Patchwork Heaven

Book Cover: Patchwork Heaven
Editions:Digital: $ 6.99
ISBN: 978-1-63216-407-0
Print: $ 17.99
ISBN: 978-1-63216-406-3
Pages: 344

Singer Coby Kennedy and his drummer twin, Bruce, have a band called Patchwork Heaven. They have been rising steadily up the country music charts, but unfortunately, that rise has attracted unwanted attention. Faced with anonymous letters, sinister gifts, and the wanton destruction of their personal space, they hire The Detail, a specialized security firm. Coby never anticipated Gregor, The Detail's owner and his personal guard, would be quite so intriguing.

As the stalker gets closer and more violent and questions pile up, Gregor fears his past might get in the way of him finding who is threatening his client when he becomes suspect number one. Even though Coby is convinced Gregor is not behind the threat, Gregor is not sure he's the right man to keep Coby safe, either from the stalker, or from his own interest in the singer.

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Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
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Excerpt:

One

 

 

WHEN HAD darkness become danger? Again? He’d worked so hard to get over the anxiety of being surrounded by shadows. He’d managed, over the years, to soothe away the black, colorless void and cajole softer midnight blues, forest greens, and deep, resonant purples out of the shadows. Colors that spoke music into his soul and eventually came as chords and tune to his mind and his guitar. It had been years since he’d had so much difficulty seeing the velvety colors or found he couldn’t hear the rich tones of the underlying music, but here he was, looking out over the dim parking lot and wondering why everything had sunk into muddy, blank silence.

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Coby couldn’t pinpoint the moment it had happened. In fact, nothing had happened. Nothing specific. There was just the vague notion that what he couldn’t see could hurt him. It was the threat that whatever color and sound he found out there in the black wouldn’t soothe or comfort, but jar. It wasn’t a feeling he liked. For one thing, it seemed ridiculous. He topped six three and came by his broad-shouldered, muscled build through a lifetime of honest hard work. He wasn’t a small man, and hadn’t worried about what waited beyond the reach of the light since his childhood. He no longer even thought about it.

Now, he wiped his hands on the back pockets of his jeans as he peered into the twilit area between the last of the bar’s parking lot lights and the pool of illumination around his trailer door. He wondered what had prompted him to leave the crowded backstage area and slip away from the watchful eye of his bodyguard, Gregor, but it wasn’t a mystery. Though he hadn’t always been wary of the dark, he had always hated crowds.

He was so in the wrong business.

Below, at the backstage door, a couple of roadies were packing the last of their equipment. One of them glanced up, saw Coby, and offered a smile.

“Hey, boss,” he called, waving.

“Hey.” Coby nodded. The kid’s name—well, man; Coby tended to forget the guy was only five years younger than him—was Kip. He had joined the road crew about a year before, one of the last to sign on before the stalker mess started. When the letters and mysterious phone calls had gotten really bad, the security team had clamped down on the procedures they used to hire new roadies. Kip and a few others after him had been among the last to get contracts. In fact, Kip almost hadn’t gotten the job because his crush had been so very evident. Gregor hadn’t trusted him, but Kip was local, and Coby remembered him from school, always bringing his guitar and sitting close enough to be heard in the school cafeteria. He hadn’t done more than play and watch as Coby and his twin, Bruce, had jammed with friends, but it had been impossible not to notice how much he’d longed to take part.

Kip had always been a little shy but eager. Always kind, and smart enough for an upperclassman to know who he was by reputation alone, he was too often the butt of too many jokes. Back then it had been Bruce who had first taken pity on Kip and talked their father into offering him a stable-hand job at the ranch, and who had spent time hanging out with him some Saturdays, even after the brothers had graduated. Coby still wished that initial closeness had lasted, but Bruce had—changed. And that was something Coby tried hard not to dwell on. Bruce had had some very difficult times, but he was getting better. Maybe things between him and Kip would change again.

Unfortunately, Kip had never been the kind of person who hid his sexuality. In school, that had been social suicide for the poor guy. He’d changed schools during Bruce and Coby’s final year, right around the time Bruce began to slide downhill. Then Coby and Bruce hit the road, and they’d lost touch.

Looking at him now, Coby realized it wasn’t just his own ability to imagine the vibrant rainbow of color and trill of sweet music emanating from the younger man that set him apart. Kip really couldn’t hide his leanings. He fit too many stereotypes with his swaying hips, penchant for black nail polish, and sweet, too-fem voice. In school he’d been artless enough to have no clue how to dissemble. He was who he was. He never apologized for it, and he’d suffered too many cruelties for Coby to stand by and let one more be thrust on him just because of Coby’s problems. So he’d put in a good word for him, and Gregor had finally agreed to give him a chance.

