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The Bodyguard’s Catch





by Robyn Rychards


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Table of Contents





Title Page


About the Author


Acknowledgements


About The Bodyguard’s Catch


Chapter One


Chapter Two


Chapter Three


Chapter Four


Chapter Five


Chapter Six


More Books by Robyn Rychards


Copyright © 2017 by:

Robyn Van Matre



All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.










About the Author





Robyn Rychards grew up in the granola bowl of the United States, Boulder Colorado, a town filled with fruits, flakes and nuts. She considers herself a Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none and has taught herself to sew, paint, play the piano, garden, cook, the list goes on. But now that her books are published, she’s thrilled to finally be considered a master of one. At least as much as a person can be, for the learning never really stops.

She feels her active imagination is a blessing and a curse, with the blessing far outweighing the curse since it has led her to fulfill her dream of writing for Harlequin. Robyn started writing stories when she was a teenager because she didn’t have enough books to read. Sometimes she finds it hard to believe that people are willing to pay her to do something she enjoys so much, but mostly she’s happy to have such a wonderful excuse not to cook and clean. And a job that means you can stay in your jammies as long as you want? Priceless.

She also loves to hear from her readers, so send her an email at robynrychards@gmail.com. She loves meeting new people on Facebook too and can be found under her name, Robyn Rychards. Check out her web page at www.robynrychards.com for details about her books and upcoming releases.


Stay in Touch

Website: www.robynrychards.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/robynrychards

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robynrychardsauthor/

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/robynrychards





For my kids, Hope, Sondee, Rafe and Nikita. Thanks for putting up with a writer-mom whose head is always in the clouds instead of thinking about cooking and laundry. Love you tons!

Acknowledgements



Special thanks to Sherri Skanes for your inside scoop on all things Hollywood and for creating a cover that fits the story so well.


Thank you Nas Dean for all your editing and willingness to help me whenever I ask. You’re awesome!

About The Bodyguard’s Catch





Jordyn Souliere gave up her lucrative career as a concert pianist to become a photographer, but things didn’t go according to plan. Now she has no money to pay her bills. When the celebrity scoop of the year falls into her lap, her financial problems are solved. Until her high school sweetheart shows up as the celebrity’s bodyguard, grabs her phone and along with it the pictures she was going to sell. Her life’s a big enough mess as it is, the last thing she needs is her past coming back to haunt her.

Although Remo Vashenko had to leave town in the dark of night, he ended up landing on his feet. The job of bodyguard for the singing artist Maximillian Chanteur not only solves his financial needs, it puts him back in Jordyn’s orbit. Though he knows he isn’t long-term relationship material, he’s glad to have an opportunity to clear the air.

Seven years without a word is a long time. Will Jordyn and Remo be able to overcome their past and have a future together?

Chapter 1



Jordyn Souliere wasn’t the paparazzi. She hadn’t set out to take the pictures or record the video. It just fell in her lap. The famous singing artist, Maximillian Chanteur, getting dumped by his fiancée in the restroom of the famous L.A. restaurant, Spago’s. And she had a front row seat. Sort of. If peeking out from behind the door of a stall was considered front row.

She was on the verge of leaving the stall when Sasha Gomez burst in, followed moments later by the talented, temperamental Maximillian. Talk about awkward. Her only choice was to stay where she was, since she sure as hell wasn’t walking out into the middle of all that drama.

When things escalated and another man burst into the women’s restroom, it took everything she had to stifle a gasp that would alert the other three they weren’t alone.

Remo Vashenko.

No. Fricking. Way. She squeezed her eyes shut and turned off her phone. Right now she’d give anything not to be where she was. To have a magic wand she could wave and be transported somewhere else. Anywhere else. Her need for the money suddenly not so important. Please, God, don’t let this be happening. I promise to be a good girl from here on out.

“Max, you and Sasha need to get out of here. Now. Your voices are carrying into the restaurant, and it won’t be long before the paparazzi are crawling all over the place. The car’s pulled up outside. We need to move.

Max let out an epithet so loud her ears rang, and took Sasha by the arm. Gently, which surprised her considering his demeanor.

“C’mon, Sasha. Remo is right, this is a discussion we need to have in private. We’ve given the paparazzi enough fodder in the last year and I don’t want to get banned from another restaurant. I shouldn’t have followed you in here in the first place. It’s just that I love you so much I can’t think straight.”

“I’m not coming with you Max. I mean it this time. We don’t work. The combination of the two of us has more drama than a soap opera. I don’t love you anymore. I love Adam. I’m going to Dubai with him tomorrow. This emotional rollercoaster we’re on is killing me. Adam makes me feel alive for the first time in a long time. We. Are. Over. For real.”

“Are you goddam kidding me?! Not only have you cheated on me, it’s with my road manager?”

Max dropped his hand from her arm and balled his fists at his sides. Tipping his head back to look at the ceiling, he sucked in a deep breath. It was the money shot of the epic scene, and Jordyn couldn’t stop herself from taking it, as much as her heart hurt for the man. Between her dire financial straights and her inner photographer screaming at her to capture all that emotion, it was a losing battle.

