Thursday, April 10, 2008

Savior by Jade Falconer

Inside, he knew it was for the best. The recent stalker scare and the death threats had really frightened him. But it wasn't until a mostly harmless fan had breached his supposed state-of-the-art security system that he'd agreed to his manager's suggestion of a bodyguard.

The main problem was, Ernie had gone ahead and hired a guy without even letting Ricky meet him first. The man was going to be responsible for his personal safety. He was going to be living in his house. He should at least have final say.

Unfortunately, agreements had been made and Ernie assured him that this guy was the best. Ex-military of some sort, some kind of hand-to-hand expert or something, but still looked hip enough that his presence wouldn't scream 'bodyguard'.

Ricky was withholding judgment until he met him, and he was already feeling belligerent. His publicist was hounding him to schedule some interviews, and his record company was trying to convince him to perform at some festival as the headliner. Everyone was making demands on him, and he was in a surly mood. He was ready to meet this supposed 'expert' that he was going to be shackled with. He sat in an oversized armchair while one of his PA's buzzed around answering cell phones and fetching him iced tea.

Ernie, a short, bald man dressed in a loud, mismatched suit, bustled in, followed by a much taller man dressed all in black. "Ricky, sweetie, sorry I'm late, you know how LA traffic is."

"Yeah, whatever, Ernie," he said sourly. He couldn't stop himself from looking over the other man, though. He was tall and broad-shouldered, but not in a football player kind of way. His proportions were extremely appealing, in fact. Ricky crossed his legs. "So is this him?" he asked, his voice much bitchier than the look he was giving the bodyguard.

Ernie nodded quickly. "This is Jim. He's the best." He put his hand on Jim's arm and said, "Jim, this is Ricky."

Jim stepped forward and nodded. "Hello."

Ricky's eyes narrowed. He mistrusted attractive men, and Jim was extremely attractive. His looks were unusual, but taken as a whole, they were intense. His hair was dark and longish and his eyes were dark brown to match, his face on the boyish side, his body large and powerful. "So you're the best, huh? What makes you the best?"

Jim half smiled, half smirked. His confidence was palpable. "I can handle anything. I can blend in, or be obvious. I don't need weapons, though I can handle them." He crossed his arms, biceps bulging. "Any other questions?" He looked right into Ricky's eyes, unwaveringly.

Ricky folded his arms over his chest, mirroring Jim's stance. "Yeah. Why do you want to do this?" he asked. He wasn't sure what salary his manager had offered, but he assumed it was the money.

Angling his head to the side a little, Jim regarded Ricky. "It's my job," he said, as if it explained everything.

Ricky chuckled. "Should I call you GI Joe? So, you don't care that you have to live here? Be on-call at any time of the day or night?" he asked.

Jim shrugged. "It's part of the job. I'm used to it. I've had worse clients."

Ricky arched a delicately shaped eyebrow. "Have you?" He stood and stalked around Jim, looking him over thoroughly. He came around to face him again. "And I'm supposed to believe you can stop some demented stalker from getting in here and slitting my throat?" he asked.

The bodyguard didn't react to Ricky's belligerence. "Yes," he said simply. "My record and my references speak for themselves. I will put your safety above my own and I will protect you with every resource at my disposal." He stared calmly into Ricky's eyes. "If you don't believe it, of course, you are free to hire a whole squad of rent-a-cops."

Ricky sighed. "I guess it can't hurt to give you a try," he said with a hint of disdain in his voice. "Since Ernie already hired you," he added, glaring at his manager. "Somebody find him a room." He waved his hand dismissively, and took the cell phone from his assistant, turning his back to Jim. The man was hot, but Ricky was almost positive he was straight, anyway. And he was so serious.

An assistant walked up to Jim, and he stated, "I'll need an adjoining room, as close as possible to his."

Ricky caught that comment and spun around to gape at him. "Adjoining? I don't think so," he scoffed. He wondered what this big, tough guy would do if the body he was supposed to be guarding wandered around wearing just a towel, or less.

Jim shrugged and stared back at Ricky. "It would actually be better if I slept in the same room with you," he cautioned. "But, an adjoining room is an absolute requirement." He looked at Ernie. "Maybe you hired the wrong person. He clearly is not going to follow my rules."

Ricky blinked. The audacity of this man was intriguing. "You wanna stay in my room with me?" he asked. "Giorgio, get another bed brought into my bedroom," he said to another assistant orbiting around him, but his gaze never really left the bodyguard. He planted his hands on his hips, and haughtily inquired, "Is that satisfactory, Mr. GI Joe?"

"Yes, sir," Jim replied, the tiniest smile playing about his lips. "It will assure you are protected in the best way."