Covered In Lace
Author:Ann Lister

CHAPTER ONE

Lacey left the billiards room at O’Sullivan’s Pub and the boisterous cheering of her band mates celebrating another win at the pool tables. This was their way of blowing off steam after recording new tracks on their next studio album. They had been in this idyllic Berkshires town recording for about a week, and so far progress on the album had accumulated to about five minutes of very rough recorded track time. Lacey was becoming exceedingly stressed over her inability to keep her band motivated to do much of anything musical at all. So far, their attitude about being in western Massachusetts seemed to be more about having a vacation versus producing a new album and that was wearing on Lacey's last raw nerve.

This new project was supposed to be a solo recording – her first in a long time without the help of her cousin, Taylor Sheridan and best friend Annie Logan, but every day that passed with minimal progress to show for her work, Lacey was beginning to think she may have to bring in that special reinforcement team to get this project finished and anywhere near budget.

The state-of-the-art recording studio nestled in the hills of western Massachusetts came highly recommended from people in the music business and Lacey personally knew many recording artists who sang high praises of the place, too. It seemed to be a no-brainer when she signed the studio rental agreement.

She thought spending the summer in the Berkshires without the typical distractions of working in the city would be favorable for her and the band to get the job done – and done quickly. She was wrong. Without the distractions, her band members had no other options but to bicker with each other. After one week of this, Lacey was questioning her decision to record here.

O'Sullivan's Pub was about the only place they could all go and no one seemed to want to argue or fight. But if they continued to spend their nights hanging out at O'Sullivan's, than Lacey's album would never be completed.

Lacey moved with fluid grace through the crowded pub. Tall and slender with a set of killer legs, long blond hair, deep blue eyes, and a thousand watt smile, she was difficult to miss. No matter where she went, people would stop what they were doing and take notice when she walked past. She was comfortable in her skin, never arrogant about her natural beauty, and simply loved being personable. People appreciated that trait – especially men, because she was approachable and genuinely friendly. She was made for stage performance and Lacey truly felt this was her life calling - what she was meant to do, and she loved it.

She nodded and smiled politely at the pub patrons, hopeful no one would attempt conversation with her. Tonight she wanted to use her time to work the lyrics rolling inside her head and get the words onto paper before they were lost.

She carried an acoustic guitar and a writing tablet from the noise in the billiards room into the restaurant area, hoping to find a quiet table in a back corner to work. This had become a continuous theme to her existence in the Berkshires: she was hard at work while the band members goofed off.

As she moved past a row of occupied dinner tables, she noticed a man sitting by himself at the end of the bar. His muscled frame resting on the edge of bar stool created a nice silhouette. Dark, hair curled in wisps on his head and a two day beard growth covered his strong jaw line.

A shiver of excitement shot through her. After spending an entire week in a no-name Podunk town in the middle of nowhere, seeing this man was a wonderful change of pace. The closer Lacey got, the more she liked what she saw. She stopped beside him and set her guitar at her feet, still gripping the neck of it in her hand.

“Don't I know you?” Lacey asked. It certainly wasn't her best opening line, but it was the first thing that popped into her head and she went with it.

The handsome stranger pivoted on his stool and looked at her, his hazel eyes barely acknowledging her presence, then turned away. “It’s a small town,” he said, and sipped his beer.

Lacey set her hip to the bar and watched him. The muscle in his jaw twitched. He seemed annoyed with her and she couldn’t imagine why. He finished his beer and set the bottle on top of the bar, sliding a twenty dollar bill beneath it, then bent forward and waved at the young, female bartender. “Thanks, Em,” he said, easing one muscled thigh off the stool, then the other to stand upright in front of Lacey.

