watched the movers pile out of the truck and begin unloading furniture. Their barking dog and loud children had cost her precious hours of sleep. Still, she couldn’t help but give Mrs. Kersh a sideways smile and glance down at Molly, the little terrier that was ever at Mrs. Kersh’s side.

Mrs. Kersh’s eyes widened with blatant terror. “Oh no.”

An older silver Honda CR-V pulled behind the moving truck and a man got out with a happy smile and a proprietary gleam in his eyes as he met the moving truck with a fob of jingling keys.

Holy hotness. Gwen almost breathed the words aloud as her belly tilted at the sight of the man striding up the walkway of the house next door. Shoulder-length chocolate-brown hair framed a face that was worthy of a magazine cover. Gray eyes danced with a touch of mischief. His lips were arched and full, making it impossible not to think of kissing.

Which was something Gwen could never do, because aside from that not being neighborly, he was clearly too young for her. If he was older than twenty-five, Gwen would eat her scrubs.

“Oh no.” Gwen echoed Mrs. Kersh, though for a different reason. Was Gwen turning into a cougar?

As her eyes traced the tight curve of her new neighbor’s ass while he unlocked the front door, Mrs. Kersh harrumphed. “I hope he’s not a bachelor. Young men like that are always noisy. Throwing parties, having visitors at odd hours. He probably smokes marijuana.”

“It’s been legal here since twenty-twelve,” Gwen said in his defense. However, she agreed with her neighbor’s concern about loud parties. She’d lived next to bachelors before. But she’d never been tempted to pull their shirts over one of their heads and run her tongue down the length of their bodies. With shaking knees, she sat on the little bench swing and patted the cushion beside her in invitation for Mrs. Kersh to join her.

“Maybe he has family moving in as well.” Gwen struggled to maintain common sense. Surely a man that luscious wouldn’t be single.

“Maybe.” Mrs. Kersh latched onto Gwen’s words and pointed as a second car pulled up behind the man’s. “That could be them.”

Gwen’s gut instinct was almost certain that Mr. Hotness was the sole owner. Still, she watched the newcomers exit the vehicle with rapt curiosity.

Oh wow. Another good-looking man strode across the lawn toward the house. And this one was more what Gwen should be going for, even if he wasn’t as gorgeous as the first guy. The second man was super tall and thin, with long blond hair streaked with a few strands of silver. His blue-green eyes radiated a kindness that made up for the subdued handsomeness. Just as Gwen began to consider going over to introduce herself, a petite woman in her early twenties came up behind the tall man and threaded her arm around his waist, peering up at him with adoration. An engagement ring large enough to be seen from Gwen’s porch glittered on the adoring fiancée’s finger.

Of course. Gwen swallowed the bitter reminder that the dating market was shrinking for her every day due to so many men going for women half their ages. Who says she even needed a man anyway? They’d brought her nothing but frustration and heartache.

Another couple got out of the back of the newly arrived car and headed over to the moving truck. Gwen blinked at the third man’s calendar-worthy beauty and mane of dark curls. What was up with all these longhaired stud-muffins?

She got her answer as the men and women unloaded a drum kit from the back of the first man’s van. They were musicians.

“Oh dear,” Mrs. Kersh’s voice warbled as she clutched the handle of her teacup. “Drums?”

Gwen hid a sardonic smile with a sip from her own mug. It was doubtful that the older woman would hear them from across the street, but Gwen certainly would. “It could be worse.”

“I think it just got worse,” Mrs. Kersh whispered dramatically. “Look.”

After the movers wheeled the couches, chairs, and bed into the house, they began to unload enormous speaker cabinets.

The tall man approached the movers, and from his stern expression and firm gestures, he was clearly demanding caution and care.

Gwen’s eyes widened. “Do you think all five of them are moving into the place?”

“Lord, I hope not.” Mrs. Kersh’s lips thinned like a junior high schoolteacher’s. Suddenly she gasped. “The first one is coming this way.”

Sure enough, Mr. Hotness was striding up Gwen’s lawn with a smile that made her breath hitch. “Cheers, new neighbors. I’m Roderick Powell. I thought I’d introduce myself to you lovely ladies and get the rundown of the neighborhood.”

He had a British accent. Gwen nearly melted in her seat. It wasn’t fair. Her belly fluttered like an infatuated teenager’s as she rose on shaking legs and shook his hand.

“I’m Gwenda Mason.” Oh God, his grip was so warm and strong, and some delicious scent radiated from him. She fought to keep her head straight and not stammer. “I’m your next-door neighbor.” She cringed as his brow lifted with amusement at her stating the obvious. “I mean, ah…” She pointed at her other neighbor to clarify. “This is Mrs. Kersh. She lives across the street from me.”

Mrs. Kersh stiffened on the bench swing and gave him a stiff nod instead of a handshake. “Where are you from, Mr. Powell?”

“Los Angeles.” At her suspicious frown he added, “But I was born in Lancashire, England.”

“And what do you do?” she demanded, casting a baleful glare at one of his speaker cabinets being hauled up his walkway.

“I’m a drummer.” He confirmed their suspicions. “But don’t worry, I’m installing sound-proofing panels in my music room, which will be in the basement.” Roderick tossed the question back. “And what do you do, Mrs. Kersh?”

