Treat me, p.22
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       Treat Me, p.22

         Part #8 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
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  couldn’t force himself to be that for him. Not now. He was sure Owen was feeling lost without the ever-present Kellen at his side, but Shade had his own shit to deal with. Or not deal with. Whatever.

  Shade tried sorting through his thoughts while he feigned sleep and Owen played some loud shooter game on a handheld device. No matter which rabbit hole he went down trying to figure out how Amanda’s feelings for him could do a one-eighty in less than an hour, he could only come to one conclusion: she’d finally figured out that he wasn’t good enough for her.

  His conclusion was as depressing as it was infuriating.

  So much for catching some much-needed sleep.

  By the time the plane landed in New Orleans, he was ready to get back to the life he understood. The life he lived for. Life on the road.

  It wasn’t hard to compartmentalize when his home life and his professional life were completely different. Here with his band he was Shade—badass egomaniac with the world at his feet. If not for Julie, he’d never leave this part of his life behind. This part of his life came easy. It made sense to him. If someone insulted him or tried to hurt him, he brushed it off. He was untouchable. Unreachable. He didn’t give a fuck.

  But he’d allowed himself to be vulnerable with Amanda. Let himself be Jacob—the sensitive, weak idiot he resented now more than ever. From now on, Shade would let that guy out for Julie and only Julie, but he’d never allow another woman see the Jacob part of him again. Jacob got his heart broken too easily. Shade didn’t have time for heartache. Or for love.

  “Adam has our room keys,” Owen said when they exited the limo. Shade had almost forgotten Owen was even there.

  “Okay, cool,” Shade said. He tossed his bag over his shoulder and strode confidently into the hotel lobby.

  Several women—and a couple of men—stopped what they were doing to gawk. He was used to people staring. He wore his confidence like a Kevlar vest. It had taken a few hits courtesy of one pretty schoolteacher from Austin, Texas, but he’d get over it. Hell, he was already over it. Over her. Fuck her. He didn’t need her. He was much better off without her.

  Liar, a little voice whispered to him.

  He and Owen were directed to Adam’s room by a gushing hotel clerk at the front desk. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t stop talking. It’s you, it’s really you. I saw Adam Taylor and Force Banner go through the lobby a couple of times this weekend. But Shade Silverton?” She fanned her flushed face with both hands.

  “And Tags,” Owen said, shaking the dog tags around his neck at her.

  She spared Owen a sideways glance before focusing on Shade again. “This is totally unprofessional of me, but could I get a picture with you?”

  “Now?” Shade asked. “I’m in a hurry.”

  He couldn’t help but chuckle when instead of going through the back and circling around the chest-high reception counter, the woman hiked up her uniform skirt and climbed over the top so as not to inconvenience him. Owen rescued her from falling flat on her face.

  She thanked Owen briefly before plastering herself to Shade’s side and holding her smartphone in front of them. Shade put on his fan-friendly face and waited for her to snap several pictures. But she eventually handed the device to Owen because she couldn’t get a clear shot to come out.

  “And one with you too,” she said to Owen. Apparently his dejected-puppy look had finally gotten through to her.

  After she was satisfied with her photos and had forced Shade to give her an inappropriately long hug, which involved more than one hand on his ass, she allowed him to escape. Owen trudged after him.

  “Always an afterthought when I’m with you,” Owen grumbled as they waited for the elevator.

  “Can I help it that I’m cooler than you are?” Shade teased.

  “Apparently you’re also hotter than I am.”

  “Ah . . . well, hot gets you burned. And everyone actually likes lukewarm; lukewarm is comfortable.” Shade hadn’t meant it as an insult—Owen was easy to like—but the guy apparently took it the wrong way.

  “Fuck you,” he said before pushing his way past Shade to get on the elevator.

  “So how was your weekend?” Shade asked Owen as he followed. Though still sleep deprived, he was feeling slightly more personable now that he was back in his element. And he really did care about Owen’s problems. Somewhat.

