I'm pleased to be able to offer you this special, sneak peek at Santa, Baby (Rock Stars in Disguise: Peyton)! It will be released for sale on November 9th (two days earlier on iBooks!) Thanks for reading!
See Santa, Baby at:
Backyard Wedding Reception
Peyton Cabot leaned against the deck railing, holding a red plastic cup in his hands and trying to get wasted.
The backyard wedding reception bubbled over with laughter and music.
Speakers hanging from the eaves of the large house blared rock and roll. The crowd seethed in the yard, dancing around the fire pits that warmed the brisk November air. Gray wood smoke curled around and between the people and fluttered into the night.
Peyton tapped the cold side of the cup with the fingertips of his left hand, the hard calluses from the bass guitar’s strings rattling the plastic.
He was a rock star in one of the world’s hottest bands, a formidable musician in his own right, and the only one at the wedding reception who was alone.
All the other musicians in the band Killer Valentine were married off, and they milled around the party with their spouses.
Tryp, the drummer, had married a pyromaniac roadie named Elfie right before Peyton had joined the band, and the two of them were canoodling over at the picnic table. Tryp’s hand rested, as usual, on Elfie’s somewhat pregnant tummy, and he smiled wider every time he looked down at his fingers splayed over her bulging sweater.
The band’s previous backup singer Rhiannon was engaged to their previous band manager, Jonas. They had managed to catch a train down from New York City for the wedding reception. The two of them were billing and cooing by one of the firepits, laughing with a swarm of roadies.
The tall, blond lead singer for Killer Valentine, Xan Valentine, had married the keyboardist, Georgiana “Georgie” Johnson, a few months before. They were standing over by the keg, laughing and toasting the bride and groom of the night. Xan pulled his long, blond hair back from his face and fanned himself, probably overheated from dancing.
Peyton couldn’t quite look at those two without an ache creasing his chest, but the pain had lessened over the last few months.
The wedding that afternoon had been a surprise to everyone, even to the bride and groom. Cadell Glynn, the lead guitarist, had married the voluptuous Dr. Andy Kumar, a surgeon. The bride was still wearing the bright red, drawstring scrubs that she had worn for the ad hoc ceremony. They stood with Xan and Georgie, laughing and eating Indian food off of paper plates.
Peyton took a long drink of the strong Seven and Seven from his plastic cup and tried to look like the dispassionate observer rather than the pathetic loner in the corner.
A lithe Indian woman—not the bride but her maid of honor at the wedding—grabbed Xan Valentine and Georgie by their hands and dragged them out into the yard to dance. The stranger was still wearing the blue scrubs that she had been wearing at the wedding in the hospital’s atrium. They were laughing and having a great time out there, right until Georgie waved to Peyton.
He focused his eyes beyond her, for surely he hadn’t been staring at her like some freaky stalker, right up until Georgie ran her finger over her throat and up to the shell of her ear.
Peyton could look away. He could leave Georgie with her husband out there in the dark yard, dancing in the crisp, late-fall night. It wasn’t a terrible fate.
But Peyton had always been Georgie’s knight in shining armor, even though it had become clear a few months ago that he would be the chaste and longing Lancelot to her Guinevere.
The King always won the Queen at the end of the story because they belonged together, but Peyton was still the Queen’s knight. Thus, he rode to her rescue.
Even when she needed rescuing from an overly enthusiastic dancer.
He sucked down the last of his drink in one gulp, disposed of the cup, and stepped down off the deck, wandering across the lawn and wiggling between groups of dancers and partiers who were warming themselves around the fires.
When he reached Georgie, Xan, and the stranger, Georgie reached out to him. “Peys! Just the guy I was looking for!” she yelled over the music and talking that filled the night. One of the groups was singing along to the music.
“Hey, yourself,” he said to her and nodded at Xan.
Georgie grabbed Peyton’s elbow and tugged him against her side. “Have you met Raji Kannan, Andy’s friend?”
