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He might’ve rocked the charts with his band for more than a decade, but rocking my world was a hard no. I needed him to expand my business.. He needed me to polish his image. We were about to stage our wedding to get what we both needed - purely a business transaction wiith a man who made my anger bubble and something else simmer.
Liam was my enemy. My rival.
There was a fine line between love and hate, and I was determined to stay on only one side of it.
Melted Hearts is an enemies-to-lovers rockstar romance with a sassy successful heroine and a man who would make your Great Aunt Nellie's hair curl and then beg him to tousle it with his talented fingers.
- Marriage of convenience
- Rockstar romance
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
Chapter One - Sophie
My best friend of an indeterminable amount of time turned her head around fast enough to suggest that she had indeed been possessed by some unearthly demon.
“You really need to stop cursing.” Her eyes did look slightly reddened, as if that demon was cooking up some heat in her body.
“Your son isn’t here. He doesn’t have the hearing of a bat with super powers so I won’t be teaching him bad words today.”
Her eyes flashed and I debated backing away. Possibly for more than one reason. Vanessa’s semi-wrath was nothing compared to the huge beast that sat rumbling in front of us.
“You need to get out of the habit of swearing. It won’t be long until Teddy’s repeating whatever you say and I don’t want his first word to be ‘fuck’.” She looked from me to the plane. “Did you take the relaxants that the doctor prescribed?”
“How are you going to stop Jackson from swearing?” It was almost a mumble. Terror was starting to rip my vocal cords out of my throat.
Vanessa’s arm threaded through mine. “Every time he swears I refuse to put out.”
“Good move. Is it effective?”
She yanked me towards the steps.
The fear of flying, or aviophobia, had been an issue since I was twelve-years-old and had been on a plane that had been forced to land due to some sort of engine failure. I’d never tried to understand the mechanics of what had actually happened, preferring to put it down to fate and the wings of angels helping us away from the nearby housing estate and onto a flat, empty field, but I’d never boarded a plane without a prayer, alcohol, sedative or the reassuring, motivational slandering of my so-called best friend since.
“You could try washing his mouth out with soap and water instead. Showing a little of your sadistic side won’t hurt.” I gripped the railing tightly, my feet frozen to the ground. A queue was forming behind us. A long queue, full of people I knew would be cursing and tutting, generally impatient to get to their holiday destination, was forming behind us. I couldn’t freeze. Not now.
“He enjoys my sadistic side.” Vanessa’s grip tightened around my wrist. “Now if you don’t get up those steps immediately, I going to have Seph send you dick pics on the hour, every hour from nine till midnight.” Her grin was wicked.
My feet found it in themselves to move and my brain focused on trying to bleach the image of what Joseph Callaghan’s penis may or may not look like because it’s one appendage I didn’t want to meet pictorially or in real life. Seph, as he was known to his family and friends, was about as close to a little brother as I’d ever get.
Which was a crying shame.
“Shit! That worked! You’re actually moving!”
I would’ve turned round and glared at Van, but I was too busy trying to talk myself into remembering to breathe.
The door of the plane was close. I was about five steps away from boarding and I felt far too sober.
“Dick pics. Seph’s penis.” Vanessa’s words were hissed into my ear. “And you know I’m serious. Plus, I bet if you don’t manage this flight, Victoria will send you those ‘artful pictures’ of Max she has on her phone for spank bank material.
I made it onto the plane, looking rapidly for our seats. Claire, Vanessa’s sister-in-law, was already there, her tidy dark bob impossible to miss.
She gave me a wide smile.
“Vanessa’s been threatening me with dick pics.” The words came out a little too loudly. I half-noticed the glare of some little blue-haired woman sitting behind Claire O’Hara and I strongly suspected that she knew exactly what a dick pic was.
Claire raised her brows.
“Not Killian’s.” Killian was Claire’s husband. Six feet something of solid blonde muscle. He was also a genuinely nice guy who adored his daughter and his wife.
Claire shrugged. “Given that Killian has no idea what he’s doing after three beers nowadays I suspect half of London has received a picture of his penis.” She smiled at the blue-haired woman who seemed to be enjoying this conversation. “Although as far as penises go, it’s quite a nice one.”
“Thanks.” The voice was a familiar one.
Victoria, the bride-to-be and the star of this trip as much as she’d rather not be, emerged behind me. She was Vanessa’s future sister-in-law and in the last few months we’d become good friends.
“I've seen someone in the airport who looks almost identical to Max.” Victoria pushed her oversized glasses further up her nose. “Even to the extent where if I was his girlfriend I’d have told him he needed his hair trimming.”
