Reverb Excerpt


Not princess, or rock queen, or darling. Mish. Hearing it in his bell-like voice made her shiver. She didn’t even try to hide it this time.

There’s just a few more weeks until Reverb releases! And today, I have a little sneak peek!

Chapter One

Mish Sullivan hated hospitals. The harsh light, the antiseptic smell, the curtains and lack of privacy, and all the bad memories being in one dredged up. All those times back when she’d been a teen, sitting at her mom’s side, waiting for the inevitable to happen. More recently, she’d sat at Ray’s hospital bed, her heart in her throat for the leader and singer/songwriter of their little band when he’d had a horrendous allergic reaction after being roofied by their former shitbag of a manager.

Twisted Wishes wasn’t so little now. They had a reasonable new manager, and they were about to go on their own headlining tour across the US. This time, it was Ray sitting by her bed, pale and upset while the rest of the band, plus their social media coordinator, lingered behind him, all looking shaken.

She really needed Ray to calm the fuck down before that expression of horror on his face spread to the rest of the guys. Last thing she needed was four nervous wrecks. The guys were all too strung out most of the time as it was.

“I’m fine, sweetheart, really.” Mish patted Ray’s hand. She was, too. Mostly. Yes, her right hand was sprained and in a brace, her knees were bloodied and bruised, and fighting off that shithead had ended with her ripping her brand-new patterned stockings. And she’d fucking loved those things. She had a few other scrapes here and there, but nothing major. “None the worse for wear.”

Ray made a sound that was a weird combination of a laugh, a sob, and a grunt. “The fuck you are. He nearly broke your hand!”

Not quite true. She’d slugged that guy in the jaw before she’d lost her footing and landed weirdly on it. Bad piece of luck. The crowd at their pop-up concert had been so thick and the venue security too thin. She’d been knocked around and dragged in the rush to get the band out of there, and that certainly hadn’t helped her hand any.

She’d had worse in bar fights. Nothing was broken this time, there was hardly any blood, and she hadn’t needed stitches.

Zavier, their drummer and Ray’s husband, put a hand on Ray’s shoulder. His blue eyes locked on Mish’s and the look he gave her, while sympathetic, was also worried. Fucking Zav. He was going to take Ray’s side in this. Coddle her. He was usually the most levelheaded of the lot.

She cut him off even as he opened his mouth. “I fell wrong, that’s all. I’m fine. They’re gonna spring me from here soon, and we can all go home.”

Though she wouldn’t be playing until her hand healed. No way she could move her fingers on the strings of her bass when everything was this swollen. Thankfully, they had a couple of weeks before their tour. She’d exercise the hand as it healed. Keep it limber. They planned to marathon some practices before the tour started anyway. She’d be healed up by then.

“He came at you with scissors.” Soft words from Dom, their guitarist. He was still in most of his makeup and all of his studded leather, but he’d turned back into the quiet, thoughtful version of himself.

“He just wanted some hair, the weirdo.” She waved his concern away.

Behind Dom, Adrian—their social media/tech guy and Dom’s boy toy—crossed his arms. He didn’t say anything. Didn’t need to. He was the oldest out of all of them and as even-keeled as Zav. His thoughtful frown wasn’t a good sign.

“Adrian…” Last thing they needed was him to go mushy-brained about this.

He shook his head. “It’s not an isolated thing, Mish. You don’t see the emails.”

But he did. Mish flinched when her stomach tumbled. “I want out of here.” Though it galled her that Adrian might be keeping secrets from her, she didn’t want to hear that she had a stalker, or obsessive fans, or whatever it was that he was going to tell her. “Can one of you find a doc or a nurse?”

Before any of the boys could do what she’d asked, their band manager, Marcella, strode into the room. Thank god. Someone who’d understand that none of this was that big a deal. Just…the normal stuff of being a rock star.

Mish turned to her. “Will you please talk some sense into these boys and tell them everything’s fine?”

Marcella sighed. “You have a badly sprained wrist that will keep you from playing for several weeks, plus cuts and abrasions. The tabloids have photos of you bloodied up out there on the scandal sites, and people are speculating that the tour will be canceled. Everything is not fine.”