“Pleased to meet you,” Peyton said to the woman.
The slim woman was more than half a foot shorter than Peyton, which meant that she was probably in the range of five feet, six inches or so. She had dark, Kewpie-doll eyes fringed with loads of dark lashes. Her black hair waved around her head, a layered pixie cut that flipped around while she danced. Two piercings glittered on her face: one on her lip, and the other in her nostril, and a dark tattoo marked the back of her right hand.
She looked more like a rock star than preppie Peyton did, no matter how much the stylists worked on him.
Raji stuck one slim hand out toward him. “How’re you doin’?”
Her accent was thick New Jerseyan.
Peyton laughed and let his native Connectikite accent shine through in New Englander solidarity, which meant he swallowed his R’s like a Kennedy. “I’m Peyton Cabot, bass guitar for Killer Valentine.” Guitah. Killah.
“Oh!” Raji’s lovely, dark eyes widened. “You’re the new guy! I’ve seen six Killer Valentine concerts, but I haven’t seen you play yet!”
“I’m the new guy,” Peyton agreed. “I’ve been sitting in on the studio sessions for the demos that we’re cutting.”
Georgie leaned in, her eyes wide, and she told Raji, “Peyton traveled with us on the European tour last summer to learn the ropes. How many countries did we stop at, Peys?”
He laughed at how Georgie was trying to play wing-girl. “Twelve, maybe? Or fourteen? Fifteen if you include Monaco, but we didn’t perform there.”
Georgie continued, “Peyton played his first concert with us in Rome a few months ago. When we start touring again in a few weeks, he’ll officially be our new bass player.”
“You’re going to be on stage?” Raji asked, her eyes widening.
“Yep, every night.” He glanced at Xan, who was nodding. Peyton’s rather unusual apprenticeship with the band had woven through half the instruments before everyone had agreed that he was most needed on the bass guitar.
The bass, the guitar for guitarists who couldn’t play the guitar.
Peyton, a Juilliard-trained pianist who played three instruments at a world-class level and four more as well as any professional, was wasting his talents on the bass.
Well, Peyton had chosen to join Killer Valentine, and he honored his commitments.
Now. He honored his commitments now.
Raji said to him, “That’s so exciting! I can’t believe you just auditioned and they picked you up and you’re going to be a rock star!”
“Peyton already is a rock star,” Georgie told Raji. “He’s been debuting the demos at the small clubs around here with Xan and the guys. He’s awesome.”
Peyton laughed with her. “I’m working on it, anyway.”
The woman stepped closer to him and toyed with a button on his shirt.
He thought about stepping away, but hell, he was stag at a wedding. Raji wasn’t a groupie who had made her way backstage by whatever means necessary. She was cute, and she was flying solo at a wedding, too.
Why not live a little?
Raji asked, “So are you going to stay with Killer Valentine long-term or start your own band someday?”
“I’m signed for a year’s contract,” he said. When he looked over her head, Xan and Georgie were inching into the crowd, leaving him alone with Raji. “After that, we’ll see what everyone wants to do.”
She asked him, “You wanna dance?”
“Fuck, yeah,” he said, lowering his voice to a growl.
He wrapped one arm around her waist and pulled her slim form against himself.
Raji grinned up at him and bit one side of her full, sensual lower lip.
Raji was sitting with Peyton Cabot, an honest-to-Shiva fucking rock star in Killer Valentine, her all-time favorite band, at the kitchen table inside the house of Cadell Glynn, the lead guitarist for Killer Valentine.
They were both glaring at a blank scrap of paper.
Peyton Cabot’s arm pressed against her shoulder.
She couldn’t stop thinking of him as Peyton-Cabot, his name all one word, kind of like if someone had introduced her to Elton-John or Jon-Bon-Jovi or Taylor-Swift or Lady-Gaga. She wouldn’t be sitting next to her casual buddy Jon or Lady. She’d have their full names in her head.
