Jade & Conrad

an excerpt



Chapter One

"Should've known better than to come to a place called The Grinder." Jade Blakstone shook his head as he exited the dark, dank club. He took a deep breath of the cool air, relieved to get the smell of sweating bodies out of his nose.

He turned left and strode away from the door. He stopped with enough distance away from the doorway that he could see and possibly avoid any of the men who might still think they had a chance of getting into his pants. Jade leaned against the wall then braced his foot behind him. He slid his hand into the front pocket of his jeans and pulled out a lollipop, then opened it before sticking the candy in his mouth. It was times like this he wished he hadn't given up smoking. At the thought of smoke Jade glanced in the direction where he knew a wild fire had recently broken out. There was concern it would spread, but so far it was being fought and contained. Wild fires were a reason for concern and he should just pack up and head home to Carrington. Although where he usually lived was also in California, they didn't have wild fires like this area did.

Jade lowered his head and sucked on his candy while he contemplated his stupidity of being talked into coming to this place. He wasn't in Redding looking for sex or anything like that. All he wanted was some peace and quiet to decompress. So far neither were working. Maybe it would be best for him to go home.

"Humph, really shouldn't take people's word to come out to a fun place like The Grinder. Christ, just the name should've warned me what it was. Foolish, foolish, Jade." He tapped his fingers along his thigh and hummed under his breath.

"Yep, the name is a dead giveaway."

Jade stilled as the man's rich baritone resonated within him. With that voice he has to be able to sing. He turned his head and blinked when his gaze locked with gold. The man stood close and Jade was surprised he hadn't seen him when he walked up. Hell, he was shocked that he could even miss such a sexy specimen of manhood. Sounding like you're waxing poetic. Jade smiled at the thought since that wasn't anything like him at all. He studied the man. His golden eyes were surrounded by thick curling lashes of a deeper gold like that of the curly waves on his head which framed his face with features that made Jade want to touch. The golden skin looked soft and his thick eyebrows made him seem intense, yet the laugh lines around his mouth made Jade figure he was a man who tended to smile and have a good time. From the slight ridge on his nose, Jade could tell it'd been broken in the past. The rest of his body was just as delectable. The black T-shirt he wore showed off the sinewy muscles of his forearms while his matching jeans fit his muscular thighs and cupped the slight bulge at the front. The black boots on his feet looked supple and only added to the entire package of confident man. Absently he noticed he had dropped his lollipop on the ground. Jade lifted his gaze and again met those compelling eyes. The slight quirk of the man's lips made Jade smirk in return.

"So...you're not here for the grind then." He licked those full lips and smiled wider. "Also if you ever answer yourself after you talk, let me know."

"Why?"

"Because then I'll know you made it off the deep end." The man glanced down, in a slow deliberate study before meeting his gaze. "And I'll do my damndest to save you."

"Why would you want to save me?"

"Because..." The man blinked, a slow sweep of lashes briefly covering those golden eyes. "Well shit, I have nothing I can come up with that doesn't sound corny or a line. Damn, what my friends have been telling me is true. I'm out of practice. Don't tell anyone."

Jade laughed at the disgruntled look on his face. "I'll let you in on a secret. I'm out of practice, too." He jerked his thumb in the direction he'd just come from. "That isn't my thing. Don't have patience for all that..."

"Posturing to see who can get the ass first?"

Jade laughed again then nodded his head. "Exactly."

"So if I was to try to get...let's say your ass, I'd be turned down? And it's such a delectable ass, too." The man grimaced. "Damn, I sound like an ass as well as desperate. Forget what I just said."

"Nope." Jade winked.

"Mean, mean man." He wiggled his eyebrows. "Can't even let me remove my less than stellar impression by playing as if I didn't say anything. "

"My impression of you is just fine." Jade moved a step closer. "Besides what you said was true."

"Which part?" The man looked intrigued.

"My ass. It is delectable as well as a few other adjectives." Jade lowered his lids slightly over his eyes, which he knew was one of his best features. "But it's still up for debate as to who will be getting whose ass."

He pivoted on his heels and strolled away.

"Well, fuck me."

"Maybe," Jade said.

"Ummm...where are you going, Green Eyes?"

Jade stopped, looking over his shoulder. The man hadn't moved to follow him. Jade lowered his head so his hair-another of his best features-would frame his face and eyes.

The man inhaled then blew out his breath. "Warn a guy before you do that?"

"Do what?" Jade blinked slowly, striving for innocence.

"Yeah right." The man shook his head. "Not believing the innocent act. You're trying to befuddle me with the hair and eyes. How the hell did you get your hair that color anyway?"

"Would you believe it's my natural color?" Jade grinned.

"Let me guess. Your mom had hair in the yellow range and your dad had blue. And voilĂ  you were born-their green-haired baby." Sarcasm was thick in his tone.

"Yep." Jade snorted. "I'll have to remember to tell my brother that one. Maybe that's why his hair is dark blue."

The man laughed. Jade stared then walked to him. He cupped his cheek and the man stilled.

"You're taking liberties." The man moved closer. "And if you get to touch so do I."

"Go ahead," Jade said huskily.

He steeled himself for the touch. He expected it would be below the belt. The man smiled and placed his hand low. Then strong fingers tugged at the ends of his hair which rested just above his knee. The man smoothed his hand up the hair, stroking it while watching Jade. Jade drew in a breath then released it. The soft chuckle from the man who he was so drawn to hit him deep in his gut. At his neck, the man slid his fingers under his hair at the base and stroked a thumb along the back of his neck.

