Try me, p.2
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       Try Me, p.2
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         Part #1 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
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  “Great show, man,” Jack said. He took the towel and offered Gabe a handful of used drumsticks to throw into the audience.


  Gabe joined his band mates at the front of the stage. He flung a dozen sticks into the crowd, took a bow to the screaming fans, and made a beeline for the dressing room. He needed a beer, a nap, and a shower, not necessarily in that order.

  “Don’t forget we have an after-party tonight,” Owen said as he handed off his bass guitar to one roadie while another disconnected his wireless transmitter.

  Gabe had forgotten about the after-party. That meant the first thing on his agenda had to be a shower. No one wanted to smell him after he’d been swimming in his own sweat for an hour. And maybe if a hot piece of ass caught his attention at the party, he’d add get laid to his list of priorities.

  “See you there,” Gabe said and headed for the dressing room to shower.

  The steamy water felt like heaven against his weary flesh. He considered blowing the party and just hanging out in the shower by himself for the entire night. His bunk on the tour bus sang a siren’s song to his exhausted body. Gabe was proud to be known as one of rock’s fastest drummers, but his signature aggressive style wore his ass out at every live performance. Still, he knew the guys would give him hell if he didn’t make an appearance at the party, so he’d show his face for five minutes, have a beer, and then catch that nap. Alone. He was much too exhausted to chase pussy tonight.

  He found his bag among the pile of the band’s overnight luggage and tossed on a pair of well-worn jeans, a T-shirt, and his favorite boots. He didn’t bother spiking his still wet hair as he planned to go to bed soon, so he tugged on a baseball cap and headed to the conference room at the end of the hall. The room was packed wall-to-wall with guests.

  Gabe headed for the bar. One beer. That was all he needed to unwind, and then he could disappear. He made a concerted effort to greet everyone who recognized him. Shake hands. Pause for a photo. Smile and bullshit. Sign an autograph. Laugh at a joke. Accept praise. Enjoy the excitement. Seek out the familiar faces of his band mates in a sea of strangers and exchange a nod of recognition. Finally, he reached the bar.

  “Corona?” Jordan asked.

  He knew damned well that’s what Gabe wanted. He’d been with the crew all summer.


  Jordan disappeared beneath the bar and emerged with a bottle. He popped the cap and handed it to Gabe, who took a long swallow. It went down smooth. Good stuff.

  He caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and he turned his gaze on the sweet piece of ass beside him at the bar. Long, brown curls fell to the middle of her back, and her jeans clung to her curvy backside in a most distracting fashion. High-heeled sandals accentuated her long legs, which would look perfect wrapped around his hips. If the front of her looked half as spectacular as the back, he was definitely interested in hanging around a while longer. He wasn’t that exhausted.

  Chapter 3

  Melanie took the glass of whiskey out of Nikki’s hand. “You’ve had enough.” Even though they’d arrived in Nikki’s car, Melanie realized she’d be the designated the driver tonight, so she’d stopped drinking after one apple martini. They had a three-hour drive just to get home. But while Melanie showed restraint, Nikki used the open bar to its full potential. She had yet to request one of everything, but each time Shade laughed or said something loud enough for her to hear, Nikki ordered another drink.

  Nikki stole a glance over Melanie’s shoulder at her current obsession, who had yet to notice her. Probably because she was standing out of his line of sight. His inattention had Nikki reliving her college party days—get drunk, sleep with some jerk, wake up not knowing where she was, call Melanie to come get her, cry on Melanie’s shoulder, eat chocolate ice cream, rinse and repeat. Melanie had thought Nikki had finally outgrown the pattern. Apparently not.

  Melanie’s patience was at its limit. Nikki had behaved like a lunatic to get backstage and now she was too chicken to even approach the guy. Maybe if Melanie introduced her to Shade before she was completely wasted, she wouldn’t start throwing herself at the nearest dick, which happened to be attached to the greasy bartender. Determined that her friend would set her sights on more attractive man-meat, Melanie took her by the arm. She knew Nikki would lament for the next thirty years about how she’d missed her chance if she didn’t at least talk to Shade.

  “Wait, wait,” Nikki pleaded as Melanie dragged her away from the bar. “I need to check my make-up first.”

  When Melanie stopped in front of the lead singer of Sole Regret, Nikki’s elbow began to tremble uncontrollably in her hand. Shade paused in midsentence, his handsome face turned in their direction, and then he took a nonchalant swig of his beer. Melanie watched his Adam’s apple move as he swallowed. She couldn’t tell for sure if she had his full attention because he was still wearing sunglasses. Indoors. At night. He was taller than she’d imagined—over six feet—and built. Between all the booze and women, Melanie wondered how he found the time to work out. But he had to. Black leather pants clung to muscular thighs, and his white T-shirt strained to contain his well-defined chest as he moved his beer bottle away from his sensual mouth.

  “Hi,” Melanie gushed before she lost her nerve. She now understood why Nikki had needed copious liquid courage. Intimidating? That was an understatement. “I’m Melanie and this is my best friend, Nikki.” Melanie tugged Nikki forward. Nikki tripped over her own feet, and Shade took her by one shoulder to steady her.

