Falling Down Excerpt

Prologue

Lucy

Our flight’s delayed which isn’t a surprise. Thank God for iPhones and headsets or I’d have to endure the incessant chatter of Regina Russo. Yeah, that’s my mom. The chatterbox who is now talking my brother’s ear off. The difference between Joey and me is he likes to talk as much as my mom. I’d much rather enjoy solitude.

Sera and I are listening to a random playlist on Spotify. She chose the Today’s Top Hits playlist which is okay, but I’m not into a lot of the rap-type music whereas Sera loves it. It beats out listening to Regina any day.

Sera taps my shoulder and I pull one earbud out.

“Stuck in Chicago, of all places.”

“Could be worse. We could be stuck in Kansas.”

“Or Texas.”

“Truth. Let’s go get something to drink and see if maybe they have some decent magazines with His Sexiness in the gift shop.”

Sera snorts. “His Sexiness.”

“What? He is.”

“He’s alright. His brother’s seriously hot too.”

“Oh yeah. Mom, we’ll be right back.”

“Don’t be too long. I have a feeling we’re going to be up in the air soon.”

“We won’t.”

We head through the concourse of Chicago’s O’Hare International airport. Tons of people are traveling today. I wonder if it’s like this every day or if Thursdays are busier than most.

“Ugh,” Sera says. “If I get bumped one more time I’m going to throat punch someone, I swear. It’s so rude. I mean, how hard is to walk around someone instead of into them?”

“Swap,” I say, tugging her to the right so she can walk along the wall.

I’m not a fan of being bumped into, but I don’t have a hair-trigger temper like Sera. Let me tell you a little about Serafina Manzini. Her mom, Marina, was my dad’s sister. She was a Russo. Tommy Manzini married a Russo which caused some major feuding. Mr. Manzini refused to get involved in his brother’s “family business.” Who could blame him? Who wants to get involved with the freaking Chicago mafia? Hell to the no thank you. Well, his brother didn’t take too kindly to being told no and after multiple threats and multiple “fuck you’s” from Sera’s dad, they killed Sera’s parents execution style. When the hit was carried out Sera was on vacation with us which is the only reason she’s still alive. Now, she’s protected under my family as our grandpa Giovanni and my uncle Emilio are involved in the “Family business”. We aren’t directly involved in any of that crap. My grandpa respects my dad’s decision to go legit and raise us outside the rules of the mafia which I am thankful for every day—though we will never be one-hundred percent outside. That’s just not possible. I’ve seen my cousins Nico and Bella both with guns tucked in the waistband of their pants and I’ve been told they can hit moving targets better than some of their most seasoned veterans. Bella can’t participate, being a girl and all, but that doesn’t stop her from trying. Not something I’d want to participate in. This was going to be the life for Sera had her uncle succeeded.

Oh, and just so you know, my grandpa “took care of” those who killed Sera’s family. I shouldn’t be happy about that as revenge doesn’t solve anything, but now those thugs won’t be able to do that to anyone else. Go gramps! (He’d have a fit if I ever called him gramps to his face.)

Now, you’re probably wondering what that has to do with Sera’s temper. Well, before her family was killed, Sera was bubbly and fun. She was always positive but with the loss of her family, she’s become bitter, angry, and, at times, hostile. She just has no patience for anyone’s bullshit anymore—her words, not mine. So, you can imagine after she’s been bumped into five or six times how she’d react. It wouldn’t be pretty. It’d range from yelling and swearing to possibly punching someone in the face and, as she mentioned, throat punching someone. Well, let’s just say it would have been ugly.

“Oh! Starbucks!”

“Hell yeah,” Sera says following behind me.

“What do you want? My treat.”

“Caramel macchiato, Venti, triple shot.”

I raise my eyebrows. “You’re going to be hyped on the plane.”

“All the better for playing Candy Crush.”

“Oh my God. You and that dumb game.”

She flips her long brown hair over her shoulder. “Whatever. You only think it’s dumb because you can’t get past level 96.”

“Suck it.”

“If you had something to suck…” She breaks off with a shrug and a smirk as we step up to the counter to order.

I order Sera’s large cup of caffeine and for myself I order an Americano with vanilla syrup, extra sweet, with two creams.

As we wait for our order there’s a commotion in the center seating area near the flight boards.

“Huh, I wonder which celeb is flying today,” Sera questions.

I shrug. It’s not uncommon to see celebrities pass through Chicago, I’ve just never seen one up close and personal.

“Maybe it’s someone sexy like Taylor Lautner.” She wiggles her eyebrows at this and I can’t help but smirk.

“Doubtful. It’s probably some old dude or a model,” I start to ramble as I hand Sera her coffee and pay. I head off to the side to stir in extra sugars and creamer. “Maybe it’s Miley. Or the Biebs,” I say with a snort.

Sera taps my arm a couple times.

“What?” I look over at her. She’s standing there with her coffee halfway to her mouth, her mouth hanging open and her eyes wide.

“What’s going on?”

“L-look,” she points.

