Miami Bodyguard (Kendall Family Book 5)(3)

By: Jennifer Ann

I suck in a sharp breath, knees trembling with rage and stomach churning over itself. While it’s not the first time someone in this business has made an inappropriate move to make my skin crawl, it still doesn’t make it right.

He motions for us to leave with his other hand. “Keep moving along, folks. The line is getting congested with your little gathering.”

His fingertips lightly drag over my back like they’re drawing a figure 8. With an angry flush warming my cheeks, I spin to face him, sneering. “Get your hand off me.”

“Whoa!” Charlie quickly nudges between us, moving in close to the guy until they’re chest-to-chest. “Hands to yourself, asshole!” Glancing over his shoulder at me, he frowns. “You alright, Ang?”

An involuntary shutter rips right down my center. I only press my lips together in reply.

The guard backs away, palms of his hands held out. “Didn't mean to overstep any boundaries. Only doing my job, Mr. Walker.”

Veins in Charlie’s reddening neck stick out as he whirls back around to face the man. Even though the man has Charlie by an inch and he’s considerably wider, I’ve seen Charlie go up against my brother, James, in the ring enough times to guess he’s a bigger threat when it comes to professional fighting. The guy must sense this because when Charlie shoves him back even more, he seems ready to piss himself by the rapid blinking of his eyes.

“Your job does not involve coping a fucking feel of my sister-in-law!”

In the blink of an eye, Evelyn’s at his side, pressing one hand against his back while rubbing his arm. “Babe, everyone’s watching. Now’s not the time for this.” Even though she looks calm and collected, her voice seeps with malice when she adds, “We can have a nice little chat with this man’s boss after the premiere.”

My brother-in-law’s jaw finally relaxes, and his face returns to its normal shade. Brows still knit with irritation, he eyes Theo for standing back and watching without saying a word.

“Let’s get you inside,” Charlie grumbles, taking my arm.

Before screening the first episode, Theo and I take the stage to address the audience. They break into wild applause when we humor them with an open-mouthed kiss. I slip into a robotic mode, numb to his touch. Putting on a show for our fans can’t be mistaken for genuine happiness, although I do my best to sell the lie.

Just before the lights go down, I take the open seat beside Evelyn in the front row. It’s oddly painful to watch myself on the large screen—especially when I appear nude in one of the very first scenes involving the morgue. I sink a little further into my chair, wishing I could disappear. They aren’t kidding when they say the camera adds ten pounds. I’ll have to work harder on getting my flabby ass into prime shape.

My sour mood lightens when I catch Charlie draping a hand over his eyes, and Evelyn giggling at his reaction. I’m grateful when my sister begins firing questions about the filming process a few minutes later, giving me an excuse to tune out.

The studio throws a small afterparty for cast and crew in a bar across the street from the theatre. I suck down a few glasses of champagne, skipping out the minute Charlie and Evelyn head back to their hotel. On the way back to my apartment, I down another pill with a bottle of champagne provided in the private car. Although the rest of the night went by without a hitch, my feet are killing me, and I’m exhausted from so many emotional highs and lows.

After the fiasco on the red carpet, Charlie showed a lot of hostility toward Theo. In fact, at one point I was convinced he was going to throw his fist into Theo’s face for failing to defend my honor. I didn’t have the courage to set my brother-in-law straight and tell him Theo isn’t actually my boyfriend. It would be difficult to explain out loud the reasons why I’m going along with the charade when I don’t have many valid excuses.

I hooked up with Theo over Christmas break. He came back to my place after a party for the cast, and walked out naked the next morning, promising a little fun. Becoming involved with my costar felt natural after we spent so many hours making out and simulating sex, so I allowed it to continue. I loved receiving affection for the first time since John walked away.

At some point, I realized what Theo and I have would never be anything more than a meaningless fling, and I became completely detached. It only reminded me why the relationship I had with John was rare, and why I’ll fight to win him back. He’s the one who should’ve been at my side tonight. He’s the only one who could’ve made this night special.

I stumble a few times on the way home. Everything’s fuzzy and seems abnormally far away. As I’m bracing myself against the wall, trying to focus on the numbers dancing across the keypad, the door to my apartment squeaks on its hinges.

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