Call on me, p.1
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       Call on Me, p.1

         Part #8 of Loving on the Edge series by Roni Loren
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Call on Me


  Copyright

  Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd

  1 London Bridge Street

  London SE1 9GF

  www.harpercollins.co.uk

  First published in USA by Penguin Group (USA) 2015

  First published in Great Britain by Harper 2015

  Copyright © Roni Loren 2015

  House Call copyright © Roni Loren 2015

  Excerpt from Break Me Down copyright © Roni Loren 2015

  Excerpt from Off the Clock copyright © Roni Loren 2015

  Cover photograph © Shutterstock.com

  Cover layout design © HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2015

  Roni Loren asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

  A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.

  This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

  Source ISBN: 9780425278390

  Ebook Edition © July 2015 ISBN: 9780008108243

  Version: 2015-06-03

  Dedication

  To all those readers who demanded that Pike get his own story, this is for you.

  Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Epilogue

  House Call letter

  House Call short story

  Keep Reading Break Me Down

  Keep Reading Off The Clock

  Acknowledgments

  Praise for Roni Loren

  About the Author

  Also by Roni Loren

  About the Publisher

  ONE

  “Are you touching yourself?” The voice in Oakley’s ear sounded labored and overeager—like a Saint Bernard attempting phone sex. He was probably drooling, too. Lovely.

  “Yes, you make me so hot …”—she quickly checked the sticky note she’d put on the kitchen island—“Stefan.”

  Stefan. Literature professor. Single. Six foot five.

  That’s the info he’d given her. Which probably meant: Steve, unemployed, married, and five-six on a good day.

  He groaned. “You’re so sexy.”

  Sexy? Two points off for lack of originality, Mr. Lit Prof. Though, even the suave guys tended to forget their vocabulary when they got to this point in the conversation. Oakley covered the mouthpiece on her headset and turned off the timer on the oven. If nothing else, she was impressed the guy had lasted through the full baking time.

  “Thanks, sugar,” she said, letting her tone drop into a lower register.

  “God, your voice is so fucking hot.”

  That she heard a lot. A record company exec had once deemed her voice “smoky, X-rated perfection” when he’d heard her demo. At the time, she hadn’t considered how inappropriate it had been for a grown man to tell a fifteen-year-old kid that. But her raspy voice had gotten her the gig then, and it had gotten her this one now. Though, admittedly, the bar wasn’t set quite as high for this current one.

  “I’m gonna give it to you so hard, Sasha,” Stefan ground out. “I can feel your hot mouth closing around me.”

  Oakley donned oven mitts and leaned down to pull out the tray of brownies. The smell of chocolate and the heat of the oven hit her with full force. She inhaled deeply. “Mmm, that’s so good. I could just lick up every last bit.”

  “Yeah,” he panted, the sound of his slick, pumping fist obscenely clear through the receiver. “That’s right. Show me how much you want it.”

  There you go, Steve, you go on and get your money’s worth. Oakley set the tray of brownies on a trivet and tugged off the mitts. Her stomach rumbled. She’d stayed up late enough that her body was looking for dinner number two. But these weren’t for her.

  She glanced toward the darkened hallway and the stairs beyond. Well, maybe one little corner piece wouldn’t be missed. She cut a small square and dipped her fingers in to grab it. But as she lifted the brownie, her knuckles grazed the searing hot pan.

  “Ah, shit!” she hissed, jerking her hand back.

  “Oh, yeah, let me hear it,” Stefan said on a moan. “Come with me, baby.”

  Oakley shook out her hand, sucking air through her teeth, and tried to keep the pain out of her voice. Her phone companion thought she was mid-orgasm. She threw in an oh, oh, oh and ran to the sink to plunge her fist into the dishwater she’d drawn to soak the mixing bowl.

  Stefan made choked sounds as he reached his own release. In another world, maybe it could’ve been an erotic moment. She’d talked a guy into an orgasm. He was calling her name. But the name was fake and so was the talk. And though she held nothing against the guys who called—after all, they helped her pay the bills—her libido had long ago crawled into a dark corner to die a quick, peaceful death. Even if she imagined the guy on the other end of the line looked like Johnny Depp or Justin Timberlake or something, she couldn’t drum up one ounce of interest.

  Stefan panted heavy, wet breaths right against her ear, resuming his resemblance to a Saint Bernard. Maybe she should offer him a “good boy” or a Milk-Bone.

  “That was amazing,” she said, using her husky, after-sex voice as she soaked her hand in the water. “Thank you, Stefan.”

  Panting. Panting. That was the only response.

  Then a tight, high sound—whistling.

  No. Wheezing.

  Uh-oh. “Stefan? Are you okay?”

  Those squeaking breaths continued for a few seconds then: “Yes … I’m … fine.”

