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Rated: 18+ · Novel · Drama · #1643621
Riveting Ryan's rock star world collides with a girl on a window ledge.
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"Riveting" Ryan Reynauld is immersed in a world of music, parties, and temporary companionship. Having risen to the top of the pop charts, his biggest concern is objecting to the way his music is produced. That is, until he finds a young woman standing on a window ledge. Against the advice of family and friends, and through media attacks and fan protests, Ryan determines to care for her himself, making a promise that threatens to destroy his career.

Convincing the skittish girl she can learn to trust again comes with a steep price. Sometimes the path to recovery begins by allowing your world to implode.




Off The Moon

LK Hunsaker

Elucidate Publishing

http://www.elucidatepublishing.net






Chapter One



“C’mon Reynauld, you’re already in fryin’ water. Where’re ya going?”

Ryan veered around his bodyguard, dodged an ugly silver car doing a bad job of parallel parking, and jogged across the street. Daws would stay on his heels even if he was late, and Mac could wait. What choice did he have? Ryan paid for his time.

He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to peer up at the office building. The height made him cringe. It wasn’t even one of Manhattan’s taller buildings. Seven stories. Tall enough.

“What is up with you today?” Daws stopped at his side. “You’re edgy as hell and you’ve seen this building a thousand times. What is so fascinating?”

“Not sure. Maybe nothing.” He strode a wide angle around a couple of girls heading his way as they eyed him, pushed through the glass doors, and slid between a crowd of business suits and briefcases. It reminded him of a mud-covered pig rooting through tight-assed penguins. Grinning at the thought, he decided to hold it in his mind to use later.

Daws cut him off. “The paycheck is that way.”

“And what are you going to do? Throw me over your shoulder and make me go? Come on, lighten up. I’ll only be a minute.” He feigned anger at the body blockade. “Either get out of my way or come with me. There’s something I gotta do.”

“Something you can’t do across the street where you’re supposed to be?”

With an eye on where the girls he’d avoided were descending and joining forces with a few more, Ryan shifted out of their vision as much as possible. “Not unless you can pick this building up and move it over there. Might get kinda messy, though.”

Daws crossed his arms in front of his chest. “I’m not one of your flattering fans who thinks you’re hysterical. You’re holding everyone up and no matter who you are, their time matters…”

Ryan ignored the rant and ducked around to sprint toward the elevator. He called for someone to hold it when it started to close. Stares answered and relief showed on a suit’s face just before the door clenched tight. “Great. Guess we do the stairs.”

“Let it go, Reynauld. I promise if you’re good and play nice, I’ll bring you back after work.”

“Funny. We’re getting a crowd, you know. The more we delay, the more there’ll be and I’m not giving in.” Ryan noted the glower and did his best not to smile while near-sprinting toward the stairwell. He took the first couple of flights two steps at a time as he called to Daws he’d meet him at the top, and slowed part way up the third. What was he doing? Why did he have to check it out when he was already late? But then, when wasn’t he late? Why today? He shrugged. Why not today? It woke him up the night before. There was no sense letting it nag him instead of walking up and looking.

At the seventh floor, he pushed aside the yellow no trespassing tape and turned the door handle. It worked. The hallway he crept into looked like any other hallway, except no one was in it. A deserted office building floor after nine in the morning was a strange thing, but no stranger than the building owner marking the floor off with no explanation. It had gone unused for months. No code violations. No events Ryan ever heard about. It was simply closed. His writer’s brain couldn’t accept there wasn’t a reason. No one else seemed to care, remarking only that the owner was eccentric and did such things from time to time. It wasn’t good enough. There was a reason.

Ryan walked down the hallway and peered through open doors. There was nothing in the offices but a few scattered desks and chairs. A good place to write. Quiet. Non-distracting. Maybe that was why he’d been drawn to it. He could find the owner, or have someone find the owner for him, and ask about using it. Not using it exactly, but not using it, since the guy wanted it not used. Writing music, sitting by himself, wasn’t using it – only occupying a bit of its space. There was plenty.

Nearly at the end of the hallway, he turned at a door slam.

