Refrain (soul series book 3)

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REFRAIN is a continuation of Rhys + Kai’s story from Books 1 and 2,

My Soul to Keep and Down to My Soul.

It should be read following those.

 

Thank you for reading!

REFRAIN

Copyright (c) Kennedy Ryan, 2016

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of the book.

This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Cover Art:

Kari March Designs

 

Cover Photos:

Adobe Stock Photos

 

Editing:

Lisa Christman, Adepts Edits

 

Proofreading:

Kara Hildebrand

 

Interior Design & Formatting:

Perfectly Publishable

Table of Contents

Refrain

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Coming Soon

About the Author

Other Books by Kennedy Ryan

 

 

Dedicated to the readers who “demanded” more of Rhys + Kai’s journey.

I’m so very glad you persuaded me tell the rest of their story!

Thank you for being so invested and encouraging!

Acknowledgements could be as long as the book because there are so many folks who are invaluable to me. I really want to thank my beta readers. Shelley, Margie, Mary Ruth, Joanna, Michelle and Teri, you guys are so awesome. You are constructive and honest and never complain when I keep at you about the smallest thing. Your enthusiasm for my work buttresses me when I feel like everything I write is crap. You are such a great barometer for me. Don’t ever pull any punches, okay? Smile. To the many authors and bloggers who support and encourage me, thank you. If I start calling names, I’ll leave someone out. I am so blessed to have found a safe place with so many of you. Your generosity and kindness are boundless and appreciated. And always my son and my husband who “suffer” the most when I write a book. The neglect and the take out abound, and you just keep loving me unconditionally. And last but not least, my parents who laid a foundation for me like Kai’s; where faith was a huge guiding force, but you never forced ME. You let me find my own way. I love you for that.

NOT TOO LONG AGO I WASwaiting tables, serving overcooked burgers and teaching dance to rambunctious teenagers. Anyone who told me then that in a year I’d be on the set of a video, performing a duet with one of hip hop’s brightest stars would have gotten laughed right out of The Note. From a greasy spoon diner to the top of the music charts. It’s only now that I’m accomplishing my goals that the sheer audacity of my own ambitions strikes me. Thousands of girls trek to LA, bags packed full of the same hopes and dreams I have. Only a fraction of them achieve any real success.

Even fewer find what I did. Not only am I experiencing that one-in-a-million kind of success, but I found a once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. That’s the most overwhelming part of this unlikely journey.

“When’s Rhyson back?” Ella, my friend and stylist, snaps the last few hooks on my skimpy leather bra top.

Every time someone mentions his name, I grin like a loon. I need to figure outnotlooking absolutely besotted when I hear “Rhyson.”

I dip my head to spare Ella the recurring goofy grin.

“He flies back in tomorrow afternoon.”

“Oh, good!” She blows at the pink strands of hair spilling onto her forehead. “He’ll be back in time for your birthday.”

With so much going on, I’d almost forgotten my birthday is in a couple of days.

“Yeah, he’ll be home.” I slip on the ridiculously high ankle boots Ella brought. “Not that we’ll do much. I’m totally fine with a quiet night at home. He’s been away. I just want to see him.”

“Well, I’m glad he’ll be back for it.” Ella squats to fasten the boot buckle I can’t quite reach. “It must have been something really important for him to miss Grip’s first shoot.”

How didIend up on the set of Grip’s first shoot? No one was more surprised than I was when Grip asked me to feature on “How You Like it,” his debut album’s first release. It’s the first thing I’ve done for Prodigy since Rhyson got me out of that boa constrictor contract Malcolm had me locked in. I haven’t even seen Malcolm since I was in the hospital months ago. Rhyson handled everything. Well, Bristol probably handled everything. She and Rhyson orchestrated something I didn’t think I’d have for years.

My freedom.

