Read Blackthorne: Heart of Fame, Book 8 Online

Authors: Lexxie Couper

Tags: #rock star;doctor;international;love triangle;romance;erotic romance;love;romantic erotica;singer;night club;contemporary romance

Blackthorne: Heart of Fame, Book 8

Rhythm is in his genes. She is in his heart.

Heart of Fame, Book 8

Caitlin Reynolds doesn’t care if the rock star lookalike trying to get into her bar is who he says he is. Sticking to the rules is a big reason the Chaos Room is the hottest velvet rope in Sydney.

Okay, so he’s freaking hot, but she’s been ignoring her hormones since her fiancé left her to go be a doctor in Somalia and then went missing.

After a shattered knee ended his promising soccer career, it seemed only natural for Josh Blackthorne to follow in his father’s rock-god footsteps. Now he’s a megastar, lusted after by women—and men—the world over. But he’s been in lust with Caitlin since he saw her picture years ago.

When Caitlin realizes Josh is who he says he is, she’s the first to make it right. But no matter how badly his seduction makes her want to melt into his arms, there’s a ghost hanging over their heads. A ghost who turns out to be not so legally dead after all…

Warning: Contains a rock star who’s livin’ the dream and livin’ it large, a self-made businesswoman with a weakness for a cheeky smile, and a red-hot battle of tormented wills. May stimulate a desire to throw your panties onto the nearest stage.

Blackthorne

Lexxie Couper

Dedication

Michelle Boone. A reader who became a friend. And an utterly awesome one, at that.

Prologue

The guitar felt perfect in his hand. He didn’t think it would. Not really. He’d planned his life differently to this. In fact, this time two years ago, he’d been kitting up for his first year as a professional soccer player. That’s what he’d planned for his life—a career playing pro soccer for Australia and one day, hopefully, Manchester United.

And now he was about to open a showcase on Australian rock ’n’ roll in the Sydney Opera House.

Life was fucking strange sometimes.

“You ready, Josh?”

He looked up from his guitar—the familiar Ovations Adamas acoustic his mum had bought for him as a fifteenth birthday present—and nodded at his father. “Think so.”

Nick Blackthorne gave him a narrowed-eyed inspection. “You sure? You look…freaked out a little.”

Josh laughed. “How many people are in the audience?”

His father—a man used to playing in front of thousands of people at any one time, at any given sold-out concert—shrugged. “No bloody clue.”

“Liar.” Josh adjusted the weight of his guitar in his hand, shifted his grip on its throat. “You’ve played more than one unplugged concert here. You know
exactly
how many people are out there.”

“Two-thousand, six hundred and seventy-nine,” Nick answered, expression deadpanned, even as a twinkle danced in his eyes.

Josh let out a snort. “Bastard.” Dropping his gaze to his guitar, he ran his thumb over the strings. “You know the most I’ve ever performed in front of at any given time is four, right? You, Mum, Jaxon and the Dean. Five if you count Chloe, and I’m not sure a six-month-old baby counts as a discerning audience member, even if she is my sister.”

Lips tugging into a slow smile, Nick took the guitar from Josh’s hand and slipped its strap around Josh’s neck. “Think about who those five are for a second, Josh. Your mum, who has—as far as I know—never held back on telling you when you sound shocking. Jaxon Campbell, who despite being the biggest joker in the rock world, is also one of the best musicians out there. Natalie, the Dean of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music—who I
definitely
know never tells a student they’re good when they’re not. And me. And seeing as you’re about to perform live with the name Blackthorne to over two-thousand people, I wouldn’t let you go out there and stuff up my good name if I knew you couldn’t do this.”

Rolling his eyes, Josh adjusted the strap around his neck. “Geez, Dad. I’m not even sure what to say to that.”

Nick laughed. “Say ‘Thanks, Dad. You’re the best’. And then go out there and show the rest of the world what I already know.”

Chest tight, gut a churning mass of conflicted nerves and excitement, Josh frowned at his father. “And what’s that?”

Nick fixed him with a steady stare. “That you, Joshua Blackthorne, are fucking incredible.”

And with that, the biggest rock star the world had ever known cupped the back of Josh’s head, dropped a kiss on his forehead and walked off the stage.

Josh stood alone behind the curtain with nothing but his guitar, a stool and a microphone.

And the stirrings of a dream that had never been there before now.

He turned to look at the closed curtain. Holy fuck, was he ready for this? Was his dad right? Was he capable of this? Of performing live? Or was he just about to embarrass not only himself, but his father’s name. The name Blackthorne was synonymous with legendary rock. The world knew that. Was he, Josh, about to fuck that all up?

“Curtain opens in ninety seconds, Josh.”

Josh blinked at the soft whisper on his left. He turned, finding the Dean of the Sydney Con beside him.

