As an ex-military man, Miles Rock isn’t fond of modern youth culture. He certainly doesn’t hold with young ladies shaking their “assets” and crooning crude lyrics by way of entertainment. Hypersexed superstarlet ‘Ca$h’ Raine has built a career on doing all of that and more. And now she needs a bodyguard.
Miles would rather sit in a desert and take heavy fire, but he agrees to meet Cash as a favor to an old friend. He expects to meet a spoiled brat with an attitude problem and morals like a sieve. Instead he finds a beautiful, sweet, talented young woman caught in an industry all too ready to chew her up and spit her out.
Cash is a good girl, but even good girls need discipline – and Miles is the man to give it, whether she thinks she needs it or not.Of course, nothing is simple in Miles’ world. Cash’s European tour is about to kick off, bringing with it more trouble in the form of a truly bratty support act named Stabby Longstockings, and an old colleague struggling with PTSD.
As romance blossoms between Miles and Cash, danger begins to lurk in the wings. Can Miles keep Cash safe? Or are the ghosts of the past too powerful to allow the star-fated pair to find love?
Publisher’s Note: This book was originally published on Bethany’s Woodshed as Raine’s Bodyguard.
A great ball of fire rose across the Pacific Ocean, casting red and gold rays across endless sea. On the golden shore far below, a long muscular shadow was cast across the palm fringed beach. Staring out at the great beyond, a sea breeze whipping through his short dark hair, Miles had to admit that California was beautiful. At 6’2”, Miles Rock was a slab of a man with a reputation for being as hard as they come. He wasn’t the sort of guy usually given to contemplating sunrises but it was nice to stop for a minute and appreciate some of the natural beauty of the country he’d spent ten years fighting for.
His cellphone rang, impinging on the view with its tinny tune. He answered it. “Rock.”
Miles could picture the face of the man speaking at the other end of the call, round even in combat, and perpetually smiling. “Hi, Kevin.”
“How are you doing, Miles? Found work yet?”
“Not yet, no.”
“Well I reckon you’re about to thank me,” Kevin said. “There’s an opening for a personal bodyguard for,” he paused for a moment for dramatic effect… “Cash Raine.”
Miles’ forehead wrinkled in confusion. “Who or what is a Cash Raine?”
Kevin groaned. “You really need to get out more, Miles. You’re not old yet.”
“I’m out right now.”
“No, I mean, out as in…” Kevin sputtered with annoyance. “I mean, get acquainted with modern culture. Cash Raine is a singer. You know, a rock star. She’s young, but she’s the biggest up and comer of the year. It’s time she got some decent security ? and I don’t reckon I know a more decent man than you, Miles.”
Flattery was not going to get Kevin anywhere. Miles clenched his jaw and shook his head. "I’m not interested in tailing some hyper-sexed brat."
"The pay is good, Miles, better than good. And she’s not so bad."
Miles was not convinced. Now he thought about it, he was pretty sure he’d caught the first thirty seconds of Cash Raine’s recent music video "Rodeo Stick" and he hadn’t been impressed by it. Just another vapid little girl shaking her assets for the world at large whilst singing lyrics that were both indecent and trite. Miles didn’t know what had happened since the 80’s, all he knew was that all this modern music was making him feel old long before his time.
Kevin uttered fateful words, an appeal to Miles’ friendship. “Just meet her, Miles. Can you at least do that? As a favor?”
* * * * *
Miles had agreed as a favor to Kevin. Now he was standing outside a hotel suite feeling irritable and tense. There was a ridiculous crowd down in the lobby sporting outlandish accessories and brandishing hysterical signs declaring their love for Cash Raine, or Ca$h Raine, as it was more often spelled by people who scrawled the name into squares of poster board.
“Miles!” Kevin called his name. Miles almost didn’t recognize his old comrade. Kevin didn’t look anything like he had in Afghanistan. The thick bushy beard was gone, replaced with a five o’clock shadow. The hair that had once been cropped military short was now brushing against his collar. It was hard to believe that the fashionable man dressed in the expensive Italian suit used to crawl through miles of mud and blood on Miles’ orders. They embraced with a great deal of backslapping. “Thanks for coming,” Kevin said, beaming broadly. “We have a couple of agency guys working this tour, but I’d feel much more comfortable knowing you had her back.”
“I’m not promising anything,” Miles warned him.
“I know, I know, just say hello, okay?”
