Excerpt for Sold Out (Book 5 of The Back-Up Series) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Sold Out, Book 5 of The Back-Up Series

Published by A.M. Madden

Copyright ©2019 A.M. Madden

First edition, e-book-published 2019

All Rights Reserved Worldwide. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The use of artist and song titles, locations, and products throughout this book are done so for storytelling purposes and should in no way be seen as advertisement. Trademark names are used in an editorial fashion, with no intention of infringement of the respective owner’s trademark.

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A.M. Madden


Twitter: @ammadden1

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The Back-Up Series

Back-Up ~ Book 1

Front & Center ~ Book 2

Encore ~ Book 3

Backstage ~ Book 4

The Devil’s Lair ~ Book 4.5

Backstage Pass ~ A Back-Up Quickie

Sold Out ~ Book 5

Shock Jock, A Lair Novel

Table of Contents

The Back-Up Series

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38


Another Epilogue

The Back-Up Series Playlist


More by A.M. Madden

About A.M. Madden

Chapter 1

“Love is many things: fickle, fragile, mysterious, and, above all, complicated. Is there anything else as powerful, though? Think about it. Love has the ability to bring either euphoria or hell, depending on the circumstances surrounding it. And even though it has the power to decimate a heart or splinter a soul, to ruin you for all of eternity, humans still desperately need to find love.

“Sure, some of us have bounced back and loved again. Some may have even found better forms of love the second, third, or eighth time around. Others may have never gotten over the pain, fearful to ever try again. And each time we dare to dip our toe into the pool of love, we usually jump in blindly. By the time we know whether the path it plans to take is one of total destruction or one of profound elation, it’s usually too late.”

His audible sigh filters through the speaker before he adds, “Call me an idiot, but in my opinion… it is absolutely worth the fucking risk.” A short pause forces you to contemplate his words, and then a deep chuckle reverberates over the air. “Well, on that note, it’s time to get home to my love. This is Dr. Vaughn Lair signing off. Remember to fuck with all your heart, and fuck like your life depends on it. Good night, America.”

Leila leans forward to touch the preset, switching over to a classic-rock station that we enjoy. “Your cousin is a smart man.”

“He can be at times.” I cut my gaze to her before focusing back on the deserted road. “But enlighten me, what is he smart about this time?” I ask, wanting my wife’s take on it.

“Love is worth the risk,” she counters, the corners of her full lips curving into a satisfied smirk.

“Yes, it most definitely is worth the risk.” I reach for her hand and lift it to kiss her knuckles.

When she can, Leila enjoys tuning in to my cousin Vaughn’s syndicated sex-therapy show, often quoting back to me the advice he doles out to his listeners. There are times she’ll even mention a new sexual position or technique that a reader shared, which works well for my libido.

After Vaughn arrived in New York, I accused her of having a crush on him. Not denying it, my wife was quick to point out it was a harmless crush, reminding me that Vaughn’s girlfriend, Haven, in turn crushed on me as well. Leila blamed the irresistible Lair genes, and I couldn’t argue her point.

“I don’t need Vaughn to know that you were the best risk I’d ever taken, my wife.”

“As were you, my husband.” The second time I glance over, her smile widens before she throws me a wink… one that instantly stirs up my sex drive.

For the record, I love my wife with all my heart. However, I also happen to lust her with all my soul. Physically, I find her to be perfection—silky chestnut locks I love burying my hands into, amber eyes that can bring me to my knees, full lips that make my mouth water wanting to nibble on them, and a body that can harden my cock even while fully clothed.

“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” she touts confidently. After all we’ve been through, I can appreciate that claim. Leila and I risked a fuck-ton to be together, and I’d risk it all again to be right where we are now.

Our lives weren’t always sunshine and rainbows. And even after we survived all the crap caused by two psychos from my past, there were still many stressful situations challenging us.

Being famous rock stars, and the demands that come with touring, causes exhausting days… not to mention parenting our three kids with another on the way. But it’s the kind of exhaustion that fuels the foundation of our love, a love that is so intense it’s become a force between us. Together, we handle it all and make it a point to remember the romance that cements our relationship.

Normally, by stealing moments here and there, Leila and I are able to keep things exciting in the sex department. We are as infatuated with each other today as we were when we started out. To be honest, I’m even more so, because as sexy as she was then, there’s nothing sexier than the woman you love having your babies.

We recently found out the one she’s carrying now is a boy. Yet to be named, our fourth joins his brother Shane, and our twins, Madden and Siarra. We haven’t told anyone else yet. Through our sons’ wishfully thinking it’s another boy to play with, Siarra now thinks it is a boy as well. Adorably, she kisses Leila’s stomach every morning, asking, Is my brudder coming today?

This pregnancy has been fairly easy so far. With Leila now in her eighth month, memories of the complications when she carried the twins will always be on our minds. Putting a woman like Leila on complete bed rest for the last weeks of her pregnancy made for a cranky wife. Thank God, she was able to deliver them at term through a C-section. This time, she’s being monitored closely to ensure her blood pressure doesn’t spike again.

Until this baby is in my arms, I’ll continue to stress over his arrival. I keep most of my angst to myself, not wanting to worry her more than necessary. Just like the last pregnancy, she insists she’s not tired, always trying to handle everything herself. And just like the last time, I ignore her claim by having everything handled for her.

Between our nanny, Beverly, and our parents, we aren’t hurting for babysitters. The lack of alone time is mostly because my wife loves those kids so damn much she doesn’t want to spend any time away from them. I don’t either, but the selfish prick in me needs her undivided attention every now and again.

