Title: JUST A LITTLE STING
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 100,000
When Cleo Compton wakes up to a hangover and an eviction notice, she realizes her thirtieth birthday isn't going to be the auspicious launch into maturity for which she'd hoped. Since the absolute last thing she wants to do is move in with the folks, she accepts the first offer of help she receives, even though it's from Julian Wheaton, a guitarist sporting even more red flags than he has tattoos - and he has a lot of tattoos.
With severe synesthesia, Julian doesn't see the world through rose colored glasses. He views it through kaleidoscope lenses. Seeing every sound he hears as multitudes of colors made growing up in London as a prodigy violinist pure hell. It made life as an iconic rock guitarist in Los Angeles a trip beyond hell and straight to rehab when he discovered a single hit of heroin was all it took to make the colors go away. Retired from the chaotic limelight, the last thing he wants is to hook up with a thirty-year-old laid-off college professor who never quite got her groupie career off the ground. But when Cleo ends up working for him, Julian finds that old Mick was right - you can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need. And Julian needs Cleo. For one thing, her tantalizing tangerine scent makes the colors go away. For another, he's in love. Willing to do anything to keep her, he hits the road with a band again. Because without fame, he thinks he's just a freak.
Cleo is left to wonder if the man she's fallen in love with will turn into the one thing she can no longer abide: a rock star.
Julian could tell that Addie was nervous. He hoped it wasn't because of him. "Sis, I'm not going to shag any of your friends, so don't worry," he said as they walked along the sidewalk.
It was dusk, a hot and humid San Antonio summer evening, and Julian's long-sleeved white shirt was already soaked through. He undid his cuffs and rolled them above his wrists, exposing the beginning of the dark tattoos that snaked up the length of his forearms. He should have worn a t-shirt, especially with Addie's insistence on walking in this heat.
Glancing up, he spotted the first star of the evening. Looking across the street, he spotted the first dealer. And the dealer had spotted him. The twitchy kid raised his eyebrows. Interested?
Julian looked down at his black Converse high-tops and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Addie marched along at his side, seemingly unaware of the young men and boys on the corners, slapping palms and hanging out. She didn't notice the cars that slowed down to let off a passenger only to cruise the block and pick them up further down the street. Julian, however, felt the electrical currents of all the activity around them sizzle along every nerve of his body. He reached in his pocket for the comfort of his guitar picks.
"I'm not worried about you jumping my friends, Juli," Addie said. "They're hardly your type, of course."
"Of course," he agreed, suppressing a small grin.