Everyone loves a rock star
What country legend Brent Kane needs is a good old fashioned hook-up. With pressure to write his next album mounting and the sales from his latest album teetering, Brent needs to find his muse -female distraction with no commitment–fast. So when Brent holes up at his best friend’s ranch in Somewhere Texas to write his next single the last thing he expected was to find his muse in the form of his best friend’s little sister.
DJ Diaz, the nonsense part owner of the Double D Ranch, is not at all affected by Brent’s good looks and play boy charm. She’s fallen once before and learned firsthand the heartache of loving a rock star. But spending time with the man who let her down ten years ago shows her that something’s missing from her life–fun.
But will DJ be able to keep her heart from becoming involved in this “just for fun” relationship? And more importantly, will Brent?
The table was worn and a bit sticky, and the beer had that warm fuzz that tickled the back of his throat, but the bar was dark and crowded. It gave him a sense of anonymity—just what Brent needed.
It was good to be home. Good to be back in the one place he’d actually lived for more than a year. Good to feel his roots again. Funny, when he was a kid he thought nothing ever happened in the small town of Somewhere, Texas, but now, ten years since his last visit, he could see how things had changed.
Somewhere had hit a growth spurt.
Sure, there were the old-timers and the regulars, but the kids he’d gone to high school with had grown up; some even had kids of their own. The popularity of the University had increased job opportunities, and more families had moved into town. When Derrek had said they would need to get to Everyday Joe’s early to get a table, he’d been shocked. The last time he’d been here, it was just a local dive, and getting a seat was never in question. Hell, by the looks of the rowdy crowd tonight, maybe Joe could afford some decent beer on tap.
Brent slouched down in the booth and raised his bottle to Derrek. “It’s good to be home,” he said, then took a sip of his beer and winced.
Derrek smiled. “Beer still sucks.”
Brent nodded. “I mean, seriously… it’s a damn bar. With only two things on the menu—beer and fried food—you’d think Joe would give a crap.”
His best friend since they’d played football shrugged, in that everything-rolls-off-my-back way of his, and sipped from his own bottle.
“Cheap beer always wins with college students, but crappy beer aside, I’m glad you’re here. Being on the road constantly must be tough. There are times I’ve felt sorry for you.”
Brent hid a grin. Derrek was probably the only person in the world who would feel sorry for him. As a country singer who’d successfully crossed over into pop music, whose recordings had gone multi-platinum, and who’d been on a world tour for the last two years, he pretty much had the jet-set life style people dreamt about. But seven years of working in Nashville and the last two out in L.A. could take its toll on anyone. That was why he’d flown back home, back to the small town of Somewhere, Texas—to take a breather.
“So, do you want to talk about it?” Derrek asked, his gaze darting around the crowded bar as if counting the exits for a fast get-away.
Derrek may have been his friend since grade school, but that didn’t mean he was comfortable with these types of conversations. Just not part of the man code. But Brent had already confided in Derrek what his real reasons for getting out of L.A. were.
Along with the rock star lifestyle came the rock star-seeking ladies, and Brent was definitely on their radar. Most of the time, things went smoothly. Well, smooth until the break up.
The problem was that Brent loved the idea of falling in love. The first glance, the first kiss, the first… everything. Brent was into women like some men were into sports cars, but just like a new car smell would eventually fade, so would his desire to be tied down. Of course, the trading-in process wasn’t as easy, and sometimes ended badly, like it had with the obsessed super-model, who’d splashed their break-up story across every major gossip magazine.
The whole thing had escalated to the point that he couldn’t even leave his front door without being mobbed by reporters. With his last album not performing as well as he’d hoped, his agent and manager were pressuring him more than ever to write and record his next single. It hadn’t helped matters that he now had the worst case of writer’s block he’d ever experienced. He’d finally called “uncle” and reached out to his best friend for help. The offer to stay at Derrek’s ranch had been a godsend. He needed a place to lay low and get back to what was most important—his music.
Brent shook his head, declining the offer to rehash his problems. He just needed some time to let things blow over. He knew that both of them had crashed and burned in the relationship department, so Derrek was probably not the best person to offer advice.
Derrek looked relieved. “So, what are you planning for the week that you’re here?”