Miles grunted as he was ushered into a large room that reeked of hairspray and perfume. There were people milling about everywhere, talking on cellphones, carrying cups of coffee, wielding bits and pieces of cosmetic equipment. In the middle of it all was the star herself, Miss Cash Raine, a small, slight figure sitting amid a whirl of activity. She was staring off into space, a thoughtful, intelligent expression on her face whilst a stylist curled a huge blonde wig atop her head.
Kevin tried to get her attention and failed. She was obviously off in some daydream, a little smile establishing itself on her pale lips. To Miles’ surprise, she didn’t look nearly as tarty as she’d appeared to be in her video ? though it seemed the stylists were working on rectifying that.
Without make up on, she was fresh faced and pretty, just a sweet, normal girl. She was attractive, certainly, but she bore little resemblance to the half-dressed would-be harlot in her promotional pictures. In person, she looked a lot younger, and a lot more vulnerable.
“Cash!” Kevin snapped his fingers and waved his hand in front of her face. She came back from wherever she’d been with a start.
“Kevin!” She said, her lips parting in a small smile of amusement. Though there was madness all around her, she was completely serene, detached from it all.
“I want you to meet someone,” Kevin said. “This is Miles Rock, he’s a top security man.”
Cash looked up and met Miles’ eyes. For a moment, time stopped. Her eyes were a bright sapphire blue, no doubt the result of colored contact lenses, but it wasn’t the color that made Miles’ heart skip a beat, it was the open innocence of the look. This girl wasn’t the jaded celebrity he’d been expecting, she was a complete lamb.
“Hello,” she said, smiling brightly. “You’re very tall.”
Miles didn’t often smile for recreational purposes, but he felt the corners of his mouth turning up at the edges. “Yes, I am,” he agreed.
“Are you going to be my bodyguard?” The question was direct, but tempered with dulcet tones.
Miles glanced over at Kevin and saw a crafty smirk on the man’s face. Damn Kevin, he’d known exactly how Miles would react to someone like Cash Raine in person. There she was, a sweet girl asking for his protection. How on earth was he going to say no to her?
“It sure seems that way,” he said, turning his attention back to Cash. His heart melted a little more as her smile grew quite bright.
“Good,” she said. “I can already tell you’ll keep me safe.”
“Is that so?”
“Oh yes,” she said. “I’m a very good judge of character.”
Miles smiled. Most people thought they were good judges of character; he’d yet to come across anyone who claimed to be a terrible judge of character. Still, he couldn’t blame a nineteen year old for thinking she knew everything.
“Well there we go, it’s settled!” Kevin clapped Miles on the back and beamed.
“Settled?” Miles shook his head. “Surely there will have to be an interview with Miss Raine’s management and parents.”
Cash laughed. “I make the decisions,” she said. “And I like you.”
“And you’ve hired everyone on this basis?” Miles couldn’t help but sound disapproving. “Kevin, I’m going to need the details of everyone working for Miss Raine.”
“See?” Cash beamed. “You’re already getting to work.”
Miles turned to Cash, his gray eyes darkening so they were almost black with seriousness. “I should warn you, Miss Raine. If I’m to be in charge of security, there will be changes. There will be an order to things. Is that agreeable to you?”
Cash’s eyes sparkled, then her face contorted as a make up artist began applying blusher to her cheeks. “Sure,” she said. “You’re the boss.”
Miles wasn’t sure he quite believed that. He saw something else in Miss Raine’s gaze ? a sharp intellect that belied her pretense of casual indifference.
“I have a concert tonight,” she said. “You could come to that if you like…” she paused for a moment as a make up technician applied dark lip liner to her lower lip. “… if you can suffer through it.”
Miles cocked his head to the side. “You think I might not?”
“They’re noisy,” she said. “Kevin doesn’t like them.”
Miles glanced at Kevin and understood what Cash was referring to. A lot of vets, including Kevin, did not respond well to loud booming noises and chaotic environments. “I’ll bring earplugs,” he said with a wink.
“Good, I shriek a lot,” she replied with unexpected self-deprecating humor clearly designed to spare Kevin’s feelings.
“Oh you do not,” Kevin laughed. “She’s got a hell of a set of pipes on her, this one.”
“Let’s make it a trial,” Cash said. “Do the job for the next twenty-four hours. Come to the concert, stay here tonight. There’s a million rooms to choose from and you can…” she paused for a teasing moment. “… show me all your rules. What do you say?”
Again, Miles was surprised. The slip of a girl was taking control of the situation in a gentle, but decidedly effective way. Kevin was hiding another smile. Damn the man, this trap was a lot stickier than Miles had first supposed.