  “It sucked giant monkey balls,” he said.

  “I saw giant monkey balls this weekend,” Shade said.

  “Huh?”

  He grinned at Owen’s flabbergasted expression. “Took Julie to the zoo.”

  Owen smiled. He loved kids—especially Julie—and dogs, of course. “I bet she enjoyed that. Did you see Amanda?”

  “Not really,” he lied. He didn’t want to talk about Amanda. Not now, not ever. Fuck her.

  “That would explain why you’re so cranky.”

  Adam answered their summons at his suite door with a dark expression and an even darker disposition. Shade hadn’t seen this side of Adam in over a year. He couldn’t help but wonder if he was using drugs again. Because that was what Adam did when his life turned to shit. He wrote deep, soulful metal music and got high out of his fucking mind.

  “You okay?” Shade asked him.

  “Never better,” Adam said flatly. He handed Owen a keycard and another to Shade. “Gabe’s woman took your spare key last night. So you might not want to barge in there without calling first.”

  “Why are they in my room?”

  “Like I give a fuck.” He closed the door in Shade’s face.

  “What was that all about?” Shade asked Owen. And why the fuck would Gabe and Melanie be in his room? Maybe it had something to do with Nikki inviting herself along for their romantic weekend. Perhaps they’d needed a little privacy from the mistress of cling.

  “No clue. Maybe he had a weekend that sucked giant monkey balls too.”

  “Some monkeys have all the luck.”

  Owen snorted and then laughed. “It’s good to be back.”

  “You never did say why your weekend sucked,” Shade said as he fished his phone out of his pocket so he could call Gabe and alert him to his arrival. He tried not to let his heart sink when he found Amanda hadn’t called to tell him she’d made a terrible mistake, but the stupid organ was apparently still hung up on the woman. Apparently his heart was just as dumb as his brain was.

  “Not all of it,” Owen said and slapped Shade on the back. “I’m gonna catch a nap. Didn’t get much sleep last night.”

  And before Shade could ask why Owen had missed out on sleep, the guy had opened his suite door and disappeared inside.

  Gabe sounded mostly asleep himself when he answered Shade’s call. Shade could only think of one reason why Gabe would still be in bed with Melanie at noon.

  “Can you vacate my room now?” Shade asked. “Adam said he gave my spare key to your girlfriend. Why are you guys in my room? Did you break another set of box springs?” At least someone was having a great morning.

  “I’m not with her,” Gabe said flatly. “She’s in your room, and I’m in my room.”

  “Oh,” Shade said, rubbing the side of his nose. “What’s going on?”

  “Shit. Lots of fucked-up shit.”

  That monkey with the giant pair must have the cleanest, most delighted pair of nuts ever conceived.

  “Sounds like the morning I’m having.” Or rather, the life he was having.

  They agreed to approach the suite together—safety in numbers—and a moment later Gabe entered the corridor from his suite. He’d never looked worse. Both eyes were bloodshot and encircled by dark bruises. His crimson mohawk was flat and drooping. Hell, even the dragons tattooed on his scalp looked weary.

  “What the hell happened to your face?” Shade asked, wincing at a pair of what had to be painful shiners.

  “I bounced it off some guy’s knuckles a couple dozen times,” Gabe grumbled. “Good times.”

  Gabe pointed at Shade
’s forehead. “And what happened to you?”

  Shade hadn’t even noticed the dull pain of the bruise on his head until Gabe pointed it out. The ache in his chest had been a far greater distraction. “Ex-wife,” Shade said vaguely.

  Gabe sneered. He’d never been a fan of Tina. “Bitch.”

  “Ball-buster.”

  Gabe’s sour expression brightened as he poked Shade’s bruise and sent a sharp pain through his skull. “Head-buster.”

