From the moment we met Kill John bassist Rye Peterson and his publicist Brenna James in Idol, Managed, and Fall, we’ve been dying for their chemistry to finally ignite in their own book. Rye is the boyishly handsome guy who seems to never take anything seriously, his flirty banter with the band’s sexy publicist always treading that fine line between funny and inappropriate, but everything changes when he overhears her confessing that she is as lonely as he is. Wanting to be the one to give her what she craves, Rye offers her the greatest temptation of all—a no-strings-attached, sex-only relationship with him, without romance or complications. But we all know what they say about best laid plans . . . things can get very very messy, especially for two people who’ve pretended not to like each other for far too long. I adored this book cover to cover, and am honoured to share with you an awesome sneak peek.
“You’ve never had great sex?” she asks, clearly on the edge of pitying me. Maybe she should.
“You have?” I counter. “I mean, truly great, blow-your-mind, ‘gotta have that again and again or you’ll die from wanting it’ sex?”
At this, Jules stares into her glass then sighs and looks back up at me. “No, damn it. Not like that. I’ve had good, but not transcendent.”
Nodding, I lean forward until we’re both half-hunched over our table. “I’ve had good sex too. But most of the time, the guy has no idea what the hell he’s doing. It’s all pump and dump. And I’m left unsatisfied.”
Her nose wrinkles. “Maybe we should be with women.”
I shake my head. “You’d think having the same equipment would give women a leg up, but I’ve had the same frustrations in that department.”
I swear I hear someone choke on their drink behind me. I want to roll my eyes. This is Manhattan, and if a dude can’t deal with overhearing a frank conversation, he’s not going to make it in this city. Besides, my sexuality isn’t something I’ll ever be ashamed of. In general, I tend to gravitate toward men, but I also think attraction is a fluid notion, and that, for me, it isn’t confined to one gender.
“Some women are just as selfish and clueless as men,” I say. “Believe me, there’s no golden ticket when it comes to finding great sex.”
Jules’s eyes go wide. “I don’t know if I should be jealous of all your experience or thankful I don’t have it, given what you’re saying.”
I find myself grinning, but it fades quickly. “Definitely don’t be jealous.”
I’m still alone, and still unfulfilled. Actually, it kind of blows to realize I’ve struck out with two genders.
“I’m serious, though,” I say, frowning now. “Whatever the gender, whatever the sexual orientation, we all suffer the same pitfalls and have to weed through the same bullshit when it comes to finding happiness.”
“Well.” Jules sits back against the booth. “I guess we’re doomed, then.”
I sit back as well, letting the sounds of the bar move over me. I’m tired, and my feet are aching to be free of the heels I stuffed them into eight hours ago. Not for the first time, I consider no longer wearing them. But they are, in a very real way, defensive weapons, armor against a business that is ruthless.
My aunt Isabell, a famous fashion model, bought me my first pair of heels—black patent leather Manolo Blahnik Mary Jane pumps. She told me then that, whether we like it or not, women in the entertainment industry would always be judged by their appearance, and underestimated, compared to their male counterparts. But put on a pair of killer heels with a sleek suit and the naysayers would be too dazzled to notice you climbing over them. She’d taken me under her wing back then, taught me about fashion, poise, how to handle obnoxious assholes, how to charm people. Mercenary, but I found her lessons to be painfully true.
Over the years, I had to cover myself in a shell of icy perfection. Show the slightest crack, the merest hint of vulnerability and I would be viewed as less than by my male counterparts. My power is in maintaining the illusion that nothing can get to me, and I accept that as part of doing business. But some days? Some days, I want to crumble. I want…comfort, touch, release.
I should go home and crawl into bed. But I can’t shake the restless feeling swelling within me.
I catch Jules’s eye, and my shoulders slump. “I know we’re not supposed to admit this for fear it might make us sound pathetic or some other bullshit, but I’m horny. Not in a general, I-want-to-have-sex way, but in a deep, irritating, can’t-stop-thinking-about-it way. I ache, you know? As in, I go through the day actively hurting for release.”
Jules watches me with solemn eyes as if she knows at least a little about that pain.
Shaking my head, I go on. “And, yeah, I can take care of it myself. Hell, I’m so good at it now, it’s only a minute or two before I get off. But it isn’t the same as feeling someone else’s hands on my body, not knowing exactly where they’ll touch me next or how. It isn’t the same as being mouth to mouth, skin to skin, sweaty and frantic.”
My smile is wry, but my heart hurts. “I’m twenty-eight years old. I am at the top of my profession, have awesome friends, fabulous parties every night if I want to go. I own a kick-ass condo on the Upper East Side and have a shoe closet most women would kill for.”
“Truth,” Jules says with a laugh.
“I have the world at my fingertips. But I can’t fix this problem.”