“Are you happy yet, moron?” Daws gestured with his phone. “Enrico says there’s not only a couple or three girls down there, but a whole damn army of them descending. Can we escape out of here before I have to call in the crew?”

“So we’ll wait ’em out.” He ran his fingers along the white wall trim. No dust. And no dusty smell. The silvery blue carpet looked new but without the new carpet scent.

“You’re shittin’ me, right? Wait ’em out? And that’s worked real well in the past.”

“Yeah, okay.” With a deep breath and a thought that Daws would’ve been more occupied if Ryan had arranged an actual army of girls, he headed back.

And he stopped.

“This way. Let’s go.”

Taking three steps back, Ryan looked into the empty office he’d just passed. Nothing. He thought he’d seen something, but there was nothing. At his guard’s taunt, he continued forward. But the window was open. Why? At the next open door, he peered inside. The window was closed. So was the next one.

“Hang on a second.” He returned to the room. The window was open. There were no bars, nothing. And no one there.

“What are you doing now?”

“Something’s out there.” Ryan drifted closer. The seventh floor. He could see people in the windows across the road, shadows floating around in the building where he was supposed to be.

“Reynauld, if you saw something out that window, it damn well better have been a bird or I’m calling the nuthouse like I should have umpteen times before.”

“Maybe it was a bird.” Of course. He was a moron. What else would he have seen? Too many shots. It was nothing but way too many damn shots the night before. Still, he wasn’t sure. And he couldn’t look. “Do something for me. Look out the window.” He frowned at Daws crossing his arms in front of his chest. “I’ll go, no hassle, no stalling … just look out the window for me.”

“Not interested. I’ve seen pigeons and I’m not a big fan of the dirty creatures.”

Ryan gave up. Seven floors were too much to look out over. His stomach twinged already from standing halfway across the room from the open window.

At the door, he paused. He had to know.

With a knot in his throat, he hurried over before Daws could stop him and before he lost his nerve, and touched the frame. A cool breeze slapped at his face. Spring air. Normally he loved it, but this time it made him shiver. Or it was nerves. Daws muttered in the background about leaving his ass there. Ryan knew he wouldn’t, not for long. He would be back.

Gritting his teeth, he stepped closer, prepared for the flapping of pigeons. There were no birds. But there were shoes. To his right, on the wide window ledge, a pair of old tennis shoes was perched, their heels against the window and toes pointed forward … out. His stomach turned while his eyes followed the shoes up to baggy jeans, a faded sweatshirt covering most of the fingers underneath, and a diminutive face with long straight hair sweeping across it with the breeze. Startled eyes caught his: round greenish-brown eyes. A girl. Young, emaciated. Afraid.

What did he do now? Yell for Daws to get the police? It would scare her more and that was probably the last thing that would help. If anything would help. Maybe nothing would. Maybe this would be the life-changing event his brother told him would eventually happen to make him be an adult. Maybe he was destined to live forever with watching a young girl end her life. But not if he could stop it. No amount of venting through songs would ever help him deal with that.

He forced his voice not to shake as he had practiced a bazillion times at the start of his career. “Is the view nice up here? Myself, I prefer the ocean view. You know, ’cause if I fall in the ocean, I can swim. I’ve yet to learn how to fly, though. But hey, to each his own, right?” He got nothing but a stare. “I bet it’s cool to watch everyone down there scurry like ants. I don’t have the nerve to look myself. Heights aren’t my thing. But hey, describe it for me. I’m visual. I’ll get it from what you say.”

Her eyes remained on his, wary. She said nothing.

“How about if you come this way more so I can hear you better? I haven’t heard a word yet.”

When he reached a hand toward her, she slid farther from him. He pulled it down. “Hey, it’s okay. I’ll listen harder. I’m Ryan. I’m supposed to be at work across the street but decided to check out your place first. Glad I did. I don’t often get to meet anyone who goes to extremes to be alone as much as I do. It’s quiet out here, huh? Well, not so much since I’m annoying you and you can tell me to go away if you want. I know how it is.” Complaining to himself about sounding so stupid, Ryan heard Daws return and tried to wave him away.

“Had enough air yet? I should leave you to deal with that crowd alone. It’d serve you right. What in the hell are you looking at?” Daws stuck his head out.

