Adam Freeman showed the office manager his middle finger at the familiar and detested nickname and then crossed to the coffee machine. He was tired and just this side of irritable and Ross Jackson knew exactly which buttons to press to wind Adam up big time. Adam hoped the middle finger would be enough to get Ross to shut up, but no such luck.
“That kind of morning, eh?” Ross offered with a laugh. He sidled up to Adam and bumped shoulders, causing Adam to curse under his breath when hot coffee splashed his hand. “It’s only gonna get worse.”
Adam needed this coffee. He lived on the opposite side of London from Bodyguards Inc., and the traffic on the motorway had been murder, even this early in the morning. He couldn’t fault the premises—a converted barn on the land of the manor house Kyle Monroe had inherited six years ago. But he could definitely fault having to battle every commuter in the city just to get his briefing.
“How can anything be worse than an hour stuck on the M25?” Adam asked wryly. Then he really wished he hadn’t. Sitting down behind his immaculately tidy desk, Ross leaned back in his chair with his long legs in front of him and his hands behind his head. He was the picture of nonchalance yet had an air of knowing something that Adam didn’t.
“The M25 is nothing on this. We had a call-in,” Ross said. “You’re up on a Pretty Boy job.”
Adam closed his eyes and cursed. His absolute worst contracts involved being in charge of what Bodyguards Inc. labeled—off the record—as Pretty Boys. Actors, singers, and in a worst-case scenario, reality TV stars. Every one of them paid well, but dealing with celebrities who had more money than sense all because they epitomized ‘star’ was his idea of hell. The last job—Jesus—that X-Factor runner-up who demanded Adam call him ‘sir’. He’d kept dropping Simon Cowell’s name like he personally knew the guy. In addition, he was arrogant, narcissistic, and had the IQ of a snail. Adam was well out of that particular job.
“Not only that,” Ross continued, “but it’s a science-fiction fantasy convention gig.”
“Convention? Like Trekkies?” Adam couldn’t believe that he’d timed his life so poorly that he was going to be surrounded by people wearing fake ears and speaking Klingon.
“No, like vampires and stuff.”
Adam cursed and Ross just grinned. Bastard. “Is it too late to take some sick days?” Adam said.
“Are you sick, Adam?” The new voice belonged to Kyle, boss and owner of Bodyguards Inc. His drawling American accent was so damn sexy and for a second Adam allowed himself to stare. Adam was fascinated by Kyle’s accent, and hell, he’d let Kyle charm him using just his voice, and maybe his large hands, any day he wanted. Pity the owner of Bodyguards Inc.—or BI as Kyle called it—was so gone on Ross, despite the fact his personal assistant remained oblivious to that fact.
“No. I’m not sick,” Adam said. No point in lying. Kyle could spot a lie a mile off.
“I have a job for you. I’m guessing Ross already gave you the heads-up? Star of an American TV series over here for a convention in London. He’s been receiving threats, had a near-miss with a car trying to run him down, and also had some objects left in his trailer on set.”
Kyle peered at the list. “Antique knives on two separate occasions, four deliveries of red roses with thorns intact, and one dildo.”
“So it’s a sex thing then?” Adam wasn’t surprised. Actors weren’t renowned for high moral standards. The guy involved probably slept with everyone and had encountered someone just slightly mentally unhinged. Still, that didn’t make terrorizing the man okay so Adam concentrated on the rest of the briefing.
“The network has decided he needs tracking from airport to hotel, through the convention, and out the other side to the airplane home with a handover after one week in the US. This Friday through ten days to a Monday. Good money. You want it?”
Adam considered his options here. If he could just push past the memories of past contracts with similar clients he would be fine. It crossed his mind that perhaps he should ask if there were anything else that he could do instead.
“No chance of a nice industrial threat job? Or maybe I could work the desk for a week?” The joke fell flat as Ross narrowed his eyes at the question. No one went near the desk. That was Ross’s domain and no one else’s.