Brent rested his head on the vinyl back of the booth and took in the scents of french fries and leather. “A little R and R, write some new material, maybe flirt with a pretty girl.”
Derrek raised one eyebrow. “Really? I thought the reason you were lying low was because of a pretty girl.”
Brent shook his head. “I write my best material when I’m in love—a little drinking, a little dancing, and a whole lot of tickle between the sheets. The best part about being here is that I’ll be gone before the first blush is even off the rose. You remember how that goes—or are you becoming too much of an old man to play that game?”
Derrek laughed and eased his tall frame further into the booth. His height he’d gotten from his father, but his dark Hispanic looks came from his mother’s side. “That was all you, man. You’re the one who had the way with the ladies. I’ve never seen anything like it. All you had to do was walk into a room and they would flock to you like flies to road kill.”
“You know what your problem is?” Brent continued, as if he had all his crap together and doling out advice to Derrek wasn’t at all hypocritical. “You never learned how to talk to women. You always played the silent, brooding type. Sure, some gals dig that, but most like a man who can sweet talk them and tell them they’re pretty.”
“Silent brooding type, huh?” Derrek said, brows arching above a pair of blue eyes—another trait from his father. But then Derrek just shook his head without comment. Derrek had always been the quiet one, the dependable go-to-guy. Brent wouldn’t be surprised if his best friend had a clock shoved up his ass; the man had never been late for anything. Reliable as the sun and almost as predictable was why Brent loved him—Derrek was everything Brent was not.
“Well, like my daddy said,” Derrek motioned to the perky waitress in a low-cut black tee-shirt and a push-up bra that he was fairly certain was responsible for more of her tips than her service. “Better to keep your mouth shut and look stupid than open it and remove all doubt.”
Brent turned his attention away from the plump backside of the young waitress and rolled his eyes. “That was Mark Twain, bro, not your daddy.”
Derrek smirked underneath the shadow of his Stetson as if Brent crediting the quote wasn’t impressive at all. “That’s right, I forgot. You were the smart one in high school, getting into honors literature and all that crap. And looky here where all that book reading got you.” He raised his bottle toward Brent. “Sitting right here next to me, drinking cheap beer, and checking out girls in push-up bras”
Brent laughed. It had been Derrek who’d received an offer for a full ride to the University of Texas. He’d turned it down after his parents’ death in a boating accident ten years ago to run the family ranch and take care of his baby sister.
Brent still struggled with guilt for not being there for his friend during that dark time. Not wanting to bring up the painful past, he brought the conversation around to what was really important.
“So, do you know of any hot girls new to town? Anyone recently heartbroken and looking for a rebound?” Brent glanced around the crowded bar, checking out potential targets.
“No,” Derrek said. “Not one, but if anyone could convince a girl to hook up for only one week it would be you. Just remember, my sister’s at the ranch, and I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate feeding someone new each morning. Just keep it to the bunkhouse so I don’t have to hear about it.”
Brent was glad his low groan was covered up by the sound check from the three piece band that had walked up on stage. He would’ve liked to say that he’d forgotten all about Danielle—Derrek’s little sister—but that wasn’t necessarily true. Danielle was just one of those people that didn’t quite fit in his life. There was something about her that made him feel… uncomfortable?
God, was it guilt? He shook his head. The feelings he had toward Danielle were mixed. There were those feelings of a teenager who held down the pesky little sister of his best friend while Derrek waved his dirty socks in her face and then there were those feelings of later—of noticing those pretty red lips, big, doe brown eyes, a contagious laugh, and the taste of apple pie and summer. He couldn’t believe he still remembered that. He hadn’t seen her in close to ten years. Funny how he’d never asked Derrek if Danielle was dating anyone seriously. Maybe he hadn’t wanted to know. “So what did Danielle say when you told her I was staying with you for a whole week?”
Derrek suddenly had a hard time holding Brent’s gaze. “Umm… I didn’t. Been real busy on the ranch and didn’t get around to letting her know. But she’ll be cool. She shouldn’t have an issue with it.”
Brent hoped not. What had happened between them was ancient history. Child’s play, really. If Danielle didn’t have a problem with that kiss years ago, then Brent shouldn’t either. He’d just have to remember to stay out of her way. The ranch was plenty big for both of them.
