As a diehard music fan, a dirty, smoky gig is Vice Squad Detective Danny Jones’s idea of heaven. While watching one of the most popular bands in Northern England, the sight of gorgeous rock star Finn McGovern changes his life forever.
He absorbed the warm, funky bass line and let the tension from a long week ease out of him. Casework, street work, paperwork. Work, work, bloody work. Danny’s week had been hell, but a few songs into the Lamps’ set, none of it seemed to matter. Instead he found himself pondering Finn McGovern’s blond beard and scruffy leather jacket and the way his black jeans hugged his slim hips. Add in the sultry, gravelly voice, and yeah… Danny was a fucking goner.
Danny tore his gaze from the stage. His ex-housemate, Kev, loomed into view and dropped a hand on Danny’s shoulder.
“Danny, mate. Long time no see. How’s tricks? Any hot blokes around for you?”
Danny rolled his eyes as Kev swayed happily beside him. Danny had moved out of the house they shared a month ago, and Kev had banged on his door every week since. “What do you think?”
“Come on. There must be someone here you like.”
“Why does there have to be someone I like?”
Kev hiccupped. “Okay, how about someone you just want to bang, then? You need to get laid. Even Jackie says so, and you know how she feels about one-night stands.”
The last few words were half drowned out by the shouts of the crowd, but Danny got the picture. He was a loser, and even Kev’s nicer-than-nice girlfriend thought so.
Great. Danny gave Kev the finger. Kev didn’t understand. No one did. Danny had left London with pride and resolution, but over the years, they’d both faded away, and now he was thirty years old, miles from home, and halfway back in the closet.
Danny left Kev and shoved his way to the edge of the crowd. The Lamps gigs were known for getting rowdy, but as much as he liked a good mosh, his exchange with Kev had put a dampener on his mood. He drifted along the fringes, found a spot close to the side of the stage, and stood there awhile, enjoying the dynamic of the band. It was ages before he remembered his glass was empty, and by then Finn McGovern had shed his leather jacket.
Damn, those arms.
Danny pushed through the packed mass of bodies to the bar. He ordered another beer. By the time he turned back to the stage, the band had launched into a rocking song that had the crowd going wild. The growl of the guitars and the crazy beat of the drums pulsated through the crammed venue. Every soul in the building roared the lyrics to a song Danny didn’t know, and he knew he stood little chance of muscling his way back to his spot at the side of the stage.
He settled for slouching against the back wall, hoping some distance would break his obsession with the band’s rugged lead singer. But it didn’t seem to matter how far from the stage Danny stood. Each time he looked up, his pathetic subconscious imagined Finn McGovern was looking right at him, staring through the maddening crowds and singing every line just for him.
Yeah. I really need to get laid.
Eventually the gig played out. The crowd went crazy, and the band came back and played an encore. Their set had been a mixture of their own stuff and covers of well-known crowd pleasers: “Wonderwall,” “Song 2,” “Common People.” Danny expected more of the same for the band’s final song, so he was surprised when most of the band sloped off the stage and left Finn McGovern alone with his acoustic guitar for company.
“All right, folks. Let’s slow this down. Say good-bye the old fashioned way.”
The lights dimmed, low and intimate. Finn McGovern strummed a few chords. Danny recognized them immediately, and if he hadn’t been so bewitched by the singer’s deep northern accent, he would’ve melted to the floor. “Lucky Man.” The Verve. Is he trying to kill me?
A LITTLE while later, Danny found himself alone at the bar. Most of the crowd had dissipated and disappeared into the surrounding local pubs, Kev and his bird included, but Danny didn’t feel like going with the flow. He felt too mellow to brave the chaos of a Saturday night high street. Finn McGovern’s solo rendition of Danny’s favorite song had blown his mind, and he wanted to sit awhile and bask in its resonance. Who cared if he was the only soul at the deserted bar?
Not Danny. In some ways the lonely afterglow of an awesome gig was the best part. Danny usually enjoyed it at home, lying alone in his bed, staring at the ceiling with whatever band he’d seen still ringing in his ears. Not tonight, though. Tonight he couldn’t be arsed to find a taxi. Not yet. And he wasn’t drunk enough to sidle on home by himself either, so he ditched the pints and got himself a whiskey and Coke. No ice. Just lemon. It slid down in a flash, so he bought another and another. He was quite happily lashed off his face by the time a familiar voice broke through his drunken haze.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
Danny glanced up and then looked behind him.
