In celebration of The Billionaire’s Bodyguard making Amazon and ARe’s bestseller lists, I’m posting the first chapter to whet your appetite for sexy Jesse and Alex!
Gay (MM), Erotic Romance, Romantic Comedy, Romantic Suspense, Thriller
Word Count: 35,130
Heat Level: 3
Published By: Evernight Publishing
Billionaire Alex Roman needs a bodyguard. His best friend, Jesse Emerson, an ex-Security Forces Specialist, needs a job. What could possibly go wrong?
Jesse thinks protecting Alex will be a piece of cake. He’ll get to spend quality time with his oldest friend while avoiding his ex-girlfriend. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned. Why would Alex introduce him to everyone as his lover? And why didn’t Alex tell him about the threatening notes he’s been receiving for months?
Alex has been in love with Jesse for years, not that he’d ever admit it to his best friend, but he’s not above making a practical joke out of it. Telling everyone that Jesse is his boyfriend will go a long way toward relieving the stress of the threats he’s been plagued with recently. Unfortunately, when someone tries to shoot him at a charity gala, he discovers that maybe he needs Jesse’s skills more than he realized…
…because sometimes a billionaire’s best friend is the fake boyfriend who’s really his bodyguard.
Chapter One Excerpt:
Alex Roman opened his front door, paused, then stepped back resignedly. His best friend Jesse barreled past him and into the house with his military duffel over his shoulder. It bulged at the seams, as if Jesse had stuffed every article of clothing he owned inside and then added an extra pair of pants just for kicks. In his hands, a box overflowed with more belongings.
“I can’t do it anymore, Alex. I just can’t,” Jesse said, awkwardly shrugging the bag onto the marble floor of the foyer while simultaneously trying to juggle the box.
Alex winced as his right shoulder twinged in sympathy. He didn’t know elbows could turn that direction.
“She’s making me crazy,” Jesse continued, the box tilting dangerously. He frowned and set it down next to the duffel. “She told me that I was ‘emotionally unavailable,’ but what does she care? She dumped me six months ago. We’re not even dating anymore.” He grabbed his hair with both hands and made a face that had Alex smiling despite the late hour, the weird luggage, and Jesse’s total lack of consideration for the fact that other people sleep at three a.m.
“And really, who says that?” Jesse continued, oblivious to Alex’s amusement. “She probably lifted that phrase from some chick flick. Or a romance novel, or something. She can’t even argue without quoting from someone else!”
“Why didn’t you just use your key to let yourself into my house?” Alex asked mildly, cutting Jesse off in mid-rant. He closed and locked the front door, then reset the alarm.
“Key?” Jesse blinked at him. “My hands were full. No way I could’ve gotten my keys out. I could barely ring the doorbell.”
“It’s the middle of the night,” Alex pointed out.
Jesse shrugged. “So?”
“So, maybe I was asleep.”
“You never sleep.” Jesse made a face. “Well, not at night anyway. Aren’t the overseas markets trading?”
Alex rolled his eyes and walked away, heading toward his study. Jesse was right. He’d been trading, not that it mattered. He’d just finished up for the night when the doorbell rang.
“I can stay, right?” Jesse called. “You’re not going to kick me out, are you?”
Alex smiled to himself as he walked through the elaborate wooden doors that led into his oversized and rather opulent office. He stared at the marble fireplace and shook his head. He hated it. He’d always hated it. The pink stone made the stained walnut paneling look diseased, but it came with the house, so he had to live with it, along with the pretentious vases and expensive rugs. He far preferred the sleek modernity of his office in Manhattan, but he couldn’t destroy the house he’d inherited just because he didn’t like a few things. His grandfather would roll in his grave if he renovated too much. Hmm, but maybe a few things here and there would be okay. It’s my house now, after all.
