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Right now I’m working on revisions for the novel I started during NaNoWriMo (I won but fifty thousand words didn’t finish the novel, so I actually finished the first draft in December). This book is a bit of a departure for me in that it’s a contemporary, not a single paranormal element in sight. I say it’s only a bit of a departure because music features heavily in the story. The hero is washed up country singer Wade Sheppard, recently fired from a casino gig and now back in his hometown for the summer. His first night back he drunkenly hit on Daisy McNeil, a pretty waitress at the bar where he got his start, and standing up for herself got her fired. To get her rehired, Wade has agreed to play at the bar on weekends during his summer off the road. Daisy doesn’t yet know about the deal that got her job back, she’s just relieved to be back at work. When Wade comes in to rehearse, she decides to lay down some boundaries to make sure this unruly good time bad boy keeps his hands to himself.

*

Daisy tried to put it out of her mind as she did her prep work. It jumped back to the forefront when he came in carrying a guitar case. He stopped in the middle of the main room, facing the small stage. She watched him as he took off his sunglasses. The cowboy hat was nowhere in evidence. He wore a gray t-shirt and faded jeans with cowboy boots. He didn’t look like a superstar. He looked like a normal guy. An unusually good looking normal guy, but still normal. He also looked nervous, which didn’t make sense. How could he possibly be nervous about playing in a little place like this? If anything, he should have felt it was beneath him, that he was going backward in his career.

She braced herself for major diva attitude and approached him. “There’s an amp and a microphone. Some lights. That’s it.”

Wade continued to stare at the stage. “That much hasn’t changed.”

Daisy rested her hands on her hips. “You and I need to get some things clear.”

“What’s that?” He sounded distracted and still wouldn’t look at her.

“For one thing, you don’t touch me. There’s a lot I’ll put up with working here, but guys putting their hands on me is not one of those things. If you’re gonna be playing here all summer, then we need to get along. So you need to know the ground rules right from the start.”

“Ground rule number one is no touching.”

“That’s right. Once I have a problem with somebody, there’s more rules.”

“Do tell.”

He wouldn’t look at her. Why the hell wouldn’t he look at her? It was basic courtesy to look at someone when they were talking to you. What the hell was this guy’s problem? “No flirting. At all.”

“Uh huh. What else?”

“My name is Daisy. Not darling or sweetheart or baby. You call me Daisy or I don’t answer.”

“Okay.”

“And since you’re going to be working here, you fill your own orders. You don’t expect me or any of the other girls to fetch you coffee or whatever. Put in your own meal orders and pick them up. We’re here to wait on the customers, not you.”

“Get my own coffee. Got it.” He turned to look at her. “Anything else?”

For several seconds all she could think about was the feel of his hand on her arm the other night, the weight of his flesh and the warmth of his skin. His dark brown eyes were full of shadows, the windows of a haunted house. This was a man who needed sunlight.

Daisy stepped on that thought before it could go any further. She’d learned the hard way there was no fixing people. People had to fix themselves, and that rarely happened. “I don’t know what you’re used to at the Grand Ole Opry, but you’re not likely to get it here.”

Wade flashed a heartbreaker of a smile. “I got kicked out of the Opry years ago.” He placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “Thanks for all those tips, darlin. Why don’t you bring me a cup of coffee while I set up.” It wasn’t a request. He let his hand slide down her shoulder blade a few inches before moving away.

Daisy shook her head in disbelief. “Those weren’t tips, jackass. Those were rules.”

He propped his guitar case against the back wall of the stage and began to examine the meager equipment. “Well, what can I say? I’m a rebel and I’ll never, ever be any good.” He looked up just long enough to flash that killer smile again. “Two sugars, one creamer.”

She just got this job back, she wasn’t going to get fired from it twice in one week. So instead of telling him what he could go do with himself, she pointed at the coffee urn behind the waitress station. “Make it yourself.” She turned on her heel to head into the satellite dining room.

Wade dropped handful of cables and rushed to get in front of her. “Hi.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“My name’s Wade, and I’m a jackass.”

“Got that right.” She fought the urge to smile.

“Look, you and I got off on the wrong foot and I’m not helping matters. Let’s start over.”

Daisy crossed her arms over her chest. “You get one shot.”

“Tough room.” He mimicked her stance. “Okay, first of all, I’d like to apologize for how I behaved the other night. I had no business putting my hands on you like that and I’m sorry. It was inappropriate and it won’t happen again.”

“So what was that just now when you put your hand on my shoulder?”

“That was me being on. I can’t guarantee I’ll always be able to curb that.”

Being on? “I don’t get it.”

“I’m a performer. Being Wade Sheppard on stage is a performance. But the stage doesn’t always end at the footlights. I have to sing in here tonight and I’m trying to wrap my head around that, and I’m not doing a very good job.”

Daisy considered this for a moment. “So the whole redneck, flirting and calling women darlin, just generally acting like a pain in the ass, you’re saying that’s an act?”

He rubbed his thumb across his mouth, drawing her attention to his lips. She snapped her gaze up to his eyes and found that was no less appealing. He said, “It’s more of a persona. I was shy when I started out. Putting on a little bluster helped me get through it.”

Laughter bubbled out and Daisy threw her hands in the air. “Okay, whatever. Just keep your hands off my ass from now on.” She jerked a thumb at the coffee urn. “And make your own coffee.”

No way did she believe a man with bedroom eyes and a heartbreaker smile like his could have ever been shy.

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