Kyle shook his head. “Sorry, dude. This is the only new thing on the BI books today. Well, not exactly the only one, but Ed and Lorna both turned Pretty Boy down. So yeah, it’s mostly your decision. If you want it, say so, otherwise I’ll tell his management team no.” Kyle waited patiently for an answer, all serious and businesslike.
“Why did no one else want the job?” Adam asked, suspicious of what he’d just heard. Kyle opened his mouth and then shut it again. Evidently the other close protection agents’ reasons wouldn’t be good ones. Ross dived in to help.
“Lorna just got off a case and she’s recuperating, as you well know,” Ross explained. Like that explained why she wouldn’t take on one of her favorite kinds of cases.
“I just got off a case as well,” Adam protested. A case involving an idiot, two guns, a case full of whisky, and a week of driving all over the bloody country. Not a good one at all.
“Yes,” Ross said dryly, “but you weren’t shot at, Adam, and she was.”
“Flimsy excuse. Bullet didn’t actually hit her,” Adam pointed out with a laugh. Gallows humor always worked best in these situations. He liked Lorna a lot; the feisty redhead was fun and damn good at her job. No one wanted to see her shot. Well, apart from her ex who had been served with a restraining order. “What about Ed?” He knew he was clutching at straws. Ed had seniority at BI, having been with Kyle since it started six years ago.
“Ed said, and I quote, ‘I can’t deal with screaming fans.’” Ross shrugged. “You know he’s far too old and grumpy to deal with screaming women.”
“He’s the same age as me,” Kyle observed. He sounded affronted and Adam hid a smile.
“See? Old,” Ross joked. Adam watched the byplay with interest. His boss was so head over heels with Ross and Adam wondered how Ross could fail to see the hurt in Kyle’s eyes at the comment. Kyle was thirty-five or as near as, and Ross was only twenty-five… still, age was an irrelevant thing in Adam’s eyes. Ross was losing out; Kyle was a good man.
“I’ll take the job,” Adam said, just to break the tension. Yes, he would do this. That was his job. He could manage ten days. Kyle tore his stare away from Ross and held out the folder with the information Adam would need. Taking the folder was implicit agreement that he would accept the job.
Kyle disappeared into his office and slammed the door shut behind him. His hurt followed him like a cloud. Ross didn’t even look up from his desk.
“Why do you do that?” Adam asked.
“Do what?” Ross responded. The question was accompanied by a distracted frown.
“Go on at Kyle about his age all the time.”
Ross huffed. “It’s only a joke. He doesn’t care. Anyway, the other computer is all yours.” Evidently the discussion was over. Ross buried himself in other work, leaving Adam to get on with what he needed to do.
There was always a strictly professional brief in the folders that Ross created and Kyle handed out. However, a good Google search often highlighted elements in the case that would be useful. Adam had four days until the client’s plane landed at London Heathrow so he opened to file to build the foundation for the assignment.
Even he couldn’t help but raise his eyebrows when he saw the guy he was being assigned to look after. Logan Brady was some high-class Pretty Boy material. Twenty-nine. Brunet. Actor. Those were the basics. Adam peered at the photo; he wasn’t sure if it was just the print resolution but Logan’s eyes were really stunning and an incredibly bright blue. His hair had a soft curl to it and was in one of those short, tousled cuts. He wasn’t smiling in the photo. He had that typical shot used for publicity where he was staring moodily at something just off-camera. There was red around his mouth so Adam scratched at the photo. Nope. It wasn’t coming off the photo. Reading the label explained a lot. ‘Night Cop – Vampire, Cop. Brother, Lover. Killer, Hero. Isaac.’.
Okay. So Logan Brady played a guy called Isaac from one of these über-popular vampires-are-cool shows crossed with some kind of police procedural show. He was seriously nice eye candy. That part was going to be extremely easy to handle for ten days.
