The Muscle - Amy Lane Page 0,1
“No!” She laughed through her tears, which looked really hideous, in fact, but he preferred it to the hopeless sobbing. “You ass, I am not pregnant! Jesus. Why would you ask that?”
“Because I want to keep dancing with you,” he told her, because, duh! “And I was sort of hoping you weren’t knocked up. You can call me your emotional support animal all you want, but we both know I’m a selfish bitch, so you can’t be all that surprised.”
She sputtered, wiping her face on the loose T-shirt that hung over her leotard. “Dear God, Dylan Li. The things that come out of your mouth. Don’t!” She turned to him with horrified eyes; he’d been known to blurt out uncomfortable things about his sex life at the merest provocation. “Don’t even go there,” she told him sternly. “If I have to hear about some guy’s come that tasted like cinnamon gum, I will vomit. I don’t have to be pregnant to have standards.”
Dylan chuckled appreciatively, although, point of fact, there hadn’t been a guy or a hookup or whatever for a couple of months now. He refused to dwell on why that was because then he might have to put a name to….
He wasn’t going to do it.
“Well, fine,” he told Tabby, suddenly grateful she had problems for purely selfish reasons. “I won’t tell you about cinnamon come, but you will tell me why you’re dancing like shit. We go live with this show in three weeks, babycakes. You can’t afford to suck donkey balls now!”
She let out a shaky breath. “Except it might not,” she whispered, and Dylan’s heart froze.
“Oh, Dylan. It’s awful. My grandfather might lose everything. His lease on the studio, his performance contracts, everything. It’s not fair! And there’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing!”
Dylan took a few deep breaths and tried to center himself. “Aether Conservatory?” he asked, just to make sure. His parents traveled the globe, mostly looking after their financial interests in Hong Kong. Dylan had been left alone with nannies and housekeepers at a very young age. He tended to be destructive when bored or lonely, and only two things had kept him from flaming out in a big ball of drugs and id.
His best friend, Josh Salinger, was one of them, and dance—specifically dancing at Aether Conservatory—was the other.
“You will explain that,” he said to Tabitha, needing to hear the details.
The more she spilled, the longer she spoke, the more he realized that maybe the gods of chaos really were looking out for him.
Because Dylan Li, and his friendship with Josh Salinger, might be the only things to save the dance company that had saved his life.
After Paulie, Before Josh
Hunter Rutledge woke up sweating, shaking, and cold. God. Fucking dream. Why? Why did he have to remember it? Keep remembering it for the past eight months?
Him and Paulie, outside their employer’s mansion in Arizona, scanning the dusty confines of the compound with restless eyes.
“Did he say why we’re going now?” Hunter asked.
Paulie shook his blond head grimly and arched a mischievous brow. “I know his timing could have been better,” he said dryly, and if Hunter had been anyone else, he would have smirked.
Paulie Claymore had a slender, tight little body and was one of the sweetest assholes Hunter had ever had the privilege to plow. He and Paulie had been off duty when the phone rang in their guest quarters. It had been their boss, telling them they were on emergency duty because the guys who were supposed to be on shift had gone into town for….
Yeah. There was no reason. The guys had just flaked.
Hunter had been a mercenary for three years after his six-year stint with the corps—bodyguard work mostly, with a few stretches of industrial security. He knew what good logistics were and he knew when things were fishy—and this was definitely fishy. But, well, he and Paulie had a job to do.
They’d been guarding Ronald Pinter, industrialist, ex-cattle-rancher, and entrepreneur, for the past three months, and the guy had “paranoid drug user” written all over him. Hunter hated the job. Pinter refused to tell his people what he was so afraid of, and every time Hunter saw him, with his wet eyes and red, runny nose, he expected Pinter’s brains to explode.
The job was sketchy, and after three months, Hunter wanted out. But first he wanted Paulie to come with him.
He and Paulie had been hired at the same time, both of them referred