Authors: Kim Hornsby
Tags: #Contemporary, #suspense
“From the opening glitz-and-danger concert scene, this story rocked my world! Nikki's insatiable curiosity and prying antics had me laughing, while her deep need for love and stability made her story richly human. Only a man as daring and thick-skinned as sexy Pete could handle such a tough woman let alone penetrate her guarded heart. And while danger lurks around every corner for this burned-out rock-star and this hunk in wolf's clothing, their near-fatal attraction was what kept me wide awake.”
~Christine M. Fairchild, author
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2013 by Kim Hornsby
Originally published by Wild Rose Press
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by AmazonEncore, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and AmazonEncore are trademarks of
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Cover Designer: Kim Mendoza
This title was previously published by Wild Rose Press; this version has been reproduced from Wild Rose Press archive files.
To my father, Gord Hornsby,
who was a fine writer of letters to the editor,
newsletter articles, and emails.
This one’s for you, Dad.
Nikki Crossland’s Hot Crossed Buns
Goldy Crossland ran on stage to the thunderous screaming of the Los Angeles crowd. The explosion of applause inside the Staple Center was the tangible evidence of their love for her—love that had fueled her drive over the years to get to this point. Soon she would desert them.
“Necessary Detour,” she mouthed to the band, not waiting for her ex-husband, Burn’s, reaction to the song choice. It hadn’t been played since she vowed to never give it credit again. Written about a female stalker they’d called Yellow, the hit had been dropped from their repertoire when the stalker slit her wrists at a Goldy concert and bled to death.
Tonight, for personal reasons, Goldy wanted it to be the final song. A new crazed fan, code-named Shakespeare by the FBI, had threatened to kill her at the end of the concert, and, if he was successful, she was damned well going to have the last word.
The opening chords filled the cavernous arena and, recognizing the long lost song, the crowd cheered to barely tolerable decibels.
“You think you got me.
You think we’re done.
You think it’s over.
You haven’t won.”
Burn’s guitar screamed with the intensity of a locomotive as Goldy scanned the crowd, not knowing if she was staring into the face of the demon. Tonight she dared any one of them to take her on. The FBI had insisted on a bulletproof skin under her costume, and she could only hope that if it came to that, the material would save her life. Knowing that a quick bullet to the chest wasn’t Shakespeare’s style, she stood at the edge of the stage.
A dozen FBI agents peppered the audience searching for anyone who might have written six months’ worth of heinous letters that threatened to torture his prey with unimaginable creativity. Trickling acid along her face then watching her melt was more like Shakespeare. To capture, torture, then relish in the hours, possibly days, that it took him to claim her life. That was his “fondest wish.” He’d been code-named Shakespeare because he quoted the bard, but there was nothing poetic about his twisted mind.
Getting closer to the end of the song, Goldy moved to stage left where a stray bullet wouldn’t hit anyone else. With only two lines left, she pulled the microphone away from her lips to make a powerful run to the end. A sharp, burning pain pierced her hand and dominoed along her arm to her shoulder, hitting her torso like a jackhammer. The pain was formidable.
Electricity. I’ve been electrocuted.
When her brain got the message, the hand flew open and the microphone dropped with a thud to the stage floor.
Pretend nothing is wrong. Finish the song.
Goldy ran over to Burn’s microphone, acutely aware of the one lying behind her, like the pariah it was. Agent Gateman took two steps and stopped at the edge of the stage, seconds from shutting everything down. She shook her head emphatically, calling one last shot.
Her left arm hung limp as she reached for Burn’s microphone with the right. What if this was the plan? Toy with her, knowing she would persist? Then finish the kill with Burn’s microphone. Leaving it on the stand, she moved in. Hearing the approaching notes, she took a deep breath to make the final run to the end. This time she was careful to keep her lips off the metal.
“It’s a Necessary Detour
She punched the air with her good arm, stepped wide and threw her head back—her trademark pose that punctuated the final moment of every Goldy concert.
The applause was deafening. She’d survived the final song, despite what Shakespeare said.
“I shall end it all with your final note, my love.”
The six band members who made up the group Goldy laid their instruments down and applauded with the audience in their adoration of the international rock legend.