"Now who is the one taking liberties?" Jade whispered.

"Quid pro quo." The man said in the same tone.

"Noted." Jade stepped back and walked away.

"And again you walk away." The man sighed. "Here I thought we were getting somewhere."

"We would if you would come on instead of dawdling." Jade stopped and glanced back.

The expression on the man's face was priceless. "Did you just say dawdling?"

"Yep or do you prefer diddle-daddle?" Jade tried not to laugh.

"You're messing with me." The man strode toward him.

"Maybe." Jade waited until he was abreast before he started walking again. "But it got you moving."

"I can tell you're a weird, weird man." The man stared then grinned. "I like weird."

"Good." Jade moved closer so their shoulders were brushing as they walked. "So where are you taking me for dinner?"

"Who agreed to dinner?"

"Your nonverbal agreement was coming to me and us walking at this moment."

"Yep, you're weird. Why am I the one taking you to dinner?" The man frowned. "You should take me since you're the one who is local."

"I thought you were from here." Jade shook his head. "I'm not from around here either."

"Well, let's Google it and see where there's a good place for dinner." The man stopped and took out his cell. Jade waited as he did. "Well...umm...I don't even know your name. How can we have dinner and I don't even know that?"

Sure that he was kidding Jade teased, "Is there some rule that you have to know the name of someone to have dinner with them?" Jade tilted his head while he waited to see what the man would come up with.

"I guess not, but I would need to call you something." He smiled. "How about I call you Green Giant?"

"How about I don't rearrange your nose?" Jade bared his teeth. "I'm much better looking than him and my skin is not green. "

"True. I'd call your skin more sun-kissed. Goes good with the deep green shade of your hair. Now about the name. Let me start first. I'll show you how normal people do it." The man put out his hand. "Conrad Kendrick. I'm a Leo and love cuddling on the couch watching movies."

"And you call me weird. Do you think we're on a dating show?" Jade narrowed his eyes. "You really don't know my name?"

"Should I?" Conrad shook his head. "Are you some kind of star or something? Sorry, I don't really pay attention to that sort of thing. I watch movies and TV, but don't recall ever seeing you. I'd figure with that hair and eyes I would remember."

Jade blinked, shocked that he didn't know who he was. Don't be arrogant, Jade, not everyone knows who we are and if they do they don't all care. His brother's voice rang through his mind as if he was there beside him. Usually Jade wouldn't think he was that easily recognizable, but just coming off tour where fans screamed at him and wanted to be near him, he was still trying to assimilate back into the regular every day. You're everyday Jade, not the performer Jade.

"Nope, not in movies or TV shows. Just play music." Jade smiled. "Jade Blakstone." He shook Conrad's hand.

"Hmmm..."Conrad frowned then it cleared. "Sounds familiar, but can't place from where. It'll come to me eventually." He shrugged. "Is your music any good?"

"I think so, but according to who you're speaking with, it might not be." Jade licked his lips.

Conrad's gaze followed the movement. "What instrument do you play?"

"Drums." Jade gestured to the phone he still held. "So what about dinner? I'm hungry."

"Oh yeah." Conrad studied the screen. "There seems to be a place about a ten-minute drive from here. Your car or mine?"

"We'll take both. That way if we get on each other's nerves over dinner we can go our separate ways."

"Blunt and weird." Conrad laughed. "I'm getting more and more intrigued."

"Ditto." Jade gestured. "I'm over there."

"I'm that way," Conrad said, motioning to the opposite direction. "I'll get my truck and meet you and you can follow me."

"Or you could give me the address and I'll meet you there."

"Maybe I like the idea of you following me." Conrad winced. "There I go again. I really need to get in better practice."

"Yep. Not to sound so cheesy." Jade laughed.

Conrad chuckled then gave him the address. "See you soon."

"Soon." Jade let the promise linger in his voice.

"Stop that," Conrad said.

"What?"

"And none of that innocent act." Conrad turned away muttering, "Trying to seduce me with that voice."

"If I'm trying I'm not doing it right," Jade called.

Conrad turned walking backward. "You're doing it right. Too right. Dinner, that's what you wanted so we'll do dinner. Then we'll see what happens."

"Yes. If you don't get on my nerves you might get lucky." Jade winked.

"Oh boy, I'm gonna get lucky." Conrad returned the gesture.

"Maybe."

"Definitely. I was voted most likely to not get on someone's nerves for three years."

Jade laughed and headed to his vehicle. He got into his deep indigo Tribeca and started the engine. Tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, Jade thought for a moment about why he hadn't just walked away. It would have been easy, and it would avoid any future complications. A deep rich red truck stopped in front of his vehicle and the window lowered. Conrad gazed at him from the interior. Jade was again caught by the golden gaze, but it was the look in them. The same look he'd seen earlier and why he hadn't walked away. It stripped Jade bare of all the bullshit and seemed to see below his exterior to all his secrets.

"Again you're being fanciful, Jade." Jade sighed then muttered, "Yeah, Conrad Kendrick is going to be a hell of a complication. But I'm going to enjoy the ride."

Conrad pulled away and Jade followed. He chuckled that he was indeed following him after all.

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