Saturday, November 5, 2016

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Bodyguards, Inc Part 2 by RJ Scott


Love's Design #5
Summary:
Can Christmas be the time when Kirby finally stops running and allows himself to fall in love with the man who saves his life?

CIA Agent Stefan Mortimer is cooling his heels in the UK until he can go home. Taking on easy assignments with Bodyguards Inc. seems like a good solution to keep him sane. He's used to life throwing him curveballs, and it’s just another day at the office when he rescues Kirby Devlin and his niece and nephew. Now he has to keep Kirby and the kids alive and stay professional.

Kirby Devlin has one priority; keeping his small family safe. On the run, and facing danger at every turn, Kirby finally runs out of places to hide on a snowy December day at an Edinburgh train station. Stefan comes to the rescue, saves him and the children. Is it possible that Kirby finally has someone to trust?

Now, if only it would be as easy for Kirby to trust Stefan with his heart.

Kissing Alex #6
Summary:
Is running to a remote Scottish island the only way for them to stay alive?

Martial arts expert Lewis is the kind of bodyguard who slips under most people’s radar. Quiet, reserved, but constantly on alert, he’ll do his job, keep his charges safe, then relax by reading Shakespeare in his spare time.

When he’s given a case involving a spoiled celebrity singer, Lewis isn’t all that impressed. The job is nothing but babysitting a pretty boy, and he’s used to diplomatic postings with depth and challenge. What could he possibly have in common with the man he’s being forced to look after?

Alex became the envy of many when he and his fellow bandmates won second place in a huge TV talent show. He has more money than he knows what to do with, no life goals, an ex-boyfriend selling a sex tape and now, someone who wants him dead, or at the very least maimed.

Can Lewis keep Alex safe, even when things usually in his control go to hell? Is running to a remote Scottish island the only way for them to stay alive?

Roman's Heart #7(Coming Summer 2017)
Summary:
The heir to a crime family, and the man who has a score to settle.

Giving evidence against his own family is just the start of the rest of Roman Azarov’s life. Now he has a family that hates him, a younger brother to take care of, no kind of future in the public eye, and a contract on his life that has him afraid of his own shadow.

Hiring a bodyguard was not his first choice. Ending up with former London cop, Drew Langley, a man with ghosts in his past, was a shock.

Especially when Roman’s family was responsible for the ghosts that haunt Drew.

Love's Design #5
Original Review December 10, 2015
I will say that Kirby and Stefan may not be my favorite couple working at Bodyguards, Inc but they are still completely and utterly adorable that ranks them near the top.  Kirby may feel like he's floundering when it comes to taking care of his niece and nephew but he is doing what is most important, he's keeping them safe, keeping them loved, and doing everything he can to keep them fed.  Which is where Stefan comes into the picture, perhaps reluctantly but he still steps up and does what he does best, kicks a little ass and protects the hurt and innocent, although he may question Kirby's innocence he knows the little ones are.  RJ Scott has done it again and this time she's wrapped it in a big, sexy, hunky, beautiful Christmas bow.

Kissing Alex #6
Original Review May 2, 2016
In this newest installment in the Bodyguards, Inc series, RJ Scott plays matchmaker once again.  This time, we have boy band member Alex and about-to-go on vacation Lewis.  I can honestly say I don't know what I can write that I haven't already made note of in the previous entries for this series.  I do enjoy how Miss Scott goes beyond the typical stereotypes in Kissing Alex.  Alex may not be what many see as a twink but being the smaller of the two does not mean he can't take control and lucky for him the big brawny bodyguard Lewis likes to be controlled some times.

The suspense that brings Alex to Bodyguards, Inc's door may play a relatively minor roll in the plot, but that does not make it any less mysterious, plus it beautifully sets up the next entry, Roman's Heart, which is expected early 2017.  Seeing Lewis as Laird of the Manor with his little brother and sister at his side is interesting and fun, showing a side to the bodyguard that very few get to see.  If you haven't yet read Bodyguards, Inc, the series is a collection of standalone novels in that each centers on a different bodyguard and client but personally, I suggest reading them in order if for no other reason that minor mentions of other characters will make more sense.

Overall Series(Books #1-4)
Original Review August 2015
Another great series by Miss Scott.  Even though each story is a standalone with the exception of characters being mentioned in passing or cameos, I'm writing an overall series review and each book easily deserves a 5 bookmark rating.  Many of us have some kind of bodyguard fantasy and with Bodyguards, Inc the reader gets a peak into the life of the occupation.  Each book has a little bit of everything, mystery, intrigue, drama, love, with definite levels of hotness throughout.  You might be thinking that what you have here is the Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston movie Bodyguard with a gay twist, the truth is there are some similar elements but really, this series has so much more depth and appeal with every page.  Some say that relationships that are born during times of crisis and danger are not always everlasting but I think relationships, be it friends or lovers, can be built at any time and in these tales the author shows us how true it can really be.

RATING:  






Love's Design #5
Chapter One
“What the hell is he doing?” Stefan murmured as the man in the cheap suit moved out of the shadows and back into them again.

Tall, with his hands pressed deep into his jacket pockets, the man crossed from one side of the large empty waiting room to the other. His expression was one of determination, but his posture screamed anger, and it was difficult to tell which was winning from this distance. Stefan was killing time at Waverley, the train station in Edinburgh, waiting for the train holding his latest babysitting job to depart, and all he could focus on was this one man. Typical that even when he was supposed to be having a quiet time with his Kindle, Stefan spotted shit that just wasn’t right.

Call it boredom, call it a sixth sense, but the man in the suit was up to something. And he was one of three. He had two friends along for the ride: a tall guy and another as wide as he was tall, with his head disappearing into his thick neck. Abruptly, Stefan knew he had been looking at the man in charge of two heavies. Both Tall Guy and Neck Guy had disappeared into the bathrooms five minutes ago and had yet to come back out.

The Boss, as Stefan called him in his head, kept pausing outside the bathrooms, where a sign proclaimed “Cleaning in Progress”. The waiting area was sprawling, drafty and empty of all but a few diehards, probably those waiting for late arrivals, which were mostly delayed, due to snow.

Stefan knew something was going down in there and he fairly itched with the need to get involved.

“Not my circus, not my monkeys,” he muttered to himself. Kyle would kill him if he got involved with something that would call the wrath of MI6 down on them again. As it was, Kyle was trying to calm down the CIA after the whole missing-scientist incident, and almost had them agreeing to take Stefan back so that Stefan could hunt down whoever fucked up and exposed the scientist they’d had under protection.

Three suspicious men in a near-deserted railway station weren’t his problem. His problem was the annoyingly entitled investment banker who was now safely on a train with his next bodyguard, on his way to London. A glance at the board had Stefan wincing. He’d hoped to be gone from the station by now, but the snow was causing delays and some cancelations, and the London train would be the last on the board scheduled to leave, four hours late at nearly 10:00 p.m. The rest of the departures were listed with large signs saying everything had been canceled. No wonder the station was empty. And yes, he was bored.

One thing Stefan Mortimer didn’t do well, was sitting on his ass doing nothing. I’m bored. I need to get laid, and I need to go home. Not necessarily in that order. He’d been stuck in the UK for going on half a year now, and, by necessity, had slipped into working for Kyle at Bodyguards Inc. Not that he needed the money, but he was a man of action, and sitting around with his thumb up his ass was not the way he spent his time.

He sipped at his coffee, and the cold, bitter brew furred his tongue. He’d left it too long to drink while studying the dynamics of the man and his two bodyguards, and the drink hadn’t been that amazing to start with. Brits didn’t know how to make coffee, not like back home.

The man he’d been watching stopped pacing and checked his watch, then, with a brief look around the area, pushed through the bathroom door. He wouldn’t be able to see Stefan from that angle, not properly; to all intents and purposes Stefan looked like he was sleeping and was behind a metal grate enclosing a small area where he was hiding from having to interact with people.

As soon as that bathroom door shut, and with no real conscious decision, Stefan was on his feet, his hand automatically going for his weapon, then falling away when his brain caught up with his muscle memory. Scotland. No guns.

As he walked to the bathroom, he unzipped his jacket and flexed his arms a little to make sure he had full movement. He didn’t know what was happening behind that door, but he might need to think on his feet. Or, he might have to make a big deal out of washing his hands and retreating, if indeed nothing was going on.

He slipped through the door and waited just inside. The bathroom smelled of bleach, and the lights were low. There was a small entry area with long mirrors—two had large cracks in them—hand dryers, and an off-center arch that led through to the cubicles and urinals. That was where the noise was coming from. A rhythmic banging… and a whimper.

Either I’m walking in on an orgy, or shit is going down.

Stefan looked around for a weapon, anything he could use. Short of smashing a mirror, he had nothing, and only in the movies was smashing a mirror a good idea. Last time he’d tried it, he’d cut his arm open. He still had the scar to prove it. Stefan pulled back his shoulders and sauntered around the corner and into the main bathroom as if he had no better place to be. Like he belonged. Pacing Man from outside had his back to Stefan, Neck-Guy the same, but there was no sign of the victim or the third goon.

The third man came out of the last cubicle dragging something—a body—and looked directly at Stefan with a shocked expression. “Private party,” he said, brooking no argument. “Fuck off.”

Stefan slumped a little and made himself look as small and innocent as he could. “I just need to—”

“You need to leave.”

Stefan saw the blood, the body, saw the muscle-bound man turn and walk his way, observed Pacing Man step toward him as well. He knew exactly where they all were.

“What’s wrong?” Stefan asked. “Who’ve you got there? Your boyfriend?”

He knew better than to ask the bad people questions, but this seemed like a wisecracking kind of moment to him and he needed them all coming toward him.

Elephant-Necked Guy got to him first, a meaty hand on his shoulder, gripping hard and attempting to propel Stefan back out of the bathroom. Stefan allowed him to step forward, and then mid-step, when he was off balance, Stefan twisted his leg, caught the man behind the knee, and had him crashing into the urinals. His huge head smacked the porcelain, rendering him unconscious.

“Oops,” Stefan said. “My bad.”

Pacing Man stepped back in shock, and bodyguard two dropped the victim’s lifeless body before assuming a stance, clearly thinking this was coming down to a fight of some sort. Stefan steadied himself, waiting until he was gripped, and he had the second man unconscious at his feet with the judicious use of a bathroom door, a toilet, and a paper dispenser.

That just left Pacing Man.

Who, for fuck’s sake, had a gun on him.

“This is the UK, you know,” Stefan said, his breathing a little heavy. It had been a long time since he’d gotten physical with anyone, and it was showing. “No guns.”

“Fuck you,” Pacing Man said. “Turn around and leave.”

Stefan glanced at the body. Noticed movement, saw eyes open through blood, and shook his head. “Not happening.”

Pacing Man shook his gun. “I’ll shoot you.”

Stefan made a hundred small observations. Pacing Man was pale, a little shaky, the gun not quite so steady, but he had the gleam of something in his eyes, a confidence. Was he high? The victim groaned, made an effort to stand, grabbing at the slick tiled wall to find purchase.

“Help,” the beaten man pleaded.

“Why are you hitting him?” Stefan asked. He didn’t know what was going on here, but a gun against fists wasn’t a fair fight. He didn’t care why the guy on the floor had been beaten, because, whatever the reason for beating someone to a pulp, it didn’t sit right with him. Stefan stepped forward suddenly and Pacing Man reared back, fear in his face, his hand lax, and Stefan relieved him of his gun in the blink of an eye.

Pacing Man’s eyes widened, just before they shut as Stefan slammed his head against the bathroom door. Pacing Man twisted in his hold, taking Stefan by surprise, Stefan’s gun hand and the man’s head getting caught by the door as it slammed on them. Stefan felt the agonizing pain of mashed muscles and skin at the same time as Pacing Man slumped to the floor, unconscious.

Which left only Stefan and the victim awake.

Stefan leaned over and helped the bloody man stand, taking his weight even as they stumbled back against the wall.

“Help me,” the man said.

“Trying, buddy, really trying.” He attempted to hold the man upright though his wrist throbbed. He knew the pain would ease in a minute—he’d had injuries like this before—but, just at this moment, it hurt like a bitch.

The man exhaled noisily and wiped his face with his sleeve, blood smearing over pale, freckled skin.

“I need to get them,” he muttered.

“What’s your name?” Stefan began to move them out of the bathroom area.

“Help me,” the man said again.

Stefan helped him over the bodies on the floor; Elephant-Necked Guy was mumbling and groaning, and they only had a few minutes to get out of the bathroom before Stefan would have to hurt his fists again.

He reached awkwardly for the dropped gun and placed it in the small of his back. They needed to get the fuck out of here. He wasn’t sure he’d be up to taking on the big guy in there with only one hand in use and holding up the victim too, and he sure as hell wasn’t using a gun. “What’s your name?”

“Kirby,” the victim said.

“Okay, Kirby, let’s get you out of here.”

They made it out of the bathroom and out to the waiting room. Luckily for Stefan and Kirby, it was as empty as it was five minutes ago. Swiftly, Stefan moved Kirby along, but then Kirby balked and stopped.

“Wait,” he said on a painful exhale.

“What? No waiting. We need to get you to a hospital.” Hell, we need to get me to a hospital.

“Please,” Kirby whispered. He yanked himself away from Stefan, and the only thing stopping him from hitting the floor was the departures board support.

Stefan grabbed him to stop him from falling, intensely aware of the blood all over Kirby’s sweater and jacket. Kirby was bleeding, but from God knew where. Stefan had seen a cop here earlier, doing his rounds, or maybe it was a security guard. They’d exchanged nods, but the man was nowhere to be seen now.

“The hospital,” Stefan said firmly. He’d call the cops once he knew Kirby wasn’t bleeding internally.

“No.” Kirby shook his head, his eyes closing. “Help me.” Using Stefan as a crutch, he lean-dragged himself away from the support.

Stefan sighed noisily. He had half an eye on the bathroom door behind them and half an eye on every other fucking thing. Who the hell was this Kirby guy, and why were three men—well, one at least—beating on him?

“Help you how? You need a hospital.”

“No, they’ll be killed. Please.”

Who? Who’ll be killed? “What do you need me to do?”

“To the door, to get them,” Kirby mumbled.

They made it to a side corridor, and a door marked Staff Only.

Kirby leaned on the door. “Thank you.”

“What’s in there?” Stefan asked. Kirby’s thank-you sounded suspiciously like a dismissal. “Drugs? Is this a drugs thing?”

Kirby shook his head, and Stefan took the time to catalog the contusions under the blood. The blood on his face was from a split lip and a wicked-looking cut over one eye, and it had matted the long dark hair that fell around his face. He was skinny, short, and weighed nothing, but there was a fire in his bright emerald eyes.

“Thank you,” he said again and then waited for Stefan to leave.

“Not going anywhere.” Stefan was following this through to find out what the hell was hidden in the room. He had a gun in his possession, a man who’d been beaten, and three goons who were clearly after something. Stefan wasn’t letting this go.

A hundred thoughts must have passed through Kirby’s head, and they all telegraphed in his expression. Fear, anger, and finally resignation—at least those were the ones that Stefan read.

“Who the hell are you?” Kirby’s words were mumbled around a swelling mouth.

Stefan thought on his feet and pulled out the ID that he never left at home, realizing at the last minute that he’d have to reach across his body, because his right hand was way past sore. “Stefan Mortimer, CIA.” He waved it in front of Kirby, who grabbed at it and held it still.

“Fuck,” Kirby muttered.

“So, tell me what’s going on?”

Kirby leaned back against the door, and he pushed a hand into his pocket.

Stefan tensed. What was Kirby trying to retrieve? He only relaxed when Kirby pulled out a security card, which he pressed against the keypad.

“I stole a card.” Kirby wasn’t apologizing, merely explaining. The door lock released, and Kirby went into the room, with Stefan close behind. They shut the door and Stefan flicked on the lights. He didn’t know what he would see, but when boxes moved of their own accord, he tensed. What the hell?

Kirby stumbled toward the boxes, fell to his knees, and gathered two small children into his arms. Stefan felt himself go slack-jawed.

Children?

Not drugs, then.

The little girl was making that noise Stefan’s nieces made when they were just about to go into full-on, blubbering tears, and Kirby held her closer, muttering words under his breath but gripping the small girl tightly.

Stefan stepped forward to ask questions, He stopped himself. Someone else would deal with this; someone who was better placed to care about the man who had been beaten up. The same man who held these two children like they were the most precious things in the world.

