Rough Rhythm (Made in Jersey #1.5) by Tessa Bailey
God help the woman I take home tonight.
Band manager James Brandon never expected to find the elusive satisfaction he’d been chasing, let alone stumble upon it in some sleezy Hollywood meat market. Yet the girl’s quiet pride spoke to him from across the bar, louder than a shout. Troubled, hungry and homeless, she’d placed her trust in him. But after losing the grip on his dark desires that one fateful night, James has spent the last four years atoning for letting her down.
This time I’ll finally crack him.
Rock band drummer Lita Regina has had enough of James’s guilt. She wants the explosive man she met that night in Hollywood. The man who held nothing back and took no prisoners—save Lita. And she’ll stop at nothing to revive him. Even if it means throwing herself into peril at every turn, just to get a reaction from her stoic manager. But when Lita takes her quest one step too far, James disappears from her life, thinking his absence will keep her safe.
Now it’s up to Lita to bring James back…and ignite an inferno of passion in the process.
Reader Advisory: ROUGH RHYTHM contains fantasies of nonconsensual sex, acted upon by consenting characters. Readers with sensitivity to portrayals of nonconsensual sex should be advised.
Excerpt Rough Rhythm (Made in Jersey #1.5) by Tessa Bailey
“Oh, goddamn you.” Lita plucked the card from his fingers and hurled it back into the hallway with a muffled scream. “Four years leads to this, huh? You’re just going to dump me in this fucking…”—she waved her hands to encompass the hotel—“…rock star purgatory and bail? If you’re doing this to teach me a lesson, I will never forgive you, James.”
“I’m not.” He cleared the cobwebs from his throat. “That’s not what this is.”
Without looking at Lita, he knew she’d be chewing her bottom lip, leaving teeth marks that would take until nighttime to fade. “I guess we really meant a lot to you if it’s this easy. No notice. Just…peace out, suckers.”
James swallowed the urge to shake her. “I think you know this is the furthest thing from easy.”
“No. I don’t know anything,” she shouted, before several silent beats passed. “Except that you’re a coward. You can’t even look me in the eye.”
He surged forward, pushing her back against the doorjamb. Going to break. Too much. I shouldn’t have come up here. He’d made the mistake of looking down into green eyes swimming with moisture, calling her bluff. “Does the thought of you hurting yourself to get my attention make me a coward? Yes? So be it, Lita.” His fingernails dug into the flesh of his palms. “If something happened to you, I wouldn’t make it to the next sunrise.”
Lita’s body deflated, head falling back. “You can’t say something like that and leave,” she said, lips hardly moving. “It’s cruel.”
“I’m a cruel man.”
“No.” Lita moved into the elegant room, booted feet dragging. A miniature hurricane in a gilded cage. He’d chosen the room himself, another sign of his madness, his need to control her surroundings. Have knowledge of everything she touched. His neck grew hot when she turned, sliding a gaze down his front.
Turning and leaving was imperative at that moment, but he couldn’t resist hearing what she would say next. Delaying the good-bye.
“Remember what you called me the first night we met?” She sat down on the edge of the bed. “Before you leave, call me that one more time.”
“You came along at an unfortunate time, Lita.” His head gave a tight jerk, jaw clenching. “I haven’t been feeling like myself.”
“Really.” She set the donut down, her stomach executing a series of flips. Nervous ones, but not the type that made her want to run. Not the type she’d experienced before. These were hotter, fuller, curious. “How do you feel…instead?”
“I have hunger.” His dark gaze swung up, gluing her to the plush, leather seat. “I don’t know if it can be fed like yours.”
What was going on here? Lita felt almost hypnotized, lured in by his rasping, cultured voice. She recognized interest and arousal in men, had it directed at her often, but this? This was utter famishment. He reminded her of a vampire who’d been in hiding from the sun, unable to hunt. And now a deer lay before him, vital and tempting, life flowing through its veins. She was the deer.
Man. How crazy were her thoughts right now? The lack of food must have gone to her head. After the trouble she’d just escaped, she shouldn’t care what went on under another man’s surface. Shouldn’t allow this odd, instantaneous attachment to take hold.
The fuller her stomach became, though, the more her thoughts cleared. The more of James she saw. His interest in her, as he watched her mouth chew, was almost as thick as the leash around his neck, keeping him in place. If the lights in the room weren’t so dim, she could probably make it out. Strain bracketed his masculine mouth and he appeared to be swallowing golf balls down the column of his powerful throat. One…after…another.
“How did you get so hungry?” James asked, his tone suggesting he was reclining back onto a bed of nails.
Lita rejected the outside ugliness from entering the room. “I could ask you the same thing.” Her legs were steady as she stood and rounded the table, compelled by some force she couldn’t deny. Maybe it was his clear attempt to restrain himself, to fight the attraction so obvious between them. She stopped beside James, but he stayed still as stone. “I’m full. What happens now?”
His eyelids drooped, fist mashing against his forehead. “Go.”
That single, tortured word caught her in the chest. God, he was holding back so much. What would happen when it roared out?
Why was she trembling with the need to find out?
There was danger lurking beneath this man’s surface. Also known as the last thing a homeless girl wanting to turn her luck around needed.
Too bad danger was the only thing that had ever made her feel alive.
Lita walked past James to the lamp and flipped off the gentle light, before returning to his tense figure, sliding between his outstretched legs…and opening the robe. “Feed yourself.”
The air crackled as James stood slowly, so slowly, rising to his full height. When Lita glimpsed his changed expression, she realized that—at her invitation—a change had snapped through him like a cracking whip, despite the way he rose without hurry. The vampire’s dirt nap had officially ended and the invisible leash was no more. Power rippled over his beautiful body as it pressed close, a hand finding her hip inside the robe, squeezing, his mouth sliding against her ear.
His breath went choppy after issuing a single unexpected command.