Scarlet moved through the crowded room like she owned it. Tonight she wasn’t barely noticeable Claire Davis. Tonight she was a paid seductress on the arm of one of the most famous men in the world.
She smoothed a manicured hand down her simple-but-exclusive white sheath dress, and checked her upswept hair remained in place. And all the while she smiled at the strangers her client, Amos Drynn, lead singer of Frankenstein’s Blood, acknowledged with a vague nod of his head.
Many of those strangers were groupies and fans of Frankenstein’s Blood. Many of those same fans were also the crème de le crème of the rich and elite, attending this latest good cause.
Tonight’s charity auction was as much famed for its items up for bid as it was for its huge fundraising. Tonight Frankenstein’s Blood were the main drawcard, and had on offer a one-hour performance for the highest bidder.
With all proceeds going to cancer research, it was a cause that touched her deeply. Her heart ached in an all too familiar way. It’d been a little over six years since her single mother had lost her fight against breast cancer, leaving behind three daughters, two of whom were twins and just barely in their teens.
“Don’t look so serious,” Amos teased, his muscled, tattooed arm pulling her close. “I don’t pay you for that.”
She pushed away the ache and arched a fine brow. “I’m also not paid to perform a blow job in front of three hundred people.”
His lips curled into a grin, but before he had a chance to reply, a young woman with a pierced brow and nose ring brushed up against him. Her silver-studded thigh-high boots concealed more than her cut-off shorts and sparkly bikini top. “Here’s my number,” she crooned, pressing a slip of paper into his hands. “Call me anytime.”
Amos declined, pushing past the woman of questionable age even as he muttered, “Unfortunately that young lady would do it for free.”
Scarlet hid a grimace. She could fully understand why women came onto Amos. Even without his rock star status, he was gorgeous. But it didn’t mean she’d join the queue in giving away her sexual expertise.
She had bills to pay, and sisters who relied on her—even more so now that they attended university.
Besides, the rock singer hired her not to service his carnal needs—he had any number of available groupies for that. Scarlet was little more than a professional front, a paid escort Amos wanted only to look pretty on his arm and to conduct half-decent social chitchat.
Unlike Mackenzie Smitherson. She shivered. That man had wanted more than a little from her. He’d taken her all. Again and again. And though he mightn’t have tattoos and revealed only a business persona, she’d learned firsthand he didn’t hold back in the bedroom.
He was as uninhibited as any wild rock star.
She turned to Amos, smiling at the singer’s tough physique and big, inked, biceps. Strangely enough, she was comfortable with him, and liked the fact the bedroom didn’t feature in their business transaction. Being with him was like hanging out with a big brother.
He paused, giving her a wink before he tucked a hand behind her head and pressed his lips to hers in a kiss that deliberately lingered.
Maybe not quite a big brother.
She leaned into him, going along with the charade that he was taken for the night. She held back a sigh. Although he was a great kisser, there was no spark, no magic in the act.
Not like she’d had with Mackenzie.
You have to stop thinking about that man!
She drew back, her face flushed. But not from the kiss … far from it. Dwelling on Mackenzie and his bedroom skills was enough to send her knees weak and her pulse hammering. And that was despite the fact that after seven years in the sex industry she was becoming jaded.
“Are you okay?” Amos asked, his light blue eyes assessing.
She nodded. He paid her to put on an act, and that was what she’d do. “Never better.”
Amos frowned. But before he could question her further, a paunchy, middle-aged man in a suit with a red bow tie approached him. “Sir, the auction is about to start.”
Amos nodded and clasped her hand before they followed the older man into the hotel’s auditorium. He leaned down and murmured, “Front row seats. Not too shabby.”
He took a seat next to his equally famous band members, and she took the one next to him. She leaned her head against his shoulder and he drew an arm around her shoulders.
Her being with him mostly kept the groupies at bay, even as it added to his public persona. It was almost a given that a rock star had a different lover every week. A pity the media had already publicized them being together five times in the last six weeks. It meant their time together was coming to an end.
He’d probably hire another of the girls from the escort agency she worked for. Any one of her agency friends would be delighted by the easy money. Maybe she’d suggest Natalie. The blonde hadn’t been herself since admitting to being in love with a married man who was seventeen years her senior. It would do Natalie good to spend some time with someone fun-loving and easygoing like Amos.
The bidding on a ten-day holiday on the Greek Islands commenced and Scarlet’s introspection faded as she lost herself in the electric atmosphere. The holiday and each successive item sold for far more than their worth and she speculated whether people were bidding only to outdo one another and show off their wealth.
But it wasn’t until the bidding started for the final item, the performance from Frankenstein’s Blood, that her senses prickled. The hairs on the back of her neck lifted even before she turned and locked eyes with a man standing at the back of the room.
Her pulse fluttered as his dark, almost black eyes burned into hers. A potent mix of primal need and stark obsession. It was everything she felt for him and then some … the same everything that had scared her away.