“See?” Ray pointed at Marcella, as if to underscore the point.

“Fuck that. I’ll be fine by then, and I’m not porcelain, Ray. I got a little banged up because of some dork—that’s it. If I were Zav, would you be this upset?”

Probably the wrong person to pick. “If that had happened to Zav, to my husband, I’d be hiring a security guard for his ass.”

Zavier frowned. “The hell you would.”

“See?” Mish pointed at Zavier. “He doesn’t need protection, and neither do I.”

Ray stepped closer to Zavier, fire in his eyes. “The hell I wouldn’t, Zavier…”

Marcella cleared her throat. “Actually, you need protection. All of you. Hiring a guard for the band is a fantastic idea. You’re too big now not to have someone working for you, especially with the more…exuberant fans.”

Like the one who’d come after her. “I don’t need a damn bodyguard,” Mish said, even as her arms and knees started to ache from the fall. “Besides, I bet that guy looks worse. That’ll stop people.”

“That guy is in a holding cell at the police station,” Marcella said. “And the booking photos are on the internet, too, with comments about your temperament. Frankly, you all need someone watching over you. This isn’t a you thing, Mish.” She waved her hand around the room. “It’s an all of you thing.”

Ray nodded, and Zavier had a resigned look in his eyes. Shit.

Mish pushed her hair back. “Ray, no. I can take care of myself. Fuck it, I take care of you lot. And I don’t give two shits what the press says.”

The fucking press. They were all over her no matter what she did or didn’t do. Too foul-mouthed, too sexy, wore too much makeup, never mind she wore less than Domino most of the time. Not a lady. Too much the whore.

Dom peered up at the ceiling, then back at Mish. “I don’t want a bodyguard any more than you. I like it just us, but Marcella’s right.”

Adrian nodded and Zavier scratched the back of his head, looking younger than he usually let himself, and a tiny bit scared, too.

Marcella blew out a breath and turned to Ray. “So that’s a yes?”

“Yeah,” Ray said. “See who you can find, and we’ll interview them.”

Great. This was exactly what she didn’t want. Mish rose from the bed, thankful they hadn’t hooked her up to an IV or made her change into a gown. “I’m gonna find a goddamned person to check me out of this fucking hellish place.”

Even after she’d tracked down the nurse on duty, it still took another hour and a half to get released from the hospital. All that time, the band stayed with her. It was both endearing and absolutely frustrating. She loved every last one of them like her own flesh and blood, but damn it, she needed to process what had happened. Alone. Her insides were as ugly as a badly tossed salad and her nerves skittered and pinched, but the moment she let anything show, the guys would be all over her with even more worry and concern

Didn’t stop the thoughts swirling in her head. The warning signs she’d missed before the guy came at her, how she could have turned, moved, or lunged differently. Maybe if she’d put her hair up after the show…

God, she didn’t know. Her hand throbbed now, and a dull ache pounded behind her eyes, that pain she hated, that telltale sign that both her body and mind were done and her emotions were about to spill into reality.

She wasn’t about to shed any tears in front of the guys, though. If they caught her tearing up, they’d lose it. Plus, she fucking hated crying, that betrayal of her body over her mind.

She was so grateful when they finally piled into the SUV Marcella had hired. Right after she belted herself in, she closed her eyes and tried to pretend that she was tired, not—overwhelmed. Hurting. Thank god there were no paparazzi with cameras here. Had there been, she might’ve punched them out, too, and that would’ve driven everyone bonkers.

Like it or not, the press—even the bloodsucking, shit-stirring scandal sites—had an impact on the band and they had to play nice. The guys got crapped on, though not as hard as she did. But they held it together. She could, too.

“Hey, Mish?” Adrian’s deep voice sounded next to her, barely audible over the rumble of the car. Though he was the newest member of their little musical family, he’d woven himself seamlessly into their group, his relationship with Dom notwithstanding.

She opened her eyes and turned toward him. “Yeah?”

“Don’t be too hard on Ray. He wants you all safe.” He paused. “Us all.”