“My brother has never liked his hair being cut.” Claire moved up a seat, letting Vic sit down. “I cut it once while he was sleeping. It was the only way.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t Max?” I sat down and tightened my seatbelt. In about sixty seconds I’d be clutching onto the arm rests for grim life, praying to any deity that was listening or even half listening while watching TV.
“Max is on his stag weekend.” Vic sounded confident. “He’s on his way to the Lake District. Some remote barn type stuff and adventure weekend survival crap.”
Vanessa was sitting across the aisle from me, turning round to see Victoria. I could just about make out her expression from the corner of my eyes.
“How much detail did he give you about it?”
I heard the edge to Vanessa’s voice.
“Not much. I think Jackson was organising it. At least it wasn’t Seph. That would’ve been a weekend in Amsterdam with a guided tour of every red light led by him.” Victoria laughed.
I heard a familiar voice. One that I’d spent a fair bit of time listening to.
“So Max didn’t think he was going abroad anywhere, did he?” Vanessa’s reassuring tone was switched on full.
Another familiar laugh came down the aisle.
“No. He was packing for the Lakes. Outdoor gear. Stuff for snow.”
I managed to turn my head around and saw Victoria lazing back in her seat. The flight to Reykjavik was a short one, thankfully, and not just because I’d be counting each breath until we landed.
The in-flight entertainment was definitely going to be first class.
“Stuff for snow. Remember it’s unseasonably warm at home.” Vanessa turned round and buckled her seatbelt. “Not sure they needed snow stuff for hiking and canoeing. Maybe they were going somewhere else and not the Lake District.”
She gave me a quick look that I recognised, having seen it whilst having conversations with my ex-husband when he was acting too interested in resurrecting the incinerated corpse of our marriage and I wasn’t seeing it.
Danger. Abort. Shit.
I turned around again and a sight five rows back caught my eye. A very attractive sight that had never once caused any fluttering of my heart or other regions. A sight that waved his hand at me and gave me a grin that could only be described as wicked dipped in treacle.
Joseph Callaghan was arguably the most beautiful of all his three brothers. A shade over six three with dark brown hair, dark brown eyes that resembled chocolate and an excruciatingly cute dimple which could still be seen through the well-tended scruff adorning the jaw that should only be allowed in editorial fashion shoots.
Seph, as he was known, tried every few months to work his way into my underwear. He wouldn’t succeed and he knew it.
He was also chancing death by annoying Victoria. As were his brothers.
“What the fuck?” I mouthed the words.
He smiled, far too charmingly, and shrugged. The flight attendant smiled at him as she walked passed, checking safety belts were fastened.
“Who are you talking to?” Victoria looked at me and then turned round.
The plane started to wheel towards the runway. My stomach churned. My life flashed by my eyes.
I couldn’t hear the prayers I uttered at that point. The airwaves around me were temporarily filled with the sharp, scary-librarian tones of Seph’s possible future sister-in-law realising her fiancé had hijacked her hen weekend.
There were a few catcalls and bellows of laughter from Max’s friends, brothers and cousins who had somehow managed to fill a good proportion of the plane without us noticing.
Which had clearly been the plan.
“They’re not going to get married after this. She’s going to find the hottest spring and hold his head underwater until he fries.” I didn’t bother to keep my voice down; Vanessa could hear me and so could Victoria who had now adopted a stony silence.
Vanessa sighed and offered her hand across the aisle. “And if she manages to do that, it means you’ve survived the flight.”
* * *
Reykjavik airport was small, although between the slowing of my heart rate and the elation that I had survived a short time in the air inside what was little more than a technologically enhanced tin can, and the argument that was ensuing between Maxwell Callaghan and Victoria Davies, I didn’t have much chance to appreciate it.
“How the fuck did your insanely small brain think this was a good idea?” Victoria didn’t bother to keep her words discrete.
“How long before they get arrested?” Seph muttered from behind my shoulder.
I’d made good use of him and ensured he was carrying my case.
Max pushed his hands inside his jeans pockets and broadened out his shoulders. “We liked the idea of an Iceland holiday. Lots to do. Different.”
Victoria prodded his chest and I had a feeling there was a fair bit of force behind it.
“Really? I quite agree. Hot springs, whale watching, the Northern Lights. dog sledding. It was a genius idea of your sister-in-law’s.” She pointed at Vanessa.
Vanessa and Jackson had been married for almost two years. Arguably, Van should’ve done more to persuade Jackson not to have organised his older brother’s stag party for the same place and time as Victoria’s, but I doubted Jackson would’ve listened.
“And given how busy we’ve both been,” Max bravely put his hands on Victoria’s hips, “I thought it was a good chance we could spend some time together before the madness of getting married begins.” He smiled, the gruff, utterly charming smile he’d perfected and one that did not work on Victoria.