I turn and I nearly drop my coffee. All the air in my lungs has been sucked out in some sort of vacuum and I can’t breathe. I grab Sera’s arm and make some incoherent sound that sounds like, “unh”. She must get what I’m saying because she responds with, “I know!”

“Unh!”

“I know! Wow. Did you conjure him up looking for His Sexiness? You should go ask for his autograph.”

No way. Uh-uh. I, Luciana Russo, am a chicken. I can’t even move at this point. Hell, I can’t even speak. I’m sure he wouldn’t understand “unh”.

“You have to, Lucy. You’ve wanted to meet Jesse Kingston since we were in seventh grade! This is your one and, probably, only shot.”

She’s right, but I can’t move. I don’t even have a pen. I must be talking normally now because she thrusts a pen and paper in my face. Then she grabs my arm and drags me to where he’s standing.

“Unh.” Guess not, she just knows.

Okay, you’re probably wondering who the hell Jesse Kingston is and what the big deal is. Let me tell you. Jesse Kingston is People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive the last three years running. He’s tall, dark and delicious. He’s sex on a stick. He’s the lead singer of Falling Down and has the sexiest voice I’ve ever heard. I kid you not, his voice is deep and gravely and sends chills down my spine, goosebumps all over my body, and moisture between my thighs. Oh yeah, that’s Jesse Kingston. Okay—back to the hottie that has my mouth and body in zombieland.

I wipe around my mouth, checking for any signs of drool. Oh God. My heart is going eleventy billion miles an hour, I’ve got tummy flips going on, and my girlie parts are tingling—all this because he’s within twenty feet of me? If he touches me I’ll likely spontaneously combust.

“Jesse!” Sera calls out.

Unh. She tugs me along behind her as she walks over to him. Oh. My. God.

“Ladies. How are you today?” Oh that smile.

“Good, we’re good,” Sera says as she smacks my arm. I give some semblance of a smile which I’m sure looks hideous. I’m such an idiot. His mouth kicks up into a grin—dimples!
My gaze zeroes in on his piercings. He’s got a hoop in his eyebrow and another through his bottom lip. Could he be any sexier? Yes, yes he could. How you might wonder? Well, he’s wearing a tight black Chevelle t-shirt and worn, faded, and ripped jeans along with a pair of scuffed black boots. Hot! Both of his arms are full of tattoos that I wish I could focus on, maybe trace with my tongue, but, well, zombieland and I’m not so sure my tongue on his body would be welcome at this point.

Sera rolls her eyes at me. “You’re traveling alone?”

He nods. “The band is in L.A.”

She pouts. I know she was hoping to see Falling Down’s lead guitarist and Jesse’s brother, Ben Kingston. Sera started crushing on him in tenth grade when they came out with their third album that was a bit harder than their previous ones. Her favorite song to date is My Fantasy which was the title song off of that album and spent thirty-seven weeks at the top of the charts.

“My friend, Lucy, would like to get your autograph.” I stand there frozen.

“Is that so, Lucy?”

Still frozen. I refuse to try to speak. I don’t want to “unh” in front of him. This is embarrassing enough.

He reaches out to take the pen and paper from my hand and as he leans forward he whispers, “It’s okay, Lucy. I won’t bite. Well, unless you want me to, of course.” He flashes those straight, white teeth and winks. Whiskey-colored eyes dance with humor and I sigh on the inside because I seriously can’t snap out of this, whatever it is.

He signs the paper, taking his time. He caps the pen and places it and the paper in my hand, closing my hand around the items so I don’t drop them. He doesn’t let go of my hand and my eyes zoom in on that. Holy hell. Jesse Kingston is holding my hand—it was just for a few seconds, but he held my hand!

His fingers are slightly callused, no doubt from playing his guitar and wow, am I starting to sweat?

“Are you going to be alright, Lucy?”

“Um…” Hey! It’s better than unh.

Sera signs in exasperation. “She’ll be fine. She’s just had the biggest crush on you forever.”

I register what she said and vow that as soon as I can move I’m going to kick her ass. And here it comes—the blush. It creeps up my neck to my face. I’m sure I’m a lovely shade of red right now and red is so not my color.

“Really?”

“Oh yeah. She’s been following your career since you went national your junior year in high school.”

“Wow,” he says with a smile at me. “That’s a long time.”

“Yeah, it is. She ran around screaming when your first album debuted and when your video came out she threw a party.”

“That’s dedication.”

He’s still smiling. I stare at those amazing lips. I want to lick them. Nibble on them and tug on that lip ring bit with my teeth.

I manage to blink.
“Hey, I think she’s coming out of it,” he says.

I shake my head. “Oh my God. I’m so sorry.”

He flashes those pearly whites again—and those dimples. “No worries.”

“I’m Lucy.”

“Nice to meet you Lucy,” he says, that callused thumb caressing my hand as he shakes it, sparks zinging up my arm, more moisture pooling at the apex of my thighs—I am a hormonal teenager and let me tell you this man makes them rage. He reaches out and tucks a strand of my brown hair behind my ear and I don’t think my heart can take it.

“Nice to meet you too.” I thrust the pen and autograph toward Sera who takes them.

“Let’s walk and talk. I think my flight might be ready.”

