Shake It Up: Landon and Taylor (Man of the Month Book 8)J. Kenner
Shake It Up
About Shake It Up
All Night Long: Chapter One
J. Kenner Series In KU
Also by J. Kenner
About the Author
Shake It Up
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About Shake It Up
There are a million reasons why I need to stop thinking about Taylor D'Angelo naked.
She's too young for me, for starters.
She's too ambitious.
She's my job.
Romance was the last thing on my mind when I agreed to look into her stalker as a favor.
Now, she's all I can think about--and in every position I can imagine.
I'm not the only one obsessing.
The threats against her are intensifying along with our connection.
If I give in, if I let our bodies take over, it could draw her stalker out.
Our passion could save her.
Or it could destroy us both.
Meet Mr. August … he’ll do anything to protect her.
Each book in the series is a STANDALONE with NO cliffhanger and a guaranteed HEA!
But even so, you won’t want to miss any in the series. Because then you can answer the question…
Who’s Your Man of the Month?
Down On Me
Hold On Tight
Need You Now
Start Me Up
Get It On
In Your Eyes
Turn Me On
Shake It Up
All Night Long
In Too Deep
Light My Fire
Walk The Line
and don’t miss Bar Bites: A Man of the Month Cookbook!
Visit manofthemonthbooks.com to learn more!
Want your own Man of the Month calendar? Grab it now! (While supplies last!)
Shake It Up Copyright © 2018 by Julie Kenner
All Night Long excerpt Copyright © 2018
Cover design by Covers by Rogenna
Cover image by Perrywinkle Photography
Published by Martini & Olive Books
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or establishments is solely coincidental.
Taylor D’Angelo grimaced as she handed over her debit card. It was the reloadable kind, and she filled it up from her savings account at the beginning of every month with the exact amount of her budgeted expenses. Then she crossed her fingers, lit a candle, and begged the god of all things financial to let her go one more month without a crisis.
This month, the gods were apparently pissed, because as soon as the cashier swiped that card, Taylor would be officially one-hundred and fifty dollars over her monthly budget.
All because of some jerk who threw a brick through the window of her battered but reliable Toyota Corolla.
Six years ago, she’d talked herself into buying the shiny gray car in the back of the used car lot. Not a dealership. No, she’d gone to the kind of place that either took cash or used a guy named Guido for financing. It had taken her a solid afternoon to finally make up her mind, but she hadn’t regretted the decision. The car was plain, with no bells or whistles, but it was hers. And it represented freedom.
That was one of the few times she’d used the money she got from her dad. As far as she was concerned, it was blood money. For years, she’d tried to pretend the money wasn’t there. But then college rolled around, and she’d had to make a hard decision—postpone school so that she could work and save tuition money, or enroll and use those tainted dollars for something good.
She’d enrolled. And she’d used the money for her first semester’s tuition and for the deposit on her apartment.
By sophomore year, she’d racked up decent grades, and managed to score some scholarships. Between that money and her small work-study salary, she was holding her own. Her father’s money could rot in the bank, for all she cared.
For that matter, now that she was close to getting her masters, she could easily donate all that was left to charity.
Except she didn’t. She wouldn’t. Because someday she might need it again. Not for an education, but for survival.
Someday, she might have to run.
Please, God, no. Let it be over. Let me be safe.
Across the counter, the register spit out a receipt, accompanied by an electronic chirp that pulled Taylor from her thoughts. The cashier slid the receipt toward her, and for just a minute, Taylor hesitated. It would be so easy to use her stash to cover the deductible. To get ahead of the rent and the groceries. Would that really be so bad?
Yeah. Yeah, it really would.
Taylor sighed, the pen loose in her hand.
“Something wrong?” The girl behind the counter had perfect skin, perfectly manicured nails, perfectly styled blonde hair, and probably a perfect life to go with it, not to mention parents who were not only paying her way through college, but actually loved her.
Taylor shook her head. “No. No problem. It’s just been a crappy week. The expensive kind.”
“I hear you. I was supposed to go to San Antonio with some friends, but I’m a little short on rent, so I grabbed an extra shift.” She waved her hand to indicate the interior of the auto-glass repair shop. A man in a suit sat reading a trade journal. A guy in biker boots and beady eyes cleaned under his nails with the tip of a pocket knife. “But that’s okay. The fun never stops here.”
Taylor laughed, feeling like a total bitch for her earlier catty thoughts. She wasn’t usually so judgy. After all, she knew better than anyone that what you saw on the outside rarely matched a person’s inside.
