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Mach Powers lives the dream. What more could he want? He’s Dimefront’s guitarist. He lives by his own rules and gets pretty much everything he wants. But there is one issue. When he swipes right for a pretend publicity date with a fan he falls straight into dinner with Darla Davis. His world is suddenly out of whack and everything he thought he wanted goes out the window.

Coming off a failed engagement with one of the doctors at her hospital, the only thing Darla wants is privacy and a chance to find her footing again. Finally ready to get back out there, she swipes right for an online date. Only the “date” is a publicity stunt with a rockstar. Her not-so-fake date now has her on the cover of tabloids as America’s “new” sweetheart.

There goes her privacy and her sanity.

Mach and his team swear they’ll fix it and get her back to her quiet life. However, when things start to heat up for real this time, is Mach willing to give up his preferred single lifestyle? More importantly will Darla give up her peace and quiet for the love of a rockstar?


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Reckless with the Rockstar

Christina Hovland

Expected Release Date: 25 May 2023

Book Series: 

An all-new rockstar, opposites-attract romance is out this week from author Christina Hovland, and you can read the whole first chapter right here.

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Chapter One

Darla

Darla Davis was back in the dating game and ready to give love a second…or third…chance. Who was counting at this point? She licked her lips and let out a long sigh because it’d been ages since she actually went on a date with somebody other than her fiancé. Ex-fiancé, actually. And, really, they didn’t date much there in the last few years. He was super busy. Orthopedic surgeon, a big deal, and all that.

This guy tonight checked a lot of her boxes. Musician, check—she was so done with academics. Handsome—check, check. And he had tickets to see Dimefront at Brek’s Bar—check, check, check.

Dimefront wasn’t really her band of choice, but she understood why people liked them. And she figured maybe she should re-evaluate her taste in music as she re-evaluated her taste in men. This was a whole new life for her. A huge step.

Darla paused briefly to take in the people with all the cameras milling about outside the bar. There were over a dozen of them with their eyes trained on the door. Trained on her.

Paparazzi.

She did an internal eye roll.

Of course, they’d be watching the door. It was a big deal when Dimefront played. You didn’t know which celebrities would show up. 

Oh, what if it was that Dr. Phoenix Stone? Wouldn’t that be fun? 

Sure, she was off of dating doctors for forever, but he was the one hall pass she’d allow. The only one. And, if he were here and she and her date didn’t click then at least she’d have a good view.

A little bubble of laughter rose up inside her on that thought, but she swallowed it down as she said, “Darla Davis. I should be on the list?” 

The bulky bouncer with tattoos winding up his muscled neck grinned wide. 

“Hey, Darla Davis,” he said in a seriously deep baritone. “Have a good time.”

Then he opened the door to let her inside.

The photographers snapped away, taking her photo as she started to step through the door. Huh. She wasn’t exactly hot stuff. 

She was a nurse. Nurses didn’t have random photographers snapping their photos.

But if they wanted to take her photo, what the hell? She did a pose and wave like this was a red carpet and she was a starlet.

One last wave and she stepped through the door only a little late. 

Honestly, at one point today she thought she’d have to cancel thanks to the stomach bug taking out half of Denver. The emergency room was short staffed, and she got called in. Whatchagonnado?

She slipped her scarf down her neck and shook out her hair. The pink scarf with purple beads was one of her favorites, and something she rarely got to wear since, until recently, she didn’t get the chance to go out that often. A quick look around the bar and…well…a bar was a bar, right? Dim and dark with neon beer signs and a jukebox in the back corner. An old school jukebox that probably still took loose change. The whole place smelled like stale beer, a mash-up of cologne, and sweat.

A man brushed against her as he slipped by to go outside. She side-stepped out of his way, still scanning the tables for her date. Maybe a little part of her was hoping for a glimpse of Dr. Stone.

No celebrity doctor in the house, but, honestly? This place was kind of perfect. The type of joint she’d never have been able to get her ex to visit.

And then she saw the guy from the app. Sitting in a corner booth, nursing his beer, and talking to the petite waitress. Darla recognized him from his profile picture on Nocturnal Cupid, but it didn’t really do him justice. His eyes sparked full of humor in the dim light of the bar. The corners of his full lips crinkled when he smiled, and Darla found herself actually hopeful. Heck, the little dimples at the edge of his lips that just barely kissed the edge of his close-trimmed beard practically smacked her in the face with a whole handful of hope.

Maybe the dating pool wasn’t such a bad place to go swimming after all. Because this guy was the stuff of wet dreams.

She’d only had enough time to change her clothes, slather on a bit of lipstick, and finger-comb her hair. Looking at him? She wished she’d taken some extra time with the makeup and the mirror. Could someone like her really handle a man like him?

Well, she was ready to give it a go.

God, he was attractive with eyes so blue every woman on the planet would probably discover a love new of sapphires if he looked their way. Not the lab-grown ones, either. The real freaking deal.

He’d gone with a T-shirt under his jacket with the jeans. The tee pulled taut against his muscles. The jeans? They were a sonnet waiting to be written. 

