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Hillbilly rockstar, p.1
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       Hillbilly Rockstar, p.1

         Part #6 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James
 



  Chapter One

  After country music star Devin McClain finished a performance, he needed three things: a shower, a woman and a beer.

  Not necessarily in that order.

  He’d just handed the naked blonde a towel when someone started pounding on his hotel room door.

  Devin snagged a complimentary robe and lifted an eyebrow at the curvy woman who hadn’t bothered to cover herself. “Please tell me that ain’t a jealous boyfriend lookin’ for you.”

  “No,” she said in a breathy whisper.

  He wandered to the door and peered through the peephole. What was his road manager, Crash Cavanaugh, doing here? Devin opened the door. “What’s goin’ on?”

  Crash’s face was pasty white even beneath his beard. “Jesus, Devin.” The burly man barreled in and pulled Devin into a bone-crushing hug. “I’m so glad it wasn’t you. Sucks for JT, but damn, man . . .”

  “What happened?”

  “It’s . . .” His gaze flicked over to the woman peeking around the bathroom doorframe. “Hey, darlin’. You wanna shut the door so I can have a private word with my boss?”

  “Sure.”

  The door closed.

  Now Devin was well past alarmed. “Crash, start talkin’.”

  Crash stilled. Then his eyes met Devin’s. “Who knew you’d be in a hotel room tonight instead of on your tour bus?”

  “You. I probably told Jase and Gage. I pretty much grabbed my duffel and . . .” What was the blonde’s name? “Gretchen and I skipped the party to head straight here.”

  “Did you tell JT that he could crash on your bus tonight?”

  “No. Why?”

  “Looks like he decided to take a nap in your bed. Someone got onto the bus and beat the shit outta him with a baseball bat.”

  Devin’s entire body seized up. “Are you fucking kiddin’ me?”

  “No.”

  “How is he?”

  “Unconscious and in the ICU. He’d probably be dead if Check hadn’t dropped off your guitar after the show. He noticed the bus door was open—which it ain’t ever supposed to be. He went inside and saw your hat on the dresser, your boots on the floor and someone in the bed underneath the covers, blood everywhere. He thought . . .”

  “It was me.”

  Crash nodded. “He freaked out, called 911 and tracked me down. Big mess when the ambulance arrived because people were still hanging around after Dixon Davis’s concert ended. Only when the stretcher came out of the bus did we see that it was JT.” He ran his hand down his beard and sighed. “Scariest fifteen minutes of my life, man. Don’t know if there were any reporters around. But there were plenty of fans with cell phones. Rumors are gonna run rampant. You don’t need that.”

  “I could give a damn about any of that when JT’s in the hospital.” Devin dropped onto the sofa. “Give me a minute to get my head on straight and then we’ll go to the hospital.”

  “I don’t gotta tell you that this bullshit has escalated. Which means we’re making some changes effective immediately.”

  “Now’s not the time—”

  “It goddamn is the time,” Crash said hotly. “The threats are real, Devin. Whoever has been doin’ this the last eighteen months kicked it up a notch tonight.”

  He said nothing because the guilt was choking him.

  “You oughta know I called Scott Rosenthal.”

  Devin’s head snapped up. “Why would you call my agent? He doesn’t need to worry about—”

  “His high-profile client’s well-being and safety?” Crash interjected. “I ain’t about to argue the parameters of your agent’s job besides that it’s his right to know.” He threw his shoulders back. “Fire me if you want, but I’m done helping you hide this crap from everyone. Rosenthal is meeting us in Denver the day after tomorrow. And lemme tell you, it took some fast talking on my part to convince him not to pull you out of tomorrow night’s sold-out show in Denver.”

  “Jesus. He doesn’t get to decide that.”

  “According to him, yes, he does.”

  Fuck.

  “In the meantime, the cops want to talk to you.” He jerked his chin toward the bathroom. “Probably wanna talk to her too.”

  Devin’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”

  “To make sure this wasn’t some sort of publicity stunt.”

  “That’s bullshit.”

  “Then why did they ask me if you were violent and might’ve gone on a rampage after finding JT in your room?”

  “Come on. You can’t be serious.”

  “You’re in the public eye. Neither of those scenarios is out of the realm of possibility to people who don’t know you.”

  “I don’t know which is worse. That they’d think I’d beat the shit out of my bus driver to get my name mentioned in the news, or that I beat the shit out of my bus driver for daring to sleep in my bed. Christ. Do I need a damn alibi?”

  “Don’t snap at the messenger,” Crash cautioned. “I’m just passing on what I heard. This is standard procedure.”

