Resisting the Musician ONLY
a Head Over Heels novel by Ally Blake
Bridal shoe company owner Lori Hanover is in way over her head. First, her designer sister has fallen head over heels for the rock star fiancé of a client – talk about bad PR! Now her business is falling apart. Lori’s only hope in saving her company is making the world believe it was true love, even if she’s not so sure herself. Her best bet? A song. For this she turns to the most frustrating musical recluse in America, Dash Mills, a man who could pass for Thor’s sexier brother. And even though this former rock superstar agrees to help, it comes at a price…
When Lori agrees to Dash’s terms, he thinks she’s the one in for a challenge. But the more time he spends with this spitfire bombshell, the more tempted he is to play her—in more ways than one. But Dash left behind the rock and roll life for a reason. And seductive as Lori may be, if she drags him back into that world, this time he won’t forgive himself…or her.
A trilogy of sexy stories by Ally Blake, Christine Bell, and Robin Covington
Head Over Heels on Facebook
Book one: Resisting The Musician
Book two: Reforming The Rock Star
Book three: Playing with The Drummer
Title: Resisting the Musician
Series: Head Over Heels, #1
Author: Ally Blake
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 259 pages
Release Date: July 2014
Price listed is for the U.S. digital format. Please confirm pricing and availability with the retailer before downloading.
Praise for Resisting the Musician:
“Fun, flirty and captivating. I never miss an Ally Blake story.” USA TODAY bestselling author Kelly Hunter
An Excerpt from:
Resisting the Musician
by Ally Blake
Copyright © 2014 by Ally Blake. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Lori Hanover’s reasons for begrudging Dash Mills’s very existence were many and varied. And she’d never even met the guy.
The most pressing was the fact that the man had no email, no mailing address, and a landline phone that was never answered, well, not when she called at least, all of which had led to her current predicament; with her gorgeous Calliope-brand high heels sinking into a muddy puddle a hundred miles from home.
It wasn’t as if she had a shoe shortage. Calliope Shoes was her company, after all. But she always preferred samples, making her a tantalizing walking advertisement for what was on the horizon. Though, considering the currently precarious nature of said company, the sassy black mules with their wild ruffles were as likely to become a collector’s item as they were a production model.
Toes curling, Lori squinted against the sunshine glinting off the mid-summer drizzle. The greenish gloom beneath a cloistering canopy of towering redwoods shrouded what she could only hope was Dash Mills’s house.
The directions her effervescent assistant, Tracey, had tracked down had been indefinite at best—no street name, no number, merely a pinpoint on her GPS leading to a sprawling, low-set arrangement of dark, wet walls, smoky windows lit golden from the inside and black asymmetric rooflines that seemed to fade into the surrounding silence.
The place might have been appealing if Lori could forgive the fact that the only way to get from the end of the driveway to the house a hundred feet away was via smatterings of mossy rock and a lot of mud.
But Lori wasn’t big on forgiveness.
A bark pierced the quiet, and a bird cawed and skittered from a tree. Lori spun to follow the sound only to find deep shadow, dappled light, and an echo of flapping wings. Heart rocketing against her ribs, her disapproval of the illusive Dash Mills only compounded.
She glanced back at her shiny black town car fully expecting to see her driver, Mack, enjoying her freak out. Instead, she found the car was more mud-splattered than black after the slippery, mucky final leg of the interminable journey from the city, and Mack was deeply engrossed in his tablet—no doubt worriedly checking his teenaged daughters’ Facebook pages.
Meaning she was on her own.
She took a fortifying breath and checked her watch to find five minutes had already been absorbed into the dense silence of the forest. Time to get this over with.
Using the big, pink envelope she held as a make-shift umbrella, Lori stepped from rock to rock, wishing Herve Leger made overalls as well as bandage dresses. In her effort not to land on her backside she glanced up only to check her phone for messages.
The coverage flickered from barely there to non-existent. Fabulous. Nevertheless, she called up her sister’s name, her thumb hovering over the phone number. Odds were her sister’s phone would be on silent.
That morning, for the first time in weeks Callie had left their Pacific Heights apartment full of beans and keen to dive into a ‘super-productive session.’ Designing shoes so exquisite they’d take a woman’s breath fair away was Callie’s god-given gift. Or it had been, until recent events had turned their lives upside down.
