Seeing Stars - Jennifer Bernard - E-Book

Seeing Stars E-Book

Jennifer Bernard

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Beschreibung

When pop star Starly Minx creates an international uproar by freezing onstage, she knows what her guilty conscience is telling her. She has to make things right with her nemesis, rival rock star Karina Black. And she has to do it without the paparazzi finding out. If only she didn’t have to leave behind the man she’s been secretly pining for—her sinfully hot bodyguard Hunter McGraw.


 


Hunter just turned in his resignation. He desperately needs to get some distance from the distracting, enchanting Starly and get on with his life. But now she’s disappeared and of course he’s going after her. Who else is going to keep her out of trouble? And with two feuding pop stars in the same tiny town, trouble is inevitable.


 


Starly and Hunter can deal with the paparazzi. They can deal with the scandal. But can they keep their feelings secret from each other? Is that even possible when every touch has them Seeing Stars?


 


Seeing Stars is a prequel to the Jupiter Point series and was originally published as part of Melanie Shawn's Hope Falls Kindle World.

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Seeing Stars

Jennifer Bernard

Contents

Author’s Note

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Set the Night on Fire

About the Author

Also by Jennifer Bernard

Author’s Note

This title was originally published in Melanie Shawn’s Hope Falls Kindle World. Elements of the world, including characters, are used with permission. Check out other Melanie Shawn titles and connect on social media at the following links!

Website: http://melanieshawn.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melanieshawnbooks

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melanieshawnbooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelanieShawn

1

Starly Minx gripped the steering wheel of her rental car and peered through the sheets of rain cascading onto the road. Somewhere up there, on that dark country highway, was a sign for the town of Hope Falls. At least, she hoped so. The way this trip was going, she might be headed straight off a cliff.

Which would be completely appropriate since every other part of her life had fallen off a cliff.

“Come on, Hope Falls, come on,” she muttered under her breath. Once she got to Hope Falls, she’d find Karina Black. Karina would probably kick her right out of town, but that was okay. Starly wanted a chance to say her piece, hand over the suitcase full of hardware weighing on her conscience, and beg the star for forgiveness. That was all.

Then she could start over.

“Come on, Hope Falls. Where are you? Please be close. Pretty please with chocolate fudge sauce and a cherry on top. And a cheeseburger on the side.”

Her stomach growled at the thought of food. During her madcap trip from Cincinnati to California, she’d been afraid to stop in case someone recognized her. The only reason she’d been able to rent the car was that no one knew her real name. Right at the end, the rental agent had been squinting at her with that look that meant, “I know you from somewhere. High school biology, maybe?” Starly had snagged the keys and bolted out of there before he could put the pieces together.

When she’d stopped for gas in Nevada, a talk show had been blaring on another car’s radio. “After her onstage meltdown, pop star Starly Minx has apparently disappeared. No one has seen her since she ran off the stage in Cincinnati. There have been reports of sightings from as far away as Brazil and Tokyo, but nothing has been confirmed. Knowing the outrageous pop star, she might have jetted off to Japan for sushi and forgotten to tell anyone. If Starly is good at anything—which is a matter of debate—it’s getting people talking.”

She’d hopped back in her car and zoomed off, hoping no security cameras had been aimed at her.

Now, in the shelter of her rented Lexus, Starly gave a hiccupping sob and swiped a hand across her face. Was that really what people thought of her? That she’d do anything for publicity?

Then again, could she blame them?

“It’s my own fault,” she said out loud.

On this long-ass road trip, she’d gotten in the habit of talking to herself. It sounded crazy, but really, it had saved her sanity. “That’s exactly why I have to do this. I can’t be that person anymore. I hate that person! Just stick to the plan. Make amends and move on.”

She’d been chanting that mantra ever since she’d frozen like a pop star Popsicle onstage at the U.S. Bank Arena. Her band had been playing the opening notes of Stars in My Eyes, her signature song. She’d opened her mouth for the first line—“It’s not the smoke in the air or your hands in my hair”—when, for the first time in her life, nothing came out. She just couldn’t do it. She couldn’t sing that song—or any song—ever again until she made things right with Karina Black. Until she became the person she wanted to be.

Another deep pang of hunger gripped her belly. She was used to dieting. She’d been doing it nonstop since she was six and her mother wanted her to lose the baby fat before an audition. But now she hadn’t eaten anything since…

Something occurred to her. She reached into the backseat for the faux fur, blinged-out leopard-skin hoodie jacket she’d grabbed backstage before she’d ducked out the side exit in Cincinnati. She’d stuffed it into a shopping bag, out of sight. It screamed pop star. Anyone who’d ever glanced at a tabloid would recognize her in it.

She yanked it into the front seat and dug through the pockets. Sure enough, nestled in the right-hand pocket, she found a packet of peanut butter crackers.

