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Lead

By:Kylie Scott


PROLOGUE


Two months ago …


The man’s mouth kept moving but I’d long since tuned out.

They weren’t paying me enough for this. Impossible. Day two on the job and I was ready to throw myself out a window. The music biz will be fun they said. It’ll be glamorous they said. They lied.

“… is that so hard to understand? Am I getting through to you? An éclair is a long, chocolate-frosted donut with custard in the middle. Not this, this … round thing you’ve bought me. AGAIN,” the idiot thundered, jowls shaking.

Over at her desk, his P.A. slunk further down in her seat, just in case he decided to make her the next target, no doubt. Fair enough. She probably wasn’t getting paid enough either. Only a masochist would enjoy this for under a hundred bucks an hour. Usually I tried to get temp jobs that lasted a couple of months or so. Long enough to make some money, short enough to avoid getting caught up in any drama.

Usually.

“Are you listening to me?” Fake-tanned flesh turned from orange to a startling shade of burgundy as his anger grew. If he had a heart attack, I wasn’t giving him mouth-to-mouth. Some other brave soul could make the sacrifice.

“Miss … whatever your name is,” he said. “Go back to the shop and get me what I asked for this time!”

“Morrissey. My name is Lena Morrissey.” I passed him a napkin, taking care not to touch him because a true professional always kept her distance. Also, the guy was just that repugnant. “And this is for you.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a message from the duty manager at the donut shop apologizing for the lack of long, tasty, phallic-shaped éclairs. Apparently they don’t get baked until later in the day,” I said. “Since you failed to believe me when I explained this to you yesterday. I thought you might be more inclined to believe it if it came from a higher authority in the donut world.”

The poor perplexed darling looked from me to the napkin and back again.

“His name was Pete. He seemed nice, you should call him if you need further verification. You’ll see I got him to write his number down there at the bottom.” I tried to point to the digits in question but Adrian snatched his hand back, scrunching the napkin into a ball of rubbish. Oh well, I tried.

Sort of.

Laughter burst forth from the corner of his office. A good-looking guy with long blond hair grinned at me. Glad Blondie was amused. I on the other hand was probably definitely about to get fired.

Wait, was that Mal Ericson from Stage Dive?

Fuck a duck, it was.

So the three other men must be the rest of the band members. I tried to avert my eyes, but my eyes had other ideas. Famous people. Huh. At least I’d managed to see some up-close before getting my ass canned. They didn’t seem particularly different than us normal human beings, just a little prettier, perhaps. Even with having sworn off men, their wow factor couldn’t be denied. The two guys with dark hair and fair faces were huddled together, flicking through some documents. They’d be David and Jimmy Ferris, the brothers. Ben Nicholson, the bass player, and largest of them all was stretched out, hands behind his head, fast asleep. Kudos to him. Not a bad method of getting through a meeting.

Mal gave me a finger wave. “Lena Morrissey, huh?”

“Yes.”

“I like you. You’re funny.”

“Thanks,” I replied drily.

“Mal, buddy.” Adrian butted in. “Let me just get rid of this … woman. And we can finish up our business.”

The corporate monster turned his beady little eyes back to me. “You’re fired. Get out of here.”

And there you had it. Big sigh.

“Not so fast.” Mal rose to his feet and just kind of swaggered on over. Talk about snake hips. “So you do admin-type shit here?”

“I did. Yes.”

He gave me an easy smile. “You don’t seem very impressed by me, Lena. Am I not impressive to you?”

“Sure you are. I guess I’m just a bit busy getting fired right now to fully appreciate the magnitude of the moment.” Hands on hips, I looked him in the eye. He was cute and I bet that smile of his worked on lots and lots of women. But it wouldn’t be working on me. “Rest assured, later I’m going to freak right out.”

He leaned against the doorframe. “I’ve got your word on that?”

“Absolutely.”

“I’m trusting you here.”

“And I appreciate that, Mr. Ericson. I won’t let you down.”

He gave me a huge grin. “You’re a bit of a smart ass. I like that.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Cocking his head, he tapped a finger against his lips. “You single, Lena?”