And so Raji was sitting next to Peyton-Cabot.
She was practically leaning on him.
Which was good, because writing a wedding toast felt stupid and awful. Marriage was for suckers.
Not that Raji would say that to Andy, ever. Somebody had to have a dream.
Thick muscles wrapped around Peyton’s arm, bulging at his shoulder and biceps. When they had been dancing, Raji had molested him subtly, brushing her fingers over his broad shoulders and flat, corrugated stomach. The cologne on his neck smelled like rosemary and lemon, maybe a little like black pepper, like he would taste delicious. In the darkness of the back yard, she could see that his hair was blond, but she hadn’t noticed his startling blue-green eyes until they had sat down in the brightly lit kitchen to write her toast.
When he looked away from her, musing about the words they were writing, his eyes looked aquamarine, a pale green-blue that seemed translucent.
But when he turned back, smiling because he had found the words, they turned soothing sea blue-green, shading towards teal.
Raji was trying really hard not to stare at Peyton-Cabot, the ripped and handsome Killer Valentine rock star, but every time he walked like a stalking tiger or brushed his hair out of his eyes like a Nordic god, not-staring got harder.
Plus, his sunny personality seemed to find the good humor in everything, even how stupid she was being about writing a toast for Cadell and Andy.
Raji held a pen poised over the paper. “I don’t know what to say.”
It was true. She couldn’t think of words at all. Her estrogen-fogged brain kept gibbering fuck me, fuck me hard, fuck me like a rock star.
“Say what’s in your heart,” Peyton-Cabot said. “Say what you feel in your heart.”
“I don’t feel anything. I’m a surgeon. Your first surgery is to rip out your own heart and throw it away so that you can cut other people open and do what needs to be done to make them well.”
“Really?” Peyton asked. “You’re a surgeon like Andy?”
“Not like Andy. She’s gastro. I’m in cardiothoracic surgery and transplantation. I rip hearts out of warm, dead bodies and sew them into warm, live ones, and then I electrocute them to jump-start everything again.”
“Sounds brutal,” he said.
“I wouldn’t know. I have no feelings. That’s why I can’t write this.”
“Come on, now. Let’s get this toast done. How did you meet Andy?”
“We were two Indian girls in a private school. Us couple of pindis hung out together.”
“Okay. That’s not exciting. What do you admire about her?”
Raji could run with that one. “I admire the hell out of the way she married Cadell instead of that other guy.” Man, the cultural ramifications for Andy were going to be harsh. Raji wasn’t sure she could have done it.
“Good,” Peyton said. “We’ll start with that.”
She fretted, “Andy is going to remember this toast for the rest of her life. This is her wedding, and I’m going to fuck it up if I say something stupid. I mean, if I say the wrong thing, I could fuck up her whole marriage.” The chance of Raji saying something stupid increased exponentially because she was excruciatingly aware of Peyton-Cabot’s rock-hard arms and the deep chasm of his spine between the thick muscles on his back that she had felt when she had had wrapped her arms around him, dancing.
Damn, Peyton-Cabot was a smokin’ hot rock star.
Peyton-Cabot’s long, strong fingers closed over her skinny brown ones, holding her hand. “We’ll make sure it’s good. Write what you just said to begin with.”
Raji sucked in a deep breath. “Okay. I can do this.”
“That’s the spirit,” he said. “You cut people open all day. This is just a few sentences to string together. You’ll be fine.”
“I’d rather crack a chest and sew veins on a heart that’s flipping around like a trout than stand up in front of everyone and say something stupid.”
He squeezed her hand. “We’ll work on it. You’ll be fine.”
His low, strong voice soothed Raji, and she wrote her first line on the scrap of paper.
Raji and Andy
Andy asked Raji, “So how are you liking California, yeah?”
The two women were sitting in a corner of the deck, huddled together because the warmth from the heating towers and bonfires didn’t quite reach that corner. They were both giggly and getting more drunk as the night went on.
