Sweet possession, p.23
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       Sweet Possession, p.23

         Part #5 of Sweet series by Maya Banks
Page 23


  With Connor she felt like she was spinning out of control. It was a helpless, panicky feeling.

  A knock sounded at her door. “Lyric, we need to be going. ”

  She hesitated and then opened the door to see Connor standing there. “I’m ready. ”

  “Kane’s waiting downstairs with the car. ”

  “You’re riding with me. ”

  He touched her arm. “Of course. You don’t go anywhere without me. ”

  She breathed a soft sigh of relief.

  He escorted her down the stairs and out front to the circle drive where a limousine was parked. She wrinkled her nose. “Seems a bit conspicuous, don’t you think?”

  “It’s armored,” Connor said. “Bulletproof windows. You’ll be safe. ”

  Her eyes widened. “Do you really think I’m in that much danger?”

  Kane, who was standing by the limo, straightened and opened the passenger door for Lyric. “We always assume the worst. That way we don’t get any nasty surprises. ”

  She slid into the roomy interior and scooted around the curved seat to allow Connor to duck in. She held her breath, waiting to see if Kane would slide in as well. To her relief, he shut the door, leaving her and Connor alone.

  “He’s just doing his job,” Connor said with a hint of amusement.

  “I don’t like him,” she muttered. “He makes me nervous. ”

  Connor raised an eyebrow as the car pulled away from the house. “I didn’t think anyone made you nervous, Miss Badass. ”

  She pulled a face at him.

  “Did you make all the phone calls you needed to make?” he asked.

  “Most. Not all,” she admitted. “I didn’t call Paul. I wasn’t in the mood to hear him bitch. ”

  Connor’s expression darkened. “You need to tell him to shut the fuck up. You’re making him a fuckload of money. He can lighten the hell up. ”

  She shrugged. “Depends on who you ask, I guess. According to him, he’s doing me a favor. ”

  Connor snorted. “If he ever thought you were walking, he’d bend over backward to kiss your ass. When I first met you I thought that everyone around you kissed your ass too much. Now I think you’re surrounded by a bunch of assholes. ”

  She grinned. “And in the beginning, I thought you were the biggest asshole of them all. ”

  “And now?”

  She pretended to consider the matter as she studied him. “Now I think you’re a pretty okay guy. ”

  Her phone rang and she checked the display screen. She rolled her eyes and hit the ignore button.

  “Does your phone always ring twenty-four/seven?” he asked.

  She sighed. “Pretty much. There is no shortage of people always trying to keep me in line. They either want to call me to bitch at me, call me to remind me to be somewhere, or call me to ask me to do something. ”

  “So not very much ‘Hi, how are you?’ then. ”

  She stopped and considered for a moment and then laughed. “No, I suppose not. I can’t remember the last time someone called just to say hi or ask me how I was doing. ”

  Connor shook his head.

  Half an hour later, the limo pulled up to the stage entrance of the stadium. Connor got out and scanned the area before reaching back for Lyric’s hand. Kane and his men took position around them just as her manager strode out of the back entrance and made a beeline for Lyric.

  Connor immediately stepped in front of Lyric and wrapped a protective arm around her, shoving her into his back. Kane stepped in front of Connor while his men pushed in around Lyric.

  “Get the hell out of my way,” Paul barked. “I’m her manager. ”

  Connor halted him with an icy glare.

  “Get her inside,” Kane barked. “The reunion will wait until then. ”

  Paul didn’t look happy to be ordered about, but he had little choice as the men closed ranks and ushered Lyric inside the building.

  “Where the hell have you been?” Paul demanded once they were inside. “I’ve been waiting here for two hours. There are things to go over and I couldn’t very well go over the details of your performance without you. ”

  Lyric sighed and wished he’d just shut up. She had no desire for one of his tantrums in front of everyone else. Connor’s face had darkened to a storm cloud and his jaw was set in a rigid line as he glared at Paul.

  “I’m fifteen minutes early, Paul. Calm down. ”

  Paul reached for her elbow to pull her down the hallway but Connor cut him off and wrapped a protective arm around Lyric’s shoulders. Paul shot Connor a disdainful look but continued to the meeting room where the rodeo execs were waiting.

  Paul did most of the talking, and by the time it was over, Lyric had a headache. He made silly demands, argued every point, and finally Lyric told him to shut up. She apologized to the assembled people and then listened as they went over the schedule.

  Next they gave her a tour of the rotating stage that was used for all the performers at the rodeo and gave her a preview of the screen graphics for the background. She met with the band since hers wouldn’t be making the show and rehearsed the songs she’d be singing for the show.

  Three hours later, it was done and she left the building, surrounded by Kane and his men. The car was waiting, but before she could slip into it, Paul caught up to her and grabbed her arm.

  She turned in surprise and glanced pointedly at his hand.

  “We need to talk, Lyric. What the hell is going on with you? You look like shit. Have you even tried to stay in shape for your tour dates? You only have a few weeks off and then you go back on the road. You’ve gained at least ten pounds, if not more. You don’t want to look like a slob onstage. This is your career. You could at least act like it’s important to you. ”

  Her cheeks burned with humiliation. She wanted to crawl into a hole and die. It shocked her that he would confront her in front of Connor and Kane and the others. But then, he wouldn’t consider them important. They were just the hired bodyguards.

  Beside her, Connor hissed in anger and took a step toward Paul. Paul was oblivious to just how pissed Connor was, but Lyric could see the fury in Connor’s eyes.

  “Instead of stuffing your face and lying around, why don’t you make it to the gym or, better yet, have some exercise equipment delivered to the house Phillip rented for you? Your fans don’t pay big bucks to see your fat ass onstage. They pay to see a lean, sleek performer. ”

  He didn’t get another word out before Connor slammed him into the wall.

