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In the shadows, someone is always watching
Aspiring screenwriter Jessica Jensen grew up on movies starring heartthrob Reece Winchester, the eldest brother of a Hollywood dynasty. She never thought she’d meet the man in person, though. Actor, director, millionaire, and gorgeous mystery man–he’s every woman’s fantasy.
Reece wants Jessica the moment he sees her, and he’s a man who always gets what he wants. At first he was only after a night in her bed, but as he comes to know the smart, confident woman beneath the stunning exterior, he realizes once will never be enough.
Unfortunately, Jessica’s real-life Cinderella story is about to take a deadly turn…
Reece’s world is filled with fierce ambition and dark family secrets the Winchesters desperately want to hide. But he and his brothers aren’t the only ones who know those secrets. Someone else is out there, waiting to strike. Waiting-and always watching.
When danger finally steps out of the shadows, Reece will have to face his past. And Jessica will have to decide just how far she can trust the man she loves with her heart…and her life.
“Kelly hits all the right notes here and balances the romance with suspense to very nice effect, making this a must read for readers who like a bit of danger with their love story. Recommended.” —Library Journal
“The romance between this pair was hot and exciting, but it was the ending that I really liked because it had me on the edge-of-my-seat. …I would recommend Watching You by Leslie A. Kelly, if you enjoy romantic suspense, the opposites attract trope, or books by authors Susan Stoker, Cora Brent, Kaylea Cross and Laura Kaye.” — Harlequin Junkie
Young Starlet Falls to Death
Hollywood Tattletale Reporter J. Federer
December 12, 2000 | Reporting from Atlanta
Hollywood "it girl" Rachel Winchester was found dead early this morning outside an Atlanta hotel. The teenage actress's body was discovered in an employee parking lot below the balcony of her twenty-eighth-story suite. Police have not yet determined the cause of the fall, but sources say the troubled star has been secretly struggling with drug addiction.
The late sixteen-year-old gained fame playing a high school detective in the popular television series Breaking Rules, and was in Atlanta working on her first feature film. Recently receiving a Kids' Choice Award for her work, she was also known for her romantic relationships, which were often portrayed in the media as a wholesome example for teens.
The oldest of four children, Miss Winchester paved the way for her younger brothers to enter the industry. Rising star Reece has already surpassed his sister's fame, appearing in several films before the age of twelve. Lesser-known Rowan and baby Raine appear poised to do the same. How the tragedy will affect the new Hollywood dynasty is unclear.
As a film director, Reece Winchester was used to watching life through a camera lens, picturing angles, depth, color, and texture. He lived as a voyeur, removed from the action he oversaw, the unseen god of the worlds he created for moviegoers everywhere. Yet there were some shots he'd never imagined seeing.
The charred remnants of his house, with wisps of smoke still rising from the ruin in the early morning light, was number one on that list.
"Damn, Reece, I'm so sorry," said his brother Rowan, who'd been the one to call him at two a.m. to tell him about the fire. He'd repeated the phrase about a dozen times.
Reece had been shooting in the New Mexico desert, so his Beverly Hills home had been empty when it went up in flames last night. He'd spent most of the flight back being thankful he'd left his dog with his brother and had given the couple who looked after the place two weeks off. During other trips, he'd left Cecil B., his golden retriever, at home with the Scotts. He didn't even want to think about what could have happened if they'd been there.
Shit could be replaced. Lives could not. The loss of a couple of statues of a guy named Oscar was nothing compared to the singeing of one hair on the heads of his employees or his dog.
"Any idea yet what started it?" he bit out.
"I talked to the fire investigator. He already found accelerant."
Accelerant. Arson. Jesus.
"Somebody hates me enough to burn down my house?" Reece murmured, a little stunned.
"It could have been a frustrated stalker who expected to find you at home."
"And when I wasn't, they decided to make sure I didn't have a home to come back to?"
"You know it's possible."
Yes, it probably was. He'd had overzealous fans before, mostly during his acting days. They occasionally slipped from pushy into obsessive. He'd been dealing with a particularly bad one lately, who'd found out where he lived and had been leaving notes stuffed into the security gate. Perhaps that was who had gotten past the fence last night and decided to send his home up in a giant ball of flame that had, reportedly, been seen by people miles away.
"Do you ever wonder if we're damned?" he asked. He'd had this thought many times over the years but had never shared it with his twin.
"Don't say that."
He didn't push, knowing Rowan had done a better job moving beyond all the dark episodes of the past. Reece, though, had found letting that go extremely difficult to do.
