Devereaux Inc. 2

Backstage Benefits

Backstage Benefits US Cover.jpg
When show business leads to secret pleasures, how can they resist in this Devereaux Inc. novel by LaQuette.

Their daytime partnership sets the night on fire…

Who said they can’t have it all?

Lyric Smith didn’t become the nation’s most successful lifestyle guru by losing focus. Yet Josiah Manning, daytime television’s hottest—and sexiest—young Black producer makes her do just that. Publicly, Josiah wants Lyric to star in a new talk show. Privately, he’s headlining her sexiest fantasies. But when their explosive chemistry leads to complications instead of contracts, will Lyric find the ultimate partner to help her crush her rivals…or exit stage left alone?

From Harlequin Desire: A luxurious world of bold encounters and sizzling chemistry.

Love triumphs in these uplifting romances, part of the Devereaux Inc. series:

Book 1: A Very Intimate Takeover
Book 2: Backstage Benefits
Book 3: One Night Expectations
 
Chapter 1
Copyright© 2021

Good God Almighty.

 

The words reverberated through Josiah Manning’s head as he watched the fierce woman strut across the room. He’d come here specifically for her, and although he knew what she looked like from photos he’d found on the internet, he was woefully unprepared for the way her beauty struck him damn near stupid.

Lyric Devereaux-Smith, beauty and fashion influencer, was hands down the most alluring woman in the room. The sea of people parted and stared at her as she walked toward the bar where Josiah was currently standing. No one in this room was immune to her, apparently.

 

She wore a white tuxedo shirt with one button undone to show a sexy sliver of a lace balconette bra. Her shirt was tucked into the shortest pair of black sequined tuxedo shorts that stopped at an almost indecent point, putting every inch of her thick fishnet-covered thighs on display. To accessorize the outfit just right, she wore a black fedora tilted to the side, and on her feet were a simple pair of closed-toed black stiletto platform pumps with a point so sharp he was certain she could use them as a weapon.

He wasn’t a caveman who thought women existed solely for the pleasure of men. But there was something about curvy, confident sistas, this one in particular, who made him feel virile. And confidence obviously wasn’t a problem for her, especially not with the way she was wearing the hell out of that outfit. Her strut was magnificent and regal, and the sway of her wide hips was damn near hypnotic. There was no question. She was owning everyone in the room, including him.

He closed his eyes, trying to break the spell and regain control of his higher brain function. As gorgeous as Lyric was, he wasn’t here to ogle her. He needed her, and as much as his libido regretted it, it wasn’t for her sumptuous body, either.

She was the key to making all his professional dreams come true. She didn’t know it yet, but the two of them working together were going to take over daytime television and earn him the soon-to-be-vacant title of president of Public Broadcasting Network, more widely known as PBN.

 

After years of setbacks and sabotage, he’d finally built his production company, Kings Creative, to be a powerhouse on the daytime television circuit. He had two hit shows on the major networks. His ratings, coupled with eight Daytime Emmy Award nominations, made him a perfect candidate for the PBN job. The only thing the PBN board asked was for him to come up with a killer weekday daytime lineup, and the job was his. No biggie, right?

 

For Josiah, as one of the few Black television executives behind the scenes, creating stellar work was par for the course. But the opportunities he’d turned into career gold didn’t come easily when you were from an underrepresented community in the media. His father had always told him, “In order to get in the door, you’ve got to be twice as good as everyone else’s best.” To be noticed, he couldn’t just be good, he had to be great. Therefore, he worked tirelessly to make sure the concept, casting and overall production of every project was so good, network studios couldn’t say no.

 

Black excellence, that was his motto. All day. Every day. In every way.

 

His drive, talent and relentless work ethic had put the ultimate goal within his reach. All that remained for him to land this job was one last morning show. And for what he had in mind, Lyric Devereaux would be the perfect host.

“If you keep staring at my cousin like that, I’m gonna be honor-bound to kick your ass.”

Josiah smiled as he listened to the familiar voice. He didn’t take his eyes off Lyric, however, until she stopped walking toward him, talking to someone in the crowd.

 

He turned around, greeting his old friend and former high school rival, Jeremiah Benton, with a firm handshake and a backslapping hug. “Come on, J.” His smile widened in genuine happiness to be in his friend’s presence again. “We been boys since way back. Instead of cockblocking, you could maybe introduce me to Lyric.”

 

Jeremiah stepped back, signaling the bartender for a drink. “I just told you she’s family. I’m not hooking her up with one of you trifling Hollywood types. Lyric’s too good a person. Besides, I don’t want to have to come find you if shit goes wrong.”

 

Josiah shrugged, admitting there was a large amount of truth to Jeremiah’s perspective. The entertainment industry was notorious for people in power being predators. Even though Josiah liked a fun hookup as much as the next guy, he never forced his unwanted attention on anyone. If a woman was in his bed, it was because she wanted to be.

 

“I feel you, man, but what if my interest in her is professional and not carnal?”

 

He could tell by Jeremiah’s raised brow he didn’t believe what was spilling out of Josiah’s mouth. He held his hands up in mock surrender and chuckled lightly. “I’m serious. I’m creating a new talk show about fashion and beauty hacks and trends. And you know how I get down. Anytime I can put one of us in front of or behind the camera, I’m gonna make it happen.”

 

Jeremiah accepted his drink from the bartender, giving Josiah his attention once again after his first sip. “It’s the same for me in business. The chances for us to make these kinds of moves don’t come easy. I try to reach back into our communities whenever I can to create ‘for us, by us’ opportunities.”

 

“That’s what this is, J. I’ve been looking all over for a star and I think Lyric is it. She smashes the bullshit beauty and fashion standards. She helps people from all backgrounds, body types and skin tones see that glam and fashion are for everyone. I need her.”

 

“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?” Jeremiah narrowed his gaze as he observed Josiah.

“Yeah.” He nodded enthusiastically. “I really think she’s got star quality. I was hoping I could get an audience with her tonight. Think you can help a brotha

out?”

 

Jeremiah took a long sip of his drink before setting the empty glass on the bar. “I’ll introduce you two, but the rest is up to you.”

 

“Thanks, man.” He went to shake Jeremiah’s hand, but his friend held up a finger.

 

“Don’t thank me yet. Lyric has been through a lot. She lost her husband two years ago, and she’s just coming out of her shell. She may not be ready for any of what you’re suggesting. All I ask is if she’s not willing, you back off.”

 

He was about to speak when Jeremiah held up his finger again. “I mean it, Josiah. I know how persistent your ass can be when you want something. But Lyric can’t take that kind of pressure. Even though I know this is something you’re excited about, if she ain’t feeling it, let it go. Respect her no if that’s the answer she gives you.”

 

“J, I won’t badger her. But I’m an entrepreneur just like you. I go hard for what I want. All I can promise is that I will work to convince her without crossing any lines. Will that suffice?”

 

Jeremiah watched Josiah for a long moment before he took his outstretched hand and nodded. “Fair enough.”

 

Jeremiah then waved for a few seconds before he caught Lyric’s deep brown gaze, beckoning her to join them. “Hope you’ve got your sales pitch ready.”

 

“Bruh.” Josiah chuckled confidently. “I could do this in my sleep.”

 

“For your sake, I hope your cocky ass is right.”

 

And as he watched the hypnotizing sway of Lyric’s hips, the only thing he could think was…I hope I’m right, too.