She forced herself to take a slow deep breath. All was lost if one of the three found her there. This was the celebrity scoop of the year and if she cashed in, her financial worries could take a back burner. She stifled the pang of guilt that shot through her when she looked at the real life Maximillian Chanteur, rather than the one on the screen of her phone. That’s when it hit her, this was a real person. A real person whose heart had been ripped in two. She bent her head and pinched the bridge of her nose. She couldn’t let herself go there. She was a real person too. Her life had fallen apart a few minutes ago too. She had to protect herself first. But, damn! She knew the horror of having your private pain become public property. If she ended up getting out of here with no one the wiser, could she really sell the story?

“Let’s go, Remo. I can’t stand to be anywhere near this—woman—right now.”

He spun around and headed towards the door, but Remo grabbed him by the arm and halted him in his tracks. No mean feat as Max was larger than most men, but Remo outdid him in height and broadness of shoulder. Wow. Had he filled out nicely since high school. Not that he’d been a lightweight then either. She stifled a groan. Now was not the time to be admiring Remo. It had taken what seemed like forever for her to move on from that pain, and she didn’t need to let any of her feelings for him come back to life. Especially not in the middle of this predicament.

“You can’t be the first one to leave, Max. Sasha needs to go first. Give things out there a minute to calm down. Celebrity security is decent enough in this place, but as soon as the paparazzi get wind of this, outside is going to be a nightmare. When everyone sees Sasha leave, they’ll know the show’s over and get back to enjoying their dinners—and hopefully forget about you.” He turned his attention to Sasha, but kept his hold on Max’s arm. “Get out of here, woman. You picked a hell of a place to do this. I don’t believe for a minute you’re tired of the drama, so you can run the gauntlet.”

“Fine by me. Perfect ending to one crazy relationship. Adam’s on his way to pick me up anyway.”

Once she’d flounced out of the room, an eerie silence descended and Jordyn didn’t dare take a breath. As long as she could stay hidden until they left, she was home free. She took a slow, deep breath and tucked a strand of  hair behind her ear, afraid even the slightest sound would be magnified and give her away. How long did Remo plan on waiting, anyway? She closed her eyes and started counting.

“What do you think the odds are, Remo, that someone will want to use the restroom in the next five minutes?”

“Considering your luck, Max, I’d say they’re stacked against you.”

“That’s what I think— Hey! Where do you think you’re going? Need to use the facilities to pass the time? Or has the stress of the last ten minutes made you want to crap your pants?”

“Joke all you want, but you’re not fooling me. You’ve got a hole in your heart right now that’s a mile wide. I have a feeling you’ll be playing the blues all night. However…”

However, what?

Too late. Jordyn opened her eyes to see Remo right in front of her, filling up the doorway of the stall and far too close for comfort. Close enough she saw the shock of recognition flash through his unforgettable blue eyes before he grabbed her arm and pulled her out. She wished she’d had the sense to put away her phone when Sasha left the restroom so it wasn’t dangling from her fingers in plain sight, making it obvious what she’d been doing.

“However,” Max finished for Remo. “It appears we won’t be leaving Spago’s alone. Can’t even get away from paparazzi scum in the women’s restroom.”



Of all the places in L.A. for it to happen and it had to be right now, right here.

When he returned to Los Angeles three years ago as Maximillian Chanteur’s bodyguard, he figured he’d see her at some point. They ran in similar circles now. Never in a million years did he imagine it would be, not only in a woman’s restroom, but because she was the paparazzi.

Damn if he didn’t melt on the inside like chocolate in the sun, when he looked into those whiskey-colored eyes. Which pissed him off. How the hell was she still able to do that to him? It was a long time since high school, when he’d been gaga over her. Most days he felt like that was another life time, and had happened to another person. Things were so different for him now. He fisted his free hand to stop it from pushing her long blond waves away from her face. He didn’t have the right to do that anymore.

What kind of idiot still got all gooey on the inside at the sight of their first crush? Especially in the middle of a disaster. A disaster now of epic proportions because cleaning up Max’s mess this time was going to screw with his life too. It would’ve been so much easier if it was some random bathroom attendant he had to deal with. Though, it could be worse. It could’ve been Jordyn and a bathroom attendant… He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from swearing up a blue streak and forced himself to focus.

He snatched her phone out of her hand and slipped it in his pocket before she figured out what he was up to.

“You want your phone back, you’re leaving with us and will do exactly as I say.”

“I don’t care who you are, you’re out of your freaking mind if you think you can get away with stealing my phone and kidnapping me. And get your paws off me or I’ll scream the house down. The scene I’ll make will be nothing compared to what just went down.”

So his little firecracker hadn’t changed much since high school. His? He ground his teeth. He could not go there. Though it helped the here and now that he had plenty of experience dealing with said firecracker. She’d never been able to resist him when he needed something. Was it too much to hope she still couldn’t?

“Listen Jordyn, I know it sucks for you, but it sucks for Max right now too. I could really use your cooperation.”

He was close enough to her he felt her relax, so he did too, though he didn’t let his guard down. He knew her too well for that. Hell. It didn’t bode well for him that it felt like the last seven years never existed.

“I get that having your private life splashed across the media stinks, but I’m a person too.”

Her eyes darted to the side for a moment before returning to look defiantly in his. Interesting…

“I need money and sometimes that means doing things you’d rather not, to get by.”

Remo snorted. “Since when has Bastien Souliere’s daughter ever needed money?”

Jordyn tensed and tried to yank her arm out of his grasp. He figured she wouldn’t stay calm for long.

“Hell, Remo, you know this woman?”

He glanced at Max leaning against the sink with his arms crossed. The casual pose didn’t fool him. Not anymore.