The late addition made her smile. “Finally figuring out you’re part of us?”

He chuckled, but sobered. “Seriously, though.”

“I don’t need anyone taking care of me, hon.”

His gaze was so solemn. “We all do, sometimes.”

Mish grunted and rolled her head back. Maybe they did, but not her. Every time she’d let anyone try, it always went to shit, because “taking care” meant the other person taking over, and fuck that to hell. First her deadbeat father, then a string of her mom’s boyfriends, then her jerk bosses. When she’d joined Ray’s band, she’d made a stipulation: Ray could make suggestions, but he needed to listen to the band, too. They’d decide things together. And they had.

Ray’s heart was in the right place, and Marcella’s, too. Didn’t mean Mish wanted a fucking bodyguard watching over her because she was a liability.

“I’m the one watching out for you boys. I don’t need a caretaker.”

“You can’t punch out every too-rabid fan,” he murmured.

Yeah, she could. And would. To keep them safe, to keep herself safe. Even if she already knew what was coming.

Because once Ray Van Zeller got an idea in his head, it was nearly impossible to shake it loose. Which meant, sooner or later, she’d be saddled with security and she’d probably end up taking care of whoever that was, too.

Chapter Two

David Altet heard the argument floating down the stairwell as he made his way up to the third floor of the converted warehouse. At first, only tones filtered down, two strong voices straying over each other, one higher pitched than the other, both mirrors of intensity. As he neared the third floor landing, those tones sharpened into words.

“But nothing has happened in weeks!” Mish Sullivan had a lovely voice. Vibrant, with a sharp edge and gritty finish. The kind of voice he wouldn’t mind whispering into his ear in bed.

“We haven’t been in public in weeks. And Adrian’s gotten some weird emails and comments on the accounts about you.” That was Ray Van Zeller. He’d met Ray several times while interviewing, then hashing out the details of his contract while they both got a feel for each other to see if David could provide what Ray wanted and if David wanted to work with Ray and his band.

“I don’t fucking need anyone protecting me.” More grit there, and a rumble that was sexy and tantalizing.

Ray had warned David that the firebrand bass player who’d leveled her attacker with one punch wasn’t taking kindly to the idea of a security detail. At least not for her.

From all the press he’d seen of the band, Sullivan was no-nonsense and sharp. Reminded him of several of the women he’d known in the army. Strong. Independent. Fierce. Yeah, a woman like that would not take kindly to having her back watched by someone she didn’t know. On the other hand, that was exactly his job.

Twisted Wishes needed Mish Sullivan—and the rest of the band—safe.

He pulled open the door to the third floor, keeping the noise to a minimum. Part of securing the band was learning how they interacted with each other. All signs pointed to them being a united front. They’d weathered quite a lot in their short and meteoric rise to stardom, including Ray nearly dying by the hand of their former manager.

What a shit show that must have been, and all the more reason for Sullivan and the band not to trust an outsider. However, public fronts and what happened behind closed doors could be vastly different, even if Ray’d said they were like one big family.

Families fought. Like now, apparently. David slipped down the hall, too aware that he was an interloper.

“It’s the whole band,” Ray said. “Not just you.”

“Yeah, right. `Cause you have Zav, and Dom has Adrian, so who’re you sticking this dude with, huh?” Silence, then a sigh from Mish. “Kiddo, I know you’re trying to do the right thing.”

David continued toward the open studio door, the scent of concrete, brick, and moisture lingering in the hall on this humid, late spring day. New York was soupy as fuck. Would only get worse in the summer.

“Then let me do the right thing.” Ray’s voice was pained. “You haven’t read the stuff Adrian has.”

“You haven’t let me.”

David had read them, though. Most of the mail, comments, and replies Twisted Wishes got on their various social media accounts were benign. Excited and appreciative fans, especially queer ones. Notes to specific band members that were gushing or of the “I love you!” variety, but harmless in nature. Lovely and endearing stuff. Twisted Wishes had a stellar fanbase, one that they seemed to enjoy and interact well with.

