I looked up to sign another book, and a tall, scraggly-blonde guy stared back at me. He had blue-gray eyes that danced and made me forget I was sitting in a trendy bookstore in Detroit, winding up the fourth hour of a monster book signing event. I was upstairs, surrounded by windows, and had a cramp in my hand. But who was I to complain? Signature cramps meant books were selling. And bringing in hunky men for me to ogle.
This guy wore a pair of faded jeans, tight enough to show off his muscular thighs and round ass, but not so tight that they cut off his circulation. He had an A shirt tucked into the jeans, and a leather jacket over the top. A trimmed mustache and Van Dyke accented his chiseled cheeks. He reminded me of every bad boy my mom ever warned me about. You know the kind: men who break your heart with a calloused shrug of the shoulders. Men who go through women like they’re bargain-priced. Men who can twist you up inside so fast you wonder how the hell it happened. I told myself to breathe.
I usually leaned toward clean-cut cowboys. But the way he stared in my eyes had my face heating up. He seemed to look beyond the surface, into my darkest, naughtiest thoughts. I cleared my throat and flexed my hand a couple of times. “Can I help you?”
“Pay up.” He held his palm out to one of the guys behind him, a heavily tattooed guy with a dyed-orange buzz cut. The man was several inches shorter and huskier than the blonde. He had several earrings, a nose ring, and an eyebrow piercing. But I saw a kind face under all the bad-ass disguise.
“Care to let me in on the bet?” I glanced from one man to the other.
“I said you’d be more beautiful than the photo on your jacket cover. Kenny said it wasn’t possible.” Blonde guy winked at me.
I rolled my eyes. “How did you manage to squeeze two over-the-top compliments into that one sentence?”
The guy leaned over the table so our noses were almost touching. “I don’t have to lie to women. You’re breath-taking.”
I shook my head, ignoring the urge to breathe in his scent: a spicy, male aroma that wrapped around me and lulled me into a state of lusty euphoria. “I’m plain.”
“You kidding?” He looked me up and down. “Chestnut hair. Ivory skin. Emerald eyes.” He sat on the edge of the table and tapped his knee with his fingers. “You’re the image every man conjures up when he’s in bed alone.”
My breath caught in my throat; no one had ever said any words so sweet to me. “Wait a minute.” I took a closer look at the five men. I stared straight into the eyes of the blonde. “You’re Rock Daddy.”
Dimples along the fronts of his cheeks creased his face. “You know who I am?”
“Anyone who listens to the radio once a year knows who you are.”
“How often do you listen?”
“Enough to buy your CDs and download your songs onto my playlists.” I put my hand over his. “My boys love you.”
He narrowed his eyes. “You let your kids listen to me?”
“The clean versions.”
He pursed his lips. “Radio versions.” He looked down to where my hand still covered his. “Most parents don’t really want their kids listening to any of my music.”
I shrugged. “You’re a talented musician. It’s not like my kids haven’t heard the ‘bad’ words.” I used air quotes.
“But some parents think the lyrics will encourage kids to do things they shouldn’t do.”
“There are warnings about the explicit language. They can get the amended versions.”
“How do you know about the lyrics that parents are warned about?” His voice was low and warm and touched me deep inside, coiling low in my belly and oozing warmth downward.
My face warmed. “The clean versions are for my kids and the explicit ones are for me.”
“Fuck me with a feather.” He kissed my knuckle. “You look like a kindergarten teacher, not someone who listens to a lowlife like me.”
I tucked a stray piece of hair behind my ear, trying to keep from reacting to his flirting. “I have a suspicion maybe you’re not such a lowlife in real life.” His lips on my knuckles ignited a foreign want deep inside me.
His eyes flicked over my face and I felt his look glance over my chest. I swallowed, aware that my heart rate and breathing rate were both going up. But I couldn’t control my body. If I were of a different mindset, I’d say he was hypnotizing me or had some kind of magic hidden behind his beautiful eyes.
“And maybe you’re not as straight-laced as you seem.”
“First impressions can be deceiving.”
“So I’m told.”
