Home > Talon (Ashes & Embers #4)(2)

Talon (Ashes & Embers #4)(2)
Author: Carian Cole

The keyboard clicking continues. "So I forgot the ladder. No one ever said the new paint color had to go all the way to the ceiling, ya know. I totally reverse-ombré'd your walls."

Laughing at the memory of coming home to find her painting disaster, I roll over onto my side. "I'm gonna go, Kat. I'm exhausted from all the walking."

"I'll call you tomorrow. Forget that douche. He can't hold a candle to you. You're my shiny sparkle. Don't you forget that."

Pressing end, I wonder if I'll ever meet a guy who will actually like me and isn't only interested in looks, money, and sex.

Chapter 3


"I'm glad you're here, I have something exciting to discuss with you." My mother gestures for me to sit in the chair on the other side of the huge cherry wood desk she pretty much lives behind. Rolling my eyes, I flop into the red velvet chair and put my workboot-clad feet up on the front of the desk.

"Talon. Off." She glances away from her laptop screen for a second to glare at me and then goes back to typing, her red-tipped nails flying across the keyboard.

Standing, I walk around her office while she finishes whatever it is she's doing. Hundreds of books line the shelves of her office. Some written by her, some by other authors. I'm lucky enough to have a famous musician for a father and a best-selling romance author for a mother. Technically, that should make me a musical romantic genius, but I seemed to have only inherited the music gene, along with a monstrous appetite for sex.

The distinct click of her laptop lid closing signals she's finished and is ready to talk. "Honey, come back here and sit. Stop pacing."

"Don't you ever run out of ideas with this writing stuff?" I ask her, crossing the room to sit in her velvet guest chair again, flashbacks of sitting in this exact chair when I was younger and getting scolded for doing one bad thing or another popping into my head.

Her perfect eyebrows rise up. "How can I run out of ideas when love is involved? The possibilities of finding love are endless."

"Well, I haven't found it yet, so you might be wrong. I did find a hot little redhead last night, though, with legs for fucking days."

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about."

"The hot redhead?"

Shaking her head, she takes a sip of her lemon-laced water from her signature crystal glass. "No. Love, of course. Remember a few months ago you told me you were tired of all the one-night stands and meaningless sex?"

My long hair falls into my face as I shake my head, and I push it back with my hand. "Did I say that? Love just isn't in the cards for me, Mom. I'm too restless, and I love sex too much. Women want that from me, not love. I'm used to it now. Any time I've even started to have feelings for a woman, I find her blowing someone else. I'm just not the love type."

Opening a drawer in her desk, she pulls out a bright purple folder and lays it in front of her. "I don't believe that for a minute, Talon. All my boys have hearts of gold."

"Not me."

"You just haven't met the right girl yet. You've seen it happen with Asher and Storm. Your girl is out there."

"Well, if she is, then I've probably boned her already and she thinks I'm an asshole by now."

She waves her hand at me. "Hush with that. I've recently joined a team for an amazing project, and I think you are perfect for it."

Lighting up a cigarette, I lean back in the chair, tipping the front legs off the floor, and take a long drag. "Mom, where are we going with this?"

She slides a black marble ashtray across her desk toward me. This is the only room in the house I'm allowed to smoke in because, even though Mom technically quit smoking years ago, every now and then when she's either really stressed or excited about a book, she has a smoke. "I'm getting to it. A good friend of mine is a relationship coach, and she's written countless books on the dynamics of successful relationships. Now, she and a team of psychologists and a sex therapist are conducting a social experiment, and they've asked me to come on board and write a book with them based on the results."

I blow a perfect ring of smoke up into the air between us. "And this has to do with me how, exactly?"

Her gaze follows the ring as it floats and dissipates. "I thought you would want to apply to take part in the experiment."

Narrowing my eyes, I flick my ashes into the ashtray. "Apply? What's involved? I can tell by the look on your face there's a shit-ton you're not telling me. Spill it, Mom."

