Rhythm of the Night, Book 3
I have a song to sing with you,
Believe these words we know are true.
Feel it in the rhythm of your heart,
See the time your love will start.
She’s out there now, quietly waiting,
Red hair, green eyes…fascinating.
Appearances fool, you have been warned,
Follow your instinct, don’t be torn.
-Edna Pace’s Lullaby for Zachary
Zachary Pace rolled his shoulders, linked his fingers together, turned his palms outward and stretched his arms, flexing each muscle. With his eyes closed, he let the rhythm of the synthesizer flow through him, feeling the music all the way down to his toes.
He inhaled the summer Melbourne air as the cheers of the crowd seeped into his soul, then stepped onstage with his little brother, Seth.
The audience roared, shaking the wooden platform upon which they stood. Shrill screams pierced the late-afternoon sky and a pair of panties landed at his feet—alongside a ribbon-bound bunch of scarlet roses, a scatter of foil-covered chocolate hearts and a massive, printed marriage proposal.
Zachary grinned, pumped his fist in the air and became one with his alter ego, Jonah Speed.
This was where he belonged, where he thrived: on stage, before thousands of screaming fans. Every clap reverberated through his body. He ran across the platform to take a seat on his throne behind his drums.
Never had a term been more expressive, for when Jonah sat behind those drums, he became king. King of the Stage, King of Rock, King of Music.
He grabbed his sticks and struck his snare drum.
His little brother twanged a note on his electric guitar, turned and grinned at Jonah, and in perfect synch, the two began to play “Thunder ’n Rain”, their current worldwide number-one hit.
If the crowd had exploded when he and Seth—better known to the public as Jordan Speed—walked on stage, it went insane now. The boom of Jonah’s bass drum shook the stadium but was almost drowned out by shouts of excitement.
The cries reached fever pitch as Nathan, Jonah’s older brother—or Jamie Speed—made his entrance. Jamie’s golden voice rang out pure and true, the magnificent timbre resonating across the arena.
Arms and hands rocked the air, the applause and yells became thunderous…and then…dropped—as they always did when the full impact of Jamie’s voice made itself known. As manic as the audience was, Jamie’s dulcet tones lulled them into mass ecstasy. A writhing mass of ecstasy, their facial expressions filled with awed bliss.
Jonah inhaled as he beat his drums and cymbals, setting the tempo of the song while blending in seamlessly with his fellow band members. The throb of his beloved instruments once again became the heartbeat of the music, the pulse of Speed.
The song ended and he began another, but not before Jamie seduced the crowd with words of welcome, encouraging them to belt out lyrics. The Melbourne audience needed no persuasion. With natural exuberance, they whooped, cheered, sang and danced with gusto.
Jonah let their infectious mania carry him from one song to the next, feeding the crowd’s desires, whipping them into a frenzy and rocking them into the evening. As the sun lowered in the sky, he lost himself to the magical atmosphere, to the yells and the screams and the music. To the invigorating Melbourne air. Sweat slid down his back, his muscles stretched and flexed, and adrenaline pumped through his blood, taking him on a trip more potent than any chemical-induced high.
His exhilaration only increased as a love-struck Jamie performed his solo, playing his piano and staring offstage at the woman who’d captured his heart so completely. The audience couldn’t see her, but Jonah could, and she looked as besotted with Jamie as he did with her.
Jonah set his sticks down and leaned back against his throne, breathing heavily, grateful for the short break. He glugged down a bottle of water. Like every other person in the stadium, he watched his brother, rapt. While Jamie’s hands flew over the keys of his baby grand, Nathan had eyes only for the blond-haired beauty. He seemed oblivious to the crowd.
Despite the heat throbbing through Jonah’s veins, Zachary’s heart twanged. That was what he wanted. A woman to enchant him, someone who’d capture his heart fully and not let go.
The woman his grandmother had assured him was his fate?
As Jamie’s ballad ended and the band picked up the pace, Jonah once again lost himself to the beat. For the next forty minutes he was one with the fans and the music, seamlessly transitioning from one song to the next. Both the audience and his heart pumped in time to the rhythm of his drums.
And when the concert wrapped up and they played their final encore, Jonah twirled his sticks and beat his cymbal for the last time that night. He walked across the stage to stand beside his brothers, bowing and waving. Sweat had his hair plastered to his face, and his T-shirt was drenched. Jamie and Jordan were just as wet.
The crowd didn’t care. It cheered louder and louder.
With a broad grin, Jonah bent over and picked up the marriage proposal and two red roses from the stage floor. The original bunch had long since been crushed beneath Jordan and Jamie’s feet, but hundreds more flowers had landed on stage during the concert.
He left the wrapped chocolate hearts and panties. Chocolates because they held no appeal and the panties because that particular kind of offering wasn’t always in pristine condition. While under the right circumstances, a worn pair of panties could be incredibly sexy, those thrown on stage by a stranger were…not.
He brought one of the roses to his mouth, kissed it and smiled at the audience. His name echoed through the night air, screamed by a chorus of hysterical feminine voices.
“We love you, Jonah!”
He loved them too. Every one of them.
And God, at times like this, he loved being Jonah Speed.
He dropped an arm around his little brother’s shoulders, and the two of them walked offstage, each accepting a towel to wipe down their sweat-dampened faces and heads.
Nathan already stood in the wings with Sophie all wrapped up in his arms.
Zachary handed the marriage proposal over to Luke Struthers, Speed’s band manager and his best buddy.
Luke accepted it with a smile and a shake of his head. “Another one?”
Zachary grinned back. “I’m the man. What can I say?”
Luke raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”
He laughed out loud. “To a marriage proposal from someone I’ve never met?”
“Maybe it’ll put an end to the self-imposed restrictions?”
Zachary winced. Yeah. Not ready to go there yet. Not ready to end those restrictions. He might not have been laid in six long months, but for now that suited him fine.
Except maybe for the adrenaline pumping through his body, making him horny as hell.
But he had a valid reason for his restrictions. One—or four—this-is-your-baby scandals had been enough to send Zachary’s gonads into hiding for a very long time.
Of course the accusations had proven to be complete bullshit. Still, they’d been a nasty wake-up call. Forced him to evaluate his life and his behavior. Forced him to see that the meaningless encounters and faceless fucks he’d grown so accustomed to were not what he wanted. And they were not making him happy.
Zachary wanted the real deal—the red-haired beauty he’d fantasized about since childhood.
Or if not her, at least a woman he cared about.
He was happy for Nathan, but that didn’t stop Zachary from eyeing him enviously. “I may be under restriction, but my big brother sure isn’t.”
“I might need a crowbar to pry those two apart,” Luke commented dryly, but his tone was indulgent.
Zachary let his gaze sweep over the people standing around. The entire backstage crew had paused to watch Jamie and Sophie, who were so enchanted with each other, they didn’t notice. Every one of them beamed, as though they found Nathan’s delight as infectious as Zachary and Luke did.
His gaze snagged on a particularly adorable smile. One made by cherry-red lips stretched wide across a lovely face.
Lust hit him square in the chest.
His adrenaline rush hit an all-time high.
Okay, so maybe his gaze hadn’t been snagged by the smile. Maybe he’d subconsciously sought it out, like he’d found himself doing since arriving in Sydney a week ago and meeting the Aussie crew.
Zachary didn’t know her name—yet. He’d made a conscious effort not to think about her, because thinking about her did those self-imposed restrictions no good whatsoever. What he did know was that each time he saw her he couldn’t look away. The sight of the tiny brunette packed a punch louder than the boom of a drum and more potent than the energy of the twenty thousand fans packed into the Rod Laver Arena.