The girl pulled away more.

“No, it’s okay. He’ll leave. One of us is bad enough, right?” Ryan shoved the guard back and found her leaning to try to see inside. “Come in. It’s okay.”

She leaned back against the dirty brick wall. Hair blew into her face and out again.

Ryan studied her features and decided she had to still be in her teens, although it was hard to tell as thin as she was, much too thin to be healthy, and pale. Where were her parents? Other family? Friends? Someone. There had to be someone who wondered where she was, someone who was supposed to be caring for her. He had to gain her trust, at least somewhat. How?

His mind drifted to his favorite thing other than music. “Do you like boats?” She held the stare. “I love boats, and I can tell you the view from a boat drifting out on a quiet lake is like nothing else. Isn’t it? Especially when the sun begins to set and even better when it begins to rise. It’s been forever since I saw it. How about we go check it out? Weatherman says it’s supposed to be gorgeous the next few days. Want to get up before dawn and watch the sun rise over the river? I know a great spot where we won’t be bothered.”

Her face relaxed.

“I can pick you up from wherever you want and you can bring a friend or two along. I know it would be crazy to accept a blind date from some idiot who just happened to show up on your window ledge, but if you invite someone, it’s cool, right? Daws’ll be there. He’s nearly everywhere I am, although I can ditch him if you’d rather. He’s not as grouchy as he looks. Well, he is grouchy, but he’s a sweet grouchy. Don’t tell him I said that.” He waited while she stared. “What do you think? I can try to arrange a boat. Do you like boats?”

“I’ve never been on one.” The voice was nearly a whisper – soft, shy, and still afraid.

“No? Wow, then you’re missing something. I bet you’ll love it. Can I take you? Not just you, but you and whoever you want to bring. A brother or something is fine, too. Whoever.”

As she watched him, the fear drained but something else filled her eyes. Sadness. Longing. She was entirely too desperate. Stupid thought. Of course she was desperate. Why else would she be up there? He wasn’t letting her go. She was coming back in. Whatever he had to do, she was coming back in.

Noise within the room turned his head and Ryan nearly panicked at the sight of Daws and several uniformed policemen. They would scare her for sure, and she was just starting to calm. One of them asked him to move. The girl flinched at the strange voice, backed up again.

“Wait.” Ryan pushed himself up onto the ledge and told the officer to stay where he was, away from them. He ignored a moron comment from Daws. Ignoring his stomach wasn’t so easy. Damn, he hated heights. He hated looking down over one staircase. This … this was suicide. He was going to lose it.

“What are you doing?” The girl’s eyes drew him in.

He shrugged, very carefully. And he fought the sickness that welled within while he rose to standing position, his fingers clamped onto the window frame. “Thought I’d see your view first since I’m trying to share mine. Gotta say…” Managing to breathe took most of his concentration. “I like mine better. Your turn?”

“Go in.”

She was worried about him. It gave him a glimmer of hope.

The officer told them both to come inside and they’d get help. Ryan considered asking for a barf bag but decided he couldn’t let himself barf. It would throw his already overly shaky balance. “So?” He forced his eyes on the girl. “How about we go see the water now? From a boat. A small boat. Or a large one if you’d rather. I can deal with water below me.”

He wasn’t sure she’d be able to hear his voice over his heartbeat. He also wasn’t sure his heartbeat wouldn’t get strong enough to bump him right over the edge. He was becoming horribly sure he was not going to live through this. Maybe the heart attack would kill him before he had to hit the pavement. Which would be worse?

“Go in.”

“Not without you. It’s your turn. Come share my view now.”

She looked toward the window where the officer poked his head through, saying they would get help, everything would be fine. Ryan considered throwing the moron comment at him, but he was doing his job. What else could he say?

“Hey.” Trying to act less idiotic than he felt, he hoped he could convey with his eyes half what the girl could. “We’re having a chat here. Can you give us a minute?”

The officer hesitated and was pulled back by someone not in uniform.

Without moving any part other than his neck, he returned to her eyes. “See? Just us again. So you have a name?”

She stared.

