Sweet possession, p.24
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       Sweet Possession, p.24
 

         Part #5 of Sweet series by Maya Banks
Page 24

 

  She pushed away from his chest and smiled down at him, her eyes alight with joy. It made her seem softer. Like a girl instead of a hardened woman. It completely changed her appearance and he was hard-pressed to even put this woman together with the woman he’d first met backstage with the outrageous pink hair and “fuck you” attitude.

  It gave him an indescribable thrill that he was likely one of the few people in the world who got to see the woman behind the layers. He may not have earned her complete trust, but on some level she did trust him. Enough to let down the barriers.

  He gathered her back in his arms and squeezed. “What’s next on the agenda?”

  She sighed. “I have that meet and greet after the show. Nothing until then, though. I need to give Kane my schedule. I promised I would. I feel so disorganized right now. I know it sounds bad, but when I’m on the road, I don’t have to think about where I have to be or go. I have people to push me here or there, and I’ve gotten used to that. ”

  He ran his hands over her soft curves and rubbed her back until she was loose and relaxed against him.

  “Not bad. I’m sure it’s crazy for you. You need people for that, but they need to be people you trust. ”

  “It’s hard. I don’t trust anyone. I don’t expect people to be trustworthy. I never really thought about it before you said something about it, but I suppose it really is a shitty way to live. After a while you just accept that things are the way they are and you just go with it. ”

  “You can change that, Lyric. People will only do what you allow them to do. It’s okay to push back. It’s okay to expect more from the people around you. That doesn’t make you unreasonable. It makes you smart. ”

  “No one’s ever accused me of being smart,” she said dryly.

  “Then they’re morons. ”

  She pushed away again so she could look into his eyes. She raised her hand to cup his jaw and she stroked over his face with featherlight fingers. “I hated you when we first met. I could see the disapproval in your eyes and it pissed me off. It made me mad that it mattered to me what you thought. ”

  He grimaced but she shushed him with a finger to his lips.

  “I’m glad Phillip hired you. I’m woman enough to admit I was wrong about you. I’m glad you’re here,” she finished softly.

  He kissed her finger, then sucked it into his mouth and nibbled delicately at the tip.

  “I’m glad I’m here too. ”

  “Think the chef has any more of those cupcakes?” she asked wistfully.

  He grinned as realization hit her. “To eat!” she protested. “I want them to eat!”

  “Nobody says you can’t eat them,” he said silkily. “I don’t know about you, but my mama never said anything about not playing with my food. ”

  She laughed, and the sound was vibrant and alive in his ears. It made him want to do all sorts of mushy stuff that he’d give other men shit over. But with her it just felt right.

  She shifted and he was afraid at first that she was going to move back to her seat. But she settled down against his chest and he wrapped his arms around her again and cradled her.

  She gave a soft little sigh that told him she was as contented as he was. He smiled to himself and nuzzled his face into her hair.

  CHAPTER 21

  Lyric was sitting in the kitchen with Connor eating a cupcake when Kane stalked into the kitchen, a grim expression in his face. Her heart sank. What could it be now? She tensed, ready to go on the offensive.

  Connor simply placed his hand over hers, a gesture that calmed her considerably.

  “Your manager is here and demands to see you,” Kane said. “Want me to get rid of him?”

  He said it in such a way that sent chills down Lyric’s spine. She could envision Kane stuffing him into a trunk and disposing of his body. He looked serious enough to actually be contemplating it.

  She sighed. “No. Let him come up. I need to deal with this. ”

  Connor frowned, but this time it was she who put her hand over his.

  “I’m coming with you,” Connor muttered. “That son of a bitch better be respectful or I’m going to take him apart. ”

  Lyric smiled and stood. “I can take care of myself, though I appreciate the sentiment. ”

  Still, Connor followed her into the living room, where they waited as Kane disappeared outside the house. A few moments later, Kane returned, walking ahead of two of his men.

  Paul was held between the two bodyguards and he was steaming mad. His face was red and puffed up with visible anger. When the two men flanking him finally let him go, he shook and then lunged away from them, rubbing his arm as he glared at the offenders.

  “Lyric, what the hell is going on here?” he demanded. “This is completely unacceptable! Who are these men to tell me what I can or can’t do? They manhandled me! I’m going to sue!”

  Lyric rolled her eyes, then crossed her arms over her chest and stared at the man who’d controlled the better part of her life for the past several years.

  “You’re fired, Paul. ”

  Her calm words had the effect of a gunshot. Paul recoiled and his mouth fell open. It worked up and down but nothing came out for several long seconds. Then he exploded.

  “Fired? Fired? You can’t fire me. ”

  “The hell she can’t,” Connor shot back.

  Again she put a hand on Connor’s arm. He quieted and stepped back to allow her to continue.

  Maybe it was the calm in her eyes or her demeanor. Paul went from furious to placating and pleading in a nanosecond.

  “You can’t fire me, Lyric. You owe me. I put you on the map. We’re a team, you and me. Look, I’m sorry for the things I said, but you know I was just looking out for you. I want what’s best for you. ”

  Lyric glanced at Connor and smiled. He winked, and she drew strength from that small gesture. Connor was right. He was absolutely right and she’d never seen it until he pushed.

  She turned back to Paul. “I don’t owe you anything. I paid you for services rendered. That’s the only compensation I owed you. From this point forward our relationship is severed. You won’t be allowed access to me in the future. If you have anything at all to say, you can contact Phillip or my lawyer. ”

  Paul’s shock turned to ugly, black fury. He took a step forward and pointed a finger close to her face. “You won’t get away with this, Lyric. I know too much about you. I’ll bury you. ”

  Connor and Kane both stepped in front of Lyric. The two security men took hold of Paul’s arms. Connor waved them off.