And now the little girl was sobbing into Kirby’s neck. Stefan sighed inwardly, his innate sense of making things right pushing to the front.

“What is this?” he asked, glancing back to the door, but there was no danger, nothing chasing them. No one had seen them come into the room.

Kirby said nothing.

“Kirby?” Stefan crouched down by the three of them, reaching out a hand toward the crying girl before drawing it back.

She was all about Kirby and probably wouldn’t want a stranger talking to her. Finally, Kirby released his tight hold and opened his eyes—deep, remorse-filled green. He made to stand, off balance with the added weight of the girl and what looked like a slightly older boy hanging around his neck. Stefan held out a hand, but Kirby managed to stand without his help. Evidently he was used to the extra ballast.

“I am so sorry,” he said. He had a soft Scottish accent, more obvious now he was calmer. Maybe Kirby was from Edinburgh itself, or at least close by. “I had to leave Louise and Andy in here when I saw them.”

“You mean the guys looking to take you out?”

Kirby shook his head. “You shouldn’t get involved. We’ll be fine now.” Stefan saw he was talking directly to the young boy who nodded mutely. This must be Andy.

“You might have a concussion.” Stefan’s field training kicked in. “We need to get you to a hospital.”

Kirby smiled up at Stefan, although he grimaced with the pain of it and the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I don’t feel dizzy, just sore.”

Stefan wondered how much of a lie that was. Was he used to being beaten up? Hell, he couldn’t be more than a buck-sixty and at least six inches shorter than Stefan was.

“Just keep an eye on dizziness and feeling sick,” Stefan finally offered.

The little girl’s sobs had now reduced to hiccups, and huge blue eyes peeped at Stefan over Kirby’s shoulder: wet eyes with long lashes and tears sparkling in them.

“You’re bleeding,” Andy whispered. He touched Kirby’s face. “Did McLeod do that to you?”

“No.”

Andy added something with resigned perception. “Was it Bull or Tommy?”

Kirby nodded. “It’s okay, though,” he said. “This man helped me, helped us.”

Andy slipped out of Kirby’s hold and looked up at Stefan.

Stefan was tall, a couple of inches over six feet and aware that he was probably intimidating, considering his white sweater was darkened with Kirby’s blood. He copied what Kirby had done, crouching low again, and held out his good hand. “Hello.”

Andy held out a hand and shook Stefan’s gently, his touch light and wary. “I’m Andy, and this is my sister Louise. She’s four, nearly five, and I’m seven.”

“Nice to meet you, Andy. What do you say we get Kirby to the hospital, huh?”

“We’re not going to the hospital,” Kirby snapped.

Andy winced at the harsh and unyielding tone of it. “No hospital if Uncle Kirby says no.” He pulled back his thin shoulders as he spoke.

Stefan didn’t like to see a kid wince that way, in fear, and he recognized the bravery that followed. He looked at Kirby, at the blood, at the pale wash of heat on his high cheekbones and the pain that bracketed his eyes. “Yes, we are. You, me, the kids, are all getting checked out.”

“I can’t,” Kirby said a little desperately. “If we do….”

“He’ll find us,” Andy finished.

Stefan looked from Kirby to the little boy and back. “Who will? One of the guys I knocked out?”

Andy’s eyes widened. “You did? All of them? Bull as well?”

“Is Bull the big guy with no neck?” Stefan asked.

Andy nodded. “Aye.”

“Yeah,” Stefan said. “Even him.”

Andy’s eyes widened. “Really?”

Kirby moved between Stefan and Andy. He evidently wanted to cut off the fledgling hero worship. “We need to go,” he said. “The bairns and I, we need to go. Now.”

Stefan translated the word bairns to mean children. “Sorry, can’t do that,” he replied. “I need some answers, and I need them now before I call Security.”

If anything, Kirby’s face paled further at those words and Stefan saw his gaze dart guiltily to the door.

“I’m just taking my niece and nephew for a break,” Kirby said quickly and started to brush past Stefan.

“I don’t believe you.” Stefan gripped Kirby’s arms, startled at the sheer fear in the other man’s eyes and wondering whether, if he looked hard enough, he could find a glimmer of guilt.

“Let. Me. Go.” Kirby’s words had an edge to them, an edge of violence, and it was all Stefan could do not to scoop up the kids there and then. Violence in a man with children this small didn’t bear thinking about. “I don’t know who you are, but you need to leave me and the bairns alone,” Kirby said firmly, drawing himself as tall as he was able. “He can’t have them, and I swear if you try anything, I will call Security myself.”

“Who can’t have them? Is someone after you? Is it Child Protection? What are you trying to do?” Stefan asked.

“Leave us alone,” Kirby forced out, rubbing soothing motions into the girl’s back as she whimpered at his raised voice.

Stefan realized the more Kirby talked, the more involved Stefan became. Clearly there was an agenda here, and Stefan wasn’t sure he wanted to be a part of it. He wanted to know why a man and two children were being chased down. What was Kirby’s connection to the kids? And who the hell were Bull, Tommy, and Pacing Man? Kirby would be going to the hospital if Stefan had his way, but first things first, Stefan needed to assess this situation.

“I’m calling Security,” he decided. Something was wrong here, and he had to get the authorities involved.

Stefan didn’t see Kirby move or put the little girl down, but he sure as hell felt the punch that snapped his head back. He immediately went on the defensive, grabbing Kirby, twisting him around, and pressing him to the wall.

Kirby yelped in pain, but Stefan wasn’t letting go just yet. He felt tiny fists on his thighs.

“Leave him alone, let him go!”