Willing to do whatever it took to facilitate Callie’s imagination and get things back to the way they’d been, Lori had swiped the pink envelope from her sister’s room and taken off into the boondocks, squeezing in time she didn’t have in order to do the enigmatic errand Callie had been harping on about so her sister didn’t have to.
Lori’s thumb moved to the message icon and she typed.
When I was told go halfway to Napa and turn left I imagined beachfront, not the summer residence of the Unabomber family.
A response came within seconds.
Lori swore beneath her breath—so much for the super-productive design session.
I’m standing outside the house of Dash Mills.
Callie’s next Message came through fast. OMG! Thank u thank u! It’s been at the top of my to do list and still kept slipping my mind!
Of course it had slipped her mind. Ever since Callie had fallen head over heels for rock god Jake Mitchell, everything that had once been important to the Hanover girls had lost significance.
Lori’s predisposition to disliking Dash Mills grew nasty, acid-tipped claws. For, according to Callie, the guy was a longtime friend of Jake’s as well as a former band-mate, and that made him a cohort of the enemy.
It wasn’t as if Jake was the devil incarnate—Callie was too sweet a kid to fall for someone that bad—but he’d brought Lori nothing but bad luck.
Starting with the moment they’d first met. Callie had been designing the wedding shoe for Jake’s previous fiancée—an adorable country singer, no less, who had more Twitter followers than God and no compunction about pouring her heart out to each and every one.
As the story went, Little Miss Singer had been smack bang in the middle of her Cinderella moment, sitting on a stool with her wedding shoe in Callie’s gentle hands, when Jake had walked in, taken one look at Callie and decided she was the woman for him.
The gutter press hadn’t stopped salivating over the story ever since, their overtones salacious, turning Calliope Shoes into a celebrity no-go zone, with stylists refusing to even accept their samples, fearing they’d be tainted by association. And as for the general wedding shoe buying public—who in the world would risk buying a bridal shoe designed by a woman who’d stolen another woman’s groom?
Lori’s phone buzzed, and, glancing at it, her shoe slipped out from under her, but she caught herself in time. Nevertheless, it took a few moments for her heart rate to resettle.
Time enough to curse the fact that six months earlier, had Callie never met Jake and they’d both been sitting pretty. While that afternoon, Lori had a meeting with Calliope Shoes’ biggest department store account, and she’d bet her right boob they were going to cancel the order of next year’s spring line. They wouldn’t be the first.
But it couldn’t go on like this forever, surely. Something had to give. One way or another. Hopefully not with her ending up face down in the mud.
This time she checked the message before taking another step.
Best sister ever. Love you!
Right back at you, kid, Lori thought. Then typed:
Save it for when you *really* need a favor. Like bail. Or the Heimlich.
Lori glanced at the mysterious envelope Callie had been carrying with her for days. ‘Eyes only’ was written on the front in Callie’s curly writing. The girl’s imagination had always extended beyond designing shoes.
What do you need me to do? Just hand it over?
Forced to cross her legs to avoid stepping on a rock balanced atop another rock, her tight skirt was the only thing stopping her from doing some kind of spinning splits.
Which, of course, was when her phone rang. She pressed the speaker button to find Callie already talking. “Promise me you won’t laugh.”
Untwisting herself slowly, Lori grimaced, “No fear of that.”
“Okay, here goes. The envelope—more specifically the contents therein—is my engagement present for Jake.”
Mid-twist, Lori shifted her grip on the pale-pink envelope as if the words upon it were written in poisoned ink. The way Callie had been fretting about not being able to get a hold of Dash Mills and needing to get ‘the work’ to him, Lori had assumed it was a shoe design. That maybe Callie was moving into menswear. That maybe that might be a way for them to survive this PR mess.
But no. It was about Jake Freaking Mitchell.
Glancing back at the car, and the slippery, rutted road they had to once again attempt on the long road home, Lori gritted her teeth.
Oblivious, Callie went on, “What do you get for the man who has everything?”
“I’ve written Jake a song!”
Oh Callie, Lori thought, her heart twisting for her sister.
