Backstage Pass / Page 48

Page 48


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Author: Olivia Cunning


Chapter 34


The sound of the door buzzer pul ed Myrna from a listless sleep. It took her a moment to remember she was home, not on the tour bus.


The buzzer sounded again. A few stray rays of sunshine filtered around the edges of her bedroom curtains. Morning already?


Myrna stumbled from bed, stil in the clothes she’d worn the day before.


The buzzer sounded again. Several times in a row. Loud knocking fol owed.


Brian! He’d made it.


“I’m coming,” she cal ed as she hurried toward the door.


She unlocked it and pul ed it open, a bright smile on her face. It faded instantly.


“Good morning, darling,” Jeremy greeted. His bright blue eyes raked over her body from head to toe. “Did you sleep in your clothes last night, sweetheart? You’re a mess.”


He wasn’t. Deeply tanned, blond, tal , athletic, and handsome, he looked like a walking advertisement for a country club. Her mouth worked at producing words but nothing came out. Her entire body had gone numb. She couldn’t move.


“Here, I brought you flowers. I know how you like the frivolous things.” He shoved a huge bouquet of mixed flowers into her chest. She caught them automatical y. He edged his tal , lithe body into her apartment and closed the door. “I told you I’d see you soon. Why do you look so stunned?”


“Leave!” she managed to bel ow.


“You’re not happy to see me?”


“Of course I’m not happy to see you. Get out of my apartment!”


He lifted his hand to touch her check and she whimpered in fear.


He dropped his hand, his blond brows drawn together with concern. “I’m not going to hurt you, darling. I don’t drink anymore. See?


Smel my breath.”


The minty scent of his mouthwash bathed her face. She flinched. She couldn’t help it. She was terrified of him. “That’s not the point, Jeremy. You aren’t supposed to come within three hundred yards of me. If you don’t leave by the count of three, I’m cal ing the cops.”


“Myrna, just hear me out.”


“One.”


“I realize what a jerk I was and I’ve come to ask for your forgiveness.”


“Two.”


“I’ve been through treatment, Myrna. The thought that we can be together again is al the reason I need to stay sober for the rest of my life.”


“Three.” Myrna tossed the flowers on the floor and turned to search for her phone. She remembered that she’d fal en asleep with it against her chest the night before. She hurried toward her bedroom to retrieve it.


“Wait.” Jeremy fol owed her into the living room. The sound of his footsteps behind her made her heart race. She covered the back of her head with one hand and walked sideways so she could keep an eye on him. She wouldn’t put it past him to clobber her over the head the second she turned her back.


“Just give me a chance. Please, Myrna. Listen to me.” His strong fingers gripped her arm. She froze, trembling uncontrol ably. She couldn’t catch her breath. “How did you find me, Jeremy?” she said, gasping. “How? I did everything right.”


He chuckled. “That part was easy. There aren’t many ’57 Thunderbirds registered in this state.”


Of course. Her car. How could she have been so stupid?


“Why are you shaking? I said I wouldn’t hurt you. Don’t be afraid.”


“Don’t be afraid? Don’t be afraid! ” She turned and shoved him with both hands. “You put me in the hospital, you crazy son-of-abitch. You almost kil ed me.”


“That wasn’t me, baby. It wasn’t. I was drunk and you were cheating on me with that gas station attendant. I lost control. But I won’t slip again. I promise. I’l never hurt you again. Never.”


Gas station attendant? What the fuck was he talking about? She’d never dated a gas station attendant. She didn’t even know a gas station attendant.


“I’m not that man anymore. Remember that charming man you fel in love with?” He smiled and she could almost remember the man she’d married, but she remembered a face twisted in rage and a pair of hard fists much more vividly.


“He’s back. I,” he continued, pressing a hand to his chest, “I’m back and we can go back, Myrna. Back to the way things were at the beginning. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? I never meant to hurt you, sweetheart. You have to believe me. I’m better now. I’ve changed. I love you. So much. I do. I love you. You believe that, don’t you?”


Her stomach churned at the sound of those three little words slithering from between his lying lips. Nothing had changed. This was exactly like every other time he’d talked her into taking him back. Wel , one thing had changed. She had. She knew real love with a good man. Brian had showed her the difference. She shook her head at Jeremy. “Even if I did believe you, and I don’t, it wouldn’t matter. I don’t love you. I have a new boyfriend. One who respects me and treats me wel . He doesn’t think I’m a whore or falsely accuse me of cheating on him.”


Jeremy’s eyes hardened and his upper lip curled. A thril of fear raced down her spine. As she suspected, the darkness in him was careful y veiled behind his lies and attempted manipulations.


After several seconds, Jeremy relaxed and smiled. “Oh, yes. Brian.”


“Do I know you?” Brian asked from the open front door.


Chapter 35


Brian was stil groggy from the long flight, but he didn’t think he was hal ucinating. There was something intimate between Myrna and this guy who had his hand wrapped around her arm.


The tal man turned and his eyes widened. “This has to be a joke, Myrna. Your new boyfriend is a thug?”


“He’s not a thug,” she whispered. “He’s perfect.”


“Am I interrupting something?” Brian asked, his brows raised in question.