“Long story short, we went to high school together.”

“Who knew? You’ll have to fill me in later. Right now, this whole situation is on the verge of getting ten times worse than it already is. Ms. Souliere, you’re coming with us. Whether you like it or not. We’ll figure out the rest in the car.”

Remo turned his attention back to Jordyn to see mutiny written on her face and in her stance. He blew a breath out his nose.

“I don’t like being told what to do, even by a celebrity, Mr. Chanteur.” She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. “But I’m guessing, if I want my phone back, I have no choice.”

“Smart and beautiful, just how I like my women. Remo, it’s a good thing she’s a blonde and not an exotic brunette, or we’d be fighting over her.” He gave a half-hearted smile. “Now, what should we do? I’m thinking it’s not a good idea for us all to march out of here together.”

Remo headed to the door, pulling Jordyn behind him which, fortunately, wasn’t difficult since she’d decided to cooperate. He didn’t expect it to last long, though, because he knew she wasn’t going to like the next part of his plan.

“I’m going to walk out of here with my arm around Jordyn like she’s my girlfriend and you follow after a few seconds, Max. If we’re lucky, people might think it was the two of us having the fight, and you trying to calm things down.”

He lifted a shoulder. “It’s worth a shot. Just get me out of here.”

Chapter 2







She was ticked off. For several reasons. All of which revolved around a man. Her buried anger at Remo bubbled to the surface and she was having a hell of a time keeping it from erupting. She was still seriously pissed off at her father, but it paled in comparison. Which was stupid and made her angry at herself. Was it really only ten minutes ago that she’d wanted to strangle her father, and had retreated to the bathroom to keep from making a fool of herself in public? It was his fault she was so desperate for money she’d consider selling the story of Maximillian Chanteur’s breakup to the highest bidder. But the fact she was more upset with Remo increased her fury at Remo. She hadn’t seen him in over seven years. She shouldn’t feel anything for him now, so in reality she had only herself to blame. Too bad feelings weren’t dictated by logic.

Get a grip, Jordyn. Focus on something positive. She was riding in a limo with Maximillian Chanteur. She tore her eyes away from Remo’s broad shoulders, which filled her vision and fueled her anger, and darted a glance at the celebrity sitting next to her, before looking at her clenched hands in her lap.

Just thinking about how close she was to the singing artist made her palms sweat and her stomach flip, as though she’d never been up close and personal with someone famous before. Her father was a screenwriter and all the famous names in Hollywood wanted to be cast in his films. Even tonight, one of them had come up to their table and asked him to put in a good word with the director about giving her the lead.

But this was Maximillian Chanteur. She’d been to every one of his concerts since she was a teenager. Okay, so she’d had a bit of a crush on him for a few years when she was younger. She was long past that. And she should be long past her crush on Remo too. The fact she wasn’t made her squirm in her seat. But she wouldn’t because… Maximillian Chanteur. Only a few feet away. She glanced at him again out of the corner of her eye. He was gazing out the window, his clenched hand resting on the seat between them. She stifled a longing to place her hand over his in a gesture of comfort. Something that took her by surprise. Rather than wanting to touch him out of a fangirl moment, she wanted to ease his pain. She stamped down those feelings. They stood in the way of her getting the money she desperately needed from selling his story. Could she really do it?

A fission of excitement ran down her spine as it hit her again. She was sitting next to Maximillian Chanteur, headed for his Malibu mansion. At least, she assumed that’s where they were going. She bit her lip. Maybe she could figure out another way to get the money she needed. She really hated the idea of using him.

Stop it. She knew celebrities used situations just like this for publicity, to keep their name out there. And it was no secret this celebrity used the drama he created to his advantage. Though sitting next to him, being near him, she could appreciate a little better how that happened. There was such a presence about him. He seemed so much larger than life. Being in his orbit instantly stirred a person up, got the blood flowing. The man moved people. It’s probably what made his concerts such a success. He brought a person’s emotions to the surface and created an urge to act on them. Like for her, right now. She wanted to ease his pain. Nothing romantic about it.

Not like what Remo made her feel. Still. After all this time and all that water under the bridge. But she didn’t dare go there. She had her immediate future to think about, and the path she wanted her life to take now.

“So, Max, any ideas what we should do with Jordyn?”

Max continued looking out the window and lifted a shoulder. “I really don’t care, Remo. Do whatever you think best. Right now I wanna punch Adam’s face in and howl at the moon.”

“Understandable. But this situation needs to be dealt with. Unless you want me to drop her at her house and let her do whatever she wants with the information she has.”

“Oh hell no. She stays with us. I suppose I need to call Stash.”

“Hey! In case you’ve forgotten, I’m right here and I’m a person too. Not a situation that needs to be dealt with.”

“Maybe you should’ve thought about that when you treated Max like a situation to be exploited.”

Guilt flooded her and kept her silent. Remo always did have a way with making her stop in her tracks and see through the emotion that clouded her thinking. She stifled a sigh and turned to look out the window, deciding Max might be on to something there. Watching the lights of the city go by was rather hypnotizing and kept the problems at bay.