After that it had all been about security checks, background checks, and rules most roadies either failed or refused to follow. They’d lost a few good stagehands over the clampdown, but as head of security and Coby’s personal bodyguard, Gregor McBride hadn’t been the least bit contrite. He owned and ran The Detail, after all—the security company they’d hired—and he would do what it took to protect his charges.

Coby had to admit, since Gregor had taken over the arrangements for hiring, the road-crew thefts, missed shifts, and general unreliability had virtually ceased. The people who had stayed didn’t seem to care why things had changed. Most of them were happy to take the pay grade increase offered for staying on and accepting the new paradigm. Now, Coby and his band had one of the best, if smallest, crews around, and he appreciated that.

Too bad the measures hadn’t stopped whoever was trying to freak him the hell out with all the love letters and creepy gifts left in places far too close to Coby for comfort. He wished he could have blamed the whole thing on one of the crew and gotten rid of the person, but he knew them all, trusted them all. Gregor had done everything possible to make sure none of the people who had stayed on could be blamed.

Coby watched Kip load the last equipment box marked “spare mics” onto the truck. He turned from the task and looked up, grinned again, and said good night.

“Not going in to party?” Coby asked.

Cade, the man with Kip, grimaced. “He never does. Keep trying to convince him, but he always seems to have a hot date or something. Especially this close to home.” He cuffed Kip on the arm and grinned.

Kip made a face. To Coby, it looked pained, but Cade smacked him again, lightly on the back of the head, told him he was missing out, and hurried inside.

“Enjoy your date, then,” Coby said to Kip.

Kip smiled at him, but still looked less than enthusiastic. “Thanks.”

“You okay?” Coby asked.

“Yeah. Course.” Kip shrugged and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Just….” He looked up, almost hopefully, before he glanced out into the darkness and sighed. “Nothing. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Don’t be late for the bus.”

Kip shook his head. “Never am. Night, Mr. Kennedy.”

“Night, Kip.” That at least got him another faint smile, but the younger man’s expression didn’t strike him as completely happy. “Kip,” he called, just as Kip reached the edge of the light.

“Yeah?” he turned, his face pale, eyes big.

“You want someone to walk you to a car?” They had a few hired cars on hand for the crew to drive from the venue to their hotel. Those who remained downstairs partying would take the bus back later. The few who didn’t tend to party all that much used the hired vehicles.

“No, Mr. Kennedy. I’m good.” Kip waved again, then cast another glance out over the strip of blackness between where he stood and the first lamps of the lot across the street. “Just been a long day, is all.”

“Yeah, I hear that.”

Kip smiled. “I appreciate it, though. You and Mr. K. have been great, you know.” He ducked his chin toward his shoulder. “I know I can be a bit… intense. I appreciate that you haven’t let that get to you.”

Coby snorted. “I wouldn’t speak for my brother. He’s a bit of a jerk sometimes.”

Kip’s chin dipped more. “He doesn’t like me much anymore, does he?”

“He’s protective, is all. And, well. Still adjusting. He’s over it.”

“I never meant for that to… you know. Be a thing. I was just….”

Oh man, the kid looked miserable and embarrassed, and Coby thought he might brain his twin for making Kip feel self-conscious about something as simple and innocent as a crush. “Never mind Bruce, Kip. Neither one of us are worried about it anymore, okay?”

Kip nodded. “Thanks.”

“Have a good night.”

“You too, Mr. Kennedy.”

Coby sighed heavily. When had he become Mr. Kennedy, the responsible one, and Bruce Mr. K, the cool one? As if in answer, he heard Bruce laugh from inside and crack a dumbassed joke that had his audience guffawing. He glanced to the balcony door, then back, but Kip was already inside one of the cars with the door closed. A moment later, the car pulled out of the space and drove off toward the hotel. Coby thought he saw a second shadow in the car with him and smiled. He hoped Kip had a nice time with whomever he’d picked up.

The kid had a pretty acute case of hero worship for both Coby and Bruce, who played drums, but he was harmless. Sweet and smitten, but harmless. He did his job better than most and never shirked. What else could they ask of him? He could tell Bruce to lay off the poor guy. Again.

