1

Derek Kane.


Hottest guy I’ve ever seen. Not to mention charismatic, smart, and funny to boot.

I met him when I was a college freshman and he was wannabe rock star.

We had a sweet, ill-fated romance that lasted all of two weeks, whereupon I left to go reunite with my boyfriend of three years.

Horrible, horrible mistake.

Over the years, I’ve lain awake thinking about it for more nights than I care to admit.

Should I have stayed? I should have stayed. I should have thrown out all my plans, broken up with Kevin and stayed with Derek, and then everything would have been perfect.

Those sorts of thoughts just naturally drift into What if we met again? What would happen? Could we start again where we left off?

If only we could have a second chance…

But I never contacted him, for good and sufficient reasons. And he never contacted me.

And that was that.

Except I got a second chance.

…sort of.

The wannabe grew up into a bonafide Rock God who refused to talk to the press.

I grew up into a struggling journalist who couldn’t get an article published to save her life.

Then my roommate from college met an editor at Rolling Stone, and the Rube Goldberg machine that is Fate was set into motion. After initially saying ‘no,’ followed by a great deal of agonizing, I agreed to meet Derek and write a story for the magazine.

And so the Rock Star and the Girl From His Past were reunited, and they lived Happily Ever After, right?

Nope.

Not even close.

The story has a happy ending, though not the one you’re expecting.

And the moral of the story is this:

Be careful what you wish for.

Because you might just get it.

2

I had just gotten off a plane in Los Angeles, walked into a luxury hotel called the Dubai, and been told by the concierge that Derek Kane himself had requested – nay, demanded – my immediate presence in the lounge.

And so it was, after four years of never hearing from him, that I stood at his table in the back of a dimly lit bar and stared into the green eyes that had once captivated my heart.

“Kaitlyn,” he said in that sexy, low growl of his. “I’ve been waiting a long, long time for this.”

I slid into the booth and tried to camouflage how nervous I was with a bit of attitude. “You could have picked up a phone if you didn’t want to wait so long.”

He grinned at me.

God, I’d forgotten how beautiful his smile was.

“What, no ‘hi, hello, nice to see you’?” he asked, acting vaguely injured.

“Hi. Hello. Nice to see you,” I said coolly, even though my pulse was racing.

He stretched out his arms along the top of his seat, which made his $300 designer t-shirt strain against his chiseled chest.

Unnnnhhh.

“I’m sensing a little hostility here,” he said good-naturedly.

“Not hostility. Just… guardedness.”

“Guardedness? Against what?”

Against having my heart broken again.

“I don’t know,” I fibbed, and searched for a better lie. “You’re not real fond of journalists.”

“Other journalists. I’m very fond of you.”

My heart fluttered the tiniest bit, but I kept my outward cool.

I think.

“Hence the guardedness,” I said.

He leaned forward. Besides noticing that his arms looked even bigger and more muscular than the last time I’d seen them (double unnnhhh), I could smell the alcohol on his breath.

Bourbon.

I imagined it was the good stuff.

“What exactly do you think is going to happen here?” he asked.

You’re going to try to seduce me. And finally put a notch on the bedpost in that one blank spot that’s been annoying you for years.

“I’m going to do an interview. Then I’m going to write an article. It’s going to get published.” Hopefully. “Why, what do you think is going to happen?”

His eyes searched mine. “I was hoping we might be able to talk.”

“That’s typically what people do in interviews.”

“No – I mean, talk.”

“What do you want to talk about?”

“How about why you’re being like this?”

I stared into his eyes. He seemed genuinely puzzled. “Do you really have to ask that question?”

“Yeah, I really do – because I have no idea why you’re doing the whole ice queen thing. You weren’t this cold four years ago, not even when we met the first time.”

I paused for a long, long time, thinking about my next move.

We were talking around the elephant in the room: our last few moments together, outside that Krispy Kreme doughnut shop on Highway 78.

Specifically, the moment where he told me he loved me… I told him I loved him, too… and then I drove away in tears.