  Gabe grinned, and Shade couldn’t help but smile back. Gabe was one of the few people who saw through Shade’s façade and yet didn’t give him grief about the softness hidden beneath his hardened outer shell. He wasn’t exactly vulnerable around Gabe—not the way he had been with Amanda—but he was more genuine. He let his guard down. But Gabe had never betrayed him.

  Shade wasn’t sure which of them needed their back-pounding bro hug more as they crashed into each other and offered the manliest physical comfort possible. He actually felt a little better by the time Gabe opened the suite door with Shade’s keycard.

  Melanie and her very bendy friend Nikki were curled up together on the bed all sleep-tousled and feminine. Nikki’s hand was cupped possessively over Melanie’s breast, her beautiful face pressed into her bedmate’s neck. Shade didn’t know why lesbian lovers were such a turn-on to him, but he was definitely a fan.

  “Well, what do we have here?” Shade asked with a crooked grin. This was a sandwich any man would want to be the filling in. Why exactly had Gabe defected to another room?

  Melanie’s eyes blinked open, and her intense dislike for him bubbled to the surface before she’d even taken a breath. “What are you doing in here?” she growled at him. “Get out!”

  Shade was not in the mood for her sass. “This is my room. You get out!”

  Nikki was more agreeable. She untangled herself from Melanie and stretched her arms over her head, showing off a strip of flat tanned belly at the hem of her tank top. “I guess I got to spend the night in Shade’s bed after all,” she said with a flirty smile.

  And maybe Shade would have been better off with Nikki—or someone like her—in his bed. He’d have gotten his rocks off without the complications that came with emotional attachment. But even though Amanda had shredded his heart, he didn’t regret a single moment he’d spent with her. He had loved her. Still loved her.

  Maybe she’d change her mind about him. Would it be better to pressure her or give her time and space?

  What was he thinking? She’d made it perfectly clear that she wasn’t interested.

  Oh hell, he didn’t know. When it came to women, he’d never had this problem before. He was usually the one pushing them away, not the other way around. And he knew how fucking annoying it was for him when a woman he didn’t want keep pestering him. It made him dislike her even more. How would he feel if he went after Amanda and her hated grew? Could he tolerate that?

  Shade shook his head to clear it.

  He didn’t need Amanda in his life. He would not swallow his pride and go after her. Fuck her.

  He turned his attention to the undercurrent of drama in the room. Nikki seemed her regular chipper self, but Melanie was definitely out of sorts. Gabe seemed shocked by Nikki’s cheer. A bit puzzled himself, Shade couldn’t help but stare at the dark bruises on Nikki’s throat as she took Gabe’s keycard, patted him on the butt, and left to return to Gabe’s suite to get dressed.

  “So what the hell happened?” Shade asked. “Owen said you two returned early from Austin, and there’s obviously something going on with Nikki.”

  “I shouldn’t have left her by herself,” Melanie said, dragging a sheet from the bed to wrap around herself. She was wearing a nightgown, and it wasn’t as if Shade had never seen a woman in her nightgown before, but the cover seemed to offer some comfort.

  “She hooked up with the wrong guy,” Gabe said. “An MMA fighter who wouldn’t take no for an answer. I tried to kick his ass, but…” He shrugged and pointed to his blackened eyes.

  “He did that to her neck?” Shade asked.

  “Not just her neck,” Gabe said.

  “He fucking raped her!” Melanie shouted. “And no one was here to help her. She was all alone, lost in an unfamiliar city, broken and bruised.”

  “Mel, you can’t blame yourself for what happened to Nikki,” Gabe said, pulling her into his arms.

  Shade half expected her to pull away, but she didn’t. She melted into him and clung to his waist.

  “Then who am I supposed to blame?”

  “The fucking prick who hurt her.”

  “I wish she would press charges against him,” Melanie said. “How could she let him walk?”

  “I think she wants to forget it ever happened,” Gabe said.

  “Or she thinks she deserved it,” Shade said. He’d spent enough time with Nikki to know how her mind worked. She had a victim mentality and until she figured out that she was in control of her destiny, life would continue to just happen to her.

