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- Forbidden Romance
- Emotional Scars
This man is going
to kill me. I’m sure of it. Six long weeks and with every step I get closer to cleaning up his reputation, he does
something to set us back three. And I won’t lie—he’s the epitome of All-American with good looks and ample charm, and even more now that he’s a
man. But his reckless behavior and questionable personal life make him seem sleazy. Which is where I come in. I’m
one of the best in the Atlanta area at cleaning up train wrecks left behind by
people with more money than sense. It honestly came as no surprise when my boss
dropped music superstar Roland Winston’s file on my desk after seeing the media
coverage of his latest fling. Of course, I told him I’d take the contract… too bad I left out one tiny detail the day I agreed to help him. Okay, it was a huge one, but not something my boss needed to know.
“Izzy, I need you to fly to Nashville and clean this
fucking disaster up.”
I pick up the manilla folder and flip it open. Staring
back at me are the lewd photos of the music icon and boy I once knew—intimately. My heart stutters inside my chest as I stare at the compromising position Roland is photographed in and wonder what happened to the boy I once thought I loved.
“Wow… he’s into some interesting stuff, I see.”
Alan snorts. “You could say that, but that’s neither here
nor there. The shitty part is someone leaked the photos and now his label is unglued over it. The good news? A friend of mine over there reached out and asked for my best PR person at any cost. That’s you, Izzy.”
I should’ve argued with Alan and found a way out of this. But now, a month and a half
later, I’m questioning both my ability and sanity. Especially considering that photo was only the beginning. I blow out a
frustrated breath as I stare at the newest leaked picture I received via email. And if I thought the first was bad, this one is… well—bad doesn’t begin to cover it. Leaning back in my chair, I toss the kinky display of sexual gratification onto my desk and close my eyes. How in the hell am I supposed to make Roland into what the label wants when he’s constantly doing shit like this? I swear the man is intentionally sabotaging his career. The sound of my door creaking open alerts me he’s finally answered my summons. For a month, I’ve wanted to either claw out his eyes or rip off his clothes. And neither option would solve anything.
“You called for
me?” Roland’s sultry voice causes yet another unwanted reaction from my body. And it’s one I’ve beaten myself up for over the last few weeks. My skin pebbles when he walks into a room and that has me pissed and confused. I crack open my eyes to find Roland throwing himself into the chair across from me dramatically. His head of security, Liam, stands in the corner watching our interaction with something that resembles a hybrid
between a smirk and a scowl. It’s almost like he knows how this is going to go down before it happens and that sets my nerves on-edge.
I sit up and push the photo in his direction, desperately trying to conceal my disgust with him. “Care to explain this?”
Liam muffles a snort as Roland fingers the picture, never lifting it from the wooden surface. “Fuck.”
“Yeah, thank you Captain Obvious.”
I glare at him like I have every intention of reaching across the desk to pop him upside the
head, but instead, I inhale and exhale slowly, trying to control my temper.
“What the hell? You promised me you’d keep this shit on the down low. And this—” I sigh, the tension in my neck causing the telltale sign of a headache threatening to emerge “—is anything but! I don’t even know what to say. The last set of leaked images was you in a ménage. But this? This is something entirely different. I get it, okay? People have their… things… and—” I trail off as I avoid looking at the photo that’s he spinning around underneath his finger. I don’t really get it, but it’s not my place to judge. My job is to salvage his career—which
is quickly going up in flames. “You’re into… some weird stuff. But the public should never know about it.”
Roland leans back, his arms fold across his chest as he cocks an eyebrow at me. “Weird
I furrow my brows
as my face scrunches in disgust. “Yeah, Roland. Weird. That,” I stab my finger into the image, “—is not considered normal to most people. I’m not judging you, but you must know this isn’t what people
expect when they see photos of you. I’m curious… are you not able to have a traditional relationship with a woman anymore? I mean, I don’t remember you being like this when we were kids. You certainly weren’t when we dated.”
I can’t help myself. I need to know if he’s just incapable of a normal sexual relationship
with the opposite sex anymore. Of course, staring at the image of him bound and
blindfolded, I can’t help but feel somewhat turned on by it, but I shove that feeling aside as I look away. Roland leans across the table, putting himself closer to me.
“Some people like to spice up their sex, Isabella. But I’m going to assume by your ignorant remark you’re still a missionary kind of woman,” he snaps back, shoving his chair as he stands. “Not everyone loves vanilla, and you need to back off the kink-shaming. The only question right now is, how are you going to spin this for me?”
The snort escapes before I realize it. “Sorry… but do you seriously think I can fix this if
you’re not willing to change?”
A knock interrupts us, and I stand, moving around him toward the door. “I’m starting to think you don’t want your image cleaned up.” Pulling open the door, I sigh when I see who's standing on the
other side. “Harold. How kind of you to join us.” I step aside and wave him into the room. “Maybe you can explain to our resident rockstar how I’m a public relations specialist—not a miracle worker, and that these continued images are going to be his downfall.”
