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Authors: Dee J. Adams

Tags: #Adrenaline Highs#4

Living Dangerously

BOOK: Living Dangerously
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Living Dangerously
By Dee J. Adams

Book
four
of
Adrenaline
Highs

Julie Fraser, Hollywood’s newest “it” girl, arrives on the red carpet to more than just the flashes of the paparazzi’s cameras. A sniper’s shots leave her bleeding and in the line of fire. Her life would be over if it weren’t for the bodyguard who comes to the rescue—taking a bullet in the process.

Troy Mills, a P.I. working undercover, couldn’t stand by and watch an innocent woman die, but now he’s torn. How can he tell her that he’s not a bodyguard, but a P.I.? A P.I. hired to prove that Julie is sleeping with the movie producer he’s pretending to protect.

When a second attempt is made on Julie’s life, Troy realizes that keeping her safe is more important than any supposed affair. And in order to keep her safe, he’ll have to keep her close. But desire and danger are hot on Julie’s heels. Who could have guessed that protecting an A-list actress would not only put Troy’s life in jeopardy, but his heart as well?

Go
back
to
the
beginning
with
Dangerous Race,
available
now
!

123,000 words

Dear Reader,

The month of May always brings, for me, the promise of new beginnings. I realize that it’s actually nearly the end of spring, but for some reason, I love the idea of May and that it means summer is coming and the fun is really about to begin!

This month, very fitting for my excitement about new beginnings, we have three debut authors with stories releasing. Brighton Walsh joins Carina Press with her charming contemporary romance
Plus
One
, where lifelong friends find deep-seated feelings growing into something more than friendship. Meanwhile, debut author Shawna Reppert has crafted a unique and captivating fantasy romance world in her male/male romance
The
Stolen
Luck
. Joining these two authors with a debut is S.G. Wong with the first Lola Starke novel,
Die
on
Your
Feet
. Not only is this an unusual mix of mystery, paranormal and noir, but this book also has a striking cover that captured my imagination from the first look.

Although not a debut author, Tamara Morgan joins Carina Press with the first in a new contemporary romance series. In
The
Rebound
Girl
, an outgoing plastic surgeon gets more than she bargained for when she offers to be the rebound girl for a sexy kindergarten teacher getting over his recent breakup.

Along with new beginnings also come bittersweet goodbyes, and this month we wrap up Jax Garren’s fantastic science-fiction trilogy Tales of the Underlight. This series has kept us all on the edges of our seats with both the sexual tension between Hauk and Jolie and the fight to take out the Order of Ananke. Don’t miss the final installment,
How
Beauty
Loved
the
Beast
. Also wrapping up a trilogy this month, though on the opposite end of the romance spectrum, is contemporary romance author Kate Davies, offering the final installment of her high-school reunion trilogy, Girls Most Likely to..., with
Life
of
the
Party
.

As well, we have exciting offerings from a variety of veteran Carina Press authors this month. Jeffe Kennedy’s
Ruby
takes us to a contemporary world of BDSM and a sexy Cajun chef during the sensuality of New Orleans’s Mardis Gras. And last month saw the release of Volume 1 of our Love Letters anthologies. This month, discover four hot stories with a military twist in
Love Letters Volume 2: Duty to Please.

Sandy James, Shawna Thomas, Cathy Pegau and Stacy Gail all return to previously established worlds in their respective books. In Sandy James’s
The
Brazen
Amazon
, the Air Amazon is sent to protect computer wizard Zach from a rogue goddess who wants to use him to destroy the world.
Journey
of
Dominion
, book two of The Triune Stones series from Shawna Thomas, continues the story of Sara, trained from birth for one purpose: to reunite three ancient stones to restore balance to the lands.

Female/female romance
Deep
Deception
by Cathy Pegau follows the harrowing story of a beautiful agent and the woman she has no choice but to trust...until the secrets they’re each keeping threaten to get them both killed. And the plan for a demonic apocalypse is at last uncovered by a maimed member of the Nephilim and a scarred young woman who’s been to hell and back in Stacy Gail’s
Wounded
Angel
, book three of The Earth Angels.

Last but certainly not least, Dee J. Adams brings us the next installment in her high-octane Adrenaline Highs series with romantic suspense
Living
Dangerously
. If you’re new to Dee’s books, you can easily start here, or go back to the beginning with
Dangerous
Race
.

