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Our eyes lock, a charged silence stretching between us. Maverick takes a step closer, his hand coming up to cup my cheek.

"Be careful, little songbird," he murmurs. "The world can be a dangerous place."

I swallow, feeling the heat of his hand against my skin. My heart races as I lean into his touch.

"I will," I whisper. "As long as you're here to protect me."

He looks at me for a long moment, and I feel like he's seeing straight through me. Then he nods, his expression unreadable.

"I'll be here," he promises, before turning and disappearing into the night.

I'm left standing there, heart racing, wondering what just happened.

Because I realize I'm not just safe with Maverick.

I'm dangerously attracted to him.



The roarof the crowd pulses through my veins as I stare at my reflection in the dressing room mirror. I smooth my hands over the sequined fabric of my dress, the crystals catching the light. This is it. My moment.

Lost in thought, I don't notice the huge wall of muscle until I collide with his solid frame.


I stumble, arms flailing, but his strong hands grasp my shoulders, steadying me. Our eyes meet for a heated instant before he steps back.

"Sorry," I breathe, cheeks flaming. His stern expression softens.

"Break a leg," he says simply, and I feel the weight of his gaze on me as I hurry past, heart racing. The stage calls, but part of me wishes I could stay here in the charged air between us. Ever since that first night I met him, my thoughts continually stray to him.

When I'm taking a shower...

When I'm alone in my bed at night...

And then I begin to ache between my's like nothing I've ever felt before. My cheeks flame just thinking about it.

Focus, Willow.

The lights dim, and the energy of the crowd washes over me as I step onto the dark stage. This is my element. I close my eyes and soak in the moment, letting the music flow through me.

"Hello, Cleveland!" I shout into the mic as the stage explodes in light. The audience roars.

My band kicks in with the opening chords of my first song, and I grip the mic, pouring my heart into the lyrics. The music takes me higher, transporting me away from everything else.

I'm breathless by the end of the first number, adrenaline and endorphins flooding my system. I scan the wings and find Maverick watching me, arms crossed over his broad chest. Our eyes connect for a heated instant before I'm pulled back into the show.

Later, I prowl the edge of the stage, mic in hand. The crowd surges forward, hands outstretched. I reach out too, brushing eager fingertips with my own.

A hand clamps down on my wrist, firm and unyielding. My heart lurches as I'm pulled back from the edge. Maverick's stormy eyes bore into mine, his jaw tight.

"Careful," he warns under his breath.

I swallow and nod. His hand lingers a moment too long before dropping away. I turn back to the audience, hiding my flushed cheeks.

The show ends on a high note, the applause thundering in my ears. I exit the stage, exhilarated. He waits in the wings, watching me with that intense gaze.

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