Rock Daddy clutched my hand quickly and stepped out of the cluster of female arms and bodies. He led me down the stairs then outside to a limo. It was light blue, not a scratch on it, shining in the evening light. The plates read: RKDDY. It screamed for attention; I had to smile. It was so . . . him. At least the him I was familiar with courtesy of tabloids and talk shows.
“I’ve never seen one this color.” I stared at the car.
“Custom made.” He opened the door.
“You always travel like this?”
“We felt like a party tonight.” He motioned for me to get in.
I climbed in and sat on the opposite side. I sank into plush leather seats. There was a bar. A DVD and television. A sun roof. And lots of extras I didn’t have a clue about. He sat next to me and claimed my hand. He held it loosely between both of his, and they felt warm and strong. Comforting. That made me nervous. But I left my hand in his. I felt decadent, giddy. This was not me. Not the type of life I led.
“Do you have a place in mind?” he asked as the rest of the band climbed into the car.
“Like I said, first time here. Don’t know anything about the city.”
I gazed at the other men in the car. Kenny, the tattooed guy, smiled easy, but his eyes looked troubled, and I wondered what his story was. One guy had a mouth full of gold teeth and rings on every finger. His expression never changed but his eyes took in everything around him. The black guy folded himself into the car last and he nodded his head at me. He was substantial, in both width and height. He could have played football and I wondered what instrument he played. Seated next to me was a man of Asian descent; I had to admit, I didn’t know which country his family must have come from. He was small and almost feminine looking.
Rock Daddy picked Union Street, on Woodward Ave., not far from the bookstore. It was an Art Deco Restaurant, which boasted being the place to see and be seen. The other men joined us, and it amazed me that they could walk in and jump ahead in line. There was an eclectic mix of people: all races, sizes, and ages. They mingled at the door, waiting their turn for a table.
We were seated at a large round table, and I loved the wood floors and neon lights that surrounded the dining area. There were no televisions. No live music. Just people talking and enjoying each other’s company. The smells hit my nose and I realized how hungry I was.
Rock Daddy pulled my chair out for me as I sat down.
“There’s always a big college crowd here. And theater people.”
I took a menu from the server. “I would have guessed Motown.”
He shrugged. “That too. But there are several schools close by, a few theaters, and Detroit Medical Center.”
“Do people know you in here?” I leaned forward, resting my chin on my clasped hands. “Since you’re probably the most famous son of Detroit right now, huh?”
He grinned. “Could be.” He pointed to the menu. “Everything’s good.”
I glanced at the wide variety of appetizers, entrees, and sides. “Do you have a favorite?”
“Either jambalaya or the tequila chicken.”
Each of the musicians offered their own favorites, from Scooby Doo pasta to salmon tortellini. I was floored that the men had a pretty sophisticated taste in food.
“Think I’ll try the steak New Orleans.” I closed my menu.
“Like spicy?” Rock Daddy lit a cigarette.
I nodded. “That’s one thing I love about traveling – getting to try the different cuisines.”
The waitress came to take our orders and just about screamed when she saw Rock Daddy sitting at her table.
“Oh my God!” she put her hands to her mouth. “I love you!”
Rock Daddy smiled. “Thank you.”
“You and your band are my favorites.” She glanced around the table. “My name’s Xina.”
“We’re ready to order Xina, if you’re ready.”
She put her hand on his shoulder. “My shift is over at ten.”
“Then you have time to get our orders.”
She pulled her pad out of her apron pocket. “I cannot believe this. Rock Daddy at my table.”
He ordered an assortment of appetizers for the table: calamari, rasta wings, baked brie, and crab au gratin. We each ordered a drink. Then I sat back and studied the ambiance of the place. I watched each of the men and felt really safe in the midst of them.
“Does that happen often?” I asked, smiling at the young waitress.
They all nodded.
Kenny chuckled. “Not so much when Peter’s not with us. But whenever he’s in the building, he is the draw.”
“It nice that people like our music and feel they can approach us,” Peter said. “It really is. Without the fans, we wouldn’t have this life.” He sighed. “But sometimes I wish I could just go out to eat without that kind of attention.”
“I don’t get recognized on the street, but I’m starting to get major crowds at my book events.” I laughed. “Nothing like what you guys deal with, though. I don’t know if I could handle that much attention.”
They all talked at once, at times loud and boisterous, others quiet and reflective. They asked questions about life as a writer. And about my home in Montana.
“There are more interesting topics than my boring little life.”
“No life is boring.” Kenny winked and took a drag off his cigarette. He put his arm across my shoulders and scooted a little closer. “I’ve always wanted to live in a place like that. Open spaces. Room to breathe.”
Rock Daddy blew his smoke out harshly and snuffed out the cigarette. He folded his arms over his stomach and just stared at Kenny. “Yeah. Room to breathe. Or get the crap kicked out of yourself.”
Kenny raised his eyebrow. He glanced toward me then back at Rock Daddy, a small smile on his pursed lips. “Changing the rules, boss?”
