Kendra strummed her guitar as she stared up at the sky. She would have thought the lights of L.A. below her would have dulled the stars up above, but they didn’t. The stars shone as brightly here as they did in Iowa. It was almost as if the universe was trying to tell her that she could, maybe even did, belong here. Maybe she wasn’t as out of place as she’d thought. Maybe this could work. Maybe she did fit in L.A. In this world. Maybe…someone…wasn’t as far out of her league as she’d originally thought.
“Penny for your thoughts.”
She glanced up and couldn’t stop herself from smiling at the man standing over her. “How many pennies you got?”
Jax dug in his pocket and came up empty. “None.”
She nodded slowly. “Might want to make another offer then.”
He sat on the chair next to her. “A truth for a truth.”
Her smile faltered a bit. “That sounds more dangerous than enlightening.”
He reached for her notebook.
“Really?” She grabbed it back. “Are there no boundaries in this house?”
“Play it.” He nodded toward the page he’d glimpsed.
She shook her head.
“Come on, Ken.”
“It’s not ready.”
He smirked as he grabbed her guitar. She didn’t let anyone touch her guitar, but she didn’t hesitate in letting him nestle the instrument in his lap. He jutted his chin toward the notebook, and she bit her lip before turning it toward him.
The song she’d been playing endlessly in her head filled her ears, somehow sounding even better with Jax plucking the strings.
He squinted a bit before giving her a lopsided grin. “You have terrible handwriting.”
“I’ve been told.”
But then he started singing her words, the lyrics she’d written…not exactly about Jax, but she couldn’t deny he inspired them. A shiver ran through her entire body and settled in her stomach. She couldn’t look at him. She skimmed the city lights as her heart pounded so loud she could barely hear his smooth voice singing a plea to be let down easy.
As he neared the end of what she’d written, she drew a breath to give herself the courage to look at him.
“This should be a duet,” he said, playing more notes than she’d written.
She lifted her brows before laughing. “Whatever.”
He gestured toward her notebook. “You sing the first verse, we’ll both sing the chorus, and then let me sing the next verse.”
He started over, and she did her best to ignore the camera. They were easy to forget, but always seemed to catch her eye in the nick of time. She was about to swoon at the thought of them singing a duet—her duet. Because he was right, this song would make an amazing duet. Mostly because as she wrote it, she heard his voice in her head. The slight movement of the camera reminded her to keep her cool.
She starting singing and trying to act like this wasn’t the most amazing moment of her life. She was sitting under the stars, looking over Los Angeles as Jax Landry played her guitar so they could sing together. She wasn’t even in awe at the location or the fact that this was Jax Landry. She was taken aback for completely different reasons.
When their voices blended over the heartbreaking chorus, she had no choice but to look at him. And that was the moment she knew she was in even more trouble than she’d thought. She was falling hard for this man, which was more terrifying than anything else she’d done in the last few months.
Because when Kendra Michaels fell, she never seemed to land on her feet.
“Damn it,” Jax said the second he was alone in his room. Sinking into the plush chair that faced the window, he ran his fingers through his hair.
This was bad. This was so bad.
He shouldn’t have sat with Kendra. He shouldn’t have sung her song. And he sure as hell shouldn’t have suggested they try it as a duet. The words scratched out in her crooked handwriting had hit him right in the heart. Hearing the words from her mouth seemed like she was singing to his soul. The warmth of her voice in soothed broken pieces of himself better left untouched.
Letting a heavy breath out, he’d swear he could see what was coming a mile away.
As soon as the producers saw that footage, they were going to air it and the little group of fans he and Kendra had run into on the beach would be nothing compared to what was coming.
Not just that, but he had no doubt someone at his record company was going to get the brilliant idea to buy Ken’s song and have them record a professional version and release it. Which was going to just get this snowball rolling even faster.
He was in over his head. How the hell had this happened? This was supposed to be an easy way to get his career back on track, not another disaster in the making.
Sinking in the chair, he wondered how he could possibly get out of this now. And if he even wanted to.
