From the bestselling author of Anything but Vanilla, comes a tale of carnal torment, determination, British humour, and good old rock ‘n’ roll angst.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “Madelynne has a unique ability to write tortured and broken men who need someone who won't give up on them.” Goodreads Reviewer.
Trapped in a hell of heartbreak and self-loathing, rock guitarist Spook Mortensen wants only to be left alone. He’s determined to remain celibate forever. Better that than being a monster.
Sound engineer, Allegra Hutton can’t forget the mad chemistry that roared into life when the two first met. When their paths collide once again, the reckless energy that burns between them reaches new heights. Alle’s determined to get her man, even if that means digging into Spook’s past to break through the barriers he erects. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one out to expose him…
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “A fantastic, engaging, must read book!” Goodreads Reviewer.
Reflex is the first full-length novel in a trilogy about Spook Mortensen, set in the world of goth rockers Black Halo. Turn up the volume and enjoy the rollercoaster world of hard rock.
DEEP DIVE INTO THE WORLD OF BLACK HALO:
💀XANE: (Come Undone, Come Together, Come Alive.)
💀ASH: (All Night Long, All Fired Up, All Right Now.)
💀SPOOK: (Off the Record, Reflex, Replay)
Release date: December 10, 2019
Publisher: Incantatrix Press
Print pages: 230
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Spook Mortensen bounded off stage, caught in an adrenaline high, endorphins burning in his blood, and his hair alive with static. Two hours of rocking a stadium to hell and back had left him lathered in sweat, yet smiling so hard his face ached. The thunder of drums and guitars continued to throb inside his soul as he paced the backstage areas, fingers still flexing into the shapes of the chords playing inside his head.
The weariness that had dogged the band the last few weeks was gone and forgotten now. After months on the road, Black Halo’s Requiem for the Damned tour was drawing to a close. Tonight was the last arena date. All that remained was a mass to Steve Matlock on the anniversary of their former drummer’s death. But that would be a relatively intimate affair. Tickets only available via their official fan site.
“Ready to party?” his guitar tech asked him.
Spook responded with a nod. Management had organised something – primarily for the courting of various corporate bigwigs, backers, and the like, rather than for the benefit of the band – but, despite earlier reservations, he was buzzed enough to be looking forward to it. A drink or two with the guys, and the freedom to go wild over the contents of the buffet table without inducing a fit of performance anxiety over whether he’d done enough to keep himself in peak form, yeah, he could roll with that.
In fact, break out the cheesy puffs.
Blond hair flying, he plunged into the dressing room. Ash, Black Halo’s lead guitarist, was already canoodling on the sofa with his fiancée. He waved at them not to stop on his account – though he doubted Ash noticed, given that he had his head up Ginny’s skirt. “I hope the wedding invitation’s in the post.”
Ash raised his head. “I want to talk to you about that.”
“Later,” he agreed, refusing to be side-tracked. Christ, was he going to have to give a best man’s speech? Xane would make a far better job of it.
Phone retrieved from the pocket of his leather jacket, he made a beeline for the exit before the rest of the band arrived and he got caught up in the post-show analysis that inevitably happened. Someone always had something they wanted to gripe, moan, or boast about.
Another two of the band members ploughed through the door as he opened it. “You don’t need me at this thing,” Liam moaned, shooting him beseeching puppy dog eyes. “It’s you guys they want to see, not me. I’m a nobody. I don’t even want to be somebody.”
“Everyone’s someone,” Rock Giant insisted, his firm hand clapping on Liam’s shoulder. “Off somewhere?” he enquired of Spook.
Spook held up his phone. “Need a minute. Won’t be long. Means you get to bagsy the shower.”
“You saying I stink?” Rock Giant sniffed at his pits, then nodded in agreement. “Not a bad plan. Assuming Xane isn’t already in there screwing. I sure as hell ain’t going in after him.”
“I heard shower sex is the UK’s top sexual fantasy,” Ash piped up, having clearly been eavesdropping on the conversation. “Fancy it, Ginny?”