Maximillian Chanteur’s deep voice grumbled into his phone, Remo interjecting a comment every now and then, and it all faded to background noise as she looked out the window. This was definitely a low point in her life. About as low as the day she went to school and discovered Remo was no longer enrolled there. When he’d promised her the night before he’d see her in the morning. She should hate him for disappearing on her like that. For a while she had. But now… Wow. She couldn’t conjure up the anger she’d felt a few minutes ago. Maybe she’d latched onto it in an effort to help her deal with the crap life had just dumped on her. Maybe she was just tired, and after some rest, she’d get a better perspective on the situation.

She wondered if her parents were worried about her. Her mom might be, though it wasn’t late enough yet for it to be a huge issue. They probably figured after she left the table upset, that she’d taken a cab home and they’d straighten everything out there. Although to her father, straighten out meant do things his way. He’d been none too happy when she told him tonight she was done doing things his way. It was her life and she had a right to live it the way she wanted. His dreams were not her dreams.

Dread and relief washed through her when they drove through the security gate and the limo stopped at the front door of a house Jordyn wished she could see in the light of day. The location of Maximillian Chanteur’s mansion was a well-guarded secret, the gate and security officer that manned it helped keep it that way. It could very well be she’d never see it in the light of day. Never know exactly where it was. She hoped so. She wanted to go home and crash—. Damn it. Unless she did things her father’s way, she couldn’t go there for anything except packing her suitcase and retrieving whatever else was hers.

Her flight back to New York wasn’t for another three days and it would cost money she could ill-afford to change it. If she paid for a hotel, it would cost her more than the price of changing the ticket. The exorbitant rent on her Manhattan apartment was paid through the end of the month, which left her three weeks to come up with the money to pay it when it was due. Or move. Which, in New York City still required a good chunk of money. Frustration had her opening her door with more force than was necessary, as well as closing it harder than she needed to.

“Upset, are we Jordyn?”

“Go to hell, Remo. You have no clue what I’m dealing with.”

“I can make an educated guess.”

“I suggest you don’t. If you know what’s good for you.”

He laughed. Her anger never did seem to bother him. Sometimes it made her angrier and sometimes it made her feel better. Tonight she felt ambivalent. She had more important things to deal with than Remo. She shouldn’t let him distract her from her real issues.

“Go inside with Max while I put the car away. Stash will be here soon so we can figure out how to clean up this mess.”

“Thanks. Nothing like being a mess someone has to clean up. My father sees me the same way right now.”

Remo let out a long-suffering sigh. “I didn’t mean it like that, Jordyn. And it’s not just you that has to be dealt with here. Go enjoy getting a look at Max’s luxurious home. It’s a privilege few people are allowed. I remember how gaga you were over him in high school.”

True. And focusing on that was a lot easier than thinking about her future. Ten years ago, if she’d had a chance to enter this house, she’d have thought she’d died and gone to heaven. Of course, she would’ve made a fool of herself trying to get Max to notice her. Which, considering he’d said she wasn’t his type, would’ve been an exercise in futility.

Focus on the positive, Jordyn. You’ve met Maximillian Chanteur and are at his house. It’s the experience of a lifetime. Sadly, that probably wasn’t a good thing. A memorable one, though, that’s for sure.

* * * * *

He hated how good it felt to be around Jordyn again. She’d been his only light in a dark, dark world and it had killed him to leave L.A. like a thief in the night. He’d had no choice, of course. But that didn’t ease the ache in his chest every time he thought about what it must’ve done to Jordyn. He didn’t blame her for hating him, for the anger that flashed in her eyes every time she looked at him. An anger she didn’t rain down on his head. Generally, she wasn’t an angry person. Unlike him. Really, what did she have to be angry about? She had the perfect life. But she sure did have a short fuse and when something upset her, she’d explode before anyone knew what had happened. Which proved how much she’d matured since he left. Teenage Jordyn would’ve attacked him with her tongue the second she saw him and would’ve come at him like a wild animal to get her phone back. Tonight, for the most part, she’d kept it all under control.

But it did him no good to find more things to like about her. She was just as far out of his reach now as she had been in high school. The difference was, he no longer deluded himself he could have her. That reality had hit him in the face when he needed to leave town without a word. To keep her safe. To make sure she had no part in the mess he’d made. One only he could fix. One he’d had to fix, for his mother’s sake.

He shook his head at himself as he made his way through the house to Max’s office. He shouldn’t be thinking about the past right now. Even if it was the thing that made him so good at his job. He was skilled at taking care of problems like the one Max had created tonight, and at getting physical when the situation called for it. Which made him more like his father than he’d ever feel comfortable with.

He crossed the threshold of Max’s office and stopped in his tracks. Not because of the shelves on the wall opposite displaying several Grammy Awards, gold and platinum records, as well as a variety of other accolades. Not because of the black grand piano dominating the room, or the large antique maple desk filling up one end of the office, or even the large leather couches grouped at the opposite end that were big enough for him to stretch out on—something he wanted to do more than anything at the moment. Rather, it was the single occupant perched on the edge of one. Was Max seriously leaving him to deal with this alone? If so, there were going to be words.

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair before making his way over to sit on the couch opposite her. Not the first time he’d had to deal with a situation by himself and he should’ve expected Max would leave him to it. It didn’t help that Stash had told him what needed to be done and didn’t feel it was necessary to drop everything and come over. At least, not unless Jordyn was more than Remo could handle. Which, of course, she wasn’t. He hoped.

He leaned back in the seat and laced his fingers behind his head. “Hello Jordyn. Fancy meeting you here.”

She raised a brow, crossed her arms and leaned back in her seat. His lips twitched and he let himself give her a small smile.