Both kids were thumping him. Stefan loosened his hold, watching as Kirby slid down the wall, and the two children moved to stand between him and Kirby.

“Please,” Kirby said, “No police.”

The way he said police—poe-leece—was so soft, and pleading was clear in every cell of him.

“Don’t touch my uncle,” the boy snapped, fierceness in his expression.

Stefan held up his hands. “I won’t touch him.”

“Let us go,” Kirby murmured. “Go away so I can find somewhere safe.”

Stefan thought on his feet and crouched again, so he was on the same level as the kids. “I can help you, but you have to tell me something first.”

The boy frowned but didn’t lower his fists or step away from Kirby. “What?” he asked suspiciously.

“Is he really your uncle?”

The frown didn’t drop. “Yes.” The boy nudged the girl. “Tell him, Lou.”

“Tell him what?” The girl, Lou, didn’t have her fists up. Her eyes were bright with tears, but she was as brave as her brother, standing as a barrier between Kirby and Stefan.

“Tell him you want to stay with Uncle Kirby.”

She didn’t answer in words; she nodded, then slipped back and into Kirby’s arms.

Stefan eyed the tableau critically. “Okay, I’ll get you all away from here, as long as your uncle promises to see a doctor.”

“I will,” Kirby said. “Let us go, and I will go straight to a hospital when I can.”

Stefan didn’t like to point out the contradiction in going straight there and the added “when I can.” He would cross that bridge when he came to it.

“This is how it’s going to go,” Stefan began. “We’re leaving.” He stared past the small boy and into Kirby’s green eyes, wondering what kind of man Kirby was.

“We’re getting a train,” Kirby said.

“Not tonight, you’re not. They shut the station down, issues with snow.”

“Shit.” The curse was loud and made Lou wince.

“Why do those men want you, Kirby? What did you do, and whose kids are these?” There, that was all the questions Stefan had at this moment.

Kirby stared at him, holding the girl tight. Maybe Kirby wasn’t bleeding internally, but he looked like shit. Kirby stumbled to stand, using the wall to support himself. Stefan took a step closer, and, in response, Kirby moved to one side, his hands on Andy’s shoulders, his legs hitting boxes. He looked scared and defiant, and he stepped forward so he was between Stefan and the children as much as he could be.

Andy still had his hands clenched at his sides, and there was a scowl on his face. “McLeod hurt Daddy, stuck a knife in him and made him fall down,” Andy said. “We saw him do it.”

Stefan looked from Andy to Kirby and put two and two together immediately. The kid’s dad was knifed, and the uncle was taking them from Edinburgh? Jesus, this was worse than he thought. “The children are witnesses to something?”

Kirby nodded mutely, and the horror of what was happening here hit Stefan. This was stupid; they needed to call the cops.

“An’ Uncle Kirby was keeping us safe,” Andy added. “Don’t you hurt him.”

Stefan shook his head, as struck dumb as Kirby was. The pain in his wrist was more of a dull ache, so it clearly wasn’t that bad. Either that or adrenaline was numbing him. Wouldn’t be the first time. He had to trust Kirby and his niece and nephew were in danger, and this was what Stefan did best—he handled threats, and he looked out for people.

“We need to get you out of here. Where’s your car?”

Kirby blinked at him. “We were going to…. I don’t have a car.”

“Okay. I have one. I’m in the main parking area.” He stopped talking and instead internalized all the steps needed to get Kirby and the children to his waiting car and then the authorities. By now the three men he’d dealt with would be awake. “Follow me and stay behind me. Okay?”

“Uncle Kirby?” Andy said from behind him.

“It’s okay, Andy. You remember the rules.”

“Aye, run, and if they catch me, I scream right loud, like a girl.”

The kid looked so earnest. His short dark hair was in a messy pile of sticking-up bits, his eyes were damp, but he’d spoken with complete determination.

Kirby nodded. “And stay with me.”

Andy looked up at Stefan. “You a bad guy who’s good?”

What Stefan landed himself in, he didn’t know, but hell if he was abandoning one skinny man with intriguing green eyes and two small kids.

A bad guy was not who he was. He was a typical good guy, who was quite happy being the bad guy if it kept innocent civilians safe. That was who Stefan Mortimer was.

And he was excellent at his job.

Kissing Alex #6
Chapter One
“No.”

Lewis Nevin didn’t have to be a certified genius with an IQ of 147 to see where this conversation with Kyle was heading.

No, he just had to see the obvious clues—like Ross hiding in the kitchen and Kyle, his boss and his friend, looking all kinds of guilty. In fact, he’d known what Kyle had been hinting at since the very moment the owner of Bodyguards Inc. had called him into the damn office. He just said nothing and let it play out so that Kyle would be on the back foot.

Three years of working for Kyle, and Kyle had always accepted that every year from the end of March and into April he was unavailable for work. So why would he be suggesting things that meant this long-standing arrangement would be changing?

Kyle held up his hands. “You don’t even know what I’m asking.”

“I do,” Lewis said. “You want me to cancel my month off.”

“No, not at all.”

The piss and vinegar Lewis had sparking through his veins subsided in an instant, but the suspicion remained. Something was going on here.

Kyle continued, with a serious expression and determination in his tone. “I have this new case, and it’s personal to us.”

“Personal how?” Lewis wished Kyle would just cut to the chase.

“I have a client who needs somewhere to keep his head down for a couple weeks.”

“And you know I’ll be back mid-April.”

“That’s too late, it’s needed now.” Kyle laced his fingers together and couldn’t quite look Lewis in the eye.

