Refrain (Soul Series Book 3)

By: Kennedy Ryan

NOT TOO LONG AGO I WAS waiting 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 out not looking 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 did I end 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 on After 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 that they perform, 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, your butt makes 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.”

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