If Zachary could have sat back down on his throne and hauled her with him, he would have. In a heartbeat. Would have stripped every last stitch of clothing from her lithe body, pulled her onto his lap and let her take them for the ride of their lives.
But that would hardly fit in with the revamped, sexually restrained Jonah Speed, now would it?
Something must have alerted her to his focused attention, because her gaze shifted, leaving Nathan and Sophie and landing firmly on him. Her lovely features reflected surprise, and after a couple of seconds, Zachary swore he saw a flicker of interest as well.
Satisfaction pooled deep in his stomach.
It had been a long while since he’d felt this level of attraction to anyone. A long time since he’d wanted a woman to consciously want him like he wanted her.
He’d grown altogether too used to the availability of a soft body whenever he desired one—or two. Groupies willing to offer whatever Zachary wanted. Sex with them had long since ceased to provide the satisfaction or the high it once had. Sex with them had long since stopped. Period. While he searched for something more meaningful, all they craved was a fix of the superstar, not the real man.
Zachary acted on impulse. “I’ll be right back.”
Luke answered, but Zachary didn’t register his words. He was too intent on his target.
Her cheeks pinked as he approached, and her chest rose and fell rapidly, but she watched every step, and her eyes filled with questions as he neared. Her scent filtered through his nose like a morning breeze, fresh and floral and arousing as hell.
She raised an eyebrow, highlighting blue eyes that resembled a spring sky—cloudless, with the promise of the heat to come.
Her gaze held him rapt. Zachary couldn’t look away, didn’t want to look anywhere but at her.
The intensity of his stare must have made her uncomfortable, because after a moment she flinched uneasily. “Can I help you?”
Oh, yeah. She could help him…so long as she got them both naked in the next three seconds.
Restraint, Pace. Remember?
“Uh, are you okay?” she asked curiously.
Too busy devouring her stunning features with his gaze, Zachary didn’t answer.
She flinched again. “You’re looking at me as though…” The words stumbled and died. “Oh, shit.” Her mouth formed a perfect “O” and her eyes widened dramatically. “I have something on my face, don’t I?” She brushed at her cheeks. “Crumbs? Lipstick? Mascara on my chin?”
Bemused, Zachary shook his head. Her face was perfect. So was her Australian accent.
She frowned, then quickly clamped her mouth shut before opening it again, only this time her lips covered her teeth. “Somesing in my teef? A pieth of food?”
Again Zachary shook his head, incredulous that she could pull such a ridiculous face yet still look so pretty.
She breathed an audible sigh of relief.
“Okay. Then…what? Do you need makeup, maybe?” But she was already shaking her head as her gaze roved over his features. One look was enough to tell her makeup was not his thing.
“Ah, he talks.”
“Look, mate. You realize you’re freaking me out a bit here, staring at me… Oh, Lord, are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Not a ghost, no.” Although Zachary was struck by a strange sense of déjà vu. Something about her seemed so…familiar.
“Then what?” She held her hands up in question. “Are you going to explain why you’re looking at me like that?”
“You reminded me of my grandmother, for a minute there.” An image of Edna, his grandmother, flittered through his mind.
She frowned. “I’m twenty-eight and I remind you of your grandmother? That can’t be a good thing.”
The chuckle he emitted was belly deep. “You reminded me about something she taught me,” he amended.
“Your nan taught you to stare at women until they squirm awkwardly on the spot?”
“No. She taught me to always appreciate the beauty in the world around me. And right now, I’m pretty damn sure I’m looking at the most beautiful part of Australia.”
Her jaw dropped. “P-pardon?”
Her accent made the word sound like puh-din.
“I’m looking at you, thinking you are, without a doubt, the most stunning part of Australia.” He hesitated a second, then caught her delicate arm in his hand, aware of how large his fingers looked as they wrapped around her wrist.
He pressed the two roses into her palm. “For you. Beautiful flowers for a beautiful woman. Consider it my way of expressing my appreciation.”
Before a startled Eve Andrews had time to react to the drummer’s presence and unexpected gift, Jonah Speed turned around and headed back in the direction he’d come. He’d stared at her through his startling green eyes, called her beautiful, given her the flowers, blown her world clear off its axis, and then walked away.
Just walked away.
Eve blinked through her surprise and stared dumbfounded at the roses. She didn’t see them. All she saw were those eyes, so incredibly green they didn’t seem real. So incredibly arousing, she suspected she’d seen the promise of fulfillment of a million carnal fantasies in them.
Her heart beat jaggedly. Just as well he hadn’t hung around to chat further. Breathlessness rendered her incapable of speech.
Jonah Speed had called her beautiful.
Her. Of all people. The irony was enough to inspire hysterical laughter. It bubbled in her chest, but she bit it back.
Photographs and movie clips did Jonah little justice. On paper and onscreen he was criminally sexy. In real life, drop-dead gorgeous didn’t adequately describe him. Heart-stopping, breathtaking, toe-curling, goose-bump-inducing…
Nope. Even those words weren’t powerful enough. They didn’t capture the essence of his blistering appeal.
His aura still held her frozen to the spot. Frozen, but heating up with every second that passed. And it wasn’t just the fact that he was Jonah Speed.
Speed’s drummer, Jonah Speed. The man Rolling Stone Magazine had described as a rock legend, drummer extraordinaire and lethal lady magnet.
Hands-down the sexiest rock star in the world, Jonah Speed.
No, it wasn’t his superstardom that had her awed. It was him. His very presence.
She raised her eyes to watch him walk away. He had his back to her, and his damp T-shirt stretched taut across shoulders broader than a football field. Even from behind, he oozed sex appeal. It radiated off him in waves.
Her stomach curled in around itself, capturing millions of tiny butterflies fluttering wildly about within.
The crewmembers milling backstage stopped to watch Jonah approach his brothers and their band manager. More than one audible intake of air echoed through her ears as he walked by, confirming they too were struck by his tangible sexuality.
Eve’s heart raced like a hummingbird’s wings.
For long seconds she held the roses, stunned. These flowers had been tossed to Jonah by his rabid fans. From her view in the wings backstage, she’d seen the face of one woman who’d thrown roses, seen the star-struck adoration in her expression, the desperation to be noticed.
Could one of these roses be from her?
Eve was pretty sure when the roses were first offered to Jonah, they’d been fresher than they were now. Although still striking, the petals had wilted, their edges turning black. When she raised the flowers to her nose to sniff their delicate fragrance, she found none.
Her gaze returned to Jonah. He stood with the band, listening to whatever Luke Struthers was telling them. At regular intervals one or other of the Speed brothers nodded, commented or looked in the direction Luke pointed.
Goose bumps erupted over her skin.
Even in work mode, Jonah stood out. His presence made Eve want to tug at her shirt—yank it over her shoulders and present herself naked to the enthralling sex god.
Stunned by her impulses, she ran a calming hand gently over the left side of her face, from her forehead down to her neck.
It calmed her not at all.
Her interaction with Jonah had lasted a minute, maybe two, yet it had left her with an unexpected hunger.
A desperate, greedy need for more.
Shaking off temptation and grounding herself firmly in reality—the same reality where she was a regular person and she hadn’t been given half-dead roses by Jonah Speed—she turned back to the table behind her and finished packing her portable makeup box with trembling hands.
Over the years, Eve had assembled an inspiring collection of makeup. A collection that caused raptures in Delilah and Devine, Speed’s gorgeous yet surprisingly down-to-earth back-up singers. The two of them had contacted her three months ago, inviting her to join them for the six-month duration of the Speed worldwide concert tour.