* * * * *
That evening, Miles found himself in what he would previously have considered to be one of the least likely places in the world ? back stage at a Ca$h Raine concert. He’d barely seen Cash since their interview, she’d been whisked away for more makeup and rehearsals and he’d been at the venue itself, looking the place over and identifying potential problems. He’d kept an eye on the crowd as the place filled, mostly with excited teenagers and youngsters in their early twenties. Miles knew he wasn’t that much older than most of them, but a gulf of experience separated him from the carefree guys and girls already leaping up and down in anticipation.
He was so busy working that he first became aware of the concert starting when the lights went down and a rumbling began to emanate from the speakers, shaking the entire stage. Hidden in the wings, Miles kept his eyes trained on the spot where Cash was to emerge. The rumble grew into a roar and as the crowd screamed at the top of their lungs with one voice, a pulsing beat began to emanate in a steady, slow rhythm that grew in speed until it was pounding like a runner’s heart. Red and orange lights cast a dramatic glare over the stage, which was built to resemble a gleaming steel pyramid in the middle of a desert. With another tremor of bass, fake tumbleweed went blowing across the stage and bumped up against the pyramid, which lit up like a jewel, gleaming and glittering for all to admire. At the peak of the beat, Cash’s voice broke over the bass in a silky smooth purr that made a tingle go shooting down his spine.
“Are you ready… for the rodeo?”
The shrieks from the crowd, which Miles thought could surely not grow any louder, rose to a new crescendo, forcing him to adjust his earplugs. The speakers boomed, pyrotechnics flashed at both sides of the stage and in an instant, Cash was there, projected larger than life on the two screens mounted either side of the main stage.
She stood at the top of the pyramid, her arms crossed across her chest in the fashion of a pharaoh. Her hair was at least a foot tall, a blonde curling mass with tendrils reaching down to her shoulders. Heavy make up transformed her face into something he barely recognized. Her eyes were bright sapphire blue, rimmed with thick dark slashes of liner, her bow lips were a bright bubblegum pink and her lashes were long enough to support small scale construction.
The outfit she wore was equally shameless, a pair of black latex shorts so short they barely qualified as clothing and a mesh bodysuit with extra black sequins sewn over strategic locations. High black leather boots running all the way up to mid thigh did little to make her appearance any more sophisticated, but there were a few touches that transformed the ensemble from the cheap to the dramatic. For starters there was the high white silk collar that rose from the back of her shirt, and the equally pristine cape that flowed from it. A touch of Elvis on a girl who’d been born almost a decade after his death.
“I said… are you ready for the rodeo?” She lifted her arms, her toned torso shifting in pleasing ways as she did.
The crowd’s howl coincided with the opening bars of the song. With a devilish thrust of her hips, Cash began to sing, her distinctively rich and husky feminine voice filling the venue.
Rodeo, rodeo, met you at a rodeo,
Want to rid ? e ? yo,
At the rodeo, rodeo.
Miles groaned inwardly at the provocative lyrics, and when Cash started to gyrate her hips to the beat he found it impossible to keep his eyes off the tight little ass showcased perfectly in the shiny black pants. The girl could dance, he gave her that. As the song progressed further and discussed deeper issues connected to being at the rodeo, including raging bull metaphors, she broke into an energetic routine that involved an awful lot of leaping around whilst simultaneously contorting her body in ways that left Miles staggered.
Ride a bull, you’re so ride a bull,
Ride a bull my dear.
Make me full, my rodeo bull…
Cash was joined on stage by a dozen shirtless men who mimicked her provocative movements motion for motion until the show more closely resembled a soft-core orgy than a concert. At that point, Miles decided to do another sweep whilst the show thudded on in a cacophony of cavorting nubile bodies.
Three very long hours later it was over. Cash was safely in her room backstage, reversing the process that had turned her into a sultry sexpot. Miles watched from the doorway as her stage persona was swept away with thick strokes of a sponge. Soon a new girl emerged from under the shell of the performer, a girl with dark circles under her eyes and a droop to her eyelids.
“Oh hello Miles,” she said, spotting his reflection in the mirror, “did you enjoy the show?”
“You’re very talented,” he replied diplomatically.
“That’s a no,” Cash laughed. “Music too loud? Bass lines too aggressive?”
“It was more a lyrical issue,” Miles said. “Quite suggestive, aren’t they?”