As Peyton walked by, he handed Raji another red plastic cup filled with the dry white wine that she liked and winked at her.
Raji nearly flippin’ melted. Damn.
She said to Andy, “California is fine. It seems like everyone is getting married but me, though. I’ve had to fly back here three times this year for weddings. Not that I want to get married. I’m not cut out for that.” For the heartbreak. For the desperate pleading and sobbing that came at the end. “But everyone else is dropping like flies.”
Andy asked, “How’s Aarthi doing?”
Raji flinched. Her cousin, Aarthi, had chosen to let her parents arrange her marriage to a stranger rather than run away with the white guy who was the love of her life and get cut off. “She’s been getting along fine with the boy’s family, but now she says they’re having trouble having a baby.”
Andy’s eyes widened. “Oh, no. That’s too bad. What is her mother-in-law saying?”
“You know how those traditional families are. Her mother-in-law is talking about buyer’s remorse.”
“It’s ridiculous that we’re even having this conversation. Is she going to divorce him? Or are they going to force her out?”
Divorce. Even the word made Raji nauseated. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen. It’s a good thing you dodged the arranged-marriage bullet, huh?”
“Well, if I ever have fertility problems, at least I’ve got a sister to have a baby for me. Aarthi doesn’t have any sisters, does she? I don’t remember.”
Aarthi had been a year ahead of them in high school in New Jersey but had gone to B-school instead of becoming a doctor or a lawyer. “Nope. She has one brother.”
“This is where having one of those big Indian families would be a good thing, lots of sisters to choose from when you’re selecting a uterus to borrow. What is she going to do?”
“They can’t just adopt any old baby, of course. Her family and his are all Brahmins. Brahmins are more concerned about bloodlines than race horse breeders.”
Andy ducked her head, but she was laughing behind her hand. “Tell me about it. I just married a white boy.”
Raji flapped her hand, dismissing Andy’s overly strict family. “Oh, you know that as soon as you have a baby, they’re all going to come running back. Indian babies are the cutest babies ever, and even being half-white couldn’t ruin a baby of yours. Your genes are strong.”
“Oh, my God, Raji. You are so bad. First of all, we are not having kids for a few years. I have to finish my residency.”
“Oh, yes. God forbid that you should deviate any more from the plan your parents laid out for you when you were three years old.”
The Music of Sex
Peyton glanced inside the spare bedroom at the back of Cadell’s house, making sure the coast was clear.
The bed took up most of the room, lit only by the small lamp glowing on a table over by the window when he’d flicked the light switch. The hot scent of burning dust wafted in the air, which probably meant that this room hadn’t been aired out much since Cadell had started the furnace for the winter.
Quick account: the room was unoccupied, a bed was present, nothing weird, the door had a lock on it.
He reached behind himself, found Raji’s hand, and yanked.
She squealed as he spun her into the room and shoved her up against the wall.
He slapped the door closed, locked it, and blocked her in with his body.
Raji grabbed him around the neck and jumped.
He caught her. Her legs snapped around his waist. “Nice toast.”
“Thanks.” Her alto voice was breathless.
“You wasted?” he asked because he always checked on that.
She said, “I hereby certify that I am not impaired and consent to sexual intercourse with you. Now fuck me like a rock star.”
Peyton dipped his head, grabbing her lips with his, and kissed her hard. He pressed her lithe body between his chest and the wall. She squirmed against him, driving him fucking crazy. Her soft ass filled his hands, and he ground his jeans against her thin cotton scrubs. She stretched her neck as he mouthed down from her ear, and he nipped her neck, scraping her soft skin with his teeth.
This hard urgency wasn’t Peyton’s preferred way to bed a woman, but when a woman asked him for something, he listened.
Raji wanted him to expend a rock star’s raging energy on her body.
Yeah, he was fine with that.
His piano-strengthened fingers dug into her thighs.
Continue reading when Santa, Baby is released on November 9th!
See Santa, Baby at: