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Bodyguard (Hollywood A-List #2)
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From New York Times bestselling author CD Reiss: Protecting a celebrity in Hollywood isn’t easy, but protecting Emily could break his heart.
Emily enjoys all the perks of fame—the parties, the glamour, the tours—but they’ve brought her back to the attention of a dangerous ex-boyfriend hell bent on getting her back.
Enter Carter Kincaid, a bodyguard so crushingly sexy he takes her breath away.
Carter’s the best in the business and Emily is—professionally speaking—off-limits. But when it comes to stirring his desires, she’s hitting all the right notes. What’s happening between them is so hot it could get both of them burned. As Emily’s past gets closer, Carter is willing to break every rule of the job to save her. But letting Emily into his life also means letting her in on the secrets of his own past. For both of them, falling in love could be the greatest risk of all.
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When we became friends, she was just Darlene McKenna. She wasn’t even in third grade when she started singing in her church on Sundays. I sang a little, danced a little, but gymnastics was the love of my little heart.
We met during gymnastics camp in Chicago. I was awesome. We were in the same group, and I was already on the team. My parents had put a bar across the garage door so I could practice my casts. Which I did. A lot.
My parents worked. They were lawyers, and I was a ten-year-old kid who talked like a buzz saw and couldn’t keep still. So they sent me to lessons and camps to keep me happy. All they ever wanted was to keep me happy. The gym I went to was a second home in a massive warehouse space just south of the city. Banners with team members’ names over the colleges they attended. They’d trained Olympians and champions. There were so many banners they were running out of space. I grew up thinking the odds of winning all the chips were in my favor.
Camps were fun enough, but gymnastics wasn’t fun. I wasn’t into the leap-into-the-ball-pit-bounce-house fun. That was for babies and I was team.
“What’s your name?” Darlene asked me the day we met. She was bigger than I was by a lot. Taller, thicker, bursting with confidence. Her skin was honey and her hair was kinky and dark. She was pure power, in one direction. Up.
“I’m Emily and I’m team. We’re going to the state championships in May.”
I pointed my toes when I walked and when I sat on the mat. I pointed them when I stood there fidgeting between stations. My coach, Tammy, tried to be funny, calling the constant practice at toe pointing “good habitizing.” I got the joke, but gymnastics wasn’t funny.
“Let’s be friends!” She jumped up and down, clapping as if this was the biggest idea since the iPod. “I’m Darlene!”
I didn’t have a lot of friends. I left school seconds before the bell rang and had no time for playdates or parties.
“Sure. I’m Emily.”
Space had opened up on the red floor, and I wanted to get on it. There wasn’t a coach around, but I was better than all these girls. I didn’t need no stinking coaches.
“Where you going?” Darlene bounced after me to where kids were leaping in a line and young coaches spoke the language of encouragement. Her leotard was hot pink and just a little too tight, as if she’d had a growth spurt.
“The red exercise floor. Wanna come?”
“There’s no coach by it.”
I shrugged her off. It was just a springy floor. I’d been coming to that gym seven years already. Forever.
I lined up in the corner. Feet together. Arms up, right knee bent, toes pointed, visualizing the run, then the cartwheel.
“How many you gonna do?” asked Darlene.
“Two. Cartwheel then flip.”
“Do three.” Hands on hips. A two-word challenge. I wasn’t made of stone. I was made of 100 percent US grade-A kid. I’d never done three, but it was just one more.
I took two big steps, turned, landed on my hands, flipped, spun, did a perfect cartwheel. I bounced on my toes, did the flip, and somehow found a tiny bit of torque. Enough for an ugly half-assed third thing that didn’t have a name.
I landed on my bottom, ashamed of my failure. Then angry. Then resentful. I got up to try again.
Darlene held judgment. I might have been mad at her for that for half a second. If I was, it was gone by the time I got into the corner again.
“Hey,” Darlene said, “did you know I sing in my church? The AME church on Pico. I’m the youngest they ever had.”
“That’s really cool.” I did my run, finally nailing the landing. Darlene clapped and stuck two fingers in her mouth to whistle. That made me smile. It was nice to have a fan.
“Do you know about acoustics?” she asked when I came back to her.
“Yeah.” I knew everything. Of course.
“That whistle I just did, man. The acoustics in here are insane.”
The whistle had been really loud. It had drawn attention to us, and Coach Tammy blew her little metal whistle.
“Girls! What are you doing over there?”
I waved, letting her know we were fine.
Darlene leaned in and whispered, “I bet we could sing ‘Ain’t I Your Baby?’ so loud the roof would come down.”
She looked around the huge space. “I bet if you went by the vaults and I went by the uneven bars and we both sang, it would be crazy.”
Something about the way she said it made it seem like the best idea ever. She had an infectious sense of fun. Besides, it was just camp. It wasn’t team practice.
“I can hold the note in ‘yours’ longer than you can.” She held up a finger and stuck her butt out. That sealed the deal. She had no idea who she was dealing with.