“Beau Desmond, meet Ethan Brodie,” Carlyle said. “The guy with the ’stache is Dirk Reynolds.”
Desmond reached out a hand and Ethan and Dirk both shook.
“Ethan’s heading up the additional security team we’ve hired. He’s also a PI, so he’ll be doing some digging, trying to find out who sent those notes.”
“Long as he keeps his nose out of my business he can do whatever he wants,” Desmond said.
One of Ethan’s eyebrows went up. So it was going to be a pissing contest. Who’s the toughest, who’s the best at his job. He’d been afraid of that when he’d spotted the earrings.
“I’ll do my best to stay out of your way,” Ethan said diplomatically. He was there to do a job. He’d do it with or without Beau Desmond.
“Make sure you do,” Beau said, determined to get the last word.
Carlyle made no comment, but clearly he had picked up on Desmond’s belligerent attitude. As they walked away, Dirk was grinning in anticipation. He loved nothing better than making a dickhead look like a fool.
“Beau’s good at his job,” Carlyle said. “Be helpful if you kept that in mind.”
“Oh, I will,” Ethan said.
Dirk wisely made no comment.
LeavingBeau Desmond behind, Carlyle led them into a room where four men stood drinking coffee. They each wore jeans and a black T-shirt with a white La Belle logo on the front left corner, the symbol for male and female, a round circle with a cross at the bottom and an arrow off the circle at the top.
The shirts made them easily identifiable as La Belle security. He and Dirk had been given a stack when they’d walked in that morning and each was wearing one now. Carlyle made the introductions. “Listen up, you men. The guy on my right is Ethan Brodie. He’s heading up additional security for the show. That means the four of you. The guy next to him is Dirk Reynolds. They’re both professionals. They know what they’re doing, so listen and do what they say.”
The men introduced themselves one at a time. They all had some security experience, not much. A sandy-haired, thirty-something parking lot guard named Sandowski, a tall beanpole of a guy named Walt Wizzy who had worked for Walmart. A Hispanic named Pete Hernandez who was built like a brick house but stood only about five foot six and, by the jut of his chin, probably had a little-man’s complex. Ethan figured if there was trouble in the group, Hernandez would be it.
A black guy named Joe Posey was an ex-cop, but he was older and out of shape. The men were hardly first string, but Ethan figured unless something really bad went down, they would do just fine.
He gave the guys a brief rundown of what he expected them to do. “Your job is to keep people out of the theater who aren’t supposed to be here. With this many women around, there’s bound to be a handful of smart-asses who think they’re God’s gift. Handle them pleasantly but firmly. Whatever bullshit story they come up with, don’t let them anywhere near the models. You get in over your head with one or more of them, use your radio to call for backup. Questions?”
No one spoke.
“The second part of your job is to keep an eye out for anyone or anything that looks suspicious. Someone who has ill intent, no matter what it might be. Report anything out of the ordinary directly to me or Dirk, and don’t be afraid to say something, even if it seems insignificant. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
Joe Posey raised a dark hand. “I heard a rumor someone sent threatening notes to some of the models. That true?”
It was, but Carlyle didn’t want the media getting their hands on the information, turning the show into some kind of circus.
“These women model lingerie,” Ethan said. “They get all kinds of mail, some good, some not so good. Carlyle has his own men escorting the ladies to and from the theater, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
He ended by filling them in on what Carlyle had told him. “Rehearsals the rest of the week. They start at eight in the morning, go till they’re finished. We’re here before they get here until after they leave. The show is on Saturday night, then we travel. You all understand we’ll be spending some time on the road, right?”
The men rumbled an affirmative.
“One last thing: Keep your hands off the girls. No fraternizing, no hassling the women. Stick to that rule and we’ll get along just fine. Break that rule—you’re fired.”
They had all been warned, but it didn’t hurt to repeat the warning. “Now, I’d like you to spend some time getting familiar with the theater. You need to find all the nooks and crannies, places some joker could hide. Take your time and make it thorough.”
It was a task he and Dirk would be performing, too, as soon as Carlyle was finished with them. The group of men broke up and headed out the door.
Ethan turned to Carlyle, who had been standing quietly to one side. “What’s next?”