She grabbed his wrists and threw his hands off her hips and away.
“There may not be a wedding, Maxwell. This is a serious breach of trust.” She walked away and grabbed her case. “If you’re staying at the same resort as we are, we’d better not have the same bedroom.”
He paled slightly.
I turned to Seph. “Tell me none of us are sharing rooms.”
“Apparently I’m not sharing with Max.”
“He’s going to love that.”
“Why does no one think about what I love on these occasions?” Seph’s petulant tone could almost be deemed cute.
I backhanded him in the stomach. “You’re the youngest and a parasite. And I have the sneakiest feeling you knew full-well exactly how this was going to work out.”
He laughed. “It’ll be fine. Max will pull some romantic gesture that turns us all slightly nauseous because it’s out of character. She’ll ignore him; he’ll stomp off in a huff and then they’ll cause some form of earthquake through having wild make up sex that we’ll need therapy to get over.” He shrugged. “Then you and I can get creative and out do them.”
This time it was me who laughed. “Not happening. Ever. You’re too young for me and aren’t you sleeping with half the female population of Borough Market?”
“Nope. Longest dry spell I’ve ever had. Fancy ending it for me?”
“Nope. Your youth and persistence only turns me off.”
“Damn, Sophie. Cut a man down.”
“You’ll get over it.” And he would. We’d been having the same scripted banter for too long. Two of the only singletons in our group, other than the Callaghan’s cousins and Amelie, the childhood friend of Max and Jackson, sometimes at the end of the night we were only left with each other and a shot of tequila, because Seph was right, he was having a self-imposed dry spell, and I’d sworn off men.
I watched as Max shrugged and headed over to Jackson and Callum, his other brother and Shay Green, his step cousin. There were a few slaps on his back, Killian and Nick O’Hara saying something I couldn’t make out.
“Better go and join the boys.” Seph squeezed my shoulder. “I think arriving at the hotel at the same time might be a mistake.”
“Time to play!” Jacob’s voice matched his grin. He was Victoria’s best friend and knew more about cocktails and how to give an outstanding blow job than anyone else I knew. “Leave them to it. All will be well – will be where we’re going anyway.” He smiled, pulling a still irritated Vic into his chest. “Time to check out our home for the next five nights.”
* * *
We weren’t staying in Reykjavik at all. It had been mooted as the city had plenty to offer, but a few of us had been before and the amount there was to do elsewhere was too much, especially as we planned to spend plenty of time in the hot springs.
I owned a chain of spas across London and now beyond, mainly high end, catering in exclusive treatments and experiences. I hadn’t gone to university; I’d barely managed to get through school, more interested in boyfriends and the man who promised to help me make it in the world of modelling but instead turned out to be a predator who ended up with a seriously damaged testicle in the end. I’d trained in beauty and found I liked the science side. Then I discovered that my experiences with idiotic self-centred men had given me some insight into how they worked, which in turn meant I knew exactly how to negotiate the rent on the building for my first beauticians and how to charm my way through a meeting with a room full of potential investors, ensuring I got exactly what I needed to launch production of my first skin care range.
Iceland was possibly my next venture – if I could get to grips with flying. Here was the ideal place for a luxury spa, limited bedrooms, high-end clients and privacy. As much as this trip was about Victoria’s approaching end of freedom, I had a little business to check out.
We were headed to what was the middle of nowhere to Hotel Ljos, a carefully selected spa in central Iceland and just under two hour’s drive from the airport, in a limo because that was how Jacob and Vanessa rolled.
I accepted the glass of champagne and joined in with the toast, Victoria’s wrath beginning to melt with each sip. There were jokes made at Maxwell’s expense, and Jackson’s, followed by Jacob making a comment about the size of Seph’s package.
I tuned out, watching the scenery as we left the city quickly and started the drive across a landscape that was volcanic and almost alien. The scenery was enough for me to be drawn into it, rather than the conversation, and I started to allow myself to properly exhale.
I hated flying.
It wasn’t something I’d ever become accustomed to, no matter what therapy I tried. Callum Callaghan’s fiancée, Wren, had a similar phobia and a job that meant she’d had to get over it – that or give up work and go into something else instead. I admired her.
The limo pulled over, three matching four-by-four vehicles with the hotel logo on the side. Where we were going was remote; tucked away next to natural springs and a lagoon in which you could float. The idea of it was almost enough to make me forget that getting here took a metal beast and a wing and a prayer, because this was the ideal: nature pampering the human spirit.
