When Sameera Kattan's band Final Regret gets signed, she is over the moon with excitement. But becoming a superstar overnight is so surreal that she doesn't quite know what to do with the fame and public adoration. If only her longtime friend Jimmy, the lead guitarist for Crimson Rage would celebrate with her. Instead she's out on tour with a broody male who goes from hot to cold in seconds, putting a strain on their renewed friendship.
Jimmy O’Riley can't function with Sam around. Seeing her is like a ray of sunshine and a knife in the gut at the same time. Jealousy clouds his judgment whenever a man lays hands on what should've been his years ago. Endless liquor and fast women fail to bring him the distraction he needs to survive. One thing he knows for sure is, a tour bus is sure is a tour bus is no place for them to put ghosts to bed.
Two Years Ago…
Helplessness surged through Jimmy, adding to his soul crippling grief. Before the service, his father commanded him to keep a tight leash on his emotions, to be strong for his mother and for Sameera. Unlike his dear old dad, he wasn’t a cold-hearted bastard. For all the beatings, his old man never succeeded in teaching him how to cut off hurt, anger, and sadness like a water tap. He barely survived the funeral service, speaking the eulogy for his older brother. Huddled with family, he watched the casket team from First Special Forces Group carry the flag draped casket of his brother, Sergeant First Class Miles O’Riley.
The urge to drown himself in a bottle hit Jimmy hard. He could taste the bitter sludge as if he held an open container instead of wishing for one. Inside he struggled with the weakness threatening to break through his stony façade. The somber atmosphere that accompanied burying the dead was getting to him even though he pushed the emotions back.
The dead. His only brother, his fiercest ally, lay in the sleek black box draped with the American flag, while the preacher droned on about his path to Heaven, his sacrifice for the country not going unnoticed. He should be there with him, getting ready to start a family, getting married to the most beautiful girl in the world, spending time with him on the road. Not ending with a tragic story. Not cut down by enemy fire. Not killed like this, not without a chance to say goodbye, not with a closed casket.
He hated God, hated his sanctimonious father, hated war. At the moment, he even hated the United States Military. If he was a hundred percent honest he hated his brother too, for being such a hero, for going above and beyond—for choosing country over family—for leaving him.
What killed him the most? The two women next to him sobbing buckets. No matter how bad his ma hurt him and continued to cause him a world of hell, in the end she was still the only mother he had. Sameera’s grief cut him to the quick though. Tore through him as shrapnel did to his brother. He couldn’t help them, couldn’t make the situation all right. Nothing about this would ever be right, ever feel justifiable. His mother lost a son, Sameera lost her fiancé and a future, his father would much rather he have died than his older brother, the favored son.
Jimmy lowered his head to the shadows shedding a trail of invisible tears from his soul. He avoided a physical show, not wanting to incur his father’s wrath and displeasure for a display of weakness. Clenching and unclenching his hands, he fought to breathe. In the midst of anguish, the sweet smell of sunshine wafted over him, obliterating the angst. A slender hand closed over his. Sameera stepped into his arms hugging him for dear life. Her body melted with his. Like old times, he kissed the top of her head and crushed her in his arms.
In front of them the burial team removed and folded the flag. Sameera’s arms wound tighter around his back as if she knew the lead team member had stopped in front of them to present her with the flag. Jimmy chanced a glance at his mother who stood by grief stricken, no doubt still upset she wouldn’t be the one receiving her son’s flag. She’d received the shadow box during the base ceremony. Jimmy demanded his parents give Sameera what she rightly deserved before the funeral. He brought her arms from around him and kissed her palms while the trumpets played Taps.
“You can do this. Reach out and accept the flag.” He locked eyes with the guard.
“If I do he’s really not coming back.”
“I know, Sam. I know. Let’s reach out together, okay.” Jimmy accepted the flag with her small hands in his. As the gun salute rendered, her body jumped with each blast, her knees buckling on the final shot. Jimmy folded her into his arms sinking to the ground with her. Garrick and Shea moved forward to help him while his father and Jackson held up his mother. He nodded a silent thanks to his bros and rocked with Sam on the soft earthen floor.
Together they watched the crowd disperse, leaving only immediate family and close friends. The funeral director having lowered his brother into the ground, began to fill the plot with the loose dirt. “Let’s go,” he murmured in her hair.
Sameera hitched a breath. She took off her heels and pushed off from his body to stand.
Jimmy climbed to his feet and smoothed down his suit, taking a moment to compose himself. His band members and their families moved off to their cars for the reception. “Do you want to ride to the house in the limo?” He motioned to the waiting car.