This month, start a new series, revisit a favorite world or discover a new-to-you author with our May releases. And don’t forget to check out our catalog for backlist from these and other authors in all your preferred genres.

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

For Sean.

I couldn’t have done any of it without you. The longer we are together, the more I love you. Thanks for always being there no matter what. You are my heart and soul.

Acknowledgements

I have to thank the usual suspects, Kate Willoughby and Lynne Marshall, for their keen eyes and sharp whipcracking. Ladies, you’re the best.

To my amazing editor, Melissa Johnson, thanks for being you and for being so good at what you do.

A whopping ginormous thank you to Tom Bakofsky for all your gun knowledge. You never complained about any of my nonstop emails and I love you. I hope you don’t mind that I named a character after you.

Thanks to Ole Olson for your help in all things related to private investigation. I truly appreciate your taking the time to answer my countless questions.

Huge thanks to my daughter, Katelyn, for understanding when dinner is late and then becomes breakfast. Love you, kid!

Chapter One

Julie Fraser took a deep breath and tried to quell the butterflies swooping in her stomach. She hated being late. She got mad at people who came late for important events. Her agent and manager, the latter who happened to be her mother, were going to have a fit when they found out she’d missed the red carpet interviews. Julie didn’t care about the lost camera time, but her team would, so she’d have to make up for it at the after-party. She hadn’t wanted to
go
to the after-party and now, for more reasons than one, she had no choice.

The one bright spot of the night would be spending time with her friend Trace Bradshaw. They’d met during the filming of Julie’s debut movie,
Dangerous
Race
, when Julie had portrayed the Arrow 500 winner on the big screen.

She should’ve been relaxing in the plush interior of the black stretch limousine as the car slowly made its way down Sunset Boulevard, but instead, she nervously fiddled with the edge of her small diamond-studded bag on loan from Tiffany’s. Sucking in her stomach even more, she couldn’t believe the zipper had ripped the fabric of her gown. If Meg, her stylist, hadn’t been there to fix it, the night would’ve been an even bigger disaster. Even if Meg had poked her with the needle a couple of times, at least they got the dress on her and it would last the night. She never imagined being sewn into a dress, but there was a first time for everything. Especially in this town. Hollywood. Where dreams were either realized or crushed under the giant, hard-heeled boot of reality.

Of course the detour because of police activity hadn’t been her fault. That had led to a thirty-minute drive in the wrong direction. She pushed back the panic. Why freak out over things out of her control? Like the fact that she didn’t have a date. Again. Her best friend, who would’ve loved this night, happened to be shooting a movie on location, and her mother had begged off because of a bout of food poisoning.

“We’re here,” her driver said, coming to a stop in front of the recently finished Lexington Theater. The new venue opened its doors for the first time tonight in honor of the annual Sporties.

“Thanks, Fido,” Julie said as she gathered her dress. “I’ll see you tonight.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied as an attendant outside opened her door. The loud buzz of the crowd assaulted her senses the way it always did after the stillness of the limo. “Break a leg.” He winked.

Coming from almost any other driver, Julie might have had to hold back a cringe, but as she’d learned over the years, Bill “Fido” Fidelo had honesty that was as sincere as his smile.

“Thanks. Just cross your fingers that I don’t slip like I did in rehearsal.” Julie had learned that any time she presented for any awards telecast, it was always smart to rehearse in the heels she planned to wear. Years ago she’d slipped at the Emmys. Although she’d kept her balance, it was a clip that had been replayed more times than she wanted to remember. She already had more fame than she ever bargained for, but that near fall had given her even more notoriety. The fact that she’d slipped yesterday when rehearsing for this telecast nearly gave her a heart attack. Apparently she could now add
klutz
to her resume.

“Fingers, toes, legs...I’ll cross it all, but I won’t need to. You’ll be fine,” Fido assured her.

Julie flashed him her wide-eyed
I
hope
you’re
right
look and he laughed as she gathered her sparkling silver gown. Carefully stepping out of the limo and into the hot spring sun, she waited for the crowd to recognize her. She heard the whispers, the questions. It took another handful of seconds before the roar of the screaming fans, kept behind barricades along Sunset Boulevard, deafened her ears. Tonight she unveiled the new Julie Fraser. Gone were the jet-black locks she’d worn for the past ten years and in was the honey blond she’d been hiding. She smiled and waved, already aware of the cut her new shoes were digging into her little toe.
Ignore
it
.
Ignore
it
. In another seven hours she could go home and nurse her toe with ice.