It’s been way too long since I’ve had her all to myself. The past year has been a tornado of emotions from touring the world and adopting Shane after he lost his mother to cancer. At just five, he was left alone with no one to love him and facing years in the foster-care system. Fate had us crossing paths, and the moment we had, we knew Shane was meant to be in our family.

Since getting back from Europe, the craziness has only increased. We haven’t had a moment to breathe. Hunter and Scott no longer live to solely play the drums and guitar in the band. They’re husbands now, dads. Even Trey is head over heels in love, something I thought I’d never see in my lifetime. Despite our sappy and sweet personal lives, we’re still kick-ass rock stars who are pretty much living dual lives.

And then add Leila’s pregnancy to all that insanity, the holidays, birthdays, recording our album, and the kids… all of which is the reason I’m currently kidnapping my wife for the weekend.

“How’s my boy doing?” I ask, releasing her hand to palm her belly.

“He’s kicking my bladder again.” She settles back in her seat, placing her hands over mine.

“Do you need me to stop?”

“No. We’re almost there.” At this hour of the night, the parkway has gifted us with an open road, shortening the ride to just over an hour from the city. Not many are traveling to the Jersey Shore on a cold Friday night in February.

Leila softly sings along with the radio as the heater keeps the air around us warm and comfortable, swirling the scent of the leather with the hint of coconut from her shampoo. It reminds me of watching her this morning in the shower.

Internally, I chuckle at her calling me a creeper, while still indulging me as I stood gawking at her naked form through the clear glass door. I love her body when’s she pregnant, or when she’s not… or when she’s under mine as I burrow my cock in her warmth.

Shit, I can’t wait to get her alone and ravish every inch of her.

This trip to our beach house will serve two purposes. First, I’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day alone with my wife. No kids barging in, no bandmates cockblocking me, no agents calling at all hours of the day… just Leila, me, and a huge house to fuck in. Yeah, sure, I plan to make sweet love to her over the course of the next two days, but first I plan to fuck her hard and fast. The kind of fucking that has her screaming my name… the kind we rarely can engage in lately for fear we’ll be waking someone up in the process.

This weekend, she’ll be able to scream all she wants. Except for the seagulls, no one will hear her.

The other reason we’re at the beach house is to shop for the baby’s nursery. Once he arrives in early April, we won’t have time to do so if we decide to pack up the brood and escape to the beach. Leila wants everything the baby will need to be there ready for him in case we do.

By the time we pull up to our gate, it’s close to midnight. The solar lights lining our winding driveway serve as a landing path toward the house. Leila adores it here, especially when our friends and family join us. She loves entertaining, and our beach house, with many guest rooms, enables her to do so properly. This house is one of the few things that reveal the spoils of our wealth.

Despite the money we’ve made, Leila and I are pretty grounded. The first thing I bought, without a second thought, was my BMW… and that was really a purchase of need after not having a car of my own for most of my adult life. Our beach house was the second impulsive purchase I made. I married a Jersey girl, and giving her a place on the beach was important to me. Our third and only other major purchase was our penthouse in the city.

I love our apartment, but this will always be our home. Years from now, when our kids are grown with families of their own, this house is where we’ll be counting our blessings.

Knowing we’d be arriving late, I had our housekeeper stock the fridge this afternoon before giving her the rest of the weekend off. We will officially have no distractions.

“Thank you for indulging me and waiting until they were all asleep before we left,” Leila says while stretching her arms over her head. “I hate not reading to them and tucking them in.”

“I haven’t even begun to indulge you, baby, but you’re welcome.”

Before cutting the engine, I shift in my seat to face her. “I have one demand.”

“Just one, huh?” she asks, wiggling her eyebrows.

“Okay, I have a few, but just one that doesn’t involve sex.” Her expression turns inquisitive as she waits for me to continue. “Promise me you’ll relax and not worry about the kids. They’re fine. They have your parents with them tonight, mine tomorrow night, and then we’ll be home before they know it.” She meets my gaze and hesitates enough for me to prompt, “Lei… promise me.”

“Fine, I promise.” When I bury my hand in her hair to kiss her lips, her pout spreads into a smile against my mouth. It never fails… the moment my lips touch hers that electric charge between us crackles through my core before settling into a hot pulse low in my cock.

“Time to get you to bed,” I murmur against her lips.

“I’m not tired.”

“You will be once I’m done doing all sorts of filthy things to you.”

Leaving her sleeping soundly, I make my way to the kitchen. I’m not domesticated in any way. Since Leila came into my life, I’ve picked up a few culinary tricks. Yes, I can count on one hand the dishes I’ve mastered… scrambled eggs being one of them and toast being another. The other two or three all involve boiling a box of pasta and opening a jar of sauce, something that causes my Italian wife to cringe over.

I try my best to keep the noise at a minimum, but that’s hard to do when you’re in search of the basic tools needed to make a simple breakfast. If Leila could see me now, with hands on my boxer-clad hips while staring at the dozens of cherry cabinets that I haven’t yet tried opening in search of a frying pan, she’d no doubt push me aside with a smirk to make her own breakfast.

With a stroke of luck, I smile like a fool when my next attempt reveals just what I’m looking for.

My wife has come to appreciate my efforts, and on the rare occasions I cook for her, I score serious points. Breakfast in bed on Valentine’s Day is the mother lode.

