Sweet possession, p.6
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       Sweet Possession, p.6

         Part #5 of Sweet series by Maya Banks
Page 6


  The elevator doors opened but that didn’t relieve the tightness in her chest. She stood helpless against the wall, unable to make her legs cooperate.

  Black spots danced in front of her eyes and the world seemed to get smaller and dimmer with each passing second.

  Connor yanked her from the elevator and she found herself plopped onto one of the leather couches in the small sitting area on her floor.

  “Breathe, Lyric. Look at me. ”

  When she didn’t immediately do as he’d demanded, he coaxed her chin upward with gentle fingers. “Look at me,” he said again. “That’s it. Focus. Now breathe with me. Just like this. ”

  She watched as he inhaled deeply and then exhaled in one smooth motion.

  “Think about what you’re doing. Watch me. Do what I do. I won’t let anything hurt you. You can trust me. ”

  If she could manage the breath, she’d laugh. Trust him? He had no idea what he was asking. Trust was as foreign to her as the things most people took for granted. Love. Friendship. Companionship.

  His fingers stroked soothingly over her cheek and it was all she could do not to lean into his touch and rub like a cat. It shocked her how good it felt to be comforted, to be touched by someone who didn’t want something from her she wasn’t willing to give.

  She sighed and closed her eyes as some of the awful pressure in her chest eased. She could literally feel her lungs open up and shudder with relief as fresh air rushed in.

  Her hands shook and her knees were so wobbly she’d never make it down the hall to her room. How humiliating to fall apart all because she was faced with the prospect of sharing her space with Connor Malone. Wouldn’t the tabloids have a field day with this? Superstar suffers panic attack and passes out in hotel elevator.

  “Where’s your room key?” Connor asked quietly.

  Her fingers trembled so much she nearly dumped her clutch on her feet.

  He took the purse, and, after a moment of digging, he flashed the room card. He handed her back the bag. “We need to get you to your room. Can you make it if I help you?”

  She nodded, furious with herself for allowing this to happen. Embarrassed. Gutted for making such an idiot of herself.

  Gritting her teeth, she clutched at his arm as she rose from the couch.

  “What room number?”

  “All the way to the end,” she whispered. “Last one on the left. ”

  “Okay, take it nice and slow. Hold on to my arm and don’t get in a hurry. ”

  With each step, she regained more of her strength and some of the panic abated. By the time they reached her room, her knees had stopped shaking. Connor slid the card into the slot and opened her door. A rush of cool air blasted her in the face and gave her a much-needed shock.

  “Christ, it’s like a meat locker in here,” Connor said as he ushered her inside.

  “I like sleeping in the cold,” she mumbled. “With the covers up to my ears. ”

  Connor sat her on the edge of the bed. “Do you have anything to drink in here?”

  “There’s water in the fridge. ”

  “You need something a little stronger than water. ”

  “I don’t drink,” she said defensively. “No matter what you might read about me. ”

  “I wasn’t suggesting alcohol,” he said dryly. “If anyone will be drinking, it’ll be me. I was thinking more along the lines of something with caffeine in it for you. ”

  “Caffeine makes me jittery and I don’t sleep well. ”

  He went over to the fridge and returned with a bottle of cold water. He opened it and shoved it toward her. “Drink. ”

  She sipped at the refreshing liquid and took in several steadying breaths. “I’m fine now. Really. I’m sorry. I feel like an idiot for losing it like that. ”

  He sat beside her on the bed and was silent for a long moment. He seemed to be studying her—or the issue—she wasn’t sure which. The idea of him analyzing her made her twitch. Enough shrinks had done that to last her a lifetime.

  “Why did you lose it, Lyric?”

  She frowned. She hadn’t expected him to be so . . . blunt. Most people danced around her. The few times she’d ever had a panic attack in front of someone else, they’d pretended it didn’t happen, and she was more than happy to do the same.

  He cocked his head sideways, and she could feel his gaze boring into her. Lifting and peeling back layers that she was helpless to defend against.

  “Does my being in your room scare you that badly?” he asked softly.

  Her nostrils flared and it was on the tip of her tongue to deny that anything scared her. But that would be pretty stupid, and Connor Malone wasn’t stupid.

  “I’ll deal,” she said. “I won’t like it. I doubt you’ll like it. But I get it. My record label thinks I’m in danger and they hired you to babysit me. I’m not the idiot you think I am. I have no desire to die at the hands of some lunatic. Or be kidnapped and forced to live in a basement somewhere as a sex slave. ”

  Connor let out a chuckle. “You have a vivid imagination. That’s good. The more hideous a fate you can imagine if this guy gets his hands on you, the easier you’ll make my job because you’ll stick like glue to me. ”

  She turned so that their gazes met. “I thought you were supposed to stick to me like glue. ”

  “That too. If we stick to each other, then we won’t have to worry, now, will we?”

  Coming from him, in his sexier-than-sin voice, the innocent words sounded like seduction. She’d never been wooed and seduced in her life and damn if he didn’t make her want to be.

  She’d be willing to bet he was one of those rare males who took his time with his lover. Coaxing, pleasuring. Unselfish. She’d bet money he’d give a woman complete and total satisfaction.

  Chill bumps danced down her arms, raising the tiny hairs on her skin. She could feel the heat radiating off him and it made her want to burrow against his broad chest and absorb him.

  What would it be like to lie in his arms? To have him hold her. Nothing else. Just . . . be.

  It was a ridiculous fantasy given the fact she didn’t want to be that close to anyone. The only thing worse than being alone was being one-on-one. Allowing someone to see inside her. To see the truth.