Flicking through the pack, Adam pulled out pictures of the girlfriend, a blonde-haired green-eyed beauty who clung to Logan’s arm in the photos like a limpet to a rock. Logan wasn’t smiling in any of the photos. Whether paparazzi or studio shots, he appeared to use the patented cool-vampire stare for all of them. To Adam’s eyes he just looked permanently pissed off. But then the young girls liked that kind of thing, he supposed.
A quick search had many more pictures, both the same vampire character and others going back maybe ten years to a fresh-faced Logan in some kind of teenage high school show. Adam didn’t exactly have his finger on the pulse of kids’ TV shows, nor did he watch anything with vampires in it, to be fair. But hell, if the stars all looked like this guy, then he may well change his mind. Seems vampires and pissed-off faces paid well; pictures of Logan’s house showed a small place in LA up in the hills, at least so the label to the photo said. There were paparazzi shots of Logan in his garden, Logan eating out at dinner, Logan swimming, Logan shopping. Jeez, Adam wouldn’t have been surprised to see pictures of the actor taking a shit.
The fact that the paparazzi had snapped so many photos of this TV star was no surprise to Adam. Over three-quarters of BI cases were with people in the public eye, actors, politicians, the British aristocracy, and so many other high-profile people. Adam was never sure how they coped being out there for everyone to see, but then, he guessed the money helped.
The information on the hit-and-run was sketchy. The internet had nothing apart from gossip and hearsay. Apparently a car had lost control and crossed the street, glancing the wall and coming to a stop next to Logan. Either the term ‘hit-and-run’ was not an appropriate one to use on this occasion, or the journalists hadn’t gotten the full story. Adam suspected the latter based on how the network now appeared to want to wrap their star in cotton wool.
Ross crossed over and placed sheets of paper next to the open folder. He frowned. Gone was the man who called him Blondie. In his place was serious-Ross with a focused look.
“Logan Brady’s manager sent over copies of the notes Logan’s been receiving. It’s not good. They’re all addressed to Isaac,” he said.
“The character he plays on the show,” Adam confirmed.
“Yeah. There’s also more information on the alleged hit-and-run. Logan is one lucky bastard that he wasn’t a human sandwich between two or three tons of SUV and a solid brick wall.” He left without further discussion, and curious, Adam rifled through the notes.
Words jumped out at him from the different sheets of paper; love and hate and all the emotions in between. Celebrities received threats all the time; it was almost a way of life that once you were a ‘personality’ you attracted the crazy out of the woodwork. The last case he’d worked on for the Metropolitan Police had been a stalker case and the client said she received threats just as often as she received proposals of marriage.
These notes were well written, the grammar was good, they were tidy, and Adam filed away that information as possibly useful. As to the content, there was nasty, vicious prose in one, wheedling love declarations in another, all written in the same hand and signed with the initials IR. Threats to kill Logan over some kind of relationship with an Annabelle? Adam checked the file. Annabelle wasn’t the girlfriend. A hunch had him checking the show listings. Annabelle was the heroine to Logan’s bad boy on the show, played by an actress named Marissa.
So the same guy that professed love for Logan in one letter demonstrated an equally vicious hate in the next, all because Logan’s character had kissed Annabelle in an episode. Great, so he was dealing with a total nutjob then, an irrational person with severe pretend-life issues. The car accident details Ross brought over were far more detailed than those Adam found on the internet and he spent a while looking at photos. If the car hadn’t hit a street lamp then Logan would have been seriously hurt. The driver ran but what few witnesses there were had caught sight of a woman—short, slim, with blonde hair to her waist—fleeing the scene. There were no CCTV photos, either. Apparently whoever owned Logan’s contract at the studio wanted a lid kept on things.
There was no indication that Adam had a bodyguard in the US, why did the guy’s manager think that he would need one on his visit to the UK? The probability that the perpetrator followed Adam from the US was slim. Then he reached the last note in the list. A simple two sentence missive that was written so tidily that it was a shock to read the actual words:
“I’ll be at the convention in London. I can’t wait to meet the man who is the other half of me.”