Inches separated his chest from hers. Her breasts no more than a handful for him, plumped slightly above the scoop of her neckline. His gaze lifted slowly, surveying the slender column of her throat, paused on her mouth, then settled on her eyes. She was taller than he expected, her eyes a brilliant shade of sapphire that sparkled even in the dim lighting of the bar. Her straight, blond hair was almost luminescent; long strands he imagined were soft to the touch, much like silk. He watched her flip her hair behind her shoulder and the fragrant scent filled his nose.

“Have we met?” she asked.

“You’re living in my house,” was all he offered, and attempted to step around her.

“My landlord?”

“Like I said, small town.”

He reached into his pocket and retrieved the keys to his truck. Lacey’s eyes were glued to his hands; large and strong with long tapered fingers, tanned dark from the sun.

“I’ve only been in the house a week,” she said. “What could I have possibly done to make you mad so quickly?”

He looked at the keys clenched in his hand and laughed. “Who said I was mad?” he asked.

“I’m Lacey Sheridan,” she said, extending her hand to him.

“I know,” he said, and moved past her.

The disappointment on her face lifted into a grin. It had been a long time since anyone had expressed such ambivalence toward her - especially a man. If it was a tactic he was using to get her attention, it was working. It was either that, or he was married and that would be a crying shame.

Lacey watched him walk to the front door of the bar, broad shoulders leading to a set of narrow hips, ass as hard as rock, and a natural swagger that made Lacey hum out loud. She waited until the door closed, then turned to the bartender cleaning the spot he had left his empty beer bottle.

“What’s his story?” Lacey asked the girl.

“Flynn?” Emma asked.

“Is that his first name or last?” Lacey asked.

“First,” Emma said.

“Is he mad at everyone or just me?”

Emma smiled. “Flynn is just…Flynn.”

“One of a kind,” Lacey said, as if she understood completely.

“Definitely.”

Lacey's smile tipped her lips on one side. She looked back to the exit, half hoping Flynn would reappear.

Deny Lacey and she wanted it all the more. Lay a challenge at her feet and she rose to the occasion to prove she could do it. And boy, oh boy! Flynn was just the type of challenge she'd like to sink her teeth into and prove she could do it!

Lacey padded into the sunny kitchen of her lakeside rental cottage and scanned the cluttered counters and table top covered with take-out containers, dirty dishes, and scraps of paper of every size with handwritten song lyrics scribbled on them. Lacey scratched her head and sighed. Maybe Flynn had peeked in through the back porch door and noticed the mess she had created in his house and that’s why he was mad, she thought.

Her conversation with Flynn began to play again in her head. She didn’t remember meeting him at the logistic meetings they had before her band took up camp in the lakefront town. And she was quite certain she would have remembered a man looking like him. She touched the heat rising in her cheeks. Flynn was definitely a man worthy of remembering.

She twisted her hair in her fingers and clipped it to the top of her head, then surveyed the mess one more time. The thought of calling a professional cleaning crew momentarily crossed her mind but she shook it off. Nope, this was a job she was going to do by herself, she thought, then grabbed a waste basket and began tossing the trash into it. An hour later, she was elbow deep in soap suds in a sink full of dirty dishes.

She flipped the switch for the garbage disposal and a thunderous rattle vibrated from the sink drain, spraying water on her and the floor. Lacy reached for the wall switch and slipped in the water on the tiled floor, catching her knee on the cabinet handle, cutting the skin. Blood began to trickle down her shin. A second attempt to turn off the disposal stopped the racket and Lacey stepped back from the sink. She was soaked to the skin from the dish water. Her tank top clung to her bare breasts and her short jean cut-offs were dripping wet.

Lacey used the back of her hand to wipe the soap suds from her face. Tears bit at her eyes. She knew nothing about fixing a garbage disposal and there was no way she was calling her oh-so-friendly landlord. She found a phone book and called the only plumbing company in town.

“Garbage disposal, you say?” the man on the phone asked.

“You know how to fix those, right?” Lacey asked.

“Goes with the job,” he said.

“Can you come right away?” she asked. “I'd like to get this fixed as soon as possible.