"You know you can stay with me for a while. At least until you find another place," Rowan offered.
Reece nodded. "Dad has a spare room, too."
Reece, his twin Rowan, and their baby brother, Raine, had bought their hardworking father, who'd supported them all his life, a big place on the beach a few months ago. His dad would hate to hear about the fire but would probably love some company.
Reece watched silently as firefighters walked the site. They carefully looked for any sputtering embers trying to reignite. With the drought, they also had to be sure no sparks landed on a nearby roof, spreading the conflagration to the entire neighborhood.
"Why don't we get outta here?" Rowan asked. "You've given your statement. You don't have to stay. Want some breakfast? We can pick up Cecil B. and take him out for pancakes."
Seeing his dog sounded like a great idea to Reece. "Sure." He was hungry, as, he suspected, were the sweaty, exhausted firefighters. He'd already put in an order for cold drinks and food for the guys who'd tried so hard to rescue his six-thousand-square-foot house. Just a house. Just a building.
Right. Frankly, the worst part wasn't the fire, but the realization that someone had set it. He was in somebody's crosshairs. The knowledge unsettled him.
They hadn't surfed together in months, both of them having busy schedules, and Reece being too easily recognized to hit any of the local beaches. One of the many pleasures his fame had cost him. Rowan was lucky they were fraternal twins, and that he no longer lived in the spotlight. "Maybe later. I think I'll stop by and see how Aunt Sharon's doing at the gallery."
"Okay. Pancakes, followed by weird art."
Their aunt did have eclectic taste. She also had a good eye, which was why Reece had been glad to finance the gallery in Venice Beach. Considering she had helped raise them after their own mother had been committed, there wasn't much he wouldn't do for her.
Which was why, three hours later, he stood with her in the office of Venice on the Beach Fine Arts, actually smiling. The gallery was filled with pieces that only the pretentious, rich Southern California type could afford. To him, many paintings looking like plates full of spaghetti smeared around by preschoolers. Sharon, however, loved all types of art, and was thrilled with the gallery, which pleased him.
"You're sure you have everything you need?" he said. "You know you only have to ask."
She ruffled his hair like he was still a thirteen-year-old kid…not that he'd felt like a kid at thirteen. "You've done enough! Now stop thinking about me and start focusing on yourself. I still can't believe you came here, today of all days."
"I'll be fine." He'd already asked an agent to look for a house he could rent—one with great security—while he started rebuilding.
Sharon kept talking, but he didn't hear her. Because something bright and colorful on the security monitor in the office suddenly caught his attention.
Red hair. Shiny, glorious red hair, with gold highlights.
Captivated, Reece turned to fully face the image. He immediately went into director mode, glad the state-of-the-art security system displayed everything in full color.
The woman had come into the public part of the gallery downstairs, jogging in off the beach. She was young, midtwenties at most, with that long mane swept up into a bouncy ponytail. She did things for spandex that would make cotton lie down and weep with jealousy. Yet it was her face he kept staring at. Her body might be perfect, but her face wasn't, at least not classically so. But it was interesting…arresting. Strong—so determined, it told tales of struggle and adversity not often seen in faces so young. Most of all, she was different.
The nose was a little crooked, a little pronounced. Most self-respecting Southern California women would have had that straightened and daintily tipped before entering high school. The eyes—he couldn't determine the color—were a bit too far apart, but big and heavily lashed with highly arched brows above. The mouth was wide, the lips full. Kissable. She had a cleft in her chin that he wanted to taste, as he wanted to taste the slick sheen of sweat riding across her chest, gliding down into the hint of cleavage shown by the scoop-necked jogging top.
It had been a dark and difficult morning. But the sun had come out and it was wearing running shoes. "Who is she?" he murmured, not taking his eyes off the screen.
Sharon bent to peer over his shoulder. "I have no idea."
"Not one of your artists?"
"Does she look like an artist?"
"But not a typical beach bimbo, either."
She appeared to be the type who would be much more at home in a place like this than on a boardwalk. He pictured her in a gown and jewels, hair up, one long curl hitting her shoulder. Or screw it, no dress and the hair down and loose, draping over her bare breasts.
He watched her through the camera, saying nothing, envisioning how he'd position her, how she'd move, how she would take direction. It was how he always reacted to initial encounters with strangers, picturing a series of shots and takes, cuts and stills.
Those who didn't know him might view him as cold and calculating, always the director, no longer an actor, on film or on the world stage. His brothers, though, and closest friends, saw the real Reece. He was a man of long vision, not the quick, immediate scene. He saw the key moments, the turning points, the journey, the climax, the resolution, and how to get there.
