The Rocker Who Betrays Me
Copyrights © Terri Anne Browning/Anna Henson 2015 All Rights Reserved
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Terri Anne Browning, except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976.
The Rocker Who Betrays Me (The Rocker Series, Book 11)
1st Edition Published October 2015
Published by Terri Anne Browning
Written By Terri Anne Browning
Editor Lorelei Logsdon
Cover Design and Picture by Sara Eirew
Models Carolyn Seguin and Stef Prince
Formatting by M.L. Pahl of IndieVention Designs
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The Rocker Who Betrays Me is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book can be reproduced in any form by electronic or mechanical means, including storage or retrieval systems, without the express permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer who may quote short excerpts in a review.
To the man who loved his Annabelle first.
Rest in peace, dear man.
I hope your Annabelle would have made you proud.
Normally this is the point where I say thank you to all the people who have made The Rocker Series such a success over the last few years. I think they know how much they mean to me and how much I appreciate everything they do, not just with helping with these kick-ass books, but in my everyday life as well. You all know who you are and I love you to the moon and back.
Right now I want to prepare you for what you are about to read. The Rocker Who Betrays Me is full of angst — heartbreaking, ugly-crying angst. There were times during the writing process where I just had to close my Mac and walk away from a scene for a few hours before I was able to finish certain parts. Out of all the rockers I have given you, Zander has always been the elusive one for me. I started this book six different times and ended up deleting it every single time before I was truly happy with where he was taking me. For once, my bad-ass rocker didn’t know how to talk to me and we stumbled a few times along the way. Yet as soon as we got to where we understood each other, the book turned into one that became so much longer than the other books in this series. Z’s story needed to start from the beginning, meaning OtherWorld’s beginning as well.
Now kick back, relax, and enjoy The Rocker Who Betrays Me.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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My heart was beating so hard it was a wonder that no one noticed how badly my chest was shaking. Even though I was trying to deny it to myself, I knew it had nothing to do with the fact that my biggest client was fighting for her life just down the hall in the ICU ward. My subconscious was trying to make itself known loud and clear as to what I was really feeling, what I was really thinking.
For the first time in more than seventeen years, I was in the same room as Zander Brockman. I’d imagined this moment for every damn one of those seventeen years and each time I’d always come up with a different scenario of how I would handle myself should that ever happen. I’ve imagined myself as calm and collected, broken and weeping, raging mad with my fists flying toward his sexy-as-sin face, and every emotion in between.
I hadn’t taken into account how my heart would break a little more from just seeing his face, or how my body would respond to his nearness. It only pissed me off. How could I betray myself like that? How could I let him affect me in either of those ways after what he’d done?
I sat on one of the uncomfortable chairs, waiting on Emmie to finish up her calls before we went downstairs for the scheduled press conference that we’d set up. My mind should have been on the job-at-hand and the fact that my biggest client was fighting for her life after risking it to save Mia Armstrong. Instead all I could do was sit there and sneak glances at the rocker standing with his best friend and Natalie Stevenson across the room.
Fuck. Time had been good to Zander. There were even more tattoos on him now than there had been the last time I’d set eyes on him in the flesh. His hair was a little longer now, curling like it always did; his face even more defined, making me want to trace each angle with my fingertips. He was even sexier now than he had been at eighteen, making it nearly impossible for me not to react to him. It wasn’t fair that he had only gotten better-looking with age while I’d been fighting back the hands of time from the day he’d left me.
His head started to turn and I quickly looked away before he caught me staring. How embarrassing would that be to get caught gawking at the man who had made it abundantly clear seventeen years before that he was through with me?
Disgusted with myself, I lowered my eyes to my phone and realized I had a text.
R U Ok?
My heart melted at the sight of those three words from the only person who had ever cared enough to put me first. I swallowed hard and swiped my thumb over his name before lifting the phone to my ear. It had barely rung on the other end when I heard his voice.
“Annabelle,” my brother said, sounding relieved.
“Hi,” I choked out. “Everything okay?”
“I was going to ask you that,” he said with a small, deep laugh that quickly faded. “You didn’t respond to my text. Are you okay?”
Noah knew how difficult this was for me. I always avoided anything that had to do with OtherWorld. It was one of the reasons I hadn’t been at the festival with Gabriella and her band when she’d been shot. Being here now, surrounded by people from my past, was bringing back memories that were both bittersweet and painful.
