Wicked Heart

By: Leisa Rayven

ONE


FOOL ME ONCE


Present Day

Pier 23 Rehearsal Rooms

New York City

Tingles up my spine. Blood hot and fast beneath my skin.

Goddammit. This isn’t good.

Why is this still happening to me after all these years?

I’m not a girl who swoons easily. I’m really not. If I were to describe myself I’d say I was passionate but logical, fiery but methodical, spontaneous but organized. All of these traits might seem like contradictions, but they make me a damn good stage manager, and I’m not too humble to say that at the age of twenty-five, I’m one of the most respected show runners on Broadway. Producers know they can depend on me to stay calm in a crisis. I run my shows with military precision, and I demand strict professionalism from everyone, especially myself.

My rules for a stress-free work environment are nonnegotiable: Treat everyone with respect, be firm but fair, and do not ever get romantically involved with someone in the show I’m running. For most of my career, I’ve had no problem following my own rules, but there is one thing that can derail my equilibrium in one fell swoop.

Well, not so much one thing as one person.

Liam Quinn.

As I sit in the private cinema with my production team and watch the shirtless man on the screen take down an overwhelming number of enemies, I’m embarrassed by how hot my skin feels. How my breathing is shallow, and my thighs are pressed together. How I drink in every angle of his face and body. How I thrill to the flex of every perfect muscle.

But even more than that, I’m embarrassed how the passion of his performance makes me fantasize about doing passionate things to him. Not just sexual things, but they’re certainly high on the list.

To put it simply, he makes me swoon like it’s his damn job.

He’s the only man who’s ever affected me like this, and it’s safe to say I hold it against him. It’s inconvenient and rude.

He runs toward the gorgeous redhead on the screen and pulls her into a passionate embrace. The redhead is Angel Bell—recent cover model for People’s “Most Beautiful Women in the Known Universe” and basic all-round Goddess. Perfect body. Perfect boobs. Perfect face. She’s playing a seraph princess. Liam is her scorching-hot demon slave. They’ve just about destroyed the world trying to be together, and now Liam’s kissing her like he’ll die if he doesn’t.

Goddamn, that man can kiss.

I cross my legs and sigh. This is insane.

I’m not against being aroused in general, but being aroused by this particular man is a recipe for disaster. The last time I let myself have these feelings for him, it didn’t end well.

I feel a hand on my arm and turn to see one of Broadway’s most respected directors, Marco Fiori, leaning over. His eyes are bright with excitement, and it’s clear I’m not the only one who’s noticed Liam’s . . . assets.

“Quite the specimen, isn’t he?” Marco whispers.

I shrug. “If you like that sort of thing, I suppose.” My raging hormones scream that we do like that sort of thing. We like it a whole helluva lot.

The only trouble is, we can’t like it, because Liam’s an actor, and we don’t date actors. Also, in a few weeks, I’ll be his stage manager. Also, he’s engaged to his gorgeous costar.

Oh, and perhaps the most important reason is, once upon a time, we had a short but passionate-as-hell relationship and I’ve never recovered.

Somehow, I’ve managed to lock away the heartache he caused, possibly because I blame myself as much as I blame him. But the desire? That’s still roaming free, storming through my composure like a bull in a china shop.

Yep.

This is going to be an interesting project. It will be a miracle if my professionalism and I make it out alive.


Half an hour later, after a thunderous climax in which Liam saves the world, then has panty-melting sex with his leading lady, the movie ends.

Thank God.

When the lights come up, we all head into the nearby conference room. Our production team is small and consists of our producer, Ava Weinstein; our director, Marco; the designer and the production manager; and finally, my assistant stage manager and best friend, Joshua Kane.

“You okay?” Josh asks as we take our seats at the table. “You’re flushed.”

“I’m fine,” I say. “Just warm. It was hot in there, right?”

Josh shrugs. “It was pretty damn hot when Angel was topless in the bathhouse, but other than that, I was freezing my balls off. I think the A/C was set to ‘Arctic Blizzard.’ ”

I pick up the folder in front of me and fan myself. Despite Josh’s chilly nuts, my blush is set at “Surface of the Sun.”

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