No matter how much he wants her, he knows he can’t have her
Just For You
A Cerasino Family Novella #5
by Abbie Zanders
Genre: Sweet, Small Town Contemporary Romance
With my shiny new master’s degree in hand, I’m ready to break free and take the world by storm. No one understands my desire to flee the comfort and safety of my modest town and large Italian family except him. Viper. The lead guitarist for my favorite band and my number one crush since he first smiled at me backstage years ago.
He’s tatted and pierced in all the right places with a creative soul and a dark energy I can’t get enough of. And now that I’ve gotten to know the man behind the performer, I’m more drawn to him than ever.
But it’s not meant to be. Our crossing of paths is just a temporary thing, and despite my best efforts, he’s determined to keep me solidly in the friend zone.
When my tour is unexpectedly cut short, I’m not as disappointed as I should be. I’m beyond weary, and worse, I don’t hear the music in my head like I used to. What I need is time away from the craziness. Time to stop being Viper, lead guitarist for Bad Influence, and go back to being Grayson Mitchell. I’m not even sure who that guy is anymore, but if anyone can help me remember him, it’s my twin brother.
When I head to Grant’s for much-needed rest, relaxation, and long overdue bro time, I didn’t expect to find him smitten with a beautiful young doc. Nor did I expect to find myself equally drawn to said gorgeous doc’s younger sister. Gina is … amazing. She’s vibrant and beautiful and so unjaded it makes my dark heart ache. When I’m with her, I hear the music again.
She’s into me, I can see it in her eyes. But no matter how much I want her, I can’t. I won’t. I … shouldn’t.
Just For You is the 5th book in the Cerasino Family Novella series, a short, sweet, mildly suspenseful love story featuring an ebullient heroine ready to take on the world and a jaded hero who already did and has the scars to prove it. No graphic sex or violence. Minimal adult language.
Grant Mitchell’s twin brother is freaking Viper.
That was the thought that kept popping into my mind every time I looked at him over the course of the afternoon.
I’d never been starstruck before. Well, not since my first time backstage when I was thirteen. My uncle Vito was a concert tour promoter, which meant my siblings and I had gotten to get up close and personal with a lot of bands over the years. There were few household names I hadn’t met at one time or another.
None of them had ever affected me as much as Gray Mitchell.
Yes, I’d met him before. And, yes, I’d had the same reaction then too. Total deer in headlights. The difference this time was, I wasn’t a pubescent teenager anymore. I was a fully grown, adult woman. And Gray? He was even sexier now than he had been then. More chiseled man. Less droolworthy F-boy.
He didn’t remember me—that was obvious. And why would he? I was one of thousands—probably hundreds of thousands—of girls who’d stared at him adoringly and fantasized about him while letting his unique, deep, purring voice soak into my soul. There was a reason the band Bad Influence was as popular as it was, and I was looking at him. Lyricist. Lead guitarist. Voice of sin and salvation.
He looked different from the last time I’d seen him. His body had filled out. His features were sharper and more defined. Back then, he’d had gloss in his streaked hair and guyliner accentuating his gorgeous hazel eyes. He’d been shirtless, his lean, ripped torso covered in tattoos and slicked with sweat.
My eyes dropped to his chest, where I knew that, beneath that perfectly respectable button-down, both nipples were pierced.
Is he wearing hoops or bars today? I wondered before setting that thought aside to ponder later in private.
Instead of skintight leather pants that left nothing to the imagination, he had on faded, well-washed blue jeans, like a normal, regular guy.
There was absolutely nothing regular about Gray Mitchell. He oozed charisma and sex appeal, no matter what he was wearing.
My female cousins Valentina, Corina, Lucia, and Ramona were falling all over themselves, and he was treating them like they were the most fascinating creatures on earth. I wasn’t jealous. Not at all. It was an act, an integral part of the consummate performer he was. I would just have to remember that if he ever turned his attention my way.
I tried not to gawk and focused on other things. I chatted with my brothers’ other halves briefly. They asked how my schoolwork was going, and I, in turn, inquired about their lives.
