By Lisa Swallow
Tegan Hughes joins Blue Phoenix and Ruby Riot on tour, and drummer Bryn isn’t the only one who notices his little sister isn’t a kid anymore.
Jax Lewis is the guitarist for Ruby Riot and the band are rising to success. He’s hot property and loving every minute of his new found fame. Now, he’s on tour supporting Blue Phoenix and living his rock star life to the full. Until Tegan walks into his world and puts the brakes on.
Tegan Hughes is taking a year out and has her sights set on touring Europe with her big brother’s band. Blue Phoenix drummer, Bryn isn’t happy when his sister arrives unannounced at his hotel in Lisbon, but Tegan isn’t the type of person to take no as an answer.
With her big brother breathing down their necks, Jax and Tegan attempt to keep a handle on their growing attraction but that proves harder than they thought. Jax is used to getting whoever and whatever he wants and after kissing Tegan once, he knows one thing…he wants more.
The problem is, Tegan isn’t rock star girlfriend material. She has ambitions of her own and refuses to let anything stand in the way of her plans. But when Jax and Tegan’s relationship becomes public knowledge life becomes a hell of a lot more complicated.
Cadence is the first standalone book in a new rock romance series, Ruby Riot. The series is a spin-off from the Blue Phoenix books but you do not need to read the Blue Phoenix series first.
Bryn forgets that I travelled across Asia on my own, and chooses to ignore the lesson he learned when we were growing up: my big brother doesn't tell me what to do. In fact, anybody who tries will discover the slender girl who looks younger than her twenty years, and gets far more attention from men than she’d like, isn't a delicate pushover but a force of nature they can't control.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not rude - unless you're rude to me - I just know what I want and aim high. 'No' isn't an answer; it's a challenge.
Which is why my sour-faced brother is standing in the doorway of his hotel room, arms crossed. My big brother, the rock star, in his uniform of scruffy t-shirt and black jeans, a canvas of ink covering his muscled arms. Unimpressed deep-brown eyes regard me from beneath his curled fringe. This is the mountain-sized guy people at school were scared of, but they never knew he’d go home and have tea parties with his kid sister and her dolls.
Seven years older than me, Bryn left town when I was ten, launched into the stratosphere with Blue Phoenix. On the day he left, Bryn promised my teary, snotty-faced self that one day I could join him and tour with the band.
Guess what day it is today?
“What the actual fuck, Tegan?” growls Bryn. “Where did you come from?”
I flash him a smile. “London.”
“Yeah, I know where you live, but why the hell are you here?” His heavy brow tugs lower.
“Because this is where the taxi brought me from the airport,” I say breezily. “Nice that you're kicking the tour off in Portugal, I haven't seen much of Europe yet.”
Bryn composes himself, steps back, and opens the door wider. “Get in here.”
“Sure! Grab my bag then.” I indicate my well-travelled rucksack, tiptoe to plant a kiss on his stubbled cheek, and head inside the air-conditioned room.
A muttering Bryn follows me into his suite. My last travels involved backpacker hostels: bunk beds in shoebox-sized rooms and grotty, shared bathroom facilities of a basic nature. Bryn's accommodation is a hotel suite the size of the small flat I share with Phoebe. Well, technically I crashed on her sofa several weeks ago and haven't moved on.
I perch on the blue couch, sinking into the plush cushions and continue to smile sweetly as Bryn half-throws my rucksack across the room.
“So, you forgot to buy my plane ticket and book my room, didn't you?” I ask.
“I told you it wasn't a good idea for you to tour with us.”
“Yeah, but you never gave a reason.”
“Apart from I don't want my baby sister on a Blue Phoenix tour!”
“Don't be ridiculous, I'm not a kid.” I shift and remove my phone from the back pocket of my jeans and check for messages. “Plus, you guys are tame these days.”
Bryn continues to hover by the closed door. “Yeah we are, but there's plenty around who aren't. Some of the tour crew don't do this for the pay; they do it for the perks.”
I screw my nose up. “I haven't come here to be the perks. I’ll pull my weight. Give me something to do to help out with the tour, and I’ll do it.”