“No private plane today?” Ha! Look at me talking normal.

“Nah. Not for just me and the big guys,” he says pointing to his body guards. “When the band travels then we take the jet.”

I nod. God. To have a private jet. Better yet, to be on their private jet when they’re all on board.

Heaven.

“So you’re a fan.”

“Mhmm.” We’re walking super close, so close our arms are touching as we walk. When our hands brush against one another, he winks at me. Winks! He’s seriously tall. I mean, I know from his bio and from going to the concerts he’s six-three but compared to my five-three, he’s a giant. His shoulders are broad and I swear I can see his muscles ripple in his stomach as he walks. Another place I’d like to lick. Is it hot in here?

I look at Sera out of the corner of my eye. She’s grinning and she fans herself. Definitely hot in here. Like the body guards trailing behind us aren’t going to tell him she did that? I just bite my bottom lip then grin wide.

“Where are you headed?” he asks.

“L.A.”

“I’m headed back there myself.”

“Oh, were you at the Comic Con?”

Jesse’s involved with a company that makes comics, ones based on rockers, of course. He heads to as many Comic Con’s as he can—I know this because I stal-, uh, follow him online. I would never stalk him. Okay, I do follow him closely sometimes. I sigh. Alright, alright, I follow him closely all the time. I’ve even got a Google alert. That doesn’t make me a stalker. It just makes me a die-hard fan. That’s all. I’m sticking with that so shush.

“Good guess. I was. There was a great turn out. It’s part of what I love about the Midwest. People have passion and they’re not afraid to go the extra mile to show their dedication.”

“Hmmm,” was all I could manage.

“Excuse me while I check in.” He squeezes my shoulder gently, then walks up to the counter, the same counter we checked in at, and the airline chick all but puddles at his feet. Who can blame her? With his wavy, dark hair that touches his collar and those whiskey-colored eyes that had me captivated. Jesse Kingston is a walking, talking bundle of testosterone. A woman’s equivalent to a man’s walking wet dream.

“Do you think he’s on our flight?” I whisper to Sera.

“It looks like it. Holy shit! Jesse Kingston!”

“I think I just fangirled all over the place.”

Sera laughs.

“I can’t believe this is happening. This has got to be a dream.”

Sera pinches me—hard.

“Ow! What the fuck?”

“Not a dream. Just proving it to you.”

“You’re so violent.”

She shrugs and snaps more photos of Jesse. I didn’t notice before, but I think she’s been snapping away since she first saw him. I need her to send me those photos. Every single one. I don’t care if it’s of the back of his head.

Oh, here he comes. His gaze zeroes in on mine and I can’t help the smile that pulls across my face.

Oh, he is seriously beautiful.

“Looks like the flight will be ready in a few minutes,” he says as he stands in front of me.

“Can I get a picture with you?”

He smiles. “Of course.”

I hand Sera my phone as Jesse leads me over to a less crowded area. He puts his arm around me and, oh my God, does he smell good. Like the ocean and sandalwood and yum. He pulls me closer to him and I wrap my arm around his waist. Oh my, even his side is hard and muscular. Damn. I rests my head against his chest. I’m sure I’ve got some goofy smile on my face but I honestly don’t care.

“All done?” he asks Sera.

No! Keep holding me close.

“Yep.”

Damn.

He turns to face me and there’s about an inch of space separating our bodies. Oh this works, though

I’m tempted to take that baby step and press myself up against his hard body, maybe even do a little rubbing.

They call for boarding and I can’t look away, I’m mesmerized by his gaze, those amazing golden eyes with tiny flecks of green and brown. No! Don’t go. Please don’t go, or if you do take me with you! He doesn’t look away until one of the big guys clears his throat signaling it’s time to go.
“Lucy. It was really great to meet you.”
I want to shout that he can’t leave me, howl at the moon, or flop down at his feet and beg him to never leave me. I can honestly see myself wrapping my arms around his leg and him having to drag me along behind him.
He’s holding my hands, both of them, in both of his and I really, really don’t want to let go.
“Thank you. And thanks for the autograph and photos.”
He brings my hands to his lips and kisses them. My breath stalls in my chest. “Honestly, it was my pleasure.”
He tilts his head to the side just a bit as if he’s trying to figure something out.
“Have we—” He pauses then shakes his head. Then he smiles that panty-melting smile. He runs his knuckles gently down the side of my face and with that he’s gone.
I feel like I’m going to cry. How stupid is that? I mean, he’s Jesse Kingston and he was just being sweet to a fan. I get it. I know it, but the sting of tears won’t stop.
Sera knows and she pulls me into a hug.
“God, Luce.”
I nod and sniffle, blinking back ridiculous tears.
“Girls, we need to board,” my mom calls.
“Dude, was that Jesse Kingston?” Joey asks.
I nod.
“I bet Lucy needs a change of panties.”
Even though he’s totally right, I reach over and punch him in the arm. “Pig.”
“Joseph Anthony Russo you will watch your tongue.”
Sera hands me the autograph and pen. I look at her.
“Did that really just happen?”
She nods. “And you have proof.”
She hands me my phone and there’s a picture of me and Jesse. My breath catches. We’re staring into one another’s eyes as he caresses my face.
“Oh my God, Sera.” This time there’s no holding back the tears.
“I know,” she says and throws an arm over my shoulders as we board the plane, pulling me in for a half-hug. “The electricity was zapping around you two. I thought we were going to be electrocuted.”
I sigh.
Sera looks around to see if she can spot Jesse.
“He’s likely in first class.”
“Yeah, probably,” she says, taking her seat.
I sit next to her and look out the window. I can’t believe this. In two days I audition for a major starring role in a movie that would make my career if I landed the part, I’m moving to Los Angeles and I met Jesse Kingston, touched him, and he kissed my hand—a hand that’s still tingling from his lips.
“We should have let mom upgrade us. Do you think we can sneak up to first class?” Sera asks.
I smile softly. “As much as I’d love that, I’m not a stalker and I don’t want him to think I am. I’m going to hold on to what he’s given me today and keep it close.” See? I’m not a stalker.
She nods. “I can see that.”
“Maybe one day…”
“Maybe.”
We sit in silence for a minute as the flight attendant tells us about the emergency exits, my mind blank as if it can’t comprehend what just happened.
The jet engines fire up and we’re lifted off the ground.
“You going to send me those pictures?”
Sera smiles. “Already done, darling. Already done.”
“Perfect.”
“I got an amazing picture of his ass.”
“Only one?”
She gives me a look of exasperation. “Please. Try twelve.”
“Twelve? Why twelve?”
She grins. “A dozen hot buns.”
I laugh. My sister totally rocks.

