When the idea for this blog hop was first suggested, Amber Lin and I were just tying a bow on our collaboration THREE NIGHTS WITH A ROCK STAR. (What’s that, you ask? Oh, it’s just this super smexy book we’ve written about a rock star and a Sunday School teacher. Because, of course. It’ll be out this summer.)
So, I was like: Amber…
What if we wrote the First Kiss flash fiction together?
And Amber was like: Okay!
That’s pretty much how we roll. So we wrote it using characters we’d been kicking around for the next Bandmates book. (That’s right, it’s a series. Eee!)
WAITING IN THE WINGS
“So, she’ll be suspended from the rafters up there. We’ll lower her down. Spinning. Spinning. You with me so far?” The producer pointed as he talked, waving a clipboard, and checking his watch.
Krist nodded. This wasn’t his first video shoot, though a set for a Half-Life production was more smoke-machines and back alleys than Cirque du Soleil knock off.
Christ, he wanted to kill his agent for setting this up.
“When she hits that mark, you grab her—watch the wings—kiss her, and push her back.” Producer pantomimed a dramatic shove and continued. “In the stage show it’s just a backup dancer dressed like a demon, but for the video we wanted something more literal. Remember, she’s too sweet for you, too good, it hurts to touch her. But you want her. That’s your motivation.”
Well, this was painful alright. And he was the literal devil, in leather and chains, to some pop princess angel. No respect for the music, the craft. She probably couldn’t even sing.
The label ate this shit up, sucked his bones and tossed them on the altar of scandalous cross-promotion. They could suck something else too. Maybe they’d started with his agent’s metaphorical dick, because that’s the only way this gig made any sense.
Krist balled his fists and forced himself to swallow the bile building at the back of his throat. He might be a dissolute rock star, available for hire…but he was a goddamn professional. “Got it,” he growled.
“Oh, good. You’re already getting into character. We have—” Producer checked his watch again “—five minutes before they harness her up. Do you want to meet her first?”
“No.” He didn’t want to meet her at all. He was already choking on her rarefied air. From the bowl of pink M&Ms in the green room to the we-drank-the-kool-aid crew hovering in her orbit. Had they all signed purity pledges, too? He snorted. “Let’s keep the misery, I mean mystery, alive.”
* * *
There was a moment, after the makeup artist and hair stylist had gone, before the choreographer and director had arrived, that Madeline was alone. The silence disoriented her, making her pulse heavy.
It was like stepping off a carousel, unsteady on her feet and squinting into the sun. Though in her case, she was unsteady on the four inch heels and blinking at fashion lights lining the wall. Her short puffs of breath expanded to fill the empty dressing room. Every piece of clothing that had been specially crafted and fitted to her body suddenly tugged and scratched and pinched.
The door slammed open—no knock—and her choreographer stood there. Just like that, the off-kilter moment was over, banished to the Island of Misfit Memories. She was Madeline Fox again, back in her groove. Adequate singer. Dazzling performer. She was a goddamn pop princess—and princesses never had to be alone.
“Oh, sweetheart,” Jimmy said in his customary affected voice. “You look fabulous.”
Doing a little circle to show off her costume, she preened. Literally preened since she had feathers glued onto her arms. “Are you sure I don’t look a little… avian?”
“Please. No one will be looking at your arms in that glitter bra. Every boy in the audience will have a hard-on the size of Texas.”
Madeline rolled her eyes. Jimmy had been saying that to her since she was fifteen. He got away with it because he pretended to be gay. A requirement for being successful in this business, or so he’d told her in a rare moment of seriousness.
“Come on, sweetie. Your devil awaits you.”
She clapped her hands together, barely holding in her squee. “Ward came through for me?”
Right on cue, Ward entered stage right. Alex Ward had a man’s name and the personality of a shark. In short, she was the perfect agent. “I always come through for you. You’re the best and you deserve the best.”
“Aww, I bet you say that to all the multi-platinum artists.”
Ward didn’t deny it. But then, she might not have heard. She was currently speaking into her Bluetooth while tapping the tablet propped over her arm.