“Don’t be nervous,” she said, touching his arm with a reassuring hand. “You’ll be amazing. I’m not blowing smoke up your arse when I say you’re better than your father. He knows it as well.”

A thick lump filled Josh’s throat. He swallowed, giving Natalie a quick nod. “If you say so.”

She smiled. “I do. And so will the world, after they hear you tonight.”

Without another word, she crossed the stage to the wings.

Dragging in a slow breath, Josh turned back to the closed curtain once again. He stared at it. Pictured the thousands of people on the other side. Pictured his mum sitting beside his dad in the second row.

Pictured the four members of his dad’s old band—out there waiting to hear him perform. Waiting to decide if he was to become the front man of their new band, Synergy.

He pictured a stadium filled to capacity with screaming fans…Josh Blackthorne fans. Fans that didn’t yet exist, but maybe…one day.

He pictured his baby sister’s nursery. Pictured her sitting on her pink bunny rug, gazing up at him, eyes wide, gummy smile wider…

“Time, Josh,” he heard Natalie whisper to him from the wings.

He closed his eyes, pictured Chloe’s room. Pictured him there with her…

Just him and Chloe and no one else.

Him, his baby sister and his guitar.

Perching his butt on the edge of the stool, he closed his eyes, placed his fingers on the strings of his guitar and began to play.

And when the curtains opened, when he was bathed in the white light of the Sydney Opera House’s concert hall’s main spotlight, when the music flowed through him, through his soul, his fingers and out to the world, Josh Blackthorne realized for the first time in his entire life what he was born to be.

A rock star.

Chapter One

Five years later

“The guy is a complete wanker, boss.”

Caitlin closed her eyes, scrubbed at her face and dragged her hands through her hair. Around her, the raucous sounds of the Chaos Room, the nightclub bar she owned and operated in the trendy harbourside suburb of Woolloomooloo, throbbed like a crazy heartbeat.

Letting out a sigh, she looked up at her second-in-charge and pulled a face. “Awesome.”

Zach gave her an apologetic face back. “Sorry for interrupting your night off.”

She shrugged and gave the six-foot-seven Maori a warm sigh. “Hey, I was only eating ice cream and watching re-runs of
Sleepy Hollow
. Dealing with a wanker rock star will be so much more entertaining.”

Folding his massive arms across his chest, Zach flicked a glance over her shoulder. “Speaking of which…”

“Fuck,” a throaty voice drawled behind her. “If you’re the owner the bouncer threatened me with I’m ready to be punished.”

Lips curling in a slow smile, Caitlin nodded at her second-in-charge. “I’ve got this, Zach. You get back to the bar.”

Zach let out an amused grunt. “Have fun.”

She grinned. “Yeah. Right.”

Turning on her heel, she looked at the short man dressed all in black leather strutting towards her.

According to Zach’s phone call of forty minutes ago, the guy—the most recent winner of
Australia’s Got Talent
—had refused to take
no
for an answer from the second he’d swanned into her nightclub. He’d acted as if he was some kind of god and had gone about making sure everyone knew he was there and gave him what he wanted. He’d demanded free drinks for himself and his entourage—entourage? Really? The tosser was a reality-show winner, not freaking Kayne West. He’d expected the dance floor to be cleared so he could do his
thing
on it. And he’d insisted his record—manufactured pop rubbish—be played over and over again. And that had all been in the first thirty minutes.

“Love the
Iron Man
shirt,” the wanker said, running his gaze over Caitlin’s chest with blatant approval. “It’ll look so much better on the floor of my penthouse suite at the Hyatt tomorrow morning though.”

Caitlin cocked an eyebrow. “Am I meant to be impressed you’re staying at the Hyatt?”

The reality-show winner lifted his stare to her face and slid his hands over her hips to give her arse a tight squeeze. “Baby, take me to your office and strip us both naked and I’ll show you just how impressive I can be.”

Caitlin disengaged herself from his groping hands, but not before he had the chance to inch his fingers closer to her crotch. “Something tells me I’m not going to regret saying no to such an eloquent invitation.”

The rock-star wannabe laughed, shot his entourage—three grinning idiots—a smirk and then dropped her a wink. “Fuck, you’re a sexy piece. Want to sit on my face?”

Struggling to retain her professional calm, she placed her hands on her hips and gave him a pointed look. “How about you find yourself another club to visit tonight? The Chaos Room doesn’t accommodate fuck-knuckle wankers.”

Before she could move, he snaked his arm around her hips and yanked her to his body.

She felt the pudgy bulge of his hard-on mash against her belly a micro-second before the pudgy bulge of his gut did the same. Barely containing the desire to ram her knee into his balls, she wriggled free of his arms. “Sir, touching me is asking for trouble. Seriously. I really think you should leave and take your—” she waved her finger at the sniggering morons behind him, “—
boys
with you.”

