Heart and Soul
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by Kathryn Attalla
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance
Description: On stage she is Leather, a Rock'n'Roll fantasy. Her music dominates the charts, while the "Queen of Flash" struts across the concert stages. She is a tease, a shameless flirt--and a glittering illusion. Kate Costello has had enough of the music scene. She takes off for New Mexico in search of the anonymity she'd bargained away for fame. Jake Callahan is a single father. A decade ago his wife left the farm, leaving him to raise his daughter. He spent his savings bailing out his wild twin brother and is now facing cash-flow problems. Renting out the empty house on his property seems like an ideal solution until he sees the woman who answers the advertisement. Jake doesn't want the reclusive millionaire renting the house on his farm. But he has a teenager to deal with and bills to pay. And now--a sexy tenant he can't seem to ignore. Sparks fly between the cowboy and the rocker who believe they have nothing in common except a menagerie of goodhearted matchmakers determined to prove they'll make beautiful music together.
eBook Publisher: Freya's Bower/Freya's Bower, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
16 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [257 KB]
Reading time: 163-228 min.
When Kate was ready to leave a half hour later, she found Jake standing next to her car, tapping his foot impatiently. Despite her parting shot earlier, her heart beat a little faster. Dressed in black, with a Stetson tilting low on his head, he looked every inch an outlaw. She refused his offer to drive, so he shrugged and tossed his hat in the back before slipping into the passenger seat. As she tried to find her way through the maze of country roads leading to the highway, she almost wished she'd let him drive.
Barbed wire crisscrossed a shimmering tapestry of silver green grass, and a kaleidoscope of wild flowers bordered the streets. Past the grazing land and newly plowed fields, they sped towards Clovis in awkward silence. Jake stared when he thought she didn't see. The deep frown lines etched in his weathered face reflected his disapproval.
Had he taken a dislike to her car, her money, or just her?
"Why don't you ask and get it out of your system?" She'd hoped to call attention to his impolite staring, but he seemed undisturbed.
He folded his hands behind his head and stretched his body out full length. "What are you running from?"
"Are you hiding out from a husband?"
Kate choked on a laugh. She had barely had time to date in the last ten years, let alone find a husband. "I've never been married."
"Both died in a car accident a few years ago." Another loss she had yet to come to terms with. "I get along great with my sister, no mobster has put out a contract on my life, and even the IRS would be hard-pressed to find fault with my income tax return. Any other brilliant theories, or could you try to accept the fact that I'm here because I like it here?"
"What would you suggest?"
"Paris. France, not Texas," he said in a slow, lazy drawl, which made him sound sexy even when he insulted her.
"Ever been there, Jake?"
"Nope. But I'll bet you have."
"I have. The people are rude, the food is loaded with cholesterol, and they don't speak English. Thanks for the suggestion, but I'd rather look at an occasional oil well than the Eiffel Tower any day."
"That was very nice, the way you danced around the subject, but you didn't answer the question. Why did you leave New York to begin with?"
She kept her eyes on the road to avoid his inquisitive gaze. Jake asked far too many questions for her comfort. "The timing was right, and I needed a break."
"That's some job you have that allows you to take a year off. What did you say you did?"
"I didn't." He groaned in frustration, but she didn't let it bother her. If he asked a direct question instead of trying to trap her, she might be more inclined to answer, up to a certain point. "I'll make you a deal. Tell me what it is you find so irritating about me, and I'll tell you what it is I do for a living that has me stressed-out at twenty-six."
"I find everything about you irritating. Your hundred-dollar sneakers, your sixty-dollar jeans, your little red sports car. I don't like having my daughter subjected to things she'll never be able to have."
"You mean exposed, not subjected."
"Don't argue semantics. You get the point."
"No, I don't. She sees it on television all the time. And I didn't have these things when I was fifteen, either. I worked for them. The car was a gift."
When her first album went platinum, Bill and her parents gave her the car. Since Bill, as her agent, and her mother, as her manager, took a bigger percentage of her earnings than she did, they could afford it.
On her twenty-first birthday she'd threatened to file suit against them for the mismanagement of her funds while she was a minor. They reached a compromise and her contract had been revised. The car was a peace offering.
"How much time did you spend on your back to get a car like this?"
She slammed the brakes, and the car skidded to a halt. Thank goodness for that German antilock brake system or they might have ended up in a ditch, and she wouldn't have cared. The implication of his words went beyond the bounds of bad taste and plunged right into offensive. He had no right to judge her. "Who the hell do you think you are?"