“I’ve written the lyrics, at least. I need Dash to write the music. And, get this—I’m going to sing it. On stage. As a surprise!”
Lori pictured Callie singing, terribly, off key, with all her heart. If the tabloids found out, and juxtaposed that with Little Miss Country and Western, they’d eat her alive.
Callie went on, “I’d floated the idea of the song the night I met Dash. I’d had a few cosmos—who’d admit they wrote secret poetry about their shiny new fiancé to a practical stranger without the aid of muchos vodka, right?”
Hang on a second. Was Callie saying this wasn’t fait accompli? If she’d come all this way for nothing…
“He’ll do it,” Callie persevered, finally seeming to catch on to Lori’s mood. “He’s awesome. And Jake says he’s one of the best. Would totally use him still if the others didn’t have issues with the way Dash vamoosed from the band…you know?”
No, Lori didn’t know, but by that point she didn’t much care.
“Anyway, for this gift to have the resonance it requires, it has to be Dash,” finished Callie with a flourish, while Lori felt like sitting down in the mud might not be an altogether terrible option right about then.
Rubbing at her temple instead, Lori said, “Let me get this straight. When I thought you were working on some fabulous, super-secret, ground-breaking, world-amazing shoe…you were writing poetry. For Jake.”
Callie’s silence wasn’t a happy one. “I know I haven’t been drawing as much lately, but things will settle soon. You have to believe in me.”
“I do. You know I do.” But if she hadn’t have pushed Callie, she’d still be scratching out her drawings on the backs of the paper napkins at the grim little Big Sky Café in their inconsequential home town. “And you know it’s not your resolve I’m worried about.”
Selective hearing at play, Callie asked, “How did you even find Dash’s place? I tried getting it out of Jake, without sounding like I gave a hoot, but he’s so bad with details. A half hour past the best hot pie shop on the west coast, was all I got from him. And the number I secretly swiped from Jake’s phone was never answered.”
“Tracey,” Lori said, talking about her loyal, long-time assistant. “Google maps. And ways and means I find it best not to know about.”
“The woman’s a menace,” said Callie with reverence.
“Thankfully, she’s our menace.”
Callie laughed, then said, “I know I should have asked for your help in the first place rather than keeping things so hush-hush.”
Lori swallowed, understanding too well why Callie hadn’t wanted to involve her. She hadn’t exactly been encouraging of the relationship with Jake. When it fell apart, she’d be the best sister in the entire world.
“And if Dash needs a last little nudge to convince him to help me, who better to nudge than you? We Hanover girls can be pretty convincing when we want to be.”
Lori glanced around at her unlikely surroundings. Yeah, she thought, we can. “So, while I do this for you, I need you to promise to do something for me.”
“Remember what Marilyn said?”
Lori had few good memories of her childhood in Fairbanks, Montana, but their mother—a true Marilyn Monroe fan—directing them through horrendously off-key renditions of Two Little Girls From Little Rock was one of them. Callie’s high-glamour designs owed a great deal to the warm hazy blur of weeks when their mother had Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on rotation.
In Lori’s sharper recollections of the darker days, Bus Stop played in the background ad nauseam. The day their father had finally left for good, their mother’s Marilyn DVDs had been put away for good.
Lori played along. “Marilyn said, ‘Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world’.”
“Now get to work.”
“Yes, boss. And…have fun, okay? And play nice.”
With that, Callie hung up.
Play nice? Callie’s version of nice was as different to Lori’s as Snow White was to the Evil Queen. But somebody was forced to be the bad guy after their father had left—to stand up to the mean girls, town gossips, and debt collectors—and with their mother near catatonic it had fallen to Lori.
Splat! A wet tree branch fell from on high, missing Lori by inches. She leapt back, squealing like a little girl and…
No, no, noooo! Sludge seeped between her toes, filling the delicate black ruffles as her shoe sank into a thick, cold puddle. On a whimper, Lori lifted it free with a slurping suck to find it an inch deep in shimmering brown mud.
What horrible thing had she done in a former life to deserve ending up here? Tossed litter out the car window? Damaged a library book and given it back without telling? Seduced a priest?
A rare urge to throttle her sister came over her, but no, it wasn’t in her DNA to blame Callie for anything. She could have strangled Jake, but at least he kept Callie so thoroughly distracted she hadn’t a clue about the depths of trouble their company was in.
