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Authors: Emma Holly

Tags: #contemporary romance

Star Crossed

Star Crossed: The Billionaires

Emma Holly

Digital edition

Copyright 2016 Emma Holly. All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission of the author.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to the vendor and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This story is a work of fiction and should be treated as such. It includes sexually explicit content that is only appropriate for adults—and not every adult at that. Those who are offended by more adventurous depictions of sexuality or frank language possibly shouldn’t read it. Literary license has been taken in this book. It is not intended to be a sexual manual. Any resemblance to actual places, events, or persons living or dead is either fictitious or coincidental. That said, the author hopes you enjoy this tale!

Star Crossed: the Billionaires
is an approximately 90,000-word novel.

eISBN-10: 0-9967718-1-6

eISBN-13: 978-0-9967718-1-8

Discover other exciting Emma Holly titles at
http://www.emmaholly.com

Cover photos:
istockphoto.com

Table of Contents

Title Page

Star Crossed . . .

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

OTHER TITLES BY EMMA HOLLY

THE ONLY “DESTINY” SHE BELIEVES IN IS THE CRAP KIND THAT BITES YOU IN THE ASS . . .

A.J. HOYT is as cynical as she is badass, a former cop turned bodyguard. A lifetime of hard knocks taught her not to trust—a handy trait in her line of work. Given the right motivation, she knows anyone will betray their near and dear. Rather than let them betray her, A.J. keeps her shields nailed up.

On the surface, Luke Channing’s life seems charmed. He’s a Hollywood action hero whose looks inspire fantasies. Known for being easygoing and kind to fans, his latest film made him a billionaire producer. Problem is his high profile is attracting a dangerous class of admirer.

Threats like the one Luke faces aren’t new. A.J. saved his life once already. Now he doesn’t trust anyone but her to guard him. With a deadly enemy lurking in the shadows, this star-crossed pair better pray A.J.’s skills are sharp!

*

Luke strolled into her kitchen with his muscular torso on display. A.J. should have been over the reaction, but her mouth watered regardless.

Shirt makers should have thanked his shoulders for stretching them, and never mind the favors his long legs did for those trousers. Though he had a not insignificant package, his hips were narrower than hers—and she was no J.Lo. His perfect skin was sun-browned, the hollow of his navel a magnet for fingertips to trace. His shaved chest should have curled her lip with scorn, but in truth she could barely focus on what she did.

No great chef, A.J. was browning chops in an old iron skillet.

“You’re a cop,” he said. He’d spotted the picture of her graduation taped to her fridge. God, she’d been excited to put those dress blues on.

“I
was
one,” she said, keeping her voice neutral.

Luke leaned his weight on the
L
of her prep counter. A tiny shiver bounced down her nape. For just a second his clear green eyes were weirdly familiar. “Did you quit?”

“I was fired.” She freed the pork chop from the pan with a vicious dig of the spatula. “Today, as it happens.”

“An amazing storyteller.”—BookAddict,
The Romance Reviews

PROLOGUE

New York, 2001

DESPITE only being twelve, A.J. Hoyt knew how to tail someone. Her dad was a firefighter, but she wanted to be a cop. According to her mom, who was a lawyer, she was too young to choose.
You have time
, Valerie Hoyt would say.
You’ll find a hundred jobs you like more. Preferably ones you won’t get killed doing
.

A.J. understood why her mom wanted this to happen. Her mom hated that her husband might not come home one day. All the same, A.J. wasn’t buying her prediction. When a person had a dream, they had to go for it.

A.J.’s dream was to be an honest-to-God police detective. This meant figuring out the rules for undercover work.

Rule number one was blend in with your surroundings. Because school was out for the summer, and their hood in Brooklyn had lots of kids, A.J. had that covered. Her T-shirt and army shorts were boring. Ditto for her scuffed-up Converses. She wasn’t pretty and didn’t look interesting—even though she was. In the week she’d been following the lady from the creepy brownstone around the corner, her subject hadn’t noticed her even once.

On the downside, this made the lady seem less suspicious. According to A.J.’s dad, who had a street smart or two, paranoia and guilt went hand in hand.

At the moment, the lady was going into the Chinese restaurant she ordered takeout from every day. Prepared for this, A.J. ghosted after her, ninja-style. She and her dad ate here sometimes, so she knew none of the people behind the counter spoke English. The lady pointed out dishes on the picture menu—way more dishes than a person who supposedly lived alone could eat.

Was she counting on the fact that the staff could only tattle to other Chinese speakers?

When the lady got her order and turned around, A.J. acted like she was playing her Game Boy.

Rule number two of tailing: If you think you’re going to be spotted, have something less lame to do than tie your shoe. A.J. waited for a count of seven to obey rule three, which was never follow your person of interest too closely. By the time A.J. reached the street, the lady was a ways down the block, moving fast along the sidewalk in the direction of her house. The lady wore nice clothes—a skirt and blouse and shoes with heels. She walked like a rich person, nose in the air, like she was important and privileged.

If she was important, she didn’t have friends that A.J. could tell. Nobody visited her, and she only left the brownstone to run errands.

She
is
suspicious
, A.J. assured herself.

The lady’s house had an iron fence around its tiny front area. It was a private house, not apartments. Once the lady disappeared behind the gate, A.J. wouldn’t be able to shadow her. She wouldn’t be able to observe her either, on account of her keeping the window shades pulled down.