“I should be the one saying that, Remo. You vanish from L.A. in the dark of night and I thought for sure I’d never see you again. Yet, here we are.”

“Yes, here we are.”

She didn’t speak for a few moments, hoping he’d address the issue of his disappearance, no doubt. Not the time or the place for that discussion.

“You’re not going to tell me anything, are you? Just like when you left. Still don’t think you owe me an explanation.” Tossing her head to get a lock of hair off her face she muttered, “Connard.”

“I haven’t forgotten the French swear words you learned from your father and taught me. Although I was an asshole, now is not the time for delving into the past, Jordy—”

“You’ve got some nerve calling me that. Don’t do it again. My name is Jordyn. Ms. Souliere suits me even better.”

“Fine. Ms. Souliere then.”

Probably a good idea anyway. It would help him stay in the here and now. Help him treat her like the stranger she was. Seven years was a long time and the truth was, they didn’t know each other anymore. They’d been kids when they spent all their free time together. Now they were adults, grown up, with years of living in the real world behind them. Actually, for him, there were times when it felt like decades.

“So, how long before I get my phone back and can leave?”

“If you let me erase all the photos, you can have your phone back now. Did you need to call someone and let them know you’re okay?”

She started tapping her foot, looked down at it for a moment before returning her attention to him. Interesting. She wasn’t sure how to answer his straightforward question.

“What? You live alone so no one is expecting you, and you don’t want me to know that so you can get out of here quicker?”

She shook her head, a strand of hair falling across her brow with the motion and he tightened his fingers around each other before unlacing them and dropping his arms. He shifted in his seat to bring up a leg and rest an ankle on his knee. She blew the hair out of her face and his gut clenched as memories flooded in. She always did that when she was concentrating. His reaction to it hadn’t changed. Get your head out of the past Vashenko. Focus.

“It’s complicated.”

“It’s a yes or no question.”

She sighed. “Are you going to hold me hostage until news of Maximillian Chanteur’s broken engagement gets out? That hardly seems fair. It’s bound to get out, so why can’t I be the one to spread the news?”

Was she really such a polar opposite now from the girl he’d loved? Exploiting someone for personal gain wasn’t something the Jordyn from high school would do. She’d stood up for him then. Made him feel like he wasn’t so alone. Like he wasn’t some sort of freak. Though a poor kid at a Beverly Hills private high school actually was. He’d been so out of his depth he thought he was going to drown, and wanted out before it killed him. Then she’d come along and made it all worthwhile. Until the night everything changed.

“So I take it you don’t need to call anyone and you won’t erase the pictures. I must say, Jordyn, I’m shocked you’ve grown up to be one of the paparazzi. Did Julliard fall through?”

Chapter 3







The question echoed and bounced around inside her head. After the evening with her father, the name was like fingernails on a chalkboard. And yet…

She jumped up and went over to the piano. With everything that had gone down today, the last six months even, the instrument still called to her. Who knew? Or maybe it was merely her desire to get under Remo’s skin as much as he was under hers. It appeared the man was completely unaffected by running into her after all this time. Which really shouldn’t surprise her. After all, he was the one who’d left, never to be heard from again. If his feelings for her had been real, he wouldn’t have left without a word. Would he? He would have contacted her. Wouldn’t he?

So maybe it was merely an urge to get a reaction out of him that fired this need to play the piano. Though it could very well be the fact she would be playing Maximillian Chanteur’s piano. Had he written Scattered Leaves on this baby grand? How cool would that be? To play the very piano her favorite song was composed on?

As her fingers settled on the keys, she let out a sigh of delight. Regardless, she didn’t think she could stop herself from doing this if her life depended on it. And she wouldn’t think about the last time she played Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major for Remo. How hot he’d been for her when she’d finished the song. Not going there. Think about the piano. Next on her list was Polonaise in A Flat Major for herself. A great way to release all this emotion without anyone being the wiser. Or the consequences of said release making her situation worse.

“Jordyn, once again a yes or no would suffice.” He sighed. “I don’t think it’s wise to play Max’s piano. He’s very anal about his instruments.”

Not listening. You have no idea what I might do if I don’t play it.

The first measure brought Remo to his feet, and by the end of the second he was at her side.

Shit, Jordyn. Not that one.”

“Oh yes, Remo. This one’s for you.”

“Do you have any idea what you’re bringing down on your head?”

“Don’t care.”

The office door opened then. Speak of the devil. But she didn’t care about that either. It barely registered as the notes filled the air and her soul. For the first time in—far too long—the piano wasn’t the be-all and end-all of her life. Now it was the thing it had started out to be. A way to process her feelings without suffering any of the repercussions acting on them could bring.

“Max, I’m sorry. She wouldn’t listen—”

“Quiet. You’re being rude.”

It threw her when The Maximillian Chanteur clapped after the song was over, but only for a moment, and it certainly didn’t keep her from playing the Polonaise. And, God did it ever feel good. It was just the release she needed and when it was done, she felt much better able to cope with everything. Except maybe Remo. She didn’t like how much he affected her still. She didn’t like that every time she looked at him, she wanted to feel his lips on hers, their bodies touching, his scent enveloping her. Just like before…

Looked like she needed a more complicated piece to eradicate that last bit of emotion.

“Damn, Girl. You’re the best pianist I’ve heard in a long time. What the hell are you doing selling celebrity gossip to the highest bidder?”

