Authors: Mandy Baggot
“This is a book that is hugely satisfying and highly recommended
... Take the best of 24, Taken, and The Bodyguard, and you have Security ... Security is fabulously written. You think you know what to expect, you get a whole lot more.”
Sheryl Browne, Sheryl’s Ramblings
“A great storyline filled with drama, action and romance and just the right amount of comedy to make this a fascinating and entertaining read. The latest novel from Mandy Baggot is not to be missed.”
-Nikki Bywater, Books4U, Security
“Emotions that make us laugh, shake our head, cry, and relate ... I’d recommend to anyone who likes contemporary romance full of emotional romance and drama.”
Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Oh, for the Hook of a Book ~Taking Charge
“Mandy is an extremely talented author…”
-Kim the Bookworm ~Taking Charge
“This is a romantic, fun story with a perfect ending
I would recommend it to anyone and everyone!”
–Me, My Books, and I ~Taking Charge
Published (E-book Version) in 2013 by Hit Lit Publishing
Copyright © Mandy Baggot 2013
The author asserts the moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
To the heroes—the ones who put their lives on the line for us. Keep safe!
Thank you to all the associate readers and authors with Loveahappyending, but particularly Sue Fortin and Linn B. Halton. You two have been a constant support this year and your friendship means so much!
A huge thank you to all my friends on Twitter and Facebook and all the readers who support my writing. You are all amazing people and I am so lucky to have you in my life! Keep reading and I’ll keep bringing you the love stories!
And last but not least—thank you to my Mr. Big! I know sometimes your shirts aren’t ironed as well as they could be and dinner is something random with chips. But you’ll love this book, there’s some kick-ass action, so it will be worth it! Love you!
Life is what you make it; you can be anything or anyone you want to be. Who do you want to be? Who do you want people to think you are? Public perception is everything. Have you got a game face? Do you want one? What if you have one and you’ve forgotten how to switch it off? Working in the music industry gets you like that. You work hard, you play hard, you smile when you don’t feel like smiling, you wear shoes that are too tight and make you walk like you’ve got a venereal disease. You shop when you don’t need new clothes, you party when you want to be asleep, you date people you hate because it might get you column inches, and you tell people you love them when, really, you would kill them if you thought you could get away with it. Fabrication, sensationalism, and as many publicity stunts as you can manage all help to build the perfect career. But when you go home and shut the door, what do you do? Who are you then? And when the superficial relationships bite the dust, who’s really got your back?
“So, you’ve got a spot at London Gold FM tomorrow morning at ten, followed by lunch with Juan at twelve. I’ve asked him to take you to that new Spanish restaurant. Apparently the press are still around it like crazy, and it will do you good to get as many photo opps in as possible. Then you’ve got the studio from two-thirty until five. Then it’s another art gallery opening, I’m afraid.”
“Another art gallery? Really?”
“Yes, but this one is sponsored by Lafarge—big pop star in the early nineties. It will do your image good to be there. And you know how important it is to appear well-rounded.”
Well-rounded everywhere apart from your stomach, butt, and thighs. There, there, and there it was required to be pencil thin, unless you were Beyoncé. Autumn Raine picked another choc-chip from her muffin and put it on the side of her plate with the four she had set out earlier.
“I admit, the spot on the cooking show and possibly the gardening program might have been overkill,” Janey said, flicking her mane of blonde hair over one shoulder. The personal assistant smiled before sinking her teeth into a caramel slice without concern.
Autumn watched her friend chomp down on the cake, enjoying every crumb, and licking sauce from her lips in abandon. Autumn looked at her muffin—torn apart, played with, none of it eaten. She pushed the plate away.
“Is everything okay?” Janey asked, wiping her fingers on a napkin.
“Yes, of course,” Autumn lied.
She put her hands in her lap and started to count up her fingers, saying the numbers in her head as she passed by each digit in turn. One…two…three…four…five.
“Is it Juan?” Janey continued, speaking of Autumn’s boyfriend.
“No, of course not.”
“I think he’s worried about his new album. He said something the other day about perfecting everything, and I think it’s stressing him out. He needs this album to really make it,” Janey told her.
“Oh,” Autumn replied, looking back at the muffin.
“Has he played you the demo? It’s going to be a hit, you know, if he gets big financial backing,” Janey said.
“He’s in talks isn’t he? With Life Musique?”
“What time is it?” Autumn asked, her eyes still trained on the cake.
“Almost eleven,” Janey responded. She took a look at her watch.
“I’ve got to go, I’m meeting my mother,” Autumn said, getting to her feet.
