WARNING: BEATS is specially formulated for horn dogs, porn oglers, smut peddlers, BDSM junkies, M/M and M/M/F addicts, DP dabblers, body modification connoisseurs, and lovers of A2M backdoor sexy times. If you don't fall into these categories, can't stomach hot man-on-man action, or if you have no idea what the above acronyms mean, please back away from BEATS now. This isn't the book you're looking for. Failure to heed this warning could inadvertently throw unauthorized users into a persistent vegetative state, or at the very least, require administration of a defibrillator to the chest and/or groin area. Nobody wants that.
For months, shy drummer Jinx Hardwick has been silently crushing on her tall, dark, and scary bandmate, Toombs Badcock. Drawn to his frightening ink and scars, she yearns to uncover the shadowy secrets lurking behind his silver eyes, but Jinx is too intimidated to even look at him, let alone talk to him. When she stumbles upon Toombs and their manipulative lead guitarist Rax in a compromising position, Jinx realizes her chances of winning Toombs's heart aren't just a long shot—they're nonexistent. To make matters worse, Jinx's family needs her at home. She's about to back away from it all—Toombs, the band, her dreams of fame and fortune—when Rax makes her an offer she can't refuse: a no-holds-barred night alone with Toombs. There's one small catch. She has to go through Rax to get it.
Release date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Howling Mad Press LLC
Print pages: 222
Content advisory: NSFW
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Chameleons, Panty Pull-Downs, and Twelve-Step Programs
February 13 – San Antonio, Texas
“Describe yourself in one word, Jinx.” My friend and bandmate Letty Dillinger plucks a tortilla chip glopped with beans and cheese from the plate of loaded nachos between us.
Good question. I imagine it’s hard for most people to condense their essence—their entire being—into a single term, but in my case, only one word applies. I’m a chameleon. Many things to some people. Nobody to others.
“Percussionist.” It’s not a lie, but not a complete truth, either.
Letty chews thoughtfully.
In addition to being a hardcore drummer, I’m also a caring daughter, a protective sister, a quiet friend, and hopefully, someone’s future lover. Yet none of these roles defines the whole of me. So, like the chameleon, I adjust to fit the situation and morph into whatever my surroundings need me to be.
At home in Athens, Georgia, I go by the name Gianna Donato, the second eldest of six half-Italian (my dad’s a transplant from New Jersey)/half-Southern children. I’m a nice Catholic girl. I eat my vegetables, go to confession, and defend my little brother when mean kids pick on him. I get lost in crowds. My voice is soft. My soul is good.
On the road, I’m known as Jinx Hardwick, drummer for the Los Angeles-signed rock quintet Killer Buzz Float. Onstage, I’m a battle-hardened machine of muscle and perfect, unshakeable cadence. I’m the foundation of the band. They rely on me to keep them on course, and I never waver.
But how others perceive you isn’t necessarily who you are, is it?
Letty chases her chip with the remains of her beer and wipes her mouth with an arm. “You’re supposed to throw out a broad ‘concept’ word. Like ‘artist’ or ‘poet’ or some frou-frou shit.”
I shrug. “What word describes you?”
“Rebel.” She dusts off her hands and stands. “Be right back.”
Letty’s definitely a rebel. Completely comfortable in her own skin and not afraid to tell anyone who doesn’t like it to fuck off.
I envy her.
Inside my head, I’m not sure who I am. The real me—someone between Jinx and Gianna—does things no one else (except maybe my priest, a couple of ex-boyfriends, and my professional piercer) knows about. We won’t go there. Real Me isn’t nearly as interesting as she sounds.
On this particular day, I’m on tour with Killer Buzz Float, so I’m focusing on being Jinx for the moment. And as Jinx, I can’t stop my thoughts from wandering to my current obsession: a stupid guy. The guy Real Me would love to have a simple conversation with. The one I’ve been silently admiring for months.