It pisses me off, this weakness, this damn need that won’t go away.
Jules licks her lips and hums. “Then go find someone tonight. Take the edge off.”
“I’ve tried that. One-night stands aren’t enough.” My fingers curl into the leather booth beneath me. “Truly great sex, for me anyway, takes time. More than one night. More importantly, it takes trust. On both sides. We need to trust each other enough to give and take and learn what really works.”
“In short,” Jules says. “A relationship.”
“Except I don’t want one.” A humorless laugh huffs out of me. “Outside of sex, that is.”
The utter bitch of it is, I know I haven’t explained my problem properly. Yes, there is this need for sexual release, but it’s more. I want that on a deeper level. It’s not the daily minutiae of a relationship I crave, but the simple physical connection. I want to be wanted. Craved above all things. Needed with a breathless devotion.
I want to be seen, not just as a quick fix—but as something essential. And I want to crave someone too. I want to learn their body, know what sets them off and what brings them to their knees. To own and be owned. But in admitting that, I’ll expose too much of myself, and the hurt of the open wound will be too hard to ignore. “I want the ease and trust of a relationship, but I know I’d utterly fail at a real one right now. Maybe when my life is less about the band…Which it will be never. The band is my life.”
Purple curls bounce as Jules nods. “Friends with benefits, then. Too bad I don’t go for women, because I’d totally offer my services. And I absolutely know what I’m doing.” She grins, all saucy and impish.
“Too bad,” I tease before growing serious. “Maybe I’ll just hire someone.”
Again comes that choking sound from behind me. Or maybe I’m just paranoid. But I lean in a little, drawing away from the seat and toward Jules. “Whip is always going on about that, how it’s safer and you can control the situation.”
At this, Jules flushes, irritation flashing in her eyes. “Whip is going to end up fronting tabloids. Please tell me you aren’t listening to that boy.”
“I won’t go there. Everything in my life is business. I’m not going to make my sex life another business transaction.” I plop back with a sigh. “But it would solve a lot if I did.”
We soon finish our drinks, and Jules heads out. “Got an early day with Boss Man.”
I love Scottie like a brother, but he makes drill sergeants look like slackers when it comes to work. So far, Jules is the only assistant he’s had who has been able to handle his exacting standards without running away in tears.
Before leaving, I head to the bathroom to wash my hands. Standing in front of the sink, cool water running over my wrists, I stare at my reflection. My skin tone has morphed from warm ivory to pasty, the dark auburn of my hair too harsh in contrast. Purple smudges show beneath my eyes despite the fact that I put on concealer. Somewhere along the way, all the polish I so meticulously perfected has hardened into a veneer that’s starting to show its cracks.
I can no longer see any trace of the wide-eyed eighteen-year-old who just wanted to fit in somewhere. The girl who begged her cousin to let her be a part of his band, at least on the periphery—because even though she didn’t have a glimmer of musical talent, she still wanted to feel the heady rush of excitement that world gave her.
Confessing to Jules had felt good, a purge. But it also made it worse. I gave voice to my problem, sent it out into the night, and, in doing so, I allowed it more strength.
Like it or not, I work in a man’s world. Record execs, concert promotors, producers, venue managers, journalists—a good majority of them are male. Over the years, they made certain I was aware that I was in their territory. They tried to make me believe I didn’t truly belong. To survive, I had to develop a tough skin and a guarded heart. I had to be perfect, never take an awkward step, never show weakness, vulnerability, or softer emotions. To be seen as needy was to open myself up to the wolves. If it ever got out that cool-headed, take no prisoners, Brenna James yearned to be held… I’ll never be able to show my face again.
Fuck it. I refuse to be ashamed of my needs. Straightening my back, I reapply my lipstick and leave.
I’m no more than three steps out the bathroom door when I nearly collide with a hard, looming chest, only narrowly stopping short of running into it. “Excuse me, I didn’t see you…”
My words trail off in horror as I get a good look at the guy.
Rye Peterson—personal nemesis, general pain in the ass—leans one massive shoulder against the wall as if he’s been waiting for me. He’s a world-famous rock star, but he doesn’t look like one. Tall, broad, with tight muscles and spiky dark-blond hair, he’d easily be mistaken for a football player.
Most people consider him laid-back, the guy who will hand you a beer and make you laugh with a dirty joke. And he is that guy—to everyone else. With me? He’s the devil, lying in wait to exploit any sign of weakness. My reaction to Rye may not always be logical but it’s definitely visceral.
The blood drains out of my face when he gives me that smile of his, the smug, wide one he uses when he has something on me. The one that says he’s going to make me squirm and enjoy every damn minute of it.
But for once his voice isn’t teasing; it’s dark and deep, almost hard, when he says, “Let’s talk.”