“And you want to know, why?”

“Just curious. Judging by the frown, I think the answer there is yes. And shame on my brothers everywhere for overlooking such a fine girl as yourself.”

Quite a number of his “brothers” hadn’t overlooked me. They’d chosen to screw me over instead, hence the frown. But no way in hell was I telling him that.

“Uh, Mal?” Adrian tugged on the thick gold chain around his neck as if it were a collar.

“Just a sec, Adrian.” Mal gave me a slow looking over from top to toe, eyes lingering on the swell of my breasts. Big boobs, a lack of height, and childbearing hips ran in the family. My mom was exactly the same so there was really very little I could do about it. The lack of luck in love seemed more exclusive to me, however. Mom and Dad had been married nearly thirty years and my sister was about to be wed, not that I’d be attending. Long story. Or a short and shitty one, you pick.

Either way, I was just fine and dandy as I was, flying solo.

“I really think you could be the one, Lena,” said the drummer said, pulling me from my thoughts.

I blinked. “That so?”

“It is. I mean, look at you, you’re so cute and cuddly. But what I especially love is how you’re giving me that go-fuck-yourself look from behind your foxy glasses.”

“You like that, do you?” My smile was all teeth.

“Oh, yeah. Big time. But you’re not for me.”

“No?”

“Sadly, not.” He shook his head.

“Damn.”

“Yeah, I know. You’re really missing out.” He sighed, slipping his hair back behind his ears. Then he looked over his shoulder. “Gentlemen, that problem we were talking about earlier. I believe I may have found a solution.”

David Ferris looked from Mal to me and back again, his forehead creasing. “You serious?”

“A hundred and ten percent.”

“You heard her, she’s a secretary.” The elder Ferris brother, Jimmy, didn’t even look up from the papers. His voice was smooth, deep, yet deeply disinterested. “She’s got no qualifications.”

Mal snorted. “Because all the ones with the fancy degrees have done such a fucking bang-up job. How many have you fired or run off now? Time to come at the problem from a new perspective, dude. Open your mind to the wonder that is Miss Lena Morrissey.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, mystified.

“Guys, guys.” The asshat, Adrian, started flapping his hands about in a panic. “You can’t be serious. Let’s stop and think about this.”

“Give us a minute, Adrian,” said David. “He isn’t easy to live with. Think she can handle it?”

Jimmy snorted.

“Yeah, I do,” said Mal, bouncing on the balls of his feet all excited like. He put up his dukes, as if for fighting. “Show me what you got, Lena. Knock me out. Come on, champ. You can do it. Put me against the ropes!”

What a nutter. I swatted his teasing fist away from my face. “Mr. Ericson, you have approximately five seconds to start making sense or I’m out of here.”

David Ferris gave me a small smile. Of approval, perhaps? I don’t know and it didn’t matter. This circus had gone on long enough. I had explanations to go make to the temp agency. Given this wasn’t the first time I’d butted heads with a jerk at a job, my hopes for forgiveness were low. I might have been asked to moderate my attitude a time or two. But really, life was too short to take shit. Let people walk all over you and you got what you deserved. I’d learned that the hard way.

Shoulders slumping in disappointment, Mal sighed. “Okay, okay. Don’t play with me. See if I care.”

He and David shared a look. Then David nudged his brother with an elbow. “Might be worth thinking about.”

“She gives Adrian shit and suddenly she’s the one?” asked Jimmy. “Seriously?”

“Mal’s right, she’s different.”

Adrian made a small sound of despair. Petty or not, my heart thrilled to hear it. Perhaps today wasn’t a complete write-off after all.

“Tell me, Lena,” said Mal, his grin splitting his face. “How do you feel about Portland?”

“Doesn’t it rain there constantly?” I asked. In all honesty, the idea of heading quite that far up into the Pacific North West did not appeal.

Mal groaned. “I know, lovely Lena, I know. Trust me, I’ve tried to get them to move back to LA, but they won’t budge. Portland’s where the Ferris bros be hanging these days. Even Benny boy’s settled in up there.”

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