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Built to Fall: Chapter 11


I TOOK THE FASTEST, coldest shower I could stand, rubbed lotion all over my sun-sensitive skin, and dressed in a semi-professional pair of jeans and a gray T-shirt that said, “You Got It,” a gift from Annaliese. It reminded me I owed her a phone call. She probably thought I was dead in a gutter somewhere since I hadn’t been in contact for two days.

Grabbing my laptop and key card, I stuffed my feet in my oxfords and headed to Dominic’s room. He opened his door soon after I knocked, holding it wide for me.

“That was sixteen minutes,” he said as way of greeting.

“Yes…well, if you wanted me actually wearing clothing, I needed those extra six minutes.” I brushed by him to the living area of his suite and set my laptop on a side table.

He nodded at my chest. “Another message tee?”

“Yeah.” I traced the letters with a finger. “My sister got me this one before I came on this trip.”

He watched the slow journey of my finger over my chest. “Do you often need that reminder?”

I shrugged, dropping my hand when I trailed over a puckered nipple. “I think most people do, from time to time.”

“Then it’s a kindness, really. To wear those words for everyone to see.”

I tugged at the hem, my mouth quirking. “It’s just a shirt, Dominic. It’s not that deep.”

“All right, Claire.” He closed some of the distance between us, peering at my face. “You didn’t lie about the freckles. I wouldn’t have believed if I wasn’t seeing it for myself. You actually do have more of them now.”

My hand went to my cheek automatically, guarding my warm skin. “I don’t generally lie, and especially not about something as trivial as freckles.”

“That’s a good habit.” He reached out and grazed a fingertip across my chin. “I like the freckles.”

“Thank you.” I stepped back, bumping the coffee table. “Shit.” I rubbed the back of my calf, certain I’d be bruised from how hard I’d hit it.

Dominic’s brow pinched. “Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine. I swear I’m not usually so bumbling. I don’t know what’s gotten into me.” I carefully walked around the coffee table and picked up my phone. “Did you need to go over the press schedule for tomorrow, or…?”

“Have a seat, Claire. We need to get something straight.” Dominic perched on the arm of the couch, one foot braced on the coffee table, the other on the floor. He motioned for me to sit, then clasped his hands together between his spread legs.

“Have I done something wrong?” I sat on the opposite side of the couch, feeling small under his deep, steady gaze and raised position.

“No. Not really. I’m very careful about the information I make public. I know it goes against the grain of being famous, but I am pretty private.”

I nodded, still unsure why I was here instead of floating around the pool ten floors down. “That’s understandable.”

“I looked over the press release you wrote.”

My breath caught in my throat. I’d sent it to Marta to proofread and cc’d Dominic as an afterthought, not actually expecting him to read it.

“Did you find an error?” I asked.

“No. It was well-written. The thing is, you mentioned the hospital visit I’m doing in Houston, and that’s not something I want publicized. I’m guessing Isabela forgot to mention that.”

“Um…” I pressed the back of my hand to my forehead, my thoughts scrambling, “I’ll have to go through my files to be sure. I apologize. I saw it on the schedule and just assumed—”

I had assumed because Isabela had told me to include it. She was human and could make mistakes, but it surprised me she would have made this one, considering how long she’d worked for Dominic.

“It’s all right. No harm done, huh?”

“No, I guess not.” I worried my bottom lip between my fingers, attempting to get my stomach to settle. I could have messed up big, and it was only by chance Dominic stopped me. “I really am sorry. I don’t know how I could have overlooked something so important.”

“Claire.” He spoke my name like warm honey, sticking to the walls of my mind and dripping down into my consciousness. “It’s fine. Marta would have caught it if I hadn’t. Don’t beat yourself up. That’s my job.”

My eyes flicked to his, and the playful curve of his mouth took me by surprise. I took a deep breath, then leaned forward to grab my laptop from the table.

“I should go fix this,” I said.

“You should stay. Do it here.”


He lifted a shoulder and ran a finger sideways across his lips. “Might as well. That way I can read it right away and tell you if there should be any other corrections.”

“You could do that by email, you know.”

“Do you really have to argue about everything?” The corners of his mouth twitched, holding his smile at bay.

“I’m not arguing. I’m just pointing out the flaw in your logic.” I opened up my laptop anyway. Doing this on Dominic’s couch would be just as easy as in my room.

I clicked on the file in question and started to read through it to figure out how to change the wording. Dominic hadn’t moved from his perch, watching me work.

“That’s disconcerting, you know.”

His head cocked. “What?”

“Being watched while I try to work. Do you think you could be slightly more subtle? Maybe lurk across the room?”

As he stood, I swore I heard him huff a quiet laugh. “I’m going to order something for dinner. What do you want?”

My fingers paused over the keyboard. “For dinner? I’m eating here?”

“Sure.” He tossed his cell phone back and forth between his hands. “With the exception of our first night in Miami, I’ve eaten dinner alone since you’ve stolen my usual companion. Seems like you owe me the company.”