“I’m retired.” Mrs. Kersh said primly. “Are those others going to be living here as well?” She pointed at the other gorgeous men and the beautiful women beside them.

Roderick shook his head. “No, they’re only helping me move.” At Mrs. Kersh’s loud sigh of relief, he chuckled and turned to Gwen. “And what do you do, Gwenda?”

Her skin flushed under his gaze. “I’m a nurse.”

His grin broadened, revealing gleaming white teeth. “Hellooo, nurse!”

A startled laugh escaped her lips. “Did you just make an Animaniacs reference at me?” She’d grown up with that cartoon. For a moment she wondered how he knew about that old show, but then realized that it was probably streaming online somewhere.

He nodded, still grinning. “Sorry, luv. That was cheeky. Couldn’t help it.”

Mrs. Kersh sniffed in disapproval while heat flooded to Gwen’s face at the casual endearment. She should disapprove as well. Her young neighbor shouldn’t address her with flirtatious terms. That would get them off to a bad start. Yet she didn’t have the heart to reprimand him. Besides, it could be a Brit thing. It probably didn’t mean anything more than other English terms she’d heard like “ducky.”

Gwen changed the subject. “So you’re going to be living in that big house all alone?” At first it seemed like an odd thing, but then she remembered that she’d done the same. Yes, she’d been awarded the house in the divorce, but she could have sold the place and had a much smaller mortgage. For her, keeping the house was a matter of pride, comfort, storage, and the unspoken hope to maybe have room for someone else.

“I’ve had bigger,” he answered with a wink, though for a moment there was a flicker of pain in his gray eyes. “But yes, it will be only me, though my mates will probably come visit often since Kat and Klement,” he inclined his head toward the tall man and his fiancée, “are getting married when we’re done writing and recording our next album. Think it would be best to give the married couple a bit more privacy.”

Ah, so Klement’s place had probably been the party house for the band before he decided to settle down, and now the party would move to Roderick’s place. Right next door to Gwen. Dread weighted down her shoulders at the prospect of the noise and people vomiting in the lawn. Yet there was something else, a strange curiosity mingled with regret. The first time she’d married, she’d been only nineteen; the second time, she’d been twenty-seven. Between those failed ventures and the years it took to get her nursing degree, Gwen had never had the time to enjoy her twenties. They’d gone to waste.

Before the melancholy could recapture her, the rest of what Roderick said sank in. “You’re recording an album? I take it your band is successful.” She cursed herself for the idiotic words. For a career musician to be able to afford a four-bedroom house with a two-car garage in this neighborhood he would have to be successful.

Roderick shrugged. “We’re still composing the last few songs before we go into the studio, but yeah, we do all right for a metal band. We’ve had two gold albums and the last one went platinum.”

Gwen’s jaw dropped. She’d have a rock star living next door? “What’s your band’s name?” Maybe she’d heard of them.

“Bleeding Vengeance.” He looked amused as he answered. “Have you heard of us?”

Her mouth went dry as she recognized the name. “I’ve seen the T-shirts and heard ads on the radio.”

Roderick smirked. “Not a metalhead, I take it?”

Mrs. Kersh spoke first. “Certainly not.” She rose from the bench seat. “It is time I took my dog for a walk. I will bring you a copy of Lilac Grove’s city charter and the city council schedule. We have a noise ordinance.”

Roderick laughed under his breath as the old woman marched back across the street, her spine straight as an ironing board. Gwen tried not to melt under the rich sound of his deep chuckle. She shouldn’t approve of his mocking their neighbor, but to be honest, Mrs. Kersh’s prim matron act could be a little much sometimes. And Gwen was almost a hundred percent certain that it was an act. Especially after the time when they’d gotten drunk together on her porch.

But act or not, that wouldn’t help Rod if he annoyed Mrs. Kersh. Gwen was compelled to warn him. “Mrs. Kersh is the head of our city council. Although our neighborhood doesn’t have a homeowner’s association, there are some ordinances and such that she will leap on. Especially the noise ordinance.”

“Don’t worry, luv,” Rod said. “I won’t practice my drums or jam with my band at late hours. And I said, I’m installing soundproofing. Which I better get working on now before the movers put the furniture in the way.” He leaned forward, his eyes pure temptation. “We’re going to celebrate my move with beer and pizza once we have the place habitable. A pretty nurse would liven up the party. Would you like to join us?”

Pretty nurse? Gwen’s heart pounded against her ribs. Party with famous rock stars? Her? In addition to the overwhelming concept, another pulse of lust flared through her body at the sound of his sexy accent, and the delicious scent emanating from him. “That sounds like fun, but I already have plans with my friends tonight.” The effect he had on her compelled her to flee. “Maybe another time.”

Gwen turned and went back into her house, closing the door behind her with a sigh.

Damn, Rod’s offer had been tempting as hell. But she was too old to be drinking beer and eating pizza with a famous heavy metal band.

She was too old for him.

COLLAPSE

Forbidden Song

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Hearts of Metal Book 5

ISBN: 978-1983818530

Womanizing rock star, Cliff Tracey represents everything that has been forbidden to Christine Mayne, which only makes him a greater temptation, especially since she discovers he’s so much more than he pretends to be.