“I don’t want to leave him. Is that selfish? I don’t think I can handle playing hostess at the reception and hearing stories about him all evening.”
“No, that’s not selfish at all. I don’t want to leave either. My mother has her friends to lean on from church. All that’s waiting for me is my band and the media. I’m not in a rush to have cameras flashing at me for a second time today.”
“Yeah. The local media was nice. They sent flowers and a card. But the piranhas lying in wait? I don’t know how you deal with them day in and day out.”
“I ignore them mostly. Days like today though, I hope they’ll sport common decency and leave me off the rags.” Jimmy swiped a hand across his hair.
They stood and watched. “Do you think he’s at peace?” Sameera murmured.
“I hope so.”
She swallowed and nodded. “I’m ready to go now. I think I’d like to lay down and rest for a bit.”
Jimmy linked her arm into his, leading her to the waiting limo, shielding her body from the flashing bulbs. As they clambered inside, his bandmates shuffled in with them. She laid her head on his shoulder as the limo merged with funeral traffic.
“We’re sorry, brother. We can’t offer our condolences enough. We all loved him, bro.” Garrick gripped his other shoulder.
“I know. Thank you for coming. Did you send the girls home?” Jimmy stroked Sameera’s glossy mane of jet-black hair.
“They’re headed to your parent’s house in the other limo. I’m sure they’ll help your mom with whatever needs done.”
Sameera came out of the dressing room with her clothes, picked a locker and secured her belongings. Carrie soon joined her, still fixing her outfit.
“Who’s gonna paint us?
“We’re going for simple. Look at these fabulous shades. They will glow when we hit the club. For now you just need to put on some glow in the dark shim-shimmery lip gloss. Both of you.” Catalina handed them a wand and each a pair of glasses.
“Body paint?” Sameera grinned. “I want body paint.”
“Oh, girl. Just you wait.” She watched Dominique head to the door and holler for security. The muscle ripped god came to her rescue only to look around and see nothing wrong. “Ma’am, why do you need me?”
“We just need your hands, stud.” Catalina winked and held out the jar of paint. “Sameera get your fine ass over here for this man to put his hands on you. Jacob is it?” She read his name printed on his shirt. “Be a doll.” Catalina smeared the paint over his hands—one hand pink, one hand green—and stepped back.”
“Where do you want them at?”
“You’re a smart boy, I bet you can figure it out.” She winked and Sameera cracked up laughing. Jacob laid his palms over her breasts, his fingers touching bare skin leaving his brand on her.
“All right, no need to get all pervy. Turn around Sam so he can grip that fine ass of yours.”
“God damn, what a sexy ass,” Jacob growled as Catalina reapplied paint.
Sam swore she heard her friend slap his ass. Next thing she knew he cupped her cheeks with his massive hands, then gripped her hips with his fingertips and stepped back.
“Admiring your handiwork?” she asked over her shoulder. She applied a line of gloss and tossed the shades over her eyes.
“Now for the accessories,” Dominique announced as Jacob tried to get close to Carrie.
“Uh, I have a man. Step back.”
Sameera cracked up. “Come get the light up necklaces and multi-colored bangles.”
“No one else has handprints.”
“I’m brilliant. Now here are your rules, Sam darling. Make him work for it. Work the handprints because your history of giving in makes you an easy lay. Don’t be an easy lay. Make him chase you and when he thinks he has you, make him chase you some more. Flirt with Jacob, a little competition is good for the soul.”
“Cat, what are you talking about?”
“Why, Jimmy, of course. Now that he’s back in your life again, shit is going to get crazy. He thinks he can just waltz in and smolder you with those deep green eyes. Make you lust over those sexy six-pack abs and his talented fingers, so you give in. Don’t be that girl, the one that caves in.”
“Uh yeah, have you touched those abs?” Sam snorted. It would take all she had to ignore the heated looks he threw her direction. “Don’t worry. I gave him a crystal clear message. I’m off the Jimmy buffet.”
“Really, Sam? Because the way you look at him tells a different story. It’s like ‘I’m here to eat all I can get.’”
Sameera rolled her eyes at Carrie. “He’s hot. Sometimes it takes a few for my body to get in tune with the warning signs my brain is sending. He’s intense. So fucking intense. Remembering what we were like sexually takes a toll. The night we were together during the funeral, is one that’s never gonna happen.”
“Good because Jimmy is such a whore and you don’t need that or the trouble it’d bring. He enjoys snagging random ass. We all know it,” Dominique reminded her.
She glanced at Carrie for support and her new friend nodded in agreement with her best friend.