“Depends on where you are,” he said.

“I, I don’t know the address,” Lacey said, coughing to clear the emotion tightening her throat. “I mean, I’m renting this house on the lake and…I,” she cursed under her breath. “I think it’s white with black shutters.”

The man laughed. “I’m familiar with the house,” he said. “I’ll be there as fast as I can.”

Lacey hung up the wall phone and started to cry. Her next call was to her cousin, Taylor. Related by blood and friends for life, Taylor was also the co-founder of Lacey’s band, Lace. They’d been inseparable since their wild teenage years, until health issues had sidelined Taylor from the rigors of touring on a near constant basis. These days, Lacey seemed to talk to Taylor on the phone far more than she was able to see her. And for the first time in her career, Lacey was attempting an album project alone.

“I’ve been here one week,” she sobbed. “My landlord hates me and I think I broke his damned garbage disposal!”

“I’m sure the landlord doesn’t hate you,” Taylor tired to soothe.

“He looks at me like I have a third eye in the center of my forehead!”

Taylor laughed at the image of her gorgeous cousin disfigured with an extra eye. “Putting aside your eye issue, how’s the album coming along?” Taylor asked.

“I’m still working on the lyrics and the vocals are in desperate need of something,” Lacey said. “Are you sure you can’t come up and record with me for a few weeks? It’s a beautiful area and the house is right on the water. We could lie in the sun all day and record at night.”

“I thought you wanted this to be a solo project?” Taylor asked.

“I know, but it doesn’t feel right without you,” Lacey said.

“What about Annie?” Taylor asked. “Maybe she could use a vacation away from Michael and the kids.”

Lacey contemplated Taylor’s suggestion and rubbed her temple. Then a knock at the door drew her from her thoughts. She sucked in a quick breath and looked through the panes of glass in the door.

“Damn it,” Lacey cursed. “Why is he here?”

“Who?” Taylor asked.

“My landlord,” Lacey grumbled. “I’ll have to call you later.”

Lacey scanned the mess in the kitchen, then looked at herself, and shook her head. This was not a good time for Flynn to check up on his rental property. She smoothed down her shorts and opened the door just wide enough to speak.

“What can I do for you?” Lacey asked.

“You called about a garbage disposal,” Flynn said.

Lacey tipped her head in disbelief, then noticed the metal tool box clutched in his grip. “I called Beckett Plumbing - not you.”

“I’m Beckett Plumbing,” Flynn said.

Lacey felt her cheeks flush. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said, and opened the door for him. He stepped inside and wiped his feet on the mat at the threshold.

“For the record, I’m also Beckett Electrical, Beckett Construction and Beckett Property Management - in case you run into any more problems.”

“Is there anything you don’t do?”

Flynn ignored her comment; his eyes darted around the ruins of what used to be a pristine kitchen. Shock registered on his face but he kept his thoughts to himself.

“Sorry about the mess,” Lacey said. “I was in the process of cleaning when the disposal….,” her voice trailed off in mid-sentence.

His eyes came back to her and stopped. Her white tank top clung to her breasts, nipples were peaked, the dark pink areolas were perfectly outlined beneath the wet fabric. Flynn nearly dropped his tool box. He turned toward the sink, set the tools on the counter and tried to regain his composure. His eyes focused on the water in the sink.

“What happened?” he asked.

Lacey came up beside him. He was tall and formidable with just enough muscle in all the right places. His t-shirt pulled taut across his chest and back; sculpted biceps led to toned forearms with a light dusting of dark hair. The jeans fit him to perfection and left Lacey momentarily speechless. Men - even as good looking as Flynn, never left her without words. It was usually the other way around, and yet, here she stood, staring at Flynn like he might be her last meal before execution. She could feel heat radiating from him and the current of electricity pulsing between them was making her vibrate. She was embarrassing herself and felt powerless to stop it.