  “What the fuck?” Paul spit out. He looked to Kane. “Get him the hell off me. You’re fired. You’re all fired. ”

  Kane crossed his arms over his chest. “Get who off you? I don’t see anyone. The only thing I see is a loudmouthed, disrespectful asshole who is about to get his ass beat. Deservedly so. ”

  Lyric watched, openmouthed, as Connor gathered Paul’s shirt in his hands and got into his face.

  “Listen to me, you piece of shit. You shut the fuck up. If I ever hear you talk to Lyric that way again, I’ll tear your nuts off and cram them down your throat. Are we clear?”

  Paul’s eyes bulged out of his head and he gaped at Connor and then at Lyric. “Are you going to let him get away with talking to me that way?”

  Connor slammed him against the wall again. “The only words I want to hear out of your mouth are an apology to Lyric. Now. ”

  Connor’s hand tightened and pushed into Paul’s throat, cutting off his air.

  “I’m s-sorry,” Paul stammered. “You know I only want the best for you, Lyric. ”

  Lyric recovered her wits and walked forward, her mind still whirling from Connor’s reaction. She stopped just a foot away from where Connor’s hand was still wrapped around Paul’s neck. For a long moment she simply stood there and watched him grow more and more uncomfortable. Sweat beaded on his brow and he glanced between her and Connor nervously.

  “Paul?” she fi
nally said. “Fuck off. ”

  She spun around and headed toward the car where Kane had already opened the door. A smile hovered over his lips, and as she climbed in, he murmured, “Well done, Ms. Jones. ”

  Lyric slid over as far as she could and directed her gaze out the opposite window. For the first time, she wanted to be alone. She didn’t want to face Connor or have him witness her absolute humiliation. Her face burned, and she was so mortified that she literally wanted to close herself off in her room for a week.

  She wasn’t so lucky.

  Connor climbed into the back of the limo and a few moments later the car pulled away.

  She refused to look at him. She didn’t want to see sympathy or pity staring back at her. The silence was suffocating and she could feel him watching her.

  Connor was furious. He couldn’t remember a time he’d been this pissed. He’d wanted to kill that son of a bitch. He still wanted to kill him.

  He’d seen Lyric’s face when Paul had spewed his venom. He’d seen her pale, seen her draw into herself. Everything that Connor had told her had been erased by a stupid bastard who couldn’t see how beautiful Lyric was.

  And now she sat so still and rigid, making herself as small as possible, refusing to look at him. She was embarrassed—who could blame her? And that pissed Connor off even more. She had nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing to be embarrassed over.

  He couldn’t hold silent any longer.

  “Lyric. Look at me. ”

  She flinched. Closed her eyes but held her chin firm, her gaze still fixed out the window.

  “Lyric. ”

  He waited. He was patient. She had enough assholes in her life only too willing to shit on her. He wasn’t going to be one of them.

  Finally her shoulders sagged and she turned slowly, her eyes dull. He hated that more than anything. He liked her “fuck you” attitude. He liked that she didn’t flinch in a stare-down. That she’d take on anyone and anything. That wasn’t the woman he was seeing now, and it infuriated him.

  “He’s an asshole. You should fire him. You deserve better than that. ”

  She shrugged. “He’s good at what he does. He made me. I owe him. ”

  Connor had to call back the snarl. His lips curled and it took a few moments before he could calmly respond.

  “Bullshit. ”

  That surprised her. Her eyes narrowed and she cocked her head to the side.

  “You don’t owe him shit. Lyric, this is business. You ought to know that. If you weren’t so upset by what that moron said, you’d realize it. You pay him. If I had to guess, he gets paid way too damn much. That’s all you owe him. A paycheck. Until such time as he no longer provides the service you pay him for, and quite frankly, I’d say the only service you need from him is for him to go fuck himself. ”

  The corner of her mouth lifted into a half smile.

  “You made yourself. You worked hard. You’ve got talent. Without those things it wouldn’t matter what the hell he did or didn’t do for you. You made yourself. Don’t forget that. ”

  She smiled fully now and some of the light came back to her eyes.

  “No one has the right to talk to you like that,” he continued. “Not him. Not Phillip. Your biggest power is the willingness to walk away. The moment they realize you’re willing to do that, I think you’ll see a dramatic turnaround in their attitudes. I still think you should fire Paul’s ass, though. You can’t tell me there isn’t another manager who can do his job and keep their goddamn mouth shut while doing it. ”

  To his utter shock, she launched herself across the seat and into his arms. She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him so tight that his oxygen was momentarily cut off.

  He was happy to tuck her more firmly in his embrace. He curled his arms around her and held her against him, inhaling the sweet scent of her hair. And because he simply couldn’t resist, he brushed his lips over her head and kissed and nuzzled, offering her comfort.

  “He’s wrong, you know. ”

  She went still, waiting. He tightened his hold and laid his cheek over the top of her head.

  “You look fantastic. There is nothing about you that isn’t drop-dead sexy. ”

  He felt her smile against his neck.

  “You probably think I’m talking shit. I’m not. I don’t need to kiss your ass. There’s no reason for me to lie to you. You can’t fire me. You don’t have anything I want or need. Except you. Just you. And that drop-dead, sexy-as-sin body of yours. ”

  She laughed softly and her body shook against his. He stroked a hand over her hair, content to let her lie against him, warm, snuggly and relaxed.

  “You’re good for my ego, Connor. You say things in a way that makes me think you mean them. I don’t get that very often. It’s become second nature for me to disregard any compliment because I’m always suspicious of the motive behind it. Isn’t that sad?”

  “Yeah, it is. But hey, at least for now, you have me to keep it real for you. ”

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