Although the crowd was still large and unruly, the red carpet was nearly deserted. Only a couple of fellow actors remained with press but most everyone else had moved inside since the awards were about to start. She had to hurry. Luckily she wasn’t presenting at the beginning of the show. Of course, missing the red carpet had meant she’d also missed her chance at seeing Ari Nepali. Getting a straight answer from that man seemed as elusive as the Oscar that slipped through her fingers a few months ago. Ari had produced
Dangerous
Race
and had another project she wanted in on. Now she’d have to catch him after the ceremony.

But Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated actresses didn’t pick up their dresses and run down the red carpet. They waved to the fans screaming their name. So Julie walked past the potted bushes, a natural barricade against the bleachers set along the carpet, and waved up to the smiling fans despite the throbbing in her toe.

She was halfway up the carpet when a pop rent the air. A firecracker? Another one broke the sudden silence and a slap of heat hit her raised arm and spun her around. People screamed and another pop exploded as something slammed into her midback and pushed her flat on the ground. The jolt knocked the breath out of her.

A hot sting radiated from her arm and back as Julie lay there, stunned. Her palms and knees burned from scraping the red carpet. The crowd in the bleachers screamed and scrambled for safety as more pops punctuated the noise.

Shooting. Someone was shooting. Her heart rate jacked up about a thousand notches. Those pops weren’t firecrackers. They were bullets. Which meant someone had shot her. Twice. Fresh, searing pain roared along with adrenaline through her veins.

Without moving her head, Julie tried to see if anyone else was near. It seemed as though all the fans had managed to get away. Many of them had cleared out anyway since the show was about to start.

The show. Trace was waiting for her. They were both supposed to present the award for the all-around best female athlete of the year. Instead she was lying on the red carpet outside the theater with two bullets in her body.

Throbbing in her arm made her adjust her head for a look.
Holy
shit
. The carpet grew a different shade of red under her arm. She was bleeding. Badly. What about her back? How bad was that? Panic and fear made her stomach lurch.

More shots dinged the bleachers next to her, close calls. Two men who’d fallen ten yards in front of her hobbled to cover behind a row of large clay pots. People screamed and cried. She couldn’t stay out in the open like this. An unmoving target. She’d be dead for sure. She pulled a leg beneath her to crawl forward, but pain exploded in the middle of her back and she collapsed.

The bullets finally stopped. Maybe the shooter had fled? Maybe security had found him.

She tried to inch forward using her knees as leverage, but the dress constricted her movements and made it impossible. Helpless, she listened as sirens wailed in the distance.

Suddenly a man skidded to a stop on his knees next to her. His thick dark hair gleamed in the bright sunlight, his broad shoulders blocked out the harsh rays.

“I’ve got you,” he said roughly. “We don’t have much time. We need to get some cover.” He rolled her and another round of pure pain crested through her back and arm as he lifted her effortlessly and started running. More shots rang out and each step jolted another round of agony. He ducked behind the building wall ten yards from the “Will Call” window and set her down on the ground.

Lying in the sun had made her lightheaded. Or maybe the blood loss had done it. She didn’t want to think about it. Queasy, she breathed through the pain. The man stripped off his black tuxedo jacket and unfastened his cummerbund.

“What are you doing?” Her words came out a little slurred and surprised her.

“Hoping to slow the bleeding. Why?” He took the cummerbund and wrapped it around her middle. She gasped at the fresh shock of pain, at the way those fingers of misery wound their way through her back and up her arm as he tightened the wrap.

She gritted her teeth. “The way you were taking off your clothes,” she mumbled. It seemed a little extreme, but maybe not considering the amount of blood around her. “You looked like a Chippendale dancer who needs practice.” Apparently her sense of humor hadn’t leaked out onto the red carpet. Yet.

A hint of a grin curved his lips as he ripped the bottom of his white tuxedo shirt until he had a wide strip. “Chippendales, huh?” He used that to wrap her arm. Bullets still whizzed past them. “I didn’t know they still existed.” He glanced at her before scanning the area.

Screaming sirens wailed closer as an ambulance rolled into view. The driver backed up, hopped the curb and pulled back as far as the barricades allowed. Gunshots kept people pinned down where they were. Bullets shattered the ambulance windows.

“How did you know he was going to keep...keep shooting?” she asked. She was getting more and more lightheaded and her limbs had started tingling. Hell, her whole body tingled.