Just like that, tears launched themselves down her face again. “Hunter McGraw,” she sobbed out loud. “You left me peanut butter crackers, you sexy bastard.”

Sure, leaving peanut butter crackers didn’t sound like a criminal act. But when it made your heart ache for something you could never have, it was!

Hunter McGraw had absolutely no clue that she pined after him with every cell of her undernourished, overtired body. The first time she’d found a snack hidden in a pocket, she’d assumed her assistant Zoe had left it.

“Girl, hell no,” Zoe had scoffed. “How’re you supposed to fit your ass into Azzedine Alaia if you eat Cheddar freakin’ Goldfish? Toss ’em to me, I’ll dump them.”

But Hunter had reached for her wrist, stilling her in mid-movement. He’d given her that look—that stern, rock-solid, I’m-not-messing-around-here look—and her knees had turned to marshmallow fluff. “Keep it,” he’d murmured in that deep, masculine growl of his. “You need the calories.”

“Dude, she don’t need no damn calories,” Zoe had squawked. But when he’d turned that commanding gaze on her, she’d piped down.

Hunter was just...just...just so...hot. She couldn’t think of a better word. Except maybe mouthwatering. Panty-melting. Fantasy-starring. When he was close by, she wanted to curl up in his lap. When he tapped on the door of her suite—any suite in any city—goose bumps popped up over every inch of her body. During his entire shift, she walked around in a sort of lust-daze. When he wasn’t on shift, she thought about him nonstop. His gray-green eyes, constant stubble, close-cropped dark hair, ripped body. The muscles that flexed in his forearms. Those broad shoulders that made her drool. The way he kept watch for her, scanning everyone in a hundred-yard radius. The way he looked at her sometimes, as if he could really see her. Not the Starly her. But the Beatrice her. The her no one—absolutely no one—knew.

But he didn’t. He saw her the same way everyone else did. He thought of her as a spoiled, selfish attention whore. Whiny, was the way he’d put it in the phone call she’d overheard. And bratty.

If only those peanut butter crackers meant Hunter actually cared about her. But he didn’t. She was just a job to him. A spoiled, irritating job.

She pressed the button that controlled the window, ready to toss those lying crackers out the window.

As soon as the window rolled halfway down, cold rain lashed the side of her face. She yelped and rolled it back up. Was she crazy? Those peanut butter crackers were the only nutrition she had. With one hand on the steering wheel, she tore open the package with her teeth. She stuffed a cracker into her mouth and moaned at the sweet, salty taste.

Five days ago, she’d been singing her heart out in front of seventeen thousand people, with a catered feast waiting backstage. Tonight, she was a pop star on the run, in a storm, tears streaming down her face, eating peanut butter crackers while pining over a man.

It was official. Sometime during the past week, Starly’s life had crossed into country song territory.

“Get someone else,” Hunter said firmly. Now that he knew Starly was okay, he was furious with her. “I already quit, I told you.”

“I don’t trust anyone else. You’re the only non-bloodsucker in this joint.” Dan Coyle, the head of PopZilla, the record label Hunter had worked for during the past Year of Torture, tapped something into his smartphone.

“That doesn’t say much for your hiring practices.”

“Tell me about it. I’m a bad judge of character, what can I say? Did I know Starly Minx was going to lose her marbles in front of the entire world? No. I did not. I thought she was a pro. So sue me.”

Hunter wanted to reach across the desk and strangle the smug jackass. “She’s been working too hard.”

“Working.” Coyle sniffed—an action Hunter figured he did a lot, given his notorious coke habit. “You call prancing around onstage for an hour work? Most girls would kill to be where Starly is. And she throws it all away like stale popcorn. Which is what her music sounds like, as a matter of fact.”

Hunter clenched his fists to keep from landing a punch on his boss’s bloated face. “What exactly do you want me to do?”

“Take the company plane to Tahoe. I got a car waiting for you there. Catch up with her. Honestly, I’m not sure how she stayed under the radar this long. But we think she’s headed for Hope Falls.”

“Hope Falls? That little town where Karina Black lives?”

“That’s the one.”

“But Starly and Karina are—”

“The feuding pop princesses, I know. They hate each other.” Coyle sounded practically gleeful as he talked about it. “The best was when they got into it at the Vanity Fair party and wound up in the pool. Great publicity.” He gave a wistful sigh. “I wonder if we can get a camera there for the nasty reunion.”

Hunter shoved his hands into the back pockets of his jeans. Every time he thought about Starly—which was pretty much constantly—he felt the craziest mixture of things. Intense protectiveness, for one. That made sense, since he’d been hired to run her security detail. Lust. That one also made sense, because what man in his right mind wouldn’t lust after Starly Minx? She was maddeningly gorgeous, entrancing, completely unpredictable.

