Derek Bast, always has the final say. In business and in his personal life, things are done his way, or not at all. So when a scathing review of his new band is published in The Scene and has his record producer second guessing his artistic choices, his band mate trying to call the shots, and Bast’s manager convinced he’s impossible to work with, it’s time to hunt down the source of his problems: Bess Halprin, reviewer for The Scene, the girl next door growing up, and his ex-best friend since senior year when she decided to hate him for no reason.
The last person Bess Halprin wants to see standing in the lobby of The Scene is Derek Bast. Unfortunately, she can’t deny that the last nine years look damn good on him. She expected to hate him. She didn’t expect the way he can still tug at her emotions, or the way his kiss—and his hands—set her on fire. Bess should’ve kept her distance, because Bast was right when he guessed her review was written for revenge. The problem is, to this day he has no idea what he did—how he screwed her over their senior year. The bigger problem? She’s giving him the opportunity to do it again, because she never could resist him.
When circumstances bring them both home to Santa Cruz, Bast earns his way into the heart of the girl next door, but when they return to L.A. and real life rushes in, will he be able to keep her this time or are the mistakes in their past destined to be repeated?
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” I threw The Scene down onto the marble table in front of my band manager, Kurt Detrick. “She’s hated me since high school. That’s what this shit review is about. Revenge.”
Kurt sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “I don’t know, D. I mean, it is a shit review, but every time I’ve dealt with Bess Halprin she’s been nothing but professional. I’m not sure she’d risk the reputation of her magazine for revenge.”
“Whatever the case,” Joe Schmidt, my record producer said, his voice echoing from the conference phone in the middle of the table, “she makes some good points. We need to rethink the tracks we have recorded, maybe ditch them altogether and find something else.”
“Good points? Ditch them?” Was he fucking insane? I snatched the magazine off the table and read, “Unholy Union is a quintessential band name for the mind-numbing melding of indie-to-corporate singer/song-writer, Derek Bast, and teen pop sensation, Adrian. In no known universe should the music of these two collide.”
I whacked Adrian on the arm with The Scene—Adrian who used no last name, like Prince or Madonna. “Hey. Pretty boy. You got anything you want to add to this conversation?”
Adrian shook his head, his hair whipping around his face. “Nah. Not really.”
I clenched my teeth. My jaw twitched. “Joe. We’ll call you back.” I reached over and jabbed the off button on the phone.
Kurt flew forward. “What the--”
“Kurt.” My chest constricted, tight as stone. My nostrils flared with the effort to inhale, exhale and not rip someone’s face off. “Fuck you.” I pointed to Adrian. “And fuck you.” I pushed away from the table and stood so fast, my chair fell over. “Since I’m the only one who gives a shit about Joe trashing the tracks we recorded, I’ll go fix this.” I gave them a mock bow. “You’re both fucking welcome.”
I couldn’t say I remembered the drive across town. There were flashes from the paparazzi when my tires squealed out of the parking garage, but then I was lost in a blind rage until pulling up in front of the ugly glass building where The Scene’s offices were located.
A scruffy guy in filthy clothes sat on the ground beside a palm tree. This wasn’t the best part of L.A. if there even was such a thing. “Hey. Do me a favor.” I pulled a hundred dollar bill out of my pocket and held it out to him. He scrambled to his feet. “Don’t let anyone near my car.” He nodded, shoving the cash in his pocket.
The reception area was bright and modern with purple furniture, Wi-Fi stations and flavored coffee set up on a cart with a striped awning, like we were outside. It reminded me of Willy Wonka’s factory.
“Can I help you?” A blond with big blue eyes looked up from behind the rounded desk. “Oh! Derek Bast.” Her throat rippled as she swallowed hard. It put an image in my mind that made me look away.
“I need to see Bess Halprin.”
“I’m not sure she’s in the office. Did you have an appointment?” She clicked on her computer screen, quickly searching Bess’s appointments.
“No. It’s urgent. Do you know where she is?”
“Behind you,” said a deep female voice that clawed its way up my back.
I turned to see Bess standing a few feet from me. The realization hit that after all the years we spent living beside each other growing up in Santa Cruz, that this was the first time I’d seen her in about nine years, since high school.
This Bess Halprin wasn’t the skinny girl with baggy jeans and glasses who used to knock on my door every Friday after school to try and get me to go to her youth group roller skating party with her. She didn’t even look like the girl who was voted most likely to become first female President of The United States in high school. This girl—woman—was someone I didn’t know.
Bess Halprin grew up.
And filled in.
“Stop starting at my boobs, Bast.” She tugged the strap of her black leather bag up higher on her shoulder.