The spicy scent of warm chai hit her like an orgasm. “Fuuuuck. Someone is about to be my best friend.”
A latte cup was lifted from behind Jimmy’s head. Her assistant. God bless assistants, really. Especially this one who’d brought her chai. Laney. Landry? Was it a boy or a girl? Not that it mattered. Madeline swung both ways.
But before she could grab hold of the cup, her voice coach was there with her endless litany of rules and regulations. No smoking. No drinking. No deep throating. Blah blah blah. And definitely no chai before a performance.
“Hey,” she said, pouting. “I’m not even going to be singing.”
Her agent glanced over. “Oh, we changed that. We want some live clips to insert into the video.”
Jimmy winked. “A little improv goes a long way.”
Alrighty, so she would sing. In front of Krist Mellas, bass player and vocalist for Half-Life. Her stomach turned over as she grabbed the chai and took a drink. It wasn’t spiked, so the assistant whoever-the-fuck was clearly still in training mode. Big girls got a shot with their latte, and Madeline had been a big girl since she turned fourteen on the set of KidMania five years ago.
The sea of people pushed her along.
No one specifically told her to move. No one asked. They just moved and she had no choice but to move with them. She didn’t want a choice. This was easy. This was mindless. Swivel your hips and sing until it hurts.
This was her life.
Once on the set, she could see Krist. They’d dressed him up in black with spiky hair and kohl liner. Demonic? Yes. That was his usual MO. As costumes went, his was light.
Guys always got off light.
Closer, closer. What if he looked at her with disgust in his eyes? Of course he would. She looked down and ruffled her feathers. That was how all the rocker boys looked at her, one part disdain and two parts lust.
They weren’t better than her. Boy bands with an edge. Bubble gum pop studded with nails. At least she owned up to what she was.
And what she wasn’t.
They were almost face to face, her and Krist, and there was nowhere else to feign interest, no other way to delay the inevitable. What if he found out that she’d requested him? Alex would have made it sound like a business proposition, but if he asked Madeline straight up… she might not be able to lie to Krist’s face. His very dark, scowling face.
But hey, she could avoid like a pro.
She could ignore his narrowed eyes. Could ignore the way he emanated tension, impatience, a tuning fork of masculine discontent. She could tug on Jimmy’s arm, instead.
Her choreographer looked distracted, adjusting the netting on her sleeves. “Hmm?”
When in doubt, play the dumb card. That was a trick she’d learned when she was ten years old and it hadn’t failed her yet. “I don’t know about this.”
Jimmy’s gaze sharpened. “What’s wrong? You need a minute before we start?”
A delay? No. What she needed was to speed this up, to meet Krist in a way where he couldn’t say no. This was her set. She called the shots. She ruled things with her glittery Valley girl crown, and Krist would never know what hit him. “I’m just a little…” She sighed. “You know, that time of the month. Can I take a nap after this?”
Translation: hurry the fuck up.
From the twist of Jimmy’s lips, he wasn’t quite buying it. Besides, the crew knew her cycle better than she did. It didn’t matter, because he clapped his hands loud enough to make her jump and shouted, “Asses in gear, people. We have one shot to get this right. Let’s put this angel in the air.”
* * *
Watch the wings.
He couldn’t miss them. She was naked but for feathers and glitter. Untouchable. Two grips ushered her along the catwalk and affixed her harness to a rig in the rafters. Krist was only a few feet off the ground on his platform, but he still felt unsteady. She was so high.
An assistant counted down and the director shouted, “Action!”
The army of dancers below writhed to the thumping bass line of the guide track, feet pounding the floor, but Krist only had eyes for Madeline. She lifted her arms above her head like the ballerina in his baby sister’s jewelry box, stepped off the ledge, and twirled down singing. “I break my own wings.”
The power in her vocals, the edge behind the lyric, knocked him more off balance. He’d expected her to lip sync. He’d expected her to fucking suck.
“I am falling. I am falling. Lift me up.”