Hard work, determination and a fierce belief in her ability had helped Eve to make a name for herself as a makeup artist in the Australian TV and film industry, but she’d had no idea her reputation had crossed oceans. The thought that she was now officially on tour with Speed still flabbergasted her.
Who would have thought the scarred, traumatized girl who grew up in Tamworth would be part of the entertainment event of the decade?
She popped the last eyeliner back in its slot and tucked a lipstick in a side pocket before snapping the box shut. Silently giving thanks to the inventor of the wheel, she pulled up the handle, propped the heavy, jam-packed case at an angle and set off, heading to the tunnel leading to the inside of the arena, pulling the case behind her.
She made sure not to leave the roses behind. Oh no, she had plans for the two secondhand, wilting blossoms Jonah Speed had given her.
* * * *
The opportunity to put that plan into action presented itself not a minute later as the sound of deep male laughter echoed through the air behind her.
Hot chills ran up her spine, heating her skin and making her shiver at the same time. Stopping mid-step, she turned around, forcing the two men and a woman walking behind her to either stop suddenly themselves or collide with her.
One man stopped dead, the other two effortlessly sidestepped her.
Eve caught a whiff of Jordan Speed’s aftershave as he walked by still chuckling, his arm slung casually around the woman’s shoulders. “See you on the other side,” he called to his brother, and they continued on their way.
She tried to still her insanely beating heart. Honestly she did. If she was going to spend the next six months on tour with the band, she couldn’t break out in fan-girl spasms every time one of the brothers came within a three-mile radius.
But Jordan Speed had walked past her. Jordan Speed, for heaven’s sake!
How on earth could she still her crazy heart and shaking hands in the presence of Jordan and Jonah Speed?
Although Jordan and the woman were already gone, leaving her face-to-face, once again, with the middle Speed brother.
The laughter that had boomed from his chest seconds ago died, and the smile that had lit his face, temporarily blinding her with its brilliance, straightened as he regarded her with those smoldering green eyes.
God! This man screamed sex. Blatant, raw sex. The kind of sex that should be outlawed.
He fogged her ability to think rationally.
Eve’s shirt pulled tight across her breasts, irksome and uncomfortable. Again the urge to remove it—and her bra—skittered across her arms.
She rounded her shoulders, refusing to let his innate sensuality interfere with her plan. She didn’t care how famous—or gorgeous—Jonah was, her clothes would stay firmly in place.
“I’d hoped to run into you again tonight.” Wow, was that her voice? It sounded surprisingly steady, seeing as her lungs weren’t functioning at full capacity.
“Beautiful, you can run into me anytime, day or night.” His reply was spoken through luscious, full and tantalizing lips.
She didn’t want to run, she wanted to crash into him at full speed.
Pardon the pun.
“Look, while I’m hugely complimented that you’d want to give me flowers, and while I thank you for thinking I’m…beautiful—” She tripped over the word. It wasn’t one she associated with herself. It wasn’t one anyone associated with her. “I can’t accept these.” She held the roses out to Jonah.
Surely it was both criminal and unjust for a man to look this good? Smell so good? Sound so good…
Jonah looked at her, baffled. “You’re giving them back to me?”
“I am.” She tried to ignore the fact his voice was as intoxicating as the rest of him. It was deep and velvety, like a gentle vibration from a bass drum.
Instead of accepting the flowers, Jonah folded his arms across his chest.
The movement drew her gaze to that beautifully sculpted chest. And to the tanned arms and outrageously broad shoulders. His shirt was plastered to his skin, outlining the exquisite muscle definition beneath.
Eve struggled to draw breath. Since when had sweaty men turned her on?
Since never, that’s when, yet one look at Jonah’s shoulders, at the way that shirt hugged them, the way his damp hair curled around his face, and funny things happened in places she shouldn’t be thinking about now.
“Because as well-intentioned and as lovely as your gesture was, somehow secondhand roses fail to make me feel beautiful.”
“Secondhand?” Jonah looked startled, taken aback even, but then his confidence seemed to bounce right back into place. “You think I gave you used flowers?” The smile that lifted the corner of his mouth was slow in coming, but once it was there…boy, it stopped her lungs altogether for a good few seconds.
“Those flowers were tossed onstage for you. Not me.”
“Which made them my flowers. Is it a crime to give away something that belongs to me?”
“Not a crime. No. And as I said, your intentions were thoughtful and complimentary. But those roses…they were meant for you. They were given to you.”
His response perplexed her. First he raised an eyebrow in surprise, then he gave a confused shake of his head and finally he stuck out his hand, not to take the roses but in introduction. “We haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. I’m Jonah Speed.”
She eyed his palm warily as her fingers feathered once again over her left cheek, a nervous habit she wished she could break but knew she never would.
There was no way Jonah could know it, but a handshake was something Eve avoided whenever possible. Instinct, and a slight tingle in her palm, told her this shake would reveal more about Jonah than he’d be willing to share.
Besides, she didn’t want to shake Jonah’s hand, she wanted to clutch it and press it to her breast. And her ass. And her…
“It’s nice to meet you, Jonah.” Instead of shaking his extended hand, she placed the roses into it, making good and sure she didn’t touch his skin in the process. She strongly suspected if her hand so much as grazed his she’d be forced to grab great big handfuls of the man, see whatever she was meant to see and never let go again.
His fingers wrapped around the stems and he looked at them curiously, as though not sure how to respond. Then he dipped his head in acceptance and pulled his arm back. “You’re right. It never occurred to me you’d view these flowers as secondhand, or that I was giving away something meant expressly for me. My apologies. It must seem incredibly rude.”
He sounded both surprised and sincere, making Eve wonder if anyone had ever rejected a gift from Jonah Speed before her.
Her smile was as gentle and forgiving as her tone. “No apologies necessary. It was a lovely gesture.” She tried. God help her, she tried, but she couldn’t help herself. Eve had to touch him. She grazed her hand over his biceps, just below the edge of his sleeve, so she met bare skin. Sparks shot through her hand straight up her arm.
With that, and before she did something stupid—like rip off that irksome top of hers and jump him—she turned back around and, tugging her makeup case behind her, continued down the tunnel until she entered the arena and dressing rooms.
She felt Jonah’s gaze on her back the entire way. It drilled into her like a million sharp darts of awareness.
Eve was only too relieved to shut herself in Delilah and Devine’s change room. Her heart pounded, a million beats a minute for sure. Jonah’s drums probably couldn’t hammer louder.
Never had anyone affected her so. Never had she desperately wanted to shove herself in a man’s embrace like she did with Jonah. Put herself at his mercy and beg him to do anything and everything to her body. He’d handed her half-dead, used roses, and all she could think now was how damn much she wanted to sleep with him.
No. Not sleep. Fuck him—all the way through the night and long into the next morning.
But then, who didn’t want to fuck him? He was Jonah Speed—rock legend, drummer extraordinaire and lethal to women.
Eve breathed deeply, calming herself while she waited for Delilah and Devine to shower before she fixed their hair and makeup, preparing them for the after party.
It was well past midnight by the time the crew arrived back at the hotel. Too tired to even contemplate a party—the third one in less than a week—no matter how much the back-up singers insisted she join them, and perhaps too scared to contemplate coming face to face with Jonah again, she ignored the party suite—jam-packed and writhing with people—and made her way to her own room.
The first thing that caught her eye as she opened the door was a massive bouquet of stunning blood-red roses, centered on the small table beneath the window. There must have been fifty long-stemmed flowers in the glass vase, each one fresher and more dazzling than the next. Their fragrance filled the room, making Eve dizzy.
She threw her key card and bag on the bed, set her makeup kit against the wall and trudged over to read the card attached.