  “Where are the cops?”

  “Waiting for you downstairs.”

  “Awesome.” Devin snagged clean clothes out of his suitcase.

  Crash angled his chin toward the bathroom. “You want me to handle her?”

  Too many times Devin had used Crash to deal with groupies who’d overstayed their welcome. “I’ll explain the situation.”

  “Where’d you meet her?”

  “In the media room. She’s the features reporter for the Kansas City newspaper.”

  “Never a dull moment with you. I’ll tell the cops you’re on your way down.” He left the room.

  Devin snapped the last button on his shirt before he rapped on the bathroom door. “Gretchen?”

  The door flew open and the tiny blonde stormed past him. Clutching the towel above her ample cleavage, she spun around and glared at him. “Don’t bother to handle me; I heard everything.” She snatched up her clothes and mumbled angrily to herself as she jerked them on.

  “This is not how I planned to end the evening.”

  “Me either.” She shimmied her skirt up her thighs. “God. I know better than this.” After she pulled the sleeveless black shirt over her head, she glared at him. “I’ve worked very hard to maintain a professional reputation. And now I have to tell the police that I’ve been up here with you for the last hour?”

  He kept his tone even. “It was your choice to come with me.”

  She wobbled on one foot as she pulled her boot on. “I’m aware it’s my own fault for being blinded by your celebrity, by your devastating good looks, by your Western charm and by your voice . . .” She inhaled a deep breath. “That deep voice of yours is liquid sex . . . It sucked me in like a siren’s call.”

  There wasn’t anything he could say at this point.

  “I don’t suppose you’d tell them that we were up here finishing the interview from earlier?” she asked hopefully.

  Devin shook his head. “I don’t lie. Especially not to cops. Especially not in a situation like this one, where someone has gotten hurt.”

  Her eyes turned shrewd, and he realized she’d slipped into reporter mode. “There’s a story there. Do you have a stalker or something?”

  He automatically hedged. “I’ve had a string of weird things happen.”

  “Think it’s a pissed-off boyfriend or husband of some woman you had a fuck-and-run encounter with?” She smoothed her hair in the mirror above the dresser. “Because you do have quite the reputation.”

  “Didn’t seem to stop you from dropping to your knees in front of me, did it?”

  Devin probably deserved her fiery glare, but hey, she’d been a willing participant.

  The interrogation with the cops didn’t take
long—everything Devin had told them about his whereabouts was verified with the hotel manager and Gretchen. Every minute of his time after he walked offstage had been accounted for.

  As soon as they were alone, Crash said, “Rosenthal and Carl Carlson are expecting us to meet with them and the security firm in Denver. There is no way in hell you’re getting out of it this time. Don’t get so pissy. Rosenthal is trying to protect your ass.”

  “More like protecting his asset,” Devin muttered.

  “If you’ve got a better idea, I’m sure he’d love to hear it.”

  If Devin had to be saddled with security, he’d damn well choose it himself. No way would he allow a security detail to clog up his bus and hamper his creative process. He’d allow one person to travel with him. One. He’d agree to more security in the arenas and to and from events, but not in his personal space.

  Although his bus could easily house the five members of his band, he insisted they have their own bus—a contract stipulation he’d had since he’d hit the big time and that wasn’t about to change now.

  Few people understood that with all the time he spent on the road, his bus was his haven. The one place he didn’t have to be on—he didn’t have to be Devin McClain, country music star. He could just be Devin Hollister, a Wyoming ranch kid who’d made good.

  “Uh-oh. I know that look,” Crash said as they turned the corner into the hospital’s parking lot.

  “What look?”

  “The one that says you’ve got something up your sleeve that ain’t no one gonna like.”

  Devin scrolled through his contacts list. “Hang on. I gotta make a call before we go in.”

  “Dev, it’s midnight.”

  “She’s up. And it’s eleven in her time zone. She wouldn’t know what to do if I called her at a normal time.” He listened as the line rang five times.

  “So didja finally get yourself thrown in jail and you need me to wire you bail money?” she drawled in that sexy twang.

  He laughed. “Tex-Ass darlin’, I love that you’re so optimistic when it comes to me.”

  “Hillbilly rockstar, I’ve been a party to your wild partyin’ ways, so it’s not such a huge leap to imagine you’ve gotten yourself ass deep in alligators. Hang on a sec,” Tanna said. “Stop bein’ so fucking smug, Doc. Yes, I know you won.”

  He heard Fletch’s deep laughter in the background.