  He didn’t sound fine. “Stefan, if you’re having an asthma attack or chest pains or something, you need to call for help.”

  “Can’t …” He gave a ragged cough. “My wife … can’t know … I’m down here this late. She’ll know I’m up …”

  He coughed again.

  Jesus Christ. Oakley shook the water off her hand. “What’s she going to think when she finds you dead in the basement? Hang up the phone and dial 911.”

  “I—”

  “Stu?” a sharp voice said in the backgrou
nd. “What are you doing down here? Stu?”

  “Oh, shit,” Stefan/Stu said between wheezes.

  The dial tone buzzed in Oakley’s ear a second later.

  She pulled off the wireless headset and sagged against the fridge, exhaling a long breath. Okay. It would be all right. Stu’s wife might kill him when she found him with the phone to his ear and his underwear around his ankles, but at least the guy wouldn’t die of a heart attack on Oakley’s watch.

  She could handle a lot of stuff—callers threw all kinds of bizarre shit at her—but she couldn’t be responsible for helping kill one. It was bad enough that she’d just contributed to strife in another marriage.

  Gold star for her.

  It shouldn’t bother her. The guys who called were grown men making a conscious decision to seek out paid phone sex. She was simply the tool of choice. Another night, they may download porn and watch a dirty movie instead. If she’d learned anything during her years of doing this job, it was that it wasn’t personal. She had a job to do. The callers needed a faceless someone to fill in for their fantasy that night. The relationship was purely transactional. And hell, she’d been used for free by enough people in her past. Now she was at least paid for it and not getting emotionally annihilated in the process. But still, sometimes she felt like the drug dealer, giving addicts easy access to their vice.

  She rolled her shoulders, trying to shrug off the stress of the call, and dug a tube of antibiotic ointment out of the junk drawer to slather on her burned knuckles. It was past two and she really needed to get to bed, but there was no way she’d be able to sleep after that burst of adrenaline from the call.

  Plus, she’d never gotten her dessert. And right now, she could use a big honking piece of chocolate.

  She went back to the brownies. They’d cooled enough by now, so she cut herself a bigger square than the original corner she’d planned and took a bite. She closed her eyes. Yeah, that’s the stuff.

  After pouring a big glass of milk, she brought that and the rest of the brownie to the table. She glanced at the walkie-talkie she’d placed on the table, the soft white noise relaxing her, and leaned back in the chair to enjoy the solitude. She was used to pulling the night shift by now, but usually she fell into bed after the last call, grasping for any shreds of sleep she could get before the alarm went off to start her real job. But it was nice to sit for a moment and simply be.

  She polished off the last bit of brownie and milk and brought her glass to the sink. The exhaustion was settling in full force now. She braced her hands on the edge of the counter and eyed the soaking dishes. Her mother had always had the rule to never go to bed with a dirty sink—as if a bright, gleaming, empty sink was some sign of how together the household was. Maybe it was.

  Oakley turned away from the dishes. They’d have to wait until tomorrow. She didn’t have it in her.

  She put foil over the rest of the brownies and grabbed the walkie-talkie and her headset. She should be able to get at least four hours of sleep. But right as she flipped off the light, the walkie-talkie beeped.

  “Mom?”

  Oakley halted, startled by the sudden break in the quiet. She pressed the button on the side of the device. “Yeah, baby?”

  “What’s that smell?” Reagan asked, her voice groggy from sleep.

  Oakley shook her head and smiled. She should’ve known the bionic nose would pick up that scent even in her sleep. “It’s just the brownies for your bake sale tomorrow.”

  “It’s not my bake sale. It’s the school’s,” Reagan corrected.

  “That’s what I meant.”

  “But that’s not what you said.”

  Oakley leaned against the wall in the hallway. This was an argument she’d never win. Reagan was into exactness. When Oakley told people Rae was eleven, Rae would jump in and specify how many months past eleven she was. “I’m sorry I said it wrong the first time. Now go back to sleep, sweetheart. I don’t want you to be tired in the morning.”

  “Did you put nuts or caramel in them?”

  “Of course not. I know you’re a brownie purist.”

  “Okay. Good,” Reagan said, and Oakley could almost hear her daughter nodding. “Thanks, Mom. Love you.”

  Oakley pressed the walkie-talkie to her chest for a moment, warmth filling her. “Love you, too, Rae. Good night.”

  Oakley headed to her bedroom, listening to the footfalls upstairs and the flush of the toilet as Reagan made a quick trip to the bathroom. She must’ve really had to go because Rae hated getting out of bed in the middle of the night. And she outright refused to come downstairs after dark—a phobia she’d developed years ago and hadn’t been able to shake yet.