Not secondhand, I promise.
These are meant only for you.
With his customary bottle of beer in hand, Zachary slipped through the crowded suite, searching for Luke. He had to thank the guy for cutting short the interview he’d just been subjected to. Although the TV anchorwoman had behaved like the ultimate professional, her cameraman had openly propositioned him, painting an explicit picture of what Zachary could do to him and the interviewer, given the opportunity.
He shuddered. His days of sex for the sake of sex were over.
Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.
T-shirts, he amended silently. Zachary had collected a sickening number of them, each one representative of his various degrees of debauchery. If it was doable, he’d done it, and the memories did not always make him proud.
Zachary never found Luke. Instead he was waylaid by a group of teenage girls. With their long hair, skinny jeans, skimpy shirts and impossibly high heels, they all looked the same. Zachary had long since stopped trying to differentiate one face from another. He’d become too accustomed to the clusters of females who swarmed him.
Not groupies. No, groupies were another kettle of fish. A kettle that shared most of his been-there-done-that T-shirts.
These were fans. Adoring girls who’d be content with a smile or an autograph or a high-five.
At first, when fame had struck so fast, he’d tried to talk to them all, tried to offer them each a real smile and a heartfelt word. But that had soon become impossible. When hundreds, sometimes thousands, of fans flocked to him, it was unfeasible to give each of them his individual attention.
He’d since mastered the art of singling out one admirer while tackling some of the hundreds of questions that were tossed his way.
Zachary smiled patiently and handled the girls. As he spoke, he eyed the quietest one, a plain redhead. Yeah, so sue him. He had a soft spot for redheads. Especially redheads with green eyes. This one was shyer than the rest of her friends and not trying to get his attention. Instead she seemed content to stand aside while her companions flirted shamelessly.
He grinned at her and almost laughed at her responding look of bewilderment. As a black marker was handed to him and he signed his name to someone’s shirt, he winked at the redhead.
Her eyes widened and her cheeks turned pink. She smiled back.
Zachary answered questions as he always did—mostly with non-answers or by deflecting the questions back to the girls.
“Do you have a girlfriend, Jonah?”
“A pretty girl like you asking me that?” Said with a winning smile. “I bet you’re trying to make your boyfriend jealous.”
“What’s your star sign, Jonah?”
“Well, now, I’m guessing you must be a Libra.” Libra. The first star sign he could think of. “It’s funny, you know. Libras ask that question a lot.”
And so the conversation went, with Zachary charming the young women and signing his name at least five more times. The girls grew bolder, and by the time he penned his last autograph, it was to bare flesh, just above firm breasts.
He refused to sign the bare breasts themselves. The girls were just too young for that to sit comfortably with him.
He would have stayed with them longer had an impulse to raise his gaze and look across the room not caught him by surprise.
Desire hit him like a punch in the gut.
There she was, leaning against the wall, chatting to Delilah but watching him speculatively. Again that sense of familiarity wafted through his mind. He’d never met her before this tour, but something about her yanked at a string in his memory.
He answered his last question and held his palm out to the shy redhead. When she tentatively gave him her hand, he lifted it to his mouth and kissed her fingers, leaving the girl flushed and her friends oohing and aahing.
With a final smile in her direction, he extricated himself from the group and walked directly to the woman whose gaze still followed his movements. In her hand she held a single rose in full bloom. Delilah no longer stood with her.
She was an enigma, for sure.
Apart from his mother, Zachary hadn’t given anyone flowers in a long time. Yet tonight, when instinct had dictated he offer this woman roses, she’d rejected them. Rejected him, cold. Hadn’t even bothered to tell him her name.
Zachary couldn’t remember the last time he’d been rejected. Hell, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d made the first move. Continually surrounded by groupies and fans, anything more than a meaningful look or raised eyebrow had become obsolete.
He handed his half-empty beer bottle to a waiter, neatly sidestepped a woman who eyed him lecherously, smiled for a press photographer and finally reached his destination.
She leaned quietly against the wall, her arms crossed over her chest, the single rose resting across her breasts. Breasts that looked pert and appealing beneath the tight, black T-shirt she wore. The shirt ended just above her hips, an inch or two short of her white jeans, offering Zachary an enticing view of pale female flesh.
Unlike him, she hadn’t changed since the concert. But even at this hour—well past one in the morning—she looked fresh and vital, as though she’d just stepped out of the shower.
He wondered how she’d react if he buried his nose in the crook of her neck and breathed deeply of her scent.
Probably not too kindly.
Zachary had a sudden, overwhelming urge to impress her. To say something that would blow her mind and replace the caution in her eyes with undimmed interest. He waited a heartbeat for the right words to come and then smiled at her.
“Hey.” She bit her lower lip.
“How are you?”
Really, Zachary? That’s the best you’ve got?
“Good. Enjoying the party?”
Aw, fuck. Shoot me now. Could he say anything more mundane? If Luke and his brothers had heard him, they’d be doubled over with laughter.
She raised a dainty shoulder. “It’s all right.”
“Just all right?” Her answer made him smile. He knew the lengths people went to in order to get an invitation to these parties, yet Eve was totally blasé about it.
“I hadn’t intended to come. I was going to go to sleep.”
Zachary angled himself in front of her, intentionally giving the rest of the world his back. Right now he was interested in no one but the beguiling woman before him. “What changed your mind?”
And could he just add, silently, that he was mighty glad she had changed her mind?
She raised the rose, offering it to him. “This did.”
He made a mental note to thank Luke. Who else could organize a delivery of fresh flowers—while coordinating the usual post-concert chaos—in a foreign city, at midnight?
Zachary lifted it to his nose and inhaled. Sweet, but not nearly as sweet as Eve. “You’re giving me a used rose?”
“Ah, I’m not giving it to you. As soon as I leave, I’m taking it back. I thought you might want to see what I’m thanking you for.” She ran a hand over her left cheek. “The flowers are beautiful. Every one of them. Thank you.”
Zachary drank in the sight of her. She was tiny. If he pulled her into his arms—which yes, he wanted to do, badly—her forehead would press against his sternum. That wasn’t a bad thing. Not at all. If he lay down with her, her long brown hair would feather across his chest and nipples. And if he rolled them, so she lay on the bed and wrapped her legs around him while he drove into her, over and over again, he doubted she’d be able to cross her feet behind his back.
The image was enough to stir his cock to life.
She was also incredibly pretty. The longer he drank in the sight of her, the prettier she looked, and the harder he became. Her makeup was perfect, the tones of her blush making her sky-blue eyes seem bluer and her cherry-red lips supremely kissable.
Given the opportunity, he’d press his mouth to hers and discover if her lips tasted as good as they looked.
It was lucky for Eve the rush of adrenaline from the concert had eased, otherwise Zachary wasn’t sure he’d have been able to stop himself from kissing her. From pressing her against the wall, pressing himself to her and ravaging her lips—and pussy.
Even now, his control was questionable.
“You’re very welcome. I’m sorry if I insulted you earlier, giving you flowers that were meant for me.”
She eyed him in silence for a good few seconds before letting him off the hook. “No harm done.”
“How about we start again? From the beginning this time.” He stuck out his hand. “I’m Z…” Oops. “Jonah Speed.” Jesus, she had his brain all fried.
She batted his arm away. “There’s no need for such formalities. I know who you are.” Her laughter filled the air, a soft tinkle like a stream trickling over rocks. “The whole world knows who you are.”
Perhaps the whole world knew who Jonah Speed was, but Zachary Pace was another deal altogether. And right now Zachary Pace had an overwhelming need to get to know this woman better.