“Roland,” Harold grumbles his name as I pull the office door shut, his entire posture turning
defensive the moment their gazes meet. “Boy… you’re determined to sabotage
yourself, aren’t you?”
“That wasn’t my intention, no. You’re acting like I hired
whoever is taking these to do this. I’m as surprised as you are. Why can’t
people just leave me the fuck alone? Aren’t I allowed to have a private life?”
I grind my teeth
in frustration. A part of me feels sorry for him—the other wants to turn him over my knee and punish him for being so irresponsible. “Sure. If it was actually private. But it’s not, and that’s why we’re here right now. If this was your longtime girlfriend, then the
person leaking the images would be the bad guy for invading your privacy. But
she’s clearly not. You were photographed a few months ago in a ménage à trois with different women. It’s hard to accuse someone of invading your privacy when you’re doing nothing to protect it.”
“That’s it!” Harold snaps his fingers, the grin on his face making me cringe. “You need a
“No.” Roland plops down in the chair as he shakes his head. “I don’t have time for a girlfriend.”
“Not a real one, Roland. But a fake one for the press. And you,” he points at me, “—are the perfect person to play that role.”
“Me?” I narrow my gaze at him. “No fucking way. I was hired to clean up his image, not play a
doting girlfriend or babysitter. Been there, done that, got the broken heart as a souvenir. There is no way in hell I’d ever be seen with him in that capacity now.”
Harold stares at me a whole breath before dropping into a persuasive tone. “You were hired to fix this mess. And you, yourself, just said a girlfriend would do the trick. We can’t risk someone else getting involved and leaking the ploy to the public. Plus, you’ve already signed an NDA.”
“No.” Roland glares at me. “No one on this planet would believe I’d date someone like her nowadays.”
I gasp at his callous words. “Well, the feeling is mutual. And dating you is the last thing
I’d ever agree to again.” Fisting the doorknob, I jerk open the door. “This conversation is over. I don’t give a fuck if it gets me fired and I lose everything. Being your fake girlfriend to help you out of the media shitstorm you created will never happen. Now, if
you’ll excuse me, I need to call my boss. I don’t think me being your PR representative is going to work out any longer.”
The rage I’m feeling is barely containable as I stab my finger into the elevator button. A fake girlfriend is the last thing that a self-absorbed rockstar needs—what he needs is a therapist. Roland Winston might be good-looking, but he has some deep-seated issues I know I can’t fix. Slipping inside the metal box, I lean my back against the cool metal wall and
close my eyes. As I step out to leave, I roll my eyes as Roland steps out from the second elevator and beelines straight for me.
“Izzy, wait,” he calls out behind me, but I ignore him, refusing to rehash the conversation.
I hear him calling me as he tries to catch up, but I spot the company car waiting for me
and climb inside, slamming the door closed. When I finally work up the courage, I glance toward the front of the building and see him standing on the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets. His face looks bewildered, almost regretfully,
as the car pulls into traffic.
“Where to, ma’am?”
Realizing I haven’t spoken a word to the driver, I blink back tears and speak. “Take me to
Breakstone Heights, please.”
He nods, knowing my apartment is owned and provided by Roland. To my dissatisfaction, I wasn’t given much choice about where I would stay during my time with the label here in Nashville. The driver’s eyes watch me a little longer in the rearview mirror
before he finally speaks.
“You okay, Miss Holiday?”
“Yes.” I force out the words in a whisper, exhaustion from this entire clusterfuck threatening
to pull me under any minute. My emotions waver between wanting to choke him—or kiss him just so I can see if he’s the boy I once knew underneath this bullshit image he’s built.
As soon as the car pulls into the circular drive of my temporary home, I thank my chauffeur and head into the lobby. The building is beautiful, and probably more than I
could afford on my normal salary—but everything comes with a price, and mine is
dealing with the pompous prick Roland Winston.
I’ve barely shoved my key in the lock when I hear him.
“I didn’t take you as a coward.”
Glancing over my shoulder, I let my eyes roam over him. His head is tilted, and his eyes burn into me like they have the power of a thousand suns. If you’ve ever heard the saying wish in one hand and shit in another… you can guess which hand is currently hot. My wish just evaporated into a steaming pile of poo.
“Why are you here, Roland? It’s pretty apparent to me you have no desire to fix your image, which means you’re making it impossible for me to help you.”
Roland steps forward and presses his palms against my door, caging me between it and him. “I think you lied back there because I hurt your feelings.”
The snort escapes before I can stop it. “Hurt my feelings… Do you even hear yourself? You think this is about feelings?”
He leans in, closing the gap between our bodies even more. “Isn’t it, though? You can lie to yourself, but I know you aren’t disgusted by me, Izzy.” His knee wedges between my legs, pressing dangerously close against my core. One that’s tingling with betrayal, despite hating him with
every fiber of my being. “In fact, I think seeing me in those pictures like that turns you on.”
“You’re wrong.” My words come out breathless, and I notice the slight smirk in his expression when I look into his eyes. “I despise you.”