“I’ve decided not to be a professional pianist, and I need the money.”

Maybe she didn’t need to play a more complicated piece. A professional musician, a pianist himself, just complimented her piano playing. She couldn’t seem to get rid of the smile his words conjured.

“I suggest you reconsider. For now, though, Fantasie Impromptu? It suits my mood.”

“Sure.”

Silence reigned for a few moments after she finished playing the song and Jordyn sat still at the piano, hands in her lap, unsure what to do now the emotion was spent. She looked down at her hands and forced herself to calm nerves that wanted her to start twisting them together.

“Thank you, Jordyn. It was a privilege to hear you play. And a shame you’re not planning on sharing it with the world. Though I do get not wanting to have the sort of life I have. Which leads us to the reason you’re here in the first place. Come, sit with us. I have a proposition for you that’s just occurred to me.”

“Max, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to share it with Jordyn until we’ve discussed it with Stash. He’s already got something in mind.”

Jordyn slowly got up from the piano and walked toward the seating area. She’d just as soon stay at the piano, thank you very much. Max was on one couch and Remo on the other. She didn’t have the nerve to sit next to the celebrity like they were old friends, and she sure didn’t want to sit next to Remo. He still had the ability to turn her brain to mush and she needed her wits about her. When Remo moved to relax into the corner of the couch, making room for her, the choice was made. The last thing she wanted to do was look foolish in front of Max—was she already thinking of him by that name?—and take the liberty of sitting all cozy on the couch with him.

“Before I tell you what I have in mind, Jordyn, I want to see the pictures you took.” He held out his hand to Remo. “I need to know exactly what we’re dealing with here.”

She noticed his hand shook slightly as he held it out and there was a grim look on his face, a weary droop to his shoulders. Not good. For him or her. The man was suffering and she had no desire to add to his pain. She also had no desire to live the crazy, focused life of a concert pianist. But how in the world was she going to get the money she needed? She wasn’t savvy enough for the situation she was in. If she was, her phone would’ve been in her pocket as soon as she’d finished using it, and she’d have it passcode locked. No matter how much of a pain in the neck it was to enter a code every time she wanted to use it.

She thought she’d go crazy waiting and wondering, as he looked through the pictures, and she wanted to squirm in her seat when he played the video. If it had been her in that scene, she’d die of humiliation watching it in front of people she knew, much less a stranger. Maximillian Chanteur was either good at hiding his feelings or used to watching his personal life being replayed, because he didn’t look any different after he was done and handed the phone back to Remo.

“Those are the best photos I’ve seen taken by the paparazzi, bar none. However—and I know you’re not going to like this—that video needs to disappear. Take care of that now, Remo.”

“Hey, that’s my phone. You have no right to mess with its contents.”

Remo ignored her—no surprise there—and she lunged across the couch to grab it from him. He merely turned his shoulder to her and held the phone out of her reach as he deleted the video. She barely stopped herself from climbing onto his lap in order to reach it. Instead, she shoved at his shoulder before leaning back into the couch and crossing her arms. She clenched her teeth to stop herself from adding to her indignity by saying something she shouldn’t in front of her favorite singing artist. She needed to hear what his plan was. Maybe things wouldn’t turn out as bad as she feared. After all, he’d only asked him to delete the video, not all the pictures. It was a good sign, right?

Max raised his brows, but didn’t comment on the scene he’d witnessed. “You aren’t really the paparazzi, are you Jordyn?”

“No.”

“But you want to sell the pictures and maybe the story too?”

She sighed and nodded. Telling him her side of the situation might help her cause, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt anything.

“You want to hear my whole sordid tale? It doesn’t compare to yours, of course.”

He leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms. “Mine’s pretty hard to beat, but I would like to know what the deal is. The talented daughter of Bastien Souliere needs money. It has me intrigued.”

“The talented daughter of Bastien Souliere doesn’t want to live her life the way daddy wants her to anymore. As soon as my father realized I had some serious piano skills, he’s made sure I’m as successful as I can be at it. I’ve had to live and breathe the piano since I was ten years old. I don’t love it enough to do it for the rest of my life. I broke the news to my father tonight. Told him my real passion is photography and stupidly hoped he’d support that dream rather than the one he had for me. Instead he said he wasn’t going to support all my talent going to waste. I escaped to the bathroom after that bombshell.”

Remo grabbed her hand and it felt so comforting, so familiar, she didn’t pull away, she held on tight.

“Jordyn, no. I’m sure he’s just upset about it right now. When he calms down, I bet he’ll be back on your side.”

“Remo, you don’t know my father and you weren’t there tonight. I’m on my own. When I happened to be in the restroom and Sasha and Max came in, I thought it was the perfect solution to my problem.”

“Then, how about we help each other?”

Jordyn’s eyes flew to Max. “You mean I can have the pictures to do what I want with?”

“Whoa, I wouldn’t go that far. However, I’m not getting back together with Sasha, even if she ends up deciding she wants to do that. She was right about one thing tonight. Our relationship has too much drama to be doing anyone any good. Which hurts like hell, but that’s neither here nor there. My point is, this story is going to go public at some point. I’d just as soon be the one in control of it.”

Remo let go of her hand and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. “What are you thinking, Max? Like I said, Stash should be in on this. If he isn’t, then you can tell him what you’ve done and leave me out of it.”