Smiling, she nods enthusiastically. "I was getting to all the details. You would marry a total stranger that the research group matches you up with based on questions they ask you. You have to commit one hundred percent to the marriage in every way for six months and keep a journal of all of your feelings and experiences. At the end of the six-month term, you give your journals over to the group, and you can either stay married, if the relationship is a success, or part ways. Each participant will also be given fifty-thousand dollars, but honestly, this is not about money. This is about committing to someone and not giving up. It's about finding out if the person who, in theory, should be right for you, really is. And if you can fall in love after marriage, rather than just before."

Her words spin around in my brain like a cyclone. "Are you kidding? That's kinda ass-backwards, isn't it? Marriage is serious shit. Not a fuckin' game."

A dazzling smile spreads across her face and she nods slowly. "Exactly. See? You understand it already. Can two strangers commit to a relationship, having faith that a group of experts has paired them with the right one? I think it's fascinating."

"Yeah, I'll give ya that. But what if it doesn't work? What if we want to kill each other? We get a divorce and walk away with a cash consolation prize?"

"I suppose so, yes."

"And how do we know if the other person is in it to meet the right person or just for the cash? People are greedy as hell. I don't need another fucking gold digger in my life. Been there, got the T-shirt."

Opening the purple mystery folder, she peruses the pages before glancing back up at me. "I agree, sweetheart. That's why each applicant has to go through rigorous questioning, to hopefully weed out people like that who aren't doing this for the right reasons."

"And you want me to do this?"

"Yes, but only if it's something you think you can seriously commit to and be open-minded about. I think, inside, you do want commitment. But you hide it with your 'I'm just a player' attitude and one-nighters."

"Maybe that's all I'm good for, one-night stands."

"That's total crap. I've seen the way you look when Storm and Evie are around. I think you want that closeness with someone, even though you're too stubborn to admit it. I can see it in your eyes, though."

Leaning forward, I smash my cigarette into the ashtray. "I've never even been in love. I don't want to hurt some chick who's getting into this hoping to find a knight in shining armor. The chances of me staying in a relationship, or them wanting to stay with me, are pretty slim."

"I disagree."

"What if they put me with someone totally ugly or demented?"

"They won't. They'll match you with who they think is right for you based on their interviews with you."

I ponder this insanity in my mind for a few minutes. If someone could plop the perfect girl into my lap, you wouldn't hear me complaining.

"Do you get to meet the chicks getting into this? Or at least see their pictures and applications? Can you pick me a good one?"

"I might," she says vaguely. "So what do you think?"

"I think you're using me as a guinea pig. Does Dad know you're doing this?"

"Yes, of course. He thinks it's a great idea. And no, I am not using you. I just want to see all my kids happy and in love, and I think this might give you the little extra help you need."

"Do I get to fuck her?"

"Talon!" she exclaims. "For God's sake, your mouth!"

"Well, do I?"

"Of course. It's a real marriage. There will be a wedding, with real vows. You'll sleep together, live together, everything. I'd prefer you say make love, though."

Shaking my head, I laugh at her. "Says the woman who just wrote an erotic best seller," I tease. "Mom, this is seriously the most messed-up thing you've ever done to one of us, and that's saying a lot. I know you use us in your twisted little books, but this really takes the cake."

Leaning back in her chair and crossing her long legs, she smiles knowingly at me. "I know you, Talon. You're my youngest son. I spent more time with you than any of your brothers, and you were such a sweet little boy. You loved to be loved on. I know you must be a little bit intrigued with this, right?"

Actually, I am, but I have no idea why, because this has disaster written all over it. "Yeah, I am, I guess. If it works, it would actually be pretty cool. I'm tired of the bullshit that comes with dating and dealing with sluts and women who only want to be with me because I'm in a band."

"See? This girl will have no idea who you are. Not a clue."

"I like that idea a lot."

"If you get accepted into the program, you'd have to seriously commit to this in every way."

"I would."

"And you cannot cheat on her. I will not tolerate infidelity in this family," she warns. "If you're unhappy with her, you wait until the six months are up and you split up before you touch another woman. That includes groupies, fans, and psychotic exes. Is that clear?"

"Wow. Thanks for the vote of confidence."

She tilts her head to the side. "You forget I married a musician. I know what goes on, believe me."

"Dad would never cheat on you. He loves the hell out of you."

"That's true, but that never stopped other women from trying to lure him."

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