  Nikki swayed toward him and pressed the back of her hand to her mouth. “I don’t feel so good.”

  The only thing worse than having Nikki miss her chance at talking to Shade would be Nikki throwing up all over him.

  “Are you gonna be sick?” Shade asked, setting his beer down on the table he was leaning against and taking her by both shoulders.

  “I think . . . ” Nikki swallowed queasily. “I think I need to lie down for a bit.”

  “I’ll take her home,” Melanie said. She should have cut her off from the alcohol earlier.

  “No,” Nikki said and stomped on Melanie’s foot. “I’ll be okay. It’s just a little loud in here.” She glanced up at Shade, her long lashes obscuring her eyes, her body in a completely submissive stance. “Is there a place where I can lie down for a bit?” she asked. “With you on top of me?”

  Melanie blinked and turned her head to mouth, Wow.

  “If you bring your friend with you,” Shade said.

  Melanie’s head snapped up. Was he serious? “Having kinky sex with my best friend and some freak I don’t even know is not my idea of a good time,” she blurted.

  A guy behind her burst out laughing.

  Nikki elbowed her in the ribs.

  Shade just smirked. One eyebrow appeared above the rim of his dark sunglasses. “Then what is your idea of a good time?”

  She didn’t think watching tear-jerkers in her jammies would convince him of her fun-loving nature, so she settled for making a sound of incredulous frustration, turned in the opposite direction, and stalked off. Or tried to. She took precisely one angry step before crashing head-on into a hard body.

  The man steadied her with both hands on her upper arms, his cold beer bottle pressing into the flesh of her biceps. She didn’t lift her gaze to look at him, but stared at his green T-shirt, feeling like a complete tool.

  “Where’s the fire, baby?” he asked.

  “In my pants,” Shade said and laughed.

  Melanie shoved away from the man and headed for a nice safe corner to collect her thoughts. She half-expected Nikki to come after her—to either berate her for calling Shade a freak to his face or because she’d ruined Nikki’s chances with the egomaniac—but several minutes of staring at the wall convinced her that Nikki had deserted her for a guy she didn’t even know. Again. A quick glance over her shoulder confirmed her suspicions. Nikki was laughing and hanging all over Mr. Rock Star Jerk, who seemed to
have his gaze trained on Melanie as he suckled a spot right behind Nikki’s ear. When Melanie narrowed her eyes at him, he took Nikki’s hand and led her out a back door.

  Melanie scrubbed her forehead with two fingers and turned to stare at the wall again. She considered leaving, but she couldn’t desert Nikki without backup. They’d arrived together, they’d leave together. Besides, the woman’s love life was a disaster. What if she needed Melanie’s help? Considering who she’d left with, the chances that she would need Melanie to bail her out of trouble were all but guaranteed. Melanie supposed attending an after-party alone with a crowd of tattooed metal-heads was better than waiting for Nikki in the car by herself, but not by much. Resigned to her fate, Melanie found the free end of a sofa and sat to wait, keeping her eyes diverted from the people milling about the room.

  Her gaze trained on the door that Nikki had just exited, she didn’t notice the man sitting next to her until he spoke. “I’m surprised you didn’t go with them.”

  She tore her gaze from the door to look at him. His striking green eyes captured her attention from the shadow beneath the bill of his baseball cap. He was quite possibly the most attractive man who’d ever spoken to her without Nikki at her side. She recognized his T-shirt as the one belonging to the guy she’d careened into a few moments earlier. “Huh?”

  “Jacob and your friend.” He pointed the neck of his beer bottle toward the door that Melanie was so fixated on.


  “More famously known as Shade.”

  “Oh.” She settled her hands on her knees. “I didn’t realize he had a normal name.”

  He laughed. “You didn’t think his mother named him Shade, did you?”

  She shrugged. “Never thought about it.” Her attention moved to the door again. “What kind of a dork uses a lame stage name anyway? And why Shade? Because he wears sunglasses all the time?”

  “Yeah, he has to wear them. He has vision problems.”

  Melanie’s stomach dropped and she covered her big, blabbering mouth with one hand. “He does? Shit. Now I feel bad.”

  The guy chuckled. “I’m just fucking with you. He wears them because he enjoys looking like a douche twenty-four seven.”

  Melanie laughed. It felt good. Her severe case of anxiety decreased substantially, and her bitchiness finally took its leave. “I’m not usually this disagreeable. I just really would rather be anywhere else than waiting for Nikki to finish her fun. I honestly don’t understand why she thinks he’s so hot. He looks like a prison inmate.”

  When the guy didn’t speak, she turned her head to look at him again.

  He traced his bottom lip with his middle finger as he assessed her. “You don’t seem too enamored with the band. What brings you backstage?”

  “A friend I can’t tell no.” She sighed. “I’m such an enabler.”

  “Or maybe you’re just a good friend.”

