Sweet Possession eBook: Page2

Maya Banks (2011)

Page 2

 

  Why couldn’t Micah have taken this job? This would be right up his alley. Watching two women go at it? Micah would be drooling like a rabid pit bull. Of course, Angelina might kick some serious ass over it, but still. All Connor wanted was a good stiff drink and a bottle of ibuprofen.

  By the time the song was winding down, the two women were meshed tighter than a snag in a fishing line. When the music died, Lyric let the mic fall and got into a lip-lock with the blonde that a fire hose wouldn’t have separated.

  There was no way he could do this. Everything about the woman got on his last nerve, and he hadn’t even met her yet. He didn’t have to. It was all there for everyone to see. The record executives would be pissed, and Pop probably wouldn’t be too happy, but if he wanted the gig so bad, he could either do it himself or make Nathan or Micah do it. Their women would just have to get over it. Connor would take good care of the girls while Nathan and Micah were gone. That image made him grin.

  He was ready to turn around and walk out when a softer, melodious tone poured into the arena. It made him pause for a brief second and look back at the stage. Lyric stood in the middle, a single spotlight focused on her. The rest of the stage was blacked out.

  Her eyes were closed, and he got the crazy image in his head that she looked vulnerable. Then she opened her mouth, and for the first time that night, he could clearly hear her voice. It poured out of her like smooth, sweet honey. It crawled right over his skin and sent a shiver down his spine.

  He stared, entranced by the image of her alone, her haunting, beautiful voice filling every nook and cranny of the packed house. He was struck by the sadness he felt radiating from her. More than sadness, it was pain.

  His hands gripped the railing as he moved closer, his attention focused entirely on the woman singing. It wasn’t one of those insipid, self-reflection songs. It was about going home. He could feel the ache in her voice. It made him ache. Hell, it made him want to go home.

  Across the arena, cigarette lighters flared and bobbed as hands shot into the air holding them. They waved in time as she stood, so still, face turned to the ceiling. He imagined her eyes were closed as the last of the words spilled from her lips.

  The music faded, and for a moment, silence descended on the crowd. Then shrill whistles rent the air, followed by raucous cheers.

  Lyric stepped back and waved to the crowd. She bowed once and hurried off the stage.

  The record executives shifted beside him, and Connor looked over to see them staring at him.

  “You ready to go meet our girl?” Phillip Armstrong asked.

  Connor nodded, forgetting for a moment that all he really wanted to do was get the hell out while the getting was good. With a resigned sigh, he followed the suits to the backstage area.

  Security, if you could call it that, was minimal. Fans swarmed the corridor, pushing, shoving and screaming. When a beefed-up, musclebound security guard standing outside the backstage door looked up and saw them coming, he snapped to attention and started shoving rabid fans to the side so they could pass.

  When the door opened, Connor was pushed forward as the fans tried to rush past him. He stumbled inside, a string of obscenities dying to blow past his lips. He managed to keep his cool. Barely.

  Phillip and his sidekick, Barry, smoothed their suits and looked questioningly at Connor. Connor’s lips thinned but he gritted his teeth and kept his expression neutral.

  They motioned him toward a slightly less congested area and the two men accepted a drink from a gangly boy who couldn’t be more than a teenager. When they offered Connor a glass, he shook his head. Not that the idea of a pint of vodka wasn’t vastly appealing, but at this point, if he started drinking, he wasn’t going to stop.

  He peered around the room, which, after more consideration, was much larger than he’d first thought. It was just crowded. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and tried not to look as bored and as uncomfortable as he felt.

  A few seconds later, the door burst open and Lyric stumbled in, a wide grin on her face. Two men he could only assume were her bodyguards flanked her. He arched one eyebrow as the bodyguards proceeded to get very up close and personal as they staggered in Connor’s direction.

  As one hand closed around her breast, she swatted playfully, then smiled up at the bodyguard with a “not now, later” look.

  Another man stepped in front of Lyric, halting her progress toward the record execs. She frowned and her eyes narrowed but just as quickly her expression became neutral as she stared up at the guy.

  “You looked and sounded like shit out there, Lyric. What the hell is your problem?”

  Connor’s brows drew together and he found himself frowning at the blatant disrespect in the other man’s tone. Whoever the guy was, he wasn’t worried about the repercussions of his outburst. Connor glanced over at Lyric, fully expecting her to tear the guy a new asshole, but he couldn’t read a thing on her face or in her eyes. It was like she wasn’t even there anymore.

  “You need to use this time off to get your act together,” the guy continued. “Get a massage. Get laid. Whatever it takes, but don’t show up in Houston sounding like a screechy has-been. ”

  Whoa. This was starting to get entertaining.

  “Who’s the guy?” Connor asked Phillip casually.

  “Her manager, Paul. ”

  Connor couldn’t read any disapproval in Phillip’s tone. Maybe Paul was saying what everyone else was thinking. But then Connor caught the look in Phillip’s eyes. He looked murderous.

  “He always talk to her like that?”

  Phillip gave a short nod. “Yeah. Look, you’re going to have to deal with him. There’s nothing I can do about that. But you work for me. Not that little prick. Remember that. ”

  The men went silent as Lyric finally pushed by her manager and then she came up short when she laid eyes on Connor. Connor took his time acknowledging her presence. The problem was, the woman was clearly used to having people come to attention when she entered a room. Hell would freeze over before he’d be one of them.

  When he finally lifted his gaze to meet hers, he saw crystal blue eyes staring back at him with the same disinterest he knew had to be reflected in his gaze. She adopted a bored look as her two minions continued pawing at her.

  His gaze moved purposefully to her hair. Jet-black strands shot in different directions and a neon pink streak of color ran from the top of her scalp down the side of her head on the left side.

