Check out this sneak peek excerpt from Carrie Lofty’s sizzling new adult novel, BLUE NOTES, now on sale from Gallery Books!
When piano prodigy Keeley Chambers gets a coveted scholarship to New Orleans University, she finally feels like her haywire life is falling into place. Until she meets Jude Villars: billionaire playboy, irreverent, seductive, hot as sin, and possessing a dangerous capability to awaken Keeley’s spirit in a way she never thought possible. But when Keeley finds out Jude’s happy-go-lucky, billionaire playboy façade is a cover for something much deeper, will she pull away? Or will she finally let herself experience unbridled, all-consuming passion away from the piano keys?
I dodge any probing about that slipup by doing what would come naturally to anyone: I try to absorb the sights and sounds of Slink. It’s a circus. Yup, an indoor adult circus where the patrons are the performers. I can’t believe the variety of people. Shapes, sizes, colors, clothing, decorations—so many decorations. It’s a festival for the eyes, as dubstep blares from a pair of human-sized speakers hanging from the ceiling.
Jude leans in close, nearly shouting. “We won’t be able to stay past midnight because we’re not members.”
He grins. “After midnight, it becomes a private dungeon club. Sex stuff. Kinky. You know, BDSM?”
I can’t help that my eyes are totally wide open and my I think I know everything self gets a kick in the ass. “A sex club?”
“Within limits, but yeah. If you want a drink, they’re only served for another few minutes. Then it’s water and soda.”
“Keeps people safe.”
Possibilities reel as my eyes flick across a hundred faces— and their bodies. Because sure enough, lots of people are wearing next to nothing. My little black dress feels like a prom getup by comparison. There’s a woman with electrical tape crisscrossed over her nipples and a sheer belly dancer–style skirt offering a tantalizing view of everything else. One man is naked except for tight leather shorts and a hood.
Jude tugs my arm. He plants me on a love seat of sorts and lifts his hand to signal a waiter. The waiter has a chain that drapes from his nostril to a cuff on his right wrist. Jude orders club soda for me and a tonic and lime for himself. With unmistakable invitation, the waiter walks his gaze over Jude’s long body, glances at me, then shrugs. He saunters off to collect our drinks.
“He likes you,” I say. Well, say might be a little tame. The music is loud. We have two volumes: shout face to face, or shout more softly with mouth tucked against ear. I’d do more of the latter if the club wasn’t busy sucking up my attention.
“Too bad for him,” he replied. “So, do you think you’ll be able to get some firsthand information for your paper?”
I laugh, then cover my mouth when he looks nearly disappointed. “Sorry,” I say. “But I’m not going to be able to get many firsthand interviews here. I could try, but I’d be hoarse long before midnight.”
He shrugs off that boyish look of having gotten it wrong. “Never mind.”
“Hey,” I say, grabbing his face between my hands. I kiss his nose. “I’m having a blast. And besides, it’s a helluva lot more firsthand stuff than most people in my class would dare try to find. I read the textbook. Now I can see it all in person. That’s not nothing.”
“On the sociology of human groupings. People like to be in groups that match internal versions of themselves. You’re wearing Docs—well-worn Docs, I might add—because part of you doesn’t want to wear suits all the time. You have a vintage U2 shirt, and a flannel like some grunge throwback. You’re a mashup. Here, you can do that, where there’s no judgment. What would be outrageous for you outside these walls is ho-hum boring inside. You can be daring in your own mind, but otherwise anonymous.”
He’s staring at me as if I just did a tarot reading. “And your little black dress?”
“Oh, that’s just me wanting to look nice for you.”
I must’ve pulled off just the right don’t give a care tone, because he smiles and gives a little nod. “You win at that.”
“Makes me wonder, though.”
I tug the knit collar of his T-shirt—not too much, because it’s old. “I unbuttoned your shirt the other night, and I touched a lot of skin.” I grin, blushing but not caring. “A lot of skin. But it was too dark to see if you have any tattoos. Are you hiding more from the world than just a pair of shit-kicker boots?”