Chapter One

Lucy

Six Years Later…
“Please Micah.”
“You made your decision, Maggie, when you were snuggling up to your ex.”
“It was just a hug goodbye.”
“I know what I saw, Mags. That wasn’t just a hug.”
“It wasn’t,” she says with a lone tear sliding down her cheek, her head hanging in defeat.
“I hate that Maggie had to hurt Micah in the end,” I say with a sigh as Sera and I reread some of the final lines from “Always You”, a movie I just got done shooting.
As we head to downtown Los Angeles Sera shrugs. “She ended up with her happily ever after soulmate and Micah found his happy with Becca in the end. They were just using each other to get through the shit until they could get back to the place they each belonged.”
“True. I really am glad that movie is done though and if I never have to work with Aiden Jensen again it’ll be too soon.”
“Don’t even get yourself worked up.”
I nod. “I won’t. The cokehead.”
Sera looks at me.
“That’s all I’m going to say.”
“Mhmm.”
I never said I wouldn’t steam on the inside. Let me tell you about Aiden Jensen. He’s a phenomenal actor and when I got up there as Maggie and he got up there as Micah, we sizzled. But he was a nightmare. He ruined what started out to be one of the most fun and beautiful movies I’ve ever been a part of. See, Aiden’s addicted to cocaine so he’s twitchy, bitchy, constantly hot and sweaty, and an all around pain in the ass. He set us so far behind our deadline, I barely got any time off in between jobs. Jackhole.
As we pull into the lot where we’re going to be filming the music video, I breathe a sigh of relief that my mother is in Paris right now. She calls incessantly when she knows I have a new project starting and if she was here instead of in Paris, she’d continue to throw her objections at me over this project.
This will be the first time that Sera and I would be working together in nearly nine months. Sera gets on film, just not for movies or television. She mostly models but she gets on camera for music videos. If we decide to get involved in a video, we always do so together. It’s our one way of connecting to music together like we used to in high school. Sure we still jam out in private but it isn’t the same. We’d both give anything to be up on that stage singing and performing to tens of thousands of people, to hear them singing our lyrics back to us. Yeah, that’s my goal and my mother knows it.
Regina Russo wanted what she wanted and expected everyone else to fall in line and I’ve done so all my life—until now. I’m twenty-three years old. I’m an adult. It’s time for my mom to cut the freaking cord already and let me live my life. She can focus on Joey’s career. He’s a phenomenal actor and he loves it, all of it—the fame and fortune, the media attention—whereas I look at it as merely a job. Yeah, I’m successful but it isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my life.
“Did you ever find out what band the video was for?”
“No. Irene was supposed to get back to me but she’s been dealing with the Aiden fiasco.” Irene is my agent and she’s nothing less than sensational. I pity her having to deal with Aiden as a client right now.
She nods. “It doesn’t really matter. Irene and Cage only let us do videos with big-name bands anyway.”
“True that. I don’t mind going in blind so long as we get to jam a little.”
“I heard that.”
We get out of the car and make our way inside the studio. There are multiple scenes set up for filming. Looks like this is going to be a really good video. It must be a massively popular band. I just hope it’s rock and not rap. I love all kinds of music except for scream metal, techno/rave, and rap where every other word was fuck or bitch.
We’re greeted by a familiar woman with a headset and clipboard dressed in a navy pencil skirt with a white short-sleeved straight-line sweater and an amazing pair of navy slingbacks.
“Miss Russo. Miss Manzini. I’m Marci Benson. It’s a pleasure to see you again,” she holds out a hand and both Sera and I shake it in greeting.
“Marci. Call us Lucy and Sera.”
She nods at me. “The crew is here and setting up. The band won’t be arriving until later. I’ll take you back to the conference room where they’ll let you know what their plan is for the day.”
We trail behind as she continues to talk.
“There are no trailers for hair, makeup, or wardrobe. Since Mr. Nichols purchased the building, he added rooms in the back for all of that.”
“Nice,” Sera chimes in.
“There’s coffee and some pastries available so feel free to help yourselves. If there is anything you need throughout the day, don’t hesitate to ask someone to get in contact with me.”
“Thanks.”
I see movement out of the corner of my eye but I’m too late to see who it is.
“Holy God, Lucy. Did you see who that was?”
“No. Who was it?”