But there were the few pieces that weren’t like that. Those were about Mish and seemed to be from one sender, going by syntax and style. Details about her hair and skin, and what he wanted from her. A date. To talk. A kiss on the cheek. To hold her hand. Run his hands up those legs of hers. Creepy, creepy stuff.

Even if there hadn’t been the attack a couple of weeks ago, the band sure as shit needed to be taking this seriously. Especially considering the guy who had gone after Mish wasn’t the one who’d sent those messages. That guy was in jail and couldn’t have sent the latest batch, though David was certain Internet Dude had some connection to that event.

Mish Sullivan had an obsessive fan, and he was dangerous.

“You shouldn’t have to see that shit.” Ray’s voice sounded pained.

“I don’t need you or Adrian protecting me. You’ve both got enough on your plate.”

And that was David’s cue to step into the doorway and rap his knuckles on the frame.

Five heads turned to stare at him, and David got his first personal look at the core of Twisted Wishes. Ray Van Zeller he’d met during his interview, and he knew Zavier Demos, Mish Sullivan, and Dominic Bradley—known as Domino Grinder—from the music videos, publicity, and news stories. The other guy had to be Adrian Doran, Dominic’s lover and their social media guru.

Ray looked relieved. “You found the place.”

David gave a shrug. “GPS is a wonderful thing.” Ray’d given him the address, but he’d also checked the fan spaces online and found the same location, which explained the gaggle of people outside, all with cell phones and some with cameras. David had walked around the building and found a door that’d been propped open by workers doing a reno job on the second floor. No one had bothered him when he’d made his way up the fire stairs, despite this being a secure building.

He wasn’t about to lead with that, though, so he smiled at the band members and their media guru.

Ray turned to the rest of the group. “This is David Altet. He’s the guy I hired to be our security.”

There were murmurs of hellos as David made his way into the room, all except from Mish. She was glaring at Ray. When that same gaze was leveled at David, she crossed her arms, defensive and wary.

He didn’t blame her. Couldn’t. He understood the desire, the absolute need to be who you were. And Mish Sullivan was a woman who was equal parts protector and individual. No doubt she’d chew David out if he gave any of her bandmates flak.

“I suggested to Ray that meeting you all before the tour would be a better plan than showing up at your first gig, barking orders.” He found an old stool that had a few paint splashes on it, and propped his ass on the edge. “Though I don’t bark all that often.”

“Well, that’s good, since I don’t take orders.” Mish shoved a hand into her red curls and peered at Ray. “Please don’t tell me this is the guy I’m gonna have to take care of.”

David couldn’t help the quirk in his lips, which of course Mish caught. She raised an eyebrow at Ray, then focused on David. All six foot one inch of fire, strength, and beauty strode right up, and those sweet hazel eyes, tinged green in the light of the studio, bore down on David. “You’re tiny.”

David cocked his head and looked up. “I’m five-nine.”

“Hey! I’m five-nine.” Domino stood up straighter. “I’m not tiny.”

“Babe, you are kinda shorter than the rest of us when you’re not wearing your boots.” Adrian slung an arm around Dom and pulled him close. “But it’s not the size that matters, it’s how you use it.” There was almost a purr in his voice.

Ray rolled his eyes, Zavier coughed into a fist, and David couldn’t help his own laugh. Yeah, this group was okay. Well, except for the firebrand towering above him. She was more than okay…she was glorious. What he needed, though, was someone he could work with, and who could work with him.

Mish’s stern visage had softened into humor. “Damn it, Adrian! I’m trying to be imposing, and you’re throwing around double entendres!”

“Sweetheart,” he said with a very New York accent, “there ain’t nothing but double entendres around you.”

“And that,” Zavier said, “is Twisted Wishes. You still want to work with us?”

David nodded. “You guys seem like tons of fun.”

Mish put her hands on her hips. “I could stick you in my pocket!”

“You could try.” He grinned up at her. “But I’m well versed in taking tall people down, I have a couple of black belts, and was in the army for twelve years. So you might not succeed.”

This time, it was her mouth that twitched up. “Might not?”

“I’m confident in my abilities, but never say never, you know?” He rocked back on the stool. “Besides, I saw the photos of your assailant. You’re tough, Sullivan.”