Add a two and a half hour round trip to deliver a damn package because some putz had decided to go completely off grid, and the focus of her ire condensed to one Dash Mills. Friends with Jake Pain-in-the-Ass Mitchell and now he’d ruined her shoes? The guy may as well have had a target tattooed to his head.
Chin down, Lori took a straight line toward the house till her mud-caked heels slid and clacked against the dank steps leading up to the dark wrap-around porch.
She’d give over Callie’s lyrics, give the guy a brief and a deadline, and off she’d go, never having to be put out by him again. Glaring at the heavy front door, she wrapped her fingers around her phone, curling her other hand into a satisfying fist as she prepared to pummel—
When she heard a noise.
A scrabbling. A snuffling. The sound seeming to come from…inside? Behind her? Everywhere.
Fight or flight instincts spiking, the first things that hit her—literally—were two huge gray and white streaks as a pair of massive husky dogs appeared in a whirling dervish of legs and claws and lolling tongues. And then they were gone, leaping off the end of the porch and gamboling off into the forest.
Heart in her throat, lungs full to bursting, and blood rushing every which way, Lori barely had the chance to collect her breath when she realized they were merely the forewarning.
What followed was a man. And as he slowly made his way up the steps toward her, despite her own five feet eight inches—plus the added benefit of four-inch heels—she found herself looking up, and up, and up.
With the muted sunlight at his back and the darkness of the porch at his front, he was a shadow. A huge man-shaped shadow in a crumpled gray T-shirt attempting to contain his wide chest, scruffy jeans clinging to thighs the size of tree trunks, and dirty-blond hair sticking out at every angle.
And was that some kind of weapon slung over his shoulder? An axe? A gun?
Lori gripped her phone so tight her fingertips lost feeling.
If she was the Evil Queen, then here was the huntsman. Did the huntsman take down the queen? She couldn’t for the life of her remember. She couldn’t even remember which fairy tale it was from.
What she did know was that apart from two absent wolf dogs and her distracted driver, she and this mountain of a man were alone.
The man-shape clearly wasn’t so taken aback. In a voice so deep it left reverberations in its wake, he said, “You’re not Reg.”
She opened her mouth to agree that she was not Reg, but the man didn’t wait to be told. He merely shouldered his way past—a wall of heat knocking her out of his way before he even had to—opened the unlocked door and headed into the even deeper darkness of the entrance of the house. Once inside, he nudged off his huge muddy boots and shook of any raindrops that dared cling to him.
Lori was somewhat mollified to see the weapon over his shoulder turn out to be a stick. A big stick, sure. The perfect kind to throw to a dog…or two.
When he shot her a guarded glance through a pair of bedroom eyes she knew the sooner she got this over and done with the sooner she could get back to the real world.
But when she opened her mouth for the second time she was once again stymied, as his eyes squeezed shut and he gave into a huge yawn, stretching his arms above his head, the muscles in his arms bulging.
His rumpled T-shirt lifted at his belly to reveal a happy trail and the fact that the top two buttons of his jeans had been left undone, as if he’d rolled out of bed, tugged them on, and headed off into the wilderness.
Also leaving her with the pretty sound impression that he wore nothing underneath.
When Callie had mentioned meeting Jake’s elusive, reclusive ex-band-mate a few weeks before, Lori had briefly imagined an overweight, overly-tattooed guy who reeked of bourbon and past glory.
Instead, she’d found Thor.
“I’m Lori Hanover,” she said finally finding her voice.
He slowly opened one eye. “I’m not buying.”
“I’m not selling.”
With a last expulsion of breath, the guy moved forward into the pale sunlight which flowed over a set of shoulders wide enough to give Atlas a run for his money, the nut brown skin of an arm with strings of rope and beads wrapping about a mighty wrist, a heavily shadowed jaw, and a nose that had taken a knock too many.
The guy leaned his large form against the doorframe and crossed his arms; the picture of perfectly unperturbed. Except for the fact that he’d quite deliberately blocked the way in.
“So, if you’re not selling anything,” he rumbled, “and you’re clearly not Reg, what compelled you to ignore the ‘No Trespassing Or My Vicious Dogs Will Eat Your Liver For Brunch’ sign?”