“What? But that isn’t in your schedule today. You’re supposed to be meeting with someone from the record company about promo events for the IMAs,” Janey exclaimed, calling up a document on her iPad.
The International Music Awards. Wow, it was at least five minutes since Janey had last mentioned them.
“She called me earlier, said it was important. You know what she’s like,” Autumn said. She straightened her cloche hat, tucking her red hair behind her ears.
“Yes I know what she’s like
, but you’ve got appointments to keep to, a tight schedule that I’m in charge of. What am I going to say to this Ben from the record company?” Janey asked.
Janey was doing her annoyed look again. She pouted when she was cross, and she tapped whatever was at hand. Today it was the spoon from her coffee.
“I’m sure you’ll think of something, don’t you always?” Autumn stated, checking out her reflection in the window.
The jacket she was wearing over a classic black skirt was tailored and had arrived via courier that morning. No one had the suit yet, except her. And, if she didn’t like it, it would never make it to market. That was the power she held. Everyone was eager for her opinion when it could give them something
, but when she needed someone, when she wanted to take the pop star mantle off for a while…well, there was no one, and she couldn’t have a real conversation with a sales assistant at the boutique, could she? One loose-lipped comment and she’d be headline news for all the wrong reasons.
“Autumn, you can’t keep doing this. We agreed I need to know where you are at all times That’s how this works,” Janey said.
“It’s just my mother. You know she’ll annoy me within five minutes, then I’ll leave, and I can get to this meet with the record company guy. But I can’t not turn up to meet her. It’s drinks now. If I don’t show, it will be dinner and the ballet, and I can’t do that again,” Autumn said.
Janey stopped tapping her spoon against the coffee cup and shrugged her shoulders.
“Ask Juan to meet me tonight.” She slipped on her gloves. “Tell him to bring his demo and I’ll listen to it,” Autumn offered.
“Really? I think he’s hoping you might speak to someone…” Janey started.
“But I couldn’t speak to anyone at the record company about it, and he shouldn’t be getting you to speak to me about it. I don’t want anyone to do me or my boyfriend any favors. If his record is good, it will make it, regardless. I’ll see you later. Call me if there’s any update to the diary,” Autumn said, signaling to her driver outside the café.
“Autumn, tell us about you and Lady Gaga? Are the rumors true?”
“Autumn, we’ve heard you’re about to embark on a US tour—can you confirm?” came another shout from a reporter.
She held her head high as she emerged from the car to the constant barrage of questions and the flashing of cameras. There were only half a dozen reporters here, but how they knew she was coming was a mystery. She knew Janey sometimes tipped them off if she thought Autumn could use the publicity to her advantage, but this time, Janey didn’t know she was going to be at the Richmond Hotel to meet with her mother.
Lips structured, a hint of a smile, don’t show any emotion. Tonight, once she’d listened to Juan’s latest urban anthems, she was going to go straight to bed with a hot chocolate, and maybe not the diet version for once. She needed comfort and some normality in her life.
The doorman showed her into the revolving doors, and once she was behind the glass screen, waiting to disembark for the foyer, she let o
ut a breath. It was all getting too much. No, she mustn’t say that, mustn’t admit that, even to herself. It was just a phase, a passing notion, because she had a lot on her plate at the moment. She loved this life. She had chosen this life, and this was what she was born to do. Yes, another art gallery opening sucked, but despite the hideous paintings of things that resembled a cow’s ass—or even worse, an actual cow’s ass resembling a chair or a standard lamp—there was free wine and very small food. Small food was always good, and with waiters offering you plates at a rapid pace, no one had time to count how many canapés you had consumed—or not.
She stepped into the bar area, and, straight away, she heard her mother’s voice.
“This water is tepid.”
“I apologize, Madam, unreservedly. I will fetch you some more.” He attempted to back away.
A step farther into the room and Autumn located her to the right of the grand piano.
Alison Raine’s lips were pursed so tightly together, you would have thought she had just swilled hydrochloric acid around her mouth. She dabbed at her lips with the linen napkin then narrowed her eyes at the flustered waiter.
“You will fetch me iced water with lime slices and a complimentary martini,” she ordered him.
“Of course, Madam, right away,” the waiter said, picking up the offensive jug of water and handling it like it contained nuclear fuel.
“And a martini for my daughter,” Alison said, her gaze moving to the hotel door.
Autumn removed her large sunglasses and glided across the floor, letting the amazed gasps of the other hotel patrons seep into her. She held her head aloft elegantly, almost regally, and ran her gloved fingers down a sleek section of her red hair. Sometimes she wished they could just meet at her mother’s apartment or her office. Why did every single second of her life have to be public?