“Like what, Tegan?”
“I don’t know… anything. Find me something Blue Phoenix needs help with, or ask if Ruby Riot needs a bodyguard. Lots of girls want their hands on Jax. Dylan had better watch his king of the rock stars crown.”
Dylan, the lead singer of Blue Phoenix and the man who topped numerous ‘World’s Sexiest men’ lists over the past few years recently married. Now the world’s scrutiny has shifted elsewhere – to the Ruby Riot guitarist, Jax Lewis.
“What?” Bryn misses my teasing tone. “Jax? You want to get close to Ruby Riot, don't you?”
Seriously? Seven years a rock star and Bryn thinks everything is about sex.
“I was joking! Do I look like I could hold a horde of salivating girls off the pretty-boy rock star?”
Bryn continues to regard me with suspicion and I sigh. “Is there anything to drink?” I ask, and before he can give his indignant response, I add, “Water. I'm tired after the trip. I'm not a big drinker.”
“That's one good thing...” Bryn disappears and returns with a litre bottle of water, which he throws at me and I deftly catch.
“I'm not interested in who you all are, I just want the experience of doing this. I'll stick to the background, okay?”
Bryn chews a nail and studies me. “No. I don't like you around this scene.”
“I promise I won't tell Mum what naughty things you get up to.”
“Very funny, Tegan. Listen, we've mellowed, but this isn't the environment for a girl.”
My mouth falls open; Bryn doesn't usually talk down to women. “I'd like to hear you say that to Ruby Riot's lead singer! She'd have your balls for that.”
“Why? She's not much older than me!”
“Lots of reasons. Tegan, you can't tour with us.”
“I'm here, aren't I? Tough.” I put my feet on the nearby low table and drink the water, waiting for Bryn's next move.
“Jesus!” Bryn drags his phone from his pocket and hits the screen. Watching me with a tired look, he barks at the unfortunate person who answers. “Who's tour managing? I need their help.”
Bryn walks into the nearby bedroom, continuing his conversation and I shuffle down into the cushions. Best he sorts this soon. I yawn, ignoring my growling stomach and fight against posting a Twitter update about my arrival.
A couple of minutes later, Bryn reappears, crosses toward me, and grabs my arm. “Right. You. Downstairs.”
I drag my arm away. “I'm not leaving!”
“Yeah, not tonight. Come on.” He pulls open the door and heads out.
“Or tomorrow!” I call after him as I follow. The heavy door slams shut behind me. “You promised!”
My voice echoes along the quiet corridor as Bryn strides along the carpeted floor to the elevators.
As I reach him, the elevator door slides open and we step into the confined space. “Does Mum know you came here?” he asks.
The doors close and I rest against the wall as Bryn hits the button. “I told Mum I was travelling again. She's cool with what I do as long as I'm back for uni in September.” I pause. “You should take a leaf out of her book and notice that I've grown up.”
“I'd noticed,” says Bryn as the elevator moves down, lurching my stomach. “And that is the problem.”
Bryn ushers me to a quiet cafe area close to the lobby, the space filled with empty metal tables surrounded by high-backed upholstered chairs. I sit and pull some cash from my back pocket then grab a menu. “I’m starving.”
“I'll buy you something. What do you want?”
“No, it's okay. I can pay my own way.” I offer a Euro note. “Just a sandwich. Any kind is fine.”
He ignores the money and heads off, returning a few moments later with Turkish bread wrapped in paper and a china cup of coffee.
He sighs. “No problem. I'll sort you a room once Tina comes down here to do whatever she needs to.”
“Cool, thanks.” I unwrap the sandwich and take a huge bite, savouring the freshness of the cheese and ham. The meal on the plane over here wasn't enough to fill a child.
I watch him leave, grateful he's not expecting me to sleep on his sofa, and pull out my phone to post the update I’ve itched to. Since I mentioned – all right, announced - that I was in the privileged position of spending six weeks on tour with Blue Phoenix and Ruby Riot, my daily blog hits have quadrupled. Not to mention my Instagram and Twitter followers. My travel blog suddenly became a whole lot more interesting since I replaced pictures of Thai beaches with rock stars.
