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The backstage area is a flurry of activity as the crew begins breaking down the set. I linger in the wings, not quite ready to leave the magic of the stage behind.

Maverick stays close, ever vigilant. I find comfort in his solid presence at my back. We stand in easy silence as the noise dies down around us.

Finally, I turn to him, curiosity getting the better of me. "Do you enjoy this? The concerts, I mean."

He considers the question. "It has its...perks." His eyes flick to me, then away.

I flush under his gaze, my skin tingling. The air between us seems charged with possibility. I sway closer, drawn by his magnetism.

Maverick tenses, as if fighting some internal battle. His hand comes up and then brushes ever so lightly against my cheek. I fight the urge to nuzzle into his hand like a contented kitten.

But then his hand drops from my skin, and my eyes snap open.

His touch lingers on my cheek, sending little sparks dancing across my skin.

Our eyes lock, and in his stern gaze I glimpse a flicker of tenderness. It vanishes as quickly as it appeared, but the damage is done. My heart flutters wildly in my chest like a caged bird.

Maverick steps back, a faint tinge of color on his cheeks. "My apologies, Ms. Carter. That was unprofessional of me."

His gruff tone does little to mask the emotion in his eyes. I know I should look away, but I'm transfixed. "It's okay," I whisper.

An awkward silence falls between us. I'm painfully aware of Maverick's imposing presence, his muscular frame radiating an aura of quiet strength. He could crush me without a second thought, yet I've never felt safer than when I'm with him.

Maverick clears his throat, glancing away. "We should go."

I nod mutely, smoothing my dress with trembling hands. As we walk side by side from the stage, the ghost of his touch still burns on my skin. I can't shake the sense that everything has changed between us. The attraction simmering beneath the surface is now undeniable. Maverick's steely composure seems to be slipping, and I'm terrified to discover what lies underneath.



I shadowWillow's every step, my eyes tracing the curve of her hips as she sways down the hall. This job will be the death of me.

She breezes into the studio, blonde curls bouncing. My eyes track her every movement, cataloging potential threats. None so far, but I won't relax my vigilance for a moment.

"Maverick, you're hovering," Willow says over her shoulder.

"It's my job to hover," I reply.

She turns and gifts me with a dazzling smile that makes my heart skip.Focus, I remind myself. I'm here to protect her, nothing more.

In the studio, Willow chats with the sound engineer as they get set up for today's recording session. I stand against the wall, arms folded, observing.

"Could you grab me a water?" Willow asks.

I comply, handing her the bottle. Our fingers brush and a spark shoots up my arm. Willow doesn't seem to notice.

"Thanks, Maverick. You're the best."

I give a curt nod, ignoring the way my pulse quickens at her praise.

The session begins, and I watch Willow transform as the music takes over. Here, wrapped in the blanket of a melody, she loses her naive innocence. Her voice pours out smoky and sultry, imbued with a passion that grips me in its clutches.

This is the Willow I crave but cannot have. The one who ignites an all-consuming desire I constantly quell. For her safety, I must maintain distance.

But oh, how I yearn to cross that line.

When the last note fades, Willow beams at me. "What did you think?"

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