“I can’t be sure but it looked like Xander Mackenzie.”
“From Falling Down?”
She nods.
“I don’t think so. Kennedy is seeing that model. There’s no way they’d need us if that were the case.”
She tsks. “You of all people believing what they read in a gossip rag.”
“It’s not from a gossip rag. They were on Entertainment Tonight doing some red carpet thing. They even talked to the reporters together and confirmed they were on a date.”
Sera shrugs. “Well okay then. It just looked like him, but then again there are a lot of rockers with tattooed arms and black hair with an amazing ass.”
“True that.” Jesse Kingston comes to mind. Yum.
We head into the conference room which is empty and I’m actually grateful. It’s seven-thirty in the morning and I’ve only had one cup of coffee. This morning, all Sera and I managed was to get up, shower, and throw on comfortable clothes. I’m not a morning person and if I have to be up this early, I better be receiving a source of caffeine on a regular basis. I don’t care what I look like before I get on set so no one better bag on my yoga pants and Deftones concert shirt either. That was one hell of a concert.
I head straight for the coffee, mix in some French vanilla creamer and sugar. Ah, thank God for Cage. He knows what I like. I pull back one of the plush black chairs at the table and take a seat. Then, only then do I savor the first sip of coffee. Oh my God. It’s so good. It’s strong, just the way I like it.
I must moan aloud because Sera starts laughing.
“Good?”
“Oh yeah.” We’re both sitting at the table, nibbling on pastries and drinking coffee. It’s when I start to drink my third cup that Cage Nichols walks in with three people trailing behind. I elbow Sera who wiggles her eyebrows.
Cage Nichols is one of the most amazing video directors ever. He’s also so super hot that women pant when he walks in the room. Take Sera for instance. Panting, right now.
His hair is cut short and he’s semi-casual today in dress pants and a dress shirt. His body is to die for. I’ve been lucky enough to see him shirtless and the man is ripped. His dark brown eyes are twinkling as he walks over. I get up from the chair.
“Oh my God!”
He chuckles and gives me a hug. “No, darlin’, just Cage.”
I snort and Sera mumbles, “God works.”
Pine. He smells like pine and soap and man. It’s a comforting scent.
He smiles and I swear I can hear Sera’s heartbeat speed up. “Sera, my love.”
He pulls her into a hug and she jumps up, wrapping her legs around his waist. I burst out laughing.
“If I was your love, Cage, I wouldn’t be single,” she says with a pout, then lays a loud smacking kiss on his lips.
We’ve worked with Cage at least half a dozen times on different videos with different bands and he’s always made it fun for everyone and the videos were phenomenal.
Sera protests lightly when he sets her down and takes a seat at the head of the table.
“You remember Amanda, Dave, and Gina.”
Sera and I nod. “Great to see you all again.”
“Likewise,” Dave says. Cage has amazing assistants who are loyal, professional, and I would love to steal them from him.
“So, ladies. We’ve got a special video we’re going to start shooting today.”
We both nod.
“I gave you a half hour to fuel up on your caffeine, Luce,” he says with a wink. He looks at his watch. “The crew’s already setting up and the band should be here in a little over an hour. I figured you both could go get all prettified before they get here so they don’t have to wait.”
“Temperamental artists?”
“Nah. There’s just no reason for them to sit around here.”
“You’re awesome like that,” Sera says with a purr. Cage winks at her.
“Get a room already. Sheesh.” I’m not sure why they haven’t already hooked up for as hot as they are for each other
They both look at me blankly. Yeah, uh-huh. We all know. As if they’re fooling anyone.
“It’s eight-fifteen in the damn morning. How the hell you two can be up for flirting, I have no clue.”
Gina gets up and gets me more coffee.
“Bless you.”
She smiles. “You’re welcome.”
“Dave, pass me that jelly filled doughnut.”
Sera laughs.
“What?”
“You’re going to hate yourself later when you’ve got to run extra to burn off those calories.”
“Hell no. We’re going to be shaking our asses out there for the video, right Cage?”
He nods. “Oh yeah.”
“Well, there you go. Exercise. Calories and doughnuts burned off.” I take a big bite then lick the raspberry filling.
“Pig,” Sera says with a laugh.
I take another bite.
“Alright, ladies. We start filming at ten. Head on over to makeup and get yourselves made up for our rock stars.”
“Whose video is it?”
Cage smiles. “All I’m going to say is they’re a big name and I know you definitely like them. I’ll let you be surprised.”
“Hmmm.”
With a wink, he and his assistants leave the room.
“Well, let’s get started.”