Bruce had pointed to him as the culprit early on and would have confronted him, but Gregor had insisted they not mention the letters or gifts to the crew. He blamed the media frenzy surrounding the band’s fast rise to fame for the increased security. They accepted that explanation. Gregor insisted the less the crew knew about the rest, the easier it would be to catch whoever was doing it, especially if it was an insider.

Coby wished he knew why Bruce was being so hard on Kip. They’d been friends once. Now it seemed all Bruce could see was Kip’s apparent crush on Coby. Coby wasn’t really convinced Kip thought of him as anything other than a friend, and that made Bruce’s attitude even more confusing.

Six months later, they were still mystified, but at least Bruce had relaxed his witch hunt against Kip. The kid was eager and sweet and sometimes a bit over-the-top, but he wasn’t a stalker. And now he seemed to be seeing someone, so that was good. As long as the guy treated Kip right, Coby was glad.

“Hey, bro.” Think of the devil, and there he was. Coby felt the vibration of his twin’s chuckle emanating from his twin a heartbeat before Bruce clapped hands on his shoulders to shake him slightly. “Saying good night to your biggest fan?”

“Bruce, come on. The poor guy is embarrassed enough. Leave it, okay?”

“He better not be the one—”

“Leave it.”

Bruce made a sharp sound in his throat and dropped his hands. “How you doing?”

Bruce’s solid presence, the low, strident vibration of imagined sound, deep, sonorous colors, and utter calm at Coby’s back eased away some of the tension, even if he wasn’t touching anymore, and Coby sighed. “Meh.”

“Were you trying to escape?”

“Too many people,” Coby muttered.

Bruce’s smile was more a feeling inside than anything, since Bruce was behind him and he couldn’t see his twin’s face. He liked that about being a twin. That feeling. The way they didn’t have to actually talk to communicate.

“We’ll head home after the next gig,” Bruce reminded him. “You’ll have a nice long break.”

“No letters,” Coby replied, hopeful.

Bruce’s grim silence was answer enough. There was no guarantee there would be no more letters once they were off the road. There was only the nagging unease he would be stationary and that much easier to catch up with.

“This is crazy,” he muttered.

“The situation is,” Bruce agreed. “You’re not.”

“Why me?” He’d not asked that out loud before, but it was an oft-repeated litany in his head. All he’d ever wanted was to sing. He wanted his voice on the radio, to be the one people turned up the volume for. Not the one they obsessed over. Not the one they stalked.

“They’ll figure out who’s doing this, Cobe.”

Footsteps behind them made both men spin in unison. Coby tried to ignore the sharp stab of fear and the feeling that his lungs were imploding and sucking all the air from his body. It didn’t matter that the footsteps belonged to Gregor. Once the breath had left him, it was hard to get back and harder still to keep from panicking each time he came up short.

“What the fuck are you two doing out here?” Gregor did not sound happy.

“Take it easy,” Bruce said softly.

Coby wasn’t sure if the words were directed at him or at Gregor. It made no difference. He focused on Bruce’s hand running small circles between his shoulder blades, and closed his eyes to block out the shadows now looming behind him. It didn’t help and he snapped them open again. Better the shadows outside than the images behind his eyelids.

“Can you not stay with the group?” Gregor asked. He tried for a gentler tone and missed by about a mile.

Still, Coby’s skin shivered over his frame at the sound of Gregor’s liquid voice. If it bit a little like acid because Gregor was irritated, that only made the feeling more intense. He had to stop that too, or he’d be the one accused of obsessing. He couldn’t help it if his personal guard, with his long auburn hair and gem-hard brown eyes and lithe, willowy body, made him a little weak in the knees.

“Nah.” Bruce smiled as he faced the man, standing slightly between him and Coby. “Had enough of groups for one day, I think. You should walk my little brother home.” He waved in the general direction of the trailer across the parking lot. “Help him… settle.”

“Bruce….” Coby’s warning didn’t even slow Bruce. Once he was on a roll—and he was—it was impossible to turn him aside. He loved nothing so much as teasing Coby about anything resembling a love interest, even if he was the only one who ever saw any potential in it.

“He’s been so uptight, you know?” Bruce said. “Do him good to relax a bit. Maybe a massage—”

“Bruce, shut it!” Coby punched his brother’s arm.

Bruce didn’t even flinch.

Gregor flushed, and his remarkably pretty brown eyes flicked to Coby and away again. Now there was an observation he didn’t need to dwell on, Coby thought. Pretty eyes? Seriously?