He planned to spend most of his time hunkered down in the bunkhouse, finishing his album. Brent pushed the thought of her out of his mind. If he hadn’t worked out his feelings about her in the last nine years, then he sure the hell wasn’t going to figure them out in the next five minutes.
Derrek carefully wiped the condensation off the table with the drink napkin provided and stood. “I’ll be right back, need to take the lizard for a walk. And I swear to God, if you ever see our waitress again, tackle her to get another round, will ya?”
Brent gave a mock salute and nodded. Spending time with his best friend felt good. Over the last few years they’d grown a bit distant. No one’s fault, really, just too much time and too many miles between them. He was hoping to rectify that.
He stretched out on the bench so he could face the main entrance and the dance floor. He loved watching people dance. Even after all these years, his favorite venues were the ones that had an open space for people to do the two-step or line dance.
The dance floor was fairly deserted, but of course the night was still young. The band that played was new, a group he hadn’t heard of before. They called themselves Sugar Rush and had one jean-clad man on lead guitar, one on the drums, and a fairly hot girl in a slinky dress manning the mike. They were a cover band, no material of their own, but the girl’s voice was pretty, and their range of songs was wide enough that the audience wouldn’t get bored.
There were a few tables set up close to the stage, but they were pushed back from the actual dancing. A couple cowboys and their wives occupied the tables. Waitresses weaved in and out with trays full of beers and red plastic baskets of fried food.
When the band took five, Brent signaled to the young waitress again, but when she just nodded that she’d be there in a moment, he was pretty sure he’d die of thirst before he’d get a drink. Apparently, his fame could get him a comped suite in one of L.A’s finest resorts, but not a beer order in Joe’s two-bit bar.
The waning light of the setting sun from the front entrance spilled across the dusty floor, and a few seconds later a woman in roughed up work boots and tight-fitting Wranglers strode in. Her back was partially toward him. With her hands on her hips and craning her neck, she searched the tables along the dance floor. Her boots were caked with mud, and her jeans were covered in dusty hand prints where she’d wiped her days’ work away. Her tank top showed evidence of the Texas heat, even in early June, with the vee-shaped neckline and underarms dark from perspiration. Her profile was chiseled, and even from a distance he could tell that her strong jawline offset a feminine, messy ponytail underneath a brown Stetson that sure had seen better days.
The woman wasn’t pretty in the classical way, or even in a fun, flirty way, but for some reason he couldn’t take his eyes off her. She had a petite build with curves in all the right places. Her arms were sun-kissed and well-toned. Unlike some of the other women who were dressed to catch a man and more than likely hadn’t been on a horse since they were kids, this woman all but screamed “Genuine Cowgirl.”
She must’ve found what she was looking for, because she bee-lined it for a portly man sitting near the front of the stage with two other men on either side of him. She walked up and slapped her palm flat on the table, her face low and close to the older man.
“Who the hell do you think you are, selling me cheap feed?”
She must’ve hit the table pretty hard, because his beer bottle wobbled, gave up the fight for balance, and spilled onto the man’s lap.
The portly man jumped out of his chair with more speed than Brent would’ve given him credit for. “What the hell, DJ? You gonna pay for that beer?”
Brent recognized the gentleman now. He was old man Skinner, who owned the tack and feed store in town. Even when Brent had been a young kid, he’d never seen eye to eye with the crotchety old man. Skinner had always chased Brent and his friends out of the store when they took too long reading the comics. “If you’re gonna read them, then you best be buying them!” he would shout out from behind the counter.
“You’d better be happy all you’re getting is beer in your lap.” The cowgirl’s voice brought Brent back to the present as he took in the crowd’s growing attention. “’Cause I’ve a mind to hit you square upside the head. You ever sell me that rye grass feed and charge me for alfalfa again, I’ll come after you with a baseball bat, I swear to God.”
Acknowledging the quieting audience, Skinner did his best to play his part. He shook his head, his eyes wide with surprise in his red face. “Jesus, DJ. I didn’t know there was rye in it, I swear. I wouldn’t do that to you.”
That didn’t seem to calm down the DJ chick any. In fact, Brent could almost see her vibrating with anger from where he was sitting. Personally, he hoped she did smack old man Skinner upside the head. He knew he’d wanted to himself more than once.
