Backstage Pass / Page 31

Page 31


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Author: Olivia Cunning


He grinned at her compliment. He was used to girls stroking his ego, but when Myrna did it, it made him happy. She had such an unusual effect on him. He didn’t try to fight it. He was ready for this and hoped she’d come around soon. He knew he had to keep a rein on expressing these powerful emotions in front of her. The last thing he wanted to do was scare her away.


“You want it?” She speared a tomato with her fork and offered it to him.


“If you put some dressing on it.” Can’t have vegetables without dressing.


She dipped the little tomato into her cup of ranch dressing and held it out to him. He chewed slowly, watching her devour her salad.


“So how much data do you think you need to enter into your computer?” he asked.


She glanced up at him, her fork halfway to her mouth. “Why do you ask?”


He was wondering how much of her time her work was going to take. “Just curious.”


“Let’s see. I’ve been doing about twenty interviews a night, each with forty-two questions. And there have been eight concerts, so that’s about 6,500 pieces of data I need to enter. Give or take.”


“That’s a lot!” he sputtered. “You have to enter al that stuff by hand?”


“Wel , yeah. I don’t have an assistant in my back pocket.” She laughed. “It’s not the data entry that’s hard, anyway. It’s the statistical analysis and reporting the results in journal articles that takes so long.”


“You’re going to be real y busy, aren’t you?”


“I tried to explain that to you earlier. You seem to think I don’t want to go to L.A. with you because I don’t want to spend time with you.”


He shrugged. Was he that easy to read?


“I don’t want to go to L.A. with you because I want to spend too much time with you.”


When he tried to respond, she popped another tomato in his mouth.


“So I hope you won’t make it harder on me by getting al pouty.”


He swal owed. “I don’t pout. What if you get done with al your work early? Wil you come with me then?”


“I’l consider it, but don’t get your heart set on it.”


“You don’t want to meet my parents?”


She paled. “Your parents?”


“You realize who my dad is, don’t you? You being a col ector of guitar riffs and al .”


“Uh.” She paused. “I don’t know any other guitarists with the last name Sinclair.”


“He used a stage name. I can’t believe you don’t know this.” He grinned. “I’l give you three guesses.”


Her brow furrowed with concentration. “Is he as good as you are?”


Brian scoffed. “Better. Way better.”


She shook her head. “Now I know you’re making up stories.”


She’d eat those words after she figured it out. Brian had stood in the shadow of a legend his entire career.


“Does he stil play professional y?” she asked.


“The occasional reunion tour, but not real y.”


“Leftie?”


“No.”


“Malcolm O’Neil.”


“So you did know. I wondered how you didn’t know something like that.”


She dropped her fork and stared at him in shock. “Malcolm O’Neil is your father? Oh my God!”


If people weren’t staring at them before, they were now.


He scowled in puzzlement. “You didn’t know.”


“I was joking when I said Malcolm O’Neil. He was the only classic rock guitarist I could think of who was better than you are.” She grabbed his hand. “No offense.” She dropped his hand and pressed her fingers to her forehead. “I mean, I think you’re better than he is, but…”


Brian laughed. “Calm down, Myrna. Is that enough incentive to get you to Los Angeles? Wel , they actual y live in Beverly Hil s.”


“I couldn’t,” she said. “I’d make a total ass of myself.”


“Like now?” He was teasing, but she glanced around the room and flushed in embarrassment. Their waitress delivered their lunches. “Can I get you anything else?”


Myrna clutched her chest. “A defibril ator.”


The woman’s eyes widened. “Are you having a heart attack?”


“She’s joking,” Brian assured her. “Myrna?”


“I’m joking,” she agreed, stil breathless. “I can’t believe you didn’t tel me you were Malcolm O’Neil’s son.”


“You’re Malcolm O’Neil’s son?” the waitress asked. “Winged Faith’s lead guitarist?”


“Don’t be ridiculous,” Brian said.


“You do sort of look like him, if you had huge sideburns and a chubbier face,” the waitress said. “I saw them at Woodstock. That was right before they made it big. Do you play guitar, too, dol ? You have that rock star look about you.”


“A little,” Brian admitted. He hoped she didn’t make a scene. He’d been enjoying his obscurity, even if he had been the object of curious stares.


“I’d love to stay and talk, but I’m so busy,” the waitress said. “Do you want another beer?”


He glanced at Myrna, who was cautiously slurping steaming chowder from her soupspoon. “Just water.”


When the waitress left, he started eating his fried clams. They were grubbin’. Tender instead of chewy. Fried to a perfect crisp, yet not greasy. Deliciously seasoned. “Try one of these, Myrna.” He placed one on her plate next to her bread bowl. She bit into the fried clam. “That is good.” She scooped some chowder on her spoon and leaned across the table. “Careful, it’s hot.”


Her chowder was good, too. “I know how to pick ’em,” he said, grinning to himself.


“Then how do we always end up eating fast food?”


“It’s fast.”


