Ember Blaze had it all and lost it—teenaged pop star turned middle-aged loser—but all of that changed when she became a judge on America’s new hit talent show, Rock Idol. Now she has wealth, fame and respect again—everything she’s been missing for the past two decades—but a hot young contestant is turning her world topsy turvy.
He’s got blond hair, blue eyes and a smile that has half the women in America swooning—and he wants Ember even more desperately than she wants him. But after working so hard to get back on top, can she really risk everything for a few moments of stolen passion and the chance to learn to love again?
Someone knocked on Ember’s dressing room door. It was twenty minutes before the start of the show and a bad time for interruptions. Hans had finally finished applying her makeup but couldn’t decide what to do about her hair.
At the sound of the knock, Hans threw up his hands in despair. “What is it now? Do they not know that there is an artist at work in here?”
He stormed across the room to the door and flung it open. “What do you want?”
Rick Rogers stood in the hallway with a single red rose in his hands and the same terrible striped shirt that he had worn in last week’s competition. “I, um, need to speak to Ember for a minute.”
“And I need sixty more minutes to finish creating perfection. He glanced at the rose in Rick’s hands and grinned. “But you probably think her perfection comes naturally. You may have three minutes and then I shall play God by once again creating angelic beauty with these two hands.”
Hans stepped out of the dressing room and closed the door behind Rick.
Ember stood up. “What’s on your mind?”
Rick crossed the room to join her. “I wanted to bring you this,” he said, “and to thank you again. You really helped me pull out all the stops last week. And I,” he handed her the rose, “thank you.”
“You didn’t have to bring me flowers,” Ember said. In truth she was slightly uncomfortable that he had done so.
“It’s just one rose,” Rick told her.
But it was a red rose, Ember noted, red for love and passion.
“Well, I’m sure you’re going to do even better this week,” she told him.
“I hope so,” Rick said. “I’ve worked hard, but the competition is fierce. It’s good to know you’re pulling for me.”
Where was Hans? Ember wondered. He needed to get back here and end this awkward conversation. “Would you like another piece of advice?” Ember asked.
“Of course,” Rick told her. “I’ll do anything you tell me.”
“Lose that shirt,” she said. “It makes you look-”
“This shirt?” Rick interrupted. “I can’t do that. It’s half my luck!”
The bad half, Ember wanted to say, but what came out was something else entirely. “What’s the other half?”
“This,” Rick whispered.
He leaned close and kissed her—his lips pressing gently against hers, warm and tender.
Taken completely off guard, Ember shocked herself. She didn’t pull away. She didn’t slap him. She closed her eyes and kissed him back, opening her mouth to let his tongue greet hers.
His strong hands gripped her waist as hers slid of their own accord around his back.
A knock sounded on the dressing room door, startling Ember into stepping back from Rick and breaking the embrace. She was breathing hard and her heart was racing—but whether with passion or fear of discovery she wasn’t certain.
The door opened and Hans reentered the room. “I cannot give you another minute. Even God, Himself, must have some time in which to work his miracles.”
Rick pulled himself back together. “I’ll be singing for you tonight,” he whispered, then turned and hurried from the room.
Hans watched him go, admiring his backside until the door closed behind him. “It is such a shame that boy is straight,” he said.
Then he turned back to Ember. “Sit down, dear, we only have fifteen minutes to finish making you radiant.”
Ember sat down in her chair—her mind a jumble of confused thoughts and sensations.
“You’ve dropped your rose,” Hans noted. He stooped down, picked it up and handed it to her. “And is that a smudge on your lipstick?”
He picked up the lipstick tube and set about correcting the flaw. “Perhaps it’s not a shame the boy is straight after all, hmm?”
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