A myriad of emotions zipped through Lewis. Kyle was lying; somehow he was asking Lewis to give up his vacation time, his precious month on the island. “I’m not available now, and you said you didn’t need me to—” He stopped, his brain catching up with his words, and abruptly it all made horrific sense. “Hell no!”

He knew exactly where this was going.

“Hear me out,” Kyle pleaded.

“This month is my time.”

“I know, and if it wasn’t important I wouldn’t ask.”

Lewis held his tongue. As far as he was concerned, any job was important, and that was what Kyle usually thought too.

Kyle continued. “This is something Ben asked me for.”

Great. Now Kyle was pulling the fellow-bodyguard card.

Still, Lewis was abruptly worried. “What’s wrong? Is Ben okay? Is Daniel okay?”

Ben’s boyfriend, Daniel, was a nice guy, a singer with an expanding career. Lewis counted Ben as a friend—as much as Lewis had friends with the lack of down time he had.

“It’s not Daniel. He and Ben are in Japan at the moment. It’s a friend of Daniel’s.”

“A friend of Daniel’s?”

“You’ll recall the show Daniel was on….”

“I do.” Lewis wasn’t a man who sat in front of the television watching brain-rotting shit like that. Apart from his obsession way back with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, he didn’t watch much television at all. However, he’d caught enough about the show Kyle had referred to in the news, and he knew exactly who finished where in the competition. Not for the first time, he cursed his brain’s capacity to recall all kinds of useless facts.

Kyle prompted him. “The band that came second.”

“Twelfth Wonder.” Stupid name for a band.

“One of the boys is having some trouble.”

“Boys. Trouble.” Lewis repeated. Five boys—well, men, actually.

“He needs somewhere safe to stay for the next few weeks. He’s the loose end and leverage in a serious case.”

Lewis picked up the subtle inference that the man was in danger and that it would be better for certain people if he wasn’t around at all. This was something Lewis had seen before.

But… once a year, that was all, he was due vacation time, and he couldn’t believe Kyle was asking him to work. Nothing disturbed his family time on Stoirmeil or the work he did there. In fact, temper itched inside him, and he had to consciously force it back.

He didn’t get angry. “Wait. You want me herding a pretty boy when I should be sitting with my books and getting my downtime. Can’t you get him to a safe house or something?”

“This goes a lot deeper than one of our normal cases.”

“Bring him here.”

Kyle attempted innocence. “I just thought you might want to help.” When Lewis failed to react, he sighed noisily. “Okay, you have an island. We need a place where no one would find him.”

“It’s my time, Kyle. You know I need this month.”

Kyle looked a little guilty, and then his expression turned sly. “It seemed like a good plan on paper, but I told Ross it wouldn’t work.”

“This was Ross’s idea?” Lewis could believe that; Ross was one sneaky fucker. Then he caught Kyle glancing at the closed office door with a guilty expression. “It wasn’t his idea.” Not a question, a statement of fact.

Kyle nudged a folder toward him. “Okay, so it was my idea, but there is one thing. This one pays well, and all you’d need to do is watch over the kid and keep him off the grid.”

“I said no. I get one month, Kyle—less than that. Twenty-eight freaking days at home.”

“I had to ask, because I need a guy who can go dark for a couple of weeks, and y’know, you going to the island means that you’d be gone longer than that. His management team is willing to pay well, a year’s money for four weeks’ work. I can probably push them to more if you take it on. They want secrecy.”

“Who is this guy and what did he see?”

Kyle tapped the file. “It’s all in here. I think you should read the file and the background information, to see if this case is something you’d want to handle.”

“This singer. You know I don’t like working for shallow idiots without a single brain cell.”

Lewis hated his boss at that moment, which was shitty because he loved working for the tall sexy American. Bodyguards Inc. was one of the places where he felt at home. Years in military intelligence, man and boy, had shown him a lot, given him skills, but it was Kyle who had seen past the brains to the simple man beyond. Lewis hadn’t reached thirty-one without feeling he could judge character, and he judged Kyle to be a fair and excellent boss.

Kyle sighed again; he was doing a lot of that. “I know, and this could be a stretch. I don’t know the client at all. This is all being done covertly.”

Lewis tried once more to attempt an explanation. “Kyle, I have my commitments.”

Kyle leaned back in his chair. “Young Alex would fit right in. He’d stay quiet and keep out of your hair, and he’d earn you a big bonus for keeping him safe.”

Lewis didn’t fall back on cursing very often, finding it easier to construct an appropriate logical reason for his responses than to randomly swear. But he wanted to rant right now, using as many expletives as he could. He was adamant that he wouldn’t take on the job, convinced he was heading north tomorrow for his annual break, and utterly unmoved by anything Kyle had said.

Then the money smacked him in the face. How much money? And was it worth tilting the balance of his life just for more?

The harbormaster’s house needs a new roof; the cafĂ© needs extending, and the trail needs developing.

He attempted to ignore the inner voice that told him he should at least look at the file. His inner voice won with its promises of financial help for Stoirmeil.

“I’ll read the file,” he said evenly, holding back the need to snap, and he scooped up the paperwork. “You know where I’ll be.”

He left the office without a goodbye, without, in fact, another word, storming past Ross and out into the mid-March air, which slapped him on the face with its frosty hands. He didn’t stop being angry until he closed the doors of the manor library behind him, finally safe in the one place he felt most relaxed.

Surrounded by the impressive collection of old books and wedged firmly in the wing chair by the unlit fireplace, Lewis opened the file.

