Is Rachel Robinson the only one on campus who doesn't know who Devin Freedman is? No big deal except that the bad-boy rock star gets a kick out of Rachel's refusal to worship at his feet. And that seems to have provoked his undivided attention. Devin, the guy who gave new meaning to the phrase "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll." Devin, the guy who somehow becomes wedged between her and the past she's kept hidden for years.
It's up to this librarian to find out firsthand just how "bad" he really is. Because her secret--and her growing feelings for a man who claims he's bent on redemption--depend on his turning out to be as good as he seems. Which is really, really good.
Seventeen and a half years earlier
Suburban New Zealand
Everyone said only a weirdo would turn down a date with Mary O'Connell's older brother, home from university for the holidays. And Rachel was sick of being a weirdo.
Tentatively, she followed Steve's lead in the kiss and wiggled her tongue. He responded with a flattering groan. Sweet sixteen and finally been kissed. She shivered, more from the loveliness of the thought than his gentle stroking of her bare arm. Then he touched her breast and she shied away. "Don't do that."
"I can't help it." Breathing heavily, Steve stared into her eyes. "You're so beautiful."
"Am I?" She stripped the wistful note out of her voice. "Don't be crazy." She was passable, that was all. When she wasn't in her school uniform she wore clothes that were Mom's idea of what a young lady should wear. Rachel pulled at the button-up collar of her pink blouse. She hated pink. And plaid skirts. When she left home she'd always wear bright colors.
"You are beautiful." Steve's voice vibrated with intensity. "And smart. And funny." He loomed closer again and her nervousness must have showed because he stopped with such an understanding smile that Rachel felt like a silly little girl.
Sure, they were a bit isolated, sitting here in his Toyota Celica, but across Hamilton Lake, suburban lights twinkled like stars.
And obviously they couldn't have a conventional date in case someone reported back to her parents. She shivered again, knowing how her father would react if he found out. But some risks were worth taking and Rachel yearned to live.
They'd drunk beer, which she'd only pretended to sip, watching Steve anxiously. But he'd stopped after one can. And he'd asked her about all sorts of subjects and listened--really listened--to the answers. As if her opinions mattered. Not even Chloe, her best and only friend, did that. Normally it was Rachel's job to listen.
His sincerity reminded her of Holden Caulfield, the hero in her favorite book, Catcher in the Rye, except that Steve was good-looking. Not that looks mattered; Rachel would hate to be shallow. And Steve said it was his favorite book, too. It must be a sign. Before she lost her courage, she leaned forward and initiated another kiss.
This time when he touched her breast Rachel let it linger a few seconds before she removed his hand. "I should really be getting back," she said. "I've got an exam tomorrow." She took her education very seriously. It was her way out.
Steve didn't get annoyed; he simply nodded and started the engine, and Rachel's last doubt dissipated. When he dropped her off at the end of the street he lifted her hand and kissed it, a French gesture that thrilled her all the way to the bone.
"Say we can do this again," he begged, and she nodded because her heart was too full to speak. I'm in love.
Long Beach, Los Angeles, U.S.A.
"Got your fake ID?"
Devin shouldered his bass guitar, checked his jeans pocket and nodded, but his attention wasn't really on Zander. With a sixteen-year-old's fascination, he was watching a stripper across the bar.
His brother's volatile temper had left him a bass player short an hour before a gig, and Devin was the last-minute replacement. Now he was discovering heaven had many layers. The stripper winked at him and he blushed and dropped his head.
Then caught Zander exchanging grins with the drummer, and scowled.
His brother nudged him. "And don't tell...