“Yeah, he wouldn’t have missed it otherwise. Kilimanjaro’s gonna be onAfter Dark, that new late show with Chip Whatshisname.” I glance at my phone on the make-up table, sliding a finger over the screen to check the time. “Pretty soon on the East Coast actually.”

“Is Rhyson performing?”

“Not planning to.” I grimace. “Unless they corral him into it. We all know Kilimanjaro probably wouldn’t be on the show this early in the game if it weren’t for Rhyson as part of the package, but he insisted thattheyperform, not him. The segment’s supposed to be about them.”

Ella bends to widen one of the rips in the stretchy pants riding low on my hips, clinging to my thighs, and stopping just above the knees. With the barely-there top and the teeny, hole-y bottoms, it’s a lot of skin. Thank God Rhyson is in New York and not on set. He’d have me wrapped in gingham and swaddled in cotton. I glance down past the tiny scraps of leather concealing my chest and over the rest of my scantily clad body.

“Where’d you get this outfit?” I ask with a smirk. “Hos R Us?”

“This is pretty modest compared to most videos.” Ella quirks one studded eyebrow at me. “It’s hip hop, honey. They want to see that booty, and you can’t get away with any more clothing than this.”

I glance over my shoulder at my considerable rear assets.

“These little pants make my butt look big.” I fake pout at her.

“No, yourbuttmakes your butt look big.” Ella laughs at the middle finger I flash her. “At least the top makes your breasts look bigger, too. Rhyson’ll like that. All guys do.”

“He actually likes me just the way I am.” I turn to check out my reflection and shoot a smug look at Ella when our eyes meet in the mirror. I stick out my tongue for good measure.

“I’m sure he does, Bridget Jones.”

“We do that.” I roll my finger in the air. “Rhyson and I, we do movie quotes.”

Ella’s probably tired of hearing about Rhyson, but she just gives me an “aww, that’s so sweet” grin every time I mention his name. She prattles on, and I listen with half an ear, getting lost in my own thoughts. I mentally review the director’s instructions for the next segment and the lyrics I need to remember and lip sync. I speed-learned the steps with the choreographer. This is my first video working with someone other than Dub. The choreographer’s great, but we had to feel each other out in the short amount of time I had to prepare for Grip’s shoot. The kind of artistic chemistry Dub and I had is rare, but what I have with Rhyson is rarer. I’m not second guessing my decision to cut Dub loose.

A firm knock pries me out of my musings.

“Yeah,” Ella calls, hanging her black smock on the coat rack in the corner of my makeshift dressing room.

“They’re ready for you, Kai,” one of the production assistants says from the other side of the door.

“Okay.” I glance in the mirror, taken aback by the girl staring back at me. Make up paints her face in shades of drama. Her flat-ironed hair hangs long and shiny past her shoulders. She looks like a star. I wink at her for luck. Like she needs luck. Fate must have smiled on her because all that chick’s dreams are coming true.

“So how’d the shoot go?” Bristol asks from her perch at Rhyson’s kitchen counter.

“Good,” I mumble around a spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream. “Tomorrow we’re finishing the shoot on the roof of that loft downtown.”

“Great location.” Bristol digs out a clump of cookie dough from her pint. “This album’s gonna send Grip into the next stratosphere. And the video features two of my superstars, so of course it’ll be bananas.”

“Two?” I ask. “I know I signed on the dotted line with you, but I didn’t think Grip had.”

The first thing Bristol did once she extricated me from Malcolm’s crappy contract was convince me I needed new management—namely her. With the eye roll Rhyson reserves for his twin sister, he reluctantly agreed.

“It’s only a matter of time, especially now that it looks like the Qwest collaboration might actually happen. Thanks again for that hook up, by the way.” Bristol flicks a hunk of dark hair over her shoulder. “I’m wearing Grip down.”

“Hmmmm.” I flash her an innocent smile. “And here I thought Grip was the one wearingyoudown.”