“Now I introduce you to our ten top models. There are thirty in all, but these are the stars of the show, the ones who got notes like the one I showed you. These are the women I’d like you to focus on.”
Carlyle led them out of the room, back to the rear of the stage, where all thirty models were lined up, ready to start rehearsing.
“There are five segments to the show,” Carlyle explained. “Countries of the World, Nashville, Devil-Angel, Winter Wonderland, and Diamond Jubilee. There’s a wrap with the entire cast, then we’re finished. Each of the women makes at least two costumes changes. They’re working on the World segment now. Follow me.”
Ethan and Dirk followed Carlyle toward the group of women standing in a semicircle, taking direction from the choreographer of the show, who stood in front of them.
“That’s Daniel Clemens. He can be a little pissy, but he’s damn good at his job. We couldn’t do the show without him.”
For rehearsal, most of the women were wearing black leggings under a collection of very short skirts, cutoff jeans, long T-shirts, and cutoff sweatshirts.
“For the next few days they’ll be working on their routines. There’s a full dress rehearsal the day before the show. That’ll include final costume fittings, live orchestra, everything.”
Ethan’s gaze ran over the women. At least for the moment, they were decently covered. Their casual dress didn’t change the fact that each woman was incredibly beautiful, their faces right out of a magazine.
Carlyle roll-called ten names and the women came forward. A couple of redheads, five blondes, two brunettes, and an ebony-skinned beauty with amazing cheekbones and long jet-black hair.
Ethan flicked a glance at Dirk, who carefully kept his eyes straight ahead.
“Ladies, these men will be working as additional security while we’re on tour. Ethan Brodie is the big guy on the right. Dirk Reynolds is the guy with the ’stache.”
Carlyle smiled. “Do me a favor and cut them some slack. They have a job to do, same as you. It’s easier if they don’t have to contend with naughty smiles and flirty remarks.”
The women chuckled good-naturedly.
“Introduce yourselves. First names are enough. Start at the far end and work this way.” A redhead stepped forward. “I’m Caralee,” she said with a soft Southern drawl.
“I am Katerina.” A beautiful, smiling blonde with a hint of Russia in her voice.
As the women each spoke their names, Ethan mentally attached the name to a face, knew Dirk would be doing the same. The redheads were Caralee and Megan. The blondes were Heather; Katerina, the Russian; Delilah, with very high cheekbones; Ursula—either German or Austrian; and Valentine.
The brunettes were Isabel, a young Sophia Loren lookalike; and Carmen, a pretty, dark-eyed Latina. The exotic ebony-skinned woman was Amarika. From Africa, maybe.He couldn’t be sure.
He let his gaze travel over the women a final time, paused for a moment on the one who called herself Valentine. He liked blondes, always had. All five of them had gleaming long blond hair, some straight, some wavy. Valentine’s was the color of honey. It curled softly down her back and swung around her shoulders.
She was maybe five nine, about an inch shorter than the redhead named Megan, who stood beside her. Most of the girls were around five ten; a couple, including Amarika, appeared to be at least six feet. All of them wore strappy high heels that pushed them up another five or six inches.
In a room full of gorgeous women, it took a helluva lot to stand out. He heard throaty laughter, realized it came from redheaded Megan. Next to her, the blonde flashed a grin, and a stunning pair of dimples popped out. He’d remember that one now, Valentine. Sounded more like a stripper than a classy underwear model, but hey, what did he know?
Kat Martin is the author of twenty-one Historical and Contemporary Romance novels. She tackles many different aspects of her genre with settings ranging from the rugged West to the Antebellum South, Regency, Georgian, and Medieval England. Not one to shy away from change, she also tackles Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels which involve the paranormal. Some of her titles include Nothing But Velvet, Sweet Vengeance, and Dangerous Passions. These works have won a bevy of awards including a recent Romantic Times Magazine nomination for Best Historical Romance of 1998 for her release Wicked Promise. She is also published in, among others, Germany, Norway, Sweden, China, Russia, and Spain.
Romantic Suspense entitled The Silent Rose, which will be out in August. “It’s a ghostly tale of romance and intrigue that was based on a real life incident,” says Kat. “It’s a little bit scary, a whole lot sexy, and hopefully lots of fun to read.”