Sweet Possession s-5Maya Banks
( Sweet - 5 )
She’s a singer who lives for the spotlight—and can’t resist her adoring fans…
Outrageous and out-of-control, Lyric Jones is a spoiled pop star who lives hard and fast, always outrunning her past and the nightmares that haunt her. She’s used to getting what she wants—groupies included—because she can’t stand to be alone. So in bed, it’s the more the merrier, even if it means closing off the deepest part of herself…
He’s a hands-on bodyguard—and a one-woman man.
There is nothing Connor Malone wants to do less than babysit the celebratty songstress while she’s on vacation. But part of him relishes taming Lyric and showing her what it’s like to be possessed—body and soul—by one man. And though Lyric’s crazy antics nearly drive Connor to the edge, his quiet intensity penetrates her defenses, leaving them both vulnerable to the secrets that could topple Lyric from the stage.
Sweet - 5
“ Y ou’re out of your goddamn mind!”
Pop Malone scowled at his son, Connor. “Watch your mouth. I can still wipe the floor with your scrawny ass.”
Connor wiped his hand over his short hair and clamped down on the top in an effort to pull it out. Nathan Tucker had the right idea by shaving his head. It was something Connor was going to have to look into if he kept getting bombs dropped on him.
“Pop,” Connor said in exasperation. “We install security systems. Sophisticated, state-of-the-art computer monitoring equipment. We do consulting. We evaluate security for other people. We are not a goddamn bodyguard service.”
Pop huffed, crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against his adopted daughter’s desk. Faith stared wide-eyed at her father and brother but didn’t say a word. She was too glued to the conversation.
“If you’d stop your yammering for two seconds, I’d explain why you’re perfect for this job.”
“Oh boy,” Connor muttered. “I can’t wait to hear this. I’d better sit down for it.”
He flopped into one of the chairs in front of Faith’s desk and waited for his father’s latest harebrained scheme. Not that his father wasn’t a smart man. He was one of the most intelligent and cunning men Connor knew. It was the cunning part that bothered the hell out of him right now. He wasn’t sure how, but he knew he was fucked. And it looked like he was about to find out.
“Phillip Armstrong is a longtime friend. We go way back. Served together in the marines. He’s a big-shot record executive now and he has a big-name artist on his label.”
“What’s the name?” Faith piped in.
“What’s the frown for?” Connor demanded. “What do you know?”
“You’ve never heard of her?” Faith asked.
“Does she sing country music?”
Faith chuckled and shook her head.
“Then I rest my case. So why the frown?”
“She’s a bit of a . . .”
“She’s difficult,” Pop said with no preamble. “But you’ve dealt with difficult before. She won’t be a problem for you.”
“Why is she my problem at all?”
“Because most of her security detail was fired. What was left quit. She has two bodyguards that are as useless as tits on a boar hog.”
“And I’m supposed to fix this?”
“Phillip is scrambling to hire a replacement firm. One better than the last since they sucked ass. His words, not mine. She only has one more show and then she’s going to be sort of on vacation here in Houston.”
Faith lifted an eyebrow. “Why the hell would she willingly vacation in Houston? I mean, a girl with that kind of money ought to go to Paris. Or Italy. Maybe a beach house in the Caribbean.”
“I said sort of because she’s doing a show at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo but she’ll be here a total of two weeks. She also has some signing and fan meet-and-greet at one of the downtown music stores.”
“Oh, I get it,” Connor said as he pushed himself forward in his seat. “What they want is a babysitter. They want someone to sit on her so she’ll be good for two weeks.”
Pop had the grace to look abashed. “Well, yes and no.”
Connor made a rude noise. “Why the hell are you asking me? There are three other guys in this office all capable of doing this job.”
Faith made a show of blowing on her nails and whistled softly.
“Because everyone is either married or getting goddamned married and you’re the only single guy left. If I try to send one of the other guys to spend twenty-four/seven with a gorgeous pop star, I’ll have three pissed-off women on my ass. No, thanks. No offense, Connor, but you have nothing on the girls. I’ll take my chances with you.”
Faith smiled sweetly in her brother’s direction.
“Don’t think I won’t get you for this,” Connor muttered at Faith.
“Look, at least fly out to L.A., catch her last show, introduce yourself, see how it goes. What can it hurt? I think you’ll find it’s not as bad as you think. You’ll spend two weeks with her here keeping her out of trouble and keeping her safe.”
“Just how unsafe is she?”
“Oh, the usual celebrity shit, I’m sure. Everyone wants a piece of her. Without adequate security, it could get dangerous. Phillip is going to get a local firm to do the peripheral security but he wants someone he can trust next to her until he can go through and interview larger firms that will handle her security on the road. He’s worried, and Phillip doesn’t worry about much.”
“Why the hell don’t they just cancel the rodeo appearance, stash her somewhere private for two weeks and get their shit together for when she goes back on the road?”
“You’re asking me?” Pop said in irritation. “When has show business ever made any goddamn sense? These people don’t think with their brains. They think with their checkbooks and use dollar signs as their guides. It’s your job to be their brains for two weeks.”