Chapter Two

Lucy

We’re waiting in robes for hair and makeup to arrive. Sera’s in the room next door looking through the clothes on the rack, clothes they’re likely going to have us squeezing into and hanging out of. I took a quick peek at them. Skimpy.
“We’re going to look seriously hot,” Sera says.
“Like seriously hot hookers.”
“Oh come on, Luce. When have we ever looked like hookers in any of Cage’s videos?”
“True. It’s just there’s barely any material to those outfits. I’m afraid my hoohah is going to be showing.”
Sera laughs. “That’s what panties are for.”
I’m ready to tell her that I don’t want the world to see my panties when the hair and makeup team walk in.
“Ready for primping, ladies?” Spenser asks, perky as ever.
“Spenser! It’s been too long!”
“Don’t I know it. I’ve missed your gorgeous faces.” He air kisses both cheeks then does the same to Sera.
Spenser Clarity is the best makeup artist I’ve ever encountered. Spenser is the best because he’s worked long and hard to get there and he has natural talent. No one takes care of my skin and hair like Spenser. No one.
I note he has two new people working with him and wonder how he likes that. Spenser hates incompetence and is a perfectionist.
“New girls?” I ask with a raised brow.
“Yes and they’re amazing. I got so lucky with these two. They were interning. Interning! If you can believe that. I saw what they could do and immediately snatched them up. Come here, girls.”
The two gorgeous redheads walk up smiling.
“You’ve got to meet Lucy and Sera. We’ve got it made today. These two don’t require much work at all, they’re so naturally beautiful.”
“Nice to meet you, I’m Simone and this is Carmen.”
I smile, “A pleasure.”
Sera mumbles incoherently around her pastry.
“So, what’s on the agenda today? Looks like skimpy and slutty?”
“Oh, no. No. Definitely skimpy but never slutty. Not for you two. We always keep it classy.”
“Thank God.”
“Do you know who we’re working with?” Sera asks.
Spenser grins then closes his lips and pretends to turn a lock and throw away the key.
“Secrets. I promised.”
“You know me, Spense. I’m going to go crazy not knowing.”
“We’ll just have to distract you. Let’s get started.”
***~~~***
An hour later we’re made up and my hair is primped and curled and slightly sprayed. That’s what I love most about Spenser, he doesn’t spray an entire can of lacquer hairspray onto whatever style he gives us, and what he does spray is unscented for which I’m very grateful. The scented stuff makes me sneeze.
“Ah, here’s Gina. Wardrobe time!” Spenser claps. “I can’t wait to see what they’ve chosen.”
“Let’s go, ladies,” Gina says with a smile. She leads us over to the wardrobe area and immediately heads for the racks of clothes.
Turns out we aren’t going to be rockstar hookers after all. They dress me in a red corset top that ends with red ruffles just above my belly button. The straps are a bit wider than spaghetti straps. Laces thread through on the side and behind the laces is a lacy, see-through fabric. What I love about it the most is the bustline. It’s white with red polka dots which contrasts nicely with the red straps and bottom as well as the red ruffles that line the top bustline. All in all it’s pretty conservative. My boobs are, of course, pushed up to within an inch of their life giving me some pretty rocking cleavage for someone who only wears a C-cup. The ruffles seem to enhance the boobage which I think is pretty awesome. They pair the top with a pair of super tight white crop pants that stop just below the knee. With the pants being white, it brings forth one of my worst enemies.
I hold the pants up to Spenser and he raises a brow.
“You know what this means, don’t you?”
“Luce, if the worst of your wardrobe is the white thong that you’ll be wearing underneath your other clothing, don’t bitch about it. They could have you out there in a bikini that is the equivalent to three triangles and a few pieces of thread.”
“Valid.” What can I say to that? He’s right. I suck it up and head behind the dressing screen with Gina.
“Can I keep these shoes?” I ask Gina. They’re a pair of three-inch criss-cross, strappy, ankle-wrap sandals that are amazingly comfortable and easy to walk in.
“You can keep anything you want. You know Cage’s policy.”
Yay! Shoes!
She finishes accessorizing me and Spenser runs up and spritzes me with my favorite perfume.
“Why the perfume?”
“Trust me. You’ll be glad I spritzed you when you see who’s here,” he sing-songs.
“We’re here for a video not a date, Spense.”
He just tsks. Who the hell could it be? There are a handful of bands that would elicit that sort of reaction and I just can’t imagine any of them wanting me and Sera for their video. We’re conservative compared to a lot of the models and actresses who do videos which puts us on many of the bands short list.
Sera steps out from behind her screen wearing a spandex-type black dress with short cap sleeves, black stockings with a seam running up the back of her legs, and a pair of black lace overlay peep toe pumps. Her brown hair is swept up into a fancy up-do with curling tendrils framing her face.
