Authors: Mila Elizabeth Brenton
Mila Elizabeth Brenton
Again I have to thank Brandy L. Rivers for all of her help throughout writing this story and her beta reading, and for being my personal cheerleader. To Gayle for her time proofing and editing, thank you, thank you. I will say it again you ladies are amazing.
After fleeing from the only person she ever loved, Mackenzie Night has made a name for herself. Known as America’s Sweetheart she’s found her place on the cover of magazines, walking the runway, and transforming herself into a sexy vixen for a bestselling romance novel. Life is good but love is missing.
Luc Blackwell’s heart is still shattered. Five years later, a career in the Military and a successful business can’t mend what Mackenzie broke.
When Mackenzie’s fame brings danger her way, she is forced to seek out Luc and the protection she needs to survive. With pain, loss and secrets of their past pushing them apart, will the time their forced together mend or seal the breaks in both their hearts?
The 101 stretched out in front of us. My head was pounding and my cheek hurt like hell. The bruise would be an issue for my upcoming photo shoots, but I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if Cameron had already pushed it. I glanced over to my brother in the driver’s seat. His jaw was tight and his eyes were set with determination on the freeway ahead of us.
“Where are we headed Cameron?”
He hadn’t said much since we left the hospital. He’d somehow pulled a Houdini and managed to get us out of there without a single paparazzi spotting us. It was a true feat since they had pretty much surrounded the hospital. My nightmare would already be on all the gossip sites, and I was sure at least one person got a good shot of me entering the hospital or worse one of me getting slammed against the vehicle. Those shots would definitely end up littering the magazine stands.
My brother, who also managed my career sighed. “We’re going to the beach house.”
“Why the beach house?” I asked.
“Because it’s the one place the paparazzi hasn’t found out about. Plus, the fences and security camera’s make it a secure place for you.”
“Are we going to talk about what happened?” I knew Cameron felt some absurd responsibility for the night’s events.
It was completely unfair for him to take that guilt on. I’d had plenty of obsessive fans, but there was no way we could have known some inconspicuous jack-off would decide to attack me. We were about to get in the vehicle when he struck, slamming my face against the hard cold metal of the limo we’d taken to the event. No one would have expected someone to push through the surrounding photographers and past my security guard, Erick, who I was certain knew he needed to start looking for a new job.
Cam sighed. “You need new security Kenzi, there isn’t much more to say.”
I didn’t argue. I understood the tone he was using. It was one he’d been using most of my life. No dad in the picture and a less then attentive mother left my big brother as the only parental figure I’d ever really known. It was why he had ended up as my manager. He stayed around after graduation to take care of me and as soon as I made the move to San Francisco he followed me. That’s when I decided to try my hand at modeling. My career took off and Cam stuck by my side, not trusting the world I threw myself into. As it turned out Cam is an excellent manager and now has a handful of other models he takes care of, but I’ve remained his number one client.
“Did you already call Avery to cancel the shoot?” I asked, knowing of all the people I worked for my friend would understand. She would want me at my best for the cover shoot for her book. I was a little bummed; I loved stepping into the sexy vixen persona of Addy from Avery Davis’ award winning Crimson Heart series.
Cameron nodded. “Yep, she said she’d take care of calling Natalie and Ryan.”
I smiled, knowing Natalie would be bummed that she wasn’t going to get her camera on Ryan Christensen. Natalie had an eye for the gorgeous model who really fit the persona of Stone magnificently.
“Nat will be disappointed,” I murmured.
Cameron grunted. “And you think Ryan won’t?”
My gaze slid from the dark freeway ahead of us to look at my brother. “What do you know?”
A devilish smile stretched his face. “Have you really never noticed the way he looks at her? The second Natalie enters the room Ryan’s eyes don’t stray from her. He doesn’t even seem to notice you.”
I nodded reflectively. Was I really that unaware of the emotions of others? I’d never been great at reading those around me. I was stunted when it came to people, friendships and relationships. It had lead to painful choices that I often regretted even to this day.
“Kenzi, we need to talk about what we’re going to do.”
I shrugged. “One crazy person pushed me aside. I don’t want to make a big deal of this.”
“He didn’t just push you Kenzi. Plus this isn’t an isolated incident or have you forgotten about the letters?”
I narrowed my eyes. Of course I hadn’t forgotten about the creepy cut and paste eighties inspired letters, but it’d been months since I had received one. “Whatever that was about seems to have passed. I refuse to let that affect my life. Someone was bored and thought they would mess with me for kicks.”
Cameron scoffed. “Well
, I disagree. It is an issue and because of this I am getting you a permanent bodyguard from a well recommended security firm.”