Snatching a rose from the bouquet Leila found on the kitchen island when we arrived last night, I place it on the tray and make my way up to our bedroom. Before I reach the door, I can hear my wife talking sweetly to one of the kids.

“Yes, baby girl, Mommy and Daddy will be home tomorrow… be good for Nanna Barb and Pop Pop… I love you too.”

She doesn’t notice me leaning against the doorframe. The sexy mess of wavy hair framing cheeks still flushed from sleep stirs the familiar longing within me. The fact she’s now wearing my T-shirt over her naked torso means the eggs and toast I’m holding will definitely be cold once I’m through with her.

In light of what I made her promise last night, that call better have been incoming and not the other way around.

“Good morning, Madden.” With the phone still raised toward her face, at the sound of me clearing my throat, her eyes dart to where I am standing a few feet away. A quick smile spreads before her gaze lands back on my son’s image.

“Hi, Mommy. Where’s Dad?” Madden responds in his typical, down-to-business way. Leila holds her phone out for me with a guilty expression written all over her face.

“You’re in trouble, missy.”

“Have I told you how much I seriously love you?” she asks, plucking a strawberry just as I place the tray on the bed to take her cell.

I respond to her statement with a quick kiss on her lips and a muttered, “Nice try.”

As I turn her phone around, Madden expectantly waits for my face to appear on his screen. “Hey, buddy. What’s up?”

“Daddy, Shane and me want to wecord a song. Can you teach Pop Pop how to use the camewa?”

“Can you guys practice today, and I’ll record you when Mommy and I get home tomorrow?” Explaining technology to my father-in-law, when all I want to do is make sweet love to my wife, is the last thing I want to do on Valentine’s morning. The man still has a flip phone and listens to his music on a record player. Granted, his collection of vinyl albums is quite impressive.

Shane’s face appears on the small screen beside Madden’s. “Hey, Dad. I tried to tell him that. He won’t listen.”

“I wisten,” Madden argues while nudging Shane to the side.

Shane meets my gaze and rolls his eyes. On a chuckle, I say, “Thanks for being a good big brother, Shane. Madden, you need to wait for me. Pop Pop doesn’t know how to work the camera. Okay?”

“But what if I fowget the song?”

“Shane will help you remember it. Right, Shane?”


I wait as Madden processes my request. “Okay. Can you bwing us a suwpwise?”

“Yes… but only if you’re good for Nanna Barb and Grandma Renata. Mommy and I will talk to you guys later.”

“Bye,” he says, ending the call and not giving me a chance to say anything else in response.

Leila laughs while shaking her head. “All your fault. You created a monster.” She’s referring to my brilliant idea to record the kids as they gave us a concert one night. Shane has taken to playing guitar beautifully, thanks to Trey’s tutelage. After all, Trey’s mad bass-playing skills are the very reason we just had to add him to Devil’s Lair.

Madden and Siarra, however, are just going through the motions on their toy drum set and piano. I can’t lie, though. The thought of them actually becoming musicians brings a surge of pride that warms my heart.

“Yeah, but the look on Madden’s face when minutes later I had the footage playing on our big-screen TV was priceless, and worth his new obsession.”

“True.” She plucks another strawberry and with her eyes tethered to mine sucks on the tip seductively.

“I know what you’re doing, Mrs. Lair.”


“Fess up and admit you called them.” The look on her face gives her away. “You promised.”

She tucks a finger inside the waistband of my boxer briefs and tugs me closer. “You weren’t here. I figured I’d get the call out of the way so I could focus on you without distraction.” I align myself over her body, and the rumble from her stomach that reverberates through her seems amplified.

“On that note, first you eat… and then we play.”

“As you can hear, I’m actually starving, so no argument there.” Her eyes sweep over the tray piled with eggs, toast, fruit, and juice. “But this isn’t all for me, is it?”

“Yes, it is,” I respond, grabbing my cup of coffee off the tray to take a sip. “What I plan on eating involves burying my face between your legs. First, I’ll lick you as an appetizer, and then I’ll nibble on your clit as my meal.”

On cue, her mouth hangs open, and her chest rises and falls with each breath she takes. I’m not sure if the gold flecks in her eyes shimmer from the sunlight streaming into the room or because of the visual that just popped into her head. But when she snatches the fork and begins eating her breakfast with gusto, my guess is that it’s the latter.

Chapter 2

The love I have for this man is so intense that at times it’s hard to breathe. It’s the kind of love that makes me scared of what would happen if it ever disappeared. Jack continues to steal my heart, which is ridiculous because he already owns every millimeter of it.

It reminds me of a science experiment we once witnessed in middle school. Our teacher filled a jar with rocks and asked if there was any room left. A resounding no caused him to then pour a glass of sand into the jar. He repeated the question, and our response remained the same. He then poured water into the jar and smiled at our gaping mouths.

With each day, my heart miraculously makes room for more love. It’s crazy.

Having him to myself last night, sleeping naked without having to worry about little humans jumping into bed with us, was the perfect start to our romantic weekend.

Delivering breakfast in bed was just Jack being Jack. So is, for that matter, the way he pounces on me the moment my fork hits the empty plate.

“Done?” he asks, as if he doesn’t know. I devoured every bite of his romantic feast that could feed a small army.

“Stuffed.” I lean closer, kissing his firm, warm lips, the taste of coffee and Jack an intoxicating combination.