Pink splashes over Bristol’s high cheekbones. Holy crap. I’d be less shocked to see an alligator blush. Not that there’s anything scaly about her. The girl’s gorgeous, a softer, willowy version of Rhyson. She’s just always supremely confident and assured. And unblushable.

“He won’t.” Bristol focuses on her ice cream. “Wear me down, I mean.”

“You want him to give you a chance so badly as his manager, but you won’t give him a shot?”

“Grip’s not looking for ‘a shot.’” Bristol presses the spoon between her full lips. “He wants a lot more than that.”

I don’t see the problem since I catch Bristol watching Grip all the time when she thinks no one is watchingher.

“Then give it to him.”

“Nah. Too risky.” Bristol shakes her head and guards her eyes. “He’s my brother’s best friend. And we’ve been friends forever too. Most of all, I’m not dating someone else in the business. Those things never work out.”

I tilt my head and give her a pointed look since I’m dating her brother who is very much in the business, just like me.

“Present company excepted, of course.” Bristol offers an unabashed grin. “Speaking of my brother, wanna see hisAfter Darksegment?”

For days the show has been billing the interview with Rhyson, and the segment is right on the front page of their website. As soon as the clip starts playing, I’m glad Bristol’s here. That keeps me from kissing the screen, maybe even with a little tongue. I haven’t seen Rhyson in more than a week. Makes me wonder how in the world I went three months without him while I was on tour. But our relationship has deepened so much even since then. We’vebeenthrough so much since then. My collapse, our time alone in Glory Falls, and then all the drama with the sex tape. We’ve hurt each other, mistrusted each other, forgiven one another. Now there’s just . . . love. Just a promise of forever we exchanged on a balmy morning in Bora Bora.

Over the last few months, I’ve thought about our vacation a million times. Long days and hot nights when we were the only people on the planet. Those serene waters seem like years ago instead of weeks with everything we’ve had going on. Launching Prodigy takes a lot of Rhyson’s time and focus. I’m not sure when we’ll get away again like that.

As soon as Bristol clicks the video and Rhyson comes onscreen, the ache I can only ignore for so long intensifies. His face is disciplined into the wall he fortifies and shows the public, but always drops for me. Almost from the beginning, Rhyson let me in. Inexplicably. And that’s what I’ve missed the most this last week—the way when we’re together, the rest of the world can drop away and go to Hell. It’s just us, wrapped in our fiercely guarded intimacy.

“Wow,” Chip, theAfter Darkhost says, seated across from Rhyson as the band leaves the stage. “Give it up again for Kilimanjaro.”

The audience applauds, and Rhyson grins, though it’s a little tight around the edges. He hates this stuff. He’d better get used to it. Most label execs don’t have to be this publicly involved, but they don’t have their own built-in fan base or reputation as an artist the way Rhyson does. Until the listening public meets the rest of us properly through our own music, we’re riding on his coattails. For now, RhysonisProdigy.

“They’re as good as you said they were, Rhyson.” Chip takes a quick sip of his water before diving in. “We heard so much about them before the performance, but of course our viewers would love to hear from you while we’ve got you. Gonna play for us?”

Rhyson loosens that grin just a little for the people who hoot and holler from the audience.

“This is their night.” Rhyson settles deeper into the couch cushions, long denim-clad legs stretched out in front of him. “But I don’t mind chatting a little. I’m an open book.”

Chip smirks and shoots him a wry look because we all know Rhyson is anything but an open book.

“Well, we heard Kilimanjaro.” Chip ticks off the band on one finger. “You recently signed Luke Foster, fresh off his world tour. And Grip’s been everywhere for the last year, so we know what an amazing talent he is. His solo debut is on the way.”

“Yeah.” Rhyson pushes his long fingers through the rumpled dark hair dipping into his eyes. “Marlon’s working on the first video as we speak.”

“That’s right. You call him Marlon,” Chip says with a smile.

“Have ever since high school before therewasa Grip.” Rhyson grins and shrugs. “He’ll always be Marlon to me.”