Connor groaned. “Difficult and brainless. I can hardly wait.”
The door to Faith’s office opened and Angelina Moyano poked her head through. When she saw the two men, she hesitated. “Am I interrupting anything?”
Connor grinned and motioned her in. “Of course not. How are you, sweetie?”
Angelina walked in, graceful and petite despite her bulging abdomen. Most women her size would be down to a waddle by now, but she still moved with ease.
She smiled at Connor. “I’m good. How are you?” She bent down to hug him tight and he put his hand on her belly.
“Is Miss Priss moving around today?”
“Stop calling her that,” Angelina said in exasperation. “Her name is Nia. Hi, Pop,” she said as she brushed a kiss over the older man’s jaw.
“Hey yourself, Angel. Where’s Micah? Shouldn’t he be working? For that matter, where the hell is Nathan? And Gray? Are we the only people working?”
Connor and Faith exchanged eye rolls. Pop was on his way to working himself into a dither.
“I came by to get Faith. Julie offered me a pregnancy massage and Faith is going to go hold my hand.”
“More like get her own massage,” Connor muttered. “You girls don’t fool me one bit. I’ll go hold your damn hand and then maybe Julie will massage me too.”
“Find your own woman’s hand to hold,” Micah Hudson growled from the doorway.
Pop looked up and scowled. “It’s about time you decided to show up. What is this, come to work late day?”
Micah ignored Pop. All his attention was on the curvy Latina woman heavil
y pregnant with his child. It amused Connor to no end to see Micah so gobsmacked over a woman. Not that he didn’t love women as a rule, but there was nothing casual or flirty about Micah’s relationship with Angelina. The poor boy was whipped and it was pretty pathetic to watch.
“How sure is Julie that a pregnancy massage is good for the baby?” Micah asked.
Angelina paused and turned with one hand on her hip. “I think the point is that it’s good for the mother.”
“But will it hurt the baby?”
Angelina smiled. “You worry too much, Micah. Go do some work so Faith and I can go have some girly time. We’re going to be late, and Damon expects Serena to be home by noon.”
“Or what?” Connor murmured. He always wondered what the hell went on in Damon and Serena’s marriage. Of all the people who worked for Pop, Connor was the furthest out of the loop when it came to Damon Roche. From what he’d gleaned the man was a control freak and he kept Serena under his thumb.
Faith grinned, and he should have known by the devilish glint in her eye that she was going to say something outlandish.
“I’m pretty sure if she’s late, she gets a crop to her ass.”
“Something Gray needs to think about for you,” Connor said pointedly.
“Who says he doesn’t?” she teased as she grasped Angelina’s arm and the two headed for the door.
Was the whole damn world crazy around him? He’d heard enough to know that his sex life had to be the only normal one in his group of friends. He didn’t even want to know what kind of shit Micah put Angelina through. It would probably only piss him off. And Faith. God. His sister, for Pete’s sake.
He shook his head. No, he didn’t want to know the depravities that his friends indulged in. He was perfectly happy to be the boring vanilla one in the bunch.
He turned to eyeball Micah after the girls had gone. “Any luck getting her to the altar?”
Micah snorted. “I’m trying. Believe me. I’m a persistent man. It’ll happen soon.”
Pop grunted. “The problem with men today is they’re too busy being politically correct. You ought to just snatch her up and haul her to a priest. Or to Vegas like Gray did with Faith. If you wait around for a woman to make up her mind, you’ll be old and impotent by the time your wedding night gets here.”
Connor cracked up. “This might explain why you’ve now embraced bachelorhood indefinitely.”
Pop shook his finger at Connor and Micah. “Mark my words. I’m right. Look at what happened when Nathan stopped pussyfooting around Julie. He went over to where she was and hauled her out over his shoulder. Then he told her how it was going to be and voilà. Now they’re married. He’s happy. She’s happy. End of story. Not like Micah over here who mopes around like a friggin’ kicked puppy because he can’t convince the woman he loves that he really loves her and really wants to marry her. Jesus has to be crying up there somewhere. Or laughing hysterically. I can’t figure out which one.”
Micah’s lips curled into a snarl. “Enough already, Pop. You know I fucked up with her. I can’t just run over her and make her do what I want.”
“No, but you could damn well put your foot down and make her believe how you feel.”
“Then try harder,” Pop grumbled. “It’s getting to be like some couples’ retreat around here. It’s damn nauseating.”
Connor knew when a good time to escape was. Right now, when Pop was busy bitching about something else. Maybe by the time he remembered what he wanted Connor to do, the record company would have given up and hired someone else.
He was almost to the door. One more step and he would have made it home free.
“Your airline ticket is on your desk,” Pop called. “You fly out tomorrow morning. Now go home and pack a suitcase.”
Fuck a goddamn duck.
T he arena reverberated with frantic music and a rainbow of cascading lights. Connor stood at the top of the stands, staring over the railing at the stage below. His ears were going to explode at any second, and he felt so dizzy from the rapid staccato of flashing lasers that he gripped the cool metal bar in front of him to steady himself.