“Yeah, I know, I’m a stranger, and probably stranger than most, but really I’m okay. Ask that grouchy guy in there who calls himself my friend. He’ll vouch for me. Maybe. Depends on the day … and you know, maybe today he wouldn’t. But uh, I do have friends who would. Wanna meet them?” She was thinking he was insane. It was in her eyes.

Noise from below, down at street level, caught his ear. He didn’t dare look. She did, though.

“Being watched, are we?”

She glanced over, and back down.

“Anything for a show. Ignore them. Ready to go in with me?”

Her eyes remained below, toward the voices yelling ‘jump’ and others preaching in one way or another. Vultures, all of them. Ryan couldn’t imagine a life so pathetic they’d use this as entertainment. What was she thinking?

“Ryan, is it?”

A strange voice pulled his attention and his heart flopped at his movement. “What? I’m kinda busy.”

“It’s not working. You need to come back in and let us handle it.”

Questioning the guy in a business suit with a glance, he saw Daws standing close, telling him to come back in. Except he couldn’t. He was in this too far. A shiver scared the hell out of him and he gripped the window tighter. He told the guy to back off when he grabbed his wrist.

“Go in.” Her voice was calm, the eyes more so. He was losing her.

“Not without you.”

“I won’t go back. I won’t let them take me back.”

Take her back? The police. She’d done it before, or tried to do it before. A big help they were, apparently. She looked down at the crowd.

The crowd. If there was one thing Ryan knew how to do it was to work a crowd. “What if I promise not to let them?” Her eyes returned. “What if I promise they won’t bother you or take you anywhere?”

She waited, wanting to believe him maybe.

“If I can fix it so they won’t, will you come in with me?”

“You can’t.”

“No?” He grinned. Can’t wasn’t something he acknowledged. Those he worked with called it ego. He called it what got him as far as he had come. “Daws.” Carefully turning back to the window, he found his friend close by. “So we got a good crowd down there yet?”

“What?”

“How big is it? You know I’m not about to look. Photographers? Newspapers?”

A quick warning flashed in his eyes, but he played along. “A crowd. Hell yes, there’s a damn crowd. They caught wind of who you are and the place is packed for blocks.”

“Hey, a guy has to keep his name in the papers, right?”

“Reynauld…”

“Trust me.” The words were barely mouthed, meant only for his guard. He forced his attention away from the window and toward the girl. It took all the acting skill he’d learned for his job to tell himself he was on stage, overlooking a crowd only a few feet away. He was behind a microphone. She was a fan. He let her round eyes and long lashes become his focal point. A fan. And a microphone.

He heard his voice shake at the beginning, but he steadied it as he sang one of his songs, one in development he didn’t like yet. Behind a microphone on stage. He raised the level, wondered if they could possibly hear him seven stories down. His voice carried well. He couldn’t count the times his mom told him to lower his voice when he jabbered in excitement. When he was younger. He learned to control it as he grew. Voice lessons to sharpen and strengthen it helped that. Still, he doubted they heard him seven stories down.

The thought jolted him back to where he was and he stopped.

“You’re a singer.”

He nearly laughed at her question. Anyway, it sounded like a question. “More or less.” Her confusion intrigued him. She had no idea who he was, even with Daws using his last name. “You don’t follow music much, do you?”

She stared. Relaxed. Standing seven stories up, backed against a brick wall, she was relaxed enough to ask if he was a singer.

Talking about music helped relax him, enough his heart beat slowed a touch and his stomach calmed. Maybe he would get out of it without plunging its contents into the crowd. Great headline that would make. Even better if he followed it down. He had to pull from that thought.

“Yes. I’m a singer. Songwriter. Guitarist. A touch of piano. Jack of all music trades. Not all. I haven’t learned much production yet. The one I was just trying to sing is mine. It’s bad. But it’s mine.”

“Are you done yet?” Daws. Annoyed. Maybe even scared.

Ryan didn’t look back. “Don’t know. Think I need a microphone. Doubt they’ll hear me down there. Shoulda thought of that.” He kept his eyes on her.

“They can hear you in here and they’re waiting with handcuffs. This has to be your stupidest stunt yet.”

Handcuffs. Wonderful. Good headline, though.