The former drummer and new rhythm guitarist for Killer Buzz Float, Toombs is both the bane of my existence and the reason I get out of my bunk every morning. He’s an expert at unhinging me with little more than a glance. When he’s around, I can’t talk. Can’t create. Can’t even think. The words form in my head, but they hit a speed bump on their way to my mouth. I’m an unkempt, discombobulated moron every time I look at him.
Toombs is a rainbow of wrong, but the storm that precedes him is so damn right.
The bitch of it all? Outside of our professional relationship, I don’t exist to him.
I’m pretty sure he’s in love with our lead guitarist, Rax.
When you spend months with the same people in a cramped tour bus, you notice things. Sometimes they’re things you wish you could forget. Like a glimpse through the crack in a bunk curtain of Rax’s tattooed hand resting on Toombs’s bare shoulder. And the soft glances volleying between them onstage, or their backs pressed to one another as they play searing duets. And the time I walked in on them masturbating each other on the couches in the front of the bus.
It wasn’t the actual jerking off part that got me. I was too blown away by their kiss to really notice what was going on below the belt. They were so tender. So unlike their rough personas onstage or even in real life. The slow, sultry flap of Rax’s lashes when he caught me staring slack-jawed and tongue-tied silently boasted, “This is mine.”
I want to rescue Toombs from Rax’s snakelike coils. I want to touch him the way Rax does when no one’s around.
I want Toombs all to myself.
Toombs used to look at me the way he looks at Rax. That was before we signed our record deal. Before I caught them on the couch. Before I realized I’m totally, completely, madly in love with him.
Things change. And here I am. Jinx Hardwick, the Valkyrie drummer with a broken heart.
“Wanna whole lotta love,” Letty sings above the din and shakes her ass on her return to our table. She sidesteps a cowboy pushing out his chair in her path and snarls. “Watch it, asshole,” she says and flips him off with her free hand. The other cradles a big, fruity-looking drink. She sets it before me and proudly gestures to it. “For you, my lady.”
I wrinkle my nose. I’m not big on alcohol, and the stench pouring off this monstrosity is overwhelming. “What is it?”
“Pink Panty Pull-Down.” Letty’s green eyes sparkle as she gazes down my front to the palms smacking out beats in my lap.
I still them. “Uh …”
“Just drink it. It has cherries in it. Fruit’s good for you. And you need to loosen the fuck up.”
I raise the glass and sniff it. Pretty sure I could get a contact buzz from the fumes if I hold it here long enough. “I’m loose.” I roll my shoulders to prove it.
I’m so not loose.
Letty arches her brow. “Drink.”
The male members of Killer Buzz Float—Rax, Toombs, and Shades—burst through the bar door. They’re a walking wall of black leather and sin. They spot us and head toward the table. Great.
I can’t look. I know this drill all too well. Toombs will focus on one of the many steer skulls adorning the wall behind me. Or maybe a cowboy patron’s ten-gallon hat, some ice spilled on the floor beneath a nearby table, a passing waitress—anything to avoid me. Rax will make a suggestive, smart-ass comment about his need to get laid, and Shades will grab Letty’s ass. Or another body part that’s totally inappropriate to grope in public.
And as usual, I’ll stare at my twitchy hands, wishing I were behind my kit instead of subjected to the torture of witnessing impending pickups, followed by hours of sitting by myself, waiting for groupies to clear the bus and for the bodily fluids left behind on the couch to dry.
Why the hell am I doing this gig again? Oh right. For The Rock. For art.
I force down half my drink, choke on the bite, and flatten the back of my wrist to my mouth to keep from spewing all over the table. Naturally, Toombs arrives just in time to see me make a complete ass of myself.
The scent of his cinnamon gum fills my nose. I lower my head. With a deep breath, I try to shoo away the butterflies fluttering in my stomach, but he’s standing too close. I’ve got a full-on infestation.