“No, I’m not going to kick you out. You don’t even have to ask. You know that,” Alex replied, dismissing memories of his grandfather. He’d loved that old man more than anyone, but maybe it was time to get over his death. It had been six years, after all. He walked across a priceless Persian carpet to his grandfather’s hand-carved desk. His laptop sat on top, sleek and metallic, looking like something from outer space in comparison to the warm, gleaming wood. He leaned on the desk and tapped a few commands into the computer, shutting it down.
“Um, well, I might be here longer than usual,” Jesse said.
Alex looked up from the screen. “Longer than a few days?” That would be nice, but definitely unusual.
Jesse looked embarrassed. “There’s six months left on the lease of my apartment.”
“So, I can’t kick her out. Do you know how hard it is to find housing in Manhattan?” Jesse dropped into the leather sofa in front of Alex’s desk and swung a leg up over the arm insouciantly. He looked like a cat marking his spot: all graceful muscle and lazy attitude.
Alex forced his eyes away from his friend’s toned arms. “Yes, I do know, but it’s your apartment, not hers. You got it before you went into the Air Force.” He didn’t understand Jesse’s dilemma. “You had it long before you met her. Plus, she’s not your girlfriend anymore. Ergo, not your problem. Just tell her she has to go. Give her a week’s notice.”
“She begged me, Alex.”
“She also dumped you, remember?” Alex closed his laptop and rubbed his eyes. He really, really, wished Jesse wouldn’t date losers. He invariably hated the women his best friend picked, and when they broke up, as always, he hated the way Jesse moped around even more. A sad and defeated Jesse made Alex want to do something drastic.
Like kiss him. Or bitch-slap his ex. Neither of those options would end well for anyone. He sighed. “You know you’re welcome to stay here for as long as you like. Forever, even. I’ve told you that before.” He frowned as he looked at his friend. Jesse’s blue eyes were bloodshot and tired. “You need to get some rest.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, man. My relationships never work out.” Jesse craned his head back, eyes flickering over the mural on the ceiling. “I mean, you don’t think I’m emotionally unavailable, do you?”
Alex grimaced. “No, I don’t. Do we really have to talk about this? Why can’t we just drink some booze and call it a night?”
“She said that I kept part of my heart locked away.” Jesse slumped further down the sofa. “Where does she think I put it? In a jar? Ugh.”
Alex didn’t want to tell his best friend that he probably spent too much time with him and not enough time with her. He’d never even met the woman, but he knew that’s what she thought. Any woman would be angry about having to share her time with some unknown friend. He had no intention of bringing it up, though. Because you’re a selfish bastard, and you don’t want him to stop hanging out with you, especially now that he’s back home for good, he told himself. “Are we actually having a relationship conversation?” He walked over to the sideboard and poured himself a shot of brandy. “If so, I need fortification,” he muttered.
“I’m not emotionally unavailable,” Jesse repeated morosely. “I’m reserved. I’m not into big scenes and all that crap.”
“You look pretty emotional to me right now,” Alex said, handing him a glass.
Jesse took it and sipped. “Gee, thanks.”
Alex ignored his friend’s sarcasm to sip his own drink. Maybe I’ll be able to sleep now. Truth was, he always slept better when Jesse stayed over. He’d spent years worrying about his friend when he’d been deployed overseas.
“So what if I don’t want to get married? Is that a crime?” Jesse continued to mutter.
Alex wondered if Jesse knew he was having the entire conversation all by himself.
“And her mother is crazy.” He looked at Alex and made a face. “I mean, C R A Z Y,” he spelled the word out. “With all caps and bells on.”
“You wouldn’t be marrying her mother,” Alex said, shoving Jesse’s legs out of the way and slumping down onto the sofa. Damn, he was tired. He should really just go to bed and let Alex ramble on alone.
Jesse gave him a pitying look. “I know you don’t date much, and that statement proves it. Women turn into their mothers, dude. Happens every time.”
“I don’t date at all,” Alex reminded him.
Jesse fell silent for a moment. “Huh. That’s true. I can’t remember the last time you went out.”
“Seven years ago,” Alex said, closing his eyes. “Rob. The stylist.”