Jake released the white-knuckle grip he had on the dashboard and turned a thundering glare in her direction. "I know who I am, lady. Who are you?"
Who am I?
She wished she knew. For so many years she had been Katherine, dutiful, beleaguered daughter of Rosie and Anthony Costello. Or Leather, the "Queen of Flash." She had two separate personalities inhabiting one body, but neither was truly her. * * * *
Kate's vacant stare remained transfixed on his face, but Jake felt certain she didn't see him.
"Who am I?" she repeated, almost to herself. "I have no idea," Her voice reverberated with painful emotion.
A fight, he could have dealt with. He'd pushed her into one. Her honest emotion had a sobering effect on him. What the hell had gotten into him? For the second time that morning, he'd said something for no other reason than to be hurtful. She had at no time behaved in a manner to warrant such an accusation. She obviously came from money, and the car was most likely a gift from someone in her family.
"I'm sorry," he said simply, as he really didn't know what else to say. "That was uncalled for."
Kate didn't acknowledge his apology or give any indication she heard him. Her fingers clenched and unclenched. She inhaled deeply and exhaled a slow, calming breath. He became more convinced she was running away from someone, or something.
A silvery tear trickled over her high cheekbone and streamed down her neck.
Guilt wrenched in his gut. "Kate?"
Her eyes narrowed and then focused on his face. "A musician."
She wiped the back of her hand across her face and gulped in a deep breath of air. All the pain and sorrow he'd witnessed seconds before disappeared, replaced by a cold, matter-of-fact facade. She could bury her emotions faster and deeper than he could. If he didn't feel like such a heel, he would be impressed.
She held her chin high and met his stare. "You wanted to know what I did for a living. I'm a musician."
A musician? It fit her. She was artistic, in a very appealing kind of way, he grudgingly admitted.
"Do you want me to drive?"
She shook her head. "No. I'm fine."
He glanced at her trembling hand as she reached for the gearshift. "Sure you are."
He knew she wouldn't admit to being upset. Especially after he'd made her cry. He reached over and pulled the key from the ignition before she could jam the car into gear again.
"Give me the keys, Jake."
He dangled the gold chain out of her reach and grinned. "Make me."
Kate sprung out of the seat and halfway across the console before he saw it coming. She pushed her arm up to his throat, cutting off his air supply. He lowered his outstretched arm to move her, and she snatched the key.
Her proud grin mocked him until she tried to move back. He had snaked his arms around her waist, anchoring her firmly against his chest. "You have the keys, but I've got you."
She rolled her eyes and blew a wisp of hair from her forehead. He couldn't say she looked happy about the intimate position she'd landed in, but for all her pretense at boredom, she wasn't indifferent either. Her golden eyes studied him with the same spark of wonder with which he studied her.
Kate looked away first. "You've had your laugh for the day, Jake. Let me go."
"Either that, or you're coming on to me. And we both know that isn't the case. You don't like me."
"One has nothing to do with the other."
She stiffened. "Oh, I see."
He didn't like the peculiar expression on her face. "What do you see?"
"I'm good enough to sleep with, but you don't want me around your daughter. Is that about right?"
He shook his head in swift denial. "No. That's not what I meant."
"It sounded like it to me."
"All I meant is the heart has nothing to do with hormones." Jake momentarily stilled her squirming by cupping his hand under her chin and forcing her to look directly at him. "Stop being so damned sensitive, City. We've already established I'm a jerk. And a few other adjectives I'm sure you've added to the list since yesterday."
The warmth of her soft laugh caressed his neck as she wriggled out of his embrace. He would have preferred if she'd argued about him being a jerk. A token denial to soothe his ego. He wanted to cheer her up, but he'd hoped it would be his charm and wit that won her attention. Now he would settle for making it through the rest of the day without putting his foot in his mouth again.
"Give me the keys, Kate. Please?"
She regarded the keys in her hand and lifted her shoulders. "Why not? I never liked driving this car anyway."
"Then why did you give me such a hard time?"
"Because you didn't ask, you ordered. No one tells me what to do."
As they walked around the car to change places, Jake thought about her comment. Not the words, but the way she spoke them. Kate neither boasted nor challenged him. She sounded more like she'd not been in control of her own life before now, but she had resolved to change that.