Keys to Love, Book 3 in the Conquest Series
For two years, Julian Forrester’s been playing keyboards and piano for Conquest. Having left behind a classical career, he’s reached a level of fame like he’s never dreamed. But fame and fortune can’t bring him the one thing he wants most; love.
Morgan Chandler spent years teaching students to love music until budget cuts forced him out of a job. With family debts rising, Morgan accepts a job as a roadie for Conquest. He thinks he’ll hate it with one exception – he’ll be close to Julian.
Can the two find the right music together that will lead them to the Keys to Love?
Julian brought Fur Elise to a soft conclusion. He exhaled a sigh, his mind, his body, more at peace. The song always did that for him, and for all the pieces he played, it was still one of his favorites. At least now he could stand up from the piano and not unintentionally point at everyone.
He moved to close the fallboard over the keys and halted his movements at the sight of two men approaching him. He recognized the stockier built of the two as Kurt, one of the tour managers, with his shortly cropped blond hair and slightly darker goatee. They had a few managers to handle different aspects of the massive tour, but Kurt was in charge of the staff. It was true the man was excellent at his job—the staff was always in place, setups were quick and efficient—but the man grated on his nerves. He knew it wasn’t intentional on Kurt’s part. If Kurt had any flaw it was he obsessed about doing an exceptional job for the band. The man beside Kurt, though, nearly made his jaw drop.
Dressed in dark khakis and a forest green button down shirt, the other man stood taller than Kurt by several inches, putting him well over six feet. The man’s height was complimented by a powerful build. Julian could make out hints of thick musculature beneath his shirt. His dark brown hair was brushed back in medium-length waves, a few strands falling to the sides of his face, and shone with deep auburn highlights.
Julian moved his gaze over the other’s face, his features masculine and painfully attractive in how his jaw was dusted with trimmed stubble. He couldn’t help but admire the man’s beautifully formed cheekbones, the fullness and perfect shape of his lips, his skin of a lightly bronzed hue that looked a natural shade rather than tanned. As Julian met his gaze, he tightened his jaw to make certain it wouldn’t drop at seeing the loveliest shade of earthy brown in the man’s eyes.
“Beautifully played, Mr. Forrester, beautifully played!” Kurt said. “But what else is to be expected from you?”
Julian summoned a smile. “You’re too kind, Kurt. I was simply dabbling.”
Kurt stopped beside the piano. “Well dabbling for you is what other people wish they could sound like.”
Julian strained to keep his smile. “Yes, well…” he left the sentence hanging, deciding not to accept the compliment because if he did, others were certain to follow and he’d already had enough of them. He turned his gaze to the other man and found it far easier to hold his smile. “And who is your friend?”
Morgan took a step closer and offered his hand to him. “Mor—”
“Morgan,” Kurt intervened. “His name is Morgan.”
Julian glanced at Kurt, then back to Morgan, noticing the barely concealed annoyance on his face. He suppressed a chuckle. It seemed he wasn’t the only one forced to practice patience with Kurt. He placed his hand in Morgan’s larger one, the roughness of his skin and calluses on his palm telling him Morgan must work with his hands a lot. Morgan’s grip was strong, but not crushing, and just the touch was enough to make heat roll through his groin.
“It’s such a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Forrester,” Morgan said.
“Please call me Julian, most people do.” Julian’s gaze flicked to Kurt. When it returned to Morgan, he saw the slight curve of a smirk and he knew Morgan caught how it annoyed him the way Kurt always referred to him as mister. “And the pleasure is mine, Morgan…”
“Chandler,” Morgan quickly filled in.
Julian nodded once. “Morgan is such a lovely name. Classic and sophisticated, strong, yet soft.”
A bright smile shone over Morgan’s countenance. “Thank you. I’ve always liked the name Julian, too. It has such a fluid, musical sound.”
“Ah, well, I’ll admit I used to get teased quite a bit with it when I was young. Other boys would call me Julie Ann.”
Morgan’s expression turned sympathetic. “I can relate. The other kids used to tell me I had a girl’s name.”
Before Julian could reply, Kurt broke in. “Yeah, I never had any problems like that. So Mr. Forrester, Morgan is going to be in charge of your instruments.”
Julian looked to Morgan. “Great!”
“That’s right,” Kurt said. “So if anything is ever wrong with them, you know who to blame. And if anything like that does happen, you come to me and I’ll put him in line for you.”
Julian’s smile faded. He saw the flush on Morgan’s cheeks, showing he was both angered and embarrassed. Julian turned to Kurt. “Somehow I doubt that will happen.” He focused on Morgan, presenting another smile to him. “So I take it you have experience handling pianos and keyboards?”
Morgan nodded. “Yeah, my father—”
“His dad owns a music shop, or something, so he knows what he’s doing.” Kurt said.
Julian brought his gaze to Kurt. All semblance of patience vanished from him and his voice left him with a sharp edge. “Kurt, as much as I appreciate you having knowledge about our staff, at this moment, I would prefer to hear Morgan answer for himself.”
“Of course, of course,” Kurt said hastily. “You want to make sure he’s not all talk. I get it. You’d be able to see someone talking a big game about music better than anyone, Mr. Forrester.”
“That’s not my intent at all. I’m sure Morgan can back up any game he talks if you would give him a moment to speak at all. And with that said, I would appreciate no further interruptions.” Julian returned his attention to Morgan. “So your father owns a music store?”
“He did, but it’s mine now. He passed away last year.”
Julian’s expression filled with sympathy. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Morgan shook his head. “It’s alright. He passed away in the shop he loved, surrounded by instruments. It’s how he would’ve wanted to go, and it’s how I grew up. I was tuning pianos when I was still too small to even lift the lid on a grand.”
“That’s sweet. Then you play?”
“I pretend to.” Morgan held up his hands. “I took lessons for years, but these clunky fingers of mine just don’t have the agility. There’s no instrument I love more, though.”
Kurt interceded again. “Which is why he’ll be perfect for handling your instruments, Mr. Forrester. That’s what I was thinking the whole time I’ve talked with him.”
Julian slowly brought his gaze to Kurt in a glare.
Kurt lifted both hands high as if Julian had a gun pointed at him. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt, and I hate to break this up, but I really do need to finish showing Morgan around and introduce him to a few more people.”
“Fine.” Julian aimed a kinder gaze at Morgan. “I’m sure we’ll have plenty of opportunities to chat later. We’ll only be traveling to the same places and working together day after day for the next several months, after all.”
Morgan extended his hand to him again. “Absolutely. I look forward to it.”
As Julian took Morgan’s hand, he noticed his grip was gentler than before. His heart pounded a little quicker, his cock stirred. Morgan released his hand and turned to leave. Julian watched him depart, his gaze on Morgan’s ass. He closed the fallboard over the keys and rested his elbows on it while rubbing his eyes.
He couldn’t craft a man to fit his type any more perfectly than Morgan was naturally; tall, rugged, athletic. Sadly, he hadn’t picked up the slightest bit of flirtatiousness from him. Kindness, yes. Professionalism, certainly. Julian sighed. Now how was he going to be able to focus on music when day in and day out he would have to look at that godlike ass? There was only one answer. Sex. Lots of it. With any hot boy groupie who verified he was at least eighteen.
Julian pushed away from the piano and stood, no longer caring if anyone noticed his hard-on. He was more than ready to head home and share his evening with a few glasses of wine.
Copyright 2010 by S.J. Frost and MLR Press