Series: The Keswick Chronicles Book 1
Author: Victoria Kinnaird
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JJ Keswick was even more gorgeous up close, in a completely unfair kind of way. Everything about him was exactly like the fairy tales, teen rom-coms and auto-tuned pop songs promised it would be, right down to the halo of light from the window on the stairs that made his fashionably messy blond hair glitter like freshly polished gold.
“Hi,” he said, his cupid’s bow mouth tilting into an annoyingly alluring crooked smile.
“Are you lost?” Jessica asked him, her dinner plate eyes betraying the careful coolness of her tone.
“Maybe,” he replied, his smile flickering into a full-blown wicked grin as he pushed his sunglasses up into his hair.
His eyes gave him away, as they do with most people. Up close, I could see that they were a couple of shades darker than I had expected. They were not summer sky blue. Instead, they were like the last gasp of a winter afternoon, inky, conflicted and streaked with darkness. The bags under his eyes looked like bruises, and he seemed paler, smaller somehow as he stepped into the room.
“Can we help you?” I asked him, forcing my politest smile onto my face.
“I’m here to audition,” he said, shoving his hands into the pockets of his never-gonna-have-kids skinny jeans.
“You?” Ash laughed, shaking her head. “But you’re JJ Keswick!”
“At least ninety percent of the time,” he replied, his shrug indicating that her surprise was not unexpected.
“No offence, JJ, but this isn’t a joke,” Jessica began as she put her bass down. “We’re a real band, we’re good and we’re looking for someone who will take this seriously.”
“How do you know I won’t take this seriously?” he asked her, something like fire stirring in his steady gaze.
“Because you never take anything seriously,” I pointed out, unease battling with curiosity right in the pit of my stomach.
“Well, looking this good doesn’t happen by accident,” he said, turning to me with a small, knowing smile on his face.
He did look perfect for the part he seemed so intent on playing. Those jeans could have been stolen from the wardrobe of a dozen different rock stars, the kind of musicians that caused extreme adoration in all who saw them. They hung low, exposing a strip of skin across his stomach and hinting at what looked like a tattoo across his hipbone. The spindly, delicate lines dipped below his waistband in an inescapably tantalizing way. The tee shirt he was wearing was surprisingly simple, a white v-neck with the sleeves rolled up to display his lightly muscled, tanned arms.
I could feel his eyes on me, watching me watching him. Something about his presence made my stomach twist, as if the radiance of his appearance did nothing but illuminate everything that was just average about me.
Jessica crossed the room, pinching me as she did. I glanced down at her, the curiosity in her expression matching my own. We had nothing to lose by letting him embarrass himself, I supposed.
“Fine,” I sighed, shrugging out of my guitar. “Give it your best shot.”
I could feel Dylan and Ash’s disbelieving stares as I sat back down, but they didn’t argue. They made their way back to the table, throwing glances over their shoulders at JJ. He nodded once before pulling his phone from his pocket. He turned to the docking station, his shirt riding up as he leaned over. Ash elbowed me, winking and blowing kisses behind his back. I rolled my eyes at her, folded my arms and focused my gaze on a spot on the wall behind JJ’s head.
The beat of his chosen song filled the room as he turned back to face us with a silver hip flask in his hand that he had seemingly produced out of thin air. He kept his eyes on me as he took a quick sip before tucking the flask into his back pocket.
I vaguely recognized the song—a radio friendly pop song with lyrics that were much darker than the slickly produced track suggested. As it turns out, JJ Keswick was just full of surprises.
He didn’t just sing the song, he owned it, the whisky tainted rasp of his voice rising and falling perfectly in line with the backing track. He didn’t miss a beat, didn’t falter, his gold tipped eyelashes fluttering against his flushed cheeks as if he had spent years seducing people with his voice alone.
I could tell that I wasn’t the only one that had been caught off guard by him. Jessica had gone completely still, her eyes impossibly wide and fixed on JJ. Ash had slumped a little in her chair, gaze half lidded and glossed lips parted ever so slightly, utterly disarmed. Even Dylan was making something that could have been an expression, the corners of his mouth at least two millimeters higher than usual.
The spell was broken as soon as the track faded out. JJ grinned at us, his confidence blinding. He knew he was good, just like he knew he was gorgeous, his talent mirrored in our stunned expressions like the flawless reflection he no doubt spent hours preening over.
“Well, that was . . .” Jessica began, looking at me as if hoping I was still coherent enough to string together an adequate response.
I was overwhelmed by how good he had been. He was the best singer I’d heard in a long time. Listening to him had lulled me into a new daydream—Daydream Three, where the half-empty rooms of Daydream Two were replaced with arenas full to the brim with screaming fans, each of us bathed in the glow of a thousand camera flashes as JJ dazzled everyone with all the swagger and seduction that came naturally to the greatest frontmen.
“Thanks for coming in,” I said, slipping into customer service mode. “We’ll let you know.”
He clearly wasn’t prepared for that response, and the mask of confidence cracked at the edges of his faltering grin.
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