Bent is broken in body, mind, and spirit. Complications of an injury plague Angel Fire’s legendary bassist. He’ll never play again. Never take the stage with his bandmates. Never soak in the intoxication of the crowd. Music has abandoned him.
At least that’s what he’s told his overly persistent physical therapist, Piper. The woman is petite and vivacious, a pixie with red hair and a spitfire attitude. She doesn’t know when to give up, or when to shove her perpetual positivity into the deepest, darkest hole.
He’s fired her more times than he can count. She should leave him to his misery, but the woman won’t take no for an answer. She challenges him. Pushes him. She never lets up. The fiery pixie is turning his entire world upside down, and that’s pissing him off.
Bent desperately needs Piper to leave him alone—especially since the infuriating woman is now invading his dreams and stirring up his darkest fantasies. But how does someone get rid of a perky pixie?
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Piper placed a hand over her belly. It did nothing to stop the incessant flutter churning her gut into a tangled mess of mixed signals and crossed wires. The man in the shower wasn’t anything like her typical client.
She dealt with children, mostly, providing physical therapy for any number of neurologic, neuromuscular, or developmental disorders. A few adults graced her clinic, who like Bent were in recovery following injury, but never in a million years would she have thought she’d be making a house call to a petulant, over-indulged, and spoiled rock god.
What the hell had she been thinking when she signed that exclusive contract with a non-disclosure agreement attached to it?
Kids were easy.
They rarely talked back.
He never listened. He didn’t obey the simplest of rules, and his damn mouth kept up a non-stop diatribe of why he couldn’t accomplish the simplest of things. He was insufferable. She would walk away if it weren’t for one little thing.
“Goddammit!” Bent’s low roar made her jump.
Her shoulders met her ears as she cringed.
Don’t go back in there.
She did not want to be in that room any longer than necessary. He was naked, and with Bent, that was a lot of temptation to resist. The well-endowed man had been graced by the gods.
“Do you need help?” She was honor bound to offer assistance, even when it made her cringe.
A string of curses followed and, from the sounds coming from the bathroom, it sounded as if he had dropped the soap. She held back a giggle as images of him twisting and fumbling came to mind. If he only tried harder, things wouldn’t be difficult. His obstinate manner made everything harder than it needed to be.
With Bent’s rock star status, she had expected difficulties. Celebrities were notoriously difficult, and she’d been warned away from accepting high profile clients. Bent was as over the top, and difficult, as she had imagined; perhaps worse.
He yelled at her daily. Fired her nearly as often. And he growled through most of their conversations. Depressing and aggravating didn’t even begin to describe what it was like working alongside the man day in and day out.
Not a fan of the mega rock band, she paid little attention to Angel Fire’s superstar status, but understood they orbited in the highest circles. The band had more money than they could spend in several lifetimes, but surprised her with their general laid back attitude. A tight knit group, they lived, worked, and played hard together. In many ways, Angel Fire was a family, a wonky and unique group of individuals, except for Bent. He was the growly bear thrust into the mix, and his tenacious refusal to put forth the most minimal effort made her want to pull her hair out.
“Piper! This thing doesn’t work worth shit!”
His roar would’ve made the uninitiated run for the hills, but she’d had a couple weeks to get used to his temper.
“Put the loops around your hand, Mr. Growly Bear, and slow down. It’s not a race.”
“No shit Sherlock.”
For the umpteenth time, she surveyed Bent’s quarters, and for the umpteenth time she had to remember to close her jaw. It amazed her people actually lived in such elegance. It was a far cry from the studio apartment she’d recently vacated. He had an entire wall dedicated to his instrument of choice. Bass guitars hung from hooks, or perched on stands, and had been designated a No touch zone. Not that she had any interest in his guitars.