“Go in. They’ll arrest you.” Her eyes widened.

“If they do, he’ll bail me out. And I’ll tell them it was all my idea. They won’t bother you.”

“No.” She looked toward the edge, down.

“Hey. Don’t. Really, it’s fine. It’s promo. No big deal. Likely help sales. You know, like the Beatles and their rooftop concert. Got them arrested, too. Great stunt.”

She returned her stare.

He started singing again. Louder. When he came to the end of the words he’d written, he paused, and made up more.

“Let’s go, Reynauld.” Daws had definite fear in his voice this time. “You come in now and we only get a fine.”

“Hell no. Jail time is better publicity.” He sang louder. Ryan had no idea where the words came from, but they revolved around her, and they kept her attention.

He stopped. Her eyes held him in. Every part of him wanted to reach out and grab her, pull her back inside. Daws talked to him, told him he’d have a hard time finishing the album in jail, making up words like Ryan was. They wouldn’t leave him there. They’d get him out.

“Are you okay?” Her voice was too calm.

“Yeah, I always get sick-looking when I’m on a ledge. Weakness on my part, I guess. Gotta give you credit. Don’t suppose you’d come in now?”

She shook her head. “They’ll take me back.”

His stomach turned. Fear. For her. “No. I won’t let them. Promise.” He had a definite feeling she wanted to believe him. But she didn’t.

He turned to be sure his guard had the window clear. He didn’t see anyone else but kept his voice low, in case. “Tell them we’re coming in. Make sure … make sure they know it was my idea. She’s … an actress. Stunt person. Make sure they know I hired her.”

Ryan thought he might not listen this time. Daws followed him through a lot of stupid stunts, but his expression said this was too far. Except he knew this one wasn’t a stunt.

“Don’t move.” His eyes held a fierce warning.

“Don’t worry.” Ryan put all his focus on trying to breathe as his guard disappeared. A few seconds. He knew it was only a few seconds, but it felt like eternity before Ryan saw his face again.

“We’re gonna get one huge-ass fine, but they’re leaving.”

“Good.”

“Good. Yeah, I’m sure the label’s gonna think it’s good.”

“They will when it helps to shove my face all over again. Things have been slow. Are they gone?”

Daws looked back and nodded. “Except a couple making sure you come back inside so they don’t have to go scrape your sorry ass off the pavement.”

The imagery hurt his stomach. With a shallow breath, he turned back to the girl. “It’s fine. They think you were part of my act.” He offered his hand.

She shook her head.

“I promise. They won’t take you anywhere. I’ll give you a lift wherever you want to go, or we can sit inside and chat, or go find a boat. Although the boat thing might be better tomorrow when my heart starts working again and I’m not so nauseous.” He raised his hand an inch higher.

“I can’t.”

“Sure you can. Hell, if I can stand out here during a heart attack and fake a publicity stunt, you can edge back this way with me. I think you’re gonna have to ’cause otherwise I’m not gonna be able to move.”

“I can’t be alone anymore.”

He studied her face. Her eyes were calm, yet so deeply bothered, hurt. Ryan had never been the emotional type. Everything always brushed over him, at least that anyone could see. But this … this girl, in clothes too big and hair whipping across her face, standing against the building as though fighting its support and wanting it all at once … nearly brought tears to his eyes. She couldn’t be alone. “What if I promise you won’t be?”

She was wholly unimpressed by his words. He had to wonder how many promises she had seen already broken.

“What’s your name?” At her hesitation, he tried harder. “Please. Just tell me your name.”

She glanced down and back to his gaze. “Kaitlyn.”

A cool breeze rustled her hair and smacked at his face. A pigeon swooping by made him cringe. But he kept her eyes. “Kaitlyn, I promise you. I promise I won’t let you be alone again. Please, come in with me. I know you have no reason to trust me, but what do you have to lose? I promise.”

Ryan knew Daws was behind him, making plans to try to catch him if the heart attack finished him off and he fell, or if he moved and slipped. At this point, he wasn’t sure it wouldn’t be preferable to get it over with than to fight the sickness in his stomach and pain in his chest, and the feeling he would fail and have the image of the girl in his head forever.