Cash dropped the sponge and gave him a dirty look. Not dirty in the way her lyrics had been dirty, but a look as if he was something that had crawled out from under a nearby rock. “I didn’t take you for a misogynist.”
Miles felt his brows go up. Misogyny was not something he was often accused of, and he quite failed to see how mentioning that repetitive thinly veiled references to sexual activity weren’t precisely appropriate material for a nice young lady counted as misogyny. But it was not his job to argue with the client.
“I apologize,” he said. “I’m probably too old to understand the nuances of your genre.”
Cash’s expression darkened further. She was quite cute when she was angry. “And now you’re patronizing me.”
The discussion was not going well. It was time to beat a retreat before hostilities escalated. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I need to do another sweep before we leave.” He pushed away from the door and turned to leave.
Behind him, her voice rang out in a slightly panicked pitch. “Don’t you walk away from me.”
When Miles turned back he could see tears in Cash’s eyes. He didn’t know what had happened to the calm, composed young woman he’d first met in her hotel room, but post-performance she was clearly very agitated and on the verge of an outburst.
“What’s wrong, Miss Raine?”
“Nothing!” She took a deep sniff that turned into a sob.
* * * * *
Cash didn’t know what was wrong. She knew she was very tired and very upset. And she knew that the big, tall man with the seriously chiseled face was looking at her with a mixture of concern and something she couldn’t place.
“Miss Raine,” he said, his deep voice making her feel even more fragile. “I think you should put some clothes on. I’ll take you home. You need to go to bed.”
“I can’t,” she sniffed. “There’s an after party.”
“You’re crying tired,” he said, folding his arms over his chest. “You’re in no condition for a party.”
“What’s going on?” Promoter Reggie Rhinestone came in, definite pep in his step. Reggie was fifty years old, but nobody had mustered up the courage to tell him that. As a result he dressed and acted like a man half his age. “Come on baby girl,” he said. “What you crying for?”
“Miss Raine is tired after her performance,” Miles explained.
“Oh sure!” Reggie winked and drew a small case out of his pocket. “I’ve got something to wake you up.”
“If that’s what I think it is,” Miles said before Reggie could get the case open, “then I suggest you get it out of here immediately.” He turned a hard gaze on Cash. “And I hope to high heaven you are not in the habit of indulging in such things.”
“I’m not,” she said, “but I could if I wanted to.”
Miles said nothing, but his jaw tightened. Cash sensed she was getting close to a line she didn’t want to be close to. Reggie had already slipped the case back into his pocket. He obviously had no desire to tangle with Miles either. He cringed visibly when the big bodyguard put a hand on his shoulder.
“Let’s leave Miss Raine to get dressed, shall we?” Miles gave Cash a look that made her tingle. “I’ll be out here when you’re ready.”
The door closed and Cash was left alone, looking at her tearful, pouting face in the mirror. She felt a little like she was being ordered home to bed. It had been a very long time since anybody had told her what to do. Her family had never been big on a sense of order, and as she’d been performing in clubs since she was fifteen, late nights had become par for the course. Being packed off home at two in the morning, it was a little like being sent to bed without dinner.
She found herself smiling, a little secret smile that welled up completely unbidden. Miles Rock was an attractive man, no doubt about that. He was a little older, but Cash was quite used to attention from older men. Men more than twice Miles’ age thought nothing of hitting on her from time to time.
Cash toyed with a sponge and watched herself in the mirror. Miles would probably not approve of the thoughts she was having, just like he didn’t approve of those stupid lyrics the label had her sing. He was so old fashioned, so charming, so… different.
Quietly thrilled at the idea of going home with the handsome bodyguard, Cash shed her robe and began to get dressed. When she emerged from her dressing room she looked nothing like her star self. All her make up was gone, save a little mascara and gloss to keep herself presentable. Her natural hair was tied back in a simple ponytail. She’d swapped skintight booty shorts for sweatpants and a hooded top.
“Okay,” she said with a small, slightly apologetic smile, “take me home.”
“Right this way, Miss Raine,” Miles said, ushering her through the venue’s back passages. He didn’t mention her earlier outburst, nor did he seem upset by it.
“The fans are going to be disappointed,” she murmured as they walked.
He cast a look at her, his thick brow slashing across tan skin. God, he was gorgeous. “You just danced for them for three straight hours, I think they’ll understand if you get some sleep.”
“I usually sign autographs.”
“You can sign some tomorrow. You’re all worn out tonight.” Miles pushed through the exit and used his body to block Cash from the scattered gawkers who were milling about. The car was waiting and they made an easy exit.
