Author: Amber Lin, Shari Slade
ISBN: 9781940518190more from this user
Half-Life Bassist Krist Mellas is still in the media doghouse after a sex video blew up online months ago. His agent has the solution: a fake engagement with sultry pop princess Madeline Fox to prove he's got his shit together. Krist couldn't care less about public opinion, but Madeline has an image problem too—and he owes her a favor.
Madeline knows better than anyone what it means to live a lie in the spotlight. She's determined to help Krist without ever letting him find out what it costs her—or about her girlhood crush on him. But after a smoking encounter in the back alley of an exclusive club, she can't deny she wants the surly rocker.
In a world of glitter and diamonds, where pretend kisses feel all too real, their facades start to crack. And the publicity storm may shatter them both.
WARNING: This book contains a scorching threesome with girl on girl action, a dirty talking pop princess, and a gruff rocker who hits all the right notes.
“So, Ms. Fox will be suspended from the rafters up there. We'll lower her down. Spinning. Spinning. You with me so far?” The producer pointed as he talked, waving a clipboard and checking his watch.
Krist nodded. This wasn't his first video shoot, though a set for a Half-Life production was more smoke machines and back alleys than Cirque du Soleil knockoff. Or grainy security footage of him sucking cock in an elevator.
Christ, he’d wanted to kick Lock’s ass for putting him in this position. First on his knees in the elevator and then on his knees begging for a favor.
When Lock had needed the media to lay off his girlfriend, Krist offered to help. He texted Madeline, the pop princess with a good-girl-goes-bad reputation, and she’d come through with a wild PR stunt at the Washington monument that took the heat off Hailey.
But not Krist. Nothing could do that. A rocker caught sucking cock? The press swarmed him like a pack of hungry jackals. He couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, without someone asking a question about the tape. About their relationships. About anything but the music.
“When she hits that mark, you grab her—watch the wings—kiss her, and push her back.” Producer pantomimed a dramatic shove.
This video shoot was just one more thing that wasn’t music. Krist wouldn’t be contributing anything to the shoot except his edgy reputation. That was all he was now—an image. A prop to appear in a music video, in a sex tape, in a threesome.
But he loved Lock. Still loved him, even though the love had changed now. He’d do anything for Lock, including turning himself into a little grunge Ken doll so Lock could have a happy ending with somebody else.
“In the stage show it's just a backup dancer dressed like a demon,” the producer said, “but for the video we wanted something more literal. Remember, she's too sweet for you, too good; it hurts to touch her. But you want her. That's your motivation.”
Well, this was painful, all right. And he was the literal devil, in leather and chains, to a pop-princess angel. No respect for the music, the craft. She probably couldn't even really sing.
The label ate that shit up, sucked his bones and tossed them on the altar of mass consumption. They were constantly pushing those bubble-gum sounds on his band, audio processors instead of four well-tuned strings, costume drama instead of playing the fucking music.
Krist balled his fists and forced himself to swallow the bile building at the back of his throat. He might be a dissolute rock star, available for hire…but he was a goddamn professional. “Got it,” he growled.
“Oh, good. You're already getting into character. We have”—Producer checked his watch again—“five minutes before they harness her up. Do you want to meet with her first?”
He didn't want to meet with her at all. He was already choking on her rarefied air. From the bowl of pink M&M’s in the greenroom to the we-drank-the-Kool-Aid crew hovering in her orbit. Had they all signed purity pledges too?
He snorted, remembering the first—and only—time he’d met Madeline Fox before. Their encounter in the bathroom of the VMAs had been all to brief. One kiss—fast and crazy—that hit him like a runaway train and left him reeling. She’d been too pure that night too, but also smoking hot, and he’d been grateful for the burn. They’d exchanged cell numbers… but he hadn’t called her.
Yeah, he was that guy.