My eyes narrowed. “What firm?” I demanded.
“One I trust.”
The freeway had given way to a twisting coastal road. I hadn’t even noticed we’d left the freeway, let alone almost arrived at my favorite getaway. My ranch on the coast of the Pacific in the little town of Bodega Bay was my go to when I needed to leave the fast pace of the city behind me. Cameron ignored me as we pulled up to the gate leading to the long driveway. He punched the security code into the keypad and the large black gate swung open allowing us access to the pasture lined drive. I saw my Percheron, Meeka, in the pasture. Her white coat was illuminated by the full moon and stood stark against the dark sky. Meeka and a couple of the other horses lifted their heads to see who had disturbed the gentle sounds of the crashing waves from below the cliff that dropped off across the main road.
She made me smile. I would be spending as much time as I could with her.
“Does Matt know we’re coming?” I asked looking towards the smaller but still modest guest house. Only the yellow glow of the porch light illuminated the home. Matt was the life of my ranch, and he took care of everything. He even did small beach tours with a few of the horses.
“I called him. He’s actually in Duncan Mills. I think he’s got a girl over there.”
I smiled happily for him. The guy was a hard worker and an attractive one at that. He needed a life outside of this place. “Good, so let’s get back to what security firm you hired.”
I had a sinking feeling that Cameron was going to torture me with my past.
Cameron grunted. “I’m sure you already know…
My heart squeezed at the name. My eyes closed as memories flooded my already stressed brain. The only thing I could hope and beg silently for was that Luc Blackwell was too busy and would simply be sending over one of his men.
With a deep breath, I looked to my brother and asked in a cool tone. “Why would you do that?”
“Because they’re the best. I can’t stay here with you and if I have to leave during this mess there is only one person I trust to keep you safe.”
My eyes widened to Anime character size, did he just say person? Not firm? He wouldn’t do this. If not worried about my breaking heart, he would at least feel for Luc and not ask him to deal with me. Would he?
“You mean there is only one
you trust leaving my safety in.”
Cameron stopped in front of my ranch style home with its salt battered white siding and large wraparound porch. He put the SUV in park and turned in his seat to look at me.
“I won’t apologize for this. I called Luc and told him what happened. I asked him to send one of his guys to meet us here. He told me he was the only one available for the job. To be honest I am glad it’s Luc who’s coming. I trust him to protect you at all costs.”
I shook my head, finding it hard to breath I couldn’t find the words to tell him that this was wrong and cruel and that I couldn’t face Luc Blackwell… my Lucca. The gorgeous man haunted my every moment. My gaze shifted to peer out the back darkly tinted window of the SUV. Headlights bounced down the gravel driveway. As the twin beams grew closer my breath became shallower.
“I can’t do this,” I whispered. Throwing open my door as the black Suburban parked beside us.
I heard Cameron but I wasn’t about to look at Luc right now.
“Stop her.” I barked at John “Put her in the back seat while I talk to her brother.”
John, my right hand and the most capable of my ten man team nodded and took after my fleeing heart. Nothing about Kenzi’s appearance should have surprised me. Over the past few years I’d watched her taunt me from the cover of magazines, runway shows, book covers and print ads. I knew every feature on her face, and even with the low light cast from the porch I could see the deepening purple on her cheek. Her long blonde hair was pulled back, leaving her with no veil to cover the bruise. It angered me in a possessive way that I knew I would be fighting from here on out. It’s why John was with me. I had told Cam that I had no other men available. However there were three of us with no assignment at the moment, but I wasn’t going to leave Kenzi’s safety to anyone else but myself. I watched him lightly grasp her arm and her spin on him. Fire was blazing in her jade eyes as John spoke with her.
I groaned and stepped from the SUV, rounding the back before John made his way back with Kenzi in tow.
Cameron moved towards me a wry smile on his face. “She is going to be pissed at me for a while, and will likely avoid you. You know that right?”
I nodded. “Yeah well…,” I trailed off not sure what all to say.
Cameron frowned. “Can you do this Luc? Or do I need to find someone else to protect my sister?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Do you honestly think there is anyone out there who would sacrifice more to keep her safe?”
Cameron dipped his chin. “No.”
“Good. Go keep her company while John and I clear the house.”
“Sure thing, and Luc?”
I turned and looked back at him. “Yeah Cam?”
“It’s good to see ya.”
“You too buddy, it’s been way to damn long.”
Cameron didn’t say anything else as he disappeared into the backseat of my Suburban. John and I made our way into the house and got to work. I had no doubts that the house was clear and safe, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Not with my Kenz.