He wondered how to get there with the redhead and was determined to find out.
A minute later, after showing the floor manager, Sid, some invisible-from-here photos on her cell phone, the woman frowned, nodded, and departed. "Can you find out what she wanted?"
"I was just waiting for you to ask," his aunt said, tapping a text on her phone. Sid looked down at his own, receiving Sharon's message. He jabbed at the screen, typing something back.
"Her name's Jessica. She has a sister who's in the arts."
Doesn't everyone in LA?
"She sent Sid a link to a photo gallery of the sister's work." Sharon was silent for a moment, and then she whistled, swiping her finger across the screen, her eyes growing round.
Reece watched her react to whatever she was seeing. He could have feigned disinterest, but Aunt Sharon knew him well enough that she'd have seen right through it. "What is it?"
Her brows were up, her expression a bit stunned. "The artist hasn't had any professional showings, and the sister is trying to help her set something up," Sharon explained, handing him the phone. "And she's good. Damn good."
Reece took the phone, glancing at the screen, far more interested in the woman than in the artwork. At least, until he took a closer look. "Holy shit."
"Tell me about it."
The sculpture displayed on the phone was of a life-size naked woman. But it wasn't a classical, museum-type study of the female form. No. This one was sexy and erotic, displaying a woman in the full throes of pleasure, with her hand between her legs and her head thrown back. Something about the model looked familiar.
"The throat," he whispered. "The shoulders, the hips, the legs." He recognized them. He'd been staring at them through the security monitor for the past several minutes.
"Interesting, no?" Aunt Sharon asked.
"Interesting, yes." He swiped the screen, seeing another piece, and then another. All were stunning nudes, though most were not as sensual as the first. Only that initial one had a recognizable—to him—model. The artist had talent and reason to be proud. So did her sister.
"You've been looking for new and newsworthy pieces," he said, handing back the phone.
The older woman nodded. "This would certainly get attention."
Yes, it would. All kinds of attention: press, buyers. Having a display of nude art wasn't unusual, but the raw talent of the artist made her work stand out. It could help Sharon make a go of this place. Reece didn't really give a damn if the gallery made him his money back, but he knew his aunt was too proud to remain indebted to him.
She definitely shouldn't feel indebted. She'd stepped in as a mother figure after his own had become unable to. He would have given her the money for the gallery, no questions asked. He'd become a silent partner because she'd insisted it was the only way she would accept his cash.
"You want me to have the artist come in for a discussion?"
Aunt Sharon smirked. "I suppose you want me to ask her to bring her sister?"
He didn't reply. He didn't need to. His anticipatory smile was probably answer enough.
Thinking about how his day had started—with a phone call saying his house had burned down—he couldn't help but be surprised by his own good mood. All because of the beautiful stranger he'd spied through a camera. One he would never have seen if not for the fire, pre-dawn flight, and his presence here in the gallery this morning, at the perfect moment.
He couldn't have planned the scene better if he'd tried.
It was as if it were meant to be.
By the time Jessica Jensen arrived at the Venice Beach gallery for Liza's showing, there was a line out the door, winding to the end of the block. Trendy hipsters jostled against grungy millionaires and diamond-decked socialite types, the crowd as mixed up and melted together as only a Southern California social event could be. Apparently word had spread about her BFF/adopted sister's rave review on the LAArtscene blog, which called Liza's work "wildly innovative and breathtaking, both exquisite and shocking!" The masses had come here to see and be seen, to shock and be shocked.
The open bar probably didn't hurt either, at least for the trendy hipsters, whose high-end taste didn't always reflect the size of their low-end bank accounts.
The turnout was thrilling, and her heart pounded in her chest as Jess realized the person she cared for most in this world was really on the verge of the success she so richly deserved. A long line wasn't the endgame, though. The true test would come in the morning when Liza found out from the owner just how many of these desperate-to-be-cool types had actually shelled out money to buy any of the pieces, the cheapest of which was priced at around five grand.
All of Jessica's crossable digits were metaphorically crossed, and not just because she wanted Liza to be successful. There would be a more immediate benefit. One sculpture sold meant their rent wouldn't be late next month. Two might mean they could actually drop the air-conditioning thermostat from ninth circle of hell to eighth. Dreamy.
"Miss Jensen, did you find it?" the bouncer asked as she skirted around, cutting in line.
She lifted her hand, in which she held the silver charm bracelet she'd raced home to get when Liza had realized she'd forgotten it. "Crisis contained."