“Oh, no you don’t.” Rock Giant was off. Spook watched his friends tussle for a moment and then dived back into the mayhem in the corridor.
There was some sporting rally happening tomorrow, so the roadies were working flat out with the venue crew to get everything packed up and the stadium transformed. Spook nimbly slipped between the crates and cases, and made his escape into the night air via a propped open fire exit.
Outside, the scents of beer and sweat gave way to those of the city; tarmac and petrol fumes subtly intertwined with the salt of the nearby ocean. As he’d anticipated, the wire fenced quadrangle they’d kicked a ball around post-sound check was a dead zone now. Nothing but weeds growing up through the cracks. There weren’t even any roadies taking a sneaky fag break beneath the orange glow of the security light.
Phone in hand, Spook rested his butt against the wall and bowed his head as the screen lit. He had one new message. As a matter of fact it had arrived as he’d got the call to get his arse on stage. An illicit thrill sizzled in his chest as he read it again.
ALLE: I’ve been a bad girl. Wanna hear me confess?
The only bad thing Allegra Hutton did was play havoc with his libido. She did things to him that ought to send him running for the hills, but instead never failed to reel him in. He sincerely doubted she’d actually done anything bad.
SPOOK: The hell you did. You’re a goddess of sweetness and light.
SPOOK: Unless you pushed Ewan over again.
Alle’s big brother had arrived back from his latest Arctic expedition with frostbite and an award-winning polar bear documentary. Toes? A worthy sacrifice. He’d had a few balance issues since.
ALLE: I’ll have you know I’ve never once pushed him. He’s just clumsy. I don’t push anyone.
Lies. She pushed him in every way imaginable simply by being a presence in his life. Things had been a whole lot simpler before Alle arrived and insisted he was her double scoop of cherry chocolate goodness.
ALLE: Besides, this guy still has all his toes. In fact, a whole set of glorious assets. I’ve had to resort to shades.
ALLE: Damn-mmm! Wish I’d taken a picture. Mind, I expect there’ll be plenty online before long. Hair a little shorter than Xane’s, amber eyes. Total bubble butt. Music’s mediocre, but no one is going to fucking care since he’s SOMETHING ELSE!
His mood collapsed a little. She’d taken to giving him the rundown on all the up-and-coming bands she got to work with. To begin with, it had been all about the music, but more and more she’d include a hotness rating in her assessment. This guy, whoever he was, clearly scored a ten. It shouldn’t have mattered to him, but it did.
Wasn’t he her ten?
Spook cleared his throat and shoved his ego into his boots. It wasn’t as if they were official or anything. In fact, they weren’t really anything at all. Just two people who exchanged long distance text messages about the craziness of their jobs, who’d met twice and stumbled past first base a couple of times.
Now would be the time to regale her with a Black Halo anecdote. Sadly, the sort of band antics that had once occurred on a near daily basis were now practically non-existent since Ash had got engaged and Xane had shacked up with Dani and Luthor. Liam, the new guy, should have been prime entertainment fodder, but he was boring as hell, and that just left Paul “Rock Giant” Reed.
The thing with Rock Giant was, that while he was butt crack crazy when it came to transport, he wasn’t nearly as reckless as Xane or Ash when it came to women. Spook was never likely to find Rock Giant sandwiched in the middle of a triple decker layer of groupies with an inanimate object shoved up his arse, or strutting his stuff in lipstick, heels, and a whole lot of glitter.
ALLE: You’re very quiet tonight. Are you sulking cos I think someone else is hot?
SPOOK: Just wondering what he did to grab your attention so successfully.
ALLE: Existed. LOL! You know me. I’m all about the pretty boys.
Maybe. Some people certainly described him that way. He doubted it was just about how the guy looked, though. Why’d she need to confess just for looking at someone?
SPOOK: I know what really makes you zone in on people and it ain’t the way they look.
ALLE: Oooo! Rampant speculation, much!
SPOOK: Let me guess – he promised to shove his big dick down your throat and then belt your backside if you dared to be as un-ladylike as to splutter.
