Behind the Makeup (MF)
[BookStrand Contemporary Romantic Suspense, HEA]
Elizabeth Rhey is a world-class singer who has come home to Northwest London to complete the final dates of her last tour. Then her wayward brother gets in trouble with the police again, and she is about ready to wash her hands of him. Only he’s dead. She finds herself caught up in a police investigation, where her past secrets catch up with her.
Gareth Buchanan is Beth’s bodyguard. It wasn’t his chosen career, just one he landed on after taking a break from the police force. When Beth’s brother is killed and the investigation around his death unravels, he finds himself getting very close to Beth. With a desperate need to protect her, Gareth is forced to confront his own ghost.
Both their lives are turned upside down as they find out who is behind her brother’s death. Can they face their past to find peace for their future?
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
Beth had arrived dressed and ready for the show. Her black bodice style dress accentuated the natural curves of her bust and hips, before it loosened its grip on her body and flared out just below her knee. Her chocolate brown hair was swept up in a messy bun, with the odd curl escaping its pin. At twenty six, she still turned heads in a tracksuit—let alone a figure hugging dress—thanks to her big chocolate eyes and captivating smile that showed her dimples.
She went through her breathing exercises, taking control of the adrenalin pumping through her body. Then she circled her neck to relieve the tension that had built up there.
Now she was ready to take to the stage.
She was escorted from her dressing room, toward the back of the stage, where she would make her entrance. The supporting act had finished their performance, allowing her to get into position. Beth waited for her cue from the stage manager, and then took the first four steps onto the stage in darkness, her silhouette visible to the audience as their chanting turned into screams. Her name was being shouted and they were stamping their feet. This is why she loved her job. The crowed always moved her. As she walked on centre stage the lights flicked on and the screaming grew even more intense. Blinded by the sudden illumination, she listened for the music to start for her first track. Her eyes adjusted to the change in light as she brought the mic to her lips and sang that ever important first note.
* * * *
The after-party on the first night was more of a PR exercise, but it had to be done. Really all Beth wanted to do was curl up in bed and sleep. She never slept well on the road, but while she was in her hometown, she could sleep in her own bed, in her own house. Except she was in the Royal Box, with a number of other celebrities ranging from footballers and their wives, to singers and even the odd MP. She loved that her style of opera music brought a variety of people together.
Beth watched them with interest. She could see a lot more about a person by watching them. She mostly looked at the women, who hung off their boyfriend’s, longer-term partner’s, or husband’s arms. The façade of happiness plastered all over their faces. But you could see the strain on the relationship hidden right behind their eyes. Of course not all of them were unhappy. There were a few couples whose eyes smiled when they caught the sight of their loved one, or when their lover’s hand wrapped itself around their waist. Beth swallowed down the wanting feeling she always got when in such company. One day, she promised herself.
Amanda stood in front of Beth, her eyes watery and her eyebrows furrowed. “What’s the matter Amanda?” Beth asked her PA.
“I need to talk to you, in private, Beth.” Then she led the way out of the Royal Box.
As Beth exited the room, she was met with her manager Matt Anderson and Gareth. Amanda stopped in her tracks and turned to face her.
“It’s your brother, Beth. There was a car accident.”
It was as if time slowed down. Beth could hear the blood rushing in her ears, drowning out Amanda’s words. She looked at all their faces and she knew it was bad.
“Where is he? When did this happen?” She managed to ask, her voice displaying more anger than worry.
“About an hour ago. All we know is that he was involved in some kind of police chase.”
She should have guessed it was something like that. Her brother had been in more trouble than she cared to remember. But she always bailed him out. Not this time. He was going to have to learn to stand on his own two feet and face the consequences. Only yesterday had he argued with her, telling her she was far too prim and proper. He accused her of only having a problem with the way he was because he actually lived his life and didn’t care what other people thought. She told him to leave after he said she was too afraid to live life to its full potential, because she was too scared of making a mistake and having it splashed across the news. Of course she knew he was intoxicated with something or another and was talking utter crap, but his words still stung deep.
“So what does he want this time?” She spat the words out with exactly the required amount of ice.
Amanda took her arm and the woman’s eyes filled with tears again.
“It’s not that simple, Beth,” she whispered. “He didn’t make it.”
Beth took a step back, her gaze fixed on Amanda’s. “What do you mean he didn’t make it?” She almost shouted as panic and dread filled her veins.
“We need to get you out of here,” her manager Matt said. “I’ll go and make the necessary speeches. Amanda, can you travel with Jim and me in the exit car for the press diversion? Until we know more, let’s keep her out of their way. Gareth, can you get Beth to the hospital?”
“Of course,” Gareth replied as he took Beth in his arms and guided her toward her dressing room to gather her purse.