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Miami Bodyguard (Kendall Family Book 5)

By:Jennifer Ann

Miami Bodyguard (Kendall Family Book 5)
Jennifer Ann

       Book Five in the Kendall Family Series


1





Angelina





The heat of the lights shining down on the red carpet is so intense that I expect the diamond necklace I was paid to model will melt off my neck and fall into the vintage gown that costs more than my oceanside apartment. Miami's already hotter than balls, having reached record highs earlier in the day. The lace fabric clings to my breasts and hips like a second skin, making my skin itch everywhere. My pinched toes sting from the 4-inch stilettos. There's nothing glamorous about the way I'm feeling at the moment. Considering I made a cool half a million from the designers simply for flaunting their creations, I shouldn't complain.

Knots thicken inside my stomach, weakening my knees. What if I'm not meeting the expectations of everyone who came out for the event? What if I'm not as pretty in person as they were expecting? What if the dress shifts enough to make me look fat? What if my makeup begins to run and unflattering pictures circulate through social media? What if the psycho fan that groped me earlier returns?

It all could come crashing down at any moment. My career, my looks, my status in Hollywood … everything I've built my life around. Plus these fucking lights are making me woozy. I dig my blood-red fingernails into my diamond-studded clutch, longing for enough privacy to take another pill that will make all of this easier to endure.

As I fight to escape my own personal hell, I manage to put on a dazzling smile at my costar's side, waving at the sea of screaming women jumping up and down behind the ropes in-between posing for photographers and taking interviews.

Becoming an overnight sensation has been a real trip-one I wasn't prepared to take despite warnings from everyone I know in the business. Less than twenty-four hours after the first season of Vampire's Kiss was released, I've been catapulted into a world where producers and paparazzi are tripping over themselves to get a piece of me, gossip of awards for best leading actress is being thrown around, and my publicist has been hounded for countless endorsement deals.

"You doin' alright, babe?" Theo bites out through a terse smile, squeezing my arm. I'm transfixed by the scent of his designer cologne as his beautiful blues fix on me, waiting for assurance that I'm not about to lose my shit.

If the perfect man really did exist, handmade by God himself to be aesthetically pleasing to the female hormones, Theo Carr would be it. Someone was watching over me the day I was given the leading role in the paranormal series with the coveted actor. Up until I auditioned on my agent's advice, I was nothing more than an aging model struggling to stay relevant among a younger crowd. Finding myself working alongside someone with his good looks and talent, working through scenes that involve endless hours of passionate kisses and touching each other in ways that almost compensate for my non-existent sex life? It's as realistic as having a genie grant my every wish.

The thing is, I've never felt so alone. After losing the man I thought I'd marry to a younger model, nothing really matters anymore. The excitement of my success is lost along with the fact that I'm in a meaningless relationship with my insanely hot costar. I'm numb to all the things that should make me ridiculously happy-money, fame, and the "perfect boyfriend."

It's all so … empty.

I stand on my toes and press a kiss to Theo's soft lips, warranting applause from the crowd and a storm of flashing cameras.

"You should've taken a hit with me in the limo to take the edge off," he whispers as he backs away, brandishing the dazzling smile that's earned him millions.

Another reason Theo won't ever be the guy of my dreams? He's into the hard stuff. Cocaine, mostly, although sometimes he breaks up my anxiety meds and snorts those too. He swears he's only a recreational user, but I've seen him snort enough white powder to kill an entire football team. I don't have a lot of room to judge considering just how much I need my benzos.

There's a sudden uproar from the women gathered behind the rope. Their screams become downright desperate, almost as if they're in pain. I casually glance over my shoulder, expecting an A-list celebrity. When I spot my little sister and her highly-coveted rockstar husband stepping onto the red carpet, warranting the attention of everyone in attendance, my heart soars with the first real emotion I've felt all night.

Finally something that matters. Family.