Rock Daddy barked out a laugh. “I ain’t your boss.” His face quickly sobered. “But yeah.”
Kenny moved his arm back and just looked between me and Rock Daddy.
“I feel like I’m missing something here.” My eyes flicked between the two men.
Kenny shrugged. “Our man here will fill you in.” He continued to ask me questions and I slowly relaxed. But every time I glanced toward Rock Daddy, he was frowning and scowling.
When food arrived, the men jumped on it like they were starving. My own stomach growled. Each of the appetizers was mouth-watering, like food I’d never tasted before. Shortly after those were gone, the entrees were on the table. Rock Daddy and I sampled each other’s dinners, and I ultimately gave him the remainder of mine. I listened to stories from their touring and laughed as they told stories on their famous front man. Several times, I glanced over to smile at him and caught him staring intently at me. Those looks dropped my heart to my stomach. Good Lord, he was gorgeous. Almost too much for me to act normal around. I sipped my glass of white zin, trying to calm the zig-zag pattern of my breathing.
The food was good, and the company was intriguing. I had to admit, Rock Daddy was attentive and made me feel sexy. He wiped my mouth with his thumb. He ran his hand over my thigh and rested it there. He scooted his chair closer to mine. He draped his arm over the back of my chair and fingered my bare shoulder.
I swallowed hard and tried to keep my composure. But the feel of his skin touching mine had me thinking about more intimate touches. Skin to skin touches. It had been way too long since I had enjoyed any kind of touches from a man.
“Dessert?” He took a drag off the cigarette.
I shook my head. “I’m stuffed.”
“You barely ate anything.”
“I ate more than usual.” I sat up straight and stretched my arms in front of me. “And now I’m sleepy.”
“We’re just getting started.” He leaned down and brushed his mouth over my cheekbone. “Stay with us while we party?”
I watched him with half-hooded eyes. “Maybe.”
Then I watched as the men snorted lines of cocaine. I swallowed. Hard.
I wasn’t completely naïve. I knew these guys did hard drugs. I knew they lived a hard-core life. I just didn’t realize they popped the stuff out in the middle of a restaurant. I was in the wrong place. Wrong time. Wrong man.
He caught me looking at him and offered me some.
“Don’t do it.”
“We making you uncomfortable?”
I shrugged, hating that I looked and sounded like a sheltered, prudish mom from the boonies. Women strutted by the table, running their fingers along the men’s shoulders. Some stayed and chatted. Others brazenly offered their numbers. Or hotel keys. His eyes flicked to their bodies, and the truth hit me hard. I wasn’t special to this man. I was one in a long line of faceless, nameless floozies that he would never remember. Or cherish. Or truly desire.
He leaned closer to me and nuzzled my neck. “Wasn’t thinking.” He moved my hair back and kissed behind my ear. He flicked his tongue out and licked a path to my jaw.
Tingles ran up the length of my spine and I panicked. I couldn’t remember having this kind of reaction to a complete stranger before. And it was just wrong for me to have these kinds of feelings for this particular man. Not when any youngish woman would work for his purpose. I scooted my chair back and grabbed my purse. “I’m going to call a cab.” I stood and kept my eyes looking elsewhere. “Thanks for dinner.” All the men stood as I turned. I raced toward the door without looking back. I rushed through the front doors, gulping the crisp air into my lungs. Without looking at the street, I turned to the left and kept running.
Rock Daddy spun me around on the sidewalk. “Hold up. Don’t run away, beautiful.”
I put my hand on his chest. “My name is Dani. I’m not one of the brainless twits that you pick up and screw every night.”
He backed up a step. “That what you think?”
I met his eyes. “Isn’t that what you were trying to do?”
He shook his head and led me to the limo. We sat down inside, and he looked at me. “I’m sorry about the blow.”
I shrugged. “I don’t party. Don’t jump from bed to bed.”
His eyes flashed to my face. “For how long?”
“Almost four years.”
He sighed. “Let’s start over. My real name is Peter Black.”
I smiled a little. “You don’t look like a Peter.”
“What do I look like?”
I shrugged. “Not sure. Pete maybe.”
“Been called a lot of things in my life.” He sighed. “Mostly things I shouldn’t repeat in your company.”
I inched closer to him. “Where did Rock Daddy come from?”
“Stage name I picked up.” He blew his breath out. “Where you staying?”
I gave him the name of my hotel. “It’s on River Place Drive.”
“Feel like a walk?”
I stared at him, not at all sure what to do. I wanted to spend time with him, be with him. But I didn’t want to be used, to be thrown away in the morning. I wanted to live. To be daring. To do something unlike me. But I also knew my limitations. I wasn’t a party girl. Or a slut. I didn’t want my time with this intriguing man to end. And I didn’t want to lead him on.
I closed my eyes, trying to weigh my options. “I don’t want to put you out.”
“It’s only a couple of miles.” He smiled softly. “Give me time to clear my head. And we can walk off that dinner.”