She took his fingers. Shyly, shaking, her fingers slid into his while she watched his face.

He swallowed hard to keep himself in control. The fingers were cold, bony, so small he was afraid to grip them. But she accepted. “Thank you. Can you help me get off here now? I seriously don’t think I can move.”

With more hesitation, she inched toward him, and squeezed his hand. “It’s cold.”

“Not inside.” Ryan slid his feet closer to the window. How he got in, he wasn’t sure, but her hand was still in his and Daws was apologizing to the remaining officers. They left after a glance at the girl said they didn’t quite believe the story.

“Want to introduce me to your friend?”

His friend. Ryan supposed she was now, or would need to be. Her eyes were more wary than they were on the ledge. And she looked even smaller. “Kaitlyn, meet Daws. Fred Dawson. My bodyguard.”

Daws stepped forward and reached for her hand. She retreated, hiding halfway behind Ryan, still gripping his fingers.

He turned to her. “Hey, it’s all right. I know he’s kinda huge and scary looking, but he’s safe. I trust him with my life. Literally.” His heartbeat began to calm with her gaze. “You’re safe, Kaitlyn. And I promise you won’t be alone anymore. I understand more than you realize.” Her eyes were doubtful but maybe he would explain in time. Maybe he could eventually tell her that even with the crowds trying to grab him and girls throwing themselves at him all because of the image, that most of the time, he felt utterly alone within his guarded shell. Without Daws, and his family, he couldn’t imagine dealing with it.

She wrapped around him, the tiny arms barely noticeable as they pressed his side, her face against his neck.

Ryan set his arms around her back, carefully and slowly, so he wouldn’t scare or hurt her. He had never dealt with someone so frail. Or with anyone who needed him nearly as much.

Tension drained and filled his stomach. “I’ll be right back.” He saw fear when he pulled from her arms. “It’s fine, I just … I need the men’s room, but I’ll be back. Daws will be here.” Her eyes widened. “Kaitlyn.” She flinched when he touched her face. “Hey, I promise it’s all right. Give me three minutes and I’ll take you out of here and we’ll go somewhere to chat. Okay?”

She didn’t argue and he couldn’t wait for better than that. Ryan rushed from the room and hoped to hell the plumbing on the unused floor still worked. Finding a door and pushing in, he leaned over the closest bowl and released the nausea.



Daws told Ryan to stay put until he could provide a fake departure and lure fans to follow or leave. His guard had called in part of the security team. Two of them stood at the doorway of the office. It made Kaitlyn nervous so he took her to a far wall and sat on the floor against it.

“It could be a while. Might as well sit with me.”

She looked back toward the door and over at the window.

If necessary, if she headed toward the window, he would get there fast enough to stop her. If he had to, he’d call a guard over for help, although Ryan imagined it wouldn’t be hard to stop her. Even if he wasn’t bodyguard-size.

She shivered.

“Here.” Getting up again, he removed his jeans jacket and held it for her. “Too hot for me now with my blood pumping like it is. Go ahead.” She didn’t move, so he wrapped it over her shoulders. He couldn’t help wonder why she would hug him as she had one minute and cringe at his nearness the next.

“So do you listen to any kind of music?” Ryan kept an eye on her, but lowered back to the floor. “Let me guess.” He tilted his head as though he could actually figure out what she listened to by studying her. “Heavy metal, right? Guns N’ Roses?” No reaction. He tried again. “Hip Hop?” Humor didn’t work. He shrugged. “Beethoven? Or … Go Gos? Goo Goo Dolls? There has to be something you listen to.”

She grasped the edges of the jacket with opposite hands and pulled it tighter.

“Sure you don’t wanna sit?”

With another glance at the door, she backed up against a desk and lowered slowly, half facing the door, half facing him. Far enough she could get up and away if he so much as moved. She looked like she might jump if he did.

She wouldn’t go with them again. The police. He wanted to ask her about it, about where she meant. Some kind of mental facility, he guessed. From what he’d heard off-hand about the places, Ryan could well understand her fear. She wasn’t crazy.

“So, is there somewhere I can take you? Someone who’ll want to know where you are?”

She shook her head.

