Authors: Joanna Blake
© 2014 by Joanna Blake
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
the express written permission of the publisher
for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Printed in the United States of America
Bruce turned his vintage cherry red mustang into the lot behind Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California. He'd been recording there for longer than he cared to remember. Starting early in his career and now, at what some people might call the golden age.
Those people were being kind.
True, he still performed to sold out arenas, but that was only because of his old stuff. Nobody was interested in his newer music, just the stuff that had dominated the charts from the 1980's until about ten years ago. That's when he'd still been the hard partying rock star the fans had come to know and love.
Hell, it had been what they
A near fatal car crash in 2007 had clipped his wings. He'd been on his way from one party to another in the Hollywood Hills. More than a few drinks in his system, but nothing that would slow him down. He hadn't even been driving. But the guy behind the wheel had been, and he'd paid for the mistake with his life.
Bruce's head had been inches from the heavy tree trunk that the car had wrapped itself around. As it was he'd suffered broken ribs, a cracked collarbone and bruises that took almost a year to fade. As a wake up call, that was kind of hard to ignore.
So he'd chilled out, taken it easy with the pain pills during his recovery, and had not more than a handful of drinks in the past seven years. Almost all of those drinks had been celebratory sips of champagne. He didn't even think about drinking anymore.
Well, not too often anyway.
The drinks had made him much more comfortable around other people. Particularly when it came to the way the average person treats you when you are mega famous. Without the booze, he was less likely to pick up women, and more likely to awkwardly avoid someone who was staring at him.
And they stared a lot.
It wasn't just because he was famous of course. He was almost as well known for his rugged good looks as he was for his music. Golden brown eyes and dark hair, with a chiseled face and strong jaw. Basically, Bruce looked like a cowboy.
Hell, Bruce even owned a ranch in Nevada. With horses. Not that he had grown up out West. He was pure New England, even though he hardly ever went back East. Still rooted for the Sox and Pats though. Always had, always would.
Women loved cowboys.
Even more so, they loved rock stars who
Trouble was, it was no longer amusing to have women throw themselves and their panties at him. They never wanted more than a roll in the hay, or a story to take home to their friends and their regular boring lives. The sort of normalcy he had started to envy.
He was in terrific physical shape too, especially for a guy in his 40's. No fat anywhere. He had started training seven years ago with the vigor that he once reserved for partying. Now he ran and lifted almost every day and it showed.
He'd never felt better in his life.
He'd never been less satisfied.
Bruce sighed and put the car into park, realizing that Suzanna was standing just outside the door to the studio. He climbed out and smiled. Suze was a good old girl, single handedly running things at the Studio for two decades at least. He remembered when she'd been a fresh faced little thing. Everyone had wanted to get into her pants back then.
Maybe even Bruce.
But she'd resisted them all. Well, supposedly she'd had one or two flings back in the day, but she wasn't the sort to kiss and tell. And now she was a grown up lady with two kids and a husband who stayed home to look after them.
She was still hot though. Like Bruce, she was taking the slow road to middle age. Hell, half of Los Angeles was mysteriously youthful well past 40. He grinned at her and planted a wet one on her cheek as she handed him a glass bottle of mineral water. She knew the kind he liked and kept it in stock, even if he hadn't been there to record in two years.
"Hey Suze, how are you?"
"Holding steady. How are
She was gazing at him shrewdly. Suze was one of the few people who saw through his bullshit. She was smart as a whip and totally perceptive. Not to mention, she had zero tolerance for bullshit. Probably why they got along so well.
"I was just remembering the days when you'd run out here with a bourbon and a groupie."
"Or two. Time has a nasty habit of creeping up on you, doesn't it?"
"That it does Suze. That it does."
"Come on, let's get you settled. Auditions for the Vegas show today right?"
He nodded and followed her inside.
Katrina glanced in the rear view mirror at the ocean of barely moving cars behind her. She'd been stuck in traffic for over an hour and she was still nowhere near the audition.
Of course, she'd left two hours ahead of time. Living in Canoga Park was not really convenient to getting anywhere in LA, other than, well, Canoga Park. But her mother had taken her back in, and little Tommy too. She provided a clean, safe place to live for the seven year old, including fresh fruits and veggies from her own kitchen scrap garden. She even babysat. Her mother was a lifesaver.