  Hence the walkie-talkies. Oakley had gotten tired of Reagan yelling from afar anytime she needed something at night. And leaving every light blazing through the house all evening wasn’t an option either. The electric bill was already high enough.

  Bills. No, she wouldn’t think about that now. Even though she could see the stack staring at her from her desk. The gas bill. Rent. The quarterly installment for Reagan’s private school and therapies. She couldn’t face that tonight. Plus, she knew the due dates by heart so she could hold on to her money until the very last minute without being late.

  She closed her bedroom door and walked over to her computer to wake the screen. Her sign-in page for the service she used to get her calls was still up. It showed how many minutes she’d logged tonight. Not bad. But she was six minutes shy of hitting the bonus level where she got an extra fifty bucks for the night. Stu’s health scare had cost her more than stress.

  She sighed and sagged into her desk chair. Fifty extra dollars could pay for that pair of lime green Chuck Taylors Reagan wanted for her birthday.

  Oakley yawned and checked the box that indicated she was available to take a call. Her cell phone rang within seconds and she slipped on the headset again. “Hello, this is Sasha. Ready for a fantasy night?”

  “So ready,” said the deep-voiced caller. There was male tittering in the background.

  Great. A frat-boy call.

  “What are you wearing, Sasha?”

  Oakley looked down at her oversized T-shirt and yoga pants. “A sheer robe with nothing underneath.”

  “Aw, yeah,” the dude said. “How big are your tits?”

  Oakley put her head to her desk. Six minutes. She only needed to keep them on the phone for six more minutes.

  Six.

  Five.

  Four.

  Three.

  They hung up at two, laughing in the background as the phone went dead, their Truth or Dare game complete.

  And she was short.

  She lifted her head and checked the Available box again.

  “Hello, this is Sasha …”

  TWO

  The chick in his living room was taking a selfie next to his gold record. Pike leaned back, watching her through his half-open bedroom door. “Fantastic.”

  “What’s fantastic?” his friend Gibson asked on the other end of the line. “Did you even hear what I said?”

  “No, I didn’t. And what’s fantastic is that I have a seriously hot B-list actress in my living room, who was all kinds of cool after the show tonight but is now snapping duckface selfies in front of my shit.”

  Gibson snorted a laugh. “At least she’s not using you just for your body.”

  “That I’d be okay with. But this …”

  “Hey, if there’s no selfie for proof, the event never happened. At least that’s what my niece tells me. It’s like a tree falling in the woods.”

  Pike sighed. “Observation: Duckface is a friend to no one.”

  The longer Pike watched, the more he regretted his decision to bring this woman home with him. He’d been buzzing off the energy of the performance tonight and had wanted to keep that feeling going. Darkfall had kicked ass on stage and had impressed the promoters who were putting together some of this summer’s biggest tours. If Darkfall landed a sweet opening
spot with some big-time band, they’d have a chance to recapture some of the traction they’d lost when their lead singer had taken extended time off between albums to get surgery on his vocal cords. In some ways, tonight felt like a rebirth of the band, and he wanted to celebrate.

  And usually the only thing more exciting than pounding the drums, making thousands of fans scream, was making just one scream. But as he watched his date take another photo of herself, he was losing his enthusiasm for his plan.

  Maybe a chill night at home with the dog would’ve been a better idea.

  Monty barked from somewhere in the living room, protesting the fact that Pike hadn’t given him his requisite belly rub and dog biscuit when he’d come home. He’d been too busy pouring a drink for his guest.

  “What’s her name?” Gib asked.

  Pike scrubbed a hand through his damp hair. “Why does that matter?”

  “Come on, tell me that you’re not that big of a dick and you remember her name.”

  Pike grimaced at Gib’s tone. This is what he got for hanging out with businessman types instead of fellow musicians. The suits had a different code of conduct. With the guys in his band, remembering names was only expected after you slept with someone. Luckily, Pike’s memory was good. “Lark Evans.”

  “All right. Hold on a sec.” The clicking of a keyboard sounded on the other end.

  “Gib, look, can we talk about whatever you were calling for tomorrow? I’m ignoring my company.” He walked away from the door and dropped the towel from around his waist to pull on a fresh pair of well-worn jeans. “I told her I’d only be in the shower for a minute.”

  “Ha! I knew it,” Gibson said, triumph in his voice.

  “What?”

  “Your girl’s on Instagram. And guess what pics are making their way around the world as we speak?”

  Pike sighed.

  “Damn, she is hot, though,” Gibson said. “Duck lips notwithstanding.”

  “Which is why—”

  “Ah, shit. You’re gonna love this. Wait for it … Caption to the pic: Hanging out with Spike, the drummer from Darkfall! Hashtag: hawt.”

  “Hold up. Spike?”

  Gibson burst into laughter. “Spike! Man, she doesn’t even know your name. How very rock star of her.”

 

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