Max pounded a fist on the coffee table that sat between the two couches, stood up and walked across the room to rest his hands on the piano, his back towards them. Head bowed, he spoke through clenched teeth. “It’s my life and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let people dictate to me what I should do anymore.” He turned around, crossed his arms and leaned his hips against the piano.

“Hell, Max. I get that and I’m sorry. What did you want to do?”

“Set up an exclusive with People magazine in the morning for Jordyn. She can sell them the pictures and the story. You and Stash go over what she should and shouldn’t say, then run it by me. Other than that, I’m incommunicado until further notice. Which, if you ask me how long that’s going to be, right now I’d say forever.” He pushed away from the piano and made his way to the door. “There’s only two reasons for anyone to come to me for anything. For approval on the article or if the house is burning down. If Sasha shows up, I don’t even want to know about it. Tell her to go to hell. Adam needs to be fired, like, yesterday.”

The silence after he left got awkward real quick. She scooted across the couch to sit in the opposite corner and darted a glance at Remo. He was still leaning forward in his seat, a lock of dark hair hanging across his brow. She pressed her hand into her thigh to keep it from smoothing the hair back into place. His hair was so soft. She could still remember the silky texture of it and the memory made her chest hurt. Why did he have to be even better looking now than he had been in school? Why couldn’t there be something about him she didn’t like? Something to make her want to put distance between them rather than have her longing to get closer.

“So I guess this means I get my phone back.”

He leaned back in his seat, smoothed his hair off his forehead, and looked at her. “He must really like you, Jordyn. He’s never given someone who’s violated his privacy like you did, permission to publicize it. At least not while I’ve worked for him.”

“It doesn’t seem real. Maximillian Chanteur admires me as a musician and just did me a huge favor. Think it has anything to do with the fact you know me?”

“I have no clue how his mind works, but I doubt it has anything to do with me and everything to do with you. I suggest you don’t question it, just cash in on it, before he changes his mind.”

“Does he do that a lot?”

“No, actually. He’s a pretty good judge of character. Except for Sasha. I don’t know why he ever got involved with her, to be honest. However, I do know his heart is breaking right now, so he’s really not in a good place to be making decisions. By the time tomorrow rolls around, he might have a completely different take on the whole situation.”

“Please, God, no.”

“So, in the interests of doing my job well, and keeping my job, I’m going to hold onto your phone until the morning. I don’t need you sending out those photos and spreading the news to your friends, or emailing them to yourself even, as a backup plan.”

“How did I not see what an ass you are back in high school? Besides, it wouldn’t help me any to make those pictures public for free.”

“You’re entitled to your opinion, and sometimes doing my job right entails being an ass. I get paid well enough for it. Now I have to figure out what to do with you until the morning.”

“Well, I’d say take me home, because I’m not real thrilled about staying with you, but I have nowhere to go until my flight leaves in three days.”

She bit her lip, and he swiped a hand down his face. When he dropped it to his side his expression had softened.

“Forgive me Jordyn. I shouldn’t take my frustration out on you. It’s not fair. I can’t believe your dad won’t help you. It always seemed to me you were daddy’s little girl and he wanted to give you the world.”

She rubbed her temples and closed her eyes for a moment. “I have no idea. I’m still reeling from it. Apparently he’ll only give me the world on his terms. And it’s not like I wanted to mooch off him. Just wanted to rent a room from him and cut down on my bills so I have time and money to spend building a photography business.”

Remo nodded and ran a hand around the back of his neck. It drew her attention to the tension in his face she’d been too focused on other things to notice. Was it because of her, or the situation she’d created?

“So, what are we going to do with you?”

Guess that answered her question. It was the situation. She forced herself not to cringe at the thought of being no more than a situation for him to take care of, as part of his job, and pressed her lips together. Somehow it was worse for Remo to treat her like that than Max.

He let out a sigh, his bright blue gaze making her breath catch. As it had since the first time he looked at her. Having his attention focused on her made her heart beat faster and as much as she hated it, it still did.

“I hope you don’t expect me to apologize for the inconvenience.”

The corners of his mouth pulled up as he fought a smile. “Not at all Jordyn. I’d be disappointed if you did. The thing is…” He raked his fingers through his hair. “Max didn’t offer to let you stay here. He didn’t really offer any suggestions about where you’re supposed to spend the night. Though I do know, on your own is not it. Not that I think you’re going to tell some tabloid his story or anything, if I let you leave, but if the fact Sasha is with Adam becomes public knowledge before People gets the exclusive, you’re going to get the blame. Which won’t be good for either of us.”

A hard lump formed in her stomach. “What are you saying Remo? Are you my bodyguard until the story is with the magazine?”

“Pretty much.”

Okay, no part of her should be happy about that. Remo had abandoned her without a word. She should not want to spend any time with him ever again. And mostly she didn’t. But damn. He was like a magnetic force sucking her in every time he was near, which left her feeling like she didn’t want to do anything but stay in his orbit.

“Don’t look at me like that, Jordyn. I’m no more thrilled about it than you are.”

Chapter 4







If this didn’t kill him, he was going to ask Max for a raise. Though he didn’t think Max had enough money to compensate him for the job of guarding Jordyn all night. He’d been in her company, what? Two, three hours? And he could barely keep his hands to himself. When he’d grabbed her hand and she actually held on, rather than yank it away, it took everything he had not to pull her into his arms and pretend like the last seven years didn’t exist. That they were still young and foolish, believing in the impossible dream they could be together forever.