ALLE: OMG! Are you jealous?
ALLE: You’re cute, but alas, no. No hidings or cocksucking to report. Though if you’d like to volunteer your time and body.
SPOOK: Is sex all you ever think about?
ALLE: It’s all anyone with a heartbeat ever thinks about, and don’t pretend you’re exempt. I know what demonic urges you’re hiding behind that saintly persona.
Yeah. That hit rather too close to the nail. So, sure, even after—totting it up on his fingers, nine months—if he closed his eyes, he could still hear the rasp of her indrawn breath, recall every freckle on her perfectly presented arse, feel the sting in his palm, and see the strawberry blush of heat race across her skin in the shape of his hand. It didn’t mean he was obsessed. Same as it didn’t mean anything that he could feel the jerks of her body against his stiff cock as she wriggled bottom up, spread out across his lap. They were just the signs of a good memory.
SPOOK: I suppose this magnificent specimen you’ve encountered has a name.
ALLE: Ronnie Bush—no relation to Kate. And for the record, I know whose pubes I’d prefer to be picking from between my teeth, and they’re not his. Like you said, just being pretty doesn’t cut it.
SPOOK: Your crush on Xane is still alive and kicking, I see.
ALLE: Being crushed is what would happen if I ever tried to get near him. I’m not dumb enough to take on Dani and Luthor. Besides, I’m all for blonds.
SPOOK: Pretty sure you’ll find he’s golden beneath the hood.
ALLE: Do I want to know how you know that? Also, TEASE! You know perfectly well it’s you I’m talking about.
ALLE: When do I get to see you?
And that there was the reason he insisted on finding a space to call her where he wouldn’t be overheard. Not that they were actually speaking. He stared at the string of bright speech bubbles on his phone screen. Why the heck were they communicating with their thumbs? He’d meant to call. After the Monte Carlo show, he had two whole weeks off. Or rather, he had time he could spend in one location. There’d still be interviews and studio sessions and all the other stuff recording company marketing execs liked to throw at them, but there’d be down time too. Time that if he chose to, he could spend with her.
Was that what he wanted to do?
ALLE: It’s been forever. I’m literally dying for a shag.
Spook stared hard at the screen.
Not seeing her for all this time hadn’t been deliberate, nor had all the barriers been on his side. Alle had faced a bunch of family crises last winter that had stopped her working with them at Rockfield, and then post-Christmas, pre-tour, she’d been holed up at the Sawmills with some new band, who’d gone on to score themselves an anthem.
They were never in the same place at the same time.
Now, however, he had the opportunity to change that. Dammit, he’d been thinking about it for days… weeks even, but now it came down to it, was it what he wanted?
For nine months, he hadn’t had to worry about where this was going, or delivering on her expectations, or even whether those expectations aligned with his own. Hell, he didn’t know what he wanted out of a relationship. He wasn’t certain he wanted any sort of relationship at all. That didn’t dampen the recollections though. Memories of heat and skin, and the sensation of her mouth around his cock had caused him endless sleepless nights. However, that didn’t mean he wanted to jump into bed with her on a permanent basis or otherwise.
After all, he was celibate for a reason.
And Allegra Hutton was a blip on a nine-year near-perfect record.
I want you to fuck me. Won’t you fuck me? Spank me. Hurt me. I want so badly to feel you inside of me.
Memories? Demands? Was he really ready and willing to tear down all the barriers that kept him sane and safe? He might claim he was only calling to arrange a meet up; face to face, coffee and a chat, but that didn’t mean that was how she would see it.
When will you fuck me? I want it… I want you, bad.
Allegra Hutton wasn’t the sort of woman to be content with a look, don’t touch relationship.
He couldn’t do this.
I can’t give you what you want.
He couldn’t. Not without destabilising everything.
It didn’t matter that his cock had other thoughts. It was not riding the damn show. So what if he got stiff whenever the faintest glimmer of a memory of her passed through his consciousness: a flame bright curl of hair, the twinkle of an eye, the curve of her breasts. It didn’t mean he had to act on it. No one ever claimed that being celibate exempted you from erections.
