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He inwardly laughed at his stepfather’s gullibility. The man was a vicious arms dealer who prided himself on knowing everything that went on around him. Yet, the moron had no clue what his own son did with his free time. Although it probably had more to do with the fact that he didn’t give a shit about him. His stepfather still thought he was a struggling journalist. So, whenever he needed extra cash, all he had to do was put in a call.

Despite the fact that he was moving with speed, the cold bit into him. He was wearing a North Face jacket, which kept him warm. Unfortunately it did nothing to protect his face.

If it hadn’t been for that beefy looking Slav he could have taken Calista right then. This was the kind of chance he’d been waiting on for months. There had been no security surrounding her and she was out in the open. All he would have to do was get close enough to hit her with a taser. He doubted she weighed more than one hundred and twenty pounds, so carrying her would be no problem.

Now he didn’t dare risk it. When he was sure he wasn’t being followed, he doubled back and found the boat he’d hidden in the underbrush. Being near her here was too risky. He couldn’t think straight around her and he didn’t want to make any mistakes. Calista would be going home soon anyway. He’d make his move then. He might even keep her around longer than he had the others. Everything depended on her willingness to play.


Dane tied his running shoes and grabbed his coat from the closet. After last night he needed to burn off some energy. Before he got halfway down the hall to the elevator, Robert stopped him.

“Hey wait up. If you’re going for a run, I’ll join you.”

“You sure? You didn’t strike me as the type to get up this early.” Or the type to exercise outside of a gym.

The other man might be in good shape, but he looked like a gym rat. Dane resisted the urge to make a smart ass comment.

“I’m sure, I need to talk to you,” Robert grumbled as he smothered another yawn.

“I can wait to take my run if it’s that important.” Something about the other man’s demeanor put Dane on edge.

“No, I don’t want to risk Calista hearing any of this.”

Ten minutes into their jog, Dane broke the silence. “Are you ready to tell me what’s bothering you so much?”

“You didn’t find that photographer did you?” Robert asked.

“Calista already told you about that?” It had been late by the time he’d returned to the room and everyone had been sleeping.

“Of course.” Robert nodded as if that should be obvious.

“No, I didn’t find anyone. I did find some cigarette butts that I’m sending to a friend of mine to be analyzed, but they might not even be from the same person.”

“Anything else?”

“I also found fresh boot prints that were too big to be female.”

When Robert didn’t say anything more Dane spoke again, and this time his annoyance was apparent. “Look, Calista didn’t seem bothered, so I’m not sure why you’re so upset. I’m not a mind reader, so either you tell me what’s going on or head back to the hotel. You’re slowing me down, and I want to get a good run in before breakfast.”

The truth was Robert was keeping a steady pace but Dane wanted to rile him up enough to get him to start talking.

Robert sighed but kept up his pace. “For the past four months Calista has been receiving threatening letters. She doesn’t know it, but I’ve increased security. I’ve had a couple extra shadows following her at all times.”

“Have you gone to the authorities?”

“No, she gets bizarre letters all the time. One guy even sent her a couple of his baby teeth.”

“You’re kidding?” Dane asked.

Robert managed a small laugh. “Believe me, I wish I was making this stuff up. Calista’s been receiving letters from the same person for some time now and they keep getting creepier. Normally this stuff doesn’t faze me, I’ve gotten used to the crazies in this business.”

“How do you know it’s the same person?”

“I can’t explain it, I just do. All the letters have a…quality to them.”

“What is it you want me to do about it?”

“I’ve been sitting on these for a while and I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look at them.”

“Why haven’t you told Calista?”

“I don’t want to worry her. She’s been thinking of making some career changes and I don’t want to give her more to worry about.”

“Career changes?”

“She’s been doing this for ten years and even though she hasn’t come out and said it I think she’s looking towards the future. I know she’ll never give up singing, but she hasn’t confirmed any new tours. I think she’s ready to settle down.”

Dane took this new information in with interest. “All right, I’ll take a look at the letters. But let me give you some advice. You need to tell her. It’s her life and she needs to be aware if there’s someone out there who wants to hurt her.”

“I’ll tell her, but first I want to see how serious you think this is.”