He narrowed his eyes. “That’s the second time you’ve evaded my introduction. I’m beginning to think you’re determined to never tell me your name.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Fifty long-stemmed red roses mysteriously made their way into my hotel room at midnight. I have more than a sneaking suspicion you already know my name.”
Zachary bit back his grin and drew his features into an embarrassed expression. “So you heard me, then, after the concert?”
“Asking, yelling really, for someone, anyone, to please tell me your name when you walked away from me.”
“I begged who’d ever listen. Maybe even tried to bribe a couple of the lights guys.”
The edges of her mouth twitched. “You did not.”
“Did too. Even groveled at the feet of a complete stranger.”
“Did she answer you?”
“He. And no. But he did look at me as though I were a pitiful mutt.”
Her eyes danced with amusement. “So how did you find out?”
“What makes you think I did?”
She looked pointedly at the rose.
“Okay, guilty. I know it.”
“Delilah. She took pity on me.” He frowned. “And by took pity, I mean she kicked me, hard, when I wrapped myself around her leg and refused to let go until I knew your name. She poked me in the eye and insisted I stop humiliating myself in public.”
She laughed in delight. “Well, now I know for sure you’re talking nonsense. Both Delilah and Devine were already in their change room when I got there.”
He winked and finally shared the truth. “Luke told me.”
She looked surprised. “Luke knows my name?”
“Luke probably knows your date of birth, address and social security number too. He’s that organized.”
“I’m Australian. I don’t have a social security number.”
“Your phone number then,” he amended.
“That I have.”
“May I have it?”
“Your phone number.”
She looked baffled. “Why would you need it?”
“Oh, I don’t know. To phone you, maybe?”
“But I’m touring with you. There’s no need to phone me. Now that you know it, you can just call my name, and I’ll respond.”
“Eve.” He liked the way it sounded, rolling over his lips.
“You’re the first person I’ve given flowers to in a very long time.”
Again she looked surprised. “Well, in that case, Jonah, I’m honored.”
He smiled. He liked the way she said Jonah, but couldn’t help wondering how Zachary would sound coming from those cherry-red lips. “Would you like a drink?”
“No, thank you.”
“Something to eat?”
She looked good. Good enough to eat.
“Would you come with me then, to get some food?”
Eve gnawed on her lower lip. Her eyes filled with trepidation. “Why me, Jonah?”
“Why would I like you to come and get food with me?”
“No. Why did you choose to send flowers to me, of all people?”
“You don’t like flowers?”
“I love them. Especially fresh ones meant for me.” She smiled shyly. “But that doesn’t answer my question. Why did you choose to give me flowers when you haven’t given them to anyone else in ages?”
“You really need to ask?”
“Mate, you’re Jonah Speed. I’m…well, I’m just me. A scarred girl living in Sydney. It makes no sense.”
Did she say scarred or scared? It was tough to tell with her accent. And why would she be either? “You’re…scarred?”
She waved his question away. “Uh-uh. No getting sidetracked. You’re evading the issue. Why me?”
“Why do you think a man would give a beautiful woman flowers?”
She huffed out a breath. “Do you answer all questions with more questions, or just mine?”
For the second time since meeting her, Jonah found himself apologizing. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was. Do I really do that?”
She glared at him for asking another question, and he grinned in response.
“So?” she pushed. “Why me?”
Apparently she really did need to ask. “Because once I laid eyes on you, it was difficult to look away. But when you caught me staring, I couldn’t keep ogling you. That would have been creepy. So I gave you the flowers.” He snorted with humor. “Thought it would be a good idea at the time.”
“The roses in my room were a good idea. A really good idea.”
Zachary’s stomach chose that moment to growl. “Are roses edible?”
“Uh…” She wrinkled her nose. “I have no idea. Why?”
“Because if you don’t come with me to find some food now, I may have to eat this damn flower.”
She grabbed it back from him. “No way. If you’re hungry, go get food. Leave my rose alone.”
“Come with me?”
“You can’t find the buffet table alone?”
“It’s not that I can’t find it. It’s that I’ll never reach it alone.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“There’s a woman on your right, about ten feet away, who’s eyeing me like I’m breakfast, a reporter behind me who wants to get me alone for an exclusive Jonah Speed interview, a sex-starved cameraman by the bar, and three women who’ve been giving you the evil eye ever since I walked over here.”
“You picked up on all this while talking to me?”
Zachary shrugged. “I’ve learned to become aware of the people around me.”
“And my accompanying you to the buffet table will help you how?”
“People tend to give me more space if I’m not alone.”
“Ah. So you want me for security.”
He eyed her petite form. “Yeah, Tiny. One ominous glare from you, and you’ll send the crowds packing.”
He shrugged. “Hey, if the name fits…”
“That’s the best you could come up with?”
“Well, short-shit came to mind, but I figured you’d like that as much as you like secondhand roses.”
“Uh, yeah. You figured right.”
“So Tiny it is.”
She pointed a thumb at her chest. “I might be short, but I bet I could eat you under the table.”
“I thought the expression was ‘drink you under the table’?”
“I don’t drink.”
“I don’t. Now let’s get you some food before you pass out. Or worse, attack my flower.”
Zachary didn’t budge, but he did give her his best smile. “I’d like to see you eat me under the table.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Am I picking up on hidden innuendo, Mr. Speed?”
There it was again. The jolt of lust that smacked him in the chest.
“No, Tiny. When you eat me, we won’t be anywhere near a table.”
“When?” This time she snorted, as if the idea were hilarious.
“Hey, a man can always hope.” Damn, knocked back again. Eve Andrews was not good for his ego. Not good at all. Yet Zachary couldn’t deny he was enjoying her company immensely.
“Hope for a dessert table then,” Eve said. “I need sugar. Do you think there’s chocolate mousse?”
Zachary curled his upper lip. “God, I hope not.” He placed his hand on her shoulder and urged her towards the other side of the room, where the food had been set out.
“You don’t like chocolate mousse?” She looked horrified.
He let his hand drift down until it rested on her lower back. He left it there, liking how she felt, liking how the rise of her ass pressed against his palm. He’d like to press his lips to it too. And his cock. “I don’t like chocolate, period.”
“What? How can anyone not like chocolate?”
“It’s too sweet and too rich. Plus it gets stuck on the roof of your mouth, and the only way to wash it away is with a good swallow of beer.”
She shook her head in disbelief. “At least now I understand why you think I’m beautiful. Your taste sucks great big dingo balls.”
His jaw dropped. “My taste what?”
“Sucks. You have poor taste in food and drink. It’s obvious.”
“It’s an expression.”
“Good taste,” he amended. “And you are beautiful.”
“Chocolate’s beautiful. Here, I’ll prove it.” They’d reached the table, and Eve made a beeline for the assortment of desserts. She scanned the plates and helped herself to a saucer, which she loaded with chocolate truffles. “No mousse,” she said, regret evident in her tone. “But open up and try one of these.” She held a chocolate truffle to his mouth.
“Tempted as I am…no thanks.” The temptation had nothing to do with the candy, and everything to do with the hand it rested in.
“You’re not even going to try it?”
“But…but it’s delicious.”
“So you eat it.”
“You won’t have a bite?”
“Not even a nibble.” Unless it had all melted on her fingers, and then he doubted he’d stop at a nibble.
“I eat nuts, just not chocolate.”
She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “I suspect you may not be fully human.”
He half suspected she was right, especially considering the animalistic way his body responded to her presence. She had him starved for a taste…of Eve. The chocolate may not appeal, but he could tuck into her with zest. “I suspect that chocolate is about to disappear into your mouth.”
“I suspect you’re right.” Her eyes twinkled and she popped the chocolate between her lips.
