Since he’d sacked out for so long, David didn’t have much time before he had to head to a downstairs conference room for the interviews. He’d steeled himself for the inevitability of coming face-to-face with Thea, but the sight of her still threatened to gut him.
Scowling, she strode over on sky-high red heels worn with a sleeveless and tailored black dress that ended just above her knees. “Did you put ice on that eye?”
He made himself speak, act normal—he’d become pretty good at that after the length of time he’d loved her. “Yeah, past few hours.”
“What about last night?”
Her glare could’ve cut steel.
Thankfully, the first reporter arrived a second later, and David spent the rest of the time making light of his new and hopefully short-lived notoriety. Interviews complete, he slipped away while Thea was talking to Abe, and once in his room, used his phone to do some research.
He had no idea how to write a memo, and if he was going to do this, he had to do it properly. The only question was, was he going to do this? Putting down the phone, he got up and, going to the living area of the suite, got down on the floor and began to do push-ups. It was an easy motion for him regardless of his bruised ribs. Like most working drummers, he had to stay highly fit or he’d never last an entire concert.
He usually put in gym time every day, often went running with Noah or Fox, or did weights with Abe. Today, the familiar, repetitive motion of the push-ups cleared his mind, helped him think.
He only wanted Thea with him if she wanted to be with him.
Thea had made it clear his interest wasn’t reciprocated.
But, as Molly had reminded him, Thea also had a first-class bastard of an ex. David didn’t know exactly what had gone on between Eric and Thea, but he could guess, given that Eric had publicly flaunted a new fiancée within two weeks of the breakup. A silicone-enhanced airhead who simpered and giggled on Eric’s arm and didn’t have an ounce of Thea’s feminine strength.
If fate had any sense of justice, the bimbo would divorce the fuckhead a year down the road and take Eric for every cent he was worth.
So, he thought, pumping down on his arms, then pushing back up, his body held in a punishingly straight line, it could have just been his timing that had led to her rejection. He’d waited six months after the breakup—until he’d thought Thea was okay, but what if she hadn’t been at that point? He knew exactly how good she was at putting on a professional, unruffled face.
Hell, he’d once seen her handle a press conference with panache when two hours earlier, she’d been throwing up from food poisoning. What if she’d still been pissed off with the entire male sex that day in her office? Was it possible she’d have rejected any man who walked in and asked her out?
He paused, body tensed to keep himself off the floor as hope uncurled inside him. Because Thea hadn’t dated anyone since the breakup. That wasn’t just wishful thinking: he’d accidentally overheard her business partner at the PR firm, Imani, talking to another mutual friend on the phone a week before the band left LA—he’d been in a conference room early for an interview, the door open to the corridor where Imani was on the phone.
He should’ve called out and let her know he was inside, but he hadn’t been listening at first; it was hearing Thea’s name that had caught his notice. And then he couldn’t not pay attention.
Imani, happily married to a surgeon, had apparently tried to set Thea up with a colleague of her husband’s, only to be stonewalled. “I know Thea’s over Eric,” the other woman had said, “but whatever el slimeball did, he might have put her off men permanently.” A sad sigh.
David wasn’t sad about Thea not dating. He was ecstatic. Because it made it easier to believe that it had been his timing at fault. Like Imani, he didn’t have any fears that Thea was still in love with the dickhead—no, she was too smart to put up with that kind of bullshit. That didn’t mean the bastard hadn’t hurt her; a woman as strong and as independent as Thea rarely allowed herself to be vulnerable, and David had a feeling her ex had used that rare, beautiful trust against her.
Fuck, but David wanted to kick the shit out of him. But more, he wanted to make Thea happy. Even if it meant taking a beating himself.
Getting up off the floor, he grabbed his phone and began to type out a memo on the tiny screen. It took him hours of drafting and redrafting to make sure it said exactly what he wanted it to say. He was still working on it when the band headed out to the concert location—where he saw the last person he’d expected.
Thea, now dressed in sleek black pants that hugged her butt and a soft, silky T-shirt of midnight blue under a dark gray blazer that nipped in at the waist, had come to say good-bye to Molly since the two women had missed each other that morning. Narrowing her eyes when she saw him, Thea ostensibly spoke to the entire band—but he knew the words were directed at him.
“If you want me to continue putting out fires for you,” she said, “do not do anything that interrupts my vacation.” A blistering look that was very definitely focused on David. “And next time someone tells you to put ice on a bruise, you listen!”
Then she was gone, her luggage already in the trunk of the car that was taking her to the airport for her flight to the Indonesian island of Bali, home to her parents and little sisters. He watched her step inside the car, its taillights fading far too quickly into the night.
Even then he didn’t send the memo.
No, he waited until the minute before the concert was about to begin before pushing Send and turning off his phone. At least this way, he wouldn’t be able to torment himself by checking for a response until after the show.