“Darling!” Alison greeted. She rose from her chair and put each cheek, in turn, to the side of her daughter’s head. There was no actual contact, but that was the norm.
“I’m sorry I’m late. Another protest outside the Embassy,” Autumn lied. She sat down opposite Alison and arranged her legs appropriately.
“Illegals again, I expect. Bloody shits,” Alison remarked with a tut.
“I’m not sure the Foreign Secretary is allowed to make comments like that.”
“Not officially, but who’s going to tell? I’ve ordered you a martini,” Alison said.
“Mother, I don’t actually like martini,” Autumn objected.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Autumn, everyone likes martini.”
Autumn let out a sigh and got out her mirrored compact from her black patent leather purse. She looked at her reflection and smoothed down a strand of hair.
“So, how are things going with the preparations?” Alison inquired. Alison snatched the mirror away and placed it on the glass table between them.
“For the IMAs! The biggest music event of the year.” Alison reminded.
She should have known. No one wanted to talk about anything else. She could slip into a coma then and there, and her mother wouldn’t call an ambulance. She would call the IMA organizers and beg them to postpone.
“Fine,” Autumn answered with a huff of discontent.
She was up for two awards. Best International Female and Album of the Year. At the moment, she was the UK’s darling. Her first album had gone double platinum, and she had broken almost effortlessly into the US market. She wrote the songs, and, with her producer Blu-Daddy remixing and styling the tracks into something worthy of a nightclub dance floor, she almost had no doubt that at least one of the awards would be hers. Almost.
Something Juan had said last night had given her that familiar niggling cramp in her gut. He’d heaped praise on American singer Sasha, who was gaining worldwide attention thanks to her past life as a call girl. Juan had suggested Autumn pimp herself out to every available promotional opportunity so people didn’t forget her. He said it in such a desperate way that Autumn suddenly felt her winning wasn’t assured. Did he think the other nominees were better than her? Did he think Sasha was a more accomplished performer? Was Sasha, the ex-prostitute, more attractive? She had pushed her food around her plate for the hundredth and final time then asked for the bill. She had left throwing up until she got home.
“I hope the record company has lined up some suitable personal appearances here in the UK and the US before the awards,” Alison continued, her enthusiasm evident.
Autumn shrugged. “I don’t know.”
That was exactly what Ben from the record company was going to tell her if she ever made it there for the meeting. Joy!
“Why so nonchalant?” Alison sat forward in her seat. “I thought this was what you wanted? International fame and music industry recognition for your achievements.”
“It is. I just… I don’t know. I’m just…” Autumn began.
It didn’t help that she was so tired. She wasn’t sleeping. She couldn’t remember the last time she had slept. She was constantly on display, always on show, someone always wanting a piece of her. If she was honest, the celebrity lifestyle and her life as a pop icon were starting to wear her down. She wasn’t sure it was what she wanted any more. She loved music, it was her life, but what it entailed was nothing short of exhausting.
“You need a little pick-me-up,” Alison said, “that’s all. Drink your martini, and if that doesn’t make you feel better, I can let you have a couple of my magic pills.” She smiled as the waiter came over with the drinks.
Pills were her mother’s answer to everything, and she had a little tablet-sized remedy for every occasion. The pink ones helped when Juan decided to go AWOL, the small, round, white ones had taken the edge off a migraine that had descended just minutes before she was due on stage, and the bright yellow, oval ones made her hallucinate in a really good way. The last time she had taken some of those, she had almost believed she was being stripped naked by Jason Statham. She’d met him a few weeks after that episode, and she hadn’t been able to look him in the eye.
“So, America,” Alison said, taking a long slow mouthful of her drink.
Autumn poured herself a glass of water and waited for her mother to continue. She was building up to something she was going to hate. Her voice was authoritative yet calm. That was the tone she used when addressing other members of the Cabinet to get their attention. It usually came right before the switch to a much more venomous tone if her suggestions weren’t met with the appropriate level of agreement.
“I don’t want you going to the US without proper security,” Alison stated.
“I have security.” Autumn ran her finger around the rim of her martini glass.
She hated security. Burly, overweight baldies in tight black jeans and bomber jackets. One of hers was called Ken. He was okay. He could string a sentence together. He claimed to have bought her CD for his daughter, and he got her KFC when she’d demanded it be brought to her instantly. The rest of them just buffeted her through crowds at personal appearances with more than a little enjoyment.
“You have a team of six, most of which used to be nightclub doormen,” Alison answered, the viper’s tongue on the very verge of making an appearance.