But there was another elephant in the room, as well: all the pictures I’d seen on Facebook of gorgeous, half-naked women hanging all over him. And that was before his band blew up. Since then, it was pictures in US and People and TMZ.com of gorgeous, half-naked, famous women hanging all over him.

Two elephants, one room – not a good combination. In fact, if they clashed, there was going to be blood.

Probably from my heart, smashed and broken on the floor.

“…why don’t we save that question for later, and maybe get some of the catching up out of the way first,” I suggested.

He shrugged. “Okay.”

Just then a waiter came up from behind me and set down a glass in front of Derek. Bourbon, neat.

Derek didn’t even look at the waiter, just at me. “You want a drink?”

“No.”

Now he looked at the waiter. “Get her the same as me.”

“NO,” I said loudly.

“Then what do you want?”

I looked up the waiter. “I don’t want anything, thank you.”

Derek grinned. “You’re getting one whether you want it or not, so you might as well pick something you like.”

“Rolling Stone’s not going to pay for a ton of top-shelf liquor.”

“We both know that’s not true. If they get an interview with me out of it, they’d pay for a tableful of blow. But Rolling Stone’s not buying, I am.”

I bristled. “I’m not drinking it.”

“Can’t force you to drink it, but I can order it for you.”

I gritted my teeth. “…fine. A glass of merlot.”

“Best bottle you’ve got,” Derek ordered.

I looked up at the waiter. “Just a glass of the house merlot will be fine.”

“Best bottle you’ve got,” Derek said commandingly. “And don’t listen to anything else she says.”

The waiter just nodded and walked away.

“Is that what you do now?” I asked, annoyed.

“Do what?” he asked as he took a sip of his drink.

“The whole rock star power trip – ‘nothing but the best for me and my crew’ thing?”

Derek smiled. “I saw this MTV Cribs episode once – ”

“You watched MTV Cribs?” I asked, unable to hide my surprise.

“My roommate Dale watched it all the time on DVD. Obsessively.”

“The stoner pizza delivery guy?”

“Good memory,” he said, sounding impressed. “Anyway, there was this rock musician on there – can’t remember who – and all of his hanger-ons wanted Cristal at parties, so he kept a bunch of empty Cristal bottles and just filled them up with cheap champagne. I remember he said something like, ‘Those idiots can’t tell the difference.’”

“So ‘the best bottle you’ve got’ – is that code for an empty bottle of whatever the equivalent of Cristal is in merlot? And they’re going to fill it with – ”

“Boone’s Farm,” Derek finished, a playful smile on his face.

“So I guess that makes me one of the idiots,” I said sardonically – which Derek took a little too seriously.

“No! Jesus,” he growled. “It was just a funny story. I’m happy you’re here – aren’t you happy to be here?”

It took me a second to answer.

“…yes.”

“Doesn’t sound like it.”

I was silent for a few more seconds. Then I decided, I’m tired of talking around the elephants.

“Do you know I actually rejected this job when they offered it to me?”

“What? Why?” he asked, truly sounding mystified.

“You have no idea?” I asked, so not believing him.

“No, I don’t. Why?”

“We have a certain… history together.”

He cocked one eyebrow and gave a seductive little smile. “Yes, we do.”

“Which is making this really uncomfortable for me.”

The seductive smile disappeared. “Why?”

“What are you, three years old? ‘Why, why, why?’”

He laughed. “I want to know!”

A glass of red wine miraculously appeared next to me. “Thank you,” I said to the waiter.

“You’re welcome,” he smiled.

Derek gave the guy a ‘head nod’ of thanks without actually saying it, and the waiter departed.

“I’m not drinking it,” I said to Derek.

“Riiight. You always say you’re not going to do things, and then you wind up doing them anyway,” he said mischievously.

I shot a death glare at him.

He looked at me for a moment, like he was deciding whether he ought to go through with something or not. Then he evidently decided, because he sat up, put his elbows on the table, and leaned over conspiratorially.

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