“Okay. Let’s forget about the guys who came with us and go have a blast. I need a drink or four after this stimulating conversation.” Sameera tucked a wad of cash in her bikini top and flipped her hair. “Ready?” She didn’t wait for an answer, but left them to trail after her. No one needed to tell her how much of a man whore Jimmy was, she knew first hand from all the articles in rag magazines.
Music blared out of the speaker system. Sameera linked her hand with Cat, who linked her hand with Carrie, who linked up to Dom making a conga line to the bar. On the way, a short girl stopped them with florescent shots of vodka in varied colors. “I’ll grab the two rounds of shots, and drinks at the bar.” She pulled out her cash and paid the girl for eight shots.
“To getting blitzed.” Catalina raised her glass in the air. The girls chinked plastic glasses and downed their drinks, then tossed the empties on the section of the shot girl’s tray.
“Damn.” Dominique nudged Sameera. “Look at the group of males with the tribal art all over their bodies. I would lick that paint off inch by inch.”
“Girl. You need to get laid. Your b.o.b. not doing it for you?” Catalina teased. “Those guys are hot enough to get the job done.”
“Thanks, ladies. Make the one taken woman feel hella uncomfortable. I know Shea is around her somewhere, probably looking for me,” Carrie groused, looking around for their group of males. “Oh, Sam. Jacob, our resident security, is still looking at you and heading our way.”
“He is fine as hell. Go get some of that girl,” Catalina prodded her.
“Um. Okay. I’ll meet you ladies at the bar. Grab me a double drink.”
“Hey, beautiful,” Jacob whispered in her ear. “I see you and your girls are getting settled in. Come dance with me.” He slipped his arm around her and led her to the middle of the floor.
“Aren’t you working?” Sameera lifted on her tiptoes to whisper in his ear.
The ripped male chuckled.
“Yeah, no worries. I have coverage.” He led her hand to his other ear. Sameera felt his ear-piece and cord leading down to his waist where a box was clipped.
“Hmm, secret service like, very sexy.” She swayed to the fast beat of the music, bumping her body against his, letting her fingers travel every inch of his shirt. Jacob lifted her around his waist, carrying her to the back of the room. Sameera sighed as his thick bulge bumped against her pussy with each step. When his hands wound in her hair and he devoured her mouth with a sinful kiss, she didn’t shy off. She dove in, like a woman starved for sexual release.
“Damn beautiful, you taste fucking good.” Jacob broke off the kiss, touching his ear-piece. Sameera sighed and licked her lips. “I…uh, should get back to my friends.”
“Yes. That’s a good idea. Get the fuck back to your friends.”
Shit. Sam didn’t need to look behind her to know Jimmy found her. Now the question was how to extricate herself from this potential smackdown delicately? Biting her lip, she twisted around at the waist, placing a hand on Jimmy's chest and her other on Jacob’s. “Boys. No need for this to get violent.”
“You have about two seconds to climb the fuck off him and take my hand,” Jimmy growled the words in her ear. Sam sighed and gave an apologetic smile to Jacob. The promise of retribution in Jimmy’s voice both scared and stimulated her libido. He growled reminding her to slide down. She did, and earned a heated look from Jacob whose hand gripped her hip.
“Unless this asshole has some prior claim on you, I can kick him out,” Jacob said.
“This is family business. Go do your job, you’re not fucking her ever. She’s not some goddamn whore to fuck in a club against the wall.”
“Really, Jimmy? I mean didn’t you fuck me just like I was nothing but a whore?” Sameera broke free of the testosterone brawl about to take place and stalked away, leaving the men to have their pissing contest without her. She found her girls at the bar chatting it up with the guys.
Buy Links: Secret Cravings Publishing
First off I need to thank Mahalia Levey with providing me with a copy of this book so that I could bring you this review.
This review is going to be a little hard to write as I don't really want to spoil anything. What I can say is that within the first chapter this story had me crying, wanting to hug and protect JJ and hurt his parents. I also felt terrible for everything that Sameera was feeling and going through at the beginning of the story as well, but it was fantastic to see how strong and how much she'd changed from the beginning of the book to the end of it. Through out most of this book I found myself crying whether it was from sadness or joy was hard to pick. There are parts that were just so emotional I couldn't help but tear up. Now we all know that I love stories that start as friends that become more and this one has that element with a little more mixed into it. One thing I can say without really giving much away was the fact that we get to see what is going on with some of our other band members and their significant others.
As a friend of a few men in the military I have to say that I think its amazing how in each of these books Mahalia finds a way to remind us of the sacrifice that these men and women make for us and our freedom. As well as thank them and honor their lives. Have the tissues at the ready and be prepared to get lost in this book because before you know it, you will be finished reading and hoping for more.
Happy Reading... Adri