This is Gina Buchanan's debut contemporary new adult romance novel, The Road to L.A.
What do you do when the love of your life becomes a rock star?
Carly Cabrerra has always looked up to her childhood friend Jake Harmon. His magnetic charm and adventurous spirit - not to mention his to-die-for good looks - have caused her to fall in love with the "Golden Boy" of Clanton, Ohio. But when Jake hits the big time and achieves his rock star dream, her romantic hopes are shattered.
Jake Harmon has attained everything he's ever wanted. Fame has brought money, women, and droves of adoring fans. His star is shining more brightly than ever, and he is taking full advantage of it. The glitz and fame promise to satisfy his every need. Or do they?
Can Carly overcome the naive innocence that binds her? Can Jake release himself from childhood demons that render him blind to the truth? Will the burning flames of their attraction ever unite in fiery passion?
Excerpt from The Road to L.A.
Carly suddenly felt invisible and decided to go off on her own. No one noticed as she slipped past the social clusters that had formed all around her. Several of the nightclub patrons eyed her as she emerged from the VIP section, and they continued their prying stares as she strode along the crowded path around the dance floor, taking in the vivacious sights all around her. A cloud of light mist shrouded the dancers’ feet, and the strobe lights flashed sporadically to create a surrealistic illusion on the dance floor. She finally tired of strolling and sat at an empty table. Curiosity beckoned her to turn around to see where Jake was, and she immediately regretted doing so. He was still at the bar, and his hands were encircling the waist of one of the three women. Carly noticed how intimately close he was to her as he whispered into her ear. She giggled vivaciously in response to whatever those words had been. A bothered sigh escaped her downturned lips.
“A pretty girl like you shouldn’t be sitting here all alone, pouting. It looks like you could really use a drink right now.”
Carly turned to the source of the unfamiliar voice and came face to face with a curly-haired, young man. His tanned skin contrasted nicely with his black hair, and his smile was absolutely hypnotizing. She took note of his ultra-trendy clothes which looked as if they belonged on a rack in some store on Rodeo Drive. He had on a large gold ring on his right finger and a gold Rolex on his left wrist. She couldn't help but admire how well he was put together. He placed two drinks filled with a caramel-colored liquid on the table and asked, "You mind if I sit down?”
Carly shook her head. She welcomed this distraction.
“I just can’t figure out how such a beautiful girl like you could be at one of L.A.’s trendiest clubs with no man by her side. I guess that means I’m just a lucky guy,” he said, still gracing her with that beguiling smile. Carly couldn’t help but to smile back at him. His attention and flattery was definitely welcomed, and he did it with such envied charm. She could have sworn she’d melt like butter in the presence of his arresting gaze.
“Are you here with anyone?” he asked her, an expectant look in his dark eyes. Carly looked at him bashfully and shook her head. Words suddenly seemed to fail her. This man was definitely good-looking and exceptionally charming. He held out his hand to her and she took it. His handshake seemed more of a gentle caress.
“I’m Nick,” he introduced himself. “What can I call you, besides beautiful.”
Carly was beaming, and she giggled nervously at his flattery. She relished the attention she was receiving from him.
In a timid voice, she revealed to him her name.
“Well,” Nick began, “it’s a pleasure to meet you, Carly. You come here often?”
He discreetly slid the drink to her and she picked it up hesitantly. She eyed the brown liquid and then took a small sip. The alcohol seemed to sting the inside of her mouth, and she could feel it sliding down her throat. “This is actually my first time here. I’m not from around here.”
Nick straightened up in his seat and asked earnestly, “Really? Where are you from?”
“Where in Ohio? Cleveland?” he pried.
Carly shook her head and answered, “Clanton. It’s a small town about an hour away from Columbus. Nothing special.”
“Ah,” Nick said, grinning, “a small town girl, eh?”
She nodded. He scooted his chair closer to hers as if desirous of intimately studying this new topic of sincere interest. He leaned in close to her until his breath warmed her cheek. “I find small-town girls very sexy.”
She bit her lip to keep from giggling again. He grabbed his drink and took a long sip before placing it back down on the table to continue his query.
“So, how do you like L.A., small-town girl?”
Carly shrugged and answered, “It’s cool. It’s definitely not Clanton.”
“Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?” he asked playfully.
“At this point, I really don’t know,” she sighed wistfully, reminiscing about all of the disappointments she had experienced ever since coming to L.A.
“Well, then let me cheer you up, small-town girl.” Nick slid both drinks away and said with a sparkle in his eyes, “Let’s dance.”
Her eyes lit up, and she eagerly accepted his offer. She loved to dance and the music had suddenly become inviting, beckoning her to join the other dancers on the floor. Nick clasped her hand in his and led her through the crowds until they had found an empty spot for just the two of them. She felt absolutely giddy. For the moment, all thoughts of Jake slipped her mind. Nick’s eyes were pinned on her as she moved to the music. She felt a strong feminine power over him as she swayed her hips seductively to the rhythm of the music. Nick placed both of his hands on her waist and slowly pulled her closer to him. His eyes faithfully followed her body’s every move, from a slight sway to the right, to an alluring sway to the left. She could have sworn he remained oblivious to everything else around them as she held his full attention. She knew that nothing could have deflected his focus away from her as the primal energy between them burgeoned. She decided she wanted to exploit and manipulate his raw hunger, so she intensified her gyrations, making them evermore seductive. She knew the sexual energy fostered by her suggestive movements was dangerous, but she didn’t care. It felt liberating and exhilarating to know that her seduction was driving Nick into a lustful frenzy. Nick’s sexual desire was all-too apparent as his eyes smoldered and his pants bulged. Carly was lost in another world completely, unaware and completely oblivious to Jake's hurtful actions. He was still in the midst of conversation with the lovely brunette. The other two women had moved on when they realized Jake was uninterested in them. He was entranced by the breathtaking beauty of this brunette who professed to be a model. Jake wouldn't have thought otherwise, for she was quite tall and definitely had the measurements to qualify. His eyes roved her body, and he watched as she swayed her hips to the music. She placed her arms around Jake's neck and brought herself closer to him.