Thea had barely sunk into the comfort of a cushioned armchair in a quiet corner of the airline’s frequent-flyer lounge when her phone chimed. Putting down the glass of champagne she’d allowed herself in anticipation of the first real vacation she’d taken in over a year, she picked up her phone. It was impossible for her to simply ignore it—hazard of having a profession where a single leak or news report could change the trajectory of an entire career.
You never knew if it would be for good or for bad until it happened.
Seeing the message was from David, she felt her abdomen tense. He’d hardly spoken to her today, not that she could blame him. She’d been so worried about that eye of his that she’d snapped at him twice when all she’d wanted was to grip his jaw and check for herself that he was okay. He’d probably written her a nice, polite apology for not contacting her as soon as he was picked up by the cops… Only the thing was, Thea had had it up to here with David being polite to her.
He was polite to her when she had meetings with him and the rest of the band. He was polite to her when she called to ask him his views on particular publicity options. He was polite to her when she joined the band for dinner as a friend and not their publicist. He was always polite.
And nothing else.
Her hand clenched on the phone. If he’d been that way from the start, she wouldn’t have known any different, but David hadn’t just been polite to her when she came onboard the Schoolboy Choir team. He’d been sweet and funny and warm. So many times toward the end of her relationship with Eric, when her ex-fiancé had done or said something that hurt her, it was David she’d called.
She’d never told him the real reason why she was calling, had always made it about work, but he’d made her feel better nonetheless. It had taken her several months to realize David was shy, but it wasn’t the kind of shy that left him tongue-tied or lost. He just needed a bit of time to get to know people, warm up to them. When he did, his loyalty was etched in stone, his support unconditional.
That support had helped her deal with far more than he knew.
And now… he was polite and reserved and she missed him. So many times, she had to fight the urge to take hold of those strong, solid shoulders and shake him, tell him to stop it!
Even though he was meant to be a client and nothing else.
Bracing herself for the horrible, polite message to follow, she opened his e-mail. Her mouth dropped open.
He’d sent her a memo.
And it had nothing whatsoever to do with the bar fight.
Reasons Why You Should Give Us a Shot
Introduction: In this memo, I, David Rivera, explain why you, Thea Arsana, should seriously consider entering into a relationship with me.
First, let me address what I believe is your main reason for not dating me: that I am a client. This can be easily remedied. You own an agency in partnership. Your partner, or, if Imani has no space on her books, one of your senior associates, can take over the Schoolboy Choir account. If you’d prefer not to move the account, you can have Imani vet anything that has to do specifically with me. (Speaking as a member of SC, we want you, no one else.)
Second, while I admit I am a couple of inches shorter than you and two years younger, I have absolutely no hang-ups about either. I don’t think such a small age difference matters, and I’m fairly certain my maturity levels are acceptable. I point out that I, too, am an eldest child. As for the height thing—I seriously love those heels you wear. Never will I be so stupid as to demand you wear flats.
Not when watching you walk in heels is one of my all-time favorite things to do.
I’m also in good shape. I realize I’m not as pretty as Noah, or as built as Abe, or have a dimple like Fox, but I have been told I have good teeth. Therefore, I’m not physically deficient.
Third, I think you’re hot. Extremely, combustibly hot. If I could, I’d keep you in bed for a week running, naked and mine, and I’d still not have enough. I think every part of you is hot, but I’m particularly turned on by your mind and your legs. You should see the fantasies I have of seducing your mind with my words while I stroke my hands over your legs, rub my fingertips along the inner skin of your thighs.
You don’t mind calluses, do you, Thea? They come from drumming so intensely over a long period. All that physical work also means I have plenty of stamina. I can go as long and as hard as you want, or as slow and as deep, or any combination thereof. Hard and deep. Slow and long. Hard, deep, long? I can do that.
Or if you prefer it gentle and lazy, I can do that too. (Though we’d probably have to burn things down to a simmer with a hard, fast bout or three first.)
I’d be careful as I stroked you, but I’m afraid my touch would be a bit rough, a fraction abrasive, especially when I reach between your legs and use my fingertips to squeeze that pretty, plump, hard little—
Thea closed her eyes, took a deep breath. It didn’t do much good, her chest heaving and her pulse a brutal thud against her skin. Mind filled with the potent erotic imagery he’d conjured up and thighs tightly clenched in a futile effort to contain the sudden throbbing ache in between, she stared up at the ceiling of the lounge.
All she saw was David’s hand on her thigh, the small scar he had across the first knuckle of his right hand a slash of white against the dark gold of his natural skin tone. His arm was hard with strength and dusted with tiny black hairs, muscle and tendon flexing under his skin as he teased and played with her clit using those callused fingertips before thrusting a single finger deep into—
She squeezed her phone so hard that she heard the case crack, her body rigid and nerves gone haywire. When it was over, she collapsed into her seat in stunned shock, glad that the curved shape of it and her position in a seating arrangement right in back had hidden her from view of the others in the lounge.
He’d made her orgasm.
With nothing but the pressure of her thighs on her needy flesh and his words. The damn man had figured out her weak point and he’d aimed his missile right at it: her mind.