After posting a quick update, I sip my latte, deciding these surroundings are definitely better than my friend's floor in London.
Bryn returns and thrusts a keycard at me. “Room. Go. I'll bring your bag in a few. I need to sort something out.”
“It had better not been a plane ticket home,” I retort.
Bryn scowls again. What the hell is he behaving like this for? For the last four years, I've spoken to him about this; and after three years of nagging, he said when I was eighteen I could come on tour. Blue Phoenix didn't tour the year I turned eighteen; then the tour last year was cut short amongst all the Blue Phoenix dramas, so I headed overseas while I waited, embarking on a mini-tour of my own. Bryn evidently thought I'd continue to do my own thing and forget about the tour. Wrong. Who'd miss a chance of touring with the world's biggest rock band?
Blowing Bryn a kiss, which he responds to with a shake of his head, I walk back to the elevator. When I check the number on the keycard, I groan. The same floor as Bryn. I bet he's booked me in next to him so he can make sure I’m not ravished by the roadies.
I giggle at the image of Bryn following me around and protecting my honour. He probably still thinks I'm a virgin. Right, how many twenty-year-old virgins has he come across in the last few years? Not many, I'll bet. Not that I'm Miss Sexually Liberated, I had a serious boyfriend at school, and since him, one other guy. Both times the relationship was loving and exclusive, but our lives went in different directions. The backpacking culture saw a lot of bed hopping but that's not for me.
I step back into the quiet corridor of Bryn's floor. The setting sun shines through the floor to ceiling window at the opposite end of the long hallway, filtering light across the carpet and creating dazzling rays. From this height, I’ll have an awesome view of the city to add to my collection.
I look over my shoulder at the owner of the voice. My eyes take a moment to focus after staring at the sunlight, until I see a blond guy striding down the hallway. From his swagger, I don't have to wait for him to approach before I realise who this is.
The guy halts short of me and eyes the colour of sapphire switch from anger to interest as he checks me out. I arch a 'yeah?' eyebrow at him and take in the face and physique of the unmistakable Jax Lewis.
This guy's on the edge between man and boy, his tall frame filled out with hard muscles beneath the t-shirt - I've seen the pictures - but he still holds the wiry frame of a teen. The effect he's having on me is one hundred percent man though, my insides don’t normally disintegrate into molten heat when I look at a guy.
Jax’s blond fringe dips into his eyes as he rubs a finger along his full lips. Is he as lost at what to say to me as I am to him? Surely not. Guys as hot as this are never lost for words. Oh yeah, h-o-t and he knows it because he soon switches to a slow, seductive smile. I'm too busy checking out the way his jeans fit his long legs and picturing myself running my nails across his firm abs to respond to that.
Sorry, big brother but this is going to be tricky.
“How did you find your way up here?” he asks with his oh-so-English accent that melts the hearts and panties of American fans.
“The elevator. I decided the stairs would take too long.”
“You know what I mean! How did you know we were staying here?”
His eyes distract me, a captivating, intense blue, and I return his scrutiny despite the unwanted pulse hike he's causing.
“Who's we? You're not Blue Phoenix.”
“No. Clearly. Is that who you're looking for? You don't look like a Phoenix groupie.”
I choke a laugh. “Oh? What do I look like?”
“I have a number of responses to that,” he says in a low voice.
“Yeah, I bet you have a list somewhere.”
Jax grazes his teeth against his lip as he looks at mine. “They always work on girls who know who I am.”
I laugh. Loudly. Judging by his surprised look, he wasn't expecting my reaction. “Because you're Jax Lewis? Hey, I've met bigger stars than you.”
“Oh. Right, professional groupie then?” He drops his friendliness and stares at my tits instead.
“Not really, so don't get any ideas.”
“Why hang around on the floor of the hotel two big rock bands are staying in then?”
“Two big rock bands?” I snigger. “One and a half. Don't get ahead of yourself, now.”