Grimacing, I forced myself to lift my head and straightened my shoulders. “I’m fine, Noah. Honestly.” It wasn’t the first time I’d lied to my brother, but it had been a long time since I’d had to, and I hoped he would forgive me for it. “I’m just busy. Things are crazy here. Emmie and I are going to be doing a press conference in a few so I need to go.”
“Okay, I understand. I’m just worried about you, honey. Chelsea and Mieke are worried too.” I tightened my hold on the phone and stood, making sure my back was to the three people standing across the room so they couldn’t see my expression right then. “We’ll watch the conference.”
“Don’t,” I whispered. “Don’t let them watch it. I don’t want Chelsea and Mieke upset when they see me.”
I heard the deep breath that Noah blew out, and I clenched my fingers even tighter around the phone, making my entire hand ache. “Annabelle—
“I have to go, Noah. I love you.”
“Damn it, Annabelle.” I heard his growl but didn’t wait for the explosion that was about to erupt from my brother. I hated that he was upset with me, but I couldn’t let them see me right then. Not when my emotions were so close to the surface. Not when everything was churning inside of me like a hurricane.
I quickly disconnected and put my phone away. Turning, I refused to let my gaze travel across the room. Thankfully Emmie was walking toward me, immediately distracting me from my inner chaos. The little redhead with those big green eyes didn’t smile as she approached, but I doubted she would smile again anytime soon. I could understand what she was going through, having nearly lost her daughter less than twenty-four hours before. My heart clenched in sympathy for her.
“Ready?” Emmie demanded in a hard-as-steel tone.
I gave her a firm nod and turned toward the ICU’s waiting-room door. Opening it for her, I waited as she exited before following her. Only when the door was firmly closed behind us and we were about to step onto the elevator where two guards stood at attention, did I relax a little. Damn, I was exhausted.
Just being in the same room with Zander had been enough to drain me of all my physical and emotional strength.
How the hell was I going to keep this up for however long it took before this shit was over?
17 years ago
The sound of something breaking jerked me awake. With a gasp, I sat up in bed and strained my ears as I tried to listen for what had awoken me.
“I don’t know why I ever married you, you worthless piece of shit!”
When I heard Mom’s screech I jumped out of bed and grabbed my backpack. She was drinking—again. When she drank, she got mean, and lately that was more often than not. If she was yelling, then she was yelling at Jacob, and that never ended well. At least not for me. She would take out her rage on her husband, and he would take his out on me if I didn’t leave now.
It didn’t matter that I was only in a pair of pajama shorts and a tank top without a bra. My backpack was like my survival pack. I always kept what I needed in there for when this happened. I had a change of clothes as well as a few Pop-Tarts and a bottle of water in there along with my schoolbooks.
My bare feet landed on the damp grass outside my bedroom window and I moved quickly toward the darkened window of the house next door. Recently this had become an almost nightly habit, and I knew that if he wasn’t home, his window would still be unlocked for me. If by some chance it wasn’t, then I had one other option. That was the good thing about having friends that were also your next-door neighbors.
I tapped my fingernails on the window, silently counting to myself until I reached fourteen. It would drive him crazy if I didn’t wait to get to fourteen and he was in there. I held my breath, hoping that he was home. It wasn’t that he had to be home for me to hide out in his room, but that I needed him to be there.
Before I could draw another breath, the curtains flickered and the window opened enough for me to climb in. The bed was right under the window and I dropped down onto it, tossing my backpack on the floor before wrapping my arms around Zander’s waist and burying my face in his chest.
Strong fingers tangled in my hair, holding me against him as I tried to contain my broken sob. Fear was still racing through me and I kept wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t heard my mother, if she hadn’t woken me up. How long would it have been before Jacob had been in my room?
“Are you hurt?” His voice was rough with sleep but full of dangerous promises if I told him I was.
“No,” I whispered, my voice quivering.
He released a relieved sigh. “It’s okay, Anna. You’re okay. I’ve got you.” Zander kept whispering those words over and over again against my ear and slowly I began to relax.
He was right. I was safe here with him holding me. I knew that Jacob wouldn’t dare come here. Not only did he not want Zander’s grandparents to know why I was hiding from him in their grandson’s room, but he also wouldn’t risk the hell storm that would fall on him if he dared to upset Zander.
My tears started to dry and I closed my eyes as I soaked up the feeling of security that being in Zander’s arms gave me. Before long my breathing began to even out and I fell into a dreamless sleep.
Safe. I was safe here…
Sunlight streaming through the open window woke me the next morning. I stretched and smiled when I came into contact with the hard body still lying beside me. My heart melted at the sight of the guy who had become my hero over the last few months.