I like you. I do. A lot, actually. It wouldn’t take much for him to fall hard and deep, but all the like in the world didn’t make him want to unlock the irons he’d shackled himself with. They were his safety net. They’d kept his demons in harness for a good long time.
His phone buzzed again. He now had a string of messages from her, predominantly composed of his name and lines of question marks.
Five minutes ago he’d intended to arrange a meet-up. Now, hell if he was sure about that.
He shoved his phone deep into a pocket, then stood with his hands cupped over his mouth and nose, breathing hard into the shallow space. In. Out. In. Out. He’d been high on life a moment ago, now he was drowning.
The siren’s cry of an incoming call wailed from inside his pocket.
In. Out. In. Out. No need to answer it.
I need it, Jan. I need you.
Only you make the darkness fade.
“Please. I can’t give you what you need.”
Pain flared white hot across his chest. In. Out. In Out.
You always say that shit, but it’s just not true. You always give me what I need.
The voice was right there in his head, so loud it was like she was right in front of him.
Every time. It’s why I love you. You love me too, Jan, don’t you? You love me black and blue.
“Don’t say that.”
Why not, it’s the truth. Want me to display the evidence?
You’re a sadist, and you know it. I know you like looking at them.
Coming over them.
“I said, ‘Stop it’!”
His snarl echoed off the sides of the building and rippled away into the night. Spook peered about sheepishly, but there was no one around to witness his ridiculousness. He gave a sigh. Within his pocket, his phone was still vibrating against his thigh. Last July, he’d promised he’d try and make a go of it with Alle. Life had conspired against that, but it didn’t change what he’d said. He’d promised, and the fact that nine months later they were still furiously exchanging texts kind of clinched it. He might not be ready for this. It made far more sense to keep her at a distance, but he’d promised. He had to at least be honest with her that it just wasn’t going to work out.
Gingerly, he retrieved the torture device from his pocket.
What if he dropped the damn thing in a puddle? He didn’t do cloud back-ups, nor did he have her number written down. He could end the whole debacle. Conveniently, a dark stretch of murky water lay not a yard from his feet. All he needed to do was uncurl his fingers, and let the damn thing slip into the clogged up drain. He lifted the phone to his ear instead.
No taking the coward’s way out.
“Spook?” Her voice immediately knotted itself around his senses. “Thank God. I thought… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to…”
“You’re hitting on the wrong guy.”
Silence. Then, “Did the gig go well?”
Part of him wanted to howl with laughter at her attempt to right the balance between them with a bit of post-show analysis. The rest of him wanted her to stand her ground and keep on hitting him with the same stinging bullets she usually fired.
“Yeah.” He managed to dredge up a reply from the bottom of his lungs. “It was good. A fitting end to the official tour.”
“Cool! That’s good that you went out on a high. I’m just sorry I couldn’t get out and see you guys. It’s been an eternity.”
There’s the gig in Monte Carlo. Could you get to that?
“Wailing guitars would certainly be an improvement on whining cats. ‘Give me the food, hooman.’,” she said putting on a voice. “‘No, not that food, different food. Anything but this offensive muck you’ve dared serve up. How can you think I would lower myself to eat this shit?’”
A little of the tension in his neck and shoulders eased away. “Ever considered re-homing the ungrateful wretch?”
She laughed. “All the damn time, but Ewan would kill me, and Theo would use it as an excuse to acquire something significantly more terrible.”
Sounded to him like re-homing her brothers might be a sound plan.
“Is he still threatening you with eight legs?”
“Yup. The bastard even set up a tank the other day, and put one of those life-like plastic ones in it. I almost throttled him after I’d finished peeing my knickers. You don’t mind spiders, do you? Because, I have to tell you, His Magnificence Ronnie the Pretty is even more shit scared of them than I am. One crawled across the sound mixer and he nearly let off the fire extinguisher over it.”