Flynn repeated his question, this time looking at her; then regretting the impulse. Her eyes were shimmering pools of blue; lips full and moist and looking so very kissable. A sharp pain stabbed at his chest. Why was this happening, he thought, unlocking his tool box. Why now, and why - of all people, her?

Flynn opened up the cabinet doors beneath the sink and reached in to shut off the water valve. He grabbed a dirty bowl from the counter and set it under the elbow of pipe leading up to the disposal. He knelt down before rolling onto his back and shimmying inside the cabinet.

Lacey watched him maneuver into position, captivated by every flex of his muscles and twist of his body. Damn, how she'd like to see him naked, she thought.

“Hand me the wrench on the counter, please,” he said.

Lacey jumped at the rich sound of his voice.

“Can you see it?” he asked.

His question made her face heat. She had to force her eyes away from his partially spread thighs and the large bulge of his package concealed beneath the denim between them. Could she see it? Was he joking?

Getting no response from her, Flynn lifted his head and peered out the cabinet opening. The length of Lacey’s tanned legs caught his attention. Delicate bare feet with ten painted toe nails and perfectly shaped calves that drew his eyes up to a pair of firm thighs that seemed to go on forever. The idea of having them tightly wrapped around his hips popped into his head. He swallowed hard and dropped his head back, making a soft thudding noise on the wood floor inside the cabinet.

Lacey finally found the wrench and bent to hand it to Flynn. Her foot slipped in a small puddle of water on the tile floor and sent her falling forward, one hand landing on his thigh, the other holding the wrench just missed hitting his groin. On contact, Flynn jackknifed upright beneath the sink and hit his forehead squarely on the pipe, and cursed loudly.

Lacey dropped the wrench next to his leg and pushed herself away. She skidded across the floor on her bottom and came to rest against the leg of the kitchen table.

“I didn’t mean to do that,” she said, covering her face with her hands.

A moment later, Flynn emerged from beneath the sink, rubbing at his head. He sat up with his back to the cabinet door and looked at Lacey. Her forehead was set on her knees, shoulders shuddering gently with tears. His eyes dropped to her knees.

“You’re bleeding,” he said quietly.

“That’s from before,” she said, lifting her head to inspect the damage. She wiped the fresh blood trickling from the reopened cut. “Did I hit anything…critical?” she asked. She used the back of her hand to wipe the tears from her cheek.

Flynn laughed. “If you had, you would've heard a lot more swearing.”

“God! I suck at this,” she said.

“Suck at what?”

Lacey waved her arms. “This – domestic shit, living in the boondocks, taking care of a house, you name it.”

“New York or L.A.?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” Lacey asked.

“You’re obviously a city girl.”

Lacey smiled. “Raised near L.A. but currently living in New York.”

Flynn nodded, satisfied his assessment was correct.

“I’m so sorry about your house,” she said. “I’ll pay for everything to be fixed – and cleaned.”

“That’s what security deposits are for,” he said.

Lacey looked at him. The tone of his voice told her he was mad. The slight hint of a smile curling his full lips suggested otherwise, but his expression was so strained, he looked uncomfortable making it. She stood up and reached for a roll of paper towels on the table to clean her knee.

“I must have really given you a bad first impression,” she said.

He watched her blot her knee then take another clump of towels to dry the floor beside him. “What makes you say that?” Flynn asked.

Lacey sat back on one knee. The timbre of his voice had deepened; the words rolling slowly from his lips. She studied his face, dark eyebrows and long lashes framing the most amazing hazel eyes she'd even seen. Why couldn’t she read him? One minute he was cold and distant, the next he was – oh God, she didn’t know what the hell he was, but she liked it. A lot.

“You’ve been subtle, but I can tell you don’t approve,” she said.

“Of what?”

“Me.”

“I like your music,” he said with a shrug. “You sound like Sheryl Crow.”

“Sheryl’s a friend of mine,” she said quietly. “And I have to say, I’m a bit surprised you’re familiar with my work.”