I’d known Zander all my life. He and his mom had lived with his grandparents in the house beside mine before I’d even been born. Best friends with my brother, I’d grown up loving the boy who was two years older than me just as much as my own brother. We’d been playmates, friends, and each other’s shoulder to cry on from the time I could walk. I was the one he’d sought out when his mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. He was the one I’d wanted holding my hand when we’d said goodbye to my dad after his accident. The day his mother joined my dad in Heaven, I’d held onto him just as tightly as he’d held onto me, offering him all the love and support I could give.
Out of all of my brother’s friends, out of all the people I knew I could turn to, it was Zander that I’d gone to when things had started getting ugly at home over the summer. The first night I’d knocked on his window, he’d been ready to slay the dragon that was my stepfather for me.
There was a reason why Zander only had a handful of friends. For the most part he was just the guy who got into trouble for pulling harmless pranks with my brother and their friends. He was full of humor, and his ability to make me smile even at the lowest of times had always melted my heart. It was what came when his hazel eyes turned green that made people keep their distance from him. He had a temper, and while it took a lot to get him riled up, once he was, it could get dangerous if someone wasn’t careful.
I’d heard the whispers, the ones from people who thought his mind was broken because of his OCD. Just as I’d heard the whispers about how they knew he was going to hurt me one day with his violent temper. I wanted to laugh in their faces. Neither of those things were true. He wasn’t broken, far from it. Although he doubted himself, I knew that Zander was the least broken person in the world. As for hurting me, I knew that he would never do that. Zander would have killed for me, but he would never touch me with anything that resembled violence.
Jacob was a different story, however. After what had happened that first night, after seeing the bruises from where my stepfather had woken me by dragging me out of my bed and beating me, I’d had to beg Zander not to do anything to him. We’d stayed in his room together that entire weekend before I trusted him not to rip Jacob apart. But I knew that he must have said something to my stepfather, because Jacob kept a wide berth when he was around Zander these days.
I pushed myself up onto my elbow so I could look down at Zander better. Sometime over the last few months my feelings for him had changed dramatically. When I looked at him I didn’t see the boy I’d grown up loving as much as my own brother; I now saw the man who was sexy as sin and held my heart in an entirely different way.
If you took one look at Zander you would forgive me for wanting him so desperately. His eyes were more often hazel than not, and were always full of amusement. There were already smile lines around those eyes I adored so much because he laughed every day. His face wasn’t beautiful, like Liam Bryant’s was, but that was a good thing. He had a strong jaw, a wide mouth with a full bottom lip that I’d been daydreaming of tasting more and more lately. His dark hair was cut short, but when it grew out even a little bit it started to curl. Right then his jaw was dark with stubble and I couldn’t help wondering how he would look with a beard. His bare chest was already starting to get covered in ink, as well as his left arm and both hands.
I’d fallen in love with Zander Brockman at some point over the summer.
It was a dangerous, stupid thing to do. What was it about a bad boy that made girls flock to them? I wasn’t sure if it was because of his reputation of being dangerous or if it was because he and my brother had started a band with their friends two years ago. Either way, he had girls chasing after him like savage dogs in heat. He probably didn’t even consider me as anything more than a sister.
Sighing, I glanced at the clock beside his bed and realized I was going to be late for school if I didn’t hurry. I climbed out of bed, grabbed my backpack, and quietly crossed to his connecting bathroom. I didn’t shower because I knew that would draw attention from his grandparents.
Opening my backpack, I pulled out the fresh clothes and my toothbrush. Using Zander’s toothpaste, I brushed my teeth before washing my face and changing into the cutoff jean shorts and T-shirt. My boobs weren’t much to get excited about so I didn’t need a bra. I finger-combed my hair into a ponytail and then pulled my flip-flops out of the backpack. I’d have to start packing tennis shoes soon because the weather would be getting colder before long.
Dressed, I cleaned up my mess and zipped up the backpack before going back into the bedroom. Zander was still asleep, but he didn’t have to be at work for another hour or so. I bit my lip. In the past I hadn’t really thought about if I liked school or not. Now that I was in my junior year, without my brother and his friends, I was starting to realize that I really hated it.
Noah and his friends had made high school so much easier. I’d had someone to sit with every day at lunch and no one had dared to mess with me. Noah, Zander, Devlin Cutter, and Liam Bryant had been there to protect me. Without them there to run interference, I was starting to realize that most girls were catty and all-out bitches, while guys were either sick, twisted assholes or creeps who tried to get me to notice them.