A.J. held her breath, because she’d come up with a plan to get around that. It had cost her twenty saved-up dollars of her allowance, but if it worked it would be worth it.

Right on cue, her best friend Nigella’s brother came barreling across the street. Sam was fourteen and played football. He knocked the lady sideways with his shoulder and kept running.

The lady fell into the fence, bags flying from her hands just as A.J. hoped.

“Oh my gosh,” A.J. exclaimed, running up to make her pretend rescue. “Are you all right? That boy ran right over you!”

“I’m fine,” said the lady, though her hair had fallen from its clips. She’d also ripped the knee of her stocking, and the skin beneath was bleeding.

Ordering herself not to feel ashamed, A.J. handed her one of the takeout bags. “You’re shaking,” she said. “And your knee is scraped. Maybe I should help you inside.”

“No!” The woman picked up the second bag on her own.

Her purse was on the sidewalk, leaning against the iron bars with its clasp open. A.J. started to reach for it, thinking she might “accidentally” drop it again and spill out its contents. If she could get a peek at an ID, she’d have a genuine clue to investigate.

The lady foiled her hopes by snatching up the purse herself. “I’m fine,” she repeated crisply. “Now go away or I’ll call the cops.”

She opened her gate with an angry squeak, marching off inside and leaving A.J. frowning in frustration.

Now she’d never unearth the truth about the boy prisoner.

She’d told her dad she’d seen him peeking out a small window in the cellar. She was sure he’d mouthed “help” at her. She was teaching herself to read lips, and anyway anyone could read that. The boy was skinny and had green eyes with dark circles under them. Though he was kind of shrimpy, he
could
have been her age. His skin was pale enough to see through, his veins like blue rivers.

So what if she’d only spotted him for a second before he got scared and jerked away? A.J. hadn’t made him up. She’d swear that in a court of law.

Jesus
, A.J., her dad had said.
Remember when you swore Mr. Evans across the hall was a cat burglar? And when you ‘knew’ Nigella had been abducted by aliens?

I was eight
, she’d huffed.
Four whole years ago
.

Her dad had refused to listen. Without hard proof, she’d never change his mind. He had friends on the police force. If he’d believed her, he could have taken the case to them.

Too bad she’d lost her best chance to find evidence. Even worse, the brownstone lady had seen her face. If A.J. got caught tailing her again, she really would call the cops.

“Way to break rule four,” she muttered.

She put her hands on her hips and scowled. Her dad should give her some credit. Hadn’t she held back her theory that the prisoner in the cellar was a vampire?

She was turning to go when she spotted a glint of metal in the grass, near where the lady’s purse had fallen. A quick check of the front windows confirmed that the shades were down and no one was peering out. She walked—nonchalantly—toward the spot. As she reached it, she bent her knees and grabbed what felt like the thing. She kept on walking until she could veer into the little walkway between the brownstone and its neighbor, where the meter thingies lived. With her back to the next building’s wall, she opened her fingers.

She held a key.

It wasn’t a normal key. It was long and fancy and made of bronze. Really old houses had keys like this.

And maybe secret prisons for boys who
probably
weren’t vampires.

Now that she had it, she didn’t know what to do. A key didn’t prove anything, and if she told her father how she got it, he’d ground her for stealing.

She crept to the window where she’d glimpsed the boy before. The glass was dusty and no lights were on inside. All she could see was a section of window ledge. The panes were too small to squeeze in or out of. The couple times she’d tried softly tapping on them she’d gotten no response. Now she noticed the caulking around the edges was extra thick. That gave her an idea.

Rule five was don’t leave home without your Swiss Army knife.

A.J. dug out her handy folding model—which she totally wasn’t allowed to have—so she could scrape some caulk away. Once she did, she still couldn’t see inside or open the window, but she had made a little hole. She could stick the key through and hope the boy would find it.

Assuming it would be any help to him.

No better course of action occurred to her. Into the hole went the strange bronze key, until it was too far for her to pull out again. It didn’t fall to the floor, which might have made it easier to find.

Shoot
, she thought.

Then she remembered the window dust. She could leave the boy a message.

It had to be innocuous, so if his lady jailer saw it, she wouldn’t think it was anything.

A.J. gnawed her thumb and considered. Smiley faces were innocuous. People doodled them everywhere. Since she was still crouched, she drew one that had a wink. A fainter line with a crooked arrowhead pointed to the slit she’d pushed the key through.

She nodded in satisfaction. The arrow part could pass for a drawing accident.

She stood and wiped her dirty hands on her army shorts. If the boy actually existed, she’d done what she could to help.

As she slipped from the narrow passage, she admitted her dad might be right about her letting her imagination run away with her good sense.

CHAPTER ONE

New York, 2011

A.J. HOYT slapped her flattened palm on the door to the seedy bar. One firm shove took her from bright skies to a murky beer-scented room.

She paused while her vision adjusted.

She had enough self-awareness to know how she appeared. With her legs braced wide and her hands planted on her hips, she’d have made a decent recruiting poster for the precinct that had so recently expelled her. Her plain gray T-shirt was army crisp, her black jeans not decorated or close fitting. Her straight dark hair was scraped into a short ponytail. She wore no makeup and no jewelry except a watch. No girly stuff at all, though she was discernibly female. Her boobs were on the small side, but they were there. Overall, she looked trim, fit, and ready for anything.

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