It wasn’t because he didn’t like her. It was because he liked her too much when he had no business doing so. Liked her body and her sighs and her moans too much—but not her music. He hadn’t called her until he’d needed a favor.
He shook his head. “Let's keep the misery—I mean mystery—alive.”
* * *
There was a moment, after the makeup artist and hair stylist had gone, before the choreographer and director had arrived, that Madeline was alone. The silence disoriented her, making her pulse heavy.
It was like stepping off a carousel, unsteady on her feet and squinting into the sun. Though in her case, she was unsteady on the four-inch heels and blinking at fashion lights lining the wall. Her short puffs of breath expanded to fill the empty dressing room. Every piece of clothing that had been specially crafted and fitted to her body suddenly tugged and scratched and pinched.
The door slammed open—no knock—and her choreographer stood there. Just like that, the off-kilter moment was over, banished to the Island of Misfit Memories. She was Madeline Fox again, back in her groove. Adequate singer. Dazzling performer. She was a goddamn pop princess—and princesses never had to be alone.
“Oh, sweetheart,” Jimmy said in his customary affected voice. “You look fabulous.”
Doing a little circle to show off her costume, she preened. Literally preened since she had feathers glued onto her arms. “Are you sure I don’t look a little…avian?”
“Please. No one will be looking at your arms in that glitter bra. Every boy in the audience will have a hard-on the size of Texas.”
Madeline rolled her eyes. Jimmy had been saying that to her since she was fifteen. He got away with it because he pretended to be gay. A requirement for being successful in this business, or so he’d told her in a rare moment of seriousness.
“Come on, sweetie. Your devil awaits you.”
She clapped her hands together, barely holding in her squee. She hadn’t been sure Krist would come. Even though he owed her. Even though she’d sent their mutual agent to ensure that extra push. “Ward came through for me?”
Right on cue, Ward entered stage right. Alex Ward had a man’s name and the personality of a shark. In short, she was the perfect agent. “I always come through for you. You’re the best, and you deserve the best.”
“Aww, I bet you say that to all the multiplatinum artists.”
Ward didn’t deny it. But then, she might not have heard. She was currently speaking into her Bluetooth while tapping the tablet propped over her arm.
The important thing was Madeline would get to see Krist today. She’d get to kiss him. And now she was nervous.
She was never nervous.
The spicy scent of warm chai hit her like an orgasm. “Fuuuuck. Someone is about to be my best friend.”
A latte cup was lifted from behind Jimmy’s head. Her assistant. God bless assistants, really. Especially this one, who’d brought her chai. Piper? Penelope? Was it a boy or a girl? Not that it mattered. Madeline swung both ways.
But before she could grab hold of the cup, her voice coach was there with her endless litany of rules and regulations. No smoking. No drinking. No deep throating. Blah blah blah. And definitely no chai before a performance.
“Hey,” Madeline said, pouting. “I’m not even going to be singing.”
Her agent glanced over. “Oh, we changed that. We want some vocals off the main track for a director’s cut. That one’s going on YouTube.”
Jimmy winked. “A little improv goes a long way.”
All righty, so she would sing. In front of Krist Mellas, bass player and vocalist for Half-Life. Her stomach turned over as she grabbed the chai and took a drink. It wasn’t spiked, so the assistant whoever-the-fuck was clearly still in training mode. Big girls got a shot with their latte, and Madeline had been a big girl since she turned fourteen on the set of KidMania five years ago.
The sea of people pushed her along.
No one specifically told her to move. No one asked. They just moved, and she had no choice but to move with them. She didn’t want a choice. This was easy. This was mindless. Swivel your hips and sing until it hurts.
This was her life.
Once on the set, she could see Krist. They’d dressed him in black with spiky hair and kohl liner. Demonic? Yes. That was his usual MO. As costumes went, his was light.
Guys always got off light.
Closer, closer. What if he looked at her with disgust in his eyes? Of course he would. She looked down and ruffled her feathers. That was how all the rocker boys looked at her, one part disdain and two parts lust.