Her belly clenched. Her nipples tightened. Heat swept through her, no doubt flushing her pale-as-pale skin.
“Are you sure everything’s okay?” Amos asked, his breath warm on her ear as he leaned close.
Mackenzie’s eyes narrowed, a muscle jerking into life in his cheek before she tore her stare away and focused on Amos. “That’s the second time you’ve had to ask me that.” She managed a smile. “I’ll have to give you a refund at this rate.”
Amos grinned, leaning close to whisper, “Believe me, you’re worth every cent. Groupies aren’t my only concern.”
So he’d had a girlfriend or mistress he no longer wanted around? She didn’t ask; it was none of her business. She’d learned to listen to her clients, not ask questions. It was part of her service.
The bidding escalated quickly, every man and his dog seemingly wanting the band to play for them. Only when the figures had exceeded even the deepest pockets, and the bidding had died down, did she hear the all too familiar voice at the back of the room.
Amos lifted a bemused brow. “Wouldn’t have picked that suited guy for a fan.”
She couldn’t even smile. Not this time. Few people saw past Mackenzie’s business persona. Few people saw the pain he carried around inside him. A pain that seemed only to ease in the bedroom.
The gavel signified Mackenzie’s win, and a hush fell over the room when Mackenzie nodded and strode forward to meet the band. At the front row his stare brushed over her before he introduced himself to the band members and shook their hands. “I believe you guys can play at any time, yes?”
Amos nodded. “That’s right. We’ve cleared it with our label. We’re free for the next two weeks.”
Mackenzie nodded, satisfied. “Then you’ll play for this audience, now.”
Amos was taken aback. “Seriously?”
Mackenzie had always surprised her, but right then she was lost for words. Two million dollars for an impromptu performance? It was beyond excessive.
“It’s for a good cause,” he murmured, his gaze moving over her like a caress.
She swallowed hard, mesmerised by him, despite … everything.
Then he turned back to Amos and the band members, and she could breathe again.
“I couldn’t be more serious.” Mackenzie paused a beat, and then asked, “You have your gear with you, yes?”
They nodded, and a bearded member of the group said, “We never leave home without it. Everything we need is stashed in my van.”
Amos cocked an eyebrow. “Well then, boys. Guess we’d better get this show on the road.”
She smiled at Amos when he looked at her, before she said, “I’ll wait for you here.”
He nodded, and pushed through the crowd. She didn’t turn to watch him leave. Not when every cell was attuned to Mackenzie. God, even had she wanted to run away, her trembling legs couldn’t have supported her.
Not that she wanted to run. Far from it. She wanted to sit and drink in the man she’d been dreaming about for too long already. The man she’d pretended she didn’t have feelings for, since the moment he’d taken more than a strictly business interest in her.
He’d recently had a haircut, the dark brown of his hair cropped close to his head. His cheekbones looked starker, almost angular, as though he’d lost his appetite. Then again, she supposed earning the big money came at a price. He worked hard and slept little.
He played even harder.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked.
His jaw hardened. “I need time alone with you. And if this is the only way I can get it, then so be it.”
Her mouth dried. She shouldn’t want this, but she did. She wanted it with everything she had.
“Scarlet,” he finally acknowledged, her name sounding like a sexual promise and causing the whole world to fade around them, as though no-one else was near.
“Mack,” she said softly, reverting to his nickname and unable to formulate even half a word more.
“You look stunning.” His eyes flared. “Nothing’s changed.”
She dragged back her voice. “And I guess that’s a compliment.”
“One that I’m sure you receive every day from any number of men.”
He hated that she was with other men. Yet another reason she couldn’t see him anymore. She chewed her bottom lip. Her throat burned, along with the back of her eyes as all her repressed emotions threatened to burst free. “You know how I feel.”
Liar. You might tell him you don’t return his feelings, but how long will that hold up?
He sighed raggedly. “Yeah, I do.” He bent and cupped her chin, his thumb moving back and forth over her lips. “Doesn’t mean I have to accept it.”
Her belly did a slow flip-flop. “So … have you? Accepted it, I mean?”
He shook his head. “No, Scarlet, I haven’t. Though Lord only knows I’ve tried.”
The man in the red bow tie climbed onto the stage where the auction had been held. The moment he announced that Frankenstein’s Blood was going to play, noise erupted around them, cheers and excited chatter that barely infiltrated Scarlet’s mind.
She was too busy staring at Mackenzie. In that moment, all her social graces had been left behind. She should stand too, anything to try and wrest back some kind of advantage.
But then his thumb moved to trace over her bottom lip. He bent his head, his voice in her ear sending goose bumps down her spine. “It nearly killed me to see another man kiss you.”
She closed her eyes. Little wonder Mackenzie had been front and center in her head tonight. She’d been attuned to him because he’d been in the same room, watching her with Amos. She forced her eyes back open. “It nearly killed me knowing you were with Brandy,” she admitted huskily.