  “What’s goin’ on, T?”

  Tanna sighed. “I bet Fletch it was his cell phone ringing and not mine, since he’s on call this week. So thanks, buddy. You cost me an hour’s worth of sexual favors, which I’ve just learned will require him using lube and vibrators on me.”

  “You ain’t complaining.”

  “True. Fletch says hey and thanks. So why are you callin’ me?”

  “I need a favor. I just found out that I’m getting a security detail on this next leg of the tour. I’m not happy about it, so I’d prefer to choose my own babysitters. Is your brother, Garrett, still in the private security business in Denver?”

  “Yes. But I have to say up front, his business has really taken off.”

  “That’s good because I want the best. Trust me; the promotion company will definitely make it worth his while. I thought I’d call him in the morning, but I couldn’t remember the name of the company. Can you text me that and his phone number?”

  “Sure. And, Devin, darlin’, you know I’m gonna ask if everything is all right.”

  “Everything is fine. Just takin’ precautions. Better safe than sorry.”

  “Good. I’ll send Garrett’s contact info. Take care, wild man.”

  “Always do. I’m jealous as hell that you’ve got Fletch to take care of you.” He meant that. Part of him had always hoped he and Tanna could make a go of it, but after seeing her with his childhood friend Fletch, he knew they were perfect for each other.

  Crash gestured to the phone after Devin had hung up. “Was that the hot, feisty barrel racer you used to pal around with?”

  “Yeah. Her brother runs . . . Well, you heard the conversation.”

  “I heard the lie. Look, I know you oversee every aspect of your career, but you’ve gotta realize that Rosenthal and Big Sky Promotions won’t waver in this edict. And if the security company ain’t up to snuff . . .”

  “It will be.” God, he hoped so. “Come on. Let’s go in and check on JT.”

  Chapter Two

  Liberty Masterson had just finished her daily requirement of PT—thirty minutes of cardio, followed by thirty minutes of kickboxing and fifteen minutes of takedown drills. Right after she hit the showers, she’d check in at the onsite gun range.

  This was the best job ever.

  The only way it could be any better was if she got to blow shit up.

  You used to do that in the army and it wasn’t all that fun, remember?

  Yeah, but people were shooting back at her. This was different. She was paid very well as a member of GSC Security—no more living hand to mouth in the world’s sandboxes. She absentmindedly rubbed the jagged scar below her collarbone, the literal parting shot that had ended her military career.

  She blotted the sweat from her face and scanned the empty training area. Most of the guys she worked with were on assignment. She missed the camaraderie of her coworkers and she hadn’t sparred with anyone in a week, so she was antsy.

  Joe, the boss’s second lieutenant, poked his head in the door. “Liberty, got a minute? Garrett needs you to do something for him.”

  “Do I have time to shower?”

  “A quick one. Then meet me out front.”

  “Be right there.” After rinsing off her body, she scraped her wet hair into a bun. Then she slipped on her uniform—black dress pants, gray blouse, black blazer and black boots. Lastly, she strapped on her gun.

  Ready to rock and roll.

  She took the stairs at a run and cut through the parking garage to the front of the building

  A luxury motor coach idled at the curb, Devin McClain’s face and his name plastered down the entire length of the bus. She’d never been a big country music fan, but she recognized the cowboy singer. His rugged good looks and heart-stopping smile were even more impressive billboard sized.

  Joe trotted over with a clipboard.

  “What’s going on? You bring in live entertainment for the annual employee barbecue?”

  “You wish. This is a potential client. He’s inside with Garrett right now, but the boss wants you to catalog all the possible security breaches for this bus. Then head up to the second-floor conference room and we’ll go from there.” He passed over the clipboard.

  “Will do. Is the bus locked?”

  Joe scowled. “No. The door wasn’t even completely latched when I got down here.”

  “Anyone on board?”

  “Nope. It’s all yours.”

  She nodded and got to work.

  Fifteen minutes later, Liberty entered the conference room. Joe pulled out a chair next to him, but the four guys on the opposite side of the table didn’t miss a beat in their conversation.

  Devin McClain was stretched out in his chair, arms folded over his chest with obvious belligerence. He wore a ball cap pulled low so half his face was obscured.

  The man in the three-piece suit next to Devin ended with “What we’re asking for is a minimum of two, and we want them 24/7.”

  “No,” Devin said with an emphatic shake of his head. “That ain’t happening.”

  Three-piece-suit man sighed. “That is not your decision to make anymore.”

  “The hell it isn’t. This affects me the most, so it should be solely my decision.”

 
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