Eventually, Gray and my brother Dom started talking music, comparing live bands, and that was when I got pulled into the conversation. Dom and I were the diehard rock fans of the famiglia and had attended a lot of concerts over the years. Now that we were older, the torch had been passed to us as chaperones for the younger generation—something we had both heartily embraced because it gave us a good excuse to keep going.
I had no problems entering the discussion. I spoke like I knew what I was talking about, because I did. I didn’t say Bad Influence was my favorite live band of all time even though it was. That would sound too much like I was sucking up. I didn’t even rank them in my top three when I was ticking them off on my fingers. Dom, who knew my music preferences as well as he knew his own, didn’t call me out. His smirk told me he knew exactly what I was doing. If Viper—uh, Gray—took offense to the blatant omission, he hid it well.
Grant took Sofia back to her place at some point, which was disappointing. Sofia was recovering from surgery after a car accident, and I’d been planning to use her as an excuse to not only scoot out of there early, but to also justify my absence for the rest of the day.
I had a ton of work to do on my final presentation, and I was behind. I was about to graduate with a master’s in graphic design and illustrative arts. My thesis and my final project would be the pièces de resistance to my portfolio. If I nailed it, I would be that much closer to getting a coveted position at Kensington Graphic Creative with the Andrea Collins. If I got that, I could write my own ticket.
“I need to go too,” I said shortly after Grant and Sofia left.
Since Sofia’s apartment was off-limits for a couple of hours, I’d have to go to either the library or the graphics lab, where I had a small office. I tried to avoid those places when possible, especially during times when security was at a minimum and there weren’t a lot of other people around, like late nights and weekends.
“It’s Sunday,” my mother said, shooting me a disapproving look.
Sundays were for family time, but I’d had about as much of my cousins’ fawning as I could handle. Plus, having my loud, boisterous famiglia around was not conducive to getting my project done.
I stood to go, then kissed both my parents and my grandparents, resigned to do what I must. I’d be okay as long as I didn’t get too wrapped up in my work and I stayed aware of my surroundings. Plus, I kept my pepper spray close by. “I’ll be at the studio late tonight. Don’t wait up.”
To my surprise, Gray also pushed back his chair and stood. “I should be going too. Do you mind if I catch a ride?”
I blinked at him. “A ride?”
He gave me a hopeful, almost-shy smile. “I came with Grant.”
I tamped down the thrill that zinged through me. This wasn’t about me as much as it was a silent plea to help him escape. Honestly, I didn’t blame him. My cousins were relentless. However, the thought of sharing such a confined space with Gray sent a wave of something through me. Anticipation? Anxiety?
What I said was, “Uh, sure.”
His smile did funny things to my insides. “Great.”
I didn’t have to look to know that my cousins were shooting poison-tipped daggers of envy in my direction or that my brothers were setting down their napkins and pushing back their chairs.
“I can take him,” my brother Dom said with that protective big-brother look in his eye. The same one Nick, Vinnie, Paulie, and my father currently sported. The only male who seemed unconcerned was Nonno.
“You sit,” Nonno told Dom, waving his hand. “He-a go with Gina.”
Everyone turned to Nonno. His eyes were glittering, and he was looking directly at me. I heard several sharp intakes of breath and murmured curses in Italian. My nonno was a notorious matchmaker, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d think Nonno had just matched Gray and me.
Copyright © 2023 Abbie Zanders.
Written by Abbie Zanders.
All rights reserved.
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Abbie Zanders is a USA Today Bestselling Author with more than 65 published romance novels to date. Her stories range from contemporary to paranormal and everything in between. She promises her readers two things: happily ever afters, always, and no cliffhangers, ever.
Born and raised in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, where she sets most of her stories, she’s known for small town romance featuring golden-hearted alpha heroes and strong, relatable heroines. Besides being an avid reader and writer, she loves animals (especially big dogs), American muscle cars, and 80’s hair bands.