Looking into that woman’s eyes as they sang together lit a spark in him he hadn’t felt in a long time. She was special. Not just her voice or her naivety, but there was something about her that was calling out to him. Her heart seemed to be as battered as his. Two broken down people not even realizing they needed fixed.
Something out of a love song.
He scoffed at the thought. Because it was too real. Too true. And he could no longer deny it.
If he didn’t know better, he’d think Kendra had written that song about him. About them. If they could ever talk, really talk, they’d probably say something like what she’d written.
I like you. I want to be with you. But I’m pretty sure this is going to rip my heart out.
That was the gist of her lyrics. And she was right.
He could hardly hide how much he wanted to know her better. But that wasn’t going to end well. For either of them. Especially if he didn’t find a way to let her know they were pawns in the producer’s ratings game.
If she ever found out, she’d think he’d been deceiving her, and he couldn’t deny it.
Kendra started to stand, planning to leave since her session with Jax had ended, but he lifted his hand, and she sank back in the chair. She waited, but he didn’t look at her right away. Her heart dropped to her stomach. She’d been waiting for the “you’re nice, but I don’t like you that way” speech. It was coming now. She was certain.
Instead, he leaned back and gave her a smooth smile that warmed her soul and immediately put her at ease.
“You got me writing.”
She creased her brow. “What?”
“I haven’t written a song in about two years, Kenny. But I sat down and I wrote the rest of our song.”
“Your song. I couldn’t get it out of my head last night, so I wrote the last verse. You don’t have to use it. I don’t expect you to, actually. But I wrote it. And that’s what counts. That’s what matters to me.”
“Let’s hear it.”
He blushed. Jax Landry literally blushed. “I don’t…”
“Hey. You started this. Finish it.”
After a few erratic heartbeats, she was certain he was going to refuse again, but he chuckled.
“You’re right. I did start this. Okay. You don’t happen to have the notebook.”
“I don’t need it.” She settled her guitar on her leg and started playing the song she’d already memorized. She sang and he joined in at the appropriate parts. Then she shut her mouth and let him finish their song. She could barely breathe by the time he reached the last note. She was a good songwriter. She never questioned that. But what Jax did with the last verse of her song. She’d never be that good.
“Not bad, I guess,” she teased.
He laughed as he nudged her knee.
She let her smile soften. “You just put me to shame in my own song. You know that, right?”
“I’d like to work on this with you. If you don’t mind.”
She couldn’t stop her eyes from widening. “Really?”
“But…I mean…what does that mean?”
He smirked. “That means Jax Landry just asked Kendra Michaels to let him in on her project because he knows a damn good thing when he hears it.”
She held her breath. “Um…” Looking down, she blew her breath out. “I want that. I do.”
“But…maybe after all this? Can we talk about it after all this? I don’t want anybody to think that… you know…” She glanced at the camera. “You know.”
He nodded and a strange look flickered in his eyes for a moment. “Yeah. I do know. It’ll keep, Ken. Don’t you worry. We’ll talk about it when all this is over.”
“Good. Thanks, Jax. Not just for the lesson, but everything.”
He nodded. “Get on out of here. Our time is up.”
She gave him one last smile before heading out of the studio. She was so wrapped up in the fact that Jax wanted to write a song with her that she nearly ran into Dave, one of the producers. She didn’t care for him. He looked at her in a way she couldn’t decipher, but it wasn’t good. He wanted something from her, and she didn’t know what. It wasn’t sexual or anything like that, which concerned her even more. She could ward off unwanted advances. What she couldn’t do was defend herself against the unknown, so she’d done her best to avoid him. Even now, she gave him a curt nod and kept moving.
He smiled that venomous smile of his as she slid through the door.
“Jax,” he said as he stepped into the studio. “Just the man I was looking for.”
The door closed before Kendra could hear more, but she didn’t mind. She didn’t want anything to do with Dave. He was forgotten as quickly as the door clicked closed behind him.
Jax wanted to work with her. Jax thought she was talented enough to work with her. Nothing could bring her down now.