“Bitch.”
She laughs. “What’s your problem?”
“First, I’ve got a thong up my ass crack and you know how I love that.”
She laughs again, louder.
“Second, I hate you. I hate that your ass is smaller than mine.”
“Truthfully, Luce, I should be calling you a bitch and hating on your because I envy your curves.”
“You can have them.”
“Trade.”
If only.
We head back to where Spenser is to chat him up a bit but he and the girls are busy.
“Hmm. We’ve got thirty minutes to kill. What do you want to do?”
“After I put your lipstick on,” Spenser says, throwing a cape over my shoulders and chest before dabbing my lips an amazing shade of red.
“Yeah, after that.”
“Let’s go check out the set. Maybe we can figure it out,” Sera says adjusting her dress as Simone steps up to whip a cape over her and uses a slightly darker shade of red on Sera’s lips.”
“You two are gorgeous and those boys are going to swallow their fucking tongues when they see you, aren’t they girls?”
They all murmur their agreement.
“Do we have wardrobe change?”
Spenser rolls his eyes. “Since when don’t you have wardrobe change in a video?”
“A girl can hope. Let’s go peek, Sera.”
We head out into the studio, over to where there’s a faux stage set up. Any and all graphics that would lead to our discovery of who our mystery band is are covered with black fabric.
“Ugh, Cage,” Sera says with a laugh.
“Agreed. There’s really no point to going any further.”
Sera walks over and reaches for a guitar.
“Sera! What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?”
“It looks like you’re touching what is likely a temperamental musician’s guitar! Put it back.”
“Fuck that. We have thirty minutes. Let’s jam.”
I nearly bite my bottom lip then remember the lipstick. Glancing over to the guitars, I can’t resist. I pick up the other acoustic guitar knowing full well someone’s going to be pissed we’re playing their instruments.
“What should we play?”
“P!nk?”
“Just Give Me A Reason. Let me get to the piano,” I tell Sera. Piano. I love playing the piano and it’s been entirely too long.
I take a seat and flex my fingers. “It’s been a long time.”
“That it has. Ready?”
I nod. “Count it out.”
She does and we start playing and singing as if we haven’t missed a day. When that song ends I go back for the guitar as Sera heads to the drums. I grin.
“We’re going to be in so much trouble.”
She grins and shrugs.
“Who Knew.” Sera counts us off and we give it all we’ve got. We play a couple more P!nk songs, then I call for some Red.
“Last one. Never Be The Same.”
“Nice,” Sera says.
We lose ourselves in the music, the lyrics, the feel of the beat pulsing through our bodies. If we’d been paying attention, we’d have noticed them walk up, but we didn’t and they don’t stop us.
Out of nowhere an electric guitar starts up and a very recognizable male voice joins with mine. I nearly piss my pants. I’d know that voice anywhere but my eyes fly to my left to make sure my ears aren’t playing tricks on me. When I’m met with a very sexy and smiling pair of whiskey-colored eyes I return their twinkle with my own.
When the song ends, my eyes are still wide and staring and I’m shaking slightly. Holy! Shit! Mother of God… I’m going to kick Cage’s ass.
I hear Sera’s gasp. She must notice Xander standing next to her, his arms crossed, grin on his face.
I can’t speak, just stare.
“Well, say something. We know you can sing so we know your voice works.”
Oh boy. Jesse Kingston. He doesn’t sound all that amused even though he has a smirk on his face.
“Um…”
He tilts his head to the side then looks at Sera as she walks up.
“Yep, it’s us.”
He bursts out laughing. “I’d know that ‘um’ anywhere.”
I thrust his guitar out toward him. “Here. Sorry.” I stand up from the stool and smooth down my pants, flipping my loose curls over my shoulder.
He takes the guitar with one hand then throws his other arm around me, pulling me in for a hug. Holy Mother of God.
“Lucy.”
Huh? He remembers me? I breathe him in. God, he smells the same. Ocean and sandalwood and yum. His muscles are larger and he has a lot more sexy tattoos. I stand there stiffly and he steps back.
He quirks up a brow. “Really?”
“Huh?” is all I could come up with.
“Again?”
Sera sighs. “She only gets like that around you.”
He gives her a disbelieving look and she shrugs.
“Seriously.”
“What’s going on?” This comes from the sexy magnificence that is Ben Kingston.
“Holy Mother of God.” I say under my breath.
All five of them, six including Sera, start laughing.
“Um, sorry we touched your precious,” I say pointing to his guitar.
He chuckles. “Normally I’d want to break your fingers but since you knew what you were doing and used her for good instead of evil, I’ll say it’s no problem.”
“What constitutes evil?”
“Taylor Swift.”
I laugh.
He nods. “Why are you two not in a band? You’re fucking terrific.”
I shrug. “Long story.”
“They always are.”
“Well, I see you’ve already met.”
“Sort of,” Sera says.
Cage smiles. “I heard you both. I’m going to talk you out of that shitty acting and modeling and into music if it’s the last thing I do.”