BREAKING FREE

After having one of the worst experiences a young teenager could endure at the hands of cruel musicians, Christine Mayne's rock star brother Quinn tried to lock her away from the world. She had to fight to live her life, go to college, get her master's and enter her PhD program. Now, she's determined to complete her research on group dynamics by touring with Bleeding Vengeance, even it means deceiving her brother and lying to the band's fabulous lead singer, Cliff Tracey.

Cliff Tracey hates being manipulated, lied to and deceived. He'd know, having gone through a string of exes who had done just that. When he thinks he's found a kindred spirit, and a beautiful babe to boot, imagine his surprise - and disappointment - when he learns she played him so she can tour with his band to complete her PhD. When he finds out why, he knows he's in double trouble because Quinn Mayne will kill anyone who touches his sister, and Cliff Tracey has all sorts of plans for Christine Mayne that involves more than either of them ever expected.

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Cliff fought not to glance back at the closed partition door as Klement talked to the roadies about the show’s sound and lights. Christine was being quiet as a mouse, but it was only a matter of time before the others discovered her. A twinge of worry gnawed at his gut. He hoped Klement wouldn’t be too pissed about his stowaway.

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His jaw clenched at the childish sentiment. Fuck Klement if he was. The guy was too controlling with how the band worked as it was. Klement wasn’t his father and had no say on his social life. If Klement could have his chick on the bus, Cliff should be able to have one too. Okay, so far Christine didn’t seem interested in being “his chick,” but he hoped that after a time he could persuade her to change her mind. She was like a gift dropped in his lap: beautiful, smart, sympathetic to the trials he had to face in his work. And most of all, she was a challenge, since she wasn’t in his lap.

Not yet.

Of course, maybe that’s where he’d fucked up with Kat. He’d just assumed she’d tumble into his bed like the last ones. Cliff had enjoyed the chase with his first few girlfriends, but as his fame grew, all prospect of pursuit faded. Women lined up to be with him on any terms.

Well, Christine had terms; that was clear. He just needed to find out what they were.

He had a feeling he would enjoy meeting them.

Roderick started to head towards the back of the bus. Shit. They’d only gone about twelve miles. He’d hoped to hold off the big reveal until at least thirty, or until they were out of cell service.

“Hey, Rod,” Cliff said, frantic to distract him. “What did you think of Deity’s set?”

“It was pretty cool,” the drummer said, eyebrows knitting at the abrupt question. “I liked the new song, though I haven’t made my mind up on the percussion.”

Kat elbowed him. “Oh, it was great and you know it. And so romantic of him to write a song based on one of Shana’s books.”

“I suppose.” Rod snickered. “I still can’t believe he ended up with a lady who writes bodice rippers.”

“They are not bodice rippers!” Kat shouted, poking Rod in the chest as the roadies laughed. Cliff took a step back. He’d learned really fast that you did not flip Kat shit for her choice of reading material. She may be tiny, but she was fierce.

Kat continued her tirade. “They are historically accurate stories that have a happily-ever-after and depict strong women who get what they want and men who encourage their empowerment. Dante’s smart enough to see that.”

Klement chuckled. “All right, you two. Break it up.”

Kat sighed. “Fine. But he really should read a romance novel before knocking them. In fact, I have one in the back that he’d—”

Cliff intervened. “Give it up, Kat. Rod doesn’t read books period.”

“I do too. I just don’t read fiction,” Rod retorted, rubbing his wrist. “Anyway, my hand is killing me. I wanna grab my compression sleeve.”

Cliff stepped in front of the door. “Why don’t we smoke a bowl first?”

“Yeah,” chimed in Steve, the light tech.

Rod paused. “Do you have any this time, or are you intending on begging from Klem’s stash again?”

“I have my own,” Cliff said, trying not to sound defensive, knowing Christine could hear. He didn’t want her to think he was a mooch. “And I don’t beg off of him. He’s just generous.”

“I have my own too,” said Greg, the sound engineer. “Got some sticky chronic from the weed store. God, I love Washington.”

Cliff gave Rod a pointed look and silently blessed the roadie.

They all settled on the bench seats and around the little kitchen table, but as Cliff loaded a bowl, taking as much time as possible, he forgot a vital fact: Kat didn’t smoke weed.

He froze with the lighter in his hand as she got up from the bench seat and headed to the partition door. “Kat, wait.”

She stopped and turned with a quizzical look. “What? I’m just grabbing my laptop.”

“I…um…” He scrambled for a distraction to keep her up front, but nothing came.

She shook her head and opened the door. Then gasped.

Cliff flinched.

“What are you doing back here?” Kat demanded.

“Cliff said I could tag along.” Christine’s voice was shaky and defensive. “You know, for my research paper.”

Klement bolted up from his seat looking furious. He met Kat in the doorway and glared in Christine’s direction. “God damn it, Chrissy!”

Chrissy? Cliff frowned. Did Klement know her already?

Klement rounded on Cliff, his eyes narrowed to slits. “Quinn is going to fucking kill you.” He closed his eyes and brushed his hand over his face as if the world were ending. “He’s going to kill all of us.”

Cliff blinked, confused. He’d only had two beers and no hit off the pipe yet. “What does Quinn have to do with Christine being on the road with us?”