He places his mug on the side table, and when he turns, through the look on his face, I now know it’s his time to feast. Without ceremony, he lifts his T-shirt off my body and tosses it to the ground. He then arranges me flat on the mattress, not bothering to conceal the lust consuming him.

The tip of his finger traces my tattoo. “Fuck, I still love this tat,” he says, his voice rough with desire.

My motive was silly, the tattoo prompted by my having heard that one of his fans had tattooed her ass with Mrs. Jack Lair. Screw that. So one night in Vegas, the girls and I did something impulsive, and my lower abdomen is now marked with The ONLY Mrs. J.H. Lair, otherwise known as Jackson Henry Lair. Jack loves it, especially since it’s located a few inches above my clit—and besides the tattoo artist and my gynecologist, no eyes but his have ever seen it.

“Time for me to eat, my wife.” Before I can respond, his mouth is on me. At first, he pecks light kisses around my perimeter. The muscles in my thighs tremble with anticipation of what’s to come. My husband likes to make a production of cunnilingus. Yes, there are times he devours me, instigating an immediate orgasm. Then there are the times, like now, when he laps lazily… leisurely licks, sucks, and kisses me in the most sensual way. Each method results in the same build of heightened ecstasy before ending in a state of sated bliss.

Sometimes I forget to breathe as he tortures me with his mouth… like now. I have to force myself to drag in a deep intake of air when he reaches for my hand and entwines our fingers. It’s his way of reminding me we are always emotionally connected, especially when he’s doing dirty things to my body.

The tightening of my fingers around his means I’m getting close. Jack’s gray eyes land on mine just as he brings my clit into his mouth and sucks relentlessly.

Words fail me… noises, moans, and sighs are all I’m capable of while I spin into a vortex of indescribable pleasure. Before I can crawl my way back up to reality, Jack shifts to his knees and in one swift thrust drives himself into my still-quivering channel.

“Fuck,” he predictably says, claiming that the moment when my orgasm is still pulsing within me feels like heaven on earth around his cock.

And just as predictably, my release takes on a life of its own as I begin to climb back up, bridging my first orgasm to my next.

Where the first one delicately rolled through me, this next one rips me apart and sucks me dry. My belly prevents him from pressing our torsos together. So instead Jack hitches my leg around his hip, corkscrewing his way toward his own climax with every precise plunge. I watch in awe the way his gorgeous face tenses just as his body does. I revel in the love I see deep in those charcoal eyes as he rides it out before relaxing with a content smile.

“Fucking perfection.” He kisses my lips softly and then grins with satisfaction. The dimples I love so very much force my lips to kiss one and then the other.

“Always,” I concede, because making love to Jack is nothing less than perfection.

It’s close to noon by the time Jack fills our tub with lavender-scented bubbles and deposits me into the warm water before saying he needs to run a quick errand.

I have no idea what he’s up to, but this weekend I have a few surprises for him as well. And it’s that appetite to please each other that drives our relationship. Sure, we’ve had our share of fights and arguments, but I can count them on one hand and each made us that much stronger.

The list of blessings that I’m grateful for in my idyllic life is a mile long. Like the love in my heart, gratitude is also abundant. I never take any of it for granted, and giving back is a priority.

“Babe…” Jack calls out before entering the bathroom.


A deep chuckle forces my eyes open. “Don’t you look cozy? I thought you’d be out of there by now.” Although he left at least a half hour ago, I’m still submerged and pruning. He sits on the edge of the claw-foot tub, my favorite thing in this house, and dips his hand into the water, finding my knee. “It’s still warm.”

“I kept adding more warm water. It felt too good to get out.”

“You sure you’re not cold?” he asks, noticing the goose bumps that spread like wildfire across my skin. But the water temperature isn’t responsible for them. It’s the way his hand teasingly roams up my thigh that sparks every cell in my body from the inside out.

“Nope, nice and toasty warm,” I quip.

“Do you plan to stay in here all day?” His hand then slips between my legs, bringing his pointer finger to rest against my clit. But that’s where it stays, as his gray eyes hold mine hostage in the process. My traitorous body immediately responds when my legs fall open and my back arches toward his touch, wanting more, causing a slow, smug smile to spread over his lips.

“That depends on what awaits me outside of this deliciously relaxing bath.”

He bends to kiss my lips, but just before I’m able to grab his arm or deepen the kiss, he pulls away and stands with a devious grin. “It’ll have to be later. Get dressed. We have guests. Meet me in the fourth bedroom.”

“Guests?” His statement throws a bucket of ice water on my smoldering libido. “What guests?”

“You’ll see. Chop-chop, Mrs. Lair,” he says before wiping his arm on a towel and winking.

What the hell?

He loves teasing me, making it part of his foreplay. Usually, I retaliate with torturous teasing of my own. I always get even.

With a sigh, I pull my relaxed body out of the aquatic haven and make myself presentable for guests. My mind reels with who it could possibly be. All our friends know not to dare bother us, our parents are busy with the kids, and our agent was instructed we were not to be disturbed under any circumstances.

Once dressed and coiffed, I make my way down the hall to where muffled voices filter out from one of our many guest rooms. I find two women and a man standing on one side of a long table that faces two chairs. The room is void of all the furniture it used to hold and now resembles an advertising firm’s conference room. Easels display presentation boards of different nursery themes, and on the table are stacks of what look like decorators’ books and catalogs. Lastly, in the corner sits a rolling rack filled with baby clothes.

“What’s this?” I ask, confused as to what my husband is up to now.

