Series: Lightning Strikes #4
Author: Jodie Larson
Author: Jodie Larson
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 26, 2018
Downbeat |n|: The first beat in a measure, often the strongest. Fame, fortune, traveling to different cities across the country…I’m living the dream. As the drummer for the Lightning Strikes, it’s my job to hook you in and keep you coming back for more. It’s my craft, my calling, what I’m a master at.
Even with all that, I’m still just a normal guy who wants to eat at food trucks and lounge on the couch, playing video games until I can’t see straight. Everything was perfect.
At least I thought it was, until a blonde bombshell walked into my life and made me question everything I thought I knew. I want her. I need her. Only, she’s afraid of the spotlight, afraid of what it’ll do to her and the ones she loves. The wall around her heart is keeping me out, but I know before long I will break down her barriers. She needs to know that there is more to us than what she sees, that this chemistry between us is our downbeat to forever. All the guys in the band have their happily ever after. Maybe it’s time for mine.
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He slides his hand into mine as we chase after Jayce through the arcade, watching him bounce from game to game. It doesn’t bother him that he doesn’t know how to play or whether he’s heard of it. If it’s available, he wants it.
“Anything you want to do?” Pax looks over, still holding my hand with no intention of letting go. A million little butterflies take off in my stomach. Being with Pax is so natural, it doesn’t even phase me anymore when he does things like this, acting like two people who have known each other for years rather than weeks.
Looking over, I see a race car game that opened up. Way back when, I used to be good at these.
“Race you,” I say, dropping his hand and taking off like I’m one of the kids. Pax laughs behind me, as does Jayce, though neither are moving fast.
“I’ll help you,” Jayce says, acting like my own cheering section.
With Pax in the seat next to me, it’s hard to focus on the screen. I turn the wheel to choose my car, finally selecting one that had a good ratio of speed and acceleration.
“Ready?” the computer voice says. A digital, scantily-clad woman appears on the screen between our two cars with a flag in hand and the beach behind her.
I stomp on the gas pedal and weave around pedestrians and other cars, trying to catch up to Pax who flew off the starting line like a pro. Damn, I may be rusty at this.
Jayce’s directions aren’t helping as I hit the wall for the third time, dropping all the way to last place. Why can’t this be like Mario Cart? I could really use a blue tortoiseshell right about now.
Needless to say, I didn’t win. Pax leans over, cracking his knuckles as he stretches his arms out in front of him. “I thought this was going to be a challenge.”
That’s it. There’s gotta be something I can beat him at.
I look around, desperate to find something that will give me hope.
Nothing. I suck at video games, always have, always will. Instead, I opt for one of the non-video games in the entire place.
“There,” I say, pointing to the basketball hoops.
“Really?” He looks me up and down. “You don’t seem like you have the height.”
I shove at his shoulder. “It’s not like I’m going against Shaq.” He’s a basketball player, right?
Pax laughs and leads the three of us to the hoops.
“Can I try?” Jayce asks.
I hand him one of the balls. “I don’t think you’re tall enough but go ahead and try.”
To my surprise, Pax lifts him off the floor, holding him high enough to take a shot. “Now he is.”
The ball goes in with ease, leaving the two of them whooping and hollering, slapping each other’s hands, finally ending in a fist bump. He’s turning my own son against me.
“Okay, Mama, your turn.”
I dribble the ball against the carpet – which is useless because it doesn’t bounce – and raise my arms to take a shot. The ball flies over the safety net, hits the front of the rim and straight down.
Pax holds up Jayce again, repeating the same motions as before. With each shot, mine fall short while theirs sinks in.
I give up.
When the buzzer sounds, I acknowledge my defeat. “That’s not fair. There’s two of you.”
Jayce hugs my waist. “It’s okay, Mama. We’ll teach you how to play.”
Pax snorts and turns away. I smile down at my son and ruffle his hair.
“Thanks, buddy.” Pulling out my phone, I glance at the time. “It’s getting late and you need to take a bath.”
A collective whine from the two of them brings a smile to my face. “Do we have to?”
I nod. “Yes. Time to go home.”
We walk to my car, letting Jayce crawl in first so I can secure his seat belt. Pax holds out his arm, wrapping it around my waist to stop my progress around the car.
“You know, I’m kinda dirty too. Wanna take a bath with me?”
Everything clenches south of my navel at the thought of being naked with him. I’m not sure if we’re ready to take that leap yet.
“We’ve had enough firsts for today. How about we save that one for later?”
He smiles, the corners of his eyes crinkling in the corners. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.” Leaning down, Pax kisses my lips, softly, tenderly, not taking it further than necessary in public and in case prying little eyes spot us.
“Did you drive to the beach? I suppose you need your bike.”
Pax shakes his head. “Nah, I walked. I can call an Uber.”
“Get in the car,” I say with authority. It’s not often I use my mom-voice, but it’s ridiculous that he even suggested getting a ride from someone else.
Once we’re all situated, I head down the road, following Pax’s directions to his place. Since I was passed out the first time I went there, and then too focused on the man between my legs the second time, I didn’t remember where it was. It doesn’t shock me that he’s down the street from Grounded. No wonder why he’s always there.
Pax opens Jayce’s door and gives him a high five. “See you later, bud.”
“Bye, Pax. Come play with me soon, okay?”
With a final fist bump, he blows it up as they both laugh. “You got it.”
I step out of the car and stand by the door. Pax traps me with his arms, caging me in while leaning into me.
“When can I see you again?”
I chew on my bottom lip. He frees it with his thumb, only to find it trapped again because I can’t stop fidgeting with him this close.
“My next day off is on Saturday. Weekends are better for me.”
He pushes a lock of hair away from my face, running the finger down my cheek until he’s cupping my jaw, tilting my head up to stare directly into his bright, hazel eyes.
“Then weekends it is. I want them all. Yours and Jayce’s. I had a lot of fun today. More fun than I’ve had in a while.” He kisses the tip of my nose. “But don’t think you’re off the hook during the week. I expect excellent customer service when I stop in for my coffee.”
I laugh, clinging to his shirt while resting my forehead against his shoulder. Every muscle in my body relaxes as he holds me in his arms. This feels more natural than anything else I’ve ever experienced. It pains me to walk away and leave him here.
“No fake smiles. Only the real ones for you.”
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Jodie Larson is a wife and mother to four beautiful girls, making their home in northern Minnesota along the shore of Lake Superior. When she isn’t running around to various activities or working her regular job, you can find her sitting in her favorite spot reading her new favorite book or camped out somewhere quiet trying to write her next manuscript. She’s addicted to reading (just ask her kids or husband) and loves talking books even more so with her friends. She’s also a lover of all things romance and happily ever after’s, whether in movies or in books, as shown in her extensive collection of both.