Copyright © 2013 by L.A. Bressett

All rights reserved.

This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual locations, businesses, persons, living or deceased, and events is purely coinceidental. Characters, businesses, places, and events are all products of the author's imagination or are used for fictional purposes only.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the author, except for use in a book review.

This author recognizes the copyrighted and trademarked material used throughout this book and does not claim any ownership or rights to anything mentioned.


"Dancing in a Crowded Room"

"Are you sure you should be drinking that, Chase Melanie Taylor?"

I raised an eyebrow at my best friend of six years, pushing a few of my rich, chocolate-brown curls out of my face to shoot her a warning glare.

If looks could kill, this would have turned into an episode of CSI on the spot.

"Don't patronize me now, Vic! I don't know how I let you talk me into this mess!" I cried out before tossing back a shot of the amber-colored liquid courage in front of me, making a face as the horrible taste and burn viciously smacked my senses. I slammed the glass back down as my eyes start to water, and glance around the busy Texas bar. The three-hour drive from our small town to get here should have been enough to get my unease in check, but it seemed to have the reverse effect.

Saturday nights at The Wagon were probably always busy. Not that an eighteen year old should know anything about bars, but when a girl is about to pour her heart out on stage for the first time, it's just something one would notice.

"Hey, I just let you borrow the clothes. By the way, you look damn fabulous if I do say so myself, and I do say so. You set this whole operation up on your own! I am merely your hot ass sidekick for the evening," Vic said with her trademark smirk, tacking on a wink for good measure.

I sighed and gave my best friend a slight smile. Of course, she's got it backwards; the truth is that I am the one always tagging along on her dates and outings like some sort of terminal third wheel. Vic never treated me like that, but it didn't mean that the guilt from being the boring half of our pair didn't weigh on me from time to time. It wasn't anyone's fault; it was just the natural way of things. I had always been the Robin to her Batman, and I wouldn't trade her for anything. Plus, Victoria was the only one who truly knew how rough things were at home for me. I met Victoria Pierce in seventh grade, when my overbearing parents finally surrendered to my pleading and enrolled me into public school for the first time in my life. Not only was Vic strikingly beautiful, she was funny and sweet too. The first thing she ever said to me was that I was too cute to be so quiet. I'd been attached to her hip ever since.

Not tonight though, tonight was finally about me. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that my parents would never approve of this because my childhood had been spent under lock and key. Every little detail of my life had a rule and a consequence. Church, chores and school work was what my life consisted of. Things like television and music were heavily frowned upon and weren't allowed in our home. I spent years hiding under my sheets listening to an old radio, writing down lyrics, and toying around on my thrift store acoustic guitar that I sneakily bought when I was sixteen. All of it had finally brought me to this moment. I just didn't know if I could go through with it. I was sweating in places that people should not perspire from! Looking down at the ensemble my sidekick had picked out for me, I thanked heaven above that the tight black jeans, hot pink tank top, and leather shrug completely hid the fact that I was sweating like a five hundred pound man running on a treadmill.

"How did you convince Baird to let us in here tonight, anyway?" Vic asked me curiously, stirring the ice around in her soda. Her deep brown eyes darted around the busy bar, no doubt checking out the eye candy around us. I rolled my eyes as I caught her giving a flirty smile across the room.

I couldn't imagine what kind of man-eater Vic was going to be when we were finally out of high school; she was already bad enough now! Part of me wanted to let go and embrace the wild side of myself like she did, like every other teenage girl. My parents wouldn't have any part of that though. I'd buried the part of myself that found loud music, tattoos, and cute boys appealing, because it went against everything my parents raised me to be. They would literally kill me if I ever acted like anything other than an innocent, church-going, country girl.

"You know his brother owns the Pizza Shack. I've seen him in there a few times when he comes down to visit. He's heard me singing to the jukebox while wiping down tables at work; when I finally built up the courage to ask him he said he'd wondered what had taken me so long. As I don't tell my mama, Baird agreed to give me a chance. You better keep a low profile though; you know we could get him in huge trouble for being in his bar and being under-age."

She waved her manicured hands at me. "Yeah, I know! Before you go getting all 'mama' on me, remember, I'm just sitting here, pretty, with my soda while you have had two shots of something you don't even know the name of and lied to your mother about where you are tonight. Dare I say that my little angel is finally letting some of her bad girl out!?" she said excitedly.

I laughed at the gleam in her eye, "Maybe. Just a little bit. Don't get used to it!" She squealed and grabbed my hand, dragging me onto the dance floor. I could have argued with Vic and gone back to the bar to sweat away my nerves for another twenty minutes, but fighting with her would be useless. She never lost.

A few minutes later, my best friend had me laughing and spinning around with her, my jitters leaving me with every swing of the hips. I closed my eyes and turned to bump against her again; however, the deep "oomph" that followed, was most definitely not Victoria's.

My horrified eyes flew open and found themselves eye level with a red guitar pic attached to a sliver chain. The chain almost distracted me from the black shirt stretched tightly across a broad chest laying beneath it. Almost. My gaze wandered up almost a foot above my five and a half foot frame and landed on the most gorgeous face I had ever seen. Like a domino effect, my eyes fell from one impressive feature to another. Charcoal grey eyes stared down into my light blue ones, smiling just as much as the full lips on his face. The silver lip ring on his bottom lip was absolutely hotter than the sun. In the dim bar lighting, I noticed script writing tattooed across his forearm, and even one peeking out above the collar of his shirt. He pushed his stylishly-messed up, shaggy blonde hair out of his face and I watched as his eyes slowly roamed up and down my body.