“I make a point of researching the musicians that want to rent my studio,” he said. “I learned that lesson the hard way after renting to a heavy metal group a few years back.”

“The recording studio is yours, too?”

“Afraid so,” he said. “And, not that it matters, but I also live next door.”

“I guess that explains how you got here so fast,” she said.

He held her gaze for a long moment, then turned to look at the sink.

“I can fix the disposal now, if you want, or I can come back later,” he said. “It's up to you.”

“Now is fine.”

“Okay. It shouldn’t take more than an hour.”

She watched him slip back into position beneath the cabinet opening. His strong legs naturally falling open.

“Do you need me to help?” she asked.

Flynn’s laughter echoed inside the cabinet. “I’ve seen the way you ‘help’.”

“You made me nervous!”

“Considering what you do for a living, I find that hard to believe,” he said.

“I do better with crowds,” she said.

Lacey stood up and began cleaning off the counter tops.

“Since we’re stuck together for the next hour, why don’t you tell me about yourself?” she asked.

“I'd rather not.”

“You prefer being mysterious?” she asked.

“My life isn’t all that interesting.” he said. “At least what you’d consider to be interesting.”

“It’s a myth that musicians lead action packed lives, rubbing elbows every day with the rich and famous,” she said.

Flynn chuckled. “I bet your list of close friends reads like a page from Who’s Who of Hollywood.”

She turned around to poke him with her bare foot and realized his t-shirt had slid up from the waistband of his jeans and had exposed a sweet expanse of his chiseled stomach. A thin line of dark hair started below his belly button and disappeared beneath the waistband of his jeans. She watched the washboard of muscle contract as he cranked the wrench on the pipe and swallowed hard. Damn, what she wouldn't do to see more!

“What’s going on up there?” he asked. “You’re dripping water all over me.”

She spun around to the counter and dropped the wet sponge from her hand into the sink. How many more times was she going to embarrass herself in front of him, she thought. She reached for a dish towel and knelt down beside Flynn and began drying his thigh. She felt the muscle twitch beneath her fingers; felt the heat of his skin.

“It’s water,” he said; his head lifting slightly. “It’ll dry.”

Her hand lingered a moment too long; frozen in fear or mesmerized with curiosity and lust, she wasn’t sure which. Her eyes drifted to his groin. An impressive outline of his cock seemed to lift behind the zipper of his jeans - or perhaps she was imagining it.

She pulled her hand away and stood up when her cell phone began to ring on the kitchen table. Never had she been so thankful for an interruption. She grabbed her phone and took it into the living room.

“Annie! How are you?” Lacey asked. “We must be on the same wavelength because I was thinking of calling you later.”

A few years back, Annie Logan had been a temporary member of Lace while Taylor had heart surgery and then recovered. It was a business agreement at first, but Annie quickly became friends with Lacey and Taylor and had remained so throughout the years since.

“It wasn't intuition,” Annie said. “More like a call from Taylor. She said you needed help with a project?”

“Boy, do I ever!” Lacey said.

“What do you need?” Annie asked.

“Another vocal. A friend.”

“What’s going on, Lace?”

Lacey plopped down onto the living room couch and sighed. “I’m stressed-out in a major way,” she said. “The album sucks and it's taking way too long to get the tracks laid. I'm thinking of sending my band home.”

“Why am I sensing this has something to do with a guy?” Annie teased.

“None here,” Lacey said, then lowered her voice to a whisper. “Actually, there is one, but he’s seriously playing hard to get.”

“You mean, there’s a man on this planet resistant to your feminine charm?” Annie asked.

“Apparently, yes! And it's annoying as hell,” Lacey laughed. “Tell me what’s going on in your life? I’m sure it's way more interesting than what I have going on here.”

“We just got back from Florida,” Annie said. “Michael had a couple of gigs down there, so we combined that with a mini-vacation.”