The first thing he saw was a picture of the kid, who, according to his profile, was twenty-seven years old and thus only four years younger than Lewis

He looked young and sexy. Maybe it was the hair, a strawberry blond color, longer in the back and tucked behind the ears, artfully styled in some flicky pile on top — it made him look young. Or maybe it was the eyes, green, Lewis thought, with a hint of brown… hazel, then. The photo was clearly a promo shot by the way the stubble was just a certain neat length, and the pout of soft lips lent a smoldering air to the image.

But it was the lips Lewis really focused on—full and pink and pouty. Lewis had a thing for lips.

For kissing, actually. Clinically he assessed the photo, slapping it face down to one side on the small table next to the chair.

“Alex Cantrell.” He sounded out the name and then glanced down at the other information.

First was the contract amount: a solid quarter of a million would be the reward for anyone willing to put up with the boy band pretty boy who needed a safe place to sleep for the next four weeks.

Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds was enough to set up Stoirmeil for a year, and it would take the pressure off Lewis having to work 24/7.

He read on.

Alex James Cantrell, 27. Birthday April 1, height five nine. Originally from Edinburgh but moved to Bournemouth, on the south coast of England at age eight. Mother and Father deceased, both in their early seventies. Gay. Graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a 2:1 in business studies.

Pretty normal for the most part, apart from the fact he had no family, which had to suck. His parents clearly had him as a late in life baby. Then he re-read the information.

“Business studies,” Lewis muttered. Not quite the same prestige as the degrees in physics and statistics from Oxford and the doctorate in statistics Lewis held. Still, at least Alex wasn’t an idiot and could probably hold a small, somewhat intelligent conversation if needed.

Lewis realized where his train of thought was going, almost as if he was considering the job. He cursed himself and turned to the next page. This was the interesting part, the whys and wherefores of this young man needing a bodyguard, or, in this case, somewhere to hide.

The detail was sparse: Alex had been the victim of a physical attack with no associated hospital stay, and his ex-boyfriend was giving evidence against his own family. A sex tape had been released featuring the potential client and his ex.

Then Lewis saw something that hit him right between the eyes.

Azarov.

One word. A Russian family with a hold in the import and export of anything illegal, with a focus on drugs moving in and out of London and Birmingham. Lewis knew all about the Azarov family: the grandfather, Mikhail Azarov, who had his father’s Russian blood and the fierce passion of his Italian mother, ruled the family with ruthless efficiency. He’d spent over half his life in prison, running his family just as well from behind bars as outside in their Sussex mansion.

The fear of how much the Azarov influence had spread was never more evident than from the fact that the Prime Minister took regular briefings on the matter from the head of Scotland Yard, some of which Lewis had been a party to when he guarded the deputy prime minister last summer.

Azarov and the establishment had an uneasy truce, and the influence of that one man, along with his sons and his grandchildren, was far-reaching.

And Alex-freaking-Cantrell had an ex-boyfriend, Roman Azarov, who was willing to do what it took to shut the Azarov family down?

Well, that wasn’t good. Roman was a grandson of the head of the Azarov family.

What was Roman going to say in court against his family? How bad could it be to destroy an organization that had survived since World War II? Lewis scanned the rest of the papers, but that detail was nowhere to be found.

So Roman’s vulnerability was Alex?

That was why Alex needed somewhere to hide.

Suddenly the library was too closed-in, Lewis’s usual sanctuary invaded enough that he stalked out and into the huge kitchen. He dropped the file on the work surface, and the papers slid out with the photo top and center, Alex’s pouty lips and sexy face staring right up at him.

He started some coffee and leaned there, waiting for the machine to do its thing. The Azarov family played on the wrong side of the law but had enough money to buy almost anyone off.

There were newspaper cuttings in those files—the tabloids going to town on the Alex Cantrell sex tape—but so far nothing had the press connecting Alex to the Azarov family, otherwise Ross would have made a note of it in the file. There were a few stills from the tape: grainy, but very definitely this Alex guy topping the hell out of a man with short hair. Was that Roman Azarov? Had the sex tape been revealed to discredit Roman? Did Alex know what Roman was doing?

“Lewis, hey.”

Lewis looked up to see Max amble into the kitchen, yawning widely behind his hand.

“Morning, Max,” Lewis offered with a smile. He liked Max. In fact, there was nothing not to like about the short guy who looked about twenty-one but was actually as old as Lewis.

“Coffee,” Max whimpered and slumped onto a stool.

“Late one?”

“Three-week rotation on a chat show host who won’t shut the hell up.” Max yawned again. “Idiot keeps announcing on his show that his guests aren’t the fathers of their babies, and it incites on-screen fights.” He shrugged. “He’s gonna get people wanting to stab him.”

“All resolved?”

“No, I’m still on the books. Adam’s covering me for a few days so I can sleep.”

“An intense one, then.”

Every so often you were assigned cases that sucked the life out of you. Charges who were complete idiots, putting themselves and their bodyguards in danger, or ones who refused to listen. It seemed as if that was what Max was handling.

Lewis poured coffees and passed one to Max along with cream and sugar. Max sipped at the black stuff and closed his eyes in ecstasy. “Thank fuck,” he muttered. “I needed that.”

“Where’s Prince Lucien?”

They were typically joined at the hip on any of Max’s downtimes.

Max grinned at him, then winked. “Still in bed.”

Lewis quickly changed the subject. “Do you know this guy?”

Lewis knew that Max, through his lover, Lucien, had a connection to Alex. Lucien was friends with Daniel, who’d been on the same show as the potential client. The way Max’s brain worked was, he collected random facts, and somehow they all stayed in his head. A collection of everything, which then never left.

“Who?”

“Alex Cantrell, from Twelfth Wonder.”

Max brightened. “Yeah, good kid. He was the one who gave Ben the heads-up on Daniel.”