In sentences three words and less his voice was riveting. Longer, it was rich and smooth, with a hint of an accent she couldn’t pick out.
“The sign lied,” Lori prevaricated, as if she didn’t have a million things she ought to be doing with her time other than standing in this doorway in the middle of nowhere falling into the slumberous dark eyes of a hulking stranger.
His wide mouth flickered up at one corner. She would have bet a mint the guy was well aware how a smile like that would play with any female within range.
“If you want liver-eaters for dogs,” she said, standing taller to negate the urge to fan herself, “they need discipline.”
One meaty shoulder lifted into a shrug. “Never been that keen on the stuff myself.”
He touched the side of his nose and she wondered how many times it had been broken. And how big the other guys must have been.
“What is it I can do for you this beautiful day, Lori Hanover?”
Beautiful? Lori glanced over her shoulder at the gray-green drizzle in the air. She caught sight of Mack watching her from the car, window down, big arm leaning on the ledge, his daughters’ social networking antics taking a back seat once the door had been answered by the God of Thunder. Good man.
Yet, if her company continued its rate of decay, she’d have to let Mack go. He was in his sixties, and a father to four girls. Losing his job in this economy would put unbelievable strain on his family. Her own father had decamped with far less impetus to do so.
Stomach twisting as it did more often than not these days, Lori slipped off her sunglasses and gave Mack an everything’s fine wave. She tucked the handle of her shades into the neckline of her dress as she turned. Thor’s gaze followed the movement and stayed. Unapologetically.
When her insides curled tighter under the shameless attention, she remembered her mud-ravaged shoes, her concertinaing schedule, and his friendship with the man who was systematically ruining her life.
“You’re a hard man to track down. My assistant’s been trying for days…” Lori stopped talking, because it was clear he wasn’t listening. His heavy gaze had moved past her sunglasses, down the edge of her dress, dipping in where she dipped, curving out where she curved, till it rested mid-thigh—right where the lace atop her black suspender stockings was hidden beneath her dress.
“You are Dash Mills?” she asked, her voice husky. “The song writer?”
He remained the picture of nonchalance, but as his slumberous eyes lifted back to hers they had sharpened, and like a cloud had passed over the sun, she felt the air around her chill.
“Who did you say you were?” he said, this time a growl echoed at the end of each word.
Lori pulled out her card, the raised font sliding under her thumb as he whipped it from her hand. Their fingers missed one another by millimeters, but she still felt the heat of him. An odd lingering aftereffect.
He glanced at her Calliope Shoes business card, then shifted his gaze sideways to focus on her feet—caked in so much mud that they felt like they were made of it. His regard remained for a beat before moving up her legs.
When it hit the bottom of her dress, it felt like the thing actually curled under his dark gaze.
“Hanover,” he repeated, his short square fingernails scratching at his rumpled T-shirt, stretching out a frayed hole over his heart. “As in Callie?”
“She’s my sister.”
He grunted, and the tension which had coiled about his big shoulders relaxed a tad. The sound—deep and primal as it was—scraped at something inside of her. Which was nuts. She liked men in suits and spit-shined shoes. Men who smelled even better than she did. Men who didn’t seem so at home in the woods, that was for damn sure.
Her voice was a tad over loud—full-on bossy mode, Callie called it—as she got to the point. “I’m here to discuss the song Callie asked you to write.”
He blinked in surprise, the first genuine reaction she’d seen in his bottomless brown eyes. “Then you braved the hounds for nothing.”
“Callie’s mistaken,” he said, moving back into the shadows. “It’s not gonna happen.”
Despite the fact that she’d wasted half a day she couldn’t afford to waste, Lori knew she should have been thrilled the guy said no. The idea of Callie singing to Jake was akin to one of those flash mob proposals, jammed onto YouTube the instant it was done for all the world to see. It was the kind of love-sick, public declaration Lori had never understood.
Then something flickered in the back of her mind like a little ray of sunshine. But whatever it was flittered away as Dash Mills began to shut his front door, his bulk swallowed by the darkness.
Lori reached out, her hand slamming against the wood.