“Where are you staying?”

Her head dropped onto her arms wrapped around her knees. He could barely see her face, her eyes closing. The girl was exhausted.

Ryan decided to take her home, to his loft. He had an extra room. Music equipment would have to be moved and stuff he hadn’t bothered to put away would have to be taken off the bed. And it was a mess. His housekeeper wouldn’t be there for a couple more days. He supposed he would have to add a day or two to her schedule as bad as he was about cleaning up after himself. Kaitlyn would think he was a pig. Just as well she knew the truth, he figured.

“Let’s go.” Daws stood in the doorway. Kaitlyn’s head jerked up at his voice.

Ryan pushed to his feet and offered her a hand. He was surprised she took it and was careful not to squeeze her fingers too hard. Her eyes touched his, questioning.

“It’ll be fine.” He half expected her to bolt back to the window and grasped her arm when she stepped that direction.

“I have a bag.” She looked toward a desk against the wall.

He didn’t release her, not sure it wasn’t a ploy. But he walked with her, and she leaned down to pull a faded brown miniature book bag from beneath the desk. It wasn’t big enough to hold clothes. Had she left it with a note inside? There had to be something in it that mattered with the way she gripped it against her body.

She stayed on the side opposite Daws and pressed into Ryan when one of his guards got close. The path was clear and Daws rushed them into the hired car. He gave the driver directions to circle a couple of blocks, then stop across the street in case they were still being watched.

“Take us to the loft.” Ryan pushed on his shoulder.

“Hell no. All of this just to try to get you to work, you’re damn well going, even if you are two hours late.”

“This isn’t the time. It’ll wait.”

“Not with the kind of money they’re putting into this thing, it won’t.”

Ryan leaned forward. “You work for me. I make the calls.”

Daws turned in his seat, a large hand helping him stay faced backward. “There won’t be cause to work for you anymore if you keep this shit up. And I may work for you, but I’m the closest you’ve got to a friend in this business. Don’t think all those leeches you have over partying all the time are going to stick around if you lose all this.” He glanced at Kaitlyn and turned back around. “You’re going to work.”

Daws was right, but then, what did Ryan care if any of them stuck around? Still, he was paying a hell of a lot for studio time.

What was he supposed to do about Kaitlyn? He couldn’t imagine she would want to sit at the studio while they put down new tracks and went back over bits of edits to re-record what they didn’t like. It was boring to watch. Often, it was boring to do, especially since they edited the hell out of everything. She didn’t need to be surrounded by strangers, either. She needed to be … somewhere comfortable, and warm. Somewhere she could unwind.

But he had to work. Girls didn’t come before that. Ever. Not even one he didn’t mean to find.

With his guard’s guarantee he would tell no one it was anything other than a publicity stunt, Ryan led her into the building. He offered to call someone to pick her up and take her to the loft while he worked, but Kaitlyn shook her head.

“Damn it, Reynauld. What got into you pulling a stunt like that? Daws, why didn’t you throw his ass over your shoulder and drag him in here?” Ginny grazed Kaitlyn with the look she gave any of the girls who attached themselves to him.

“Good morning.” Ryan threw an arm around his manager. “Thought I’d give the day a jump start, so to speak. You missed me, right? Or you were afraid you might miss me?”

“Reynauld, I am fifty years old and I divorced a man five times cuter than you are with more money than you have only because he annoyed me one time too many. Why I’m still putting up with you, I don’t know, but don’t give me any of your mouth today. I’ve already had to sweet talk Mac into not going off to Bermuda with what we’re paying him, for unused studio time, by the way. You better have a damn good explanation and it better not be….” She eyed Kaitlyn again. “Aren’t you young to hang out with him? Trying to get your parents to sue us for…”

“Ginny, stop there. It’s not like that.”

“No? And yet you’re two hours late because you and your little friend here decided to be cute and…”

“And hey, it’s promo. My name is all over the papers again. Gotta be worth a bit of lost studio time.”

“Hm. We’ll talk more later. In private. Get moving.” Strong fingers tried to shove him toward the studio. “Sweetheart, can I call you a cab? He has work to do.”

