Authors: Cheryl Douglas
Book One in Music City Moguls Series
Copyright © by Cheryl Douglas
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, including photocopying, graphic, electronic, mechanical, taping, recording, sharing, or by any information retrieval system without the express written permission of the author and / or publisher. Exceptions include brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Persons, places and other entities represented in this book are deemed to be fictitious. They are not intended to represent actual places or entities currently or previously in existence or any person living or dead. This work is the product of the author’s imagination.
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Stone Cold © 2013 Cheryl Douglas
Cassidy Ross just wants to escape her miserable life until she meets famed music producer, Drake Elliott. He’s everything a girl from the wrong side of the tracks would be foolish to hope for, but Drake helps her realize she can have a life worth fighting for… until she makes a mistake that could cost her everything.
Anyone stupid enough to betray Drake is destined to pay the price, especially when the culprit is wearing his engagement ring. He thought he could trust Cassidy, but when she proves him wrong he vows to make her pay.
Revenge is sweet, but redemption is sweeter.
Drake Elliott couldn’t wait to kick his feet up, pop the cap on a longneck, and curl up with his fiancée. Ten gruelling days on the road and he’d managed to rearrange his schedule so he could surprise Cassidy by being home in time for their anniversary. They’d been together for one year, the happiest year of his life, and he intended to surprise her with the platinum and diamond bracelet tucked inside his suit pocket.
Sneaking into their luxury penthouse, he heard music coming from the master bedroom. He made his way down the hall and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw his lover writhing beneath… his identical twin brother, Lee.
“You son of a bitch!” he shouted.
Cassidy squealed and jumped off the bed just as Drake lunged at his brother. “You couldn’t stand the fact I cut you off. You had to get back at me by sleeping with my woman?”
“Oh my God,” Cassidy said, running to the bathroom. “I think I’m gonna be sick.”
“Get dressed and get out,” Drake shouted, grabbing his brother by the hair. He wanted to knee him in the face so he wouldn’t forget what he had done when he looked at his reflection in the mirror the next morning, but Drake knew he was probably too high to even feel the impact. “I don’t ever wanna see your face again,” he said, bouncing his head off the wood and iron headboard. “Don’t ask me for money. Don’t come crying to me about rehab.” He stalked toward the door. “You’re dead to me.”
He clenched his hands in tight fists as he walked in to the living room to pour himself a drink. Filling the crystal highball half full, he brought it to his lips. His hand trembled and the liquid sloshed over the edge of the glass, leaving a trail on his white Armani dress shirt, but he didn’t care about the shirt or the stain. He couldn’t get the image of the woman he’d given his heart to crying out in pleasure as his brother drove in to her relentlessly.
Leaning over the windowsill, his stomach cramped, making him feel sick. He didn’t even turn around when the door slammed behind him. He knew it was Lee running out like the coward he was so he wouldn’t have to face the consequences of his actions.
Their parents died in a plane crash when they were seventeen. His father owned a small aircraft and often took his wife on impromptu trips, but when they set out on a weekend trip to Las Vegas, no one would've guessed they’d never make it home.
The investigation deduced there had been an engine malfunction and the pilot couldn’t have done anything to prevent the crash. The only solace Drake found in the dismal situation was knowing his parents hadn’t suffered, and they’d gone out together, the way they would have wanted to.
His parents were high school sweethearts who’d been in love long before people suspected they knew what love was, and Drake’s father often told him that if something happened to his wife, he would never be able to go on without her.
The twins moved in with their maternal grandparents. Drake turned to music to drown his sorrows while his brother turned to cocaine. That decision marked the beginning of the end of the relationship that had been a lifeline for both of them.
Drake spent the last twenty years with one goal in mind: to become the most sought-after record producer in Nashville, rich and powerful beyond his wildest dreams. Lee’s goal had been to seek and find the next high. They’d both achieved their goals the hard way.
Cassidy walked out of the bedroom, her face streaked with make-up, her hair tousled, looking utterly miserable. “Drake, I—”
He held his hand. “Just answer one question. Have you been using again?”