She didn’t chew it. Not immediately. Rather she left it in her mouth. To melt?
Zachary had no idea. All he knew was now that the candy was in her mouth, he couldn’t avert his gaze.
Again he stared at her, bewitched.
Her eyes closed and she let out a soft moan of pleasure.
Eve’s “Mmmmm” reverberated down his spine and echoed in his groin.
How the fuck could eating chocolate turn into the most erotic encounter on earth? Eve made it look like she was lost in the throes of spectacular sex. The woman had a chocolate in her mouth, that was all. Yet the bliss on her face and satisfaction in her soft moan had Zachary hardening to the point of pain.
Christ, he hoped no one noticed.
She chewed, her red lips a beacon to his gaze.
He wanted to kiss her, wanted to mold his mouth to hers and taste the pleasure on her breath.
Yeah. Not going to happen. Not here, in a room packed full of curious eyes and cameras.
“If you carry on chewing like that—” Zachary’s voice was a low growl, “—like you’re about to have an orgasm, I am going to throw you under the table and eat every last bit of you.”
Eve’s eyes popped open, and she swallowed quickly. “You know it would be way simpler if you just ate the truffle?”
“Maybe. But it wouldn’t taste half as good.”
“You know what you are, Jonah Speed?”
Aroused? Frustrated? Horny? “What am I, Eve Andrews?”
“A first-rate, grade-A flirt.” She lifted a second truffle to her mouth and licked it. Those cherry-red lips of hers framed the milk chocolate, and her tongue was just visible, dabbing at the treat.
The roomful of curious eyes and cameras faded to insignificance. Sound faded too. The chocolate and Eve’s lips were his sole focus. His sole desire.
With one hand, he plucked the saucer from her hand and set it on the table. With the other he plucked her hand from her mouth and tossed the half-eaten chocolate over his shoulder.
Before she had a chance to object—and by the look in her eyes she intended to object, vehemently—he yanked her against him, bent his head and kissed her.
Claimed her mouth with his, taking advantage of her surprised gasp to slip his tongue between those cherry-red lips and sample the chocolate she’d just licked.
Jesus, fuck. She was right. The chocolate wasn’t just good. It was delectable. Mouthwatering. It blew his mind. And he hated chocolate.
Eve sagged in his arms, as though she’d turned boneless. He hauled her closer, molding her to his body, squashing the rose between them. Her soft curves pressed tight against his firmer bulk. She clutched at him with one hand, grabbing his arm, squeezing it, then slowly letting her hand skim up over his shoulder until she buried it in his hair.
Her tongue drifted over his, toyed with it. Tasted him like he tasted her. And damned if it wasn’t the sweetest, hottest kiss Zachary had ever shared.
He kissed her harder, lost himself to the creamy, rich flavor of Eve and chocolate.
The chocolate had nothing on the woman. Couldn’t compete with her.
Lights flared against his eyes. Once, twice, a million times. Fireworks? From a kiss? That was a first. Not surprising though, not with the way his body reacted to the kiss, but a first.
Sanity returned like a sharp slap.
Those bursts of light weren’t fireworks at all. Not even close. They were flashes. Camera flashes. Tons of them.
Zachary broke the kiss with a silent, foul curse and stepped back, holding Eve’s arms to steady her.
Jesus, how stupid could he have been?
She blinked once, then again, scrunching her eyes against the flares of light, looking bewildered at first and then a little terrified.
“Hell! I’m sorry.” He whispered the apology as he scanned the room. Luke would sort this out instantly, leaving Zachary free to slip away with Eve. “I wasn’t thinking.”
No, he definitely wasn’t. All rational thought had fled his mind as she’d devoured those chocolates.
Shit. Shit, shit, shit.
The band manager was nowhere to be seen, which meant it was up to Zachary to initiate damage control. Problem was, hundreds of people had caught him and Eve lip-locked on camera. There was very little he could do about it.
Even now flashes continued, and mobile phones were more visible than faces. Every Tom, Dick and photographer had caught Zachary’s impulsive behavior on film.
It was just a matter of time before those photos appeared on social media, in newspapers, on TV and in every gossip rag around the world.
The only good thing about this whole mess was that Zachary’s erection had died a hasty death beneath the flashes of light.
Fuck. How stupid was he? How careless?
In the three years since Speed had soared to fame, he’d never acted so impulsively, so thoughtlessly. But then he’d never had cause. Never met anyone like Eve before. Never wanted to kiss a woman at the expense of his reputation and hers.
Zachary might be used to the lights and fame. He might be used to the paparazzi dogging his every move, but he doubted Eve was. And he was furious at himself for putting her in this position. He knew exactly what the pap was capable of, and he hated them for it.
Knowing there was no alternative but to acknowledge the attention, Zachary lifted his arm in a silent salute and waved.
“Yeah, yeah. I know. You got me.” He smiled, shamefaced, at the crowd around him. He should be shamefaced, putting the two of them in this position.
Then he tucked a shell-shocked Eve under his arm and led her through the room, winding around the thicket of bodies pressing toward them and shaking his head at requests for more photos.
“You didn’t get enough already?” he joked with a grin he in no way felt.
“Is she your girlfriend, Jonah?”
“Another one-night stand, or the real thing?”
“What’s her name?”
“Forget her, Jonah. Take me.”
“Take us both.”
The questions and comments kept flying, and Eve gulped noisily at his side.
“Almost to the door,” he murmured, urging her to keep walking.
“If you ever kiss me again,” Eve griped, “I’ll poke you in the eye, never mind Delilah.”
“Ouch,” was his first whispered response, and “It’ll be worth it,” his next.
“Both eyes then.”
They reached the door, and Zachary hurried her out. He shot a meaningful look at one of the bodyguards Luke had organized for the tour.
The man needed no further instruction. As Zachary grabbed Eve’s hand and raced down the hall, two guards placed themselves in the doorway, effectively stopping anyone from following.
They’d barely slipped around the first corner when Eve came to a dead halt.
A soft groan escaped her throat, and her eyes flickered closed.
“Eve? Tiny? Can you hear me?”
She could. His voice echoed in the periphery of her mind, but she couldn’t focus on it, couldn’t respond. Her vision darkened and spots danced before her eyes.
Darts of heat ran up her arm, originating from the sharp tingles in her hand.
“Christ, you’re pale as a ghost.”
“Sing it, Grandmother, sing it again.”
There were two voices now. One she recognized, one she didn’t. The first was Jonah’s, the second a child’s.
Someone laughed. A woman. “Okay then, Zachary, but this is the last time and then you need to go to sleep. Agreed?”
Eve tried to gain perspective, tried to force herself back into the present. But it was too late. Jonah held her hand. And the tingles had increased so now it felt like electricity pulsing through her arm.
And then Eve wasn’t Eve anymore.
She was Zachary, the child sitting cross-legged on his bed, listening, rapt, to his grandmother sing.
I have a song to sing with you,
Believe these words we know are true.
He loved the song. Loved the images it inspired every time his grandmother sang it.
Feel it in the rhythm of your heart,
See the time your love will start.
Zachary’s heart began to pound. He closed his eyes.
She’s out there now, quietly waiting,
Red hair, green eyes…fascinating.
And there she was, a clear picture in his mind. Long red hair tumbled over her back, and her green eyes sparkled with laughter.
Warmth filled him from the inside out. Happiness snuck into his bones. No, he didn’t know her yet. Wouldn’t know her for a long time. But one day…
Appearances fool, you have been warned,
Follow your instinct, don’t be torn.