Klement’s words came like a punch in the stomach. “She’s his baby sister.”

COLLAPSE

Metal and Mistletoe

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Hearts of Metal, Book 4

ISBN: 978-1541155169

Fighting the darkness of their pasts, talented heavy metal musicians Curtis Scrimm and Dezra Hopkins seek holiday solitude but find each other.

A HOLIDAY REDEMPTION

Curtis Scrimm and Dezra Hopkins have lived both the highs and the lows of life—literally. They’ve both known the joy of performing to hordes of screaming fans and the horror of betraying all that they love and admire. They’ve both just gotten out of rehab.

But things are always darkest before the dawn, and with this Christmas comes redemption. It arrives in an unlikely place, in the solitary and deadly beauty of Yellowstone Park. It comes in the form of desperation and unquenchable desire, though things are never so black and white. The spark is a good bass line, the hottest lick from an electric guitar, and a primalistic roar like a furious lioness, and it will ignite an inferno of inspiration that both had been seeking. But that flame needs to be fanned. Curt and Dezra can nurture it with each other. Then they’ll need to find enough trust to make it burn forever.

Rock God

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Hearts of Metal, Book 3

ISBN: 978-1539113737

 

Fleeing tragedy and infidelity, twenty-five-year-old Shayna Jones takes the longest walk of her life—which ends with her in the protective and possessive arms ofheavy metal music’s hottest commodity, Dante Deity.

HE’S THE BEST THERE IS

Dante Deity is revered by everyone who knows anything about heavy metal music, and he’s respected by everyone else. Rich, handsome, and successful, he has a voice like velvet-wrapped lightning and an ability to juggle numerous philanthropic ventures and still crank out hits. When he’s on tour, music is his life. When he’s taking a break, he’s thinking about his next tour—or working on a project that helps him forget he’s alone. In front of him lies his next endeavor.

SHE’S READY TO BE MORE

Shayna Jones is fleeing her past. Tragedy, infidelity, heartbreak: the twenty-five year old has suffered it all. She was strong enough to run, however, like a spunky heroine from one of her novels, and soon she’ll be flying...just as soon as she can walk again. But this time she has help. Unlike her abusive ex-husband or her bullying mother, the man standing before her is determined she succeed. In fact, Dante commands it. But while his intensity and generosity can easily win her heart, to gain her trust a man must first prove she’s something worth worshipping. Even—or especially—a rock god.

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Shayna continued walking, focusing every cell of her being into placing one foot in front of the other. Her feet had been numb for the last few miles, but now the pain returned with unbearable virulence. When it rained, her hair slapped against her cheeks like soaked whips, and the remains of her socks squelched in her shoes. Then the sun would come out and the asphalt would scorch her feet through the holes in her soles.

She didn’t know how many miles she’d covered, or how long she’d been walking. Had it been two weeks, or three? Time had blurred since she set out on that first day, when the last thread of her life had been lopped off.

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As her shambling steps carried her forward, her torn shoes resembled toothless mouths. They made dull fwapping sounds as she walked. People moved out of her way on the sidewalk, the streetlights reflecting their hostile stares. Shayna knew she looked like hell, but she didn’t care. Her only focus was finding a place to lie down before she fell. Every blister pierced her feet like hot irons. Even walking on the sides of her arches no longer helped.

The blisters broke. A weak whimper escaped her lips, but she continued walking. The pain in her feet was preferable to the agony of her memories; in fact, she welcomed it. Unfortunately, her body’s ability to cooperate dwindled with every throbbing step. She needed to rest and maybe decide what to do.

As if the skies mocked her predicament, it began to rain again. So much for sunny California.

The ground suddenly pulsed under her feet, sending fresh jolts of pain from her toes to her skull. At first Shayna thought it was an earthquake, but then her head cleared and she heard faint music. There must be a concert going on in the stadium up ahead. As she drew nearer, the music was more audible, calling her like the Pied Piper’s flute. Shayna avoided the parking lot and headed toward the rear of the building, keeping an eye out for security guards who would no doubt run her off if she got too close.

She found a dark alcove shielded from the rain. There she sat down, her feet screaming as she rested her head against the concrete wall. She could hear the crowd cheering as a new song began, and the music was enticingly familiar. She’d heard the song before, a long time ago. In another lifetime. And the singer… God, his voice was beautiful. Shayna closed her eyes and gave herself over to aching nostalgia and bittersweet dreams.

When she woke, the music had stopped. Shayna thought it was the silence that roused her, but then a pair of dark shadows fell over her.

“Want some company, lady?” a drunken voice slurred.

Shayna’s eyes snapped open, and her soon-to-be attackers vanished into the light of the hospital room.

Hospital?

A nurse leaned over her and smiled, speaking words that Shayna only partially understood. Fatigue, dehydration, something about her feet… Confusion, a side effect. But a side effect of what?

Hoping she sounded coherent, Shayna struggled to ask how she’d gotten here. The nurse beamed and explained that a man had rescued her. Slowly, Shayna understood more of what was being said. Did Shayna want to thank the man?

Reflexively, she nodded. Shayna’s mother always said to express gratitude.

A shadowy figure filled the doorway, and a tremor of trepidation shimmied down Shayna’s spine. Suddenly, the idea of thanking her rescuer didn’t seem like a good one. The world still blurred in and out of focus. Who was he? What did he want? What if she made a fool of herself?