“We need to get ready for our son. And I don’t want you doing a thing,” Jack says, coming to stand beside me. “Meet Shelby, Rhetta, and Lance. They’re going to be decorating our nursery and filling it with everything the baby will need.”

I offer a shy wave to our guests, quickly returning my focus to my overbearing husband. “But…”

“No buts. All you need to do is sit your ass in that chair and pick out everything you want or like.”

“Yes, sir,” I say with a formal salute. Knowing better than to argue, I follow his demand and plop in the chair, watching as he narrows his eyes at my sass.

Jack pecks my cheek and whispers, “Have fun.”

“Wait, you aren’t staying?”

“No. This is your department. I’ll be right downstairs if you need me.” He winks and saunters out of the room.

“Well, let’s begin with fabrics,” Shelby says, presenting me with a book that’s at least five inches thick and making me wish I were back in the warm bubbles I had vacated for this daunting task.

I begin picking out bedding options, choosing from paint samples, and ticking off from a printed list of items that we need for the baby. Thankfully, most of the big items aren’t required, since we still have them from when the twins were babies. Otherwise, it would’ve taken hours longer to decide on things like furniture, a car seat, a high chair, monitors, feeding systems, and all the dozens of other necessities every infant must have in this day and age.

At some point, I completely lose track of time. We could have been in this room anywhere between one and eight hours. Once I get started, I don’t come up for air. Jack comes in a few times with drinks and snacks, but otherwise he stays clear.

Yes, my husband did a very thoughtful thing today by allowing me to accomplish what I needed to this weekend in the comfort of my own home. But I also happen to know he selfishly did this to avoid running from showroom to store to mall until I was satisfied that our beach house was ready for the baby. Truth be told, all the places we needed to hit exhausted me, and I’m glad he thought of this instead.

Just one more reason Jack Lair is a true rock star… even off the stage.

“You making me dinner defeats the purpose of you relaxing, baby… but damn this is delicious.” Jack moans around a forkful of pasta. It’s one of his favorite dishes, and one I rarely have time to make in our everyday lives. I introduced him to it when we were friends failing miserably at denying we both wanted to be more than that. Along with my famous triple-chocolate brownies, it’s a meal I reserve for special occasions.

“I know it’s been a while since I made it, and I know how much you like it.”

“Correction… how much I love it.” He slowly chews his mouthful. “Maybe more than I love you.” Pushing away his empty plate, he nods with a satisfied groan.

“Gee, thanks,” I quip. “I’ll be sure to include the recipe in the divorce settlement so your next wife can make it for you.”

The smile falls and, in a flash, he grabs my wrist to pull me onto his lap. His fingers assume optimum tickling position on my sides as he growls, “Take that back.”

He barely has to move his fingers for me to give in: “I take it back!”

“That’s my girl. You can get me to do anything you want by feeding me penne alla vodka, and I can do the same with some mild tickling.”

“Does that include agreeing to my baby name?” I suggest nonchalantly. “I’ll let you tickle me all you want. Actually, I’ll even let you… you know, the thing you love to do that we rarely do.”

Jack’s eyes dilate at the mention of his favorite crude sexual act as he releases a dramatic sigh. “That’s playing dirty.”

“It can be. Just say yes,” I suggest before kissing the spot on his jaw that drives him nuts. Naming our daughter was easy. But just like how we disagreed over name choices for Siarra’s twin brother, we are once again on two sides of the fence.

Miraculously, we finally stumbled on Madden, and I insisted on Jackson, Jack’s full name, as his middle. For our next son, I really would like to use our fathers’ names. Peter Anthony Lair. Jack says it sounds more like a cardinal in the making than a future rock star. No surprise, Jack’s options are all weird, and I hate most of them.

“You did like Drexel,” he argues. “And I was thinking that would work nicely with Evan as a middle name, for your brother.”

“Now who’s playing dirty, sweetening the deal by using my brother’s name as a middle?” My husband shrugs, but he doesn’t deny my claim. “I really can’t convince you on Peter Anthony?”

“Baby, I really think our kids should have their own identities. Being named after his grandfathers is a lot of pressure to put on a kid.”

“We named Siarra after my mother.”

“That was different. We reversed your mother’s names, Marie Siarra, and by doing that it’s different and unique. I love our dads, but Peter Anthony? How boring.”

He’s right. When I had suggested naming our baby girl after my mother, only using her last as a first name, Jack loved how different it was. “Okay, I get it. So Drexel Evan Lair is what you’re sticking with?” I mull over the one suggestion I hated the least.

“Yes. Even shortened, Drex is very cool and unique. It goes well with his siblings’ names.”

Not convinced, I shake my head. “I’ll think about it.”

“Well, that’s not the firm no I’m used to getting from you.” He attaches his lips to the column of my throat and sucks, making me wonder if this is a way to weaken my resolve. When he pulls my earlobe between his teeth, a bolt of lust consumes me. “Maybe we can name our next son Peter Anthony.”

A devious grin spreads over his face when I pull away and scowl. “No way. This is our last, rock star.”

Undeterred, he gives me another shrug as a sexy smile curves his lips. “We’ll see.”

Chapter 3

“Home sweet home,” Leila says with an electric smile. As much as my wife loves the beach house, she also loves being in our Manhattan place with our kids. Facing Central Park, it’s the perfect location to raise a family in the city.