“Nope. Virgin skin.”
I say it so quickly and so frankly that he busts out laughing. I join in laughing as if balloons have burst inside both of us at the same time. We needed it. Maybe that’s what’s so intoxicating about being with Jude. We build up and up and up—then something drags us halfway down again. Never all the way down.
Every moment with him is building, in unpredictable fits and starts. It’s that roller coaster again. More danger.
What’s around the corner? How bold can I be? How much will I love it?
“You said that on purpose,” he says, wiping his eyes.
“No way. Look at my blush. Are you serious?”
“Then your subconscious is a huge tease.”
“You like when I tease back. It’s like permission to do your worst. Or best.” His grin is positively devilish. He licks his lower lip, deliberately, making me laugh all over again. Only when I catch my breath do I force my voice to work again. “Are you listening, Mr. Villars? I don’t like repeating myself.”
“You’re mocking me with that one.”
“Totally. But the question remains. Do you have a tattoo?”
“Oh, c’mon. Now you have to show me.” I affect a mock serious expression. “It’s for science.”
I’m convinced he won’t, because doing so would be straightforward, and not too much about us—other than the seduction—has been straightforward. But he lifts the hem of his T-shirt, right above the pronounced, lick-worthy V that dips into the waistband of his jeans. It’s a latitude and longitude marker.
“Where my parents died,” he says simply.
I swallow back a rush of emotion. I want to say I’m sorry, or even apologize for making it such a flippant, teasing thing. Maybe that’s why he was so blunt about revealing it. There’s nothing flippant or teasing about it. So I say the only thing that makes sense to me right then. “Thank you for showing me.”
“You’re welcome. And,” he continues with a shrug, pulling his shirt back in place, “I didn’t want questions about it later.”
“Makes sense.” I try to breathe, try to recover the momentum of the easygoing side of us. Looking around Slink is entertaining, but I’m so wrapped up in Jude that I just want him back. “So, other than its educational properties, is this where you take girls to shock them?”
“Nope, never been.” As if by silent agreement, he goes along with me, returning to the neutral territory of the club and flirting and thick, delicious innuendo. He wiggles his brows and leans close enough to kiss me—but doesn’t. “You need to quit assuming I’m running by some playbook. I’ve never been here. I’ve never been with a virgin. And before you make another assumption, I haven’t been with a college girl since graduating.”
“Yeah, oh,” he says, grinning. “I won’t have you thinking the worst of me, sugar. Won’t have it.”
“You didn’t start out that way.”
“Eh.” He traces my shoulder until one of the dress’s straps dangles down my upper arm. “You could’ve been anyone when we met. I have standards.”
I know it’s just a skinny little black strap, but now that it’s fallen, my shoulder—that whole side of my body—feels more exposed. He kisses there, licks softly, then nestles his lips just below my earlobe. “Quick recovery when an arrogant asshole gives you shit. The ability to take a dare and fling it right back in that asshole’s face. And a body . . .”
“Oh, don’t,” I say. Even though his words are all the compliments a girl like me could want, I can’t let him continue. I like knowing he admires me for how I stood up for myself that first night. I did great. He was an enigmatic weirdo. And here we are at Slink. Yay for us making it past an intriguing start, to use his word.
“Wax poetic about how I look. Knobby knees and mouse brown hair do not a poet inspire.”
“Take that back or I’ll drive you home right now.” He tugs down the other strap of my dress. “And I don’t mean that in the good way, where we’d be alone and on page six of my playbook.”
He’s grinning so wide that I can’t breathe. Or maybe it’s because he’s practically undressing me in public. Or, more shatteringly, maybe it’s because the sudden, smack-me-sideways idea of being seduced by Jude Villars becomes very blunt. It’s not a question anymore. It’s a fact.
We will have sex.