“Hello, Shayna,” the man said. “How are you feeling?”

His voice warmed her more than the thin hospital blanket. Shayna struggled to sit up, wincing as an IV dug into her arm. It took all of her willpower to get her eyes to focus on her visitor, but she managed. With his long black hair and chain-bedecked leather outfit, he should look dangerous, but he didn’t. If anything, he was handsome. Too damn handsome. Dark curls framed a chiseled face that reminded her of a movie star’s. Bright, friendly blue eyes with only a trace of laugh lines glimmered in harmony with a smile that made her belly flutter.

He was of medium height and slim, yet his presence felt larger. There was also something familiar about him, but that was probably her memory of his rescue trying to surface.

“I’m alright, considering.” Her voice came out groggy and cracked, but at least it was intelligible. “They said you paid my copay and offered to cover everything that the insurance won’t. I can’t thank you enough. I’ll pay you back.”

“Don’t worry about it,” the man said, obviously not believing she was capable of handling her debt.

The amusement in his eyes gave her a twinge of annoyance. She was half tempted to explain that she had a few thousand dollars of book royalties put away, but it seemed ridiculous to claim she was an author when she didn’t know if she could ever bring herself to write again.

“Really,” she protested, desperate to assert she wasn’t completely helpless. “When I get out of here—”

“About that,” the man interrupted, plopping down in the chair by the bed. “I’ve decided that you’re coming home with me.”

COLLAPSE

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This is the song Dante sings to Shayna.

With Vengeance

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Hearts of Metal, Book 2

ISBN: 978-1533363077

SHE MEANS BUSINESS

Twenty-three year old Katana James can shred on the guitar. Not that anyone would know, as she’s spent most of her time working on a popular news and gossip website for Heavy Metal fans since her own band broke up. But her dreams are in reach when she gets an audition to play with her favorite band, Bleeding Vengeance. Kat won’t let her gender, her anxiety disorder, or even the pranks of a malicious stalker stand in her way. The only thing to threaten her focus? A growing fascination with the group’s brilliant, mysterious bass player.

HE OFFERS PLEASURE

Klement Burke has always been the heart, soul and brain of Bleeding Vengeance. He’s the kind of rock star who stays in the shadows, a perfectionist more interested in satisfying his brain than other parts of his body. Until he auditions Katana James. At first it seemed a perfect idea, as he’s been aware of her talent for some time. But meeting her in the flesh ignites thoughts far from professional. Despite the conflict of work, the odds against her falling for a geek like him, and the secret he’s been hiding, his heart, body and soul now belong to Kat.

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All three members of Bleeding Vengeance watched Katana’s swaying hips and deliciously curved ass as she walked out the door. Klement tried not to look—it wasn’t professional—but hell, he was a guy. And she was a lot more attractive than he’d expected, with her wavy black hair, ebony eyes, and exquisite figure.

Cliff whistled. “Damn, I could hit that all night long. What do you think, Klem? Should we keep her?”

Klement nodded. “Yes, but not so you can bang her. I want to get some actual work done. Katana has all of our songs down better than our other candidates. So for fuck’s sake keep your hands to yourselves and maybe we can get this album recorded on time.”

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Cliff’s eyes narrowed, and his chin jutted out like a rooster’s beak. “You may call the shots in the studio, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fuck her brains out when we’re off the job.”

“That’s correct,” Klement replied mildly, though the mental image made his fists clench. “I don’t give a shit what you do as long as you put out a decent album and keep your nose and veins clean. After Lefty, I just can’t.”

Cliff’s competitive aggression fled as fresh grief settled onto his features like a funeral shroud. “I know, man. And I haven’t touched the dope since, I swear.”

Roderick cut in. “I miss Lefty too, but we still haven’t figured out who’s going to replace him.”

“If Katana works out…”

Cliff snorted. “Oh, c’mon, the studio is one thing, but onstage? I mean, we can’t have a chick guitarist. We’d be a laughingstock.”

Klement crossed his arms. “You’ve heard her shred. She has Lefty’s riffs nailed to the point where she sounds just like him. Are you telling me you’d rather have a substandard guitarist just to appease the more sexist faction of our fan base?”

The singer frowned. “I think more than just a faction would be pissed.”

“They’re going to be pissed no matter who we tour with, because it won’t be Lefty. I want to at least replace him with someone good,” Klement countered. “Besides, I think most fans aren’t as shallow as you’re making them out to be. Rage of Angels has been outselling us since they debuted, and they’re three chicks and a gay guy.” Klement envied the latter, in fact. The kid was an incredible bass player.

Shaking his head, he ticked off his list. “There’s also Otep, Halestorm, Warlock, and many others. White Zombie had a female bassist until Rob Zombie went solo. And don’t forget that when Kat’s friend Kinley stepped in for Viciӧus she upped their sales by twenty percent, despite all the shit-talking on Rocktalk’s site.”

“Okay, I get your point.” Cliff ran a hand through his hair. “So you think she’ll do good for us?”