  “More like a dumb friend. If I’d quit sticking my neck out for her, maybe she’d learn some responsibility.”

  “But if something really bad happened to her, you’d feel responsible.”

  She gawked at him, surprised he understood the truth behind her actions so easily.

  He smiled, revealing a set of perfect white teeth. That simple expression transformed him from gorgeous to dazzling.

  Melanie’s breath caught. Wow. Now this guy . . . She could understand wanting to jump in bed with him on short acquaintance. Please and thank you.

  “Yeah, I totally get it. I’m one of those enabler types too,” he said.

  “So you admit you’re as dumb as I am?”

  He chuckled. “I guess so. Would you like a beer?”

  She shook her head. “I have to drive and I’m already at my limit.” She was pretty sure her sudden lightheadedness was caused by the company, not the alcohol.

  “How about a Coke then?”

  She smiled at his thoughtfulness. “Water?”

  He nodded. “Jordan!” he yelled at the man at the bar. “Bring the lady a water.”

  “Got it!”

  He turned his attention to her again. “So are you going to tell me your name?”

  She relaxed into the sofa cushions, glad she’d found a normal person to talk to. She’d thought she’d have to spend the entire night pretending to be invisible. “Melanie Anderson. Yours?”

  He laughed. “You really aren’t enamored with the band, are you, Melanie?”

  What did that have to do with telling her his name? “I like their music, but they’re not my favorite band or anything. A bit too heavy for my tastes. Nikki is the one obsessed with them. She dragged me here against my will.”

  A glass of water was pressed into her hand. “Thanks,” she said to the bartender. She took a sip and waited for her gorgeous companion to speak again.

  “I see. I’m Gabriel Banner.” He grinned at her and suddenly overwarm, she wondered if someone had switched off the AC. “Call me Gabe.”

  A totally normal name for a totally normal guy. She would have felt uncomfortable talking to any of the other men in the room—tattooed, pierced, strange haircuts, chains and leather—but Gabe looked as normal as she did. His only notable flaw was the Texas Rangers ball cap he wore. The Angels’ fan in her wanted to poke fun at his team loyalty, but she could forgive one little fault.

  She smiled and offered her free hand in greeting. His hand slid into hers. Though he clasped her hand with a gentle grip, she could feel the strength in those long fingers. Her heart fluttered when his fingers brushed the back of her hand. “Nice to meet you, Gabe. How did a normal-looking guy like you end up backstage with all these, erm, interesting folks?”

  He hesitated and then laughed as if he thought she was joking. “They’re great, aren’t they? Are you from Tulsa?”

  She shook her head. “Kansas. Nikki wanted to meet Shade so badly that she made me drive here with her. She couldn’t get backstage last night. I guess she got what she wanted tonight though. Where are you from?”


  She did recognize a hint of a drawl in his speech, but she wouldn’t have pegged him as a Texan—his jeans weren’t tight enough to cut off the circulation to his balls. She supposed the Rangers ball cap should have given her a clue. “Did you drive all the way from Austin just to see Sole Regret?”

  He laughed again and tugged on one earlobe. He was certainly easy to amuse. And the deep, rich sound of his amusement had her considering clown school to keep him laughing regularly.

  “Yeah, I guess you could say that,” he said.

  Gabe took the final draw of his beer, extended the empty bottle, and gave it a little shake. Within twenty seconds it had been replaced with a fresh brew.

  Sipping her water, she wondered why the bartender was so eager to do Gabe’s bidding. “So, do you know the band?”

  He smiled again and Melanie feared she’d melt. She was very interested in putting a permanent smile on his handsome face.

  “We’ve met. What do you do with your time when you aren’t enabling your friend?”

  “I’m an accountant.”

  “That must be . . . ” His eyebrows drew together. “Boring as shit.”

  She laughed. “It pays the bills. Besides, I like numbers. They’re predictable.”

  “I suppose you don’t have an unpredictable bone in your body.”

  She reached up and ran a finger down the side of his neck. His pulse leapt against her fingertip. “I wouldn’t say that.”

  “Are you coming on to me, Melanie?”

  Oh yes, yes, yes. “Maybe,” she said. No sense in Nikki having all the fun tonight. Melanie was suddenly up for a little fun of her own.

  “I hate to bother you,” someone said from the other side of Gabe.

  A stud piercing spanned the bridge of the guy’s nose and a palm-sized black skull tattoo covered the side of his spindly neck. At the sight of the tattoo, Melanie’s heart rate kicked up. Most tattoos made her feel uneasy, but skull and barbed-wire
designs always freaked her out. Melanie took a huge gulp of water and returned her gaze to Gabe, wondering how he’d deal with a confrontation.

  “I’m a huge fan of yours, Force,” the fashion-nightmare gushed. “You’re hands down the best drummer on the planet. Can I have your autograph?”

  Perhaps Nikki hadn’t thrown up all over Sole Regret’s lead vocalist, but Melanie managed to spit water all over their drummer.

  Chapter 4

  Melanie jumped to her feet and searched for something to wipe
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