  “How can you say that? You’re such an asshole,” Melanie said. She shoved off Gabe’s chest so she could flee Shade’s odious presence.

  “You really do bring out the worst in women,” Gabe said, shaking his head at Shade before he followed Melanie out of the suite and shut the door with a loud bang.

  Shade had to agree with him. He’d turned Tina into a bitter bitch and Amanda into a heartless shrew. They’d both been perfectly wonderful women until they’d tangled with him.

  Still fully clothed, he collapsed on the crumpled bed and at long last found the sleep that had eluded him. He felt almost human when he woke several hours later. It was still light out—so he wasn’t late for the show—and soon he realized that it was his rumbling stomach that had woken him. When had he last eaten? Sometime the day before. When he’d grilled burgers and brats for Julie and Amanda, he realized. Thinking of that happy time felt surreal. Had his world really been perfect just yesterday? He felt like he’d lost her a lifetime ago.

  Shoving thoughts of Amanda aside—seriously, fuck her—he ordered room service and jumped into the shower while he waited for his food to arrive.

  As water cascaded over his head and dripped from his jaw and the tip of his nose, he closed his eyes and tried to chase thoughts of Amanda from his head again. He didn’t want to think about her or picture her floating topless in his pool. He sure as hell didn’t want to continue to lust after her. He’d heard that absence made the heart grow fonder, but he was sure his dick would soon have other ideas. His need for her would diminish with time. Hopefully, real soon. How could he live with a huge achy hole in his chest where his heart had once beat strong and proud?

  He was slipping into his leather pants when a knock sounded on the door. “Room service,” a woman called from the corridor.

  He tucked his dick against his thigh, careful not to catch his bare skin as he zipped his fly, and went to the door shirtless. The young woman’s friendly smile was immediately replaced by slack-jawed gawking as her gaze roamed his exposed flesh. The dishes on the tray she carried rattled as she slumped against the door frame.

  Her eyes lifted to meet his gaze, and he realized he wasn’t wearing his sunglasses. He quickly turned to remedy that oversight and swore the woman gasped the second his backside came into view. Normally he’d have used her obvious attraction to him to his advantage—he was confident that getting the raven-haired beauty naked between the sheets wouldn’t have been a challenge—but he honestly wasn’t in the mood.

  “Just set it on the desk,” he said, sliding his shades into place and reaching for his wallet to offer the server a tip. It was apparent that she wanted more than a twenty when her hand touched the small of his back.

  “If you’d like some company, it’s time for my dinner break,” she said.

  Would he like some company? The image of Amanda laughing while sitting across the table from him entered his thoughts. That was the kind of company he wanted—the easy camaraderie and inside jokes,
the warmth that glowed in his chest from being with her, and the knowledge that she liked him for himself and not because he was famous. But he’d been so wrong. So, so wrong. She didn’t like him. She had never loved him. She thought he was stupid, and he must be if he thought what they’d had could have amounted to anything. He’d never share those simple moments with her again. So maybe losing himself between the thighs of some other woman—one who would never matter to him—would soothe the ache in his chest that was suddenly climbing his throat and making his eyes sting.

  Shade turned, took the young woman by the upper arms, and gazed into her eyes. Her breath caught and her body immediately went soft and submissive.

  He could practically hear her thoughts. Oh God, this is going to happen. I’m going to fuck Shade Silverton. I can’t wait to tell all my friends and my future grandchildren. It was obvious she knew who he was and that was why she was offering herself as company.

  He turned her toward the door and gave her a little shove so that she couldn’t mistake his disinterest. “Show yourself out,” he said, his voice taking on an authoritative edge. “And put out the Do Not Disturb sign. I’m not in the mood to be bothered by the help.”

  She practically sprinted to the door, and just before she slammed it, she shouted, “You’re an asshole.”

 
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