Ah. That explained the need for a bodyguard then.
“Does he have a bodyguard in the US?”
“Some kind of driver guy shadows him, but the network is getting serious and have brought someone in for you to do a handover in LA.”
“And the cops? Do they have Logan Brady under surveillance?”
“No. The agent said the cops felt it was nothing, not yet.” Adam knew where the cops were coming from, each district had a glut of certain crimes, and in LA it seemed maybe crimes against actors were the drug of choice. He knew the feeling of saying to someone, “I’m sorry, but until there is proof, until someone gets hurt, there is nothing we can do.” Still, these notes were pretty damn specific in what they were saying. As to hiring a bodyguard, BI often took on cases where the victims didn’t want police involved so that was nothing new.
“Anyway, no cops. Whoever pays Pretty Boy’s wages wants it kept low-key. A vulnerable actor makes for a shit ‘heroic, in-your-face vampire cop’ and the show is, and I quote, ‘coming up for renewal’.”
“A dead actor isn’t going to cut it much for renewal either,” Adam deadpanned.
“I checked into the initials IR; the convention organizers are cooperating but no one on their lists matches up with those initials. There are a mix of UK, European, and US fans attending the convention. Not that we can narrow it down, the letters came from the UK, tracked through to an East London PO address in Greenwich so it could be anyone already here. No addresses in the convention database match though. There are fourteen hundred attendees; it’s a big pool of bodies, eighty-five percent of them female.”
Adam looked down at the letters. Despite the statistics offered to him it would be foolish to accept at face value that a woman had written the letters. There was also no evidence that whoever wrote them would desire to drive a car straight at Logan. Nothing matched just yet and you couldn’t just cut out an entire gender based on assumption.
Ross continued, “Logan Brady is staying at the Upton Levington Manor Hotel. It’s a suite with three bedrooms so you’re sleeping there. I booked it through from tonight so whoever got the contract can get sorted.”
Adam closed the folder and knocked it once on the desktop to align the paper. A familiar buzz of excitement shot through him. Getting his teeth into a job was always a good thing. Whatever the case was.
“Good luck with your Pretty Boy, Blondie,” Ross called as Adam was leaving. A middle finger up at his friend through the glass was a nice end to the visit. He was still smiling when he reached his car over the fact he’d managed to hide Ross’s stapler again. When would the man ever learn to leave the damned thing where Adam couldn’t see it?
“You know why having a bodyguard is a bad thing, Jimmy.” Logan slumped back into the corner of the SUV seat and closed his eyes. How had it come to this? The letters had started out like a million others he received. Simple and to the point, they declared love and forever and very often included lace panties or some other random piece of clothing. He’d had wedding invites sent to him with his n 76yame next to the applicable girl or boy; hell, he’d had notes claiming babies as his. Nothing quite as disturbing as these letters, but then again, this person sending them was probably a mental patient or something. Mostly harmless. That was what he had to think otherwise he’d be jumping at his own shadow.
“Bodyguards Inc. is the best, Logan, and they are very discreet. I’m forwarding the mail to you with the details for the guy who is looking after you. He’s the most suitable they have for you apparently. He’s done a lot of these celebrity gigs. You have to know I’m paying a lot of money for the best.”
“You’re paying? Don’t you mean I’m paying?” Logan snapped. He immediately regretted the tone in his voice. Unlike a lot of industry agents, Jimmy was a good guy. “Sorry. I’m on edge.” Jimmy chose to ignore the quick outburst; he was good at doing that.
“BI has a fine reputation. I know a guy who knows the brother of a cousin to the man who runs it.”
Logan had to laugh. Jimmy knew everyone in one huge network of people. Locating a bodyguard agency via a friend of a brother of a second cousin twice-removed wouldn’t be a shock for a resourceful man like Jimmy.