“I’m cool with creepy things.” He stuck two imaginary fingers up at Ronnie the Pretty.
“Thank heavens for that. You don’t kill them though? You put them out?”
“Even the big, fat furry ones.” Actually, he normally just let them go about their business in the corner, or whatever, which wasn’t so different to how he treated his sex obsessed band mates, disregarding the occasional picture. “So, did you wait until it was just the two of you, corner him, and suggest he tan your arse?”
“Wow!” she gasped. “Did I hit a nerve mentioning his bubble butt?”
“Yeah, well it sure sounds like it. I did not, as a matter of fact. Should I have done?”
“You should do what the bloody hell you like.”
“Hm,” she crooned. “I think you’re jealous, Spook Mortensen. Which is hilarious, I might add. You don’t need to be. Ronnie’s a sweet little lamb. I don’t think he could hurt anything, excepting spiders. And besides, my interests are very firmly fixed in one particular direction.”
“Foolishly,” he muttered. “I can’t give you what you want, Alle.”
“Spook, you have, you can, and you do. I’m not going to pretend to understand why you think otherwise, but I’m all ears if you want to explain it.”
Yeah, that wasn’t happening. Ever. Bad enough that he knew what he was, without clueing in anyone else.
“Hm,” she said in response to his silence, as if it was expected.
“All right, you tell me this, Mr I’m Not Jealous Only Mysterious, if I had asked him, and he had striped my behind, would you have liked to hear me confess?”
What the hell sort of question was that?
Except that didn’t gel with the scarily squirmy physical response he was experiencing. His heart did a little jig again, but this time it didn’t make him want to dial an ambulance.
Fuck it. Yes. Yes, he would. Jeezus! What sort of man got a buzz off having it recounted to him how some other fuckwit had striped the arse of the woman he fancied?
And now… now, he was sporting enough friggin’ wood you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d just delivered said spanking, not just speculated about whether he’d like to hear about her playing with other men.
You are one sad git, Mortensen.
“I’d have you send me a photograph,” he said.
Man was he on fire today. He couldn’t trust himself within ten miles of this woman. Best they stick to their not quite, barely almost, late night chat perv-athon text marathons. At least that way all he had to worry about was his rock hard dick and not landing himself in a cell or a mental ward.
“What would you do with it? If I sent you a picture like that?”
No, no, no. She was not supposed to respond to his nonsense.
Add it to his collection.
Spend inordinately obscene amounts of time admiring it, while envisaging tracing his tongue over the welts.
Telling himself it was okay to admire it as a piece of art, just so long as he didn’t jerk off over it.
Wanking like bloody crazy over it.
This was fucking insane. He was not this person. He didn’t toss himself off over photographs. Being celibate wasn’t just about saying no to the guys and girls, it applied to self-love too.
“Are you thinking about stroking your cock?”
How the fuck could she see into his head?
“Because, I have to tell you that I’d really like it if you did. It’d be crazy hot.”
“Shut-up!” he blurted. Heat sizzling in his cheeks.
“Spook, the next time we meet up—”
Yeah, about that.
“—will you tie me up like you did in the limousine, and come all over me? I want you to get it in my hair and all over my face, and I want you to rub it into the stripes you’ve left on my arse.”
“Alle,” he gasped.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you? I’m not the only one who gets off at the idea of it. Does it make you hard imagining it?”
He groaned. There was no holding it in.
“Spook, are you hard now?”
Was he hard? His traitorous cock was bloody nodding in agreement, and there was a reel playing in his head of her tied up and bent over, while he dished it out like a fucking pro.
He must have made another noise, because he heard her breath catch and then quicken.
“Spook, I know you like being in charge, but what if, just this once, you allowed me to dictate?”
“The terms of your pleasure. Your surrender.”
He gave a dry huff-like laugh.
“I’m serious. Now, be a good boy, and do as you’re told. I want you to unzip your fly and stroke yourself. Imagine it’s my hand.”
What the hell sort of crazy train was this? “Alle. I’m not going to do that.”