The air outside the limo was cold and dry, the sky above us clear. All of us on Vic’s hen party had met the week before for cocktails and food to discuss the trip and plan what we were going to do as the hotel had a range of excursions and activities from massages to dog sledding. Seeing the Northern Lights had been the top of most lists, the one thing we were all hoping to experience. The clear sky above us made me hope we’d get more than one viewing.
I got into a jeep with Vanessa, Jacob – Victoria’s best friend - and Max’s cousin, Lainey, who had recently moved back over from America. She’d told me last week she felt awkward being invited, not really knowing the bride-to-be or any of her friends, and after a couple of glasses of champagne, she’d confessed she’d felt like it had been a pity invite.
It hadn’t been. I knew Vic and Vanessa well, and pity invites weren’t their style. I’d told Lainey as much. And I’d suggested she used the trip to get to know people, now that she was living over here. Making a new life.
Something I knew a little about.
“Are you still swearing off men?” Vanessa narrowed her eyes at me.
“Yes. Six months.”
Vanessa frowned. “It’s less than that. What about that rock star person you left Simone’s restaurant with?”
I looked to the roof of the vehicle and silently said another prayer. “I didn’t sleep with him.” Possibly not one of my finest moves.
Vanessa frowned and then smiled knowingly. “I’m not sure I believe you.”
The leather seats now had the shape of my nails permanently embedded into them. “I helped him out. It was a traumatic evening for him.”
Leif Rossi, actually Liam Rosehill, had been a broken soul I thought I might’ve been able to fix. I should’ve known by then that it wouldn’t happen. Fixing men was something I’d been attempting to do for too long, and I’d never been able to master the art. Finding one that wasn’t broken was a problem, because I wasn’t entirely sure they existed. If any of us existed.
“Hmm.” Vanessa shook her head slowly and then turned to face Lainey. “How’s your love life since moving over here?”
Lainey tried to pick at her recently manicured nails. I couldn’t help but reach over and stop her. The technician had done a damn fine job and Lainey had to spend at least five days with them intact.
“Leave them. Twist your hair instead.” I guided her hand up.
She laughed. “Nerves.”
“Please don’t tell me you have some childhood trauma like Sophie here and are waiting on intense therapy.” Van’s eyes didn’t even stray over to me.
“No, not quite.” Lainey’s voice was stretched. “Big family. Shy girl. That’s why I prefer horses. They don’t communicate with words.”
“Sometimes Jackson doesn’t communicate with words either. It can be a grunt or a shrug.” Vanessa rolled her eyes so far back I wondered if she’d be able to see straight again. “And no one in Victoria’s hen party, at least, will corner you in to talking, so you needn’t worry about being ambushed. Although I’d watch out for him next to you.”
Jacob turned and smiled. “Nothing to be afraid of. I never interfere in people’s love lives.”
I laughed. Loudly. Jacob was beautiful; pristinely groomed and immaculately turned out. Since meeting him, he’d been my plus one to several dinners and shows, functions where it suited to have a man by my side, even though I didn’t need one.
He was a deterrent: stopping unwarranted passes by men who were married or should know better, because even in this era of me too, it happened. I was a businesswoman, I’d made millions in my own right, and yet to a certain type of gentleman I was meant to be available.
Where’s your husband? Is he not here to advise you?
You’re on your own. Do you want a night cap?
How about I offer you some advice for your next venture?
Take your advice and shove it up your arse as far as your fat little fingers will let you and put your night cap with it too.
Jacob, as obviously gay as he was in private, was the consummate date in the wider world. He knew how to talk to people, which fork to use and how to put his hand on the small of my back and direct me away from whichever twat was about to get his eyeball stabbed with a cheese knife.
In private, he could talk handbags and contouring, the benefits of microdermabrasion and fillers, without ever breaking a sweat. And he was great for a discussion on blow job techniques.
“You interfere all the time. I’m pretty sure you’re one of the reasons why Victoria and Max are actually getting married.” I gave him a smile. I knew he was one of the reasons. Back when Max and Vic had started dating, Jackson had been bending Vanessa’s ear about how grumpy Max was when things weren’t going his way. Some intervention from Jacob had helped. Possibly still did as the couple were a shade up from feisty.
Jacob didn’t respond. Instead his stare was fixed on Lainey. “So you’re single?”
She nodded. “Very. No boyfriend for let’s see, three years?”
He frowned, Botox going some way to stop his skin creasing. “Three years? Tell me you’ve been getting some from some secret source on the regular, because that’s a long time.”
Lainey shook her head. “Celibate.” She sighed. Hard. “And I actually like being single. It’s a lot less hassle.” There was something in her words that made it sound like she was trying to persuade herself.
Jacob shook his head. “You sound as bad as Sophie. Sworn off men and anything resembling stress relief.”
I didn’t respond.
When I found something that interested me, I’d be game.