She signed the slip, then slid it back to the cashier, who traded it for her keys.
Her car was behind the shop, and as soon as she was in it, she closed her eyes and told herself she’d done the right thing and everything was good. That was true, and she knew it. She was just so tired of being broke. Because honestly, doing the right thing paid for shit.
Still, she was getting by. She had a great job with Texas Performing Arts as part of a work-study program, and that took the edge off. It didn’t pay much, but the experience was invaluable. She’d been doing the job since her sophomore year, and now she was close to graduating with her master’s degree. So she tended to get the plum assignments based on seniority alone.
Plus, she was
getting paid to stage manage the Man of the Month contest at The Fix on Sixth, and that was fun, quick work for decent money. The calendar contest had been conceived to bring more traffic to The Fix a few months ago when the bar was having some serious financial trouble. It had gone over even better than anticipated, and now the bar was drawing impressive crowds every night, not only on the bi-weekly Wednesdays when the contest was held.
She checked her watch, saw that it was three hours to showtime, and cursed. She liked to have a full three hours for prep, and now tonight was going to be tight.
Frustrated, she turned the key. The car rattled to life, and she pulled out into the five o’clock traffic that was clogging Burnet Road, then navigated south toward The Fix.
With traffic, it took her almost forty-five minutes to get downtown, find a parking space that didn’t cost more than her rent, then sprint to The Fix. She burst breathless through the doors, only to find that someone had already wheeled the spotlight out of the storage closet and set it up exactly how she liked it.
She detoured right toward the bar instead of left toward the stage, then squeezed in beside Jenna, one of the co-owners of The Fix and the woman in charge of the contest. “Did you do that?”
Jenna tucked a strand of long, red hair behind her ear as she shook her head.
Before Taylor could ask who did, Cameron Reed slid down the bar with a Diet Coke for her. “When Mina realized you were running late, she thought she’d help out.”
“I appreciate it,” Taylor said. Mina was Cameron’s girlfriend, and she’d recently graduated from the University with her master’s in film. “Of course, I’d appreciate it more if you’d put a little rum in this.” She shook the ice in her glass. “It’s been a crazy day.”
“What’s going on?” Jenna asked.
“Nothing that shining a spotlight on twelve guys as they strip off their shirts and walk across the stage won’t fix.”
Jenna laughed, and Taylor tossed a grin toward Cam, with his broad shoulders and ocean blue eyes. “We have quite a few calendar alumni working here. Maybe we should make them all go shirtless.”
“I’m gonna vote no on that,” Cam—Mr. March—said. “And I’m guessing Reece and Tyree would, too.”
“I’ll veto it,” Jenna said, her hand on her belly even though her pregnancy had yet to show. “As far as I’m concerned, except for his calendar photo and those few minutes on stage, no one sees Reece shirtless but me.”
Taylor laughed, but Cam was holding up the soda gun and using it as a pointer as he said, “I almost forgot. Taylor, someone left a note for you. I put it in the office. Give me a sec and I’ll go get it.” He moved back down the bar, leaving Eric Shay, the other bartender working the main bar tonight, in charge.
Taylor watched, the back of her neck prickling, as Cam disappeared into the short hallway that led to the bar’s back office. She took a sip of Diet Coke, telling herself this was no big deal. Just like the first note had been no big deal.
But still, she couldn’t shake the sensation of dread.
About two weeks ago, she’d found an anonymous greeting card inside her backpack. It must have been shoved in at some point when she was in the drama department. She’d changed backpacks that morning, and when the pack wasn’t on the floor in the theater’s scene shop—a cavernous room where the sets were built—
it had been on her shoulder or in the trunk of her car, so there was no other possibility.
She’d found the envelope late that night when she was pulling out all of her junk so that she could settle in at her kitchen table and get some work done. It was tucked in between two scripts and a bound collection of classic farces that she needed to read. Her name glared at her in blue ink, the stylized letters taking up most of the envelope, and she’d assumed it was an invitation to an after-show party.
Inside, an old-fashioned style greeting card featured a window with gossamer curtains flowing in a breeze. The inscription on the inside of card read, Even now, I’m at your window.
Which, of course, would be creepy if Taylor hadn’t understood the reference—a line from a song featured in the musical Sweeney Todd. The musical reference had made her certain that Reggie had left it.
A senior in the department, Reggie Jones was one of fifteen underclassmen in Dr. Bishop’s seminar class on scene design. Taylor wasn’t formally working as Bishop’s teaching assistant, but he was her graduate advisor, and when he’d asked her to give a presentation on minimalistic design, she’d eagerly done so.