The studio would've allowed for me to invite all my siblings, but Sharlo's due to have their second child very soon, Nolan and Sofia are busy running a charity event at their casino in Vegas, Braden and Katie have their hands full with the twins, and Hunter's in the midst of spraying crops. I was excited when Evelyn agreed to attend, knowing she had experience with the level of chaos that comes with stardom. The two of us were never close as she's six years younger. Around the time I began to see her as a sister and not an annoying little brat, I was getting ready to move to Miami to give the modeling gig a real shot.                       
       
           



       

Part of me will always wonder what would've happened if I had stuck around and gone to college like all of my classmates. Maybe my two sisters and I could've formed a stronger bond. Seeing Evelyn now stirs a sense of nostalgia that almost knocks me off my already weary feet from donning these obnoxious shoes.

As I start for them, I barely hear Theo calling my name over the excited cries of fans and reporters alike. I throw my arms around Evelyn, holding onto her as tightly as her pregnant belly will allow. For the first time since she returned to her hotel this morning after the team of stylists arrived, I'm relatively at peace with a sense of calm washing over me.

"You look gorgeous," Evelyn whispers, gently rubbing her warm fingers over my exposed back. "How're you holding up?"

"It's a lot to take in." My voice cracks with a rush of tears that I refuse to let fall. Until this moment, I didn't realize how emotional the experience has made me. "I'm a little shook up, to be honest. Some guy grabbed my ass right before we stepped onto the red carpet, and had to be tackled by security. It's disgustingly hot, and this scene is a total madhouse. I'm not convinced I'm cut out for this sort of thing."

"You are. Trust me on this. I know it's a little overwhelming at first, but you'll get used to the screaming and psychos wanting a piece of you … and your man."

We back away at the same time, giggling and sniffling. She gingerly pats at the corner of my damp eyes with a knuckle, then links our fingers together and smiles warmly. My gaze trails down to the strapless satin gown in a shade lighter than the honey color of her eyes that so elegantly flows over her baby bump, then back up to her flawless makeup and the relaxed curl of her long brown locks covering her bare shoulders.

God, she reminds me so much of our mother that a painful ache spreads beneath my ribs. I haven't been able to stop wondering what Mom and Dad would think of all this if they were still alive. I would've flown them down here and pampered the hell out of them. Dad most likely wouldn't have been impressed, but I'd like to think the glitz and glamour would've excited Mom.

"You look beautiful too, Ev," I tell her. "You're glowing."

Her eyes flicker up to the sky. "You're exaggerating. You think you're overheated? My feet are swollen to twice their normal size. I literally feel like a stuffed turkey. Probably look like one too."

Charlie returns from signing an autograph to wrap her in his arms from behind, cradling the base of her belly in his hands. In tight gray jeans and a black sports jacket over a v-neck t-shirt, he's one of few not wearing a tuxedo tonight, and he's by far the most striking. The way he carries himself alone alludes the kind of charm only a rockstar could possess. Add the fact that he has the sexiest eyes and voice in existence along with a fit body you could bounce quarters off for days, and he's even more ideal than Theo.

For a time I was jealous as shit that my baby sister snagged him. Once I got to know him a little better, I was delighted for them both. They're perfect for each other. Today though, I'm back to being envious.

"No one talks about my wife that way," he scolds before kissing the side of Evelyn's head. "You're the most gorgeous woman here tonight, Freckles. No offense to Ang."

"You two are ridiculous," I tease with a quiet giggle.

Theo steps into our sacred circle, offering his hand to Charlie. I huff under my breath, instantly annoyed. Why does he assume I want to introduce him to my family? I've been staying over at his place every now and then, but only because my apartment reminds me of John. The rules we set from the beginning included no moving in together. I assumed he understood that meant this thing between us is not family-worthy.

"Theo Carr. I'm a big fan of Thrashtag."

The photographers go apeshit, shouting over each other to get the attention of the two men.

Something in Charlie's expression shifts when he takes Theo's hand. It's definitely not flattery, but I can't pinpoint what exactly passes through his beautiful gaze. "Didn't we already meet last year, when the band was doing a gig in Toronto?"

Theo reclaims his hand to rake it through his perfectly messed blond hair. "Don't think so. I'd definitely remember meeting you. I was a fan way back before you broke out and did the solo thing."

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