Burn This! will be releasing on March 7th on ALL VENDORS!
(Yes, that's Monday!!!)
A bad boy rock star with a debt to pay.
A no-nonsense nurse with her eye on the prize.
A touch of full moon magic.
Put them together and the result is so hot it might just set your eReader on fire!
A brand new series of standalones from USA Today bestselling author Tasha Black.
Johnny's 300th moon is here.
Will he deny the fire inside him long enough to lose it? Or will he give in to his passions and give up his only chance at control?
Here's your EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEK at Chapter One!!!!
Johnny Lazarus looked out at the crowd.
He was a handsome guy, he looked at home on the farm with his shirt off, at home on the tour bus, at home in a fancy restaurant with his long dark hair brushing the shoulders of his tux.
But it was on the stage, with the savage beat reverberating through his body, making his feet feel like they had roots down to the center of the earth, that he felt in his element.
His band, Somnambulance, was on top of the world, and everyone wanted a piece of Johnny Lazarus. They had always traveled a lot, but this summer’s Outlaws of Rock festival was the longest tour they’d done in ages. It was starting to feel like one long concert, and the drives, hotel rooms and groupies in between were just breaks between the sets.
Even here in LA, the biggest venue of the whole tour, with thousands of screaming fans, he walked right onstage feeling at home, and unconcerned. He would snap his fingers and the crowd would fall at his feet, no worries. The crew was lean. They had been at this for months and the whole thing ran like clockwork.
Johnny closed his eyes and breathed in the experience. The huge field laid out before him swam with every scent the human body was capable of producing: sweat and tears, tobacco and booze, arousal and even a hint of fear here and there.
And the sounds: the shudder and thump of tens of thousands of hearts beating, feet shuffling, howls and sighs and palms slapping, some in perfect time to the old school Metallica cover they were doing, some not.
Above it all stood the silky smooth feel of the guitar in his hands. Little Ruby, his darling, her strings singing under his fingers. No matter how gritty the concert, little Ruby was always smooth and clean and cool to the touch. She was impervious to the bacchanal. He should have named her Pallas Athena. Except she sang so sweetly when he stroked his fingers against her, it reminded him of something else entirely. So little Ruby was her name.
He sang into the mic as the crowd screamed along, and who the fuck could blame them? The band was killing it. The song was an old favorite, from back when Metallica was good. And as a bonus, the post-Fifty Shades chicks really got into the master-servant lyrics.
Johnny had vague memories of his mom listening to this type of music, before… Before the fire, and before everything changed. Before the night she snuck him out and drove all night to the suburbs of Philadelphia to leave him with Kate Harkness.
“It’s just for a little while, bud, until I can get a job out here and an apartment, okay?” she had assured him.
Even at age five, madly in love with her big brown eyes and the flowery smell of her shampoo, he had known that wasn’t true.
And, in fact, she had never come back.
To her credit, she also hadn’t come back after he got famous. He’d made a point of keeping the name she gave him. So she would know what she had missed.
The machine gun beat of the drums splattered out and the song ended.
The whole crowd screamed like crazy, like they never wanted him to stop.
Well, too bad. It was time for the finale.
Jazz, the young girl on crew who was in charge of little Ruby during the finale still looked nervous even tonight, the last show. She was probably the only one still feeling the heat, and he couldn’t say he blamed her.
It was Jazz’s job to grab the guitar out of the air when Johnny tossed her. Then she had to run backstage and protect her until the show was over and Johnny came to snatch little Ruby up fiercely from her arms.
Johnny had been known to get a little carried away during the final song. And little Ruby was an irreplaceable antique Les Paul.
Though Jazz seemed barely old enough to be allowed to go on a tour at all, there was a serious look on her soft brown face. Johnny knew instinctively that she would protect his instrument with her life, if necessary, and would never allow herself to get caught up in an some silly prank, egged on by one of the pop princesses or boy band geeks, where she would scare Johnny into thinking something had happened to little Ruby.
He tossed his beloved tenderly into Jazz’s slender hands and gave the kid a grin when she caught little Ruby as if the guitar had flown into her arms of its own volition. She grinned back and disappeared into the darkness offstage.
He strode slowly back to the mic, grabbing a bottle of water off one of the amps along the way.
The air hung hot and wet, like a damp sponge, even though the sun had set two hours ago. Ominous clouds had formed a dome over the field since morning. The kids selling umbrellas and disposable plastic ponchos had been making a killing all day. But it turned out to be an empty threat.
At least the cloud cover probably cut down on the cases of sun-stroke in the medical tent.
Johnny sucked down half the water bottle, then poured the other half slowly over his head.