She didn’t have to respond. He could see it in her eyes. When he spotted her performing at Jimmy’s bar eighteen months ago, he’d fallen in love with her at first sight, but it didn’t take long for him to realize she and his brother had more in common than he would've liked. He set her up in the best rehab facility, introduced her to the major players in Nashville, and gave her the best clothes and jewelry his hard-earned money could buy. Evidently, it hadn’t been enough incentive for her to stay clean.
“I can’t even stand to look at you,” he said, throwing back the rest of his drink. “Just get out.”
“Please…” She was sobbing. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t even know—”
He held his hand up. “I don’t want to hear it. I gave you everything and you repay me by screwing my own brother?” He knew that was a visual he’d never get out of his head.
Drake knew Lee was angry when he told him he wouldn’t continue to support his lifestyle, but he’d foolishly believed there was still an ounce of humanity left in him. He never thought he would try to hurt him using the one and only thing he knew would bring Drake to his knees.
He’d fallen for her fast and hard in spite of the warning bells going off in his head. Friends warned him, family members chastised him, but he didn’t care. He loved her. He was determined to help her get her life on track. She had one of the most incredible voices he’d ever heard and he knew with his help she could become a superstar. She was so close, and one unforgiveable mistake with a worthless piece of garbage like his brother derailed all of their plans for the future.
“You’d best go back to Georgia, ’cause I can promise you’ve worked your last day in this city.” He poured another drink as she sank down on the sofa.
She was wearing a short, black silk bathrobe that under different circumstances would’ve turned him on. He knew there was no way he would ever be able to touch her again without remembering his brother’s filthy hands branding her.
“Please don’t do this,” she whispered, doubling over as though she couldn’t endure the pain another second. “I love you.”
He threw the glass against the wall, sending chards of crystal careening in every direction. “You have the nerve to talk to me about love? You don’t know the meaning of the word.” He was shaking, the rage seeping into every pore. For a man who prided himself on being in control, he was losing it. He couldn’t even trust himself to be in the same room with her any more.
“Where are you going?” she asked, when he started walking down the hall toward the master bedroom.
He pulled the largest suitcase he owned out of the closet and tossed it open on the floor. Pulling her clothes from hangers, he began throwing them in randomly. “This is a hell of a lot more than the rags you came with, and more than you deserve. I should throw you out on your ass with the clothes on your back.”
“Please,” she pleaded, dropping to her knees beside the suitcase. “Don’t do this. Katie came over and…” She sobbed. “I… didn’t know… I missed you…” She was hysterical, trying to talk through her tears.
“You missed me?” he shouted, kicking the suitcase. “You show me you miss me by banging my brother?” When she dropped her head and continued crying, he slammed his open hand against the wall. “I should’ve known your sister had something to do with this.” He started throwing designer shoes and boots into the suitcase, not caring where they landed.
“She came here with stuff…” She wiped at the tears sliding down her cheeks. “I told her we should flush it, that I didn’t wanna go there again...”
“But you did. I should’ve known you weren’t strong enough to resist the temptation.” He reached in to his pocket and tossed the long, velvet jewelry box at her.
“What’s this?” she asked, her hands trembling.
“It’s an anniversary gift. Why don’t you sell it so you can buy more drugs?” He’d had it custom made for her and he knew he’d never be able to look at it again without wanting to wretch.
“It’ll never happen again, I swear,” she said, staggering to her feet. “I don’t want that life anymore,” she said, taking an unsteady step toward him. “I want you. I love you.”
“Shut the hell up,” he said, grabbing her arms. “I’ve listened to your lies long enough. I must’ve been out of my mind to believe you could change.”
“I have changed, Drake.” She braced her hands on his bulging biceps. “I changed because you believed I could be a better person. I wanted to make you proud.”
He couldn’t deny she had been working hard the past year and making her music a priority. They’d been working on her demo, and he was confident he could call in some favors and get her the record deal she’d been dreaming of, but in a matter of hours, she managed obliterate any chance she’d ever had of making her dreams come true.