“And a little birdie told me that Kai Pearson features on his first single. We got glimpses of Kai on Luke’s tour, but we’re all excited to hear more from her. She just signed to Prodigy too, right?”

If the wall was up before, it’s reinforced with steel after Chip’s question, but the small smile playing on Rhyson’s lips never budges. If the eyes are the window to the soul, Rhyson draws frosted shutters over his better than anyone I know.

“Yeah. Kai’s with Prodigy now.” He lowers his lashes, tracing an invisible pattern on his knee. “We’re lucky to have her.”

“Obviously, you know talent,” Chip says. “A lot of people wonder how Kai has risen so quickly. Out of nowhere, in Luke’s video. Then opening for him on tour. Now featured on the debut single of arguably the most anticipated hip hop album this year. What would you say is so special about her?”

Rhyson quirks his grin to the left and links his hands across his stomach, looking back up at Chip.

“Where do I start?” A full-blown smile sprouts on his face. “Kai has more raw talent than probably anyone I’ve ever met. When you pair that with her work ethic and such diverse gifts, singing and dancing . . . and acting eventually . . . she’s just a once-in-a-lifetime kind of artist.”

“You wouldn’t be biased, would you?” Chip teases. “It’s no secret that you and Kai are in a relationship. Is that the boyfriend or the label exec talking?”

Rhyson’s smile dissolves.

“I don’t do bias.” Annoyance narrows his eyes. “It’s definitely no secret that Kai and I are together since people won’t leave us alone for some reason, but anyone who knows me understands how important music is to me. I wouldn’t offer the public something that wasn’t legit. And Kai is legitimately that talented. I think because she’s also gorgeous, people sometimes want to believe that her looks or who she’s dating got her where she is so fast. I wouldn’t say it’s been fast since she’s been working toward it all her life. The only person tougher on Kai than me is Kai herself. Believe me. She’s the real deal. No one can take that from her.”

I absorb his affirming words like rain. My wide eyes find Bristol’s. We share a grin before returning our attention to the screen.

“Well said.” Chip chuckles. “Since you brought it up, where do things stand with you two? Very public breakup last year. Quietly reunited. Now there are rumors you’re living together. Here’s your chance to clear everything up.”

“If there was anything I needed to clear up,” Rhyson says with a quick grin and a hard look, “You think I’d wait till I’m sitting on your couch to speak about my private relationship?”

Chip’s smile falters a little before firming back up.

“I’m just saying people are fascinated by the two of you. Tell us what’s next for you guys.”

“Prodigy has a showcase in Vegas in a few weeks, so you’ll get to see all of the artists, including Kai, then. After the showcase, we’ll start focusing on her solo debut.”

“You’ve told us a lot about what’s next professionally,” Chip says, a determined set to his mouth. “But what about personally? What’s next for you and Kai as a couple? Is it too soon to hear wedding bells?”

“We’re thinking about songs, not bells right now.” Rhyson’s smile relaxes the line of his mouth. “We’re very much focused on now, not on what’s next.”

That’s the right answer. I know that. The impromptu vows, the promises we exchanged in Bora Bora were just for us two. Rhyson’s incredibly private. We both are. We’ll know when the time is right to take those next steps for everyone to see. And it’s enough, right?

I marry you. I marry you. I marry you.

The pledge we shared is never far from my heart. Somehow hearing him say we’re focused on now and not considering what’s next feels like a pebble in my shoe. A tiny thing, but bothersome and causing a little discomfort. We haven’t talked about a wedding or marriage again. There’s been so much going on. I didn’t even realize until right now, in this moment, how much I’ve wanted us to at least talk about it. It’s ridiculous, but there it is. I don’t want Rhyson to feel trapped by what we said that day. Not that he would, but I can at least be honest with myself and say that I want to marry him. Officially. For-the-world-to-see marry him.