But they were pretty. It was the long lashes, Coby guessed. And he liked the way Gregor’s thin, straight nose, high cheekbones, and narrow chin gave him a strange air of impermanence. Not for the first time, the thought of Middle Earth elves fluttered through his head, and he almost snorted at his own dumbassery. That ethereal impression was countered by the way Gregor carried himself: vigilant and implacable, certain nothing would get through him to Coby. Ever.

It was a weird pull of opposites the man embodied. He was this solid, grounded presence everywhere Coby went, and at the same time seemed so ephemeral, so remote from everything but his job.

“You should get some rest, bro,” Bruce said, ignoring Gregor’s reaction and Coby’s scowl. “We have a long ride in the morning. And you know you hate crowds.” Bruce clapped Gregor on the arm. “Keep him company, Greg.”

“Gregor,” he corrected. He narrowed his eyes at Bruce, and pretty was replaced by fuck you, asshole. Bruce often found himself on the receiving end of that particular look, and it usually brought a grin to Coby’s face.

“There,” Bruce crowed, punching Coby’s bicep. “Knew I’d get a smile out of you eventually. Now go on. I’ll entertain your court, Country Prince. Get to bed.”

Coby shook his head. He thought the nickname was ridiculous. Embarrassing, even. The media had tacked it on him simply because their last name was Kennedy, and Bruce never missed a chance to rub it in. As far as he knew, there was not even a drop of blood anywhere that could be traced back to the Kennedys, and he was fine with that. He wished he could lose the stupid moniker.

“Why does everyone call you that?” Gregor asked as they descended from the balcony to the parking lot below.

Coby sighed. “Coby Kennedy, Prince of Country Music.” He gave a little shrug, hoping the conversation would die there.

Gregor sniffed. “Yeah. That.” His voice was stiff, hinting at disapproval.

His reaction left Coby wanting to explain when normally he steered conversation away from the subject.

Nashville Country,” he said. “It’s this online magazine. They used the name as their headline awhile before we hired you guys. Did an article on me when I toured a kids’ ward in a local hospital. Made it out to be some big philanthropy thing because I gave a few kids some guitars and shit. It was dumb.”

Gregor tilted his head and considered that. “Sounds nice, actually. A lot of celebrities wouldn’t bother being so generous. They figure their presence is gift enough.”

“I’m not a celebrity,” Coby said, his rebuttal automatic. “Just me. I think it was a play on the last name for a snappy headline.” A wash of heat rose up into his cheeks, and suddenly, he was grateful for the darkness they walked through. “You know. How the Kennedys were always called American royalty and all that.” He shook his head. “I’m not related to them or anything. It was a convenient way for them to make a splash. It never really went away.”

“And maybe it shouldn’t,” Gregor said softly. “Giving sick and frightened kids something to distract them from the bad stuff, however small the gift might be to you, it’s huge to them.” He smiled and flashed it at Coby. It changed the severe angles of his face drastically, softening them, easing the pinch at the corners of his mouth and showing a fine spray of wrinkles at his eyes. It looked much more natural on him than the scowl Coby had become accustomed to. It sent a shiver racing up Coby’s spine to lift the hairs at the back of his neck. He had to clench his hands into fists to keep from running a thumb over the soft curve of Gregor’s mouth.

“Down, boy,” he growled under his breath, then glanced—panicked—at Gregor. If he’d heard Coby’s muttered words, he didn’t give any sign, and Coby let out a relieved breath.

“It is sort of princely, if you think about it,” Gregor said. “Giving them gifts just to make them feel better. Probably things their folks can’t afford on top of the hospital bills.”

Coby felt the same tightness of emotion as he had at the hospital. So many kids and families feeling so helpless had nearly turned him inside out. “It was just what I could do because I couldn’t do what they needed. For some of them, no one can do what they need. A guitar or a fiddle is a pretty small thing compared to what they deserve.”

Gregor’s hand rested on Coby’s arm above his elbow. “Not small to them, Coby. Trust me.”

There was something about that statement that was more than reassurance, but Coby didn’t get a chance to ask because Gregor stopped suddenly and pulled him back into the shadowy dark before the circle of light emanating from the bulb over the trailer’s door.

“Who should be in there?” he asked.

Coby blinked at him, too slow to follow the sudden shift in conversation, until he realized Gregor was staring at the back end of the trailer and had moved to stand between it and Coby.