“You seem a tad overprotective.” Dane wouldn’t admit it outright, but he was curious about Calista and Robert’s relationship. They seemed to be just friends, but that could just be for appearances.

“You’re damn right I am!” The intensity of his words shocked Dane. “Sorry, I just feel like I owe her. From the moment I heard her sing I knew she was going to be big. When she first signed with me, she wasn’t my only client. I wasn’t paying enough attention to what she was doing with her time off. She started dating a bottom feeder disguised in Gucci. Mike Valpas.” Dane could hear the disgust in Robert’s voice.

“What happened with them?” Dane only asked in case the man turned out to be a suspect, not because he was curious about her.

At least that’s what he told himself.

“He was starting to make a name for himself in the fashion industry as a photographer. To make a long story short he knew she was going somewhere and tried to blackmail her with semi-scandalous pictures he’d taken.”

Dane opened his mouth to speak, but Robert answered the question before he even asked it.

“The reason it never made it into the tabloids is because I took care of it. Let’s just say I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and I had some friends who were more than willing to take care of an uptown asshole for a couple hundred bucks.”

Robert continued talking but slowed his pace considerably. “By today’s standards the pictures wouldn’t even be considered risqué, but she was embarrassed and terrified that her brother would find out. She was barely eighteen and fell for the first guy who showed her attention. That really messed her up for a while. She’s not that same trusting young kid anymore, but I still worry about her. For some reason unknown to me, she likes to see the best in people.”

Dane managed a smile. “Her brother’s the same way.”

Robert continued as if he hadn’t heard Dane. “Then I wasn’t there for that incident in Germany…” his voice trailed off as if he realized who he was talking to.

“Sorry man, I just try to take care of her is all. She’s my family.”

“I’m a little curious why you asked me for help. There are people you can hire for this sort of thing.”

“I know that, but you’re here so I’m taking the opportunity to get an expert’s opinion. I also thought it might ease your guilt to help her out.”

“Guilt?” Dane glanced over at him.

Instead of responding, Robert stopped dead in his tracks. “I’m about to collapse so if you don’t mind I’m going to head back. I’ve had enough fresh air to last a lifetime.”

Dane didn’t push the comment about guilt and let him go. Apparently Robert was more perceptive than he’d originally thought. Snow, rocks, and dead leaves crunched underneath his feet as he increased his speed along the trail behind the hotel. He tried to focus on his surroundings, but all he could think about was Calista.

The night before, sleep had been elusive. When he finally did manage to drift off, Calista’s delicate face had taunted him in his dreams. He’d woken up around four in the morning drenched in sweat after a particularly vivid dream about her wearing nothing but a smile. His physical response to her was more than a little frustrating. She was Connor’s sister for starters. More importantly, she barely tolerated his presence. He could see it in her eyes every time she glanced his way. She said she’d forgiven him, but somehow he doubted it. How could she when she didn’t even know the whole truth?

In almost every photograph of her in the tabloids, she had stick straight hair, but last night she’d left it natural and curly. When she’d been standing under the moonlight looking so natural and relaxed, everything in his being had wanted to touch her. He had been tempted to run his hands through her thick auburn hair and if it hadn’t been for that flash who knows what stupid thing he might have done. The only logical thing to do was to stay as far away from her as possible.


Dane put down the last letter Robert had given him. He rubbed his temple in frustration. These letters weren’t typical fan adoration. The person who had written them was definitely unhinged. The scary thing was he probably functioned normally in society. Dane would bet anything the person was a sociopath and possibly someone already in Calista’s life. The most frightening aspect of the letters was that the author seemed to know very intimate details of her life. Dane grabbed the last letter, dated three weeks before, and read it again.

You looked like a slut at the Sanchez party in Madrid . Why won’t you admit that you’re mine? Meet me after the show in Melbourne or you won’t like what happens.

The letter by itself wouldn’t be too frightening if it wasn’t for the fifty others that accompanied it. Dane was sure the only reason this maniac had yet to make a move was because of Calista’s constant protection. He was still waiting on a response from the lab for any DNA results on the cigarettes but he wasn’t expecting much. He was also compiling guest lists from any party or social function mentioned. He hadn’t planned to get involved in this, but he couldn’t pass this off onto someone else. Especially not since he owed her.