“Thanks for being with us,” Chip concludes, extending his hand to Rhyson. “And thanks for bringing Kilimanjaro by. I know that’s not the last we’ll see of them.”

Rhyson shakes his hand, but looks directly into the camera and tugs on one ear. My heart somersaults in my chest. That will never get old. Just that little gesture always tells me that even when he’s in front of millions, his mind’s on me.

“Guess that was for you, huh?” Bristol stands to open the cabinet under the sink hiding the trash so she can dispose of her empty carton. “I’ve seen him do it enough now to know.”

Heat inches up my neck and over my cheeks. I just nod.

“It’s kind of our thing.” I toss my empty pint, missing the trash can by a few inches. Bristol picks it up for me and finishes the job. “Thanks. My aim isn’t great.”

“Oh, I think your aim is just fine. You get what you set your sights on.” Bristol leans a hip against the marbled counter. “And that wasn’t a subtle dig about you using my brother to get ahead.”

“Good.” I tilt my neck to both sides, trying to alleviate some of the tension resting on my shoulders. “Then whatdidyou mean?”

“You’re ambitious, but like Rhyson said, you back it up with talent and work ethic.”

This may be the first real compliment Bristol has ever paid me. I give her a cautious glance like she’s a Trojan horse.

“Um . . . thanks?”

“I do have a point here.” Bristol laughs and leans forward an inch, narrowing her grey eyes in speculation. “Rhyson mentioned acting, and I know when you first signed with me, we talked about it some. Do you seriously want to pursue it?”

“Eventually.” I twist my lips to the left. “With the right timing and the right part.”

“What if I told you I might have the right part and the time may be now?”

“A part?” I touch my chest. “For me?”

“I emailed you the script yesterday.” Bristol grabs her phone, tapping and scrolling until she finds what she’s looking for. “Yep. Sent it last night. You didn’t get it?”

“I haven’t checked my email in forever.” I sigh and lift the hair off my neck. “Gep insisted I get a new cell since my old number was floating all over town on job applications and audition call sheets. I haven’t set up email on the new one. Half my contacts didn’t come over, and my calendar is somehow screwed up since none of my appointments have been showing. I hate changing phones.”

“Well, check your email when you get the chance because I sent some other documents over I need you to read through.” She reaches down into her bag. “Fortunately for you, I’m not so modern I don’t mind killing a few trees.”

She plops a thick bound script onto the counter.

“Some light reading for you.” She watches me closely. “The director specifically asked for you. It’s a supporting role, a dancer. The part is made for you really. I think it’s yours for the taking, but they want you to come in for an audition.”

This is a lot to process. For years my life felt like this little red wagon dragging behind me, slowed down by every crack in the sidewalk and getting hung up on every clump of grass. Now my life is the autobahn—a super highway where I’m on tour one day, in music videos the next, and auditioning for movies without time to even change lanes.

Before I can respond, Rhyson’s ringtone, his song “Lost,” hums into the quiet kitchen. Bristol glances at the screen, smiling when she sees her brother’s handsome face.

“I’ll let you get that. Tell him I said hi and great job tonight.” Bristol grabs the bag holding her laptop and God knows what else, gesturing to the mammoth script on the counter. “Read that and thank me later.”

She’s left the kitchen by the time Rhyson’s deep voice wraps around my nerve endings. I forget about the script, about Bristol, about my early call time for tomorrow’s shoot.

“Pep.”

Just that one word. The name only he calls me. My fingers stray to the nameplate necklace resting warm and solid on my chest just below my grandmother’s gold chain.

“Rhys, hey.” A knot swells in my throat. “I miss you.”

“That’s my line. I bet I miss you more.” He chuckles, but sounds tired. “Did you see the show tonight? The guys were great.”

“Yeah.” I hop up onto the counter, swinging my legs to kick my feet against the base. “They were amazing. So were you. You even kept your cool when Chip asked about us.”

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