“No one,” Coby said. Sweat broke out on his palms. “Well, me and Bruce, but he’s….” He glanced over his shoulder at the bar, but the balcony was empty. No doubt Bruce had gone back inside after they’d left.

“Stay. Right. Here.” Gregor met his eyes and pursed his lips. “I mean it. Don’t move. If something happens, go back to the bar and call the cops.”

“Greg…?”

But he was already alone as Gregor hurried on silent feet to the trailer door. He eased it open, and now Coby realized it hadn’t been latched properly. When he glanced at the window Gregor had been fixed on, he saw a shadow move, freeze, then rush toward the front of the trailer.

He shouted a warning, but Gregor was already aware. The guard moved to block the intruder’s exit with his body. Coby saw a foot first, and thought it would connect with Gregor’s jaw, but the guard was quick and stronger than he looked. He grabbed the foot, yanked, and twisted, and the man attached to it flew out onto the pavement.

Everything after that was washed over in lurid reds and oranges of jagged color because it should have ended there. Instead, the intruder flung out an arm when he fell, found a chunk of two-by-four wedged at the back of the trailer wheel, and swung.

“Greg!” Coby forgot the other man’s instructions to stay where he was and bolted forward through a sea of acid color and fear. The guy on the ground was big enough. Even that short piece of wood could do a lot of damage to a human skull, swung with that much momentum.

Coby’s warning didn’t come quick enough. Though Gregor rolled with the blow, tumbled to the ground and then over onto his back, he didn’t get up. The mystery man sprang away and vanished into the dark, taking the chunk of wood with him. Coby never even saw who it was. So intent was he on Gregor’s unmoving form, on the slow pulsing of usually soothing tones of sound and color that overlaid his vision whenever Gregor was near. That sensation sputtered and darkened as he rushed toward Gregor.

The sound of a car engine and the spray of gravel made him glance up briefly, but all he saw was the dark silhouette of a truck, the swing of headlights, and the red flash of taillights speeding away.

“Greg!” He skidded to a stop and dropped to his knees. Blood covered the side of his guard’s face but he was moaning at least. Coby carefully felt over Gregor’s jaw and cheek for broken bones, even as he dug in his pocket for his cell.

He didn’t have to look at the device to get the speaker on and Bruce’s number dialed. He tossed it onto the pavement and moved his fingers to Gregor’s scalp, testing under the sticky locks for crushed bone.

“Yeah, what?” Bruce’s voice crackled with amusement. “You are going to miss the boat, boyo. I could not have handed you a more primed bit of tail if it was still wriggling. Get off the phone, go outside, and get that bodyguard in your bed.”

“He’s hurt,” Coby said curtly, drawing his hand away from Gregor’s injuries. Bruce’s voice was enough to throw a blanket of calm over his nerves, at least letting him realize he should probably not be prodding at Gregor’s skull. “Call an ambulance and the police.” He hadn’t found anything broken other than skin, but Gregor still hadn’t opened his eyes. “Bruce.”

“I’m coming.” Bruce hung up.

Gregor’s eyelashes fluttered, and he looked up into Coby’s eyes, a bit shocked and confused for the barest second before he blinked again. “Cobe.”

“I’m okay,” Coby said, touching his uninjured cheek and staring back into eyes that once more had fallen into that “very pretty” category. “You’re hurt.”

Gregor blinked at him and some of the discordant, virulent tumult in Coby’s head eased. “Yes.”

Coby cupped his hands around Gregor’s face, not daring to move as they stared at each other.

Gregor either flinched away from Coby’s touch on the injured side of his face or leaned his cheek into his cupped palm on the other side. Coby wasn’t sure which. He didn’t much care. All he knew was that Gregor was watching him, searching for something in his eyes and Coby couldn’t look away.

“You were supposed to stay,” Gregor said quietly, lifting one hand only enough to point toward the bar and the darker swath of pavement. His voice was low, dangerous and rough, still vibrating with reaction from the fight.

“You were—”

“Doing my job. You were supposed to go back inside and get help.”

Footsteps hammered across the pavement. That was his brother’s step, familiar to him as his own heartbeat. He’d know it anywhere.

“Cobe!” Bruce shouted for him.

“Yeah. Here.”

“Dude.”

“I’m good.” Coby didn’t take his eyes off Gregor.

“What the hell?”

“Some guy.” Coby pointed to the trailer. “Two-by-four.” His attention went back to Gregor. “See?” He pointed to Bruce. “Help.”

Gregor blinked at him. “What the hell are you two talking about?”