“The outside is clear,” John said as he found me standing in the doorway to what I knew was Kenzi’s room. It was completely her, from the nature inspired décor to the neutral coloring, even the smell. The picture on her cherry wood dresser was one I hadn’t seen in years. Her brother and I grinning at the camera with Lake Shasta glistening in the sun behind us.
I sighed and looked back to John. “Good lets go get the client.”
John arched his brows at me. “You ready for this? Can you handle the
He knew the story of Mackenzie and me. The heat, the heartbreak, the regrets, even the pain that spanned over five years.
I squeezed John’s shoulder as I walked past him. “I’ll be fine, just make sure to remind me that she is a client and it will fine.”
John nodded and followed.
I opened the back passenger door of the SUV and looked past Kenzi to Cameron. We talked occasionally, but I hadn’t seen my best friend in years, not since he followed Kenzi to San Francisco. Losing them both at once encouraged me to follow some powerful words… the few, the proud, the Marines. John and I served two tours in Afghanistan, I trusted him completely with my life and now with Kenzis’. Any of my guys would have been perfectly suited for this job, but John knew about my past with this particular female and I knew he would be the level head that I would need.
“The house is clear, let’s get inside.” I stepped back and watched as Kenzi slid past me not lifting her beautiful eyes to even give me a single glance. It twisted at my heart,
but I should have known that this moment would not only be awkward but cold as well.
Locking down the front door once all of us were inside,
Cameron eyed me warily as we all stood in the entryway.
“I am going to bed.” Kenzi didn’t look at any of us as she headed down the hall.
“Mackenzie wait. We need to talk about what the plan is,” Cameron called to her.
“I don’t see why I need to be a part of it. The decision has been made. I’m too tired to fight it. I will see you in the morning and you can fill me in, Cam.”
I kept my eyes on her back; the short glittery dress she wore hugged her slight curves. The backless cut showed the tension in her toned muscles I could see the tight set of her shoulders and neck.
“I won’t be here in the morning.” Cameron told her.
“Well, you have my number.” She moved quickly down the hall, her stilettos clicking over the rustic wood floors.
Cameron sighed, but let her go. “What do you need from me?” he asked his eyes drifting back to me.
“I need to know what’s going on. Every detail you can give me”
Cameron nodded. “Follow me.” He headed for the front door, and I signaled for John to stay in the house.
Cameron pulled a thick file from the back of his SUV. It figured the guy would be driving a freaking Porsche Cayenne. Cameron and Kenzi had come from very different circumstance then my own. My family has money and my trust fund had provided the funds necessary for me to start up Blackwell Personal Security. Kenzi and Cam had fought for everything they had. There was never any doubt in my mind that they would both amount to something great in their lives. The fancy car spoke of how far they both had come.
Cameron released a heavy breath as he handed over the file. I flipped open the folder, and took stock of the dozen or so letters it held. The cut out letters creating sentences of adoration followed by threats to Kenzi, caused a sense of dread deep in my gut.
“How long?” I asked.
“A few months now.”
My eyes narrowed. “The police?”
“They have the first four letters we received, the only ones Kenzi knows about. When they couldn’t help us then, I figured there was no sense in even telling her or them about the constant flow of letters she’s been receiving.”
I grunted, a lot of our laws here in California did more to protect the criminals than those being hurt by them. “You know I have to tell her about these.” I shook the folder. “She needs to understand the severity of this situation, especially since you’re leaving and I need her to comply and follow the rules.”
Cameron shrugged. “I figured as much, I won’t lie, Luc, I am afraid for my little sister. I’ve spent my whole life protecting her.” He dragged his hand through his hair. “I don’t know how to protect her from this.”
I smiled and nodded. Cameron had been supporting and caring for Kenzi for as long as I’d known the two of them. “Luckily, I do,” I reassured him.
Cameron nodded, an apologetic smile lifting his lips. “I am sorry… for everything.”
“I didn’t know if you would help,” he admitted.
“I… well I guess part of me still thinks of her as my Kenz, maybe if I knew what happened I would stop thinking that way, but I doubt it.”
“I wish I had answers for you, but she still hasn’t told me a lick of what happened….
“It’s not your job to have answers for me Cam”
“True… Hey I thought you were the only one who didn’t have an assignment right now?”
I grinned at him. “Yeah, well… I lied.”
Cameron shook his head and made his way to the driver’s door. “I’ll be in touch. I have to fly to New York tomorrow afternoon, but I’ll be back in a couple days.”
“I’ll keep you posted on what’s going on here. I doubt I will come up with anything from these letters but if more come let me know. And if by some miracle we get a lead, I will let you know.”