His eyes darkened. “You didn’t want me.”
Her chest ached. I did … oh, how I did. But I had to protect myself.
His stare softened. “Brandy’s beautiful. But she’s not you. Not even close.”
Scarlet smiled. Brandy—Kate—was still beautiful even after having twin boys a month earlier. Kate no longer worked at the agency, and Scarlet couldn’t be happier for her. Kate truly deserved her devoted husband and happily-ever-after.
But no one was irreplaceable. With Kate now gone, Scarlet, along with Tiffany and Savannah, had taken the gorgeous new call girl, Anna—who’d adopted the working name of Candy—under their wing. Inviting her to their lunches and shopping outings, and giving advice whenever she needed some. Anna, with all her innocence … Scarlet wasn’t looking forward to the day she saw the young woman’s eyes harden.
The band set up their equipment and began a prerequisite warm up, plucking guitar strings and running through a sound check. She pulled free from Mackenzie’s clasp and dragged her eyes away to focus on Amos.
She’d thrown out the rule book tonight. Amos was her client and she was all but rejecting him. She couldn’t afford to piss him off and risk ruining her call girl reputation. Not if she wanted to continue supporting her twin sisters, Danni and Tina.
With their mother dead and buried, and their father a distant memory, it’d fallen on her shoulders to keep her sisters clothed, fed and educated. A twinge of resentment flared, and then died away. She’d do anything for the twins. Anything to make sure they had careers they loved, careers that weren’t in the sex industry. Careers that were safe and even a little bit predictable.
Mackenzie’s eyes narrowed. But whatever he was about to say died in the ruckus immediately after Amos introduced himself and the crowd surged forward.
Scarlet stood, her attention staying on Mackenzie as she shouted above the noise, “I can never be what you want.”
As the band broke into sound, she pushed past Mackenzie and headed toward the exit.
She made it to just outside the auditorium before Mackenzie caught her arm and spun her around. His eyes blazed. “I’m not letting you go. Not this time.”
She stared up at him, her emotions bubbling over. “I’m not sure I even want you to,” she admitted. “Not tonight.”
He kissed her then, with more desperate hunger and skill than she could bear. She barely noticed him lifting her against his chest and carrying her away from the noise. She was lost in the kiss, revelling in sensation.
Even guilt over leaving Amos faded away, just the same as Amos’s honeyed, baritone voice did when Mackenzie stepped into a room and kicked shut its door. The quiet seemed almost as loud when he turned her around and pressed her back against a wall, his big male body surrounding hers.
She was glad of the shadowy room, where light from the corridor outside was the only illumination to chase away complete darkness. She didn’t want him to read her face. Didn’t want him to know exactly how much she wanted him.
She was already wet for him, her body a willing recipient to whatever he desired. One touch and she was his. One kiss and she was lost. Lord help her, one last time in his arms, and then she’d walk away from him for good.
He slid his zipper down with a rasp before he undid a button, his pants then dropping low, followed by his underwear. He didn’t bother to step out of them. There was too much urgency, too much heat.
With quick, economical movements, he unwrapped a foil from his pocket, and rolled the condom onto his straining shaft. Her heart rate bucked when he lifted her dress and slid aside her lacy thong, then one-handed his cock to center it at her core.
She was hazily aware this sexual encounter was wrong on too many levels, but she didn’t much care. She wanted this. Needed this.
His eyes glinted above hers about the same time he drove forward, burying himself deep inside her. Her breath hissed sharply at the pleasure–pain. He’d always been big, always stretched her to the limit. Yet her body readily accepted his impressive length and breadth, readily accepted any of his sexual demands.
She didn’t need to pretend sex with this man was wonderful. Not when being with him felt all kinds of right. Not when her every nerve ending burned in his presence, and then exploded the moment they joined.
With his deliberately slow pumps in and out, she was already heading toward the place only Mackenzie knew how to take her. Then he abruptly pulled out, spun her around and leaned her against a huge table. A staff room table, she realized hazily.
His knee between her legs caused her to part them. Then he leaned over her and guided his cock once more between the petals of her labia. “Does your client make you feel this good?” he asked harshly.
She gasped as he entered her then in one long stroke, a hand bunching in her hair and bringing her head back.
“Does he know how you love being taken from behind? How you love your hair pulled just like this?”
“No.” Her voice cracked, and she felt his smirk, before his mouth latched onto the side of her neck and his strokes in and out increased until nothing could stop the freight train of an orgasm from ripping through her and tossing her high.
Mackenzie let out a guttural moan as her inner muscles clamped him tight, and he too came, her scalp burning as his hand tightened momentarily, before releasing her.
She was still sucking in breaths from her dizzying ride when he pulled free, disposed of the condom, and then turned her around to face him. “This isn’t the end between us, Scarlet,” he murmured huskily. His expression might be shadowed, but she sensed his intensity. “It’s just the beginning.”
End of Excerpt