Katrina had snuck out of her last living arrangement in the dead of night. Living arrangement… Ha! If you could call it that. She'd been in New York, living in Brooklyn with her boyfriend. Yet another musician she'd met at a gig. As usual, he'd said he was totally fine with the fact that she had a kid. Kat was no dummy. She knew that most guys didn't care that she had a kid- not with the way she looked.
Not at first anyway.
Her long dark hair, dusky peach skin and large green eyes helped her land a lot of gigs. Even though she was short, her long legs and high full chest made her look substantial on stage. She never had to worry about being ignored.
That went double when it came to dating. At first it was all wine and roses. Then the reality would set in. She had a sick kid. There were all kinds of unsexy appointments to go to, unsexy bills to pay and unsexy middle of the night care to provide.
In short, it was not sexy.
Jeff, her latest romantic mistake, had lasted longer than most. He even cared about the kid. She could tell. But he just wasn't up for it. He had never said so, but she could tell he was trying to get up the courage to ask her to move out. The only thing stopping him was guilt.
That and the sex he still seemed to want to have with her every waking moment. Even though he'd stopped making eye contact a few weeks before. Katrina was not the sort of woman to let somebody use her as a blow up doll. So she'd left. It was easier that way.
Now she was back home in LA and in dire need of a job. This one was promising- extremely prestigious and would pay well enough for her to start getting back on her feet. And then some.
If only she could get there in time.
Bruce sat in the darkened sound booth, watching as they started to close down. They'd seen about fifty singers. All of them outstanding, with reputable managers and track records. Any of them would do the job well to be honest. Sadly, hearing all those beautiful, cultured voices singing his greatest hits had left him cold.
His manager could choose the cast at this point. They were basically interchangeable. And it's not like he had to interact with them, other than the duet. He was about to get up to tell Harry that when he heard someone arguing in the hallway.
"But I've driven three hours to get here! Please, just give me a chance."
Bruce rolled his eyes. Harry was notoriously tough on the studio or concert musicians that toured or recorded with Bruce. There's no way he would allow someone who was even a little bit late to audition.
"Let the girl sing for God's sake Harry."
Suze had intervened. She would only do that if she knew the girl or had a good feeling about her. He settled back into his chair and waited. What was another ten minutes of his life?
The door to the recording studio opened and Bruce's heart stopped.
A woman walked in- no- an angel. She was easily the most beautiful woman Bruce had seen in his life. And he'd seen a lot of them. Up close and personal too. He'd dated a stream of hollywood leading ladies during his heyday. They'd been an interesting bunch- some vapid but more than a few had been fiercely intelligent- but each and every one had been driven and self serving. He didn't blame them. You had to be in this business.
Yet not one of them held a candle to this girl.
Long dark hair and a face that was almost too perfect to be real. Her skin was smooth as silk and just a shade swarthy. Italian, he guessed. Her eyes were huge pools of a cool dark color- green, he thought but he couldn't be sure through the glass. She wore a tight black dress with a cropped tuxedo jacket over it. Her body was- well there was no other word for it- it was flawless. The girl was built in an exaggeratedly feminine way. She was slender and lithe but her curves were unstoppable. And impossible to ignore.
There was no way this girl could sing as good as she looked. He forced himself to lean back again after realizing he'd been literally on the edge of his seat. Calm down buddy. She's here for an audition, not to be your next girlfriend.
He was still trying to convince himself of that unfortunate reality when she started to sing.
Holy Christ could the girl sing.
Her voice was smokey, but creamy, like a carmel candy dropped into the finest bourbon. He would bet on his life she was untrained. She was precise but her voice lacked that cookie cutter tone that all the other singers had exemplified. He was sure she would be able to blend if she had to, but the girl was born to stand out.
Christ, she made his music sound better than good, even to his ears. She made it sound
Bruce was on the verge of leaping out of his seat to offer her a job when he realized how creepy that might be. And besides, if he was honest with himself he wanted to do more than hire her.
A lot more.
He leaned forward and hit the buzzer.
"That was great, thanks. Give your information to Harry."
She stared at the glass. He knew she couldn't see him in the darkened booth but she certainly recognized his voice. For a split second her veneer cracked and she looked like a nervous young girl who needed a job. Then something clicked in her big beautiful eyes and the professional singer was back. She nodded and left.
Bruce sat staring into the space where she'd stood for a long time.