Screams, mostly female, rang out as the t-shirt went transparent over his lean, muscular frame. He let himself smirk and they got even louder. He tossed the empty bottle out into the crowd and tried not to watch as a sea of people reached for it.
“You guys havin’ a good time tonight?” he asked mildly into the microphone, scanning the crowd.
They roared back at him.
“Me too. Me too. I was hoping we’d get to hang out with you a little longer, but we just got word from the park management that it’s time to shut things down,” he said sadly.
“Booooooooooo,” they screamed.
There was no word from anyone, of course. He was teasing them.
They knew it. And they loved it.
“They told me if we don’t get off the stage, they’re gonna pull the plug,” he told them with a confidential tilt of his head, like he was spreading a juicy rumor about a neighbor.
“Booooooooo,” they screamed back.
“You know what I got to say to that?” he asked, dropping the gossipy tone, and picking up his branded rebellious attitude.
The crowd began to cheer loudly.
“I said… You know what I got to say to that?” he asked, taunting them.
They cheered frantically, louder than before.
“Fuck that!” he screamed back.
The whole crowd went nuts.
Johnny literally couldn’t hear himself think.
“Fuck that!” he screamed again, instead of trying. He pumped his fist, unsure if any mic in the world would allow them to hear him over their own sounds.
But they heard him, they always did. They picked up his phrase and began to chant.
“Fuck that…Fuck that…Fuck that,” their collective voice bounced off the back of the stage and echoed back to him.
He smiled and stripped off his water and sweat-soaked shirt.
More high-pitched screams.
He let them take in his naked torso. He was glad he was built. Chicks went wild for the abs and the biceps. And the dudes seemed to get a kick out of his body too. Like somehow because they connected with his lyrics they felt like they were a part of him, like his body was theirs too, since it expressed their feelings.
And of course, some of them just wanted to fuck him.
He basked in it, glorying in sharing his beauty, though he knew from a certain point of view, it would be considered vanity.
His foster sister, Darcy, for one, would never let him live this sort of thing down.
But he was merely sharing with others what had been given to him freely - not earned. Shouldn’t he share it with the world, much as he shared his musical talent, which had also been bestowed upon him?
Of course there was that other gift.
Best not to think about it.
He threw his shirt into the crowd and their screams ratcheted up higher. People literally dove to catch it.
“I say we play one more. Let ‘em try to stop us!” he offered.
He held up his right hand, and a guitar flew at him from stage right.
A serviceable, but disposable, Fender Stratocaster.
He caught it expertly and strapped it on.
Man, they were smooth tonight. He could have caught it with his eyes closed.
“Anybody have any requests?” he asked innocently.
He didn’t really need to ask. There was only one song they hadn’t played.
One song that all these people paid their hard earned money, or their parents’ money at least, to hear.
In answer, the crowd lifted their heads up to the clouds and and howled, like wolves baying at the moon.
Adorable. They were all adorable from up here, their flaws hidden by the distance, their imperfections smoothed out by perspective. So small, crying out to be heard. They were all his babies.
Johnny drank them in for another moment.
Who knew when the next tour would be? He’d be back in the renovated attic soon, all by himself, trying to coax little Ruby to sing the songs in his imagination again. Then they’d all be back in the studio, in an antiseptic booth, nothing but his own voice playing back on a loop to tell him whether it was any good or not. He might never write another song that made the world throw their head back and howl, like he was inside their souls.
He stopped thinking and gave his babies what they wanted.
He punched out the three notes of the opening riff of “Strength of the Pack.”
The crowd erupted, stamping their feet on the ground and yelling. The effect from the stage above was like watching a pot of water boiling over.
Johnny smiled at what he had wrought. This song was his, and they were all here to bask in it.
His fingers punished the strings of the Strat, jabbing the notes out like they were Morse code.
Take me. My body, my soul, they are nothing more than a mirror, made to show you yourselves. Look into me unblinking, my heroes, my slaves.
The riff stopped for a quarter rest before the song kicked in and their hearts pounded with anticipation so fierce that he could hear the throb over their screams.
He let the energy flow through him, carry him.
Then the bass and drums led him into the verse and he sang.
When Johnny had first started playing, he’d tried to copy the bands he idolized. He’d studied the greats and then tried to take from them what he thought the fans would want to hear.
It turned out the fans were smarter than he thought. They could smell that bullshit a mile away.
But “Strength of the Pack” was different. It was something he had written for himself, a song about his brothers and the bond they shared, straight from his heart.
And that was why they loved him. Why he was on all the magazines and world tours. Why thousands of teenagers were sticking his face on their home screens and howling his lyrics into their selfie sticks on youtube.
It was because his songs were his truth.
And his truth was universal.