Her contract stipulated she would be housed on-site. When she’d signed the reams of legalese, she had expected a mansion and anticipated being shoved into a small boarding room not much larger than a closet. Many images had floated through her mind about the rock star lifestyle, but she hadn’t been prepared for the sprawling expanse that was Angel Fire’s mega estate.
Affectionately dubbed Insanity, the steel and glass architectural masterpiece perched over the California cliffs and sported million dollar views of the majesty of the Pacific Ocean far below. The sprawling mansion boasted ten residential suites, miniature homes within the estate, a commuter’s helicopter pad, upper and lower garages capable of holding scores of collector cars, three swimming pools, more than a handful of sculpted and manicured courtyards, several common living areas, two gourmet kitchens with a full staff, and a host of maids, butlers, and even a concierge service for the residents and guests.
Several out-buildings completed the property. A modern recording studio shared prime real estate facing out over the ocean, and a more modest service building sat back from the others, closest to the road. There was even a gondola which brought passengers from the sea-side cliffs down to the rocky beach far below.
For the duration of her contract, she’d been given accommodations in the service building, a three-story structure full of nothing but apartments for the residential help.
Her room boasted 1500-square feet of top-of-the-line living, and while she didn’t have the million dollar views of the ocean, the pounding surf was loud enough to lull her to sleep at night. She kept them open every night and breathed in the salty air and freshness of the ocean breezes. Insanity felt like a place where new beginnings were made.
Certainly, she intended to forge her new beginnings. With room and board as part of her impressive compensation package, Piper found no reason to spend any of her money. There was nothing beyond the walled estate she needed to see. No one she needed to visit. Nothing she wanted to do. Her days revolved around morning, afternoon, and evening physical therapy sessions with Bent. Sandwiched in between, she visited the kitchens, or took advantage of the gondola and spent her free time wandering the beach.
“Do you need help?”
She called out over her shoulder as she glided over to the expansive wall of windows and opened up one of the sliding panels. The entire wall of plate glass could be pushed aside, literally bringing the outside in. With moderate California temperatures, it wasn’t uncommon for most of the estate to be open to the ocean breezes.
Crisp ocean air flooded her senses, much more pronounced here than in her modest quarters.
She waited a moment, listening to see if Bent needed help, but when he didn’t answer, a few steps brought her out to the expansive wraparound deck. The wind whipped at her short hair, lifting it in the steady breeze coming directly off the ocean.
She kept her hair cut in a short pixie updo. Other than frequent haircuts, and coloring to maintain the vibrant red, the short style was easy to manage. She loved the freedom of finger combing her hair. That wildness made it fun, and she needed a little more fun in her life.
The sounds of Bent’s shower could be heard through the open window of the bathroom, as well as his incessant cussing. The man had a psychedelic vocabulary, one he used often.
She turned and moved away, not so far that she wouldn’t be able to hear if he needed help, but enough to mute the worst of the expletives dripping from his foul mouth.
Since it was such a gorgeous day, she decided they would move their therapy session out onto the broad porch. It took a moment to retrieve her bag, and a little more time to rearrange the patio furniture to make enough room. Satisfied with her preparations, she went to the railing where she peered down at the violent surf far below.
Skye had told her that sometimes they could see whales breaching beyond the breakwater. There were seals too, which meant great white sharks infested the waters. The pounding surf made the water unsafe to swim in, but an expanse of rocky tide pools extended for miles. Left alone, she could lose herself for hours peering into the pools left behind when the tide receded. She wished she were down there now, instead of facing another grueling two hours with an insufferable brute.
Her presence at Insanity came as a fluke, one favor traded for another. When she’d approached Forest over a month ago, not once had she anticipated his demand for a favor in return.
Evidently, Bent had fired a string of physical therapists before her, all male, and all rather explosively. At least that’s what Skye had told her. No one wanted to work with Bent and Forest had found himself at the end of his rope. He needed his bassist. Ryker Lyons had stood in for a couple months. The band had then taken a break while Ash and Bash worked on a new album. They had planned on a six-month break, but without Bent, there was no band. No touring. No music.