Zachary had no idea what the last lines meant. All he knew was the woman in his head—the woman he saw every time his grandmother, Edna, sang him his lullaby—would eventually be his.
“Eve! I need you to answer me.”
The tingles in her hand ceased. The electricity racing through her arm faded to harmless static, and she lay suspended in the air. Eve opened her eyes, and the world spun around her.
No, she definitely wasn’t standing. She lay horizontal, her right arm hanging limply at her side and the other arm, like the left side of her torso, squashed against a hard wall of warmth.
Ah, it was the adult voice again. The one she recognized. The deep baritone, like the boom of a drum. Jonah’s voice.
Jonah’s body. That’s what she was pressed against. He held her, one arm beneath her knees, the other around her back.
She looked up at him, dazed. “Who’s Edna?”
And then they were moving. Or rather he was moving, striding down the hotel corridor, carrying her. He came to a stop outside a door, and using the wall and his body to support her, dropped one arm and fished around in his pocket. In seconds he had a key card.
He gave it to her. “Take it, please. Open the door.”
Shakily, she slid the card into the lock as he caught her full weight in his arms once again. She pushed the door open.
Jonah had her inside and lying on a couch before the door clicked shut.
“Lie there.” He pointed at her. “Don’t move. Take a few deep breaths and I’ll be right back.”
Too dizzy to argue, she dropped her head on the cushion and again closed her eyes. The melody of Grandmother Edna’s song drifted through her mind, but she couldn’t remember the words. What she could remember, vividly, were the emotions little Zachary had felt when he heard the song. When he pictured the redhead.
“Are you up to taking a sip of water?”
His voice was close to her ear, and she turned to look at him. Jonah knelt beside the couch, his face pale, his green gaze agitated.
“I think so.”
He wrapped an arm around her shoulders again, lifting her upper body and bringing a glass to her lips.
She took a few sips. “Thank you. That’s enough.”
He settled her down and sat back on his feet, staring at her. No matter how fuzzy she felt from her vision, Jonah’s presence still packed a punch. This close, Eve found it difficult to draw adequate breath.
“You wanna tell me what just happened?”
Images assailed her, one after the other.
Jonah holding the rose. Jonah laughing. The plate full of truffles. Jonah, kissing her, blowing her mind, taking her sanity. The lights. Thousands of flashes, blinding her. The race to escape. And finally, his arm, reaching towards her…
“My hand,” she explained.
He stared at her, baffled.
“You held my hand.”
He narrowed his eyes, as though concentrating. “I did.”
“That’s what happened,” she clarified.
Jonah jumped to his feet. “I’m calling reception. We’ll get you a doctor.”
She shook her head, then wished she hadn’t. It made the dizziness worse. “There’s no need for a doctor. I’m fine.”
“Lady,” Jonah said, obviously worried. “No one has ever zoned out on me like that. You need a doctor.”
“You’ve never held my hand before,” she pointed out.
He leaned over and touched her neck. “You’re white as a sheet and making no sense. Please, let me get someone up here to check you out.”
She grabbed his wrist, holding it tight. “I promise, I’m fine. I just need to get my balance back. This always happens afterwards.”
“What always happens? After what?”
“Hands.” She lifted hers and dropped it back down. “I feel dizzy. Discombobulated. But in a few minutes I’ll be right.”
“And this happens after holding my hand?”
“Not just yours.”
“You get dizzy when you hold anyone’s hand?”
“No, only certain people.”
Jonah shoved a hand through his hair. “Jesus, Eve, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
She sighed and looked up at the ceiling before closing her eyes again. The giddiness subsided quicker if she kept them shut. “I have a…gift. A talent, you might call it.”
“What kind of gift?”
“The gift of sight.”
Silence, then, “Oh.” More silence. “Huh?”
“I see things. Images, snippets, pieces of people’s lives.”
Her words were met with more silence.
She took a deep, fortifying breath. Let the freak show begin.
“Often, when I hold a person’s hand, I’m hit with flashes of that person’s life. Sometimes it’s an image of the past, sometimes the present and sometimes the future. If I don’t know the person well, it’s impossible to tell which it is.”
“Hell.” The word was a whisper.
“Sometimes it’s a picture, like a photograph. Sometimes words or maybe a conversation I overhear. Maybe I’ll see images, like I’m watching a movie, but there are times when it’s much more than that.”
“Much more how?”
“I merge with the person whose hand I’m holding. Become one with him or her. Instead of seeing the vision like a passive observer, I become part of it. Live it like the person has—or will.”
What Eve neglected to tell Jonah was the latter only happened when the person whose hand she held had significance in her life. It was almost as though the more important that person was to her, the more she saw.
At the best of times, Eve’s visions left her rattled. But this one, this snippet of Jonah’s life, worried her like none ever had before.
She didn’t know the man. Had met him just a few hours ago. They’d shared nothing more than harmless conversation and a few roses. Oh, yeah, and a soul-shattering kiss. And yet she’d merged with him. Lived his life.
At least she assumed it was his life.
“Yeah?” He sounded distracted.
This time the silence stretched on endlessly.
Eve couldn’t bear it. It echoed through her ears, deafening her. She opened her eyes and looked at him, only to find him staring back, his expression confused, cautious.
“That’s the second time you’ve said the name,” he finally said.
“I merged with him. A child named Zachary.”
“What did he look like?”
Eve shrugged. “I don’t know. While I could see what he saw and hear what he heard, I couldn’t see him.” She hummed the song Edna had sung.
Jonah’s jaw dropped.
“His grandmother was singing to him.” The word struck a chord. Hadn’t Jonah spoken about his grandmother earlier, when he’d first given her the roses?
“His grandmother?” Jonah’s eyes widened.
“Edna.” The refined, beautifully dressed woman. “Brown eyes, brown hair. Although she was graying, rather grandly I might add.”
Jonah collapsed into a chair. “My grandmother.”
“Edna’s your grandmother?”
“Was.” His face fell. “She died a few years ago.”
She left him to his thoughts, let him assimilate what she’d told him. Though the visions were different every time, she was used to them. She’d been having them for fifteen years, ever since the explosion. This was all brand new for him.
“Zachary? The kid you saw…or merged with?”
“Zachary Pace. It’s my real name.”
“What about Jonah?”
“Stage name. And middle name.”
And then they were both silent for a while.
Jonah came to sit beside her on the couch, perching on the edge of the cushions. She scooched up to make space for him.
“Tell me more. Tell me all of it.”
She told him, describing everything she’d seen and heard.
Jonah stared. “That lullaby my grandmother sang was her special song for me. She and I were the only ones who knew it. Until now, no one else has ever heard it.”
“It seemed to make you happy.”
He smiled. “It did. It gave me a sense of my future.”
“So, have you met her yet?”
“Your future. The redhead from your imagination.” Her heart squeezed painfully as she asked.
He blinked. “Y-you saw that too?”
“I was you, Jonah. I was Zachary. Whatever you felt or thought that night, I felt and thought.” She’d experienced his sheer contentment at the idea of meeting the redhead. Contentment, happiness, excitement and anticipation.
Which was odd, really, because although she’d experienced all of Jonah’s feelings, they weren’t hers. Her personal emotions were quite different. She was put out, fiercely disappointed and…jealous.
“This is weird.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “Bizarre.”
To say the least.
What was weird for Eve, however, was that she’d told Jonah about her vision. There were times she didn’t mention having them at all. She’d yank her hand away and brush over it, explaining away her dizziness with arbitrary excuses like she must have stood up too fast, or she hadn’t eaten all day.
But with Jonah she hadn’t thought twice. She’d told him.
“Look, I know how wacky this all sounds. If it helps at all, I tried to avoid it happening.”
