“She’s coming on tour with me,” Tate stated, eyeing Carter and Shane.
“Anyone have a problem with that?”
“Me,” I spoke up. “I never agreed.”
“Shane was just throwing a hissy fit,” Carter dismissed. “It’s not the first time. Don’t take anything he said personally.”
I gasped mockingly. “You mean Tate Watkins has fucked other women? My God, all this time I thought I was special. I was his only strawberry girl.”
“Excuse us,” said Tate, grasping my arm and dragging me to the back of the bus. It wasn’t a far walk, and the thin veneer door of the bedroom provided little privacy. I went on the defensive and crossed my arms over my chest.
“I don’t think I’d like you to call me that anymore.”
“I’ve never called anyone that but you.”
“Yeah, well, between Carter and Shane, the sentiment has soured.” Rubbing the back of my neck, I tried to ease the tension nagging me. “You know I don’t give a shit about your past.”
Shane was the elephant in the room.
“You let me worry about Shane.”
“I’m not coming between you and your band. I shouldn’t have opened my mouth to begin with. I knew it was a bad idea from the start.”
“It’s called constructive criticism.
Shane never handled it well.” Sighing, Tate pushed a hand through his hair.
“I’ve been holding back. I used to write shit that meant something. Now…now I’m just trying to make everyone happy. It’s not working. Everyone knows it.”
“So what—you used me to make a point?”
“No! Jesus. No. I wouldn’t do that.” Plopping down on the small built-in bed, Tate looked utterly defeated. “I wanted your opinion, a fresh perspective. I knew you would give it to me straight.”
“You want a fresh perspective: stop listening to everyone else and write what you want, write from your heart. Go back to the start.”
“I’m trying. Just What the Doctor Ordered is all my shit.”
“Minus the heart.”
“It’s just not there. I feel dried up, stale. I mean…the music used to come to me, but I haven’t felt it in a long time. Everything feels forced. At least it did up until two weeks ago.”
“You make me feel alive again, Cooper.
You’re strong, smart, independent, even if it is to a fault—” Tate grinned widely when I scowled and swatted at him. He grasped my arm and pulled me onto the bed, somehow managing to maneuver me beneath him.
“Everything about you is amazing. Don’t ever think that you’re not special to me.”
“Is that what you tell all your strawberry girls?” I was a sucker for sappy words, but I was still a woman. It was in my nature to make a man grovel whenever his past came up.
“You’re going to make me grovel?” Looking up from where he was grazing along my jaw, his eyes bore into mine, smoky and dark. For a moment, I had second thoughts.
“You call me by the same name your best friend dubbed your fangirls.”
“Carter and I have two completely different definitions, babe,” he argued, setting back to work. Despite that Carter and Jake were only a few feet away, he resumed nibbling at my jawline. “He thinks of them as the many; I think of you as the one and only.”
“That’s it? That’s your excuse?”
“What do you want to hear?”
“Come on, Tate, you’re supposed to be a master with lyrics. I’m sure you can drum up something more romantic than that.”
“You’re not special. You’re my everything.” His breath rolled over my lips, warm and sweet. He had me mesmerized. I had to blink a few times to dispel the burgeoning lust.
“Warmer, you’re getting warmer.” Hot, he was fucking hot. His hand slipped beneath the hem of my jeans and inched between my thighs. With deft circles, he effectively ceased all train of thought. My mind became a blank slate, open to his persuasion.
“Sure,” I said, playing along.
“Tomorrow, we’ll fly to Vegas.”
“Obvious or unpretentious?”
“Depends what you’re talking about.”
“Diamonds, of course.”
“In that case, yes. Oh, fuck!” My body locked up in spasms, jerking uncontrollably as he persisted to stroke me past orgasm, the tendons in his arm standing out as I fought to escape his overt manipulations. Tate smiled shamelessly, drawing out a second peak.
“I plan to, strawberry girl.”