What they didn’t know was that this was not only the last song of the tour, but the final tour in a twenty year career. The final everything. No more CD’s, touring, concerts. No more Goldy.
“Goodnight, everyone!” she shouted above the din. “I—HAVE—LOVED—YOU!” Gold confetti rained over the masses as she spun a sparkly Frisbee that promised a family vacation to Hawaii.
Applause filled the arena’s rafters. “Goldy! Goldy! Goldy!” Searing pain in her left arm reminded her that she’d just been electrocuted. She needed to get offstage. Taking a final bow with her partner and ex-husband, she hugged him with one arm and turned to her audience. The mass of people in front of her had been her reason for almost everything she’d done in the last twenty years. A wave to them, a bow to her band, and then Goldy left the party while she was still having fun.
Paramedics waited just out of sight, their dark blue uniforms a comfort to her worry. But it was her bodyguard, Dwayne, who lunged to catch her multi-million dollar backside before it hit the floor in a faint.
Faces were fuzzy, then clear, like focusing a camera. Why was she lying on the floor in the backstage area of the Staple Center? Quinn was positioned at her left elbow, her tears dropping onto her mother’s sparkly costume.
“Mom! Mom! Wake up.” The girl’s voice gained volume with every second. No seventeen-year-old kid should have to endure as much as Quinn had in the last year.
“I’m okay, sweetie.” Goldy tried to sit, but one of the paramedics motioned for her to wait.
“Just let me finish checking your stats. Almost done, Ms. Burnside.”
The crowd parted and the real Burnside burst through to kneel at her feet. “Nikki!” He used her real name. “What the fuck?” Burn was eloquent in any situation.
He looked in worse shape than her, but that was no surprise. He’d always needed more coddling than anyone. “I got a shock from the microphone,” she said, “but I’m fine.” She’d hold to the story that it was simply an accident and Burn would believe it. “I’m still on the floor to let the paramedics do their job, nothing more.”
Burn had been an unintentionally horrible husband—negligent and unfaithful but never malicious. And everything they’d been through in their marriage had been necessary to achieve this end result which she wouldn’t have traded for the world. Her career and her beloved Quinn meant everything.
“Give her room.” One of the paramedics waved his arms to part the crowd, while the other put away equipment.
“Thanks for your concern,” she said. Being Goldy had been a sweet ride for a very long time and seeing their worried faces, she was reminded of how much her staff counted on her. For years, she’d signed their pay checks, put food on their tables, financed college for their kids, and knowing all that was going to end for them wasn’t a pleasant thought. But it was a necessary detour.
“Enough.” She waved away the paramedics and looked to the two bodyguards who rarely left her side. “Help me stand. I have an important announcement to make.”
Nikki kept her eyes lowered as she hurried along the aisles of the Louisa Lake Shop and Go looking for marshmallows. With her chin on her chest, she rounded the bottom of aisle three and ran into a cart coming the other way. Reaching behind to prevent a fall backward, she stuck her fist into a pyramid of canned soup and stumbled back as cans of chicken noodle crashed to the linoleum floor.
An arm yanked her out of the path of toppling missiles. She tumbled into her rescuer’s firm torso.
“You okay?” His voice was one day away from laryngitis.
“Yeah, thanks.” From under her five-dollar baseball cap and through seven-hundred-dollar sunglasses, Nikki sneaked a quick peek and righted herself. He wore jeans, a dark blue T-shirt, and a small metal amulet on a leather rope around his neck, his look reminding her of a middle-aged cowboy from a Ralph Lauren ad. Too handsome for Louisa Lake.
“Let’s kick them out of the way,” he said. “Like this.” He used his foot to push the cans to the side of the aisle and she copied him. What else could she do? She couldn’t race out the door without calling attention to herself.
Even though he was probably a customer like she was, suspicion snaked through her. If he’d been following her since Seattle, she hadn’t noticed. But any solitary man raised her radar today, especially after the media’s reaction to her announcement. The Goldy story had taken the front page of all publications, and the world was frantic for news of her whereabouts. Fifty thousand dollars was out there for anyone who snapped a shot of the newly retired rock legend.