Hell, had the man been a Cheeto, he’d have been the flaming hot variety.

His oddly attractive lopsided grin somehow actually complemented his leather jacket. His black hair was shaved at the sides with the top slicked back. The beard definitely upped his hot guy quotient. The intricate tattoo that peeked out from the edge of his jacket sleeve and wound around his wrist was an excellent final touch to the whole bad boy schtick he had going on.

The server slipped Mark a small piece of paper Darla didn’t have to be a psychic to know held her digits.

Did he shove it in his pocket? Oh, hell, yes, he did. Her lips pursed all on their own without any direction from her brain.

But, actually, that was fine. It’s not like they even knew each other, and the date hadn’t officially started so he was under no obligation to her. Still, that didn’t sit right, and the feeling in her belly sort of felt like the stomach bug she’d dealt with all day at the hospital.

But, hey, she could leave at any point. There was no reason she had to stay past the introductions. On this reasoning, Darla slowly made her way through the crowd, dodging drinks in hands, and skirting around the people surrounding the stage, all the way to the booth.

She brushed her bangs out of her eyes, and heaved a huge breath.

“Mach?” she asked.

Mach was a such great name. Sturdy and strong. She’d liked his name right away and it was part of the reason she swiped right. The way he spelled it differently, Mach, was so unique. Different was what she was going for this time when she got involved with anyone.

He glanced up from chatting with the server. The server who blinked extra hard and scanned Darla from head to toe. Then she smiled as though Darla was no competition at all. Two feet tall and made of stained glass… that’s how Darla really felt inside. But she squared her shoulders, and she wouldn’t show it.

Also, okay, so Darla might not have been the prize of all prizes, but she wasn’t ugh either. So she could do without that extra helping of sever side-eye.

“Darla,” he said, unfolding himself from the booth. Gah, he was taller than she’d expected.

The bar had gone weirdly quiet, so only the music from the jukebox played in the background. What was that all about?

Darla didn’t like the prickly sensation tingling the nerves along her spine.

Mach gestured for her to come closer, but Darla hesitated. 

Then with confidence she totally faked, she closed the distance between them. But when she turned to slid onto the bench, the whole bar—every single person—was staring at her.

Mach seemed oblivious to the sudden silence, though, or the eyes on them.

“Lucky winner, Darla,” he said, then he gestured to the server. “Anything she wants.”

Lucky winner? A bit presumptuous, wasn’t he? But, you know, confidence was a good thing in a dude.

“Club soda with a twist of lemon, please,” she said.

“Anything else?” The server—her name tag read Pam—lifted her eyebrows almost as though suggesting Darla pick something else.

Darla’s smile faltered a little, but she recovered. “That’s it.”

She wanted a clear head for this evening so she could appropriately determine compatibility. Vodka did not a clear head make.

They got settled—her on one side, him on the other. He stared at her funny, like he was waiting for her to say something.

“What do you think of Dimefront?” she asked, breaking the tab on small talk that didn’t have to do with the rainy weather they’d had in Denver lately. “I was really surprised you could get us in here. These things are impossible to get tickets to.”

He lifted one eyebrow in that way that people did that required superior forehead muscle control. Honestly, she didn’t quite understand how they did it. She’d tried and never could make it work—always looked like she was about to have a stroke or something.

Then he cracked a broad smile. “Ha. Funny. Good one.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, confused. 

He stopped, his lips parting in surprise. “Do I like Dimefront?”

She nodded. That was the question. Small talk and all that.

His mouth opened a little, then closed, then opened again before he said, “Well… hell yeah. Sick beats and I understand the guitar player’s pretty good.” He paused. “What do you think?”

“I think their music is good,” she said. “On the one hand, the unique lyrics make a person feel something different, you know? The heavy beats and overused chords definitely sound good, and the commercial appeal is undeniable.”

He seemed to choke on his beer.

“You okay?” she asked. 

“Go on,” he sort of coughed out. “This is interesting.”

“On the other hand, Dimefront music isn’t quite up to the standards I grew up with. My parents were all into jazz and I have always been more into Miles Davis and Etta James, some Sinatra. You know, the greats.”

He covered his mouth with his hand more and more as she spoke, like he was preventing himself from adding to the conversation. 

Drat, she didn’t mean to offend him. Of course, he liked Dimefront! This is where he brought her. 

“It’s okay if you don’t like jazz,” she assured, talking with her hands like she did when she got nervous. “I’m going through something of a transition in my life so I’m totally open to giving bands like Dimefront another shot. That’s why I’m so stoked to be here with you.”

“Bands like Dimefront?”

“Uh-huh. You know, the ones that are more for commercial purposes than love of the music.” 

“Uh…” He ducked his head, his eyes going wider. “You aren’t joking?”

She gave a quick headshake. Was it getting hotter in there? It sure felt like it was. “Honesty is the best policy, right? Especially on the first date.”

He stilled and went extra quiet.

“Am I missing something?” she asked. 

He pointed to his chest. “I play for Dimefront. Guitar.”

Darla’s entire world zipped to a stop.