"You wanna touch me, I can see it in your eyes," she whispered seductively.
Taking his hands, she placed them on her buttocks, and he responded with a strong squeeze.
"Hey, Jake," Danny called.
Jake failed to acknowledge Danny until he called Jake's name a second time.
"What?" Jake responded with an overly annoyed tone.
"Bro, Carly is out there dancing with some dude. She sure looks sexy, dancing like that with him. Damn, makes me wish I would've taken her out there."
He abruptly turned to the dance floor and spotted Carly almost immediately. The young man had her positioned so intimately against his body that their grinding movements appeared overtly sexual. He glared at the young man and noticed the pleased expression on his face. This did not sit well with Jake. His displeasure soon turned into seething jealousy, especially when he caught sight of the man reaching down to plant a soft kiss on Carly's cheek. Before long, Jake had abandoned the brunette model and bolted to the dance floor. He aggressively pushed his way through the crowds, not caring if he knocked anyone over in his overzealous attempt to reach Carly. She dipped down to the floor, and before she could stand back up to face her dance partner, she heard Nick grunt. Jake had pushed him so hard he had slammed into another couple on the dance floor.
“What the hell’s your problem, man?” Nick bellowed. He bravely stepped up to his attacker, even though Jake was noticeably taller and more muscular.
“Keep your fucking hands off her!” Jake threatened, causing several onlookers to back away from both men.
Nick put his hands up as if provoking Jake to initiate a physical fight. When Jake did not oblige him, Nick decided to verbally lash out at the rock star.
“Just because you don’t have your hands on this fine piece of ass…”
Before Nick could finish, Carly shrieked as Jake threw a hard punch at the young man’s face. Nick fell to the floor and then cupped his nose. Blood trickled between the young man's fingers and streamed down his hands, ultimately dropping in perfect circles on the floor.
“You fucking broke my nose!” Nick exclaimed with utter disbelief.
Carly watched in horror as Nick scrambled to his feet and hurried away, still cupping his nose. Jake grabbed her arm and pulled her along as he headed for the club’s rear exit. She first protested by attempting to free herself from his iron grip, but she soon realized her exertion was futile and gave up. Once outside, Jake slammed the heavy metal door behind them. He continued to pull her along as he approached the car, ordering the driver to take them home. He refused to wait around and deal with police if the guy decided to press charges. The driver extinguished his cigarette and opened the door for them. Carly took the seat opposite his and glared at him with narrowed eyes. His eyes, in turn, swirled like raging blue storm clouds.
“Why were you letting that guy feel all over you?” He finally asked, his deep voice filled with festering ire.
Carly ignored him, still fuming. He noted the silent determination on her face and decided it best to wait a while before attempting to converse with her again. The ensuing ride home was filled with tense silence, and Carly was thankful when the car finally pulled into the driveway and halted in front of the mansion. She couldn’t wait to slip into her bedroom to get away from him. She didn’t know if she could so easily forgive him tonight for his barbaric behavior. The door opened, and she quickly climbed out. She waited for Jake to unlock the front door and, as soon as he had, bolted past him. Before he could utter a single word to halt her retreat, she was well on her way to her bedroom. She closed the door behind her and then sank to the floor as an overwhelming urge to weep consumed her. She hated being angry with him, but she was still reeling over the violent actions he had displayed. She also thought it absolutely unfair that she had dealt with his shameless behavior with all those beautiful girls, yet when she was lavished with attention from a single man, he took on such brutish behavior. She forced herself off the floor and decided a warm shower might ease her emotions. She undressed and wrapped a towel around herself, then flipped her hair into a tight bun. Before she could turn on the shower, movement from behind caught her off guard. She emitted a startled cry and threw a towel at Jake's face.
“Get out!” she shouted.
He grabbed the towel with his hands before it was able to strike him in the face and said earnestly, "I wanna talk."
His stern expression turned soft when he took in her partially bare form.
“Are you crazy?” Carly snapped. “This is not exactly a good time for a heart-to-heart conversation.”
Carly's grip on the towel tightened to ensure it would stay in place.
“Besides, I’m still too upset to talk to you.”
Jake threw his arms up in exasperation at her stubborn attitude.
“I don’t see why you’re so upset. I was trying to protect you. That guy was all over you, and you were allowing it. You don’t know how these L.A. guys operate. They flatter you and make you feel special, then they take advantage of you.”
Carly let out a curt laugh before replying, “I can take care of myself. Besides, you weren’t exactly paying attention to me, considering your hands were plastered all over those sluts.”
Jake’s irked expression mutated into one of sheer delight, and he chuckled.
“What’s so funny?” she demanded in a fierce tone.
“I think,” he started, stepping closer to her, “that you…”
Carly held on to the towel for dear life as he approached. Their bodies were soon close enough to each other that she could feel the rough material of his jeans rubbing against the skin of her bare legs. “I think you were jealous,” he finished.
Carly groaned and turned her face to the side. But his hand came up to her chin, and he forced her to look straight at him.
“Admit it,” he demanded in a deep, husky voice.
“No,” she whispered stubbornly.
She stepped back while Jake moved forward, and she suddenly found herself backed against the wall. She silently cursed the unrelenting obstacle behind her for thwarting her retreat. Jake placed both his hands against the wall on either side of her so she wouldn’t be able to escape, and he then pressed his body firmly against hers. He bowed his head down to her ear and said gruffly, “I’ll just have to force it out of you.”