He didn’t take the hint. Instead of doing the wise thing and departing, the creep stepped closer to her and skimmed his hands over her butt. “Fuck, I want you. Bet you give the best head ever with that fucking hot mouth of—”

In a move perfected after years working out with her professional bodyguard of an uncle, she snared the creep’s right arm in a
juji gatame
lock, slammed him against the closest wall and rendered him scrunched-up-face defenseless with her knee.

“I told you,” she ground out, watching him crumple to ground, “not to touch me. I don’t care if you
are
a freaking rock star. When you’re in my club, you’re the same as everyone else, and everyone else knows the rules.”

She squatted down until her face was level with his. “No one. Touches. Me. Got it?”

The wanker nodded. At least, Caitlin assumed it was a nod. Given his whole body was shuddering and quaking, she could be mistaken.

Wow. Maybe she’d kneed him harder than she thought?

A finger of guilt traced up her spine, but she shook it off. When it came to personal boundaries, she didn’t mess about. And the guy truly had crossed a line.

Studying him slumped on the floor, sweat trickling down his temples, breath ragged, hands cupped over his groin, she let out a dry grunt. And to think the wanker was currently number one on Australia’s rock charts. When had rock stars become so lame?

Rising to her feet, she brushed her palms on her thighs and turned to his entourage. “You probably should help him to his feet.”

They gaped at her. Shuffled back a step. Or three.

Caitlin rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Despite the fact I could press charges for what he just did, I’m not going to. But if he’s still in my club in five minutes time, that situation will change.” She arched an eyebrow at them. “Do we understand?”

She didn’t bother to wait for their reaction. She knew what it would be. She spent six nights a week, fifty-two weeks a year dealing with shit like this, give or take a few nights off here and there for things like family dinners,
Sleepy Hollow
marathons and other stuff. She hadn’t made the Chaos Room the hottest nightclub in Sydney by being a pushover. And she hadn’t become the woman she was now by wasting precious time on forgone conclusions. Or superficial, pretentious tossers, for that matter, no matter who they were or how famous they thought they might be.

Fame didn’t impress her in the slightest. Her uncle was married to one of the most famous actors in Hollywood. She’d been to more than one Hollywood party, more than one red-carpet event. If a creep who won a television talent contest made the ridiculous assumption she was going to waste any of her time on him, even time spent seeing him charged for being a creep, he was wrong.

Striding away from the groaning, incapacitated guy and his fawning lackies, Caitlin made her way to the main bar. The Chaos Room had two bars on the ground floor and a more intimate bar that specialized in cocktails on the first floor. At this point in time, Zach was flinging bottles and pouring shots in the main bar, the perfect place for keeping an eye on the crowd.

“Situation dealt with,” she shouted as she pressed her palms to the edge of the marble bar and leant toward her second-in-charge. On either side of her, patrons pushed and jostled and shoved for prime position at the bar as they waited to be served. Some—not knowing who she was—tried to elbow her out of the way. They failed. “Reckon I can go back to my ice-cream now?”

Zach flung a white hand towel over his massive shoulder and shook his head with a grin. His teeth flashed at her from between his dark-brown lips. As did the devilish merriment in his black eyes. “Nope. Just got a call from Strop out the front. We’ve got a
situation
there now.”

Caitlin threw up her hands. “Are you kidding?”

“Sorry, boss. Wish I was.” Zach retrieved a squat glass from beneath the counter, poured a shot of Jack Daniels into it and slid it across the bar to one of the Chaos Room’s regulars before turning back to Caitlin. “Want me to deal with it?”

Resting her elbows on the bar, Caitlin dug her fingers into her hair. “Nah, I will. I’ve got my arse-kicking boots on after all.”

Zach snorted. “I thought they were your come-fuck-me boots.”

Caitlin flicked her second-in-charge a censuring grin. “Just tell me what’s going on outside with Strop, will you?”

He chuckled. “’K. We’ve got two guys making a bit of a fuss. Not much, but enough Strop wants a yay or a nay from inside.”

Caitlin raised an eyebrow. Strop, the Chaos Room’s main bouncer, was the most intimidating son of a bitch she knew. An ex-firefighter, the guy was never fazed or intimidated by anyone. It was why he was so perfect for guarding the entry queue. No one messed with him or made a fuss when he refused them entry. Unless they were complete tossers. Snaring a handful of nuts from the complimentary bowl near her elbow, she frowned at Zach. “Do we know who the two guys are?”

Zach poured a beer for a waiting patron and then lowered his head down to Caitlin’s. “They’re proclaiming to be Josh Blackthorne and Rhys McDowell,” he said.