He grinned, having watched her tear out of the gallery an hour ago, right before the show opened. "Her good luck charm, huh?"
"Yeah, literally." She flicked the four-leaf clover. It had been the first charm on the bracelet. "Our mom gave it to her for her sixteenth birthday."
He sounded shocked. That made sense. Jess was tall, Liza petite. Liza was a brown-haired bundle of creativeness, Jess a red-haired bundle of attitude.
Oh. Plus Liza was black, and Jess was white. Details.
"Yep," she said, not feeling the need to reveal anything more to a stranger. Especially not about the adopted family she'd been blessed to land in.
Liza had been fortunate enough to have her mom, Beth, all her life. Jess had only been lucky enough to get her at age eleven. Her own mom had died when Jess was nine, after which she got to play here-we-go-round-the-foster-care-system for two years. Beth was the prize she'd won at the end of the game. The adoption had saved her life, and not just figuratively, considering Jess's final foster mother had had the maternal instincts of a snake.
Wait. She probably wasn't being fair…to snakes. They vibrated their bodies to warm their eggs. Her last foster mother wouldn't have warmed Jess with a cup of her own spit, and her creepy husband would have just spit on her for his own amusement.
She shoved the memories away. They were phantoms from a past she barely recalled.
"The bracelet must be pretty special. I hope it works for her," the bouncer said.
"You and me both," she murmured, picturing Beth and how proud she would be tonight.
Thinking of Beth still made Jess cry, eighteen months after her death. Liza had to be feeling the loss even more drastically, knowing that but for a few cancerous cells, her mom would be right here with them. The cruel twists of fate had been especially cruel to Jess and Liza when it came to mothers and fathers. They were both orphans now—Liza officially, since her dad had died in an accident before her birth, and Jess technically, since hers had skipped out when she was two. Neither one of them was whining about it, though. They were both gonna be okay.
The bouncer opened the door for her. "Tell her if she doesn't get a taker on the Touch Me statue, I'll give her part of my salary for the next twenty years to pay for it."
As he wagged his brows, she forced a tight smile and hurried in, fearing he'd ask if she'd ever modeled for her sister. She'd been asked that too many times, by too many people.
The short answer: No.
The long answer: Sort of, but only from the neck down. Well, maybe the jaw down.
The longest answer: Yes, and oh, God, wasn't it freaky-weird to lie there naked while her best friend/sister drew tons of sketches of her?
Jess was the woman alone in bed, gaining pleasure in the only way she could.
Art imitates life.
The number of people who would ever know that: two. Jess and Liza.
Inside, she took a second to gawk at the crowd. When she'd left, the building had been practically empty—only Liza on the floor with the management and the staff. On her way out, she'd sent up a good luck prayer, noting how the tastefully arranged gallery had been thick with possibility, waiting for something to start.
Now, sixty minutes later? Well, hot damn, it had started. Her BFF was taking the art world by storm. The place was jam-packed, a strange cross between an art exhibit and a rave. Potential buyers sipped fruity vodka and gushed over the classical-yet-sensual pieces of art surrounding them. A deep thrum of evocative music pulsed; the very air throbbed with it. She felt it reverberating through her body, each thud of the bass timed to the beat of her heart. God, anybody who didn't get a rush from this display was obviously half-comatose. Because the music, the food, the ambient lighting, the thrill of expectation and excitement all added to the atmosphere of sensuality inspired by the nude forms filling the room.
Some artists were inspired by beauty in nature, in architecture, in landscapes. Liza was inspired by naked bodies. If she photographed them, she might be called a pornographer. Instead, she sculpted them, and was a hot artist on the rise. Gotta love SoCal.
"There you are!" Liza squealed, grabbing and tugging her into an alcove near the exit. "God, that dress. It's like Cinder-freaking-ella's godmother was Christian Dior."
"Thanks," she said, amused Liza was sticking to her goal to stop swearing. "Did you think I'd show up here in my hideous prom dress, the only long one I own?"
Correction: the only one she had owned. Now she had this pale blue designer gown. She'd bought it from a consignment store in Laguna Beach, for probably one-twentieth its original price. That had still been just about enough to break her clothes budget for the year, but she wouldn't have come to Liza's opening in a ratty outfit for anything.
"Nope. We're both the belles of the ball." Liza extended an arm and Jess hooked the bracelet on without interrupting her sister's babbling excitement. "Can you believe this?"
"Of course I can. I knew you could do it," she said, loyalty winning the race over honesty out of her mouth. Because, the truth was, she'd been scared to death that Liza's dreams would be shattered, the whole thing would be a bust, and they'd end the night doing tequila shots in the roach-infested dive downstairs from their not-infested-but-still-sometimes-roachy apartment.