“Do I?” I raised an eyebrow at his audacity. “Is this an order from my boss?”

He slipped his phone in his pocket. “No. Do you have a better offer?”

I had an offer from Adam. Was it better? Probably wiser—no, definitely wiser. But I wasn’t even tempted to mention our tentative plans. Not when I could stay in this room and maybe get to unlock some of the mystery that was Dominic Cantrell.

“No better offer.” I held out my hand. “Is there a menu?”


An hour later, I’d rewritten the press release, gotten Dominic’s approval, and our food had arrived. His suite had a dining table, and we sat across from each other with our dinners. He’d gotten a burger, while I had shrimp and grits. It was New Orleans after all.

“Have you been to the city before?” he asked.

“New Orleans? Once, a few years ago. It was a week post-Mardi Gras, and there were still beads everywhere.” That had been with Derrick, of course, and several of our couple friends. He’d gotten trashed and belligerent with…well, everyone. Aside from the beads, that was what I remembered most about New Orleans.

“You’re not disappointed you’re not out on Bourbon Street tonight?”

“No, not really. Are you?”

He wiped his mouth and beard with his napkin and spread his arm along the back of the seat beside him. “Even if I wanted to, I don’t really have that option.”

I motioned to his silver hair. “I guess you’re kind of conspicuous.”

“Yeah.” He smoothed a tattooed hand over his beard. “It’s been a while since I flew under the radar.”

“If you weren’t famous, would you be drinking a hurricane and wearing beads around your neck?”

The heavy exhale from his nose was practically an answer in itself. “No, Claire. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do a lot of stupid shit when I was younger, and I’m no angel now, but my days of sticky drinks and being stupid in front of other drunken idiots are long over.” He tipped his chin my way. “What about you? Did you get stupid the last time you were here?”

I got yelled at until sunrise by my husband for taking his friend’s side when they said it was time to call it a night.

I hadn’t told a soul on this tour I’d been married, but I told Dominic. “I was here with my ex-husband and our other married friends. We were in our early twenties, but we liked to pretend we were sophisticated. Or…they did, and I went along with it. Actually, I don’t even know.”

A pensive expression swept over Dominic’s features, and his jaw worked back and forth. “You’re young to be divorced.”

“Well, I was young to be married.”

“When did you get divorced?” he asked.

I tried to smile to cover how raw this topic was. I’d been the one to introduce it, and I didn’t regret it…yet. But I was very aware one wrong move, look, word, and I might bolt—from both the conversation and the room.

“It’s still in the process, actually. It’s been almost three months since I left.”

He balled his fist beneath his chin. “Think you’ll go back?”

“To him?” He had no idea how preposterous that suggestion was.

“To your husband,” he confirmed.

“No. Never. Absence has made my heart grow harder. And I don’t consider him my husband anymore. A piece of paper doesn’t make someone a husband.”

“That’s good.” He nodded approvingly. “A harder heart will serve you well.”

“That remains to be seen. I don’t want to become so hard I can’t feel anymore.”

“Yeah…well,” he shifted in his chair, “you figure that out, let me know.”

I picked up a piece of cornbread dipped in grits from my plate. “I’ll work on it when I get home. Now’s not the time to think about him.” My teeth tore into the bread with savagery, making Dominic chuckle.

“Are you enjoying this job, Claire?”

“Oh, yes.” I licked the crumbs from my lips with a swipe of my tongue. “What’s not to enjoy about traveling and music and finally getting to do the thing I went to college for?”

Dominic reached out with his napkin and dabbed the corner of my mouth without making a single comment. While my heart caught in my throat, he continued like he hadn’t just taken care of me in an intimate way. Sort of like when he’d taken off my shoes in the hall and sent my body into a tailspin.

“I’d really like you to be at my shows.” He folded his napkin on the table and pushed his empty plate forward. “Is there a reason you haven’t come to any yet?”

Yes. I was avoiding you because from the second we met, you’ve made me forget which way is up. Yes, because I work for you and can’t feel this way. Yes, because I know nothing good can come from what I’m feeling. Yes, because you do scare me, but you also piss me off pretty constantly. Yes, there are a million reasons.

“No, no reason. I watched the opener, but I didn’t know I was expected to watch your show too. I will tomorrow night,” I promised.

He scoffed and canted his head slightly away. “Don’t you think, to represent me, you need to be familiar with my music?”

“I am familiar with your music. I’ve been listening to your voice since I was a little girl. I had your poster on the back of my bedroom door when I was in middle school. And when I moved out of the home I shared with my ex into my sister’s apartment, I fell asleep in my tiny closet bedroom listening to “Angel Moon” on repeat.”

“Middle school, huh?”

I laughed. “That’s all you picked up on from that?”

Both dark brows shot up. “Oh, I heard that you’re a real big fan of mine, Claire.”

I pressed my index finger to the table between us. “Of your music.”

The smile he finally allowed to break through was more of a smirk. “Right. Of my music, not the man.”