Originally, we were looking at a smaller apartment in the building, but when the penthouse became available, I knew it was meant to be. Of course, she argued it was too much. My wife doesn’t have a pretentious bone in her body, and neither do I. But damn, the place was huge with its sprawling square footage, rooftop terrace, and floor-to-ceiling windows in almost every room. Still, it was hard to sell her on the idea. I vividly remember the night I shamefully used my oral-sex techniques to finally convince her.

The moment we walk through our door, all three kids eagerly vie for our attention before we even have our coats off. Like little puppy dogs, they follow us into the den and surround us as we sit side by side on the couch.

Shane begins babbling a mile a minute, providing a play-by-play of their weekend activities. Siarra climbs onto my lap with her newly diapered baby doll compliments of my mother-in-law, along with a toy diaper bag stuffed to the brim, compliments of my mother. And then there is Madden, drumsticks in hand, immediately reminding me that I had promised to record their performance once I got home, as well as bring them presents if they were good.

“Did you guys have a lovely weekend?” my mom asks from the doorway with raised brows.

“We did,” Leila says, missing the insinuation. “The nursery is being painted tomorrow and all the décor has been decided on.”

“Lei, I think Mom means romantically,” I tease.

My wife glances at me quickly. “Oh. That too,” she says as her cheeks tinge a lovely pink. “It was very romantic.”

“Good. You kids needed it. I know when Jack and Lizzy were little, Peter and I needed to be creative.” She giggles at her thought before continuing. “We would…”

“Mom.” Her eyes cut to me, annoyed at the interruption. “Too much info.”

“You don’t know what I was going to say,” she pouts defensively.

Before I could argue that I knew exactly what she was about to say, my father saunters into the den. “Hey, guys. Welcome home.”

“Hi, Dad. They behaved?”

“Angels,” my mother responds for him.

Not believing her claim, as my kids could do no wrong in either of our mothers’ eyes, I quirk up a suspicious brow.

“What? They were. Just ask Barb,” my mom quips, mentioning her partner in crime to validate her point.

Before I can argue that would be like asking Madden if they behaved, the door intercom buzzes.

The chatter in the room again becomes deafening, forcing me to yell into the speaker. “Yes?”

“It’s me,” Hunter’s voice filters through my end. “Buzz me up.”

“Seriously, do you have a tracking device on my ass? We just got home.”

“Your point?”

With a sigh, I press the button to allow him entry before heading out to open the door to our apartment. All our friends have unlimited access with the building’s concierge, which at times has proved to be a mistake. I’ve lost track of how many unannounced visits we’ve endured over the years. Our only line of defense against a complete barge-in is the security access needed to get to the penthouse.

“It’s about time you’re home, rock star,” Hunter quips as he exits the elevator into our private foyer.

“We’ve been gone two days. You really need a life,” I say, busting his balls. “Maybe it’s time to knock Mandi up again so you understand one kid is nothing like having multiples.”

He saunters toward me with a grin before clapping a firm hand on my shoulder. “I don’t need to overpopulate the earth to boost my ego.” It’s a miracle Hunter is a father at all, considering he never wanted to have kids. It just goes to show when you meet the right woman, everything changes. “I have a lot to tell you.”

I follow him into the apartment and directly into the den. “Hey, everyone,” he says with a wave.

“Uncle Hunter, guess what?” Shane is the first to monopolize him.

“What, dude?”

“The spring pageant is a talent show, and I’m going to play the song Dad wrote for Mom, ‘Reason I Am.’”

“You are? That’s awesome.” I then allow Madden and Siarra to get in their announcements, watching amused as the blond, spiky-haired drummer, with his piercings and tats, scoots down to their level while nodding repeatedly during their babbling rants. Hunt’s come a long way in his interactions with little people. Now the dad to a newborn, the sun sets and rises with his wife, Mandi, and his daughter, Lexi. I never thought I would see the day, and I’m proud of my friend for the husband and father he is, surprising us all.

During his powwow, my parents say their goodbyes. It takes a full twenty minutes before the kids become bored with our guest and take off to their rooms in pursuit of a new activity, with Beverly close behind. Thank God for our nanny.

“Would you like a beer, Hunt?” Leila asks.

“Yeah, thanks, Lei.”

Once the three of us are sitting around the kitchen island without munchkins running amok, I ask, “So what do you have to tell us that couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”

Hunter smirks but ignores my dig. In all fairness, Hunt is great at what he does. Besides being our kick-ass drummer, he plays the role of manager, partnering with our agent, Jen, in handling all the behind-the-scenes crap I want no part of. All I want to do is write and play my music with my wife… and my pain-in-the-ass friends.

“Well?” I prod, watching him leisurely sip his beer without a care in the world.

“We’ve been invited to play a benefit concert this June on the Jersey Shore.”

My mouth gapes before I force myself to ask, “That is what you absolutely needed to tell us? We’ve played dozens of charity concerts over the years. Big deal.” Was he serious?

“Ignore him, Hunt. That’s great,” Leila eagerly interjects. If my wife could only perform for charitable organizations for the rest of her life, she’d be very happy doing so.

“It’s fucking great. You know why?” He folds his arms dramatically, and all I can think is that this better be good. “One word. M.A.N.A.”

It’s now my wife’s turn to gawk at Hunter in shock. “M.A.N.A.? As in Bruce’s foundation?” Hunter nods at Leila with a smug smile. “We were invited by whom?” she asks so softly we barely hear her.