Finn McGovern laughed. “Daft twat. Yeah, I mean you.”
“Um, sure.” Smooth. Idiot. Danny gave himself an internal shake. “I mean, yeah, thanks. Grouse and Coke.”
Like magic Danny’s drink appeared in front of him. Minus ice, with added lemon.
Finn McGovern put his own shot of something dangerous and clear on the bar and pulled up a stool. “You were at the gig tonight, right? At the back, by the wall?”
“How do you know that?”
“I had the best view. I’m Finn. Nice to meet you.”
Finn held out his hand. Danny took it, feeling a little like he’d dropped into the twilight zone. “Danny.”
“Danny.” Finn repeated the name like it pleased him, and his lazy smile widened. “I’ve never seen you in the crowd before. Is this the first gig you’ve been to?”
Danny wondered how Finn had read him so easily. “I’ve got your EP, but I’ve never seen you live before. My mate Kev dragged me along tonight.”
“Dragged, eh? Now there’s an endorsement.”
Danny met Finn’s smirk with a grin of his own. “I didn’t mean it like that. I wasn’t going to come out tonight. Didn’t feel like it.”
“So….” Finn shifted on his stool. He put his elbows on the bar and leaned forward. In the dim light of the deserted venue, Danny could see his eyes were a rich caramel brown flecked with gold. Laughter lines swept upward, and combined with the stubbly growth on his jaw, he looked a few years younger than Danny. “Who are you here with?”
Danny glanced around at the near-empty venue, then shot Finn a wry look. “No one, now. I came with Kev and his girl, but they left.”
“Shame. Did they enjoy the gig?”
“I think everyone enjoyed the gig.” Danny’s words were honest and heartfelt, and the grin that lit up Finn’s face did funny things to Danny’s bones. Made them warm and feel like jelly, which was an odd combination. “I didn’t know you played the Verve covers. If I’d known that, I’d have come to a show a lot sooner.”
Finn stretched his arms over his head. Danny could see that though he was buzzed from the gig, he was tired too. He had to be. Finn hadn’t strayed far from his microphone stand, but he’d put everything he had into every chord and note. “Urban Hymns is my desert island album. The guys think their stuff is a bit morbid for big venues like this, though.”
“Didn’t stop you at the end,” Danny mused, remembering the spine-tingling rendition of “Lucky Man.”
“Yeah, well. I love that song. And it always strikes a chord with me when I look out over a crowd and see them connecting with what we do. It sounds corny but it’s true. It’s about more than folks getting shitfaced and having a mosh.”
Danny smiled. Finn’s expression was so earnest that he would’ve been convinced no matter the depth of sincerity to his words. Then he took a moment to pinch himself. Finn’s voice was as entrancing now as it had been when he was singing to the masses. Was this really happening?
Maybe not. Maybe someone had slipped something into his drink and he was imagining the whole thing. But who cared? The scent of beer and sweat mixed with something that must’ve been uniquely Finn McGovern clouded his brain, and for the next hour or so, the rest of the world faded away.
It was two in the morning by the time Finn put his hand on Danny’s arm. “So you said you didn’t want to come out. How do you feel now? Glad you came?”
Danny stared at the inked hand on his arm. It was November and pissing with icy rain outside, but Finn’s palm felt scorching, like it was the first hand to ever touch Danny’s skin. He’s not flirting. He’s not flirting. Rock stars are straight… like coppers, right? Shit, I’m so fucked up. “I… uh, had a great night. Where’s the rest of your band?”
Finn let his hand drop, and the tension in the air faded a little. “Most of them are across the road. They like to go and get pissed with the fans after a gig.”
Finn shrugged. “I love talking about the gig, but I don’t like crowds. A busy pub on a Saturday night is my idea of hell.”
Danny raised an eyebrow, curious in spite of the party his nerves were having in his gut. “How does that work for you on stage?”
“That’s different.” Finn downed the last of his drink. “On stage I forget about everyone else, but after, when everyone wants a piece of me, it gets a bit much. I don’t know who to look at first, you know?”
Danny didn’t. Finn’s logic made sense, but in Danny’s line of work, shit like that didn’t matter. He just had to get on with it. “Won’t they wonder where you are?”
“Maybe.” Finn slid his stool a little closer. Close enough so his denim-clad thigh touched Danny’s. “But I’ll just tell them I went home with the hottest guy at the gig tonight.”