Lewis nudged the file to Max. “He needs a bodyguard.”

“Shit, why? Overeager fans? Ben was saying some girl jumped Daniel the other day, asking to marry him.”

Lewis tapped the file with his index finger. “No, I wish it were that easy. An ex-boyfriend with links to the Azarov family, a released sex tape—by whom I don’t know—and a court case I don’t have details on yet but where Alex is vulnerable. Possibly the family wants Alex as leverage against the key witness.”

Max grimaced. “Ouch. The Azarov family. Are they the ones who run the drug route between London and Birmingham?”

Lewis nodded, then added, “Allegedly.”

“And a sex tape? With Alex in it?”

Lewis pulled out the still and pushed it toward Max, who looked at it, then looked up at him with an open-mouthed expression. “Shit. That’s, um—”

“Wrong,” Lewis said.

“Exactly what I was going to say.” Max grinned, then sobered. “Poor Alex. Bet the management of the band love that one. I always got the impression that Alex was supposed to be the clean-cut one. Cute and mysterious, not the ‘I’m gay and I actually have sex’ one.”

He opened the file and pushed past the photo of Alex. Max didn’t linger on Alex’s lips—but then, he had regular sex with his boyfriend. Nope, Max wasn’t in a desperate no-sex zone like Lewis was at the moment.

Sex.

Then it hit Lewis. Having Alex in tow meant he couldn’t stop off for the night in Inverness to hook up with anyone who would be interested. Months of no sex were starting to take their toll, and Lewis had placed a lot of faith in that one night and being able to work through all his pent-up sexual aggression. Finding a guy who didn’t look at his height and broad chest and think he exclusively topped.

My life sucks.

Max interrupted Lewis’s thoughts. “Jesus. This isn’t looking good.”

“Yeah.”

“And this is your next case?”

Max looked at him expectantly as if he assumed Lewis was going to say yes.

“I haven’t said yes yet.”

Max whistled. “Hell of a payout. Not that you need the money, Mr. Scottish Jimmy McRich, laird of an island.”

“Ha-ha,” Lewis joked back dryly, deflecting the heat of any further questions.

Let everyone think what they wanted to; it made no difference to him, or to him doing his job. If only Max knew exactly how much he needed the damn money, or the kind of responsibilities he had, then he wouldn’t be teasing. The only one that did know was Kyle, and likely Ross, given they were the opposite sides of the same coin.

“Guess they could get Adam back. He’s covering for me for a few days, and then he has a transit job to Greece, but he’s due back in the office at some point. I only know that because Ross muttered some dark shit about his stapler.”

Lewis focused on the information in that sentence and not on the stapler stuff. “Yeah, they need someone now.”

The thought of Adam taking the job unsettled Lewis. Adam was all happy and loved-up, with a boyfriend and probably a dog by now, and the Azarov family weren’t the kind of people you messed with. Better if one of the single bodyguards got involved.

Who was he kidding? Lewis knew he would be the one taking Alex where he’d be safe. Too many reasons why he was the perfect one for the job; they outweighed the negatives two to one.

Damn his organized brain and its need to have everything in a line.

“I think I’ll be the one to do it.”

Max nodded as if he’d assumed Lewis would do it anyway. “Adam doesn’t own an island in the middle of nowhere where a man could safely hide.”

Lewis didn’t want to even think that he was losing his four weeks of peace, where he was isolated and could find his center again.

Max poured another coffee, pulled out a red mug, and filled that as well. He yawned again. “Bed,” he muttered and left the kitchen and Lewis to his thoughts.

Lewis nursed his coffee, with resignation in every one of his thoughts. When he walked into the office, Ross looked up at him with that same expectant expression. “And?” he asked as he stapled papers together in a new file.

“Yeah, okay,” Lewis answered grudgingly.

“Full details of the court case to date are in your email. Flight BA7813 to Inverness City Airport, 0920 tomorrow. Alex’s management covered your flights. We’ll pay you for an extra two weeks at the end for you to be able to stay after this is over. It’s the least we can do.”

Ross didn’t bother to ask if Lewis needed to write that down. He knew as well as anyone that Lewis had a freaky brain.

“I’ll go to the airport tonight,” Lewis said.

“And I’ll book you a room, text you the details. Same place?”

Like that, Lewis had agreed to something he never thought he would. He left the manor; his company-issued Jeep ate up the miles to London and he ended up at the Hilton at Heathrow. He completed enough lengths in the half-size pool before his muscles turned to jelly.

By the time he fell asleep, he had rationalized the decision to take on Alex’s case. After all, the money would fix a lot of problems on the island. Just because he had someone he needed to keep an eye on, didn’t mean he wouldn’t get peace. He just hoped to hell Alex wasn’t high maintenance, the type of reality show diva expecting the world to revolve around them.

Knowing his luck though, Alex was exactly that type.

Author Bio:
RJ Scott has been writing since age six when she was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies and was told to write a story. Two sides of A4 about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born. She reads anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror; however, her first real love will always be the world of romance. From billionaires, bodyguards and cowboys to SEALs, throwaways and veterinarians, she writes passionate stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and more than a hint of happily ever after.


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EMAIL: rj@rjscott.co.uk



Love's Design #5
B&N  /  KOBO  /  SMASHWORDS
iTUNES  /  ARe  /  GOODREADS TBR

Kissing Alex #6
B&N  /  KOBO  /  SMASHWORDS
iTUNES  /  ARe  /  GOODREADS TBR

Roman's Heart #7(Coming Summer 2017)

Bodyguards Inc Volume 2
Bodyguards Inc Volume 3