“It’s not you doing it. It’s me.”
“What makes you think I’d let you touch me like that?”
“I don’t think it. I know it. You like what I do to you, even when you’re protesting you don’t. You wouldn’t move to stop me until after I’d wrapped my palm around your cock. Then, you’d clamp your hand around my wrist so hard that it’d hurt, and you’d get all up in my face about me putting my hands where they don’t belong. But you’d be jerking my curled grip up and down even as you said it, because really, you want it, and you want to come. I think you want to so badly right now your balls are practically on the verge of mutiny. I mean, tell me, when’s the last time you actually came? I’m kind of scared you’re going to say it was the last time we were face to face.”
“Yeah.” He agreed to the last point, not the rest.
“Shit, that’s mental. I need to come and take care of you.”
So many chances, so many opportunities to tell her he was free to make them meeting up a reality, but how could he when she had the power to affect him like this. It was way too risky.
“Unzip your fly, Spook. Give it a squeeze. Go on, one cheeky squeeze from me.”
No way. “I’m in a public place.” Like that was the deciding factor.
“A supremely quiet public place. Don’t pretend like there’s anyone around to see. You’re alone. Come on, touch yourself. Just this once. Allow yourself to feel something, to be just a little out of control.”
“I’m not going to do it, Alle.” One touch might not erode the control he had over himself, but who was to say one touch wouldn’t lead to two, and two to a stealthy jerk lying in bed later, images in his head—and then what? Wanking over photographs, constantly rubbing them off in the shower, sliding between her thighs without a care in the world. He could not allow himself to fall into that darkness, and drown.
Eight years—nearly nine—of celibacy had kept him safe… and kept him sane.
You wouldn’t deprive a girl of her fantasies now, would you?
“I think I ought to go now.”
“Spook. Don’t. I just miss you, okay. I want to see you.”
She wanted to fuck him.
“Is that going to be possible?”
He turned so that he was facing the building and screwed his eyes tight shut.
“I can’t give you what you want. I’m sorry, Alle. Truly.”
“Don’t hang up on me. Don’t you dare.” The panic in her voice rang clear. He was letting her down. He knew that, but what the hell was he supposed to do?
“There are other people out there who can give you what you want. I can’t. I can’t. It’s not about whether I can lift my hand. I don’t want to deal with the emotions of it.”
“That doesn’t sound very healthy.”
“I’m fine,” he said. “Celibacy works for me. I’m not looking to change that.”
“There’s no one else?” she asked, quietly.
“Alle, there’s no one else. And there won’t be. I ought to say goodnight. The guys will be wondering where I am. We’ve a party to get to, and I need to freshen up.” He also needed time to get his thoughts in line and his raging hormones back under control. Spook Mortensen did not go partying with a stiff dick.
She didn’t say anything to that, though he could hear her unhappy sighs on the other end of the line.
“Goodnight, Allegra.” Say goodnight, he willed her.
All he got was silence, and he was too much of a fucking gentleman to hang up. “Alle?”
“What? You can’t expect me to be happy.”
“No, of course I don’t expect that. I just don’t think… I don’t want to have a sexual relationship. Not with you. Not with anybody.”
“That doesn’t even make sense. I was there, I know what we shared. You were emotionally invested. You still are, or why are we having this conversation nine months later. And why are you fucking hard?”
If only there was an easy way to explain without goddamned explaining.
“Spook? Spook! Oh my God. SPOOOOOOK!”
The cries momentarily confused him, until he realised they weren’t coming from his mobile, and that they were getting louder. Fearfully, he glanced over his shoulder. Shit! How had they got around here?
“Alle, I have to go.”
Not one, not two—he could have handled that. Had done so on multiple occasions—but a whole demented crowd of fans were swarming towards him. Dammit, he was a bloody fool. A quick scout of the perimeter would have told him the yard wasn’t secure. There was a whole bloody panel missing where the fencing should have butted up to the wall. He was going to get fucking mauled, and the last thing he wanted right now was anyone touching him.
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