“That’s not what your clerk told me,” she said, not backing down at all. “He told me you knew the feed had rye in it, but it was cheaper for you and you still charged me premium price. I’ve told you my horse is highly allergic to rye, and now he’s been eating that crap for two days. The vet says his open sores and skin rash are due to a systemic allergic reaction. If my horse suffers any permanent damage because of your cheap ass, I’ll be holding you personally responsible. So you better hope Majestic recovers, or I’ll be coming after you.”
“You’d better close that mouth of yours, or you might catch a fly,” Derrek said from behind Brent, a touch of humor underlying the words.
Brent startled. Maybe hanging half out of the booth so he could get a better view of one of the sexiest women he’d ever seen was being a bit too obvious. Sure, he’d dated super models, but he knew this cowgirl could run circles around them. One thing Brent had learned in the music industry was that there was nothing more attractive than competence. “I think I’ve just found my next girl,” he said, not even turning around to acknowledge his friend.
“Really?” Derrek’s voice seemed amused.
Brent had no idea why. He hadn’t been this serious about a girl since the last time he’d fallen in love. Which had been…well over three weeks ago. Ages.
With that conversation-stopper delivered, the woman turned around, which was a shame. Brent sure enjoyed eying that hot, little temper perfectly encased in a tight pair of jeans. But when she faced him, Brent wasn’t disappointed—the front was even better than the back. Curvy frame, full breasts, high cheekbones, exotic looking dark eyes. How quickly his interest had been captivated by a woman with a masculine name, smart mouth, and pretty face that just got more appealing.
Just then she caught sight of Derrek and started to walk over, but stopped and turned around. “Skinner, not only will I be expecting a full refund, I’m sending you the vet bill.”
Skinner glared at her, but she’d already turned and was walking away.
Derrek groaned. “God, that temper of hers is going to get her in big trouble one of these days.”
“You know her?” Brent asked, getting the familiar flutters in his stomach, watching her hips sway as she closed the distance between them. What was it about a woman that knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to get it that he found so enticing?
Derrek coughed. “Ahh, yes… a little.”
What was wrong with his friend? Was he already clamming up at the thought of talking to a pretty woman? Derrek had the habit of undercutting Brent’s cool by pulling some old-world crap like standing up and pulling out a lady’s chair, or opening car doors for them. As much as women said they liked that kinda stuff, the gentleman always seemed to find himself alone, while the bad boy whistled all the way to a home run.
Without losing sight of his target, Brent threw out a few words to his friend, coaching him, before she was within earshot. “Don’t do anything stupid, Derrek. Keep your mouth shut and let me handle this. Her name’s DJ, right?”
“Um… yeah, DJ.” He coughed again. “And if you think you can handle her…”
The rest was left unsaid, but Brent wasn’t scared. There was nothing he liked better than a challenge.
DJ got to their booth, where she tossed her hat on to the table and blew some stray strands of black hair off her face. Her strong features may put off some people, but Brent was of a different mind. While her sharp cheekbones and strong chin could’ve cut ice, her eyes were enough to set a man on fire.
The only truly soft and completely feminine thing about her was her mouth. Full, naturally pink lips that hinted at a wide smile and possibly an opened-mouth laugh. To see those lips turn and tip upward instead of pressed into a thin line was a task he was more than up for.
She reached over and grabbed Derrek’s beer and took a long swig, finishing the drink off. Brent found he couldn’t look away from how the long column of her throat worked and the rise and fall of her chest between each breath.
“Ever hear that you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar?” Derrek said.
She plopped the bottle down. “Says you.”
“Says just about everyone.”
The butterfly wings that seconds before danced merrily, dried to dust in his mouth. This DJ seemed way too comfortable with Derrek. Could he have a claim on her? He studied Derrek’s face, who looked more annoyed than infatuated.
DJ’s dark eyes ponged upward. “Then these ‘everyones’ have never dealt with the likes of Skinner McDavid.”
For the first time, DJ looked his way. Brent sat up straighter and tried for his not-so-eager smile.
“What the hell’s wrong with him?” DJ asked with a nod in Brent’s direction.
Derrek shrugged. “He’s found his next vict… um, girlfriend.”
The crease between DJ’s eyes deepened. There was nothing Brent wanted to do more than to kiss it away. “Who?”