“Maybe. If she can handle herself on a big stage. She’s only played small shows in clubs, but you’ve all seen the videos of her performing.” God she was so vibrant, so alive, so—

Roderick interrupted that dangerous line of thought. “Yes, she’s a talent, in more ways than one, but only on the vids. In here she resembled a bloody wax statue.”

“That’s because those songs are new to her,” Klement argued. “Not to mention the fact that this is her first time in a studio. She was too busy concentrating on playing the songs right, not on having fun with ’em, which is what we need from her at the moment. Then we can see if she loosens up enough to give a good show.” He prayed that she could. He didn’t want to audition another guitarist. He wanted Kat.

The intensity of his desire gave him pause.

Because she’s talented, he reiterated to himself.

Cliff waggled his eyebrows. “Ten bucks says she gives me a good show tonight.”

Roderick offered his hand to shake. “I’ll take that bet.”

“C’mon, Rod.” Cliff laughed. “You know they always go for the singer. Quinn got a piece of her friend. Now it’s my turn.”

The drummer frowned. “Hey, now, some of the ladies pick me first. They lovemy accent. You can’t compete with that, Yank.”

Klement rolled his eyes at both of them. “I’ll see you guys at my place. When you get there, just come in. I got a tech support call.”

Cliff shook his head in bemusement. “I don’t know why you still bother with that shit. It’s not like you need the money. What are you worth now, twenty-six million?”

“I’ve been working with some of these clients for years,” Klement answered over his shoulder, already heading out the door. “It doesn’t feel right to ditch them. Besides, we probably won’t be famous forever. Eventually we’ll go out of style—or, if we’re lucky, just get too old. I like having something to fall back on.” Okay, his client base had been pared down to his sisters and one lonely website, so it wasn’t exactly making him money anymore, and he really didn’t need anymore money, but whatever.

The door closed on Cliff’s response.

Klement crossed the parking lot to his ’58 Suburban, fighting off annoyance. He knew Cliff would probably win his bet and seduce Katana. He’d seen the way she’d looked at the singer, and he hated the sinking feeling he’d gotten when he saw it. He wasn’t supposed to care. The last thing he needed was to get involved with their new recording guitarist.

Besides, at thirty-five he, was probably too old for her, and with all of his issues, he wasn’t suited for a relationship anyway.

At least he didn’t have much to worry about in that respect. Cliff was right. Theyalways went for the singer first. It had gotten to the point where it wasn’t even satisfying to hook up with the groupies, knowing they were just settling for him. He wasn’t usually too bothered, but for some reason Kat’s crush on Cliff stuck in his craw. She’d even listed Cliff as #1 on her website list of Top Ten Hottest Rock Stars. He himself hadn’t made the list.

Klement’s stomach knotted. Quinn had been at the top of Kinley’s list. Now those two were together. Was it an omen?

The flatlands gave way to pine trees, cliffs, and hills as he left Denver. His Suburban rallied up the treacherous terrain. The winding roads seemed to match his vacillating thoughts.

None of us should be fucking her, anyway. That’ll cause us even more problems that we don’t need. I’m just glad she nailed her audition so I didn’t have to break her heart by telling her she couldn’t be part of the band.

Besides, at least I have a good friendship with her, even if she doesn’t know it.He wondered what she’d do if she found out exactly who had been providing tech support for Metalness.com ever since the site first went live.

Shortly after passing a sign that read Welcome to Dark Score, population: 130, his Suburban climbed a steeply inclined driveway. Pressing the button to open the gates at the top, he pulled up in front of his five-car garage. There he couldn’t help but wonder if Katana had a vehicle able to make the same trek as she’d need to do to come over later.

He set his keys on the cluttered kitchen counter and made coffee before heading into his giant office with a view of the Rockies. Firing up his computer, he logged in as administrator to Metalness.com and assessed the problem. Yup, their comments section was under attack by spammers again.

Turning his phone to speaker, he dialed the website owner’s number. When she answered, Kat’s soft voice seemed to caress him.

“Hi, IT Guy.”

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Elizabeth Ramsay on The Romance Reviews wrote:

What happens when your big break brings you true love?

Katana James runs the heavy metal blog Metalness but her dream is to be in a successful band. When Bleeding Vengeance contacts her with a chance to audition for lead guitar, it's a dream come true. She has a shot at being a star and being near her idol, lead singer Cliff.

Klement Burke is the bassist for Bleeding Vengeance. He also has a connection to Kat and knows that her music is just what his band needs to pull them out of their slump. If only he didn't have to constantly remind himself that Kat is a colleague, not his girlfriend, everything would be perfect. After all, there's no real point in putting the moves on her when she's always had a thing for Cliff, is there?

Kat knows within three seconds of meeting Cliff that some men are better admired from afar. Klem, however, gets better the closer she gets to him. When she accidentally ingests a "special" cupcake and it gives her panic attacks, Klem is there for her. He also saves her car after someone puts sugar in the gas tank. Kat can't help comparing Klem to her last boyfriend and thinking how much further ahead he comes out. When they finally let their feelings take over everything seems perfect, but someone doesn't want Kat to be happy. Can Klem protect his girl or will he lose her just as he's finding her?

WITH VENGEANCE explores the importance of building trust within relationships. Klem and Kat each have issues in their past that they have to overcome before they can find each other. Brooklyn Ann paints a believable picture of Kat's PTSD. She also gives enough background for her characters that they read like real people. It is nice to read a book where characters have histories and hobbies as it makes them more realistic. The snippets where the story is told from the stalker's point of view let the reader understand his motivation and enhance the storyline.