“Anyway,” Jimmy continued, “we also have the new bodyguard that will be in place soon after you get back from the UK. Your English guy will be coming to the States with you to do what they call a handover. I’m guessing they’ll exchange notes.”
“Why can’t the US bodyguard start now and just go with me?”
“He’s not contracted until the first of the month, and the network wants you to have someone with local knowledge when you’re in England. This BI company will be more than suitable. And don’t forget you have Mike looking out for you up until then.”
“Great.” Logan felt tired and just this close to cancelling the UK trip. If it wasn’t for the fans he would be letting down then he may well have done so by now.
“Stacia wants to go with you. She’ll back you up. It won’t be any different than any other trip for the show. Just play the happy boyfriend and let her do her thing, and let the bodyguard do his as well.”
“I’m not taking Stacia. I won’t put her in any kind of danger.” As it was he had already begged off a dozen or so joint invites and begun to create a little media space between him and Stacia. She would stay safe that way.
“I don’t think the decision will be yours to make if she gets her way,” Jimmy pointed out.
“We were talking…” Logan wasn’t sure how to word this. “Stacia and I that is. She said Bryan isn’t doing so well with this whole her-pretending-to-be-my-girlfriend thing. Says it’s holding her back and that he loves her. Hell, he as good as proposed last weekend. Time has come to end this with her.” Bryan was a good guy, an cop who adored Stacia. He’d been damn patient for the last six months since he and Stacia had met. They had to keep their relationship a secret just so Stacia could keep making people believe she was with Logan.
Jimmy sighed. “I know that. She called me as soon as he asked her. She’ll cover you in London, but post-convention we probably need to find someone else. Talk to her, Logan, find out how she wants to deal with it. A discrete breakup with you in stages that we can filter to the internet should take care of it.”
Anxiety twisted inside Logan at the coming change in his ordered life. Stacia had been his wingman for three years now. The blonde beauty was the perfect foil for him and provided that brick wall between what he was and what he let people see. They’d met through the show. Night Cop had just entered its second season and she was brought on as a series baddie for a few episodes. She was a close friend, knew all his secrets. And he was a bankable commodity; her career had gone from strength to strength since they’d ‘gotten together’. She’d just landed a recurring role on a new comedy. Had to be a good thing for her; she deserved a good career and a man who loved her.
“Matt doesn’t have to hide,” Logan said. He couldn’t stop the sadness in his tone. He wanted what actors like Matt Bomer had. A partner he could really love, kids maybe someday, but still able to do what he loved—act. Finding another woman to be his plus one in order to keep his cover to the public at large was getting to be too much and he hated the lies.
“Then you need to make a choice,” Jimmy said patiently. Logan could probably quote word for word what his agent and closest friend was going to say. “Your decision is easy. Be honest with yourself and with everyone else, then deal with whatever happens next. You know whatever you decide, there will always be work for you and I will have your back in anything you choose to do.”
“I know you will, J, and I love you for it, man. It’s just… I’m coming up on thirty and I don’t have a clue what kind of roles will be out there for me as I age, let alone if I came out of the closet. I’m not sure I’d still get work as the ‘Sex God’ the tabloids keep labeling me as.”
“You don’t need the money,” Jimmy pointed out. “You could do what you want to do, go into directing, go back to school. Hell, Lo, you’ve been acting since you were fourteen, in public and in private. Aren’t you ready to be yourself now?”
“It’s not that easy. I can’t just decide to come out as gay.”
“You can. It’s very easy.”
“What are you saying, Jimmy? That I should make a different decision? I’ve been pretending for so long and hiding… and hell, what about Stacia? She’ll be embarrassed, humiliated.”
Jimmy chuckled. “This is Stacia we are talking about. She’s got balls of steel and she just wants you happy. We can manage this in a million ways. Call you bisexual, use the morals get-out clause in your contract. You can take some time off, decide what you really want now. And, Lo, remember…”
“Thirty is a good age to change your life.”