  “Let me give you a piece of advice,” Connor bit out. “Don’t threaten Lyric ever. There isn’t a place on this earth you can hide from me. ”

  “Or me,” Kane interjected.

  “If you do anything, if you say anything, with the intent of damaging Lyric’s career, her reputation or her personally, I’ll hunt you down and I’ll take you apart piece by piece. ”

  “You’re threatening me!”

  “You’re damn right, I am. And if you think I’m just blowing smoke up your ass, I invite you to try me. I’m not much on words but I sure as hell will kick your sorry ass if you utter so much as a peep. You got me?”

  Paul’s face lost color. His eyes darted back and forth between Kane and Connor and he sagged like a deflated balloon.

  “Get him out of here,” Connor ordered.

  Lyric watched as Paul was hauled out of the living room. She felt an odd sense of elation. As if she’d lost the ten pounds that Paul had complained about. She felt ridiculously light and freaking giddy.

  She smiled broadly as Connor and Kane both turned their attention back to her.

  “I don’t suppose either of you know of a good manager, do you?”

  Kane actually cracked a smile. She was surprised his face didn’t crumble with the effort. Connor slipped an arm around her and hugged her to him.

  “I’m proud of you for taking a s
tand, Lyric. The bastard needed his ass kicked. ”

  “Would you really hunt him down?” she asked curiously.

  Connor frowned. “Hell yeah. ”

  “Thank you,” she said as her grin got bigger. She turned to include Kane. “Thank you both. ”

  “I can make his life miserable for him if you want,” Kane offered.

  “You’re not even joking, are you,” Lyric muttered.

  “Nope. I don’t have a sense of humor. ”

  At that, Lyric chuckled.

  Her cell phone went off and she sighed. “The man works fast. He must have speed-dialed Phillip on his way out the door. ”

  “So don’t answer,” Connor said.

  Lyric stared down at the phone in her hand. Then she looked back up and grinned. “Anyone up for another cupcake?”

  “Did he make chocolate?” Kane asked in a hopeful voice.

  CHAPTER 22

  Three cupcakes and four missed calls later, Lyric licked the last of the frosting from her fingers and sighed in satisfaction.

  Her phone went off again and she lifted an eyebrow at it. “He’s persistent, isn’t he?”

  Connor grunted.

  “I’m surprised he hasn’t called you. ”

  Connor held up his phone and flashed her the screen that said he had as many missed calls.

  “Ha-ha! You turned your ringer off. Smart guy. ”

  “He’s probably calling to fire me,” Connor said wryly. “He probably thinks I’m a bad influence on you. But if I don’t answer the phone, he can’t very well fire me, right?”

  She snorted. “You, a bad influence on me?”

  “Yeah, I know, right? How ridiculous is that? Everyone knows you’re the miscreant here. Not me. ”

  He looked so damn innocent saying it that she had to laugh.

  “I bet you got away with murder as a child. ”

  He shook his head. “Nope. Pop would have kicked my ass. ”

  “And your mom?”

  He grimaced. “She and Pop split up when I was young. ”

  “Oh. Sorry to hear that. ”

  “Shit happens. ”

  “Yeah,” she said softly.

  “Connor, I need a minute when you get a chance,” Kane said. “Just got a report we need to run over. ”

  Lyric’s brow creased as she looked between the men. “Report?”

  “Yeah. We’ve been running background checks, criminal histories, stuff like that on all the people who work with you or have access to you. ”

  “And?” she prompted.

  Kane shrugged. “Don’t know yet. Just got the e-mail on my BlackBerry. I’ll need to log on to a computer and print it out. Connor and I can split it up and look over it. This will probably take a while so if you need anything, let one of my men know. ”

  That was it. He wasn’t sharing anything further. It frustrated her on one hand, but there was a part of her that didn’t want to know if someone close to her was fucking with her. She didn’t trust anyone, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t be pissed that someone she’d allowed into her circle had betrayed her.

  But shouldn’t she know these things? Shouldn’t she be aware of any potential threat that existed?

  Connor stood and then laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “We’ll let you know as soon as we’ve gone through all the information. I won’t keep anything from you. You have my word. ”

  She nodded. “I think I’ll go for a swim. Is that allowed?” She looked innocently at Kane as she asked.

  “You’re safe here. My men will be watching. Go take your swim. ”

  Making sure she hid the mischief she knew was brewing in her eyes, she sidestepped Connor and headed for the stairs. “Y’all have fun going through your reports. ”

  As she bopped up the stairs it occurred to her that she actually felt . . . happy. Not in a disgusting “Zip a Dee Doo Dah” way. She wouldn’t be busting out the sunshine songs or anything. But she felt relieved, happy and a little excited all at the same time.

  She felt strong. Empowered. A little more in control of her own destiny. It shamed her to realize just how much she’d allowed to go on around her. She literally bounced from person to person, always allowing others to control the puppet strings. She performed. She did what she was told. She ate was she was told to eat. She exercised when she was told to exercise. She smiled when someone said smile. She performed like a windup doll.

  And she’d been perfectly miserable the whole time. Angry and miserable.

  She’d embraced such an existence because she truly felt it was what she deserved. But was it really?

  She shook her head, unwilling to mar what was shaping up to be a perfect day with dark memories. She didn’t want to go there. She didn’t want to think about things she couldn’t change.

  What she wanted to do was enjoy a swim and maybe tweak Connor in the process. He’d probably be pissed, but the impish demon inside her simply couldn’t resist the desire to needle him.

 
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