“Call me Mish.” Her hands were still on her hips, but her smile was wide. “Sounds like I might not need to take care of you.”

He shrugged. “I’m pretty self-sufficient.”

“But never say never?” She winked at him.

He snorted. Yeah, Mish Sullivan was something else. Beautiful. Sexy. Talented. Intelligent. Too bad she was also the job, `cause that kind of woman made his blood heat. “Life is full of surprises.”

With that, Mish stepped back and seemed to loosen up. “All right. He can stay.” She directed that bit at Ray. “But I want to see the shit you’ve been getting about me.”

Ray looked at Adrian, and Adrian raised a brow at David.

Time to earn his keep. “You should share them. Mish deserves to know what’s going on. It’s her life, and she’s right—she can take care of herself.”

“But you’re going to be guarding me.”

“Technically, I’m running security for all of you.” Technically. The threat was to Mish, so he’d be paying the most attention to keeping her safe. Still, he would look out for the whole band.

She shook her head, sending cascades of red curls around her face. “So no personal hot bodyguard just for me?”

Hot? That sent a bolt of awareness straight through him and he shifted on the seat. Flirting wasn’t a good idea, especially with Ray and the rest of the guys right there, but he couldn’t help himself. “Princess, if you need a personal bodyguard, I’m sure we can work something out.” He kept his tone light and humorous.

Mish laughed, and it was deep and loud and perfect. “So what do you go by anyway? Dave? David? Altet? Some other nickname?”

“I prefer David.” He almost included and he/him pronouns, but he’d been read as male for years at this point. Being asked whether he preferred David over Dave was new, though. An unexpected kindness, one that made him aware of who he was, and how comfortable his skin felt now.

“Well, David.” Mish was close again, towering over him once more, and a huge part of him really fucking liked that, which was a problem. “Here’s something you should know: I ain’t no one’s fucking princess.” She had a razor-sharp smile and her eyes were nearly green.

“Rock queen. Got it.” He held her gaze.

Her eyes widened. “Fuck. I think I like you.” She spun around on her heel and headed back to her instrument.

Ray blew out a breath. “Yeah, I guess we better get back to work.”

The rest of the band grabbed their instruments, and Adrian gestured toward the hallway. “Got a minute?”

So either Adrian was going to chew David out for flirting with Mish…or something else. Adrian seemed wary, but not in an angry or protective way. David pushed himself off the stool and followed him out.

The closed door muffled most of the sounds of the band tuning, plunging the hall into relative quiet. Adrian rubbed the back of his neck and looked downright worried when he turned to face David. “I—um.” He dropped his hand. “Look, are you sure about showing Mish the emails?”

Okay, he was not getting chewed out. David nodded. “She should see them. She has every right to know what’s going on, and that her attack wasn’t as random as it seemed. Plus, I think it’ll smooth over my presence here if she understands why Ray and you all are taking this seriously. At this point, she’s the only one who hasn’t seen those messages, right?”

Adrian’s neck was on the red side. “I don’t think Zavier’s seen them. Dominic hasn’t either, but we talk about it sometimes.”

“You really ought to show her, before she kicks all of your asses.”

Adrian’s chuckle was largely embarrassment. “You’ve got our number already.”

He did—and didn’t. “It’s gonna take time. But I’m glad that—” he nodded at the studio door “—went well.”

Adrian gazed at the studio. “I don’t want any of them hurt, you know? I wasn’t there when shit happened to Ray, but Dominic talks about it.” He shook his head. “Anyway. Do you want to show them to Mish, or should I?”

That was a good question. “Maybe I should. I’m more removed both from the situation and the band. If she needs to yell at someone, better it be me.”

“Don’t think she’s going to yell at you.” Adrian glanced at the door again. “But her reaction’s not going to be all that great.”

Well, they’d find out.

They headed back into the studio and listened while the band practiced. Given the intensity and energy, this tour would be even better than their last—which was saying something. They’d already been labeled a must-see touring band. Fans crowded the venues and VIP tickets had sold out fast.