Logan ended the call and he switched to his email. The mail from Jimmy with details of the bodyguard company was at the top of the list and he clicked on the link to view the attached photo. His eyes widened when he saw the cute blond in the photo. Well. Cute might just be the wrong word. The man was looking stern, there was no smile, and Logan couldn’t see the color of the man’s eyes or anything. But hell, the body and face were fine.
At least his bodyguard would provide him with some male eye candy to stare at when he was surrounded by a million and one screaming fangirls. The document described Logan as thirty-one, blond, brown eyes, five-ten, ex-cop, specialist in hand-to-hand combat. Brown eyes, eh? Logan loved brown eyes. And hell, with this guy he wouldn’t mind a little hand-to-hand combat either.
They arrived at the studio. The blacked-out windows combined with utilizing the lesser-known back entrance to the studio meant he wasn’t spotted. He loved his fans; without them he wouldn’t be where he was, and he doubted Night Cop would have been renewed past season one. Now on season five, he really considered himself fortunate for the show to have such a loyal fanbase. It was only… some of the fans were really intense and despite being six foot and more than capable of running quite fast, he wasn’t beyond being scared when large groups of screaming girls—and boys—got up in his space.
“Okay back there, Logan?”
Logan nodded to his driver. Mike was one of the only people outside Jimmy who knew the real Logan, and sitting in the back with scripts on the long drive from home to here had meant several long conversations with the burly driver. Jimmy had handpicked Mike and normally Mike would have gone to the UK with him, but his daughter was having a baby. There was no way Logan was taking the experience of being here for his daughter away from Mike. She was already six days late and the hospital wouldn’t let it go much further. If only she’d had it on time Mike would be going with him, could be the brick wall between him and the fans. But on the other hand, Mike wasn’t a trained bodyguard, he was just a big guy with a soft heart.
“Just organizing the trip to London,” he answered and waved his phone in front of him. Mike nodded in the mirror. The SUV pulled in beside a whole row of similar vehicles, and turning the engine off, the driver turned in his seat.
“Did Jimmy find someone good?” Mike looked concerned.
Logan recalled Adam Freeman’s details. Not the fact he was five ten with brown eyes and blond hair but the stuff Mike would want to know, the fact the guy was qualified to look after him.
“Adam Freeman, British and a former cop, came over from some kind of special department out of London, counterterrorism or something. He’s a specialist in hand-to-hand combat and is good at his job apparently.”
“An English Jack Bauer.” Mike smirked.
For a second a flash of his frequently used Jack Bauer fantasy slid into Logan’s thoughts, but he ruthlessly pushed it to one side. “I wish.”
They exchanged smiles. They’d done the whole ‘I wish I was going, sorry to let you down’ chat and they didn’t need to say anything else. Logan climbed down from the SUV.
“Later,” he said. Mike sketched a wave goodbye and left to park. Logan strolled through the maze of small buildings and onto lot five, exchanging hellos with anyone he crossed paths with. The LA sun was starting to heat the air and he shrugged off his jacket. Today was the final day of shooting episode ten and it was outside work right on into the night. That was what he needed, hard, physical fight scenes in the dark with fake rain. Hell, at least it would make him forget the letters and the fact that Jimmy was right. He had a meeting with the network in a couple of weeks and he needed to take that time to consider his entire future. He owed it to himself, he owed it to Stacia, and he owed it to the show.
Jimmy would back whatever he decided. This kind of support was invaluable to have from your agent. If Logan came out as gay or bi or whatever Jimmy spun for him, then he could at least stop lying. He’d need to handle it carefully. Stacia could be part of the fallout through no fault of her own and he didn’t want her to be laughed at in any way.
“Logan, makeup now; I have you with Teresa in twenty.” A harassed assistant scurried over with a clipboard in hand. “We need the post-fight scars and the tattoos and we need it for ten.”