When he spread the word about her, there wasn’t a label in the world that would be willing to take a chance on her. It may seem spiteful, but he needed revenge, and it seemed that was the only way he could get it.
“Tell me something,” he said, letting his hands falls to his sides when he realized how deep his fingers were digging in to her skin. “Was this the plan all along? Use me to get your record deal, and then when you could support yourself, you’d cast me aside like I meant nothing to you?”
She reached up to touch his face, but he seized her wrist before she could make contact. “I swear I never meant to hurt you.” She released a shaky sigh. “But this is what I do, it’s who I am. I hurt everything and everyone who’s ever loved me. Music is the only thing I’ve ever been good at, the only thing that ever set me apart from the rest of the losers shooting up and drinking their lives away on the street.”
He knew she hadn’t had it easy growing up. Her father left when she was a toddler and she hadn’t seen him since. Her mother was a raging alcoholic who moved from one man to the next and she and her younger sister, Katie, were left home alone to fend for themselves. They got mixed up with the wrong crowd, a bunch of misfit kids who had no one at home waiting on them, so they took to the streets, looking for anything to dull the pain of a loveless childhood.
Drake would’ve done anything to make her feel worthy, but he knew he couldn’t love her enough to heal her past. Her demons would always come back to haunt her and they would destroy him in the process if he let them. He’d worked too hard to let anyone drag him down.
“I guess you want this back,” she said, sliding the four-carat diamond engagement ring he’d given her just last month off her finger.
“I don’t want that back. Sell it. Buy a bus ticket back home.”
“This is my home,” she said, lifting her chin defiantly. “I’m not leaving Nashville. I may have had a setback tonight, but I’m gonna prove to you that you weren’t wrong to believe in me. I can make it in this business. I know I can.”
He stared at her in disbelief. It must be the drugs wreaking havoc with her mind. She was smarter than to believe he’d just let her walk away without answering for the pain she’d caused him. “You can’t seriously think you stand a chance of making it here after what you did to me?”
“I know you’re angry,” she said, wringing her hands. “But maybe we could talk again tomorrow, when you’ve had a chance to cool off?”
Drake took a step back, not trusting himself within a few feet of her. He had never touched a woman in anger, no matter how much he’d felt it was justified, and he wouldn’t start now. It would be hard enough to face himself in the mirror tomorrow morning knowing he’d given his heart to a woman who had stomped all over it without a second thought. What kind of fool did that make him?
“I plan to forget I ever met you.” He walked back to the living room, and a few minutes later, he heard the sound of her wheeling the suitcase over the hardwood floor.
“Um, about the car…”
He’d bought her a BMW for her last birthday because the car she’d driven to town looked like rust was the only thing holding it together. “Take it,” he said, clasping his hands behind his back. He knew she didn’t deserve it, but he didn’t want any reminders of her crowding his home or parking garage. “I’ll have the rest of your stuff boxed up and delivered to the storage room at my studio. Make sure you arrange to pick it up when I’m not there.”
“I wish…” she whispered.
He held his hand up to silence her. “Save it for someone who’s stupid enough to believe your lies. I’m not that guy anymore.”
Cassidy drove around aimlessly before pulling into the nearly deserted parking lot of a Motel 6. She had forty-three dollars in her wallet and the credit cards Drake had ordered in her name, but she knew she could never use those again.
How could I have been so stupid?
She gripped the steering wheel before leaning her head against it. Drake had been the first and only man to see any potential in her. He made her believe in herself when she’d been ready to give up hope. And she’d repaid him by sleeping with his brother.
Granted, she hadn’t known it was Lee until Drake came barging in to the room, but that was no excuse. If she hadn’t been under the influence when Lee slipped in bed beside her, she would’ve surely spotted the subtle differences between the two men. They were identical twins, but a woman who’d been sleeping with one of the brothers for the past year should be able to tell them apart.