  “Nice hair,” he said.

  Amusement glimmered for a moment in her eyes before she looked pointedly at Phillip and Barry.

  Phillip stepped forward, a broad, indulgent smile on his face, and why should he be anything else when this chick was likely making him millions?

  “Lyric, I’d like you to meet Connor Malone. He’s here from Malone and Sons Security. We’re talking to him about your upcoming stop in Houston. ”

  She flashed a challenging stare and didn’t extend her hand, but then, neither did he.

  Finally she broke and looked over at Phillip. “You know my feelings on this. Why is he here?”

  Connor almost smiled. Apparently she wasn’t any happier about the whole thing than he was. She crossed her arms over her chest, which only served to plump her small breasts upward. The swells peeked over the top of her corset and the pale skin glowed in the harsh light. Soft. A direct contrast to her demeanor.

  Barry frowned and stepped forward. “Now, Lyric, we’ve discussed this. Malone and Sons comes highly recommended. You don’t have nearly enough security, and after the last few months, you of all people should see that you need more. ”

  She reached up to shove one of the bodyguards, who was nuzzling at her neck. Instead of being rebuffed, he settled back, a lazy smile on his face that suggested he’d be satisfied later.

  If these were the morons charged with her safety, it was no wonder her record label was screaming for more. Their on
ly concern seemed to be how quickly they could get into her pants.

  Her gaze found his again, and her eyes narrowed. He looked calmly back at her, refusing to be the one who backed down. He didn’t much care if she could read his disgust. It was doubtful he could hide it anyway. No one was that good an actor.

  His skin started prickling in peculiar awareness. The back of his neck itched something fierce, but he wouldn’t give an inch in this silent tug-of-war.

  “I don’t like you,” she finally said.

  To his utter horror, he went hard.

  He smiled then. A lazy, “I don’t give a fuck” grin. It was either that or groan at his growing discomfort, and he’d eat nails before allowing her to know how affected he was by her. “The feeling, Ms. Jones, is entirely mutual. ”

  She frowned, then slipped an arm around one of the giants at her side, who immediately leaned down to kiss her cheek. The other huddled in close on her other side and she slanted a sly grin up at him.

  She may as well have worn a sign that said “I’m fucking both of them” for all the discretion she exercised.

  “I’d invite you to join us, Mr. Malone, but somehow you seem too uptight. ”

  He chuckled and prayed she couldn’t see his erection, because . . . damn. “I’m afraid I’m a bit choosier than you are when it comes to my bed partners. ”

  Color tinged her cheeks and then she turned away, both guards immediately surrounding her as she walked to the door.

  Phillip cleared his throat next to Connor. Connor glanced up.

  “Lyric is, uhm, shall we say a little difficult?” Phillip began.

  Connor was beginning to think it was her standard description. He held up his hand. “Save it. You don’t have enough money to make me take this job. I’d have to be fucking insane. ”

  He was already goddamn insane because from the moment she said she didn’t like him, his cock had roared to life and said, Come get me.

  The very last thing he wanted was a bratty pop star around him twenty-four/seven, one who gave him a hard-on every time she argued with him.

  He’d be nothing but a walking erection.

  Lyric walked into her suite and fended off Trent when he went for her top. Surprise flashed in his eyes when she instead headed for the minibar to pour herself a glass of water.

  R. J. sidled over to her and put an arm around her shoulders. “Something wrong, Lyric?”

  She shrugged him off, unable to explain why she could suddenly not bear for either of them to touch her.

  “Just not in the mood,” she said darkly.

  Trent chuckled. “But, sugar, you’re always in the mood. ”

  “Not tonight,” she said sharply. “I just want to be . . . alone. Okay?”

  The two men looked at each other in shock, then stared back at her as if she’d lost her mind. And maybe she had. Alone? What was she thinking? She didn’t do alone. Ever. The only thing worse than being alone was being one-on-one with someone. She didn’t like either option and surrounded herself with people even in sleep.

  But tonight? Yeah, she could do alone. Connor Malone’s disapproving stare had rattled her. Way more than she’d ever admit aloud. She got plenty of that on a regular basis. Thrived on it, even. She didn’t give a rat’s ass what people thought of her and had made it her mission in life to give the public as much ammunition as possible. So why did one condescending asshole get under her skin so badly?

  She shook her head but couldn’t get his sneer out of her mind. He made her uncomfortable. As if he could see right past her shields, all her secrets and all her fears. It was as if he’d seen her naked and vulnerable and hadn’t been at all impressed. But then, why should he be?

  “Lyric, are you all right?” R. J. interrupted. She could hear the worry in his voice, but at the moment she didn’t care and didn’t have the mental energy necessary to reassure him.

  She waved dismissively at them and turned away. It was a clear signal for them to leave, and they’d be fools to ignore it. They might be intimate with her, but sex was all they offered. They weren’t her friends. Weren’t her confidants. She didn’t have those.

  When she heard the door open and close, she turned back to survey the empty suite. Cold panic clawed at her throat and she took several long, steadying breaths. Sweat that had nothing to do with her exhaustive performance beaded on her forehead, and she could feel nausea well in her throat.

  She gazed around, absorbing the loneliness that surrounded her like fog. It seeped into her skin. Wrapped around her bones until she was paralyzed by its grip.

  She crossed her arms over her chest. Gripped her arms with her fingers and then rubbed up and down to assuage the coldness that emanated from the inside out.

  Connor Malone had looked inside her. He’d looked past the flashy, brassy veneer and stared coldly at her. Disapproving. She’d felt stripped bare before him and it pissed her off. He was nobody to her. Just some flunky that her record label wanted to hire to babysit her. Fuck that.

  They wanted someone to rein her in, and that cold bastard would probably delight in doing just that. Over her dead body.