“Who?” Bruce asked.

Coby shook his head. “Too dark.”

“English!” Gregor snapped. “Fucking twin speak. Do you even know how annoying that is?”

“So you’re going to live, then.” Bruce met Gregor’s fiery gaze and grinned.

“There was someone in the trailer,” Gregor said, snapping his focus to Bruce. “Did you give anyone a key?”

“Course not.” Bruce knelt on Gregor’s other side. “Some guard. How—”

“Asshole hit him in the face with a chunk of wood.” Coby answered for Gregor, bowing to the need to protect his honor. “Don’t think anything’s broken, though. Gregor?”

“Nothing’s broken,” he muttered. “Just fucking hurt. I told you to stay—”

“Whatever.” Coby probed very gently around Gregor’s eye socket. “Looks like the worst of it is here. Pretty scraped up, but I think you’ll live.”

“His pretty face will be all messed up for a while, though,” Bruce observed.

“Don’t be an asshole.”

“Help me up.” Gregor pushed Coby’s fingers away from his face and reached for his shoulder to lever himself up off his back.

“You should—”

“Don’t be an asshole,” Gregor echoed Coby’s words. “Help me up. Do one thing you’re told, at least.”

Beside him, Bruce snorted. “Good fucking luck with that one. Never does anything he’s told.”

But Coby did help Gregor sit up as sirens at last sounded in the distance. It was as good an excuse as any to touch him, anyway, and reassure himself that Gregor was not seriously hurt.

 

 

THEY DIDN’T get to investigating what the stranger had been doing in the trailer until after Gregor had argued his way out of a trip to the hospital. Coby thought he should go, but he refused, ordering the EMT to tape up the gash over his eye and leave it at that.

“You don’t have to like it,” Gregor growled at her. “Just do it.”

“If you get an infection—”

“You going to be messy about it?” Gregor snarled at her.

“Of course not!” The look she shot him was as fierce as the one he gave her, and Coby almost laughed.

“This is funny to you?” Gregor snapped.

Coby sobered. “You getting hurt isn’t funny. Being stalked isn’t funny. Am I supposed to be in continual freak-out mode until we find the guy? I can’t do that. I—”

“I know.” Gregor pulled in a deep breath and let it out.

“Are you two finished?” the EMT asked. “Because if I’m going to do this, I’d like to get it done and get back to work, Mr. Kennedy.” The woman eyed them both, and Coby admired her poise. So she knew who he was, and she took Gregor’s pique in stride. Impressive.

“Yeah.” Coby nodded. “Sorry.”

He moved off at Bruce’s beckoning, but returned a few moments later when the EMT waved him over.

“That was a nasty hit he took,” she said quietly as they both watched Gregor shuck a bloodstained button-down in favor of the white and mostly clean T-shirt beneath.

“Yeah. I saw.”

“He could have a concussion.”

“He wasn’t slurring.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “Rode horses all my life, ma’am,” he said with a chagrined smile. “Fell off enough of them. I know the drill. Slurred speech, nausea, disorientation, dizziness, memory lapses. Wake him every few hours.”

She finally smiled back. “Not your first rodeo.”

“Nope. Everything you read about Bruce being a reckless dipshit? True story.”

She actually laughed. “Then I leave him in good hands. Although, I gotta say, Mr. Kennedy, if he’s supposed to be your bodyguard….”

“I’m not the one who got a two-by-four to the skull. That’s his job.”

They looked back to see that Gregor had shrugged back into his torn suit jacket. He was watching Coby with a smoldering, snarly expression. He was acting more like someone had run over his dog than like a guy who’d been hurt just doing his job.

“I’d say he thinks of it as a lot more than just his job,” she ventured.

Coby immediately thought about pretty eyes and just as quickly banished the thought. “I guess he’s just a serious guy,” he said.

She lifted an eyebrow in dubious agreement as Bruce jogged over to them.

“Cops want us to go inside and see if anything’s missing,” Bruce told him. “You up for that?”

Coby shrugged. “Sure.”

“Come on, then.”

Coby nodded to the EMT, who smiled without further comment and returned to Gregor’s side while Coby followed Bruce to the trailer. He wasn’t prepared for the scene inside.

“Jesus,” Bruce whispered.

The nearest end of the trailer was Bruce’s half, and nearly everything he kept in the cramped space had been torn from its normal disarray and tossed around the small room, much of it shredded or broken. Coby’s end was practically as bad, although the intruder had been interrupted before he’d got

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