The verse built up steam heading to the first chorus. Johnny could practically taste their excitement on the air.
Something flew out of the crowd at him and landed at his feet.
He knew it was a bra before he looked down. He could smell the woman who it belonged to - young and brave. She’d been working up her nerve to do this all night.
He scooped it up and hung it from the mic stand without missing a beat, and went right into the chorus.
As they always did, the crowd sang it right along with him.
“You can’t fight the…
God, it sounded good like that. He smiled down at them and spotted bra girl in the front row.
She was blonde and her curves were a bit on the generous side, just his type.
She pointed at the lacy thing on his mic stand and lifted her shirt, giving him a great view of the bra’s previous contents.
It was par for the course, and similar things happened during every show, but somehow, it felt different.
He looked down as a soft haze enveloped her. Her hair was a halo of the softest gold, her eyes china blue in an angel’s face. In spite of the crowd, he knew her beautiful breasts were revealed just for him. Those stiff little nipples were pink as flowers and reaching for him as if he were the sun.
Suddenly, he wanted nothing more than to go to her. To push the crowd away and claim her for himself.
Confused, he stepped away from the mic and leaned down to stare at her for a moment.
He nearly missed the start of the second verse, but luckily the girl didn’t keep her cool. She freaked out under the focus of his attention, squeezing her eyes shut and letting out a piercing scream that brought him back to reality.
Jesus. Too much time under the lights today, for sure.
He shook off the cobwebs and kept singing.
A minute later and the weird incident was forgotten.
A light breeze swept in at last after a stifling day. It felt good against his skin, nice way to end the night.
Johnny was in the middle of his guitar solo, really shredding, when the cloud cover finally broke, bathing the stage in the light of the new moon.
Johnny had just enough time to notice the haze over the crowd before the moonlight gripped him like a fist.
His skin tingled with electricity and a crawling pain ignited on his forearm.
He faltered, the Strat yelped out flatly.
His fingers fell uselessly off the strings and he stopped singing.
Seth, the bass player, was solid. Johnny heard him fill in the last few bars as the chorus approached.
The crowd would probably think it was planned that way.
But Johnny could barely hear the crowd or the song now.
There was something alive in his arm, scratching to break free. He watched as the skin writhed and stretched.
He looked away and caught Seth’s eyes. Seth nodded at the mic with a what the fuck? look on his face.
Johnny would have liked to know the answer too, but the chorus was coming and he was rooted to the spot.
Seth grabbed the mic and held it out to the crowd. They filled in eagerly.
“You can’t hide the…
Johnny’s arm seethed with electric pain.
What the hell is happening?
Inside he felt the flapping of wings.
He could deny it all he wanted, but he knew where this was going. And he needed to get away. The consequences of losing control were unthinkable.
He pictured the bodies of the crowd, burning to ash, or trampling each other in an attempt to escape.
He turned to run, oblivious to the shouts of his bandmates.
Seth stepped in front of him, arms out.
But Johnny dodged and slipped away.
If he could just get away from all of these people, maybe everything would be fine.
Two steps later, he was engulfed in red flames.
His first thought was that he was too late.
He’d let his control slip too far.
And now everyone was going to pay.
Then the flames turned to a rosy purple, and the truth hit him. The flames were not his own.
He’d blundered in front of the pyrotechnics. They switched again, in time with the song, and he was showered in green sparks.
He fell to his knees as a pair of hands lifted his smoldering form clear.
Someone threw a fire blanket over him.
Fear overwhelmed him and he fought to breathe.
He wasn’t afraid of the fire - never of the fire.
It was that out of control feeling.
He peered out.
The crowd shrieked as the clouds covered the moon again.
He looked down at his arm.
The pain was gone.
His bandmates gathered around him. He noticed almost absentmindedly that the music had stopped.
Paramedics pushed past. He would have to deal with them.
But not yet.
He flashed Seth a grin and stood, tossing the fire blanket aside. He pushed past the paramedics and grabbed the mic.
The crowd stood before him, silent.
He took a huge breath, then pulled the mic against his mouth.
“You can’t fake the…” he began.
The crowd went nuts, joining him as he sang.
His bandmates scrambled back to their places as he belted out the final chorus, with 40,000 screaming fans losing their collective mind.
“You’ll never take the…
Seth leaned in as the roar washed over them.
Johnny waited for a question or accusation, but it never came.
“Now that’s fucking Rock and Roll,” Seth shouted with a conspiratorial grin.
Burn This! is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be releasing and available for sale on all vendors March 8th! Click here to reserve your copy or bookmark to grab a copy on release day:
Did you enjoy the first chapter? What do you think will happen next? Sound off in the comments!