“I saw him move.” He tied a knot against her arm and she gasped. “Sorry,” he said.

She was going to die. She felt it in that second, the way her body wouldn’t respond, the way her nerve endings snapped like popcorn in the microwave, and in the moisture pooling against her back and arm that represented the blood escaping her body. She didn’t want to die with a stranger.

“My name’s Julie,” she whispered.

He met her gaze briefly. “Hi, Julie. I’m Troy.” He looked like a Troy. Strong and solid. A man in charge. Right now, he wasn’t paying much attention to her. He kept scanning the whole area, looking, assessing.

“Nice to meet—” she hissed at a sudden stab of pain in her arm, “—you. Do you think the police will get him?” she asked.

He brushed some hair off her cheek, his gaze once again connecting with hers, his eyes loaded with concern. “Not quickly enough,” he told her. “You needed an ambulance five minutes ago.”

She nodded, appreciated his candor. It was bad. Really, really bad. She’d played a scene like this. Funny how she hadn’t seen Trace in years and on the night they were set to be together publicly something like this should happen. Something that would vaguely mirror not only Trace’s life, but also Julie’s in that she’d reenacted the same scene. How odd that reality had become fiction...had become reality. Julie accepted the inevitable. Her mother would be set financially so she wouldn’t have to worry about that. But still... Tears welled up and her eyes stung, her chest constricted. “Troy, can you please tell my mother...I love her.”

His dark eyes settled on her, serious and solemn. “No can do, sweetheart. You’re going to have to tell her yourself. We’re going to make a run for it.”

She shook her head and a tear trickled into her hair. “I don’t think I can.”

“Leave it to me. I’ve got you.” Gently he lifted her, but nothing stopped the pain that ripped through her and stole her breath. “Hang in there, sweetheart. I’ve got you.”

* * *

Troy Mills never expected the night to break down this way. Tonight should’ve been simple. Working undercover, playing bodyguard to a dirtbag producer cheating on his wife shouldn’t have entailed getting shot at. It shouldn’t have him stripping off the rented six-hundred-dollar tuxedo to keep Julie Fraser from bleeding out on the red carpet.

Yet, that’s what was happening. If he didn’t get her to the ambulance twenty yards away, she was as good as dead. Never in his wildest imagination had he thought he’d meet Julie Fraser, much less hold her in his arms as she died. But that was happening too. The bullets had stopped so maybe the police had snagged the shooter. He had no way of knowing. The only definite was Julie in his arms breathing her last breath unless he did something about it.

He knew the second those bullets hit her that she wasn’t going to make it without immediate medical attention. 911 would be swamped, so in the two minutes before the shooter moved, he’d called a contact at the police station and made sure the attending ambulance pulled up as close to the barricades as possible. Better put a SWAT team member at the wheel while they were at it because this was definitely going to be a hazardous duty call.

“Hold on, sweetheart,” he said in her ear. Her sweet perfume filled his head. She smelled expensive. The fact that she thought he’d meant for
her
to make a run for it almost made him smile. “We’re going to make this fast and clean.” At least he sure as hell hoped so.

With a last deep breath, Troy hefted her closer to his chest and started running. As soon as he did, bullets started flying again. The first couple missed. He felt them whiz past, one behind him, then one in front. Ten more yards to go. Barricades had been placed to keep vehicles at a distance so the ambulance could only get so close. It waited like a safe haven, lights flashing attendants waiting behind the doors for cover... So close.

Another shot pierced the air. The bullet slammed into his upper arm almost immediately. It knocked him back a step but he kept going. The heat, the instantaneous and awesome pain traveled to his brain with lightning speed, but he couldn’t stop. The American public would kill him if Julie Fraser died in his arms. He just made it behind the ambulance when two paramedics wrestled Julie from his arms. Troy stumbled and cursed as another paramedic reached for him.

“Oh, Jesus,” he heard the guy mumble.

Troy looked down at his arm, at the blood that flowed freely like water from a hose. The gruesome trail of red soaked his white shirt and dripped from his cuff. He stumbled again, but someone caught him, eased him to the ground.

“Bullet hit an artery,” the paramedic yelled over his shoulder. “We need him to go with her.”

An artery. Not good. He didn’t have to be a doctor to figure that out. But even if he’d known the outcome, he’d have done the same thing if it meant Julie got the help she needed.

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