Jesse chuckled. “He was a piece of work. When he broke your grandpa’s precious candelabra, I thought the old man was going to commit murder.”
Alex grinned, remembering his grandpa’s face. “That was a good day.”
“The day your grandfather stabbed your boyfriend with his cane? That’s what you call a good day?” Jesse was outright laughing now. “He had to get stitches!”
“He wasn’t my boyfriend. He was just a date.” Alex wrinkled his nose. “Before that it was the girl from your kickboxing class in high school, what was her name…” He snapped his fingers, trying to remember.
“Claire, holy shit. How can you forget her? She had boobs to die for,” Jesse said, snickering. “She’s the whole reason I took that class.”
Alex opened his eyes. Jesse was curving his hands in front of him, trying to describe Claire’s figure. He looked like a ten year old. “Jesse, Jesus. Get a grip on yourself.”
“They were impressive, Alex. I still can’t believe those two assets didn’t work out for you.” He lifted his eyebrows up and down like an idiot.
“Let’s just say that she wasn’t the best conversationalist and leave it at that.” Alex remembered her screeching in bed all too well. Awful.
“Well, I don’t know why you’re such a hermit. You’re bi. You have twice the number of possible individuals to ask out.” Jesse finished off his brandy and set the glass on the side table, then slouched down into the sofa even further. “How does that work again, exactly?”
Alex rolled his eyes. “I date the person, not their genitals. It’s not particularly complicated.”
Jesse snorted. “Uh huh. If I tried to date a guy, I would have no idea what to do.”
“Men are actually easier,” Alex said, smiling. At least the conversation had shifted away from Jesse’s emotional deficiencies. He’d been afraid his friend was going to start crying. The horror.
“Easier? Are you kidding me? No way.”
“You already know how all the plumbing works,” Alex said, just to get his friend going. “No user manual required.” He grinned evilly, making his own motions with his hands.
Jesse sat up and glared at him. “You are insane, you know that?” He pointed at Alex’s head. “Totally nuts.”
“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” Alex said, then lightly cupped his junk, just to be as irritating as possible.
“Uh, no thank you.” Jesse made a face.
Alex laughed, not in the least fazed. “Whatever. I’m going to bed. You know the way to your room.” He stood up and stretched, ignoring, once again, the way Jesse’s eyes followed his body. His best friend had been looking at him that way for years and after so long, he knew it didn’t mean a damn thing, no matter how much he’d like for it to mean more. “Coming? You need your beauty rest.”
“Ugh. Fine, fine. You’re such a nag.” Jesse got up, yawning.
“I’m not a nag. It’s four a.m. and I’m tired.” He walked into the foyer. “Get your bag and hit the sack.”
“You really don’t sound like a normal rich boy, you know.” Jesse grabbed his duffel and trailed him up the curving staircase. “You obviously spent too much time down in the servants quarters growing up. How do you keep from scandalizing everyone with your low-brow sense of humor?”
“You mean, I spent too much time with you.” Alex led the way along the upstairs gallery, pausing near the room that had been Jesse’s for years. “If I sound low-brow, it’s your fault.”
“Well, my dad was your grandpa’s butler. Who else were you going to play with?” Jesse smirked, hand on the doorknob. “All those swanky assholes at your private school? They were the meanest bunch of kids I ever met. Don’t try to deny it.”
“No denials from me.” Alex’s smile twisted into a grimace. “They were cruel when they were kids, and now they’re all grown up.”
“Still mean, though,” Jesse pointed out.
“Cutthroat, actually.” Alex rubbed his face. “Well, you look better. See? There’s nothing a little brandy can’t fix.”
Jesse rolled his eyes. “Making fun of you helped, too.”
Alex shook his head, amused. Jesse always had to get the last word in. “Whatever. Goodnight.”
“Night,” Jesse echoed.
Alex walked down the gallery to his room, firmly putting the image of his best friend’s lean body from his mind.