“Earlier, when you offered to shake my hand, I kinda sensed something would happen, so I refused you. Twice.” She knew it must have come across as rude, but hey, better rude than invasive, right?
“You knocked my arm away.”
“I did.” Still aware of the jealousy niggling at her belly, she pressed him for an answer. “So, have you?”
“Have I what?
“Met her yet?” Another painful squeeze of the heart.
“You don’t pull punches, do you?”
“You kissed me earlier. Kissed me like you meant it.” Or maybe she’d been the one kissing him like she meant it. Remembering the touch of his lips against hers—the glide of his tongue, the taste of his breath—brought a fresh wave of goose bumps racing over her spine and made her belly dip and jump. “If the woman of your fantasies is in your life, I want no part of your kisses.”
Eve wasn’t exactly sure which part of her had yelled that. Her heart? Her mind? Her soul? Her…pussy?
“I did mean it.” His gaze met hers, and his lips softened in a sensual smile, making her heart slam into her ribs. “Didn’t mean to do it in front of all those people though, but I couldn’t help myself. You made eating that chocolate look like a sexual feast.” He closed his eyes for a second and licked his lower lip as though remembering the kiss and how the chocolate had tasted on her tongue.
The action caught her deep in her belly and brought back the breathless wonder she’d experienced when he kissed her.
“Th-then we’re even, because you make breathing look like an erotic festival.” She took a deep breath, steadying her pounding heart. “But that’s beside the point. You’ve once again avoided answering my question.”
“Maybe that’s because you don’t ask the easiest of questions.”
“See? Another non-answer.”
He eyed her thoughtfully.
Eve sighed and pushed up into a sitting position. The dizziness had subsided, and she felt stupid lying on the couch.
Jonah shifted to give her space. Even so, she had to shuffle awkwardly to get her legs around him and put her feet on the floor. She accidentally rubbed her calves against his side in the process.
Shockwaves pulsed through her at the contact. Sharp pulses of energy that set her blood on fire and awakened every nerve ending in her body.
But it was time to ground herself firmly in Eve-world again. Time to remind herself she had no place in Jonah Speed’s hotel room. Or life, for that matter. There was no point getting all worked up because Jonah had kissed her once. And given her flowers.
She was Eve Andrews, the scarred girl from down the road. Even if Jonah’s interest in her had been genuine before now, she’d have destroyed it all with her freak show.
Like she’d destroyed any possible relationship with her little talent. Men tended to run a mile when they discovered her “gift”. If her scars didn’t chase them off beforehand. And generally, the visions weren’t necessary. Men took one look at her face…and fled.
She stood up. “Look, Jonah, I’m sorry. I’m prying into issues I have no business prying into. Shoving my nose where it doesn’t belong.”
“Please, call me Zachary. You’ve seen inside my head, it hardly seems right that you keep calling me Jonah.”
“I’m sorry about that too…Zachary.” It was a nice name. Suited him. She fidgeted nervously and took a step back. “About finding out your name when you obviously never intended for me to know. I’m sorry you got caught up in one of my visions. It’s not only unfair to you, it’s an extreme invasion of your privacy.”
“It’s not your fault.” He turned his palm upward and looked at it. “You tried to avoid my hand, but I never gave you a choice.”
“Still, you never gave me permission to enter your head. It’s not cool. I promise your name will remain a secret. I won’t share it with anyone. “She took another step back, this time turning around to look for the door. It was time to leave.
For the first time she noticed they weren’t in a small hotel room like hers. They were in a suite. A luxurious suite in the Crown Towers with a huge lounge and dining room, a door leading off to what she assumed was a bedroom, an entryway where a set of drums stood, and a wall of windows, which must offer sweeping views of Melbourne in the daytime. Even now, the city lights twinkled behind the glass.
“Are you going somewhere?” His question drew her attention back to him.
“Back to my room. I’ve outstayed my welcome.”
“I put off answering your question, Tiny. That doesn’t mean I want you to leave.”
“I freaked you out.”
“I invaded your privacy.”
“You shared something I hadn’t expected you to find out about.”
“I like chocolate.”
“Uh…yeah.” He frowned. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Didn’t,” he corrected, running his tongue along his lower lip again. “Until I tasted it from your perspective. That taste is something I could grow addicted to in a heartbeat.” He held a hand up in question. “Still, I don’t see why having different taste in food means you have to leave.”
“Okay, then let’s be honest. You’re famous, I’m not. You’re Jonah Speed, I’m someone with a strange gift.”
“What the hell does fame have to do with this?”
“You’re out of my league, Jonah.”
“Zachary’s out of my league too.”
“How can you say that?”
“You kissed me and a thousand flashes went off. That puts you—Jonah and Zachary—in a different league. One I can’t deal with.”
“I’m sorry about that. I shouldn’t have kissed you in front of all those people.”
“Jeez.” She ran a hand over her cheek. “I’ve known you a few hours and I swear we’ve apologized to each other ten times already.”
“Don’t get me wrong, Eve. I’m sorry I kissed you in front of all those people, sorry I called all that attention to us. I’m not sorry I kissed you.”
“Yeah?” Well, didn’t that just make her heart race like crazy? “I bet you’re sorry you grabbed my hand afterwards.”
He thought about his answer. “I liked the feel of your hand in mine.”
“And the craziness that came after?”
“It surprised me.” He smiled then. “But it’s nice to share my grandmother’s song with someone. Nice someone could hear it after all this time. It brings back good memories.”
Of course it did. Memories of his red-haired future. She stumbled, unsure what to say next.
“The answer’s no, by the way.”
She raised an eyebrow in question.
“The redhead you asked about. I haven’t met her yet.”
“So you still think about her?”
“Damn.” He gave her a rueful smile. “You zone right in on those difficult questions.”
Eve could have kicked herself. After apologizing for invading his privacy, she’d gone straight back and done it again. She raised her hands in defeat. “I’m sorry. Again. Look, I’ll go now. Leave you in peace.”
“Of course I think about her.”
She blinked. “You didn’t need to tell me.”
“I know I didn’t. I wanted to.”
“You wanted to?”
He nodded. “There’s something else you should know. Something I want to tell you.” His stomach punctuated his words with a loud growl. Zachary smiled. “And if you give me a minute to order something to eat, I’ll tell you all about it.”
He walked over to the phone, pressed one of the buttons and waited.
Her hand strummed over her cheek. What on earth could she need to know?
“Yeah, can I get room service up here…? Excellent.”
He looked at her with a question in her eyes and pointed to the receiver.
She shook her head. Her stomach was in no state to fill it with food.
As Zachary placed his order, his gaze caught hers again, and there went her heart, beating like crazy once more. “And one extra-large serving of chocolate mousse,” he said into the receiver. “…Fifteen minutes? Cool, I’ll be here.” He hung up.
“I thought you hated chocolate mousse?”
“I do.” His green gaze held hers. “It’s for you.”
And that was all it took for something to shift in her chest. Like a gear changing, her emotions were suddenly tumultuous. Zachary Jonah Speed Pace had just become a very serious threat to her heart. If Eve didn’t do everything in her power to protect it, she feared she could easily gift-wrap it—with a ribbon—and hand it over to the man before her.
A soft groan escaped his lips. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but the look on your face makes me think about sex. Hot, heavy, dirty sex.”
She opened her mouth, then closed it again, helpless to respond. Not when the very heart she feared she’d lose to him now felt like it sat in her throat, pumping like crazy.
The air around them sparked. Currents of heat and electricity snapped from him to her.
“Perhaps…” Zachary swallowed. “Perhaps I’d better tell you my story before I completely lose the ability to talk.
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