“Bullshit.” Caitlin shook her head. “Blackthorne lives in New York, so it can’t be him. And isn’t McDowell in London? Preparing for the next Soccer World Cup? I’m sure I heard it on the radio this morning.”

Zach lifted a massive shoulder in a shrug. “Who knows with celebrities these days. But Strop’s not letting them in without a say-so.”

Huffing out a ragged sigh, Caitlin pushed herself from the bar. “I’ll go check it out. While I’m at it, make sure the talent-contest creep and his entourage vacate the premises ASAP, okay?”

Zach nodded. “Sure thing, boss.”

Tossing a peanut into her mouth, she turned from the bar and weaved her way through the crowd to the main door. More than once, she felt a hand or two on her arse. More than once, she wondered why men thought it okay to feel up a woman just because she was walking alone in a nightclub. If she didn’t have the fracas to deal with out front, she’d show the touchy-gropey morons what happened when they couldn’t keep their hands to themselves.

In fact, when she finished with the two tossers out the front—there was no way they really
were
Josh Blackthorne and Rhys McDowell—she may very well make her way back into the crowd and see who thought it was a good idea to get all handsy. She was in a mood tonight. Probably because her one night off had been interrupted by a wanker. She had a thing against wankers.

Dodging the gaggle of giggling, scantily clad women currently crossing the main entry’s threshold, she stepped out into the sweltering summer night and came to a halt beside her chief bouncer. “What’s the problem, Strop?”

Strop—roughly the size of an office block and twice as ugly—inclined his shaved head toward two men standing on the curb with their backs to the club. “Two jokers over there want to skip the queue. Reckon they’re Josh Blackthorne and Rhys McDowell.”

Caitlin studied the two men’s backs with a slow inspection. Faded blue jeans hugged a tight, sculpted arse and thick, muscular legs of the one of the right. A skin-tight white T-shirt covered a torso equally as physically fit. Dark hair hung down his broad back in a thick plait, the end of which was wrapped in a bright red cord. The one on the left wore all black. Black leather pants, a black T-shirt and black biker boots, the colour emphasizing the corded strength of his body. His hair was a choppy dark mess, the kind that looked like the owner had just climbed out of bed after some serious sex. “Do you think it’s them?” she asked her bouncer, finding it a little tricky to drag her stare from them both.

It had been a while since she checked out a guy. Quite a while, but damn, the two men were presenting her with a rather appealing view.

Strop shook his head. “Can’t say. Neither had Australian ID when I asked for it, only US and UK drivers’ licenses. As far as I know Blackthorne is in New York. And what kind of celebrity tries to get into a club through conventional methods these days anyway? If they’re who they say they are, where’s their entourage? I’ve read McDowell doesn’t travel anywhere without his personal trainer in tow.”

Forcing herself to turn her attention to her bouncer, Caitlin frowned. “Did they cause a ruckus trying to jump the queue?”

She flicked the line of people waiting to get into the club a quick look. It extended down the footpath and around the corner. A line of people dressed to impress, checking out who was checking them out as they waited to enter the Chaos Room. A little thrill of pride shot through her. They were waiting to get into her nightclub, a business she’d created from the ground up, going into more debt than someone her age ever should. But she wasn’t in debt now. She’d done good, transforming a rundown dying bar into
the
nightclub to be seen at. Although at this point, most of the people in the line were straining their necks trying to get a look at the two guys standing at the curb. Straining their necks, whispering, shuffling about and giggling like little schoolgirls. Christ, even some of the guys in the line were giggling. Fuck.

“Not much of one,” Strop’s droll voice drew her attention back to him. “They came to the front of the line, the one purporting to be McDowell said who they were and wondered if they could get in. The ruckus started when the women at the front got a look at them. There was squealing. And fainting. And tears.”

Caitlin swung her stare back to the men waiting on the curb. “Seriously?”

“Yep.”

Narrowing her eyes, she ran a gaze over them both again. “What did they do?”

“The one who says he’s McDowell grinned, waved a hand and gave me a look that said see? The one who is supposedly Blackthorne took a screaming woman’s phone from her and snapped a selfie with her before giving it back and kissing her on the cheek.”

Caitlin cocked an eyebrow. “Is that so?”

“Yep. They both helped up the women who’d supposedly fainted and signed a lot of boobs while I called inside.”

“Signed boobs?”

“Josh signed mine!” the woman at the front of the queue burst out, a feverish light in her eyes as she shoved her upper body toward Caitlin and yanked down the neckline of her top to reveal an unreadable signature scrawled in red over the top swells of her breasts. Was it lipstick?

Caitlin stared at the excited woman’s exposed boobs for a second before lifting her head. “Maybe you should put them away,” she suggested.

The woman straightened, carefully returned her neckline to where it should be and directed a dreamy look at the two men by the gutter. “He smells so delicious,” she gushed.

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