Listening to them now, David could see why that was true. He settled into his seat and flipped through the emails and messages Adrian had forwarded to him. One in particular caught his eye—a candid photo of Mish walking along a sidewalk somewhere in Manhattan. She had sunglasses on. No coat. A black skirt that rode above her knees and bright pink tights paired with a top made up of every color close to red and purple quilted together in a mishmash of shapes. Mish was smiling into the brilliance of the sunny day. Long strides on heels that added two inches to her height.

Yeah, the camera loved her. Loved every member of Twisted Wishes. Beautiful people, all of them.

The text that had accompanied the photo had been chilling, though.

Those tights are too garish for a lady like you. I do not want to see you in them again. I’ll be watching.

Personal. Direct. Whoever this guy was, he was talking directly to Mish.

Yeah, Mish needed to know. From their short interaction, David had a decent idea how she’d react—with a slew of curses. Pretty much what he’d do in the same situation.

He’d never liked anyone dictating what he could wear, who he could be, or how he chose to express himself. That had been a fight all through his youth.

David had swum the waters Mish navigated, knew the danger there. He closed his eyes. This wasn’t going to be an easy job, but then the best ones never were.


So David Altet was going to watch over her. Between rehearsing songs with the band, Mish stole a few looks at him. She’d teased him about his height, but damn if that wasn’t perfect. He was built, proportioned just right. Muscular without being bulked out. His long face sported a trim beard. Short, dark hair. Lovely brown eyes. Sunglasses hung from a blue T-shirt he’d paired with black jeans.

God only knew how old he was, though. Couldn’t get a sense of that.

But if she was going to be stuck with David, at least he was easy on the eyes. Smart, too. Good for banter.

Still, worry wormed around the back of her mind. The guys, her guys, were keeping her out of the loop on this email and social media nonsense. They weren’t overprotective of her—usually it was the other way around. So this shit must be something. Which…damn. And fuck, too. Her insides twisted in between sets.

The first thing she’d be demanding of David would be a full accounting of what the fuck was going on. Better she know than be kept in the dark, despite her well-meaning bandmates. David seemed like the type to be honest with her, and he’d said she should know. Bonus points in her book.

When lunchtime rolled around, they took a break to eat. There were enough sandwiches for all of them, which meant Ray had planned for David being here. Made sense, but she hated that Ray hadn’t included the entire band on this hiring decision. Worse, she wasn’t sure if he was leaving Dom out, too, or just her.

Yes, they’d all discussed the plans to hire someone, but once upon a time, they’d all have been in on the process. She toyed with the edge of her sub wrapper. The whole thing bothered her enough to say something.

“Hey, kiddo?”

Ray looked up—she only ever used that for him, after all. “Yeah?”

“I’m not liking this ‘being left out of the loop’ thing you’ve got going on.”

Everyone in the room stilled.

A creep of a blush appeared on Ray’s cheeks. He opened his mouth, but paused as if considering his words. He did that more often now—a good thing. Nice to see him grow, even if she was miffed at him.

“What do you mean?” His expression was honest and open, though the lines of worry were there, too. Next to him, Zavier looked curious but unfazed.

“Well, you kind of hired David just like that.” She snapped her fingers. “Used to be we did things all together.”

Ray’s brow creased. “We talked about it, in the hospital. You were okay with the idea.”

For some value of okay, sure. But she didn’t say that. “I know. It’s not that.”

“Then…?” A hint of annoyance. Zavier bumped his arm. Ray startled, glanced at him, then back to Mish. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m getting what you’re saying.”

That was also nice to watch. Zavier tempered Ray, kept him clearheaded while letting him lead.

“Who interviewed him?” She nodded to David, who didn’t seem upset by the conversation. In fact, he nodded back as if understanding what she was asking.

“Me and Marcella—oh.” Ray let out a breath. “Yeah. It was only the two of us.”

“Used to be the band,” Dom said. “I mean, I don’t mind with this, but Mish’s got a point.”

Ray studied his hands. “Yeah.” He looked up and around the table. “Sorry, guys. This was something we should’ve done together.”

David stirred. “If you want to go through the interview process again, check out other people, that’s fine. For this to work, I need everyone to be happy with hiring me.” All business. All class.