“Our next stop on the tour got canceled,” Rax says. “Something about a fire at the venue last night. Nobody was hurt, but they had to shut down the place for repairs. Looks like we got ourselves a few days off.”
No. No. No. I don’t want time off. Time off means play time for everyone else. I sneak a glance at him to see if he’s joking.
Letty slaps the table. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Rax shrugs, his leather jacket protesting under a drape of tinkling silver chains.
My rival is a looker. It’s no wonder he’s never wanting for groupies to bang with his self-professed tag-team buddy Toombs. Long, wavy black hair tied in a partial topknot. Scruffy cheeks. Penetrating blue eyes. Double-pierced bottom lip. Covered in reptile-themed tattoos. Tall, dark, and very handsome.
But not for me.
Shades leans in behind Rax to snag a loaded chip. Right on schedule, his hand brushes Letty’s boob.
Rax cups his crotch. The windup. He elbows Toombs, whom I still haven’t looked at for fear that doing so will result in me spontaneously dying of embarrassment, disappointment, or a toxic combination of the two.
“Hey, you wanna grab a couple of bitches tonight?” The pitch.
Toombs’s reply is gruff but quiet. “Whatever.” Home run.
Letty kicks me under the table, and I shoot her a halfhearted scowl. She knows how I feel about Toombs. When we first hit the road, she put herself between us constantly—she’s such a protective mother hen with me—but since our former, all-girl band merged with the guys in Killer Dixon to become Killer Buzz Float, Letty’s loosened up a lot about Toombs. I think she feels sorry for me.
I kind of feel sorry for me too.
My daily dose of self-doubt tries to talk me into leaving. What the hell am I doing with these people? I don’t fit in here.
With nothing to do with my fidgeting hands, I decide it’s time to bail. Need my drumsticks. Need to hit something. I scoot my chair back and stand.
“Where are you going?” Letty says.
Avoiding Toombs’s gaze, I lie. “Bathroom.”
Letty jumps to her feet. “Ooh, I gotta piss too.” She stumbles around the male barricade surrounding us, grabs my arm, and drags me toward the restroom.
So much for escape.
“This is the perfect opportunity for you to sink your teeth into a slab of Toombs,” she says under her breath.
I stop and wriggle free of her grip. Are you high? I want to scream at her. Instead, I say, “He and Rax have … plans. I’m not getting in the middle of that. I’ll go for a walk or maybe hang out here.”
“Another night alone? Come on, Jinx, I know you still have a thing for him. You gotta take the bull by the horns and ride the shit outta him.” She grabs invisible motorcycle handles and grinds her hips into the air. “Where are those womanballs you started to grow when we began this tour? Damn, girl, just a couple months ago, you had him following you around with his tongue halfway down the back of that fucking leopard-print monokini you wore onstage. You could totally hook up with him if you put your mind to it.”
I can’t tell her my dreams of having Toombs to myself died when I caught him and Rax enjoying a mutual reach-around. The thirty or so women they’ve co-conquered since we signed our record deal might have had something to do with it too. Not that I’m counting.
God, I’m such a pathetic, whiny bitch. I wish I had Letty’s balls, her absolute lack of fear about anything.
“That’s okay.” I look away.
A hooked finger draws my chin Letty’s way. Sincerity fills her face and her voice. “Toombs likes you. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
My shoulders droop as my lungs deflate. Fat chance.
“I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. The way to a guy’s heart is straight through his dick. Once you conquer the cock, his soul is a piece of pecan pie drizzled with cum, begging to be savored.” Her way with words makes me cringe.
“I don’t know anything about that.”
Letty straightens, eyes wide. “You’re not a,” she leans close and whispers, “virgin—are you?”
Like virgin is a dirty word. Maybe to someone as experienced as Letty, it is.
I sigh. “No, I’m not a virgin. I just don’t … I’m not as … outgoing as you are.”