Liza deserved success. But, in Jess's experience, things like this—acclaim, wealth—didn't happen to chicks like them. Ever since they were teenagers growing up in a tiny Illinois town, Liza becoming a famous artist was her fantasy, a daydream, like Jess's was to see her name on an Academy Award statue for Best Original Screenplay. She had never really thought they would come true.
Now, though? Surrounded by rich people oohing and aahing, whispering about the beauty of Liza's creations, and pretending they weren't turned on by the naked or nearly naked bodies? Well, Jess wasn't exactly rehearsing her acceptance speech, but perhaps after tonight she'd be willing to admit such things were at least possible. And thinking about what she'd say when seated next to Benedict Cumberbatch on Oscar night.
Whoops. Inner Sherlock fangirl moment. Down, Cumberbitch.
"Well, it's all thanks to you."
"Oh, sure, I'm the one who spent sixty hours a week for the past couple of years in a sweltering storage unit making amazing art out of clay."
"No, that was me," Liza said, her smile impish, which went well with her sweet, heart-shaped face, deep brown eyes, and mass of curly brown hair. "But you are the one who got Sid to give me an appointment with Sharon, which resulted in me getting this opportunity."
Jess frowned, not comfortable going down the I'm so grateful road. Not with Liza, the person she loved most in the world. What wouldn't she have done to help Liza get her start? She couldn't think of a single goddamn thing.
"That wasn't me, it was my cleavage," she replied with a shrug. "Sid didn't look above my collarbone the first time I came in to talk about your awesome art."
"Well, thank heaven Sid's a creeper."
"Pervert is more like it." But perviness had worked to Liza's advantage. So Jessica hadn't spit in the jerk's face or punched him when he'd made a really gross suggestion after looking at the cell phone full of pictures of nude statuary.
Liza glanced down, addressing Jess's chest. "Thank you, ladies. I've been jealous of you half my life, but you really came through for me."
Jess laughed, knowing what Liza meant. She'd been out for a run, all sweaty and slick, when she'd seen the sign for the new gallery. She was not the type to use T&A to get what she wanted, which was why her usual nonworking uniform was jeans and a geeky fandom T-shirt. On that occasion, though, the she-bits had come in handy. Sid Loman was obviously into college-aged young women wearing tight workout clothes.
She wasn't really college-aged, though she was still in college. At twenty-five, she should've graduated three years ago. But when one started late, and then had to work forty hours a week and go to school part-time, it look a lot longer. After this summer session, she'd be within six credits and one internship of that elusive diploma.
"For all your hard work, you deserve some big, strong, man hands," Liza added.
Jess purposely misunderstood, lifting her own. "I'm happy with these."
"I wasn't talking about you." Liza nodded toward her chest. "I meant them."
She cleared her throat. "Yeah, that's not happening."
She hadn't had anybody else's hands on her body for quite some time, which frankly was fine with Jess. Man hands were attached to men. And men could be…well, she'd leave it at difficult, and ignore the other words sprouting in her mind: bastards, jerks, stalking pricks.
"Come on, not all guys are…" Bastards, jerks, stalking pricks. "Bad." Seeing Jess's reaction, Liza backed off. "Sorry. I forgot I'm talking to Sister Jessica, patron saint of celibacy."
"I'd be happy to end my sainthood if I could meet someone worth sinning for."
"I could name a hundred guys who would line up to help you sin."
"You don't know a hundred guys."
"Fifty then. Fifty guys."
"You don't know fifty guys either, unless you're referring to the jerks we went to high school with." And if she hadn't slept with any of them then, she sure was not going to now. Even her prom date hadn't succeeded in getting her ugly dress off her, though he'd tried groping her through it. Which was why she'd ditched him and walked out of the stupid high school dance.
"You're such a pessimist."
"I don't need fifty guys. One would be fine…as long as he's the right one."
"There are nice men around. They're not all like that
- "Kelly hits all the right notes here and balances the romance with suspense to very nice effect, making this a must read for readers who like a bit of danger with their love story. Recommended."—Library Journal
- "The romance between this pair was hot and exciting, but it was the ending that I really liked because it had me on the edge-of-my-seat." —Harlequin Junkie
- "Throughout this charged, fast-paced love story, Kelly expertly balances sensuality and intrigue. This will be a hit with readers looking for a spicy contemporary romance."—Publishers Weekly
- On Sale
- Mar 31, 2020
- Page Count
- 400 pages