The novel grabs you from the first line and doesn't let you go. A stay up all night read.


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The Romance Review

Kissing Vicious

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Hearts of Metal, Book 1

ISBN: 978-1942886792

Aspiring guitarist Kinley Black is about to get her first big break—as a roadie for Viciöus, her favorite heavy metal band, and for the rock god she always dreamt might make her a woman.

THE ROADIE

At 15, aspiring guitarist Kinley Black wished she were a boy. At 16, after hearing Quinn Mayne sing, she wanted him to make her a woman. Now, at 22, her dreams have come true. Quinn’s band Viciöus needs someone to lug their amps around the country, to strive and sweat with the guys. She just has to act like one of them.

AND THE ROCK GOD

Quinn had to admit the new chick could pull her weight, but that didn’t mean his road manager made the right choice. Taking a hottie on a heavy metal music tour was like dangling meat in front of a pack of feral hounds—and Quinn could be part dog himself. But more surprising than her beautiful body are Kinley’s sweet licks, so that no man could help but demand a jam session. Quinn will soon do anything to possess her, and to put Kinley in the spotlight where she belongs. And to keep her safe and sound from the wolves.

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“C’mon, baby, just let me feel ’em and I’ll let you through.” The leering roadie uncrossed his arms to reach forward.

Kinley choked back a groan of revulsion and stepped away.

Her pulse had been jacked up, her steps light with anticipation as she’d gone backstage to interview her favorite band. This interview would be her website’s biggest feature to date.

And now this asshole roadie was ruining her elation with his disgusting come-ons.

“It’s not the seventies anymore. Let me through.” She waved her laminated pass. “I have a scheduled interview.”

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There. That was as diplomatic as she could be. It wouldn’t do to piss off the crew if she wanted to talk to the band, but this Neanderthal made it hard to be nice. With any luck, he’d back off and badger someone else. But considering those piggy eyes and that “Female Body Inspector” shirt, a woman would have to be desperate to allow his grimy fingers near her. The fact that a band as awesome as Viciöus had such a prick in their employ was beyond depressing.

She sighed. After she got her interview, it would all be worth it. Her ears still pounded from the glorious shredding guitar riffs, the throbbing bass, and the impossible speed of the drums. They had been gods on stage and now she was going to meet them.

“Sorry, sugar. Rules are rules. I gotta make sure the band’s getting Grade A titties.” With speed belying his sluggish appearance, he shoved those sausage fingers forward, reaching for her breasts. She swatted his hand away.

Fury boiled from her toes up. “If you touch me again, I’ll wipe the floor with your ass.”

The roadie’s laughter, like from a cheesy sitcom, rang in her ears. “Sounds kinky.” The moron actually stepped closer.

Kinley rolled her eyes. If it weren’t for this once-in-a-lifetime chance, she would have answered him with an uppercut. “A little help here?” she shouted, trying to salvage the situation.

The mass of gawkers muttered and looked in all directions, avoiding her gaze. Some asshole in the crowd yelled, “Show your tits!”

The roadie grinned and nodded in agreement.

“Thanks,” she muttered, embittered but unsurprised.

After what seemed like hours of dancing out of the caveman’s reach, a man approached. Her eyes widened. It was none other than Curtis Scrimm, lead guitarist of Viciöus.

He pushed his dirty blond locks from his face and grinned. “What’s going on?”

She struggled to meet his gaze while keeping one eye on the roadie. “I have a pass, but this guy’s molesting me and won’t let me through. Could you please tell him to stop?”

Kinley waved her laminate in case he hadn’t noticed. He leaned forward and gazed at it with squinty, glazed eyes.

Damn. If he was high, he’d be no help at all.

The roadie gave him a pleading look. “C’mon, Curt, she won’t play the game.”

Curt shrugged helplessly, eyes darting between Kinley and the roadie, then back at the swarm of groupies visibly panting after him. One already had her breasts bared.

“I’m serious,” Kinley growled. “I’ll kick his ass if he touches me again.”

Her harasser licked his lips. “Oooh. I like it when they fight.”

The guitarist shook his head, blinking at the roadie. “Harry, are you drunk on the job again? I thought Gaffer warned you. Besides, she doesn’t look like she has much anyway…” He trailed off as the groupies slinked closer, eyes feral with curiosity.

Kinley’s chest tightened with trepidation. Where were the other security guys? Where was the rest of the band?

The roadie reached for her again.

She jumped out of his way, stomach churning with anxiety. Then again, maybe it was a good thing the rest of the band wasn’t here to witness this disaster. The situation was quickly getting out of control. And it looked like she wouldn’t be getting her interview after all.

“I’ll fuck him up,” she stammered, flipping her braid over her shoulder. “I swear!”

Curtis chuckled, eyes roving over her body, visibly assessing her odds. Though she was tall and fit, she was lean, and the roadie outweighed her by at least eighty pounds. “Lady, if you can kick Harry’s ass, you can have his job.”

Her breath left her lungs. Kinley had been prepared to just break the roadie’s nose and walk out, but now the proverbial carrot had been dangled.