“We were just goofing around. It’s been forever since we’ve done any serious playing,” Sera tells him handing me a bottle of water.
“Thanks.” My throat’s tender. It’s been too long since I’d used my voice regularly.
“It didn’t sound like it. It sounded like you’ve been doing this forever,” Xander says.
Jesse hands me a peppermint Life Saver.
“Helps,” he says motioning to my throat.
I nod. “Thanks.”
“Cage, dude, Jesse’s met these hotties before,” Xander says with a grin.
“Is that right?”
I nod. “A lifetime ago.”
Jesse frowns. “It hasn’t been that long.”
“It has. I was untainted by the wicked ways of Hollywood.”
“Not true, Luce. You’d acted before,” Sera interrupts.
“Those were shit parts and that doesn’t count.”
“It all counts in Hollywood, darling,” Ben says.
“So you’re all tainted now, huh?” Jesse asks with another lift of his brow.
I shrug as Spenser comes flitting up. “Damn you Luciana Antonia Russo.”
“Oh, now you’ve done it. He three-named you.” This comes from Ethan, the bassist.
I send him a scared look and he chuckles.
“It’s not that bad, Spense.”
“Woman, you don’t have a mirror and I have my eyes right on you. You’ve chewed off your Stalker Red lipstick.”
Jesse laughs and I gape. “Is it seriously called Stalker Red?”
Spenser rolls his eyes. “No, but that would have fit with her girlie crush on you, right?”
I gasp.
Spenser waves his hand. “It’s really called Make Out Red.”
I just blink as Jesse opens his mouth. I point. “Not a word.”
He laughs as does the rest of the band.
“I’m not sure which is worse.”
“Stalker, definitely stalker,” Spenser says with a shudder. “Yours isn’t so bad. Sera’s is called Smitten Lovey Dovey.”
I smirk and Sera rolls her eyes.
“I don’t care what it’s called, let’s just fix it so we can get started,” Cage says with a laugh.
“Spense, I love you.”
I was going to hug him but he pushes his index finger into the middle of my forehead. “No.”
“I just wanted to hug you.”
“No. You’ll mess up what we,” he says pointing to him and the girls, “just fixed after you and Serafina Rosalie Manzini decided to play rockstar.”
“Hey,” I say with a huff. “We could be for real if we wanted.”
“Not if your mother has anything to say about it,” he retorts as he clips closed his makeup case and sashays away.
I turn back to the band with a bland look. They are all smirking so I narrow my eyes. They just smirk even more. Ugh, rockstars.
“Don’t render me speechless by staring at me with all your rockstar hotness.”
“It’ll happen,” Sera says with a shrug. “Jesse’s here.”
I nod and they all grin and look at Jesse who’s smiling. “It’s a curse.”
He frowns. “Hey!”
I laugh. Goodness, the butterflies have set up a pretty wicked cadence in my stomach. Jesse fucking Kingston. Are you kidding me! Holy shit! My crush, the rocker I lust after, and the one man who can, indeed, render me speechless. Keep it cool, Luce. You got this.
“Let me introduce you to everyone though likely you know who we all are, if I remember correctly.”
Sera whispers, “Stalker fangirl.”
I elbow her side and blush.
“My brother, Ben Kingston on lead guitar, Ethan Ashcroft on bass, Kennedy Caldwell on rhythm guitar and boards, and Xander Mackenzie on drums. Guys this is Lucy Russo and Sera Manzini. We met a few years back in the Chicago airport of all places.”
“That we did,” Sera says with a grin. “I still have a magnificent picture of your ass on my cell.”
Jesse throws back his head and laughed. “That doesn’t surprise me. Not at all.”
Sera shrugs. “Since Lucy was a bit wrapped up,” she gives us a pointed look, “someone had to take the pictures. Memories and all that.”
“Uh-huh,” Ben says with a grin. “Sounds like spank bank pics to me.”
“God,” Sera says with a laugh. “Women don’t have ‘spank banks’.”
“Then what is it you have, because we all know women rub them out just as much as guys do.”
I laugh and mouth “rub them out” to Sera who laughs.
She nods. “We do. There’s no denying it, but unlike most, Lucy and I have photographic memories.”
“Enough said,” Ben says with appreciation.
“And with the right vibrator, you don’t even need an image—though I’m sure Lucy still conjures up Jesse after all this time.”
“This is the oddest moment of my life,” I say aloud to no one in particular.
“If you’re done?” Cage asks smiling.
Xander wiggles his eyebrows. “Damn, Cage. You got us our very own movie star and model.”
“Dude,” Ethan says and they fist bump.
I turn to face Cage and feel Jesse’s hand rest on my lower back. Oh God. A shiver runs through me and I thank Gina in this moment for using those boob cup thingies so my hard nipples aren’t poking through my top. Jesse begins circling his thumb and I’m ready to puddle at his feet. What is he doing?
Unh. I’m almost there to the unh stage.
I turn to look at him and he’s looking at Cage, a falsely innocent look on his face.
“So, what’s the plan Cage?”
Cage outlines the overall storyboard for the shoot, then runs through the sequence it will be captured to minimize wardrobe and makeup changes.
“It should take a couple days, maybe more to get it just the way we want it.”
“Cool,” Xander says and taps his drumsticks together. “Let’s get to it.”