I bite my lip against saying more; I've poked a sore spot because his stance stiffens.
“Fine. I suggest you leave before I call security.”
“Mm-hmm.” I check the numbered sign on the wall, locating the direction I need to walk to reach my room. As I head off, Jax appears next to me.
“Where are you going?”
“My room.” I wave the keycard at him.
“Hang on. Are you with the PR team? I haven't met you, I don't recognise you.”
“And you always remember a pretty face, huh?”
“If I'd seen you before, I’d remember. Seriously.” He flashes a smile that does nothing to soothe the attraction to him I'm trying to quell, all sensual mouth and sharpening cheekbones. Damn. Something like this was not on my agenda. Something like him.
“Maybe you'll recognise me next time we meet,” I reply and swipe my keycard.
“You’re with the tour people? You're not a groupie?”
“Not exactly and no.”
“Who are you then?”
Opening the room door with my shoulder, I point down the hallway to where Bryn has appeared from the elevator. “Ask him.”
The heavy door slams shut behind the girl and I stare as the smooth wood almost hits my face. Weird. I definitely haven't seen this chick around since the tour entourage arrived yesterday and, as I have a thing for long hair, long legs, and a cute ass like hers, I'd remember this girl.
Bryn heads along the corridor toward me. “Hey, man” he says gruffly as he passes.
“Who's the chick?”
Bryn halts and spins around. “Which chick? Where?”
“You didn't see her? Jeez, man, you'd know if you had. Brown-haired girl, long legs, killer body.” Bryn's brow tugs down and I continue, “I reckon I might be in with a chance, man, she gave me the look.”
“You know, when it's obvious in a chick’s eyes she wants you naked.”
Bryn's face hardens further by the moment, and I stop unsure why I'm getting a death stare. Jesus, if Bryn's stressed like this before the tour kicks off properly, what the hell will he be like on a shit day?
“Did she tell you her name?” he asks.
“Never had the chance, she walked away all coy and mysterious. The girl said you might know who she is.”
“Right. Long brown hair, you said. Tall?”
“Yeah. And beautiful. Like a model.”
Bryn gives a short bark of a laugh. “Don't get too carried away. She's attractive, but I wouldn't go that far. Or is that a line you use on girls, Jax?”
My dumb brain finally switches into gear. “You know her.”
“Oh, yeah, I know her.”
Shit. I thought the girl meant Bryn knew who she was, not this. She's Bryn's chick. Why else would his tone harden and look darken? Oh, shit. The girl I’ve seen him with recently must’ve been traded in for a newer model. Nice one, Jax.
“Crap. Sorry, man. Didn't realise. I'll back off and she probably wasn't looking at me like that...” I hold my hands up in apology; telling one of Blue Phoenix I'm intending to hit on his girl is not a great start to the tour. Bryn’s an easy-going guy, but his tense demeanour suggests there's another side close to the surface. A side I haven’t seen and don't want to meet.
“Yeah, I suggest you keep your hands off,” he says, voice low and loaded with warning.
“I didn't realise,” I repeat. “I'm sorry, honest.” Perspiration builds across my back as I wait for his response.
Bryn glances along the hallway. “Where did she go?”
“In there.” I indicate the door.
“Right.” Bryn strides away but passes the room the girl went into.
I continue to the elevator in a daze; the journey from my room to the bar took a very different turn to the one I expected when I walked into the hallway five minutes ago.
If the chick is with Bryn, she's bad news because I didn’t imagine her reaction to me. I may not have the same experience with women as the Blue Phoenix guys; but I know enough and that was an unmistakable and barely hidden connection. Bryn's wrong. She’s beautiful but in a larger than life, confident way that's sexy as hell in a girl. I’d lay bets she knows what she wants and how to get it. Until the conversation with Bryn, I'd swear that was me.
Why do Blue Phoenix always take the girls I want?
About the Author:
Lisa is an author of new adult romance and writes both paranormal and contemporary, often with a side of snark.
Lisa is originally from the UK but moved to Australia in 2001 and now lives in Perth in Western Australia with her husband, three children and dog.