  Connor stood, shaking her from her reverie. “You were right about this room. It’s barely bigger than a closet. I wouldn’t have thought you’d be caught dead in anything smaller than a suite. You have so much stuff stacked up in here that you can barely take a piss in the toilet. ”

  She smiled faintly. “I was supposed to be here for two weeks. I need my stuff. I didn’t bring my tour bus and I don’t have anywhere else to put everything. I gave my crew time off. I’m doing the show with a skeleton band. It’s just a few songs. The rodeo isn’t a full concert and they do the stage. ”

  “It’s going to be a bitch to move all this stuff,” Connor muttered.

  She looked up sharply. “Why are we moving it? Why did you tell the clerk I was checking out tomorrow?”

  “Because you are. ”

  She raised her hands in exasperation. “But why? Where am I going?”

  “Someplace safe. No one but Phillip will know and the only reason he will is because he’s making the arrangements. ”

  She frowned. “But that’s ridiculous. I can’t just fall off the face of the earth. I have things to do. ”

  He leaned against a stack of luggage and eyed her. “Like?”

  “I don’t know. Yet. But I’ll need Trent and R. J. You’ll need them too. They’ve been my personal bodyguards since I began touring. ”

  “Bodyguards or fuck-buddies?”

  She flushed and looked away, and then it infuriated her that she allowed him to shame her.

  “If they’re fucking me, then someone else can hardly hurt me,” she taunted.

  “If they’re fucking you, they aren’t doing their job,” he said through tight lips. “Their
first and only priority is your safety. If they’re focused on you and the next time they can get in your pants, they aren’t watching what’s going on around them. ”

  She didn’t want to acknowledge that he had a point. Trent and R. J. weren’t around for their security skills. She didn’t even know if they had any prior experience before coming to work for her. They were glorified male prostitutes and the truth of it hit her like a punch to the face.

  She paid them. They slept with her—or at least they used to. She wasn’t about to admit to Connor that she hadn’t had sex with them for the last few shows because it would seem too much like she wanted his approval.

  Oh, it wasn’t as if she’d hired them for the purpose of sex, but it had dissolved into that and nothing more, so really what were they if not prostitutes?

  Nausea swirled in her stomach. When had her life become such a sad mess? When had she become so desperate not to be alone that she paid people to surround her? And then anyone who got too close was quickly shoved as far away from her as possible.

  “I can’t fire them. They have a contract,” she said in a low voice.

  “They can have their duties reassigned,” Connor said with a shrug. “I don’t give a shit whether you pay them or not. But they aren’t going to be trusted with your safety. ”

  She closed her eyes, aware of the headache that was intensifying rapidly. She was tired. She hadn’t lied when she’d said she hadn’t slept the night before, and it wasn’t for the reason she’d led Connor to believe.

  She’d lain awake in this very room, like she did so many other nights, afraid of monsters from her past, afraid to turn out the lights because she was alone.

  Giving her crew vacation time had been a necessity. They were as burned out as she was. But right now, she’d sell her soul to have them with her, surrounding her, to lose herself in the noise and chaos of so many people.

  But no, she’d sworn to herself that the next two weeks were going to be a test of her mettle. She was going to step out and face her fears. Even if it killed her.

  Only now, if Connor was telling her the truth, someone might do the job for her.

  “I’m really just supposed to step back and let you take over. ”

  It wasn’t a question and she didn’t phrase it as such. It was more of a resigned statement that she already knew the answer to.

  “That’s exactly what you’re going to do,” he said. He didn’t even attempt to soothe her and offer platitudes. But then, that would have shocked her, and strangely, it would have disappointed her.

  She swept out her hand to the piles of luggage and boxes. “Where do you propose to sleep tonight?”

  He studied her for a long moment. “That depends. If it won’t frighten you, we can sleep on the bed. You under the covers. Me on top of the covers. We can put pillows between us. If that idea scares you, I’ll make do on the floor. ”

  She managed a smile although her heart started thudding painfully as adrenaline spiked through her veins. “I thought you didn’t do floors. ”

  “For you I’ll make an exception. ”

  She cocked her head. “You don’t worry about boundaries much, do you? I mean, most people would never dare to push like you have. I can’t decide if you’re really stupid or just plain ballsy. ”

  He shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter as long as I do my job. ”

  She glanced at the bed, judging how much of it Connor would take up. It was a king bed stuffed into a really small room and Connor was a really big man. He’d need at least half the bed, and then the pillows would take up a fourth, which left her with the remaining fourth.

  Or she could just make him sleep on the floor.

  All she had to do was say the word, but she couldn’t bring herself to tell him she was afraid.

  “You can sleep on the bed,” she said before she changed her mind.

  “Lyric. ”

  She looked back up at him and saw something other than scorn or irritation in his eyes.

  “I won’t hurt you. ”

  She nodded and a hundred butterflies were released into her belly.

  He surveyed the room again with a grimace. “I had planned to hole up in your room for the afternoon, but I think we’ll both go crazy if we have to spend too much time here. It’s probably not your speed, but I thought I’d take you over to see some friends. I don’t want you out in public. You’re going to keep an extremely low profile for the next little while. ”

  “Not my speed?” she murmured.

  He shrugged. “We get together, have some beer and shoot the shit. You met them all today—or most of them. ”

  It actually sounded fun and she felt a twist of jealousy that he had friends—good friends—that he kicked back with.

  “I’ll go. ”

  He raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to behave. Micah, Gray and Nathan are all very attached. To women I care a lot about. I don’t want you upsetting them. ”

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