As hard as that was, though, it wasn’t the worst of it. That was the explanation he owed her. As difficult as it had been to leave without a word, telling her why he left would pale in comparison. Because having her believe he was a jerk who toyed with her emotions was better than her knowing the truth.

“Since Max didn’t offer to let you stay here, you’re going to have to stay at my apartment.”

The look on her face reflected exactly how he felt. Please, God, no. So why did it send searing pain through his chest, making him want to cry out with it? Because you’re an idiot, still living in a dream world after all these years. Not that Jordyn needed to know it.

“Yeah, not my idea of fun either. However, needs must. And in less than 24 hours, your problems will be over. You can fly back to New York in a few days and start your new career.”

“For a month anyway.” She pushed her hair back over her shoulder, looked down at her hands, then back at him. “So where’s your apartment?”

“Max has a duplex over the garage for the hired help. One of the perks of the job, I get to live there rent-free.”

“Nice.”

“I suppose. Max likes to have me handy. Sometimes it stinks living where you work. But the paycheck more than compensates.”

“Well, not that I know a whole lot, but it seems Max likes you and treats you well.” She shook her head slightly and let out a little laugh. “It’s weird to call him that. It’s almost like Maximillian Chanteur my idol, and Max are two different people. Max is just a guy I know who’s doing me a big favor.”

Remo shrugged. “In a way he is. There’s the celebrity persona and the real man, who’s different from the celebrity everyone hears about. Though he does tend to be a little dramatic sometimes, like he’s known for, Max is a great guy. He treats me very well and I’m happy to do whatever he needs me to, to make his life easier.”

“That says a lot. I know from experience some celebrities are worse in person than the image they portray to the public.”

He nodded and smiled. “Tell me about it. I’ve been up close and personal with several. Who knew I’d end up running in the same circles as you?”

“Well, it certainly was a shock for me.”

“For both of us.”

“Are you going to tell me how it all came about?”

He nodded. “That and more. I owe you an explanation, Jordyn and I swore when I left, if I ever saw you again, you’d get it. It’s the least I could do.”

“Ya think? Though as far as I’m concerned, you owe me more than you could ever repay.”

She clenched her jaw and he suspected it was to keep herself from saying any more about it. Maybe she figured she’d said too much already, because she’d let him see how much it hurt her. However, she had no idea how much it cost him to do it. The last thing he ever intended or wanted to do, was bring her pain. There was a time when he was willing to do anything and everything to make her happy. Like it was any different now, Remo? Instead of fading, his feelings had grown. Seeing her again merely released them from the prison they’d been locked in.

So half an hour later, they were standing awkwardly in his living room. It was still a bit too early to go to bed, and he wanted—no, needed—to tell Jordyn why he’d disappeared that night; get it over with so it wasn’t hanging over his head. Maybe when she knew the truth, it would put up a barrier so his stupid heart would quit hoping for something more. Then they could both move on. He needed to tell her all of it too. So any lingering feelings she had for him would be obliterated. If they weren’t already.

He blew out a resigned breath and stiffened his spine. Maybe the reality of her knowing would help him move on too.

“Sit down, Jordyn. Let’s get this over with.”

She made herself comfortable on his studded leather couch. Well, not his really. The house was tastefully furnished in a rustic motif courtesy of Max. Thankfully, now that Jordyn was actually in his home, it wasn’t the rundown apartment in the low-rent district of North Hollywood.

“I’m tempted to say it doesn’t matter anymore. Water under the bridge and all that, but I can’t. I need to know why you disappeared. I thought you were dead, Remo, because I knew you wouldn’t leave without saying anything to me. When I finally made myself ask someone in the school office about it, I realized what a fool I was. They told me you had moved and were no longer enrolled.”

He quickly sat next to her and took her hand in both of his, ignoring the buzz of electricity that shot up his arm at the contact. “You have to know, if I had any choice, I wouldn’t have hurt you like that. You have no idea how hard it was to not let you know I was leaving.”

“Not as hard as not knowing, I can guarantee that.”

Her voice had a strangled sound to it and a tear hung on her lashes. She looked quickly at him, then away, blinking rapidly to get rid of the tell-tale moisture. The pain in that look sent a dagger through his heart because she was right, and he hated that he’d caused her such distress.

He ran a finger down her cheek and whispered, “I am sorry, Jordyn. I truly am. If I could change anything in my past, it would be that. I wanted to give you the world and all I gave you was pain.”

She swallowed and turned those brown eyes on him. The emotion in them caused his breath to catch.

“Good God, Jordyn, don’t look at me like that. A man can only take so much. I wish I could fix it all for you. But I can’t. At least, not any more than telling you the ugly truth about my childhood will do.”

“I know you had a hard childhood, Remo. You didn’t give me details, but you said enough for me to make a pretty good guess. You know, I really admired you for trying to rise above. For getting the scholarship to my school and working hard to make your life better than your parents’.”

“And in the end, I merely proved I was no better than my father.”

“What do you mean? Enough dancing around the subject. What happened to make you leave everything you’d worked so hard for?”

He sighed, letting go of her hand to lean forward and rest his elbows on his knees, and threaded his fingers through his hair. “My father liked to use my mother as a punching bag. When he started feeling sorry for himself he’d get drunk and take his frustrations out on Mama.”


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