A chance to work for Viciöus? Hell, a chance to be back in music?

A wave of longing rushed over her to once more be part of it all. For that pump of adrenaline, the roar of the crowd, the heat of the stage lights—the soul searing passion of the music. To return to that life, even if only on the fringes, Kinley would do anything.

Beating this perverted scumbag to a pulp would be no hardship.

She dropped into a fighting stance and slightly relaxed her fists, the better to do more damage.

One last time, she tried for diplomacy. “As much as I’d love to work for you, it really would be better to call him off and let me—”

Harry’s porcine hand gripped her breast.

Kinley saw red.

Her fist connected with the roadie’s nose and she felt the satisfying crunch. He bellowed like a boar and blindly swung a ham-like fist.

Kinley easily ducked the punch and followed up with a knee to his gut.

He doubled over with an agonized groan but surprised her with an uppercut that thankfully missed her jaw and instead struck the side of her head. Kinley stumbled back, one ear ringing from the blow, the other echoing from the noise of her audience. Are those cheers or jeers?

Her mind struggled to unscramble. Another punch whistled past her head and she dodged it just in time. Her heel slammed into Harry’s kneecap and he went down shrieking.

This time Kinley didn’t give him a chance to recover. Her fists pummeled his face like the punching bag she practiced on in her garage.

Savage glee infused her with every strike. He collapsed after another blow to the jaw, but she wasn’t finished. Kinley raised her fist.

A voice rang out: “What the fuck is going on here?”

She froze. Quinn Mayne, lead singer of Viciöus, strode forward, his long black hair framing a chiseled, god-like face with green eyes foreboding as a hurricane sky.

Reality crashed down upon her. Suddenly, she could see how insane she must appear.

Heart pulsing, Kinley released the unconscious roadie. His skull thudded on the cement floor as her lips quavered to form a response.

Quinn was her hero. She’d had a full-on crush on him for years. The man was capable of brilliant vocals and shredding guitar riffs—not to mention his stormy good looks. Securing an interview with him had been a dream come true. And now she’d turned it into a nightmare.

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Reviews:Lial on The Romance Reviews wrote:

She wanted to be a boy so she could play music like her favorite musicians. Her later sexual desires to be with some of those musicians changed that idea fast. Kinley is a women with dreams that she has never given up on. Music is her joy and she turns to it when she needs to escape and be free. She is not going to do anything to jeopardize her opportunity to be on the road with one of her favorite bands, even if it means denying her heart.

I am going to start off with an admission. I am not a huge fan of a lot of many of the rock star romances. They seem to have the same kind of story with just a slight difference from the others. Most have lots of random hook-ups and characters with not a lot of self-respect. They get jealous all the time and have these screaming matches. After reading KISSING VICIOUS, I have decided to give the genre another try. This book was totally different from the others I have read and really captured my interest with the strong characters and not the usual rocker types that frequent the genre.

The first major difference is the main characters, Kinley and Quinn. Kinley is a strong woman who has a lot of respect for herself and her career. She was in a metal cover band but that broke up, and she and her best friend run a website devoted to the fans of metal music. She has a tough childhood with a father that wanted her to be more like his deceased wife and be devoted to family and home. He had no respect for her musical abilities and anything he did not consider feminine. Kinley deliberately took on male typical jobs and did her own thing. She hasn't had a lot of success with men so she focuses on work.

When the opportunity presents itself for her to be in the crew, she doesn't hesitate to pack her bags and head out with them. She has always had a crush on Quinn but knows pursing any member of the band would cause an issue with the others. Instead of being a professional, she would be just a groupie or maybe even another Yoko who breaks up the band.

Quinn is the leader of the band. He is not spending all his time with women and drugs and drinking. He is focused on making the band a success and creating good music for the fans. He is actually very protective of women due to an incident in the past. He wants to keep Kinley safe and worries that the all male band and crew won't be open to her joining the ranks so he keeps an eye on her at all times. He is also dealing with his feelings for her. Quinn really likes and admires her as well as being attracted to her. She stands out from the rest. When the feelings are too hard to resist, he does everything he can to respect Kinley's wishes. Quinn is smart, honest, kind, and sexy and just the kind of man any woman would want in their life.

The author really focuses on developing all the characters and the story. There is a lot of description of time on the road and the work the crew does to make each event a success. There is no rush to push Kinley and Quinn together so the attraction simmers for quite awhile and is all that much sweeter when it does happen. The reader gets to see Kinley grow as she takes on new roles and gets the respect of those around her.

There is also a call for more equality in the music industry. The author works in the idea of women needing to be better represented. There are plenty of women fans but not many women on the stage or in the studio. It is great that the author was able to push that issue along without compromising the storyline.

This is not your usual rocker romance. The girl is not waiting for the lead singer to see her in the audience and fall in love (or lust). Kinley just wants an opportunity to be true to herself and be part of the music she loves. When her feelings for Quinn could destroy that dream, she faces a real conflict. There are some very dangerous situations some of them face and even during adversary they stand strong. I thank the author for creating strong characters and taking a different course from usual. We really need more strong characters like Kinley and Quinn in the romance genre.


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Teaser Graphic:

 

Teen Playing Guitar

Soundtrack:

Brooklyn Ann