They weren’t better than her. Boy bands with an edge. Bubblegum pop studded with nails. At least she owned up to what she was.
And what she wasn’t.
They were almost face-to-face, her and Krist, and there was nowhere else to feign interest, no other way to delay the inevitable. He would know she’d requested him. What must he think of her? As if she was so desperate for a date that she needed to coerce him into one. In a way, she was desperate—for someone who didn’t want to fuck her, for someone who wasn’t gathering intel for some tabloid. But she didn’t want to see the scorn she felt for herself in his face. His very dark, scowling face.
But hey, she could avoid like a pro.
She could ignore his narrowed eyes. Could ignore the way he emanated tension, impatience, a tuning fork of masculine discontent. She could tug on Jimmy's arm instead.
Her choreographer looked distracted, adjusting the netting on her sleeves. “Hmm?”
When in doubt, play the dumb card. That was a trick she’d learned when she was ten years old, and it hadn’t failed her yet. “I don’t know about this.”
Jimmy’s gaze sharpened. “What’s wrong? You need a minute before we start?”
A delay? No. What she needed was to speed this up, to meet Krist in a way where he couldn’t say no. This was her set. She called the shots. She ruled things with her glittery Valley girl crown, and Krist would never know what hit him. “I’m just a little…” She sighed. “You know, that time of the month.”
Translation: hurry the fuck up.
From the twist of Jimmy’s lips, he wasn’t quite buying it. Besides, the crew knew her cycle better than she did. It didn’t matter, because he clapped his hands loud enough to make her jump and shouted, “Asses in gear, people. We have one shot to get this right. Let’s put this angel in the air.”
* * *
Watch the wings.
He couldn't miss them. She was naked but for feathers and glitter. Untouchable. Two grips ushered her along the catwalk and affixed her harness to a rig in the rafters. Krist was only a few feet off the ground on his platform, but he still felt unsteady. She was so high.
An assistant counted down, and the director shouted, “Action!”
The army of dancers below writhed to the thumping bass line of the guide track, feet pounding the floor, but Krist only had eyes for Madeline. She lifted her arms above her head like the ballerina in a little girl’s jewelry box, stepped off the ledge, and twirled down, singing.
“I break my own wings.”
The power in her vocals, the edge behind the lyric, knocked him more off balance. He'd expected her to lip sync. He'd expected her to fucking suck.
“I am falling. I am falling. Lift me up.”
All the dancers below lifted their hands in unison and swayed like the collective force of their will would boost her higher. Cheesy pop bullshit, but something about it worked. He didn’t want to admit it, but she had…something. She could fucking sing.
Her descent slowed. If he stretched, he could just reach her perfectly manicured toe. Almost time.
His whole body tensed as a camera swung in his direction. He grimaced and gripped the railing when the platform beneath him, mounted on what looked like a cherry-picker truck, shifted closer to Madeline. The cameraman gave him a thumbs-up. He must look sufficiently demonic.
Now. He reached for her, grabbing her by the waist, the only part of her body unadorned, and pulled her close. One breath and he was overcome by her scent. Spicy cotton candy. Unexpected and strangely perfect. A second breath and he prepared to do his damned job, to mash his lips against hers and fling her back to her adoring throng. It was only skin. It didn’t mean anything.
Her eyes flashed mischief. Hi, she mouthed and hooked her legs around his hips.
He froze. The producer hadn’t mentioned grinding in the rundown earlier. She shimmied against him, and his traitorous cock responded. Do the job you came to do.
Before he could, she bent her head and stole the kiss he’d been hired to deliver. He couldn't help but gasp, and then her tongue, warm and electric, invaded his mouth. Chai.
Could an angel corrupt a devil?
This is the second book in the Half-Life series, but each title stands alone and can be read separately. Please note the warning of this book, because it is highly erotic and contains a m/f/f threesome. Thank you!