“Did you take the kids?” Lacey asked.

“Of course.”

“I’m hearing something in your voice, Annie. Did something happen in Florida? Is Michael still behaving himself?”

“Michael’s great,” she said. “I’m probably imagining something that’s not really there.”

“I’m not following.”

“Remember the roadie that attacked me in the bathroom at our Tallahassee show?”

“He broke your cheek bone and tried to rape you,” Lacey said. “How could I ever forget that?”

“I think he might be out of prison.”

“Did you see him?”

“Michael performed last week at a benefit near Tallahassee. I was standing back stage; the place was the usual mob scene, and this guy came up behind me. He leaned in close and said: “Payback’s a bitch.” I spun around to see who it was, but he was gone. I’m not positive it was him, but it sure as hell smelled like him.”

“I just got a chill, Annie. Did you tell Michael about this?”

“Hell no! The security detail he makes me drag around everywhere I go is crazy enough. If he thought there was a threat, he’d double it, or worse, keep me locked inside the house.”

“I think you should tell him – or tell someone in law enforcement,” Lacey said.

“My gut tells me it was him,” Annie said. “And the time line would be about right for him to be out of prison for the drug charges.”

“Come hide out here with me in the Berkshires,” Lacey said.

“That’s tempting as hell,” Annie said. “Let me see what Michael has scheduled and I'll get back to you.”

“You can always bring him and the kids along,” Lacey said. “You could rent a house on the lake near me and make a working vacation out of it.”

“Hmmmm, give me a day to work out the details and I’ll call you back.”

“Perfect! I’ll talk to you soon,” Lacey said, and hung up her phone.

Lacey returned to the kitchen. Flynn was almost done fixing the disposal and had started to clean up.

“Do you have any more houses for rent on the lake?”

He turned around and faced her; wiping down his forearms with a paper towel. “Depends,” he said. “Who wants to rent?”

“Michael Wade and his wife, Annie Logan.”

“Michael Wade from Thrust?” Flynn asked. “Another one of your non-celebrity friends?”

More like an ex-lover, she thought, and one of rock ‘n’ roll's most notorious bad boys. “Are you a fan?” she asked, tucking her memories away for safe keeping.

“I was, back in their heyday,” Flynn said. “Too bad about Brian getting shot.”

“Brian's death effected all of us, especially Michael. I think a piece of him died that day along with Brian.”

Flynn tossed the paper towel into the trash barrel. “How serious are they about renting?”

“She’ll let me know in a day or so,” Lacey said. “If she comes alone, she could stay here with me.”

Flynn nodded. “Let me know,” he said. He finished loading his tool box and locked it, then handed Lacy the mangled fork he had dislodged from the disposal blades.

“Is this my trophy?” she asked.

“Have it mounted to hang on the wall,” he said. An easy smile formed on his face, then he walked to the door and opened it.

“Thanks for fixing that up for me,” Lacey said. “And I promise to finish cleaning before I head over to the studio.”

Flynn gave her a wave and stepped off the porch. She watched him walk across the lawn to his house; a waterfront cottage almost mirroring hers, but bigger, and his also had a large red barn. She wondered what he must think of her behavior, if he thought her actions were by accident or a juvenile attempt on her part to make a pass at him.

He wore no wedding ring, or made reference to having a woman in his life, in fact, he had very little to say to her at all. Still, the buzz she felt bouncing between them was much louder than words.

Lacey sighed loudly and turned away from the back door. For all she knew, Flynn was gay. The thought of that made her laugh out loud. Flynn gay? Unlikely. She might have misread some of their interactions as being flirtatious, when the interplay was probably more of a one-sided seduction on her part. But she seriously doubted she had imagined seeing his cock thicken in his jeans when she touched his leg. Of that much, at least, she was perfectly sure. The other option was breathing the cool, fresh mountain air of the Berkshires for an entire week had turned her brain to mush.