She guides me to the nearest empty table and pushes me into a seat. Oh boy. I feel like I’m about to have a sex talk with my Catholic mother. I’m pretty sure steam rises off my cheeks, they’re so hot.
Letty rakes her gaze over me as if appraising the value of a horse. Then she gestures to my chest. “You have great tits. A gorgeous face—”
I flush some more.
“—the cutest, most fuckable ass I’ve ever laid eyes on—”
“Letty—” The word doesn’t come out nearly as forcefully as it sounds in my mind.
She tips her head to the side, then rests it in her upraised palm. “You got some kind of hideous deformity hiding under those clothes I don’t know about?”
I frown. “No.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
Isn’t that the million-dollar question?
Hmm … let’s see. I don’t know how to talk to a guy, let alone screw one the way Toombs probably wants to be screwed. I don’t have a dick. I’m not Rax or a bodacious groupie looking for a fame fuck. And I certainly don’t want to share Toombs with anyone else, least of all Rax.
What isn’t the problem?
With a shrug, I glance away. Straight into Toombs’s line of sight across the bar. His icy, silver eyes slice right through me. And oh, look. There’s a girl on his lap, pawing at his goatee. I quickly drop my gaze to my lap.
I want to die.
“I have a plan.” Letty folds her arms and rests them on the table like the Queen of Sheba before her court.
For the love of all that’s holy, please, no plans.
“Tomorrow you’ll embark on your maiden voyage into Letty Dillinger’s Twelve-Step Program. I’m gonna take you on an educational ride through the zipper and straight to Toombs’s heart in thirty days or less. I personally guarantee results. If you’re not completely satisfied, I’ll offer Shades—or myself, if you prefer—for a night of sex so insane, you won’t even remember Toombs’s name when you’re done. Deal?” She offers her right hand.
“I don’t want to have sex with Shades,” I say softly.
“Me then?” She lifts a hopeful brow.
I unsuccessfully try to squash the smile that sneaks past my lips. “You’re not my type.”
Letty pinches my cheek. “You’re so fuckin’ cute, Jinx. I’ll tell you what I think, percussionist. You’re happiest when you’re beating on shit. So why don’t you get it over with and beat Toombs’s meat?”
“I don’t know the first thing about … beating meat.” Or beating out new rhythms for the upcoming album due soon, but I’ll keep that to myself.
“Just like beating a drum. Except you get an orgasm out of it.” Letty grins for a long moment before her expression softens. “I just want to see you smile. You don’t do that nearly as much as you did a couple months ago.”
I don’t like her scrutiny. It makes me very uncomfortable.
Letty continues. “I know how to catch a man. If you can’t nab Toombs’s attention when I’m finished with you, it’s a sure sign he’s gay.”
I’m not touching that one with a sterilized ten-foot pole, so I just nod. Letty only hears what she wants to hear anyway.
“Here’s a sneak peek into your first lesson: eye contact. Make it.” She subtly gestures behind me.
The guys and their “date” pull up to our table. Shades holds out my Pink Panty Pull-Down. The ice is gone, and it’s room temperature. “Thanks.” I accept the glass and lower my gaze.
Eye contact. Yeah, right.
Can’t look at Toombs or the chick giggling between him and Rax, a walking blowup doll made of high-pitched bubbles and silicone. Lucky girl is about to be all over, under, or on top of what could be mine if I had bigger balls.
“You guys fuck off for an hour,” Rax says. “We’ve got the bus.”
I’ll give them two hours. Just to be sure.
“What’d you say your name was?” Rax tweaks the nipple poking proudly through the girl’s low-cut cami. No bra, naturally.
Her giggle sounds like a hiccup. “Terri.”
Rax slips a sly grin to Toombs, who’s sporting his usual “I’m bored out of my mind” scowl. “You ready to meet the two biggest cocks you’ve ever seen, Terri?”
A hysterical flurry of hiccups erupts from Mt. Bimbo. “Yeah!” Hiccup. Hiccup. Hiccup.
