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By:Cari Quinn



“Gray, your new sister is here.”

Gray rolled over on his stomach and dragged the pillow over his head. He was still hungover from the party last night and wasn’t in the mood to play nice. Not while there were cymbals crashing in his skull. “Can I talk to her later?”

“No. You can talk to her now.”

He groaned. “Brent’s home for the weekend. Let him play welcome wagon. I’ll take the night shift.”

“Brent already went back to campus.”

Figured. His older brother swung in for a night then swung back out again before the fawning stopped. Leaving everything to Gray as usual.

“Besides, I think you’re more suited in this case.” The mattress sank as his mom sat down at his side. “This one’s not had an easy time of it. I think a friend would do her good.”

Instantly guilt twisted in Gray’s already knotted stomach. Damn Mad Dog. He was never drinking that crap again, no matter how often Jimmy tried to tell him getting loaded would help their band. Bullshit. All it had done was given him a fucking headache and put him in a pisser of a mood. He rolled over and tossed his arm over his eyes. “How bad?” he asked tiredly.

“Pretty bad. Her mom kept her sister but turned Jasmine over to the state. Said she’d gone wild and she couldn’t handle her anymore. Since then, she’s bounced from place to place.”

“So she’s trouble.” He didn’t have time for that. He could stir up enough of his own.

“I think she’s just lonely. You have to meet her.”

The foster kids his mom and dad took in had usually come from rough environments. Some of the children were friendlier than others, which was understandable. It had been six months since the last one, and he’d begun to think that the Duffys had taken in their last kid. Brent was off at college now, and he would be too in a couple of years. Maybe his parents were looking forward to their empty nest.

But now they’d taken in Jasmine.

“Jasmine, huh? Like the flower?”

“Yes. Jasmine Edwards. You two actually have a lot in common.”

He snorted. “Oh yeah? Like what?”

“You’ll see.” She stood up. “I’m going to give you two some time alone. I’ll be in the den, okay?”

He grunted and waited until she left to haul his ass out of bed. He checked his appearance in the half bath off his bedroom. Lovely. Bloodshot eyes, check. Way too long hair that looked like someone had gone at it with shears, check. Dragon breath from puking in the bushes before he’d crashed that morning, triple check.

He brushed his teeth a couple of times, pushed a hand through his hair and sniffed his Dokken T-shirt before taking another run at his pits with his deodorant. Good enough. He headed downstairs, taking the steps two at a time. It wasn’t like he was meeting anyone he needed to impress.

Five minutes with this chick and he could consider his duty done. Then maybe he could get some practice in on Krystal Sword’s new material. He’d been writing this new song—

Halfway into the living room, he came to a halt.

Everything stopped. His feet, his breath, his heart.

Curled up in one corner of the couch sat a tiny brunette, a guitar stretched across her lap. It dwarfed her, making her seem even smaller. Her fingers moved like a blur, coaxing out the most beautiful music from the antiquated acoustic. Scratches and welts covered the cherry wood, but it didn’t matter. She might as well have been playing the finest instrument that ever existed.

Head bent, she strummed and sang a song about a woman on her wedding day. Hope, fear, excitement. Crying tears of joy. He didn’t know the song—folksy type music wasn’t his thing—but he couldn’t stop listening. Or watching the way her perfect pink lips curved around the words she sang so effortlessly that she became one with the melody.

When she finished, she glanced up and flushed. “Oh.”

Her eyes were bright blue, like the sky on a sunny day. Surrounded by blue-flecked lashes, those stunning irises bored into his and left him mute. He couldn’t say a damn thing.

“I’m sorry. I guess I shouldn’t have been playing.” She set the guitar aside and brushed her hands over her skintight white jeans. The denim had been sliced all the way up and down her legs, and through the holes he could see glimpses of color on her skin.

He cleared his throat. “Tattoos?”

Her flush only worsened as she followed his gaze to her legs. “No. Markers.” She pulled open one of the gaps on her knee and a drawn-on daisy appeared in the hole. “When I get bored, I draw on my clothes. And on myself, since I’m easier to wash off.” She gave a little hitching giggle and stood up, sticking out her hand. “I’m Jazz. You must be Gray.”