“We’ve got a special treat for y’all tonight,” the guitarist continued. “My good friend and buddy JT Larson has agreed to sing with us. But it seems that JT is a little shy and needs some encouragement.”
Larson? It couldn’t be the guy from Bull’s Hollow, could it? No, Reba had said his name was Gabe Larson, not JT. A spotlight trained on the guy at the bar Paige had been ogling earlier. He waved off Cam’s attention, though he didn’t look bothered. “Your fans ain’t here to hear me sing.”
“If you don’t get your butt up here right now, JT, I’ll tell everyone how you and I met. And how I saved your sorry ass.”
JT folded his arms across his muscular chest. “You’re never gonna let me live that down, are ya?”
His deep voice and relaxed cadence curled around Paige like a warm cloak. What was it about this guy that set something aflutter deep inside her?
“Nope.” Cam gestured to the crowd. “Come on, y’all, let’s convince JT here that he can’t weasel out of singing for us. I promise, you’re in for a treat when he gets his lazy ass up here.”
He lifted an arm and began a chant of “JT—JT—JT” that was picked up in one corner and swirled around the room until the glasses hanging over the bar rattled.
…a sexy read that sizzled off the pages ~ Lace, BlackRaven’s Reviews
Caught up in the room’s energy, Paige clapped as she chanted “JT” along with them.
The room exploded when JT finally hopped off his stool and sauntered to the stage. He picked up the guitar by the empty stool. Before he sat down he leaned in to the microphone. Paige caught her breath at his sexy bad-boy smile. “Well, now, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Cam barked a laugh and winked to the crowd. “Don’t let him fool you, ladies.”
JT strummed a few chords on the guitar, then frowned and adjusted one of the tuning keys. After a few more tweaks, he nodded to himself and looked up again, his gaze roving over the crowd as if searching for someone.
Paige’s breath stuttered in her throat when their gazes met. One dark brow lifted, and his lips tilted up as his gaze raked over her. Her body reacted with a familiar tingle at his slow perusal. At least from that far away, there was no way in hell he could know how her heart raced. She smoothed her hands over her hips, wishing she could ease some of the ache settling there as he launched into Zac Brown’s “Keep Me In Mind.”
JT sure could sing. His rugged good looks—all broody, with that hard-working cowboy image—didn’t hurt either. All that was missing was a dusty cowboy hat.
When the song finished, hoots and hollers erupted around her, a pair of girls in the booth behind her whistling so loud Paige wanted to cover her ears. Once the applause died down, Cam whispered something to JT and grinned.
It may have been Paige’s imagination but she could have sworn JT’s shoulders relaxed. He took a deep breath and strummed a few notes as he settled in to another song, this one quieter. A few bars in, Cam blended his voice in harmony, not overpowering JTs.
This is what she’d wanted. Time to kick back, to unwind. Not worry about what tomorrow would bring. Just to exist, here and now. To have fun.
Forty-five minutes later, JT cleared his throat and downed the last half of the water in the bottle set by his stool. “Last one for me in this set.”
Ignoring the sounds of disappointment around him, he strummed the guitar and locked his gaze with hers once more. He launched into Blake Shelton’s “Who are You When I’m Not Looking.” As he sang, the lights on the rest of the band faded, until he alone was illuminated. Unsure if it was his singing or the lyrics that moved her, the hairs on the back of Paige’s neck raised, spread down her spine and along her arms. The clank and clatter of the other patrons faded away until it was just him, her and the music. As if he sang to her. For her.
His voice grew husky as he sang about wanting to get to know her better, about how she kept herself hidden. Fear that he might actually be able to see inside her welled along with the music.
What was he doing playing at a small bar like Slick’s instead of somewhere like Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth? He was too good for Joshua Falls, damn it.
By the time his last note hung in the air, the entire bar had fallen silent, caught in his spell. Applause thundered around her, many of the bar’s patrons on their feet. Paige’s palms burned as she joined them.
“Did I tell you JT could sing or didn’t I?” Cam shouted into the mike. “Hang around folks, because we’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”
JTs shoulders hunched again as people reached out to shake his hand.
“Aw, he’s shy,” one of the girls behind her cooed.
Or didn’t like his personal space encroached, Paige silently added. Especially the way several of the women grabbed his ass. If a guy did that to her, she’d be slapping his face.
“Thanks, ladies, I’m glad you enjoyed my singing.” He wrangled himself free of yet another enthusiastic fan. “But me and my lady friend would appreciate a little space until I have to be back up for the next set.”
Paige’s eyes widened when he slid into the seat opposite her. “Hey, darlin’, thanks for saving me a seat.”
Daggers shot her way from at least four different women.
Once they retreated, he grinned, his mouth pulling up higher at one side in a crooked smile. He leaned in and lowered his voice. “Thanks for not feedin’ me to the lions.”
“How do you know I’m not their leader with even bigger claws and teeth?”
“I don’t. But then I’ve always liked to live life on the wild side.” His expression grew guarded when one of the girls from the booth behind them shoved a paper at him, demanding an autograph. Which he signed. “There you go, darlin’.”
The moment he handed it back, another woman slid into her place, and another. Though he smiled when they each insisted on having a picture taken with him, Paige wondered if any of his fans noticed there was no laughter in his eyes.
Once they left him alone, he sat back in the shadows of the booth. “Don’t worry, if your friend comes back, I’ll move.”
“That was my aunt, not my friend, and don’t worry, she’s gone.” Huh. He’d seen Reba. Which meant he’d been checking her out too. “Were you watching me, JT?”
“Hard to miss someone as pretty as you, darlin’.” He tilted his head to one side, his slate gray eyes considering her, and held out his hand. “It’s Jake, by the way. Only Cam calls me JT.”
“I’m Paige.” She shook his hand, the calluses rough against her skin, not just at the fingertips from long hours of guitar practice, but on his palms as well. As she’d guessed, this was a man used to manual labor. And to taking charge, from the way he continued to hold her hand.
“Nice to meet you, Miss Paige. As I said, I’m obliged.”
Oh wow, a true old-fashioned cowboy right down to the manners. If she ever met his momma, she’d have to thank the woman for raising him right. And his daddy for raising a strong man.
A waitress—not the one who had waited on her earlier—slid up to the booth. She touched her bottle blond hair and simpered as if Paige were invisible, tugged at the overly tight Slick’s Swamp Box tee, then smoothed her name tag proclaiming her to be Holly in an obvious attempt to draw his attention to the bounty that threatened to overflow the scooped neckline. As if anyone could miss her double Ds. “Can I get you anything, hon? A beer? Bourbon? Jack and coke?”
Jake barely gave the waitress a cursory glance. “A Shiner Bock would be great.” He gestured to Paige’s almost empty glass. “You need a refill?”
The bill she’d asked for almost an hour ago? “It doesn’t matter.” Paige gestured to Holly’s retreating form. “She’s left already.”
“Sorry. We’ll catch her when she comes back with my beer.”
Her fingers itched to stroke the silky russet locks brushing his shoulders. She’d always had a thing for guys with longer hair. Not to mention the prickle of crew cuts never felt right compared to the brush of long locks when they lowered their heads between her thighs. “So if the J stands for Jake, what does the T stand for?”
He grinned, amusement and heat filling his eyes. “Trouble.”
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