He was sure pretty to look at, too.

“No, no. You’re fine.” Too damn fine. She turned to Ray. “David’s fine. I trust your judgment, it’s just…”

“I fucked up, `cause I’m already keeping stuff from you?” There was chagrined Ray, which she hated seeing, but needed to in this case.

“Basically.” She picked up her sub. “I love ya, sweetheart, you know that. But I can’t deal with not being fully invested.”

“I know.” Ray sat back and spoke to David. “You okay with all that?”

David caught her eye, then focused on Ray. “Yup. I like that you guys talk shit out, rather than letting it fester.” He gestured at the table. “It’s a good dynamic. Says a lot. You care about each other.”

They did. Mish loved each member of Twisted Wishes, and Adrian, too. Even Marcella, though she wasn’t around as much as Adrian. Then again, he was more or less engaged to Dom, even if they hadn’t said anything outside the band. Mish tucked into her sandwich. They were her family. Her really weird, queer-as-fuck, musical family. She’d only ever had her mom before this—and not very long at all.

Now David was here. Compact, intelligent, handsome David, with his bell-like voice. Seemed pretty damn mature.

“How old are you, anyway?”

She’d asked right as he’d taken a bite of his Italian sub. David rolled his eyes and chewed, taking his time. She chuckled and went back to eating her own food.

When he finished, he took a gulp of water and met her gaze. “I’m forty-three.”

She nearly choked on her sandwich. No fucking way he was ten years older than her. She couldn’t say anything because her mouth was full. Payback.

David’s eyes danced with amusement. “I know. I look younger.”

She finally swallowed, and with a rough voice answered, “Much.”

He made one of those amused sexy grunts guys could do. Damn him. But he slipped into serious with an apologetic shrug. “You shouldn’t be kept out of the loop. I can show you the stuff Adrian’s been getting and explain the situation, if you’d like.”

Fucking at last. “This gonna throw me off practice?”

“Yes,” Ray said. “Mish…don’t. Not now.”

David inspected his food, then met her gaze. “It’ll probably piss you the fuck off, so I’d recommend later. And maybe a beer or something stronger after that.”

Well, fuck. “You do realize that I’ve been an opinionated woman on the internet, right?” She’d kept a low profile after joining Twisted Wishes, but before that—well. She’d had some choice words thrown at her. Different name back then, though, so nothing to connect her to Twisted Wishes unless you knew where to look.

His brows furrowed. “It’s not rape threats or someone yelling whore or cunt or trying to doxx you.” He took another bite—a small one—and chewed. Stalling technique? Probably.

“So after practice, then. Go out for drinks?”

He shook his head. “Somewhere private.”

Well, there was only one place that would fit the bill. “Hey, David, wanna go home with me?”

He had the decency to blush. Granted, it was faint, a hint of color on his cheeks and under his beard, but a victory nonetheless. “Sure,” he answered. “I’ll even walk you.”

Her very own bodyguard. “Suddenly I feel like I’m in a Whitney Houston musical.”

David’s lips twitched. “I do like karaoke.”

“Oh no,” Dom said. “She’s gonna drag us out again.”

“Not if she has a willing victim.” Zavier leaned back in his chair. “This will be fun to watch.”

“Zav.” Ray had his aghast look on, and Zavier answered with one of his big fucking grins.

David pulled a slice of pastrami out of his sub and addressed her. “You that good or that bad?”

Before Mish could reply, Ray spoke. “That good. She’s…” He huffed a laugh and turned to her. “I really should write you a song.”

“We really should collaborate,” she countered.

Ray nodded and there were murmurs of agreement from the others. Finally. Maybe it was because he’d been such a dork earlier, but Ray was definitely pulling her back into the fold, where she fucking belonged.

As for David— She wiped her hands with the napkin and stood. “Well, honey, we’ve got some practicing to do, but after that, you can walk me home from school.”

Once more, he grinned up at her with those sinful lips. “Can’t wait, darling.”

Well, fuck. This one might be more trouble than Zavier had been. The excitement in her belly at that thought didn’t mean a damn thing.