“He himself called Jen yesterday. I heard about the concert a few weeks ago and urged Jen to reach out and throw our name in the hat. His people liked what they heard. We will be playing a three-song set, and we’ve also been invited to attend the after-party.” Hunter’s gaze shifts to me as he goes on to list all the rock bands that fill the lineup. “Still wondering why I couldn’t wait to tell you?”

“Okay, fine. You were right to barge over,” I concede, knowing he just fulfilled my wife’s mission in life, to finally meet her obsession. More importantly, this concert will open a door for us that we have yet to walk through. M.A.N.A. stands for Musicians and Artists Nourishing America, a group of classic-rock stars, led by my wife’s idol, who have banded together to help with the poverty crisis in our country.

We may have achieved megastardom over the years, but we’re still considered a new band by most in the industry. There’s nothing wrong with that, except when trying to crack our way into the hearts of the Baby Boomers and Gen X music fans that are hung up on the classics and rarely venture into the new generation of rock stars. And it’s those fans we desperately want to win over.

When I glance at my wife, she looks like she’s going to be sick. “Lei, what’s wrong?”

She splays one hand over her belly and reaches for my hand with the other, squeezing it in a death grip. “Jack, I don’t think I can do this.” My chuckle causes her to glare at me. “It’s not funny.”

Responding for me, Hunter says, “You can do this, Leila. We can do this, and we will.” Hunter and I give each other a knowing glance. He knows it’s her nerves talking. “The event will be nationally televised live on all networks. It’s the perfect way to introduce our new material before next year’s tour,” Hunter announces, always in manager mode. “Being invited will have that demographic finally hearing us, witnessing that we can stand toe-to-toe with all the vintage rockers.”

This event has nothing to do with gaining more fame and all to do with being accepted into that exclusive rock star club that newer-generation bands such as Devil’s Lair rarely infiltrate. To a fairly new band such as ours, being invited to perform with classic-rock gods who still dominate the music scene is like being asked to sit at the cool kids’ table in high school.

Yes, this will have my wife’s dream come true, but as a band this will bridge the divide between current rock and classic, showing the world the megastars that came before us accept us into their elite circle.

“Good job, Hunt,” I admit with a smirk.

Predictably, he nods in his typical arrogant way. “Yeah… I know.”

Chapter 4

Jack’s eyes focus on me as I quietly shut the door to our room. “What took you so long?”

“Just making sure I have all their activities covered. We have a busy week ahead,” I lie. Yes, that was one of the things I did, but I purposely neglect to mention the other tasks that kept me busy for almost an hour.

The way his eyebrows pinch together means I’m about to get lectured. Before he has a chance, I scoot into the bathroom to get ready for bed.

I know my husband well, and I know he doesn’t get it. A mother’s work is never done. And as awesome as Jack is at helping with the kids, there is always something that needs to be done.

Once baths were over, stories were read, and lights had been put out, Jack went to take a shower and I took advantage of the quiet by selecting outfits for the morning, reorganizing a shelf in the kids’ playroom, and listening to voice messages from the weekend.

It was while I reviewed our upcoming schedule that I lost track of time. My poor assistant, Haven, has been working so hard keeping track of everything going on in my personal and professional life that I intend to give her six weeks off after the baby comes. I don’t plan on working much during that time, and she deserves a break.

Until then, however, my mind will be spinning with all I have on my plate. Besides rehearsals, the new album needs to be recorded. We also need to begin interviewing for another nanny to watch the twins and Shane because our current nanny, Beverly, will switch over to the baby. The benefit concert Hunter booked us for will require resuming rehearsals shortly after the baby is born or we won’t be ready.

Déjà vu reminds me how busy our lives were the last time I was pregnant. The only difference was that pregnancy was a surprise and this one wasn’t. Yet the dynamics of being successful rock stars while trying to raise a family have my mind spinning. The list of all that needs to happen before the baby comes, and before our tour kicks off next year, has my brain hurting.

Exhaustion hits when I finally crawl into bed beside Jack. The TV is on a news network, which he mutes the moment my body snuggles against his.

“Shane’s lunch is made?” I ask with a yawn. It’s only ten, but it feels much later.

“Yep… and his backpack is cleaned out and ready for tomorrow.”

His response causes an instant smile to spread over my face. He’s my rock star. “Thank you. You’re the best husband,” I mutter with another yawn. Jack looks down at my face and shakes his head. “What?”

“You know what, lady. You overdid it today… yet again.” He covers my belly with his hand and begins to rub large circles. “Leila, I want you to slow down.”

“Yes, dear,” I quip, rolling away from him onto my side before asking, “Can you rub my shoulders?”

“You’re exhausted,” he scolds as he begins to massage the knots on my neck. “You can’t be superwoman all the time, Lei.”

“I know. I’ll slow down,” I concede, mainly because he’s not wrong. Really, my life won’t allow me to slow down, but considering the high-blood-pressure scare I had when I was pregnant with the twins, I can’t argue with him.

In my typical obsessive way, I crammed in as much quality time with the kids as possible after we returned from our romantic weekend. Keeping up with the three of them is more tiresome than playing a concert, even with all the rehearsals and studio time required. But when we’re recording a new album, as we are now, weekdays mean early mornings and late nights at the studio. Therefore, when the weekends come, I insist on family time with just the five of us as often as we can.

Having a nanny for all the days we aren’t around forces me to overcompensate when we are. During the summer months, we’re able to head to our beach house, take day trips, and even enjoy the city and all it has to offer. Winter days are more challenging for keeping them occupied, and because the boys have different interests than Siarra, I’m often helping to host tea parties or playing with baby dolls while Jack builds monstrous Lego cities.

There aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week, and with each blink it seems like time is flying by at rocket speed. Still, I wouldn’t give up any of the chaos we’re inundated with in our lives. We’re blessed.

Besides my husband, my kids, my friends, and family, the one thing that motivates me to be a good person is gratitude. For whatever reason, the universe has gifted me with this incredible life, and being thankful every moment of every day keeps me grounded with appreciation. My husband, on the other hand, keeps me grounded with his constant reminders to slow down.

His silence means he’s brooding. “Mmm,” I hum my appreciation as Jack’s firm touch expertly kneads the tension from my shoulders. “Honey, don’t stop.”

“Feels good?”

“Very. Almost better than sex.” On my statement, his hands halt. “Oh, relax. I said almost.” With a firm tap on his wrist, I then command, “Resume.”

“One day, I’ll combine the two and massage your shoulders as I’m fucking you from behind… you know, so you can compare apples to apples.” At the mention of his idea, every part of my body thrums to life. Jack leans over me to kiss the side of my neck. In the process, I can feel the part of his body, the one that’s always willing, come to life as well.

“How about we test that theory now?” My massage is again forgotten when a simple lift of my ass connects with his groin. I tilt my head, bringing us face-to-face, our eyes tethered in instant lust. “I want you.”

“Do you now?” That look Jack gets just before he’s about to devour me causes my heart to flip, my libido to pulse—until a sharp pain travels through me, forcing a wince as my hand flies to my stomach. “Ow.”

Jack flies off me in a flash. “What was that?”

“Nothing. I’m fine.” I’m not sure if it’s my pathetic acting job, but the expression on his face alters into something else… something like fear. I’ve seen that look a few times before. In the weeks after the Danny tried to kill me, I’d often catch Jack staring off into space, knowing the ordeal had run him through the wringer. Another time that Jack failed to hide his anxiety was after I landed in the hospital from complications because of my pesky high blood pressure.

As strong as he is, as confident and self-assured as my husband strives to be, there’s one thing that can bring him to his knees—the thought of anything happening to the kids or me.

This man I married loves us with every fiber of his being. Unapologetically, he puts his family first over our careers, over our obligations. If he thinks something is wrong, he allows his negative thoughts to run our lives. Many arguments have resulted in his impulsive decision-making. He can be as stubborn as I am, but having said that, my track record with overdoing it gives him the upper hand in winning these arguments.

As we’re staring at each other, I know my husband is trying to find a way to have me home resting this week instead of working on our album.

The moment I see his lips part, I blurt out, “Jack, I’m fine.” I flip onto my back, palming his cheek before gently kissing his lips. Past experience has my tone soft and cautious, because becoming defiant backfires more times than not. “I think it was just the position I was in.” His eyes focus on my belly as he molds his hands over it. “Or it could be Braxton Hicks. Whatever it was, it’s gone now.”

He stubbornly shakes his head. “We’ll call Dr. Rand in the morning.”

“Stop. Okay? I can’t live in a bubble from fear the same thing will happen this time as it did with the twins.”

“I don’t trust you to…” My hand covers his mouth before he can finish his sentence.

“I said stop. My appointment is next week. If I keep feeling it, I’ll call Dr. Rand. I promise.” The way the muscles in his jaw clench means he’s about to unleash on me. “I love you,” I add as an olive branch.

All anguish fades away at my words. “Leila, I love you so goddamn much, it hurts.”

“I know.” I nod before pressing my lips to his. Lost in the silver flecks of his eyes, lost in the way he possessively hovers over my body, I feel weightless, cherished. How can I ever be annoyed at his unreasonable behavior when it stems from his intense love for me?

Chapter 5

“Crap, we’re late,” Tara says before slipping out of bed. The taste of her is still on my tongue, the evidence of her orgasm on my pierced cock. My eyes track her like a lion watching his prey. Despite her harried state, she strolls into the bathroom with a satisfied smirk on her gorgeous face.

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t wonder how I got here. Being one of the hottest rock stars on the planet doesn’t surprise me. All those years ago, I knew playing dive bars in LA was temporary, because my talent is undeniable. And being in New York, living an ideal life, with more money than I’d ever be able to spend, doesn’t surprise me either.

Nope, none of that shocks me, as it was all a matter of time before I became Trey Taylor, rock god extraordinaire.

But being happily married, well, that shocks the shit out of me.

Love, commitment, and marriage were the very last things I ever considered. Besides my wife, there was one other… Taylor Rappaport. We grew up together, and I believed our bond was impenetrable.

I may have been born Trestan Barton, but who I am now is exactly who I’m meant to be. Cursed with asshole parents who abused me through their religious beliefs, my father is no doubt rotting in hell for what he did to Taylor… for what he encouraged his brother to do to Tara, and to me.

His actions had me living in my own hell when, without warning, he took Taylor when we were just eighteen. At his hand, she died because he hated me so much, and that was enough to set my ass on a path of solitude for the rest of my life.

I was only a kid. What the hell did I know from love? That tragedy changed me forever. It gave birth to this new and improved version of me—Trey Taylor, the loner with a heart of stone.

After losing Taylor, I wanted no part of a serious, monogamous relationship. Sure, I’d dated, in the Trey Taylor kind of way… a few weeks, maybe a month or two, then off to another before they got attached. I thought I was hot shit when it came to keeping my walls up, arrogantly believing I controlled my own heart. Ha, what a fucking joke.

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