Ohhh, damn. Operation insertion of foot into mouth: complete.

Mach was not like super cool alternative way to spell Mark, but like the airplanes that went wicked fast… and a rockstar name.

A tickle of a memory about a guitar player itched at her brain. No, was he a drummer? Something about a musician setting up a publicity date… gah, when had she read that? All the days melted together, it seemed, when a girl was in the midst of a life catastrophe, the implosion of her relationship, and two different strains of gastroenteritis right on top of each other. 

But just like that, all the dominoes fell into place.

“Am I on a publicity stunt date?” she asked, slower than entirely necessary. “With… you?” 

That would explain the pictures and everyone staring and… oh, dear God.

A furrow likely formed with the intensity that her eyebrows fell smack together. She rarely allowed that to happen because it’d eventually leave lines, and if she had lines she wanted them to be laugh lines. Not what-the-fuck lines.

He took a sip of his beer, then nodded. “Yeah. I, uh, sorta thought you knew?”

She closed her eyes. Then she opened them, hoping she’d wake up from a fever or something and this would all be a dream. But no, Mach was still there, and the server popped by with their drinks. 

“This isn’t real,” she confirmed. “Not a real date?”

“Not an actual maybe-we-can-make-this-permanent-someday date, if that’s what you mean.” 

“Clearly, I am an idiot.” She pressed her fingers to her forehead. All the signs were there, and she hadn’t even noticed. Her face flamed; bitterness tasted like a lemon peel settling on her tongue. The bitter taste of believing that something real could come from online dating.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and he sounded genuine. But she should be the one to apologize. She was the one who talked down about his band. 

“I’m sorry you didn’t know it’s me you’re meeting,” he continued.

“Dimefront music is so successful because it’s so good,” she said quickly. “Ignore everything I said before this statement, yes?” She guzzled club soda through the straw. Set the glass down and then had to hold in a burp because… fizz and guzzling? Didn’t go well together. 

Awkwardness rolled over them like a thick fog. She shook her head and reached for the club soda again. But, bad idea. Learned that lesson already. The server was right, she’d need something stronger with less carbonation to make all this go away.

“I think I’m gonna go.” She snatched her scarf and her purse and started to slide from the—

“Hold up,” he winced. “Please don’t leave now.”

She frowned and then pulled her lips to the side. “Why not?”

“C’mon, it’ll look bad, and you didn’t even get to meet the band.” He ran his tongue over his bottom lip. “I think Bax and Linx will be super interested to hear about your take on our music.” 

He was clearly joking with that statement, not being mean or anything.

“Um…” What did a person say in this situation? Was there a manual she should consult? 

“You have a set soon, then?” she asked, ending her question on a sigh of surrender.

“Yeah.” He nodded, keeping his eyes on hers and being way too chill about her embarrassment. Hard to be upset at a guy when he was being so nice. 

“You’ve got a seat right up front with the other girls,” he continued.

“Other girls?” Was he on multiple dates tonight? That’s about the only scenario that would make the whole night more cringe. “There are more like me. More dates but not dates?”

He grinned like they were actually having a great time. He was so convincing he almost fooled her too.

Then he lifted his chin toward the stage. “The other Dimefront guys have their ladies coming and, fair warning, they’re all about this thing happening tonight”—he gestured between them—”so be prepared for that.”

Wait. Hold the freaking phone.

“Isn’t one of the guys dating Irina Carmichael?” she asked, squirming a bit, and then setting her stuff back on the bench because she would totally stay to meet Irina. 

He nodded. “She’s great. You’ll love her.”

Her mouth dropped open, and she could not get it to close.

This was like one of those waking dreams where a person knew they were dreaming and still wasn’t certain if it was going to be a nightmare or a really great story. 

“Don’t worry. The seating’s all set with them. You don’t have to do a thing.” He smiled like this was a good thing.

“Irina Carmichael is famous,” Darla pointed out, actually pressing her fingertip to the resin-covered table.

Amusement now danced in his eyes. “She is.”

“I’m actually gonna meet her? In person?” She didn’t mean to sound so excited, but she definitely couldn’t hold it back. 

If the date wasn’t real, at least this part would make a really great story. She loved Irina Carmichael.

“Uh-huh.” He toyed with the wrapper from his beer bottle. 

“She’s amazing. I am a huge fan.” Darla may not be on a date with a future partner, but this was pretty amazing.

“You know, some might say that I’m kind of a big deal, too,” he said.

“Yeah, totally.” She gave him a nod and took a sip of club soda. “You so are.” She toyed with the straw and then said, “I’ll stick around until the set is done.”

She would do this. She would even have fun. There was no risk on this date anymore. It wasn’t going anywhere. So she could let this rockstar buy her a drink, play some songs, and then she could move on with her life. Bonus, she’d meet a movie star.

Life was full of other opportunities. This one didn’t have to suck.

But another glance at her rockstar for the night—the way his eyes danced and just… the whole package. Her heart tried to pitter-patter more quickly. 

She forced it to settle down. No pitter-pattering or flitter-fluttering allowed with this one. Ever.

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