Myrna’s hands clenched into fists. Her entire body was shaking. He could see it from halfway across the room. Something wasn’t right here. Who was this guy? And why was he touching Myrna with such familiarity? Had she actual y been in such a hurry to return to Kansas City so she could rendezvous with some secret lover of hers? She’d known he was on his way. Surely she wasn’t stupid enough to get caught this easily.


“You can leave, thug. My wife and I are getting back together.” The man wrapped an arm around Myrna’s shoulders and tucked her against his side. His lips brushed her temple.


Brian’s heart slammed into his chest. “Wife?” Brian sputtered.


This was Jeremy? This handsome, clean-cut man was the evil son-of-a-bitch who had damaged Myrna so severely she couldn’t stand the sound of the word love? It couldn’t be. Brian was certain Jeremy had curved horns, thick red skin, glowing eyes, and cloven hooves. This guy, who belonged on a Christmas card dressed in a reindeer sweater surrounded by his doting wife, 2.5 kids, and his faithful golden retriever, could not be Jeremy. Not possible. Besides, weren’t they divorced?


Myrna shook her head and opened her mouth, but didn’t produce a sound. Brian had never seen her look so pale. He decided she wasn’t freaked out because he’d caught her in the act with some good-looking man. She was terrified. But Brian was here now. He wouldn’t let this asshole hurt her again. Not physical y. Not emotional y. Not psychological y. Brian wouldn’t give him the chance.


“So you’re Jeremy,” Brian said, easing further into the apartment. No sudden movements. There was no tel ing what this crazy bastard was capable of.


Jeremy smiled and tossed his blond head with a self-satisfied grin on his perfect face. “She told you about me, did she?”


“Oh yeah, she told me al about you.” Brian’s rage simmered beneath the surface, but he knew he had to keep it restrained. His first instinct was to pound the shit out of this guy, but he didn’t want to scare Myrna. Brian didn’t want her to think he was anything like this prick.


Jeremy trailed his fingers up and down Myrna’s upper arm as he waited for Brian to make his move. Myrna stood frozen at his side, looking nauseous with anxiety. When Jeremy eased her closer, she whimpered. Brian’s rage erupted. “Get your fucking hands off her.” He crossed the room in three strides, his fisted hands raised in threat.


“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!” Jeremy said, bike-pedaling backwards and shifting Myrna in front of his body for protection. “I know you thugs settle your differences with violence, but civilized men—”


“You’re about to find out how violent this thug can get, you piece-of-shit pansy. I told you to get your fucking hands off Myrna. I mean now.”


Jeremy dropped his hands from Myrna’s shoulders.


Emitting a gasp of relief, she took a step toward Brian. He opened his arms to draw her near, but Jeremy grabbed her again. She flinched as if he’d struck her.


Brian’s heart thudded faster. His eyes narrowed. “I warned you, asshole,” he said. “Now I’m going to kick your ass.”


Brian advanced on Jeremy, but before he could land a blow, Myrna stepped between them and lifted her hands to stop him. “No, Brian. Don’t hit him.”


Brian’s eyes widened. She was defending him? How could she defend him? Maybe what Jeremy had said about them getting back together had been the truth. He certainly looked the part of her husband—attractive , clean-cut, wealthy, and wel -educated. Perfect manners. Perfect face. Perfect body. Everything Myrna deserved in a husband. Certainly a more practical choice than Brian. Even he couldn’t deny that reality.


Brian shook his head at his thoughts. No. Jeremy didn’t deserve her. He had hurt her in every way imaginable. She didn’t need someone who looked proper standing beside her. She needed someone who supported her and let her be herself. She needed Brian, dammit, even if she wouldn’t admit it.


“I’m not just going to hit him,” Brian said. “I’m going to beat the shit out of him.”


“No, please don’t.”


Brian could not believe that she was still trying to protect the jerk. Was she mental? “Why not? He deserves it.”


“Because,” she said, looking up at him with concern in her pretty, hazel eyes, “you’l hurt your hands.” She grabbed a tal , crystal vase off a nearby end table and shoved it into his chest. “Use this instead.”


Brian grinned and lifted the vase in one hand, testing its weight. “You sure? This is a real y nice vase. It’s also heavy. Potential y lethal.” He glanced at Jeremy, satisfied to see fear in his eyes. Brian shifted his gaze to the flowers littering the floor by the door. “And you have some nice flowers over there that someone—not me, once again—delivered personal y…”


Myrna careened into Brian as Jeremy shoved her out of the way. Jeremy sprinted toward the front door, but Brian grabbed him by the col ar of his baby blue polo shirt before he could get out into the corridor. “Where do you think you’re going?” Brian shut the door with his foot.


“Let me go!”


“I don’t think you understand. I have a serious beef with you, dude. And I very much want to cause you permanent harm.”


“I’m going to go cal the police,” Myrna said. “He’s not supposed to be anywhere near me.”


Brian was glad to see her confidence returning. He’d scarcely recognized her when he first arrived. “Great idea. I’l keep this guy occupied until they get here.”


As soon as she disappeared into a room at the back of her apartment, Jeremy took a wild swing at Brian. Brian ducked. In his youth, he had been in more fights than he could count and it was obvious that this wuss had never squared off with a man. No, he was the type of coward who hit women and kicked puppies.


Jeremy struggled against Brian’s hold on the back of his col ar. “Get your hands off me, you filthy thug. If you so much as scratch me, my father wil have you put away for the rest of your life.”


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