I don’t know how much longer I can do this.
From beside me, a rough, tattooed hand swipes my elbow. All eyes are on the bouncing ball of plastic femininity. Except for Toombs’s.
He peers down at me, his normally harsh brow lifted a tad, the frightening gash tattoo adorning his throat somehow softened by the uncharacteristic hint of light fueling his expression.
My ticker pounds inside my chest. Airways constrict. Heat floods my face, pulse bangs against my eardrums. Where are my drumsticks? I need my drumsticks … Flustered, I look around me, but of course, they’re not here.
The vibrating phone in my butt pocket comes to my rescue. Licking my lips, I snatch it out while my bandmates laugh at some lewd comment Rax makes. My little brother’s sweet face with wild, floppy hair lights up the screen.
Shit. I forgot it’s Thursday.
“I gotta go.” Avoiding Toombs’s stare, I bound out of my chair and beeline for the door, leaving one set of worries behind at the table in exchange for another.
As soon as the humid air hits my lungs, I engineer a happy smile and answer the video chat request.
“Hey, Mikey. I’m sorry I didn’t call. I lost track of time.”
“Hi, Gianna,” he says in that flat, quiet voice of his. He may be sixteen, but when I look at him, I see the cute, sensitive baby I used to cuddle when no one else could calm him down. Not much has changed. I’m still his lifeboat in a lot of ways. And happy to be so.
I run through the usual script, asking questions in the right order. How was school? Who did you hang out with? What did you do when you got home?
Always the same questions, always the same monotone answers. Until we get to piano.
“What song are you working on?” I say.
Here’s where the robot morphs into a heavenly being with a soul, life, and purpose. The transformation gets me every time. “Beethoven’s ‘Pathetique.’ First movement.” His tone remains flat, but his face is animated.
I’m not familiar with that piece. I’ll have to look it up.
“Will you play it for me?” I already know the answer, but I ask anyway.
“It’s not ready.”
“When it’s ready.” Even on the tiny screen, the gleam in his eyes almost blinds me. He always gets excited when we talk about music, but today is different. He’s beaming. This song must be really hard. Mikey doesn’t handle challenge well in social situations, but when it comes to piano, he lives for it.
Mikey spent two months on Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C Sharp Minor.” During that time, he played nothing else. He’s a very private musician. Doesn’t like for anyone to hear a song until it’s perfect, and it was nearly so the first time he played “Prelude.”
When I was living at home, I often listened to him practice behind the closed door. He regularly brought tears to my eyes. It’s shocking how a person can appear so devoid of emotion on the surface and at the same time convey such gut-wrenching beauty through a series of notes hammered out on a primitive instrument. Mikey’s music is pure, concentrated passion. I wish I had half the talent he does.
Once he mastered Rachmaninoff, Mikey never touched the song again. He didn’t need to. He’d conquered it.
My autistic brother is a social misfit on the outside and a musical prodigy on the inside. Unfortunately, most people see the parts that don’t fit into their cookie-cutter mold of what “normal” should be, and they react accordingly.
Some of his schoolmates last year called him a “retard.” I straightened out those little shits in the parking lot after school one day, and as far as I know, they haven’t picked on him since. Nobody calls Mikey names. Especially not that one.
I smile. “You gotta wait for me to come home for the Beethoven unveiling. I won’t miss it for the world.”
He says nothing. Just stares at me.
“I love you, Mikey.”
“I love you too, Gianna.” Back to the empty monotone. He does love me. He just has a different way of expressing it.
“I’ll talk to you next week. I promise to be on time.”
“Bye.” I tap the screen, and my brother’s blank face freezes.
Rax, Toombs, and the Flavor of the Night stumble out of the bar and head for the taxi waiting at the curb. None of them notice me.
Heart aching, I look down at Mikey’s picture and clench my jaw.
I want to go home.
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