And so not his type. He liked undemanding women who shared his interests in things like rock-climbing and snowboarding. Girls he could take on a camping trip or for a jet-skiing adventure. Girls he could forget about the second he took them home. Starly was not someone you could ever forget about.

Which explained the last emotion Starly inspired.

Irritation.

Damn, but that girl got under his skin like nobody’s business. For one thing, she didn’t take care of herself. He’d seen her go through an entire day barely remembering to take a sip of water. Then she’d go onstage and dance and sing, hold an entire audience in the palm of her hand, give everything she had. When she came off the stage, she’d be swarmed with people, every one of whom wanted something from her. An autograph. A smile. A touch.

It drove him up a wall. Who took care of her? No one. Everyone around her was hired by the label. All anyone cared about was getting her onto that stage to perform. She acted as if she didn’t have a choice, as if she just had to give and give and give, until she wasted away to nothing. And here was this asshole, talking about her as if she was worthless.

Damn it.

“I’ll go,” he said. Better him than one of the label’s other flunkies. “But this is my last job for you. I’m moving back home after this.”

It was past time to get his ass back to Jupiter Point. Also—moving home was the only solution he could come up with to rid himself of his obsession with Starly. He had to remove himself from her distracting presence. Once and for all.

“Whatever.” Coyle waved a ring-covered hand, already moving on to the next problem. “Just don’t let her see you. Whatever trip she’s on, the spoiled little diva has to get it out of her system. She seems to forget that she has a contract, the selfish bimbo. Follow at a discreet distance. Make sure she doesn’t hurt herself or anyone else. Report back as much as you can.”

Hunter couldn’t stand it another minute. He leaned across the desk, using every inch of his height advantage and every bulge of his muscles to make his point. “Stop talking about her like that, or you won’t hear a goddamn word from me.”

“Excuse me?”

“Starly is worth a million of you, you little piece of shit. Don’t call her a bimbo, don’t call her a diva, and don’t call her spoiled.”

“What, you got the hots for her?” Coyle cackled, but Hunter noticed that he did so while leaning back, out of Hunter’s reach. “You and every acne-faced boy with a hard-on. Dream on, buddy. She’s so far out of your reach, you’d be better off hitting on an actual star, like the kind in the sky. Her last boyfriend pulls in twenty-five mil per film. What am I paying you, forty K? Fifty K, max?”

“You’re not paying me anything anymore, remember?” Hunter ground out the words through his clenched jaws. “I quit. I wouldn’t take your money if it filled the entire Hollywood Bowl.”

Coyle’s phone buzzed. He glanced at it, then up at Hunter. “Plane’s about to take off. Better get a move on. Make sure to report back.”

After another glance at Hunter’s face, he added, “Please.”

When Hunter continued to glare at him, he sighed. “Starly Minx is a supremely talented individual whose contributions to the music industry are highly valued by this company. Make sure she’s safe and sound, that’s all I ask.”

“Better.” Hunter removed his hands from Coyle’s desk and straightened up. Then he wheeled around and left the Beverly Hills office as quickly as he could.

Starly needed him. He could feel it in his bones.

2

After passing yet another sign for a town that wasn’t Hope Falls, Starly was seriously starting to lose it. How long had she been driving? A month? A year? Maybe she had driven off a cliff, and she was spending the afterlife searching for Hope Falls.

Crazy thoughts kept popping up, like—was Hope Falls even a real place? What if Karina had made it up to confuse the paparazzi?

“Well played, Karina Black, well played,” Starly mumbled, squinting past the windshield wipers. God, she sounded like a crazy person. Then again, she was running on no food and barely any sleep. At some point in the last few hours, she’d pulled over for a catnap. But she’d forced herself back on the road. She didn’t want to arrive in Hope Falls too late. It didn’t seem like the kind of town that had a lot of places to stay.

If it even existed. Maybe Hope Falls was just a myth. A place where people were still kind and cared about each other. Where you could fall in love the way Karina had.

Yeah, it had to be a complete fabrication. No place could be that perfect.

Starly shook her head to clear it. There seemed to be two roads ahead of her. Was she seeing double? She blinked, trying to bring the path ahead into focus.

Sleep. She needed sleep. And food. And Hunter. God, she needed Hunter. Just knowing he was near always made her feel safe. If he was here right now...well, she’d pull over and show him just how much she craved him. She’d kiss him all over his beautiful face and run her hands up and down his muscular chest. And lower.

He’d wrap his strong arms around her and tell her everything was going to be okay. He’d tell her he wanted her as desperately as she wanted him. He’d put his big hands on her ass and move her hips so she slid against the long, hard bulge in his pants. She’d fill the car with her moans.

They’d lose themselves in each other. They’d create their own sweet, sensual bubble of bliss and never, ever leave—