With his free hand, he reached back and massaged a kink out of his neck. He’d been tense ever since this circus had started. How in the hell could anyone stand this cacophony on a regular basis? This wasn’t his type of music. How could it be anyone’s? How the hell did anyone even understand the screeching, if they could even hear it over the band? He’d much rather throw down with some Montgomery Gentry or Jason Aldean if he was going to subject himself to a concert.
Finally, the screeching stopped. There was a god.
Connor glanced back at the stage to see Lyric Jones saunter back out after her last hasty departure. Costume change, though why she bothered with this one, he wasn’t sure. He didn’t even have to be close to the stage to know she was barely wearing anything at all.
He glanced to the side where the record executives from Cosmic Records were taking in the show with him. They’d met his plane and drove him out to the arena in a limo. The whole thing was ridiculous, and he was still cursing the fact that he’d gotten saddled with flying out to talk to the parties involved.
As the music assaulted his ears again, he turned his attention back to the stage, just in time to see another scantily clad woman stroll toward Lyric. Best he could make out, the words to the song sounded something like “Girl Love.” He snorted.
The two women faced each other as Lyric sang. They were a study in contrast, probably well coordinated. Lyric was small and blackhaired, if you didn’t count the god-awful pink streak in it. The other woman was tall, luscious and blond, with a set of tits that had to be bought and paid for. He didn’t need binoculars to see that.
Then they moved closer, undulating their bodies in a suggestive manner. The crowd went nuts as the women pressed against each other. Lyric held the mic to her chest as she swayed in the other woman’s arms. As the song continued, Lyric turned and nestled her ass right into the blond woman’s crotch. The two continued their little bump and grind as the crowd roared their approval.
Why couldn’t Micah have taken this job? This would be right up his alley. Watching two women go at it? Micah would be drooling like a rabid pit bull. Of course, Angelina might kick some serious ass over it, but still. All Connor wanted was a good stiff drink and a bottle of ibuprofen.
By the time the song was winding down, the two women were meshed tighter than a snag in a fishing line. When the music died, Lyric let the mic fall and got into a lip-lock with the blonde that a fire hose wouldn’t have separated.
There was no way he could do this. Everything about the woman got on his last nerve, and he hadn’t even met her yet. He didn’t have to. It was all there for everyone to see. The record executives would be pissed, and Pop probably wouldn’t be too happy, but if he wanted the gig so bad, he could either do it himself or make Nathan or Micah do it. Their women would just have to get over it. Connor would take good care of the girls while Nathan and Micah were gone. That image made him grin.
He was ready to turn around and walk out when a softer, melodious tone poured into the arena. It made him pause for a brief second and look back at the stage. Lyric stood in the middle, a single spotlight focused on her. The rest of the stage was blacked out.
Her eyes were closed, and he got the crazy image in his head that she looked vulnerable. Then she opened her mouth, and for the first time that night, he could clearly hear her voice. It poured out of her like smooth, sweet honey. It crawled right over his skin and sent a shiver down his spine.
He stared, entranced by the image of her alone, her haunting, beautiful voice filling every nook and cranny of the packed house. He was struck by the sadness he felt radiating from her. More than sadness, it was pain.
His hands gripped the railing as he moved closer, his attention focused entirely on the woman singing. It wasn’t one of those insipid, self-r
eflection songs. It was about going home. He could feel the ache in her voice. It made him ache. Hell, it made him want to go home.
Across the arena, cigarette lighters flared and bobbed as hands shot into the air holding them. They waved in time as she stood, so still, face turned to the ceiling. He imagined her eyes were closed as the last of the words spilled from her lips.
The music faded, and for a moment, silence descended on the crowd. Then shrill whistles rent the air, followed by raucous cheers.
Lyric stepped back and waved to the crowd. She bowed once and hurried off the stage.
The record executives shifted beside him, and Connor looked over to see them staring at him.
“You ready to go meet our girl?” Phillip Armstrong asked.
Connor nodded, forgetting for a moment that all he really wanted to do was get the hell out while the getting was good. With a resigned sigh, he followed the suits to the backstage area.
Security, if you could call it that, was minimal. Fans swarmed the corridor, pushing, shoving and screaming. When a beefed-up, musclebound security guard standing outside the backstage door looked up and saw them coming, he snapped to attention and started shoving rabid fans to the side so they could pass.
When the door opened, Connor was pushed forward as the fans tried to rush past him. He stumbled inside, a string of obscenities dying to blow past his lips. He managed to keep his cool. Barely.
Phillip and his sidekick, Barry, smoothed their suits and looked questioningly at Connor. Connor’s lips thinned but he gritted his teeth and kept his expression neutral.
They motioned him toward a slightly less congested area and the two men accepted a drink from a gangly boy who couldn’t be more than a teenager. When they offered Connor a glass, he shook his head. Not that the idea of a pint of vodka wasn’t vastly appealing, but at this point, if he started drinking, he wasn’t going to stop.
He peered around the room, which, after more consideration, was much larger than he’d first thought. It was just crowded. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and tried not to look as bored and as uncomfortable as he felt.