Afterwards, Reggie had been one of the students who’d hung around to talk shop, and when she’d bumped into him later in the common area, they’d chatted about their shared love of musical theater, and of Sondheim’s work in particular.
Two casual encounters later, and he confessed that he was working up the courage to ask her out.
She’d turned him down, of course. For one thing, she wasn’t attracted to him at all. But since that wasn’t the kind of thing you told a guy, she’d simply said that she wasn’t dating. That there just wasn’t time for a relationship.
All true, just not the entire truth. She had no interest in getting into a relationship, and her life was far too complicated to date, though she wasn’t averse to the occasional hook-up. But not with Reggie. Not with any guy who might want to stick.
“Taylor?” Startled, she jerked her head up to Jenna, then realized she’d been staring at the bubbles in her drink, probably looking hypnotized. “What? Oh, sorry. I was zoning. I’m fine.” She smiled brightly, and forced her mood to match her appearance.
But as soon as Cam returned with the note, her facade collapsed. The envelope was the same. The size of a greeting card. High quality paper, and her name in stylized handwriting. She swallowed. Probably still Reggie. He knew she worked here. He probably thought he was being cute, wooing her with cards. He probably had a whole campaign planned out. Card after card, and then he’d send one attached to roses, and ask her out again.
It had to be Reggie. Because, dammit, the alternative just wasn’t something she was prepared to think about.
Slowly, she slid her finger under the flap and loosened the glue. Then she pried it up, and carefully tugged out the card. A closed pair of eyes on the cover. Inside the card, someone had written, You belong to me.
The card tumbled from her hand, and she licked her lips. “Hey, Cam?” Her voice, she noticed, sounded so normal. “Did you see who left this?”
“Sorry. It was last night. We were swamped, and I was covering for Eric, so it was just me back here.”
“Right. Sure.” She cleared her throat. “Do you remember if it was a guy with really yellow hair. Kinda messy?” Maybe it really was Reggie. After all, Phantom of the Opera had a song that fit. Close your eyes, the Phantom sang to Christina. And then later, you belong to me.
Not Sondheim, but still musical theater.
Cam shook his head. “Sorry. Doesn’t ring a bell.”
Jenna pressed her hand over Taylor’s. “You’re freaking me out. What’s going on? Who’s got yellow hair?”
Taylor tried to shrug it off. “Just a guy at school. He’s got an aggressive crush.” She lifted a shoulder. “And I’m really not interested.”
She could tell that Jenna wasn’t convinced, and before the other woman could push the issue, Taylor glanced down at Jenna’s still-flat belly. “I’m so glad the baby’s okay. I’m so, so sorry.”
“Are you kidding?” Jenna’s hand went protectively over her belly. “It wasn’t your fault at all. We’re fine. And I’m the one who’s sorry. I mean, your car. You’re going to send me the bill for the windshield, right?”
“Don’t be silly. Insurance totally covered it.” A lie, but she wasn’t about to make Jenna feel any worse than she already did, even if repayment would add a hundred and fifty bucks back into Taylor’s dwindling account. “Besides, it could just as easily have happened to me. I mean if I’d been—”
Of course. How could she have been so stup
That brick wasn’t random, and it damn sure hadn’t been meant for Jenna. It had been a warning for Taylor.
She looked down, then realized she’d crumpled the card into a ball, and now her hand was fisted tightly around it.
Not Reggie. Of course, it hadn’t been Reggie.
He’d found her. Somehow, he’d found her.
“Okay, Taylor, I’m sorry, but you’re starting to freak me out.”
“Are you coming down with something?” Jenna reached out and felt Taylor’s forehead, and Taylor almost laughed.
“You’ll make a good mom.”
“And you make a lousy patient.” She lifted her hand, signaling for someone behind Taylor to come over.
“What’s up?” Mina asked, scooting between the two of them and hooking her arms around their shoulders. She wore her hair in a pixie cut and grinned impishly at both of them before blowing a kiss at Cam.
“I’m sending Taylor home,” Jenna said. “She’s coming down with something. Can you play stage manager for the night?”
“Oh, like what I do is just a game,” Taylor quipped.
Mina stood up straight so she could rub her hands together. “I totally can. I’ll just aim the spot at whoever’s the hottest, and—”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jenna said. “If I let you do that, you’d just keep it aimed over the bar on Cam.”
“Not a chance,” Mina retorted, as Cam squared his shoulders and buffed his nails on his chest. “I don’t want to point him out to the rest of the world any more than necessary. You’re mine,” she added to Cam.