All the dancers below lifted their hands in unison and swayed, like the collective force of their will would boost her higher. Cheesy pop bullshit, but something about it worked. He didn’t want to admit it but she had…something. Her descent slowed. If he stretched he could just reach her perfectly manicured toe. Almost time.
His whole body tensed as a camera swung in his direction. He grimaced and gripped the railing when the platform beneath him, mounted on what looked like a cherry picker truck, shifted closer to Madeline. The camera man gave him a thumbs up. He must look sufficiently demonic.
Now. He reached for her, grabbing her by the waist, the only part of her body unadorned, and pulled her close. One breath, and he was overcome by her scent. Spicy cotton candy. Unexpected and strangely perfect. A second breath and he prepared to do his damned job, to mash his lips against hers and fling her back to her adoring throng. It was only skin. It didn’t mean anything.
Her eyes flashed mischief. Hi, she mouthed and hooked her legs around his hips.
He froze. The producer hadn’t mentioned grinding in the rundown earlier. She shimmied against him and his traitorous cock responded. Do the job you came to do.
Before he could, she bent her head and stole the kiss he’d been hired to deliver. He couldn’t help but gasp and then her tongue, warm and electric, invaded his mouth. Chai.
Could an angel corrupt a devil?
“I am falling. I am falling.” The guide track looped in the background, distorted by auto-tune, hardly recognizable as the sultry voice he’d just heard.
It was too much. The wet heat, her teeth grazing his bottom lip, and the way she rocked against his crotch. It hurt to touch her, just like the devil was supposed to react. He pushed, but she only held on tighter, digging her heels into his ass, twisting his hair in her fingers. Sparks of pleasure-pain skittered under his skin. She’d chosen him.
He didn’t want to want her. Wanting was a one way ticket to disappointment.
She raked her fingers down his back, teasing the sliver of skin between his shirt and belt, and pressed her mouth to his ear. He shivered.
“Work with me.” She nipped him.
He could work. And if his body responded? Well, it was only biology. The hard-on straining against his zipper, as manufactured and packaged as the Dream Angel in his arms.
He lost himself in the pull and sway, forgot the crowd of people, the camera, the job. Forgot everything but the taste of her, the feel of her tight muscles under his palms, the tickle of feathers floating free.
He kissed her back, violent and hard, reclaiming what she’d taken. Her body softened, melted around him. She moaned, giving in, an unexpected surrender. He hadn’t missed the power she wielded over the whole production, a queen bee to her hive. But here she was gasping and shuddering in his arms, the rapid pulse against his chest like wings beating against glass. He ran his tongue along hers, savoring the honey and spice.
A sound came from the sides, an urgent whisper. They wanted him to stop. He even felt her lurch away, tugged by mechanical means, but he held tighter. They’d have to tear her away. They’d have to hurt her to do it. For one brief moment, he wasn’t letting go. Skin to skin, mouth to mouth. Heat to heat, and they’d both flown too close to the sun.
The music stopped.
He pulled back, breaking the kiss, but not the connection burning between them. “Why me?”
She blinked, hazy with lust. “Because you’re the demon.”
That’s my motivation. “No, why did you want me for this set. I know you did.”
Her gaze hardened. Was she angry he’d caught on? And… hurt? Emotion flickered in her eyes and then died. Once again he held the siren, the queen. “Because I’m tired of playing the angel.”
He was tired too and he’d be goddamned if he’d play jester in her court. No matter what her kisses tasted like. No matter how good it felt to have her pressed against him. No matter how his cock throbbed. He untangled her legs from around his waist and pushed her gently onto her feet. She wobbled, teetering on the edge of the platform, then straightened.
“I hope you got what you needed.” He brushed a loose feather from her cheek and left without looking back.
A smidgen over the 1500 word limit, but we figured that was okay since it’s a two-fer. You’ll hear more from Krist & Madeline late in 2014. Sign up for my newsletter to stay in the loop.
P.S. This same story is also posted on Amber’s blog…she has other things to say too, so you should go peek.
Be sure to check out the 20+ other authors participating in the First Kiss hop. You can find the full schedule here.