“I can’t wait to tell my boys I met you.” I cleared my throat. “I became a fan of yours by accident. They’ve been pulled along with me.”
“Why by accident?”
“I’m not a hip hop or punk fan.” I bit my lip. “Based on your early songs, I judged you as a scumbag until I heard Sweet Annie.”
“My first crossover hit.” The corners of his lips tipped up.
“Then I had to admit you had a nice voice.” I smirked. “You actually sang in that song instead of yelling and rapping.”
“But after American Blues, I was blown away by your talent. Clever lyrics. A good beat. That’s when I bought a couple of CDs and saw that you write your own stuff. Play a mess of instruments.”
He shrugged. “I’m not a great anything. Decent writer. Okay musician. So-so singer.”
I held one of his hands between both of mine. “You’re better than all that. I don’t float compliments unless I mean them.” I glanced back at the rest of the band. “That goes for all of you. You’re an amazing talent.”
“You’re messing with my head.” He swung our hands from side to side slowly.
“Just being honest.” I squeezed his hand. I stared too long, but I felt some kind of instant connection with this guy. I knew it was one-sided and foolish to allow myself even a small fantasy of spending time with him. But I couldn’t help it.
He stood suddenly, dropping my hand. “How much longer do you have to sit here?”
I checked my watch; seven twenty. “About ten minutes.” I wanted the strength and the warmth of his hand back in mine. What the hell was wrong with me?
He stared down at me with his intense eyes, almost undressing me. “Have dinner plans?”
I shook my head. “This is my first time in Detroit. Any suggestions?”
He grinned, and that one act changed his face from solemn and craggy-handsome to devastatingly charming. My heart sped up and I felt my nipples respond to the contours of his smile. I wanted to sample his lips, see if they felt as soft as they looked; taste his tongue; breathe his smell deep into my lungs.
He sat back on the table and ran his finger down my bare arm. “Can I treat you?”
I raised an eyebrow. “I’m not the typical woman you go for.”
“How do you know what I go for?”
“I read magazines. Watch television.” I snorted. “You go for tall, stick-skinny girls with big boobs. The younger the better.” I sat straight in my chair. “I’m none of those things.”
“Maybe I’m looking for a change.” He handed me five copies of my latest book. “Think about it while you sign these, huh?”
He told me the names for the books and explained that his sister, mother, aunt, and cousin all loved my vampire series.
I paused with my pen in the air. “Who’s the fifth one for?”
He pointed to his chest.
“You read chick lit?”
“It’s dark, erotic, and well-written.” He shrugged. “Nobody gives me shit about reading an erotic paranormal.”
I perused his body up and down. He was lean, with long muscles roping over his body. He had wide shoulders and trim hips: a body made for sex. Hard, fast, no-holds-barred sex. The kind I had only dreamed of indulging in. I bit my lip. “Don’t imagine they do.”
“Made up your mind?”
“About dinner?” When he nodded, I swallowed. “I’d be crazy to turn you down.
“And you’re not crazy?” He brought my hand to his lips and kissed one knuckle.
“I’m not sure right now.” My skin sizzled, and I wanted his warmth all over me. I wanted those hands touching me, comforting me, exciting me. “Having trouble thinking.”
He stepped back while I signed the few copies left of my novel, including those for his bandmates. He was immediately flanked by a dozen young girls, pressing against his side and touching him everywhere. I collected my things, trying not to stare.
But I couldn’t help myself. Again. The girls were rubbing their crotches along his legs, pressing their breasts to his chest, and running their fingers along his arms and his belt. He didn’t push them away, but he looked a little uncomfortable when he noticed me watching. I swallowed and quickly averted my eyes, pretending that I was checking the contents of my purse.
I wanted to bitch-slap those girls. They were putting their hands on him. Something I didn’t have the nerve to do myself. I felt my heart rate speed up, my breathing takeoff, and my hands try to form fists. I almost slunk away, but then something inside me snapped. I had the chance to do something totally unlike myself.
I thanked the store manager and offered my hand to Rock Daddy. “Show me Detroit?”