“I’m sorry I was rude to you,” Cash said as they pulled away. “I was just so wired from the show.”
“Quite alright,” Miles said, polite as ever.
She sat back and put her feet up on the limo seat, watching him curiously. “Is it?”
His eyes slid over to her and he looked at her long and hard before replying. “What is it you’re asking me, Miss Raine?”
Cash felt a little thrill of excitement. Something told her that she was toying with a tiger. Miles wasn’t anything like most of the people in the entertainment business; he wasn’t all hyped up and trying to get into her pants. He was refined and restrained and he actually said what was on his mind rather than blowing smoke up her ass like everyone else did.
“Nothing, I guess,” she smiled to herself and restrained a giggle. She really was tired. With the motion of the car, and the feeling of security Miles gave her, she was soon dozing off.
It felt like only a minute later that he was shaking her awake. “Miss Raine… Miss Raine, we’re home.”
Cash’s eyes fluttered open and she looked into Miles’ face. “Damn,” she said. “You look tired, you should get some rest.”
He almost smiled as he moved back out of her personal space. “I’ll sleep when you’re asleep.”
She stretched. “Why?”
“Because I can’t do much for you if I’m asleep and you’re running around town.”
Cash couldn’t help the grin that rose to her face. So he was trying to get her to bed, probably because he wanted to go to bed himself. And there would be nothing to stop her sneaking out later. The idea of sneaking out of her own hotel room gave her another little frisson of excitement.
“Well,” she said, sliding toward the car door. “I suppose you have to go off duty sometime.”
His deep voice made her turn her head back to him. “Yeah?”
He fixed her with one of those looks that was hard to tear her eyes away from. “I take my job very seriously, Miss Raine. I know there are security companies who will pick you up and drop you off and call it a day, but that isn’t the role I’m playing here. Do you understand?”
She cocked her head, trying to work out if he was angry. He didn’t seem angry, just stern and serious. Something in his gaze made her squirm on the seat. She felt warm and prickly for a reason she couldn’t quite place. Guilt. That was it, he was making her feel guilty for even having considered sneaking out ? but how had he known? Was he some kind of mind reader?
“And if I do want some time on my own? What if I have a date? Will you be lurking in the closet?” She’d meant to sound teasing, but she sounded a little petulant, a little churlish.
“Not the closet. I prefer the crawl space,” Miles deadpanned.
She laughed and the tension was broken. Still, for a reason she couldn’t quite explain, she felt a nervous tingle as she slipped out of the limo and into the quiet of the night. The hotel had a secure entrance for personages of her stature so there were no screaming fans when she disembarked. Miles exited the limo behind her and for a moment she felt him as just a presence in the night, tall, strong, comforting.
“Are you ready to retire for the evening, Miss Raine?”
“Retire for the evening,” she repeated his words. “You mean go to bed?” She turned and looked up at him with a playful smile on her face. “It’s been a long time since anyone sent me to bed.”
“I’m not sending you to bed… yet,” he said, giving her another one of those stern looks. He seemed to have an infinite supply of them.
She gave him an arch look as she replied. “Does that imply you will? Without dinner? Or with a spanking?”
He looked down at her and spoke quite matter of factly. “Miss Raine, though you are undeniably in need of a spanking, for the moment I think it best if you take yourself to bed before it becomes a necessity this evening.”
The flirtatious grin froze on her face. “W… what?”
“I said I think you should go to bed.”
She thought he might back down from what he’d said, but he repeated it without hesitation and with elaboration. “You’re in great need of a good spanking, Miss Raine.”
“But…” her face contorted, “I’m practically perfect! I don’t have any DUI’s, the paparazzi don’t take pictures of me without my panties on…”
“That’s a very low bar you’re setting yourself, Miss Raine,” he interrupted. “But just because you’re not in the last few inches of a downward spiral, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t do with a spanking. Discipline isn’t always about punishment.”
Cash didn’t fully understand what Miles meant, but she knew it was making her stomach churn and quiver.
“Maybe I should go to bed,” she said, lowering her eyes. She was confused and a little sad that Miles didn’t seem to approve of her. She already liked him very much, but he was all stern looks and now this little uninvited lecture. She lowered her eyes, realizing she probably wasn’t his type. Men like Miles Rock liked nice girls, girls who knitted and baked and knew their place, not girls like her, who went out on stage and danced dirty for all the world to see. Feeling embarrassed, and more than a little dejected, Cash turned and moped toward the hotel.