Ryker Lyons had stepped in, but he was a temporary fix. Forest’s pet project pulled Ryker and his wife, Tia, away, and it was in Piper’s best interests to make sure their project took off.
Of course, she’d agreed to Forest’s trade. How hard could it be to provide personal, intensive, physical therapy to one man? Knowing Forest, she should have asked more questions about her client, but she’d been desperate. Evidently, Forest had been too.
A long string of expletives pealed out the small bathroom window and carried on the breeze. The corners of her mouth twitched up.
“You gotta be kidding me. Fucking shit on a shingle. Piper!”
She shook her head, but took her time coming to his rescue. The man needed to learn self-sufficiency and self-dependence. His reliance on others would cripple him, in more ways than just physical, if it continued much longer.
That was her job. Get Angel Fire’s bassist back to playing, but he was a royal pain in the ass. And he refused to put in the work that would help him regain full use of his mangled arm.
Even now, his curses surged through the room as he attempted very basic tasks.
“Be there in a second.” She called out, letting him know she was outside. There was no reason to hurry.
He was more obstinate than all of her previous clients combined. A bit of regret accompanied that part of her agreement with Forest. Her position came with a full-time commitment, which meant all her clients had been transferred to other physical therapists. She missed the kids. They celebrated the small victories and suffered more. Many of them had permanent deficits.
Unlike Bent, they didn’t have a chance of getting better. They were simply learning to make the best of what they had. In contrast, Bent focused only on what he couldn’t do, rather than what he’d regained. Nothing but his pig-headed attitude stood in his way toward recovery. His problem was that he wallowed in his injury. She needed to find something that he wanted bad enough that he would work for it.
Whatever it was.
He came out of the shower, a towel wrapped loose around his hips. The towel hid nothing underneath and merely accentuated his well-endowed assets, which she should not be staring at. With a jerk, she forced her gaze anywhere but at the prominent bulge cupped between his powerful thighs.
The man was insufferable. Insufferable and insanely hot.
“What took you so damn long?” His words came as a rolling thunder, full of anger and accusation.
“You do not need me to help you shower.”
“I needed help.” His full lips twisted into a sexy pout. “You could’ve picked up the soap for me.”
“Your legs aren’t broken. It seems you managed just find. Congratu-fucking-lation on taking your first shower alone.”
“Don’t swear, Piper. It doesn’t sit well with you.”
“You cuss often enough. I think I’m due a swear word or two.”
He shook his head. “I’m different.”
She put her hands to her hips. “The rules are different for you than they are for me?”
“As a matter of fact, they are. No more swearing. That’s an order.”
“You don’t get to tell me what to do.”
“I’m serious, Piper.”
“And if I do?” What would he do? Bent couldn’t fire her, only Forest could.
Bent gripped the towel and the bulge between his legs twitched.
Piper gulped, realizing the sudden tension swirling in the air.
“Don’t test me on this. Pretty girls shouldn’t swear.”
He thought she was pretty?
“How about a trade?”
“No trade. I said no swearing, and that means you don’t swear.”
“That’s funny, Growly, but that’s not how this works.” She could definitely use this to her advantage. “You give me one-hundred percent during our sessions and I promise to keep my language clean, but the same goes for you.”
“Bull shit. I’m already giving you something.”
“You’re giving me what you should give every session we have together, but you’re nothing but a royal pain in the ass.”
He cocked his head, and the towel flicked.
Do not look down. For the love of all that is holy…Do. Not. Look. Down.
But she did. Her gaze dropped. Holy shit!
He snickered. “You know, instead of torturing me, we could spend the next two hours doing something much more fun.”
Clamping her mouth shut, she found the courage to meet his smirk.
Their physical therapy sessions put them in close physical proximity, which was going to make the next two hours more than unbearable.
She pointed to the deck outside. “I prefer torture.”
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