Holy crap.

"I'm sorry!" I blurted out, sounding every bit the silly girl I felt on the inside.

"No, please, don't be sorry at all! In fact, I wouldn't mind if you wanted to assault me like that for the rest of the night," he mused, the corners of his lips turning up into one incredible, breath stealing smile.

Dear Lord, even his voice was sexy. I could feel my cheeks turning bright red, but I tried desperately to fight against it.

"Tonight is your night. Wild and crazy and out of the box, Chase!" I think to myself, "Now, flirt back with the boy!"

I smiled up at him shyly. Well, at least I'd flirt the best I could.

"Assault? I was only dancing! I don't think I was that rough with you!"

The wicked way he cocked one eyebrow at me and grinned made my knees start to shake.

He leaned in so close to me that I instinctively wanted to step back at his invasion of my personal space, but I found myself leaning in to his intoxicating scent.

Oh. My. Lord. He smelled incredible!

My eyes fluttered shut as I heard his husky voice right at my ear, "Baby, you can be as rough with me as you want."

The closest I have ever been to a boy was sitting in a classroom with one. I never really had crushes; never did the whole poster on the wall thing- I wasn't allowed. I guess I was the type that figured I would meet my dream guy once I finally left home and went off to college, and that would be that.

Up until this moment in time, that is. Call me crazy, but I suddenly had the urge to lick this complete stranger who was whispering naughty things in my ear.

For a moment, I forgot where I was, until Vic's voice came crashing into me like a wave of cold water.

"Well helllllllllllo there, handsome!" she purred, eyeing my naughty stranger. He leaned back up and away from our suggestive little bubble, leaving me reeling.

Boys never did this to me. All I knew was that in a matter of minutes, I had developed my first crush, and I was already crushing hard.

I glanced over at my bestie with her platinum blonde bob haircut as she put on her vixen eyes, and I knew she was on the prowl.

Sighing, I stepped back, deciding to head back to the bar as he turned to smile at her, but then the strangest thing happened.

He grabbed my hand.

"Where are you going?" he asked, mischievously.

My jaw hit the floor.

"I was just about to teach you some new dance moves!" he laughed with that charming grin still plastered on his face. I must have looked dazed, confused even.

Did he just ask me to dance!?

Vic's eyes lit up like the Fourth of July. I felt her move behind me and smack my butt just before shoving me into my naughty stranger.

"Get 'em baby girl!" she hollered at me, before instantly grabbing a boy of her own to get her groove on with.

I bit my bottom lip as I looked up at this boy, who just continued to smile at me. The next thing I knew, he had spun me around and had my body pressed against his. My hands slid up his rock hard, tattooed forearms and I started to feel a little light headed. When I felt his arms slip eagerly around my waist, my mouth went dry. Suddenly, Victoria's constant quest for male attention was completely validated.

My heart raced as his muscular body pressed against me, rocking us to the beat of the song; God, I hoped he couldn't feel how I was trembling in his arms.

"So what's a girl like you doing in a place like this?" he asked with a smirk.

Cheesy line, but I'll bite.

"I'm afraid that's top-secret information," I said in my best flirtatious voice.

He licked his lips, his lip ring twisting slightly, drawing my eyes there like a moth to a flame.

"Is that right?" He asked. I swallowed hard, trying to tear my eyes away from his sexy mouth, and nodded.

"How- how about you? What brings you here tonight?" I finally managed to say.

He shrugged, "In town visiting family; out celebrating tonight. I heard there was going to be live music here. You can't go wrong with that. Well, unless the rumors are true about the first performer tonight."

And that's when my heart sank right out of my chest.

"Why? What's wrong with the first performer?" I managed in my best big-girl-not-about-to-cry voice.

"Heard it's some high school girl. She's probably going to be some sort of Kesha wannabe and make all of our ears bleed," he stated with a laugh that rumbled through me.

I relaxed against him slightly; he was wrong about that, I was so not singing any of that!

Hold on, how old did he think I was? I think back to the bathroom at Vic's house and remembered just how much makeup I was wearing. It probably wasn't a stretch to think that I was twenty-one.

That would probably make him a few years older than me to say the least.

An older, tattooed boy in a bar, and I had already wanted to lick him. God help me.

I shrugged and chuckled, "Yeah, kids these days. They just don't know real music, do they?"

His eyes lit up and he laughed, "I wouldn't have said it like that but, yeah. At least not real, good music."

As I was about to say something else, I felt a hand tap my shoulder. I turned my head, not wanting to move from my naughty stranger just yet; however, when my eyes fell on Vic, I remembered why I was there in the first place.

"It's that time, Girl!" she said, all smiles.

I turned back to my dance partner and gave him an apologetic smile, "I'm sorry, but I have to go."

Stepping away from him felt like ripping a Band-Aid off, painful and pointless. I wanted to be stuck on him for the rest of the night, but I had a mission.

"I'm Avery, by the way," he said, tugging at my hand before I was too far out of his reach.

I spun around and grinned, "Thanks for the dance, Avery." I turned to walk away and I heard his intoxicating voice again.

"What's your name? Are you sticking around for a while?" he asked, biting his bottom lip, probably not wanting me to hear the eagerness in his voice; it matched the same feeling in my eyes when they lit up.

"It's Chase, and yeah, you'll see me later," and with that I hurried off across the crowded bar and made my way through a black door at the very back. I immediately fell against the cold wall in the hallway, trying to catch my breath.

Suddenly, it wasn't the thought of singing in front of an audience that had my stomach tied in knots, it was those wolf-like eyes.