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The 9-Month Bodyguard
Cindy Dees


She felt her dimples pucker up. “If we’re gonna hijack a limo, we may as well enjoy it before we go to jail.”

He grinned. “Good point.” He knocked on the glass partition, which had closed sometime during their exchange on the floor.

The chauffeur looked back at them in his rearview mirror. “We safe now?” the guy asked.

Austin nodded. “Yes, thanks to you. Mr. Rothchild’s going to be very grateful that you saved his daughter’s life.”

The guy snorted. “Mr. Coddington’s going to be very not grateful that I took off with his limo.”

Silver knew Albert Coddington. She jumped in, waving a casual hand. “Albert’s a dear. Once he knows what happened, he’ll be delighted to have helped.”

The driver muttered, “Maybe. But Mrs. Coddington sure won’t like having to wait for her ride.”

Silver laughed. “I give Mrs. Coddington-Number-Five six more months before she’s outta there. No need to worry about her. Albert’s determined to be just like Henry VIII, and he has one more wife to go.”

Austin’s gaze swiveled to hers. “The man’s had five wives? What’s wrong with him?”

She grinned at him. “He has a weakness for gold diggers and gets suckered, like clockwork, every ten years. But give the guy credit for style. The current Mrs. Coddington is younger than I am. By a lot.”

“You’re not exactly an old lady.”

She shrugged. “It’s not like I can lie to you about my age. After all, you met me at my birthday party.”

“You’ll like being thirty—”

She cut him off. “Don’t tell me my thirties will be my best decade yet. I made a pact with myself that I’d murder the next person who said that to me.”

He shrugged. “Okay, how ’bout this? My thirties have been great to me so far. Wouldn’t trade ’em for the world. I hope yours are the same for you.”

“I’ll let you know in six weeks,” she replied ruefully.

“What happens in six weeks?”

She opened her mouth to tell him about her upcoming gig at the Grand, when the driver spoke from up front. “Sir, when do you want me to head back to town? We’re gonna have to turn around now or go straight for about a fifty miles and get gas before we turn around.”

Austin frowned. “Let’s head back to town. Does the Grand have a private entrance?”

Silver and the driver answered simultaneously, “Yes.”

Austin looked over at her. “I forgot. You grew up there, didn’t you?”

Indeed, she had. She was plenty familiar with the underground loading dock for the many deliveries it took to keep the Grand running. Rather than have trucks constantly clog the busy streets around the hotel, they unloaded underneath it, out of sight and out of the way. Which also made for an ideal entry for celebrities in search of privacy—or safety.

“We’ll have to call ahead to use it. Security’s very tight down there,” she said. “Particularly in the late afternoon. The casino gets its shipments of cash in at about this time of day.”

Austin pulled out his cell phone. “What’s your dad’s personal phone number?”

She rattled off the number and Austin dialed it quickly. She listened unabashedly.

“Hi, sir. This is Austin Dearing. I wanted to report that your daughter is unhurt and with me…that’s correct…what are the police saying about the shooting? Any trace of the gunman?” Austin listened a long time, then commented dryly, “With all due respect, sir, that Bubba who calls himself her bodyguard doesn’t know his nose from his ass. You made an exceedingly wise decision to hire me.”

Silver’s jaw dropped. Mark would go ballistic if he heard Austin say something like that! Everybody knew to tiptoe around his hair-trigger temper. She thought she heard tinny laughter emanating from Austin’s phone.

“We’ll be arriving at the underground entrance of your hotel in…driver, how long till we’re back at the Grand?”

“Twenty minutes, sir.”

“…in twenty minutes. Right. Thanks. No sweat.” Austin pocketed his phone.

She liked to think of it as healthy inquisitiveness, but nosiness was one of her greatest weaknesses. She liked to know everything that was going on around her. When Austin made no comment, her curiosity quickly got the best of her. “So, what did my father say?”

“He’ll have someone waiting at the gate for us.”

She huffed. “No. About the shooting? Did the police catch the guy?”

“No.”

“Who was he shooting at? Was anyone hurt? C’mon, Austin. Gimme the scoop.”

Amusement glinted in his green gaze. “I don’t need the police to tell me the gunman was shooting at you. I saw the guy make his move. And, no, no one was seriously hurt. Some guests and staff have cuts and bruises from twisted ankles and falling glass.”

She was still stuck on his first sentence. “The gunman was shooting at me? Are you sure?”

That earned her an annoyed look. “Yes, I’m sure. It’s what I do, remember?”

“How do you know?”

He sighed. “I saw the gunman dart out of hiding and pull out his weapon. He timed his move for when Bubba had stepped away from you to give the cameras his best profile. He really is a jerk, you know.”

“The shooter or Mark?”

Austin grinned. “Both of them.”

She rolled her eyes. The guy was trying very hard not to be informative with her. She prompted him again. “Then what did the gunman do?”

Austin crossed his arms. “He took aim at you with a large-caliber handgun and fired. One thing we know about him—he’s a crappy shot. He should have nailed you cold. Any eighteen-year-old raw recruit could make that kill.”

“Well, thank God for small favors,” she replied dryly.

He glanced over at her. “Seriously. It tells us a lot about the guy. If he were a professional hit man you’d be dead. This guy’s an amateur with something personal against you. Can you think of anyone who might want to kill you? Maybe get revenge for some past wrong?”

She frowned hard, not liking the turn this conversation was taking one little bit.

“Any old boyfriends you had ugly breakups with? Anyone you crossed swords with during your career? Anyone who might feel slighted by your success?”

She gifted him with an annoyed look of her own. “Yes to all of the above. Times about a hundred. In case you didn’t know it, my former singing career was…slightly tumultuous.”

He laughed. “The way I hear it, that’s an extreme understatement.”
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