In his line of work as a private investigator, Sebastian Marks has seen it all. At least he thought he had until he meets international singing sensation, Eve Hall. When a stalker threatens her wellbeing, she begrudgingly agrees to move in with Sebastian.
Though neither of them is happy with the arrangement, they find themselves drawn to the other. Will they be able fight the growing attraction? Or will they give in to the passion sizzling between them?
Eve Hall sat in the backseat of a sleek, black Mercedes CLS550 Coupe with her eyes locked on the window. Though she had a pair of thick sunglasses on, she did everything she could to avoid the penetrating glares from her agent, Lydia Garcia. The tall, curvy woman with long, silky, jet-black hair, dark black eyes, and flawless caramel skin had been blabbering on and on about how this was her only choice. Shifting in the leather seat, Eve stifled her sigh. One moment she had everything, and in the next, she found herself cowering away like a lost little girl afraid of the big bad wolf.
Spending every night in one nightclub after another, she’d spent years pouring her heart and soul into every song she sang. All Eve wanted was to make music, to stand on a large stage, and let her voice carry her name into history. Just when she was beginning to lose her faith, Lydia came barreling into her life and offered her everything — greedily, Eve took it. One album was all it took. In an instant, she was being called the next big superstar. Now, she had put her career on hiatus. Six months — that’s all it took for her life to spiral out of control.
“Are you listening to me?” Lydia huffed.
“Trying my hardest not to,” Eve muttered, reluctantly looking over at the other woman. A strand of her dark, mocha hair fell into her face. Eve brushed it back with her hand. Lydia rolled her eyes, before closing the manila folder lying in her lap. “Oh joy, here we go.”
“You know I am doing this for you,” she hissed. “To try to keep you safe. The least you could do is be a little grateful.”
“I am grateful,” Eve lied, planting her best smile on her face. “You’re dumping me off on someone else, trusting my life with a complete stranger. Why shouldn’t I be happy, right?”
“That’s not what this is and you know it.” Lydia sighed. “This asshole is getting too close, and until we can figure out how to stop him, we have to be extra careful.”
The car stopped outside a large, three-story brownstone. Adjusting her sunglasses, Eve shook her head. “You don’t have to explain anything to me, Lydia. I’m used to being thrown away.”
Eve opened the back door before Daniel Morrison, Lydia’s driver, could do it. He went to place his hand on her shoulder, but she stepped away, able to hide her flinch in the process. She trusted Daniel; however, right now she didn’t want him, or anyone else, to touch her. Lydia muttered under her breath as she joined Eve on the sidewalk. With a nod, she motioned for Eve to follow her up the front stoop.
Lydia paused outside of the front door, running her perfectly manicured fingernail down to the button labeled simply as ‘Marks.’ Pushing it in, they heard a buzz just moments before a female voice came trickling out of the speaker. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, I’m Lydia Garcia. I have an appointment with Sebastian Marks.” From above Eve and Lydia, a small security camera swiveled toward them. Eve crossed her arms in front of her, resisting the urge to lift her middle finger up. Nothing quite like the feeling of being watched, she thought.
“First door on the left.” Without another word, the door buzzed open. Eve and Lydia were quick to step inside, neither of them wanting to stand idly by. A shiver ran through Eve at the thought of someone watching her.
The entry area of the building was beautiful. There were a handful of potted plants just inside and the walls leading up the stairs had a fresh coat of glossy mauve paint on it. Eve snorted under her breath. It was too nice. It was almost as if they were trying to offer a sense of security, which alone was ironic seeing as everything in her life was unraveling at the seams.
Lydia grabbed Eve’s arm, dragging her to the door to the left side of the hallway. Bringing her hand up, she thwacked her knuckles against the hard wood three times. A few moments later it was pulled open and they found themselves face to face with a thin woman with long, black hair, with red streaks coursing through it. Her cocoa-colored eyes shifted between Daniel to Lydia before finally coming to a rest on Eve. The corner of her lips twitched like she was struggling to stop herself from smirking.
Spinning on her heel, the woman headed back into what looked like an apartment instead of an office like Eve was expecting. “Have a seat in the living room.”
Lydia scowled, but dragged Eve inside. Daniel followed, closing the door behind them. Instead of joining them in the living room, he chose to stay next to the door. The moