Bullet placed me on the map and its follow up, Rock Bottom, took me forever to write. It was a hard book, but I felt like it was necessary. Main man Ethan needed redemption. The third book in the series, though—Feverish—I have likened to dessert. You have the main course and side dish, both weighty and filling, rewarding but angsty, and Feverish is a fun and light finisher.
The main reason for that is due to Clay, AKA Jet, Last Five Seconds’ guitarist and self-affirmed bad boy, one of Valerie’s former love interests. Clay was just pure, unadulterated fun to write, especially in his single days. Feverish is one of those books that just flew out of my brain and onto the page—I wrote it in less than a month!
…To be loved by the good guy
…To be f**ked by the bad boy
He’ll make you FEVERISH either way…
Clayton “Jet” Smith has enjoyed acting the part of rock star god / incorrigible bad boy since his breakup with rock goddess Valerie Quinn. He’s racking up quite a score playing the field, and he has no plans to settle down anytime soon. His biggest problem these days is meeting his obligations. He’s so busy having fun, he forgets the important things.
To help him out, he hires recent graduate Emily Brinkman to be his personal assistant, and he quickly finds a fire burning in his belly for her. There are two problems, however. The first is that Emily is engaged to be married, a fact that leaves Jet unfazed. The second problem isn’t so easy to surmount, though: Emily is disgusted and unimpressed by both sides of the man.
Will Clay find a way to persuade Emily to try him out, not just for one night, but for all time?
Chapter Four from Feverish
Emily hadn’t quite known what to expect walking into her interview for the position of Personal Assistant to the rock musician. The house was big and beautiful, with a well-cared-for yard in an upscale neighborhood. The woman who answered the door introduced herself as Mary Daily. She was a short, slightly overweight woman with dark hair and eyes and a subtle smile, but she seemed quite friendly. Because Emily was applying to be a personal assistant to a rock musician, she had expected a rock musician to answer the door.
She realized immediately her prejudices, though. Who was to say this woman wasn’t the musician? Then again, if the person she would be working with could afford an assistant, he or she could also afford to have someone around to open the door.
When she walked in the kitchen following Mary, though, she knew immediately that she was looking at the rock star when he stood up. The guy in front of her had long brown hair—as long as hers—and unending tattoos on both arms that disappeared under the sleeves of his shirt. He had a winning smile underlined with sexy snake bite piercings and the sweetest little soul patch under his lip. Wow. Could she work for someone like this who would be quite distracting?
And then she realized she recognized him. Holy crap! This guy was Jet, the guitarist from Last Five Seconds. He smiled at her and for a second she couldn’t find her breath. Fortunately, he did the talking. “Hi, I’m Clay Smith,” he said. She hadn’t ever heard him speak before, because—even though she loved rock and metal music—she didn’t follow bands closely enough to catch interviews or award shows or anything like that. Bryce was totally not into her music, so she listened to it when he wasn’t around, and she’d taken down the posters of rock bands from off her bedroom walls a few months after they’d started dating and he’d expressed his distaste. So Jet’s (or Clay—she’d have to get used to that)…his voice took her by surprise. He was soft spoken and almost quiet, not what she had expected out of someone who wielded an axe like she knew he could. She liked his voice. It took her off guard, especially since Bryce could be loud and intimidating with his voice sometimes. This man’s voice was unassuming. It was nice. It was almost funny, because the lead singer of his band could scream with the best of them, and the guy had a raspy, deep voice that could be guttural and even scary sometimes.
She took a deep breath and composed herself, putting out her hand to shake his. Her grip had been something she’d worked on perfecting for years. She’d known, going into business for a living, that she’d have to have a strong handshake, one that was as firm as a man’s. By the same token, she wouldn’t want to crush other people’s hands with her own. Fortunately, she rarely got rattled anymore, so she no longer had to carry around a tissue in her hands to keep them from getting clammy and gross. The older she got, the more confident she felt, the less her palms would sweat. And she’d learned over the past couple of years that sometimes faking confidence was just as good as having it deep down. Her body (hands included) had learned to respond.
No, her problem now was making sure she wasn’t so confident she scared men off. Sometimes, she wouldn’t care, like if a guy was hitting on her at a bar. A potential boss, however, could be a problem, so she didn’t want to come on too strong. So she took his hand and shook back.
She managed to keep her smile steady, because inside she turned into a mess. This guy…wow. He was knocking her down. He was gorgeous up close, one of those men who made her feel wobbly in the knees, warm in her girlie parts, and dizzy. He was the kind of guy who could take her on a hell of a ride, the kind of guy she knew absolutely one-hundred-percent was completely wrong for her. He was the anti-Bryce, a man who made her feel hot, made her feel like a woman, and who could bring her to her knees. He was the kind of man she’d given up in favor of a steady, calm man like Bryce. So it didn’t matter that she could already feel some weird buzzing magnetism between them. That spelled it all out for her—he was trouble, trouble in the nth degree, and she had to stay away.
In fact, she should consider not taking the job.
Well, that was provided it would even be offered to her.
She felt her heart thudding against her breastbone as she drew a slow breath into her lungs. She could do this. She’d given how many presentations to large groups of her peers and kept her cool? Yeah. So this? This was a piece of cake.
She swallowed and found her voice. “Hello, Mr. Smith. I’m Emily Brinkman. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you and Ms. Daily for taking time out of your busy schedules to meet with me.”
This man—Jet—smiled at her. Part of it seemed kind and sweet, but there was something behind it, something knowing and fiery. He simply said, “The pleasure is all ours,” but it sounded like so much more to Emily’s ears.
* * *
They’d gone through Mary’s portion of (boring but necessary) questions. The woman in front of Clay seemed more than capable…but the other people had appeared capable as well. In person, this young lady showed that she really was intelligent and personable, and Clay might have been okay with that. After all, Clay was a nice guy.
Jet, on the other hand…Jet was a force to be reckoned with. Most people who didn’t know the guitarist of Last Five Seconds assumed that Jet was simply a stage name, a cool description for the guy whose fingers seemed to fly around his fretboard like it was child’s play. It wasn’t, though. Clay didn’t have two personalities, but he did have two distinct sides. Growing up, he’d always been the nice guy, the guy his mother had groomed him to be—kind to women, children, and puppies, polite to teachers, gentlemanly, and just all-around nice. Clay would even wear a suit if need be. Jet, though…Jet was the darker side of Clay. Jet was a good guy too, but he was the kind of guy girls did not want to take home to meet Daddy. He was the nasty, down-and-dirty guy who played his guitar like today was the end of the world, and he fucked like the world was ending too. He was the guy who made women’s panties wet and pissed other guys off. He was all alpha.
And even though Clay knew his Jet persona had started out as simply a mask, Jet had grown into more. He had first come about to help Clay over his stage fright. The first time he’d performed for an audience, he was a teen. Everyone in the band had taken a large swig of Jack and that helped, but he’d taken an extra one until he felt himself relax. It was that very first time a girl—one of his classmates—had commented on his shredding abilities, had said something about how fast his fingers moved, and also mentioned the dye job all the guys had done on their hair (jet black). Anyway, she had dubbed him Jet, and it hadn’t taken Clay long to start associating that name with untold badassery. He wore that name like chainmail, and performing hadn’t been a problem since. Jet wasn’t afraid of anything. He didn’t care if he offended anyone (or, on the other hand, impressed them) for any reason. He played for himself. And he oozed confidence and sexuality. Jet embodied the baser side of Clay, the part of him he’d bottled up all his life, and naming that part of himself simply allowed the man to let that side come out and play.
And play he had. The problem was that Jet had mostly taken over. He was Jet for longer and longer periods of time, and he started to wonder what had happened to the nicer, more caring, deeper part of himself. He was worried that he was going to lose that man. Jet really didn’t care, but Clay did. Clay wasn’t willing to go down without a fight.
Clay had won for the first part of the interview with Ms. Emily Brinkman. He’d been polite and helped ask Mary’s intelligent, important questions, but Jet needed to know more. He could not, would not let anyone work for him who had no respect for what he did. And, yeah, he had expected these folks to do a little digging. When Mary had called them all for interviews, she gave them basic information. She said she wanted to know what they did with it. Well, Clay knew they’d use it to find out more about him and his band, and he figured that was the smart thing to do. But that did not by a long shot mean they were metal fans. And if they weren’t metal fans (or at least knowledgeable about harder rock), then he had no use for them. He didn’t want to spend days explaining things his personal assistant should already know. And how could that person passionately represent him if he or she only knew him from a fact sheet? It was do-or-die as far as Clay (or Jet) was concerned, and he didn’t give a shit if they were good on paper or better educated than all the other applicants. If they couldn’t prove to him they knew his business for real, then he had no use for them. When he tried to explain it to Mary, he’d said, “Would you buy a Ford from a guy who drove a Chevy? Fuck no. Would you trust a guy who sold Pepsi but drank Coke? Of course not. So why the hell would we hire someone who doesn’t get it?” At least that little speech had seemed to sink in with her a little bit.
He’d discovered that morning before they’d started, though, that Mary hadn’t told them who Clay was or what band he played for when she’d arranged the interviews. She’d simply told them general facts. She had a statement prepared when starting the interview that gave them more information. Even better.
So, when Mary’s questions were done, Clay smiled at Emily for a moment. The woman kept her cool, and Clay became convinced that she would win against him in a stare down contest. He filled his lungs with air, realizing he really liked her intensity. He found his first question. “First rock album you ever bought.”
No hesitation. “Godsmack, Faceless.”
Oh, that was good. “First concert.”
She smiled. She was up for the challenge. “Bullet for My Valentine.”
“A band you always buy a new release from, whether you’ve heard it or not.”
“Used to be Three Days Grace. Now…I don’t know. Um, maybe Art of Dying.”
He smiled back and nodded his head. He could feel an energy between them. “Favorite band.”
She tilted her head and broke eye contact, glancing up at the ceiling. That question was making her think. He wouldn’t be upset if she didn’t say his band. In fact, he’d be more upset if she did say Last Five Seconds, because it would seem fake, as though she’d just said it just for the interview. He wanted real. “Seether.”
Fuck yeah. Inside, Clay was fist pumping. This woman was on fire, and he was ready to offer her the job. He knew Mary would punch him in the arm if he did. As it was, she was tolerating his barrage of questions. “Good answer.” Now for the most telling response of all, one he needed to know. “Favorite guitarist.”
She smiled again. One more time, without pause. She knew exactly what she wanted to say. “Jimi Hendrix.”
“Excellent choice.” He took a deep breath, almost surprised he wasn’t getting hard. “I’d like to think I’m in your top fifty.”
Her smile turned into a grin that almost looked shy. That was odd and somehow a turn on from this confident woman. “Oh, you definitely are.”
Both Clay and Jet were really digging her.
* * *
The rapid fire part of the interview where guitar god Jet pummeled her with questions about her favorites in rock music was actually pretty cool, and it made her almost feel connected to him right off the bat. That he respected and liked her answers made her feel a sort of affection for him. He wasn’t some musician, all high and mighty and full of himself. He was instead a down-to-earth guy with a real passion for music, and by the time he wound down those questions, she realized he wanted to hire someone who felt the same way. She was pretty sure, based on the smile on his face, that she had passed the test.
The sweet woman named Mary had just sat quietly while Emily and Jet had volleyed words back and forth across the table. Afterward, though, Mary had gotten down to the nitty-gritty. She said, “I think you’ve definitely got the education and skills, and I know Clay is impressed with your music knowledge.”
Clay said, “Love. Not knowledge. Love.”
Mary looked like she was on the verge of rolling her eyes. “Love. But I want to see how you would handle some of the day-to-day tasks we’d have you doing.”
Emily raised her eyebrows and then nodded her head. “Okay. Sounds fair.”
Mary stood. “To do that, we have to go to his office.”
Clay looked over at Mary, and Emily sensed that the man hadn’t expected his helper to do that. He didn’t say anything, though. He stood around the same time Emily did, and he motioned for her to follow Mary, and he would be behind them both. She had to keep her cool, knowing his eyes were on her back.
Soon they were near the end of the long hall on the east side of the house, and Mary opened a door. The room wasn’t too terribly big, but it had a few book shelves and a huge desk by the window. There was a laptop on top and a printer to the side, on top of a two-drawer filing cabinet, but what caught her attention was the daunting pile of what she guessed was mail in the center of the desk, just in front of the computer on the side where the chair was.
Dear heavens. Did he get this much fan mail in a day? A week? A month? She was surprised people still resorted to paper mail nowadays when it was easy enough to write on your fave rock star’s Facebook page or to send him a tweet. She would have thought cyberspace would make snail mail contact of one’s favorite rock star crush obsolete.