“My opinion of the man is still up in the air. But buying me grits tips the scale heavily in your favor.”

“Did you think the grits were free? I’m taking them from your paycheck.”

I giggled again. “I have to say, they were worth every penny.”

The smile lingered on his mouth for a few moments as his coal eyes raked over me. “Have you had a good day, Claire?”

The way he said my name…

“I have. It’s topped my last time in this city by a mile.”

“Did you have a nice time with your friends at the pool? With that kid?”

His question gave me pause. “How do you know who I was with?”

He slid his phone across the table toward me, the screen glowing. On it was a picture of Adam and me in the pool, smiling at each other.

“Did Marta take this?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yeah. When I texted her to ask you to come up here, she sent me this.”

“And you told her to tell me to come up here anyway?”

“I did,” he confirmed.

I should have been mad or at least annoyed Dominic had purposely interrupted my time with Adam, but I wasn’t. The truth was, I’d rather be here than anywhere else. Maybe that was sad and a little pathetic, given Dominic was…well, Dominic Cantrell, but I got the impression he was enjoying me as much as I enjoyed him.

“The press release could have waited until later.” We both knew that was true, but I felt like pressing him a little, since we were being honest.

“It could have. But I didn’t want it to.”

“Well…” I pushed back from the table, “I guess I should go. Thank you for dinner.”

He pushed back too, standing. “Thank you for the company.”

I glanced over my shoulder at him as I gathered my laptop. “All you have to do is ask, you know. You’re not the worst to have dinner with.”

He sputtered a short laugh. “Got it. I’ll work on my manners so next time I’ll be a step above ‘not the worst.’”

I preened internally for eking a laugh from him, the most contained man in existence. Dominic stayed on my heels all the way to the door, which he held open for me.

“Goodnight, Dominic. I’ll see you in the morning.”

This crazy part of me wanted to kiss him on his cheek, to feel the brush of his beard on my lips. Luckily, I refrained from embarrassing myself and took a step into the hall.

“See you, Claire.”

All the way to my room three doors down, I felt his eyes on me. When I took my key card from my pocket, I chanced a glance back. Dominic leaned in his doorway, his arms across his chest, doing nothing to conceal the way he watched me. He tipped his chin, and I went inside with a warmth coating my insides.

Once I kicked off my shoes, I curled up on my bed and called Annaliese.

“Is this the ransom call?” she answered.

“Yes. Give me five-million and I’ll give you your sister back unharmed,” I said.

“Meh. That’s a little steep for my pockets. You can keep her.”

I grinned. “I guess you’re angry I haven’t called.”

“I’m just hoping there’s a good excuse, like ill-advised dudes.”

That made me snort, which caused her to cackle, setting off a chain reaction that ended in a fit of giggles from us both.

“So, are there dudes?” she asked when she’d calmed.

“There are many dudes. There’s one in the opening act named Adam who has been paying me extra attention.” I rushed out my next confession. “And then there’s Dominic…who I might have a very inappropriate crush on.”

“Whoa-ho-ho there, missy. What did you just throw in there at the end?” Annaliese sounded amused rather than admonishing, so I told her about Dominic. The way he said my name, the way he’d touched my feet, how he kept staring and staring, how I liked it.

“It’s not like anything would ever happen. He’s the man from my posters and my boss,” I said.

“Do you want something to happen?” There was no judgment from Annaliese. She wasn’t that type of sister at all. If anything, I’d always been the more conservative of the two of us, but she hadn’t judged me for that either.

“I don’t know.” I cupped my forehead, thinking about the way he looked at me when I entered my room a bit ago. “No. It would be a terrible decision. The tour just got started, and the last thing I need is an awkward work situation. Besides, I highly doubt he’s into me, you know?”

“Why wouldn’t he be into you?”

Because I blend in with the fucking furniture.

“He’s famous and a lot older. I work for him, and I—”

“Have a big, juicy ass?” she finished for me. “I know what you were thinking, and like I’ve told you a hundred times, that isn’t a negative.”

I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. She had told me that before, in those exact words. My sister was my very own hype woman, and sometimes I even believed her.

“You’re the best. Your ass is really nice too.”

She sighed. “Thanks, babe. Speaking of asses, Derrick came by the nursery looking for you. He seemed completely poleaxed when I told him you were out of town for work—and I loved every second of it.”

All the lightness from the last few hours crashed onto my shoulders like a heavy shroud. “What did he want?”

“He wanted to talk. I told him you weren’t interested.”

“I’m definitely not.” I’d had my closure with Derrick when he knocked me unconscious. He could seek his somewhere else. He wouldn’t be getting one thing more from me.

“Then I’ll picture him twitching around in his own crapulence while you have an amazing experience and get chased by rock stars. Deal?”


She could think about Derrick all she wanted. He wasn’t the one who was on my mind when I laid down in bed and slipped my hand between my legs. Adam wasn’t either. No, my brain wanted the most inappropriate, ill-advised man around, and no one else would do. Not tonight, in my fantasies, anyway.


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