“You.” Derrek said.
There was a bark of laugher that sounded sharp and not at all humorous. “Does he know who—”
“Please, please don’t ruin this.” Derrek cut her off.
Brent didn’t like how this conversation was going and finally decided to take control. “It looks like you’re thirsty. Can I buy you a drink?” He didn’t wait for her answer, just rushed in before she had time to use her better judgment. “Let me guess, Appletini with a twist?”
Women loved when he tried to guess their drink. Made him look perceptive and that he cared. Usually he nailed it right off.
She just looked at him like he had two heads. Maybe she’d never been wooed by the likes of him before. Not many could put on the charm like he could. She shook her head. “No, I need to get up early in the morning. I was just about to head off.”
“You’re leaving?” He meant for that to come out less astonished then it sounded, but he really was surprised. “You’re upset because I guessed the wrong drink? Give me another shot, please.” He added his best smile to seal the deal. “You’re a regular old beer gal. I think girls who drink beer are sexy.”
She put both her arms on the table and rested her chin in her hands. “Wait, are you really trying to pick me up?”
He got closer, covering half the distance between them while his heart rate kicked up to the next level. This was what he loved. He never felt more alive than when he was chasing his muse. “And are you really trying to play hard to get?”
Her face changed from disbelief to pure astonishment. “Oh, I’m playing, alright, and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed myself so much. So let me ask you.”
She leaned in real close. Close enough that if Brent wanted to, he could kiss her. Was that what she wanted? He let his gaze fall to her mouth—damn, she had beautiful lips. She must have seen him staring, because she chose just that moment to lick them.
Easy boy. “Ask away, Sugar. To you, I’m an open book.”
There was a mischievous twinkle in her eyes that was right up Brent’s alley. How did she know he loved mischievous? “Does that ‘let-me-guess-your-drink’ line ever work?”
All the time.
“I wouldn’t know. You’re the first I ever wanted to ask,” his voice the low, sexy rumble that he’d perfected when he sang his love songs.
“Wow, doesn’t it bother your conscience to lie that easily?” Her tone sweet, with the airiness of cotton candy, but without the stomachache afterwards.
“I’d never lie to you, Sugar.”
“Somehow, I don’t believe that.” The girl was quick, he’d give her that. It was taking everything he had to keep one step ahead of her.
“Believe this.” He took her hand and brought her ring finger up to his mouth and kissed it. “I see you don’t have a ring. Can I assume you’re unattached?”
She didn’t pull away. He took that as a yes.
“And neither am I. What a wonderful coincidence, don’t you think?”
She shook her head, her mouth slightly parted. “I’m speechless.”
“Here then, let me help.” He took her hand and flipped it palm up. Then took out the pen he kept around just for this reason. He carefully wrote his full name and number down.
She stared at the digits.
“Recognize the name?” he asked. This was his favorite part.
“Brent Kane. Should I?” He didn’t quite trust the sincerity in her voice, but he was nothing if not reckless.
“Ever hear of the songs, Girl, I Love You or It’s Been A Long Time?”
She nodded, her face giving nothing away.
“Those are my songs.”
Wait for it.
“Oh.” Her hand came up to her chest.
Here it comes.
“Oh,” the word floated out of her mouth with an unseen exclamation point rising up from behind. “So you’re that country singer?”
He did that one sided smile that made his dimple show. “I prefer rock star, but yes, ma’am, I am.”
She pulled her hand away to examine the numbers more closely. “So this here’s a rock star’s phone number on my hand? I have the chance to be a booty call for a living, breathing celebrity?”
Well, those wouldn’t be the terms he would use, but women seemed more understanding of men these days. He touched the brim of his hat. “I’m here for a whole week.”
Her smile grew wide and her eyes narrowed dangerously as she lifted her hand, spit in it, and wiped her palm on his shirt sleeve. Then she got up from the table and walked away.
Brent gaped as she sashayed away from his booth and out of his life.
“Damn,” Derrek slapped his hand on the table. “I’ve never seen anything quite like that before.”
Neither had Brent. “I know.”
“Oh, bro,” Derrek said. “That girl just spit in her own hand to wipe your number off.”
Brent was at a total loss. He couldn’t remember the last time a woman turned him down. “I know. I think I’m in love.”