“She’s staying with me.” Ryan went back to her. “There are chairs outside where I’ll be working. You can sit with Daws…”

“No spectators. Send her to your place if you want. Daws will find someone…”

“Not this time. She stays with me or I take her home.”

Virginia Gray, a woman he was rarely able to argue with, looked between him and Kaitlyn, noting her clothes, studying her face.

She stepped backward.

Ryan caught her hand. “Hey, it’s all right. They’re not used to me bringing anyone in, but…”

She backed away more when a couple of his musicians approached, laughing.

“Damn man, she’s been fuming. It’s amazing she hasn’t knocked you flat already.” Ned moved his gaze around Ryan to Kaitlyn. “Uh, since you were late anyway, you coulda taken her to her own place for clothes instead of making her wear yours.”

“Stop there.” Ryan moved closer to the girl and kept his voice low while Daws backed everyone away. “Ignore them. You’re all right here. They talk a lot, but they’re okay. No one’s gonna bother you.” Her eyes darted toward the exit. He wasn’t about to let her go. “I have to get to work. Come with me.”

He had to half pull her toward the studio, ignoring Ginny’s glare. With an apology to Mac for being late and a quick introduction, Ryan pulled a chair in front of the window where she would be able to see him … where he would be able to see her. “If you need anything, tell Daws. He’ll make sure you get it.” He glanced at his friend. Daws would know Ryan expected him to keep an eye on her.

Ryan threw out each of his musicians’ names although he didn’t expect she would care enough to remember them all. Ryan didn’t always remember their first names. He was glad he did at the moment. Even if they were staring, wondering why in the hell he had a girl there, and why he bothered to introduce her.

“Have a seat.” He held the chair, but she held her stance, close to him, back nearly against the wall. He wasn’t going to be able to leave her. “Or…” He grabbed the back of the chair and tilted his head toward where he was going to be. “Come on in with me. You’ll have to be careful about when you talk or anything but I don’t suppose that’ll be much of an issue for you.”

“Whoa.” Ginny stepped in front. “Too far, Reynauld. There’s no reason she can’t sit right here, or back at your place if you trust that…”

“I’m not asking permission and anyone who has a problem with it can keep it to themselves.” Ryan didn’t care how shocked they were. He was frustrated enough talking to someone who wouldn’t answer. “If you want me here today, you’re gonna have to stop bitching about everything I’m doing.” He felt his stomach tighten at the stares. But he wouldn’t back down. Not this time.

In near silence, he caught Kaitlyn’s eyes, relaxed his own expression, and took her behind the glass, setting the chair close to the door where it wouldn’t be in the way. She stayed on her feet while the musicians filed in behind and took their places to tune their instruments. And she didn’t sit in the chair. She lowered to the floor beneath the window, pulling her knees up, her back resting against the wall. Ryan couldn’t fathom why she preferred the floor but he wouldn’t argue. At least she seemed okay there.





(first part of chapter 1, not the whole chapter)



Find it at http://www.lkhunsaker.com/OffTheMoon/main.htm

or http://www.elucidatepublishing.net

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REVIEWS:



Ranging from America to England, full of intriguing relationships, multi-layered characters, family angst and issues of trust and responsibility, 'Off the Moon' builds from a slow start into a powerful read.

~~ author Lindsay Townsend for CRR Reviews

full review: http://www.classicromancerevival.com/blog/?p=1636



LK Hunsaker hooked me with the first chapter of OFF THE MOON. Very raw. Very intriguing. When I settled down to continue reading, I finished OFF THE MOON in one sitting. At the kitchen table. On a laptop. With my arse going to sleep on a hard wooden chair. Yes, the story is THAT compelling.

~~ author Lainey Bancroft

full review: http://www.elaineforlife.com/LaineysBlog/tabid/463/EntryId/144/OFF-THE-MOON.aspx...



"Very intense, very visceral, very emotional, very intelligent, ultra romantic, and [the author's] attention to the slightest detail, particularly in her protagonist's thought patterns ... is outstanding. I'm impressed."

~~ author Francesca Prescott

(posted on an email list)



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~~ photo of moon courtesy of Ines of http://www.inescreations.com

~~ cover design by the author

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