Well, that was okay. She considered herself quite organized, and sorting through that kind of mail daily or weekly wouldn’t be bad. She hoped her initial shock hadn’t shown on her face. She knew if they looked at her now, she would appear calm and composed. No big deal, she wanted her face to say.
Mary said, “Think of this as just another interview question. I’d like to see you go through this mail and organize it. There is no time limit, and if you decide it’s too much, that’s fine, but I’d just like to see how you go through it.”
Emily took a deep breath. Okay. That made sense. She glanced over at Jet and he looked almost horrified. Emily bit her bottom lip to stifle a grin. What the hell did girls write him that he seemed freaked out having her glance through the pile? Well, he’d have to get used to it if they hired her. She planned to be cool and composed, and she would try not to read anything.
She walked over to the other side of the desk and sat in the swivel chair. She noticed a piece junk mail on top. “Do you have a wastebasket?” Mary nodded and grabbed one from beside one of the bookshelves and started to bring it to the desk. Emily had another thought, though. This too was a test. Jet was a famous guy and probably everything with his personal info that left his house should be unrecognizable. “On second thought—do you have a shredder?”
Jet tilted his head to consider her and Mary said, “There’s one in the garage.”
Emily nodded. First stack: Crap that needed to be shredded. She might not need the trashcan after all. To the left side, she started that pile with the piece of mail that was in her hand—a thick envelope with a credit card offer inside. She somehow doubted Jet was shopping for a credit card. He probably had all the credit he needed, and if he wanted more, she imagined he’d go to his bank and hobnob with the president of the joint.
The next envelope she picked up was a bill, from the looks of it—a sewer bill. So she started another stack next to the junk mail, one for bills. So much for being all love notes. Mary said, “You mind if we pull up a chair? Will that make you nervous?”
Actually, a little, but no way was she going to indicate that. “No, not at all.”
Jet asked, “You want a drink?”
Another test? She was going to be professional. “No, thank you.” She couldn’t imagine she’d be doing this long enough to grow thirsty. Now that she knew she wasn’t going to be just reading through teenage girls’ letters with offers of losing their virginity to the man across from her, she was feeling a little better about going through the pile. If it was just junk mail and bills and things of that nature, she could handle it. She started pulling out one piece of mail at a time and finding a place for it. There were a couple of questionable things that were not junk mail or bills, but she didn’t want to open them up to find out. She wasn’t an employee yet and hadn’t signed that nondisclosure agreement the ad had mentioned yet, so she wouldn’t feel comfortable encountering any secrets. As his real PA, she would have to get used to any weird stuff she came across, but as an applicant, she really didn’t want to know. Bad enough she was learning a few things just picking through the mail. For example, how and when did this guy ever pay his bills? She’d already picked up four gas bills—or five. She couldn’t remember. What a mess.
But she suspected they were having her do this task for a couple of reasons—one was to see how quickly she could sort the pile into tasks that could be accomplished. The second was to see what kind of tasks she decided upon using her own good judgment. Even though they had said the opposite, she suspected they didn’t want her to take hours to do it. Fortunately, seeing messes like that one drove Emily crazy. It was easy for her to want to organize it.
“I’m gonna get something to drink. Sure you don’t want anything? Glass of iced tea? Monster Energy drink?”
She smirked at him. “I think I’ve got this.”
“C’mon, Mary. Let’s give her a little time to herself.”
Emily was still looking up, and she saw a concerned look cross Mary’s face. Did the woman not trust her? Did she think Emily would walk off with something? Well, she could understand that. These two didn’t really know her. They didn’t know she was honest. She’d have to earn their trust. She said, “That’s okay. I really don’t mind if one of you has to be here.”
“That’s all right,” Mary said, standing up from the chair she’d been sitting in. “We’ll be back in a bit.”
Once they were in the hall, Emily breathed a sigh of relief. Her job just got easier. She didn’t have to pretend to peruse anymore. Now she could fly through that damned stack. She knew she could have it done now before they got back, especially considering she was halfway through. And if they were worried about her taking anything, she could take her jacket off and let them look. They’d be able to see she had nothing. If they were super paranoid, they could—she supposed—request that she show them her phone to ensure she hadn’t snapped any photographs.
She shook her head. She was damned either way. This interview was turning out to be a pain in the ass…no matter how much she was starting to like the guy who could become her potential boss.