She’d already decided not to be thrilled about anything this man did or said, so the fact that he was adamant not to be involved made her determined to make it happen.
“Here’s the thing,” she said, pressing the door open. “Callie believes you agreed.” Possibly. “When you met at Jake’s.” Somehow she neglected to mention your likeness to Thor, though. “She’s made plans.” Vaguely. “To sing the song on stage. As a great romantic gesture. For your friend. But to make it happen she needs your help.”
Dash frowned down at her from beneath a fringe of shadowy lashes, and Lori’s heart rate hastened. He had “bad boy” written all over him. And she’d taken too many hard knocks to ever be much of a good girl.
“Come on,” she said, kicking out a hip, plucking a deliberate smile from her arsenal. “Say you’ll do it.”
Instead he said, “You don’t look much like Callie.”
Lori mentally threw her hands out sideways. He was right—Lori had her mother’s calendar girl curves and fair hair, while Callie was whippet-lean and dark, like their father—not that she had any intention of letting him score a single point.
Not him. Not today.
“Well, you don’t look much like a has-been rocker.”
The words had spilled out before she could stop them. But he had her feeling itchy, not quite in control of her faculties, and she didn’t like it. Didn’t like him. And not only because of Jake, and the drive, and her poor beautiful ruined shoes—he was getting on her nerves just fine on his own.
Not that he cared. If anything the guy seemed to uncurl from his position in the doorway, shifting closer, a compelling glint lighting his dark eyes. “Sisters from another mother?”
“What? No! Same father, too, thank you very much.” Not that he was anything to brag about.
Sensing things were slipping and sliding everywhere but toward the topic, Lori held out her hands, holding the guy at bay even while she couldn’t rightly say he’d moved.
“I have no desire to waste your time,” she said, “even less mine. If you want me to go back and tell Callie it’s a flat no, I can do that. But I’ll give you a moment to imagine that sweet face, the kind, lovely face of the fiancée of your very good friend, downcast as her dream to serenade the man she loves is turned to dust. By you.”
One eyebrow lifted at such a languorous pace Lori’s right leg began to jiggle.
“Hard ball,” he murmured, the sound pouring over her in his deep voice.
“Only way I know how to play.”
“Mmm.” He breathed deep through his nose, as if swallowing another yawn.
But then he braced both hands in the doorframe till he was very much into her personal space. The crisp, green scent of the forest was pervasive, but beneath that she caught the scent of warm, musky man.
The urge to step back was a strong one. Nearly as strong as the urge to step in. Lori and her mud-caked heels held firm.
Not that it made any difference. Dash hadn’t missed a trick. Shadows poured into his dark eyes as they roved to her mouth. To her temple where she could feel a flickering pulse. To the curve of her jaw which was held so tight it ached. Then back to her mouth.
“Want to come in?” he asked.
To say she was surprised was an understatement.
Lori glanced pointedly at her watch as it was safer than glancing at any one of the wholly compelling parts of him. “No thanks. I have somewhere else to be. If I could have your email address, then you and Callie can—”
But he was already padding away, deep into his dark cave of a house. Leaving the door wide open. “Are you going to leave your boyfriend in the car, or will we make a party of it?”
“My—what? Mack’s not my boyfriend,” she said, hovering in the doorway. “He’s my driver.”
Dash turned to walk backward, a shadow amongst shadows, and yet she caught the flash of a smile. A real smile. Holy moly.
“I get a lot of work done when I’m in the car. Especially when I have to drive somewhere as far away from anywhere as this. And back,” she added, knowing she didn’t have to explain herself to him. Or shout, which she was forced to do as he disappeared from view.
Throwing out her hands—for real this time—Lori looked back longingly at her warm, dry car and Mack who’d apparently decided she was safe enough that he’d wound the window up against the drizzle.
In getting herself—and Callie—out of the Shady Maple trailer park in Fairbanks, Montana, all the way to two floors of offices in the heart of San Francisco with their designs splashed across every glamour magazine, gracing every major department store, and cutting red carpets across the country, taking no for an answer had never been an option. When everything she’d worked so hard to achieve was crumbling, she certainly wasn’t about to start doing so now.
Gripping the pink envelope, Lori stepped over the threshold, shutting the door—and the rest of the world—behind her.