“Hence, the name.” She stole one of his french fries. “Now, that’s a french fry.”


After lunch, Brian headed for the restroom. On the way back, he cornered their waitress near the kitchen and convinced her to disclose the location of a nice, quiet beach. He left her a nice tip, double the cost of the meal, and escorted his lovely date back to the car.


“I’l drive,” he said, opening the passenger door for her.


Myrna reached up and slid her fingers into the hair at the nape of his neck. She rose up on tiptoe to claim his mouth in a searing kiss. His heart skipped a beat when her tongue brushed against his lip. She knew how to get his blood boiling, but he had other things in mind for their romantic beach visit.


“Thanks for lunch,” she whispered. “Are we going to Tampa now?”


“Not just yet.”


Chapter 21


Myrna leaned forward to gaze out the windshield. A gorgeous view of the Gulf of Mexico stretched as far as the eye could see. Tal palms punctuated the narrow strip of white sand beyond the grassy dunes. Rough waves sloshed against the shore as the storm clouds in the distance continued to march across the landscape. Brian had driven half an hour into the middle of nowhere, but their venture off the beaten path had been wel worth it. Here, she could imagine they were the only two people on earth.


“How did you know about this place?” Myrna asked.


He smiled. Smugly. “I persuaded our waitress to disclose her secrets.”


She couldn’t explain the pang of jealousy that pierced her chest. “Persuaded? Did it have anything to do with those amazing fingers of yours?”


“Not tel ing.”


She slapped his shoulder and then opened the door. He grabbed her and pul ed her across his lap, wedging her between his body and the steering wheel. “I just asked her where I could find the most romantic beach in the area. She cal ed you a lucky girl and pinched my cheek as if she were my Great Aunt Stel a.”


“I am a lucky girl,” Myrna whispered. She touched his face, staring deeply into his eyes. She expected him to kiss her, but he didn’t. He held her gaze until she had to look away.


“Let’s go watch the waves,” he said.


She nodded and slid from his lap.


They walked hand in hand to the beach. Brian settled on the sand and urged her to sit between his legs in front of him. He tugged her against his chest and rested his cheek against her hair as they gazed out at the water.


“There’s something about the ocean that feels eternal,” he murmured, his breath tickling her ear. “I get disconnected when I don’t see it for a while.”


“I find it soothing,” she said. “Being from the Midwest, I haven’t seen the ocean many times.”


“Then what makes you feel connected to the universe?”


She thought for a moment. “Gazing at the stars at night. You can’t real y see them wel in the city. Whenever I go visit my parents in the summer, I look up at the stars for hours.”


His hands stroked her bare arms. “Can I look up at the stars with you sometime?”


“I would like that.”


“And meet your parents?”


“I wouldn’t like that.”


“Are you ashamed of me?”


She could tel by the tone of his voice that he was teasing, but he wasn’t far from the truth. She wasn’t ashamed of him, but they’d be ashamed of her for dating him. Brian wasn’t what they would consider son-in-law material, or even boyfriend material. But they had adored Jeremy, so they obviously were poor judges of character.


“Of course I’m not ashamed of you,” she said.


And she didn’t want to discuss her parents. She wished he would stop trying to pry into her private life. She kicked off her sandals and wriggled her toes into the warm sand with a contented sigh. She reached for Brian’s left boot.


“Take your boots off.” He helped her tug it free and then the other one. She pul ed his socks off and tucked them into his boots. He drew her close to his chest again and she stroked the tops of his bare feet with her fingertips—tracing the ridges of tendons and toying with the light dusting of hair on the top of his foot.


“Even your feet are sexy,” she murmured.


“Is that your favorite part of me?” he asked, his low voice so close to her ear goose bumps rose on her nape.


“You should know my favorite part of you.”


“Do you cal it The Beast?”


She grinned. She figured that’s what he’d think. “No, but The Beast made the top ten.”


“Top ten, huh?” He kissed the edge of her ear. A shiver raced down her spine. “Is it my lips?”


She shook her head. “No, but they’re also in the top ten.”


His tongue brushed against the pulse point beneath her ear. “Tongue?”


“Nope. My top ten seems to be awful y crowded.”


He laughed and hugged her. “It’s obviously my hands.” He held them in front of her and flexed his fingers.


“Wrong again. Good guess, though.”


“Okay, I give up,” he said.


She turned her head to look at him. “It’s your brain.”


He covered his surprise with a laugh. “Wel , I can honestly say that was the last thing I thought you’d say.”


“Why? It controls al your other parts. It’s responsible for your amazing talent, both on the guitar and in bed.” He grinned. She’d never figure out why he needed her to compliment him when he had groupies screaming his godliness at the top of their lungs. “It makes you say things that make me laugh and make me think. And it gives you that sweet, romantic streak that I try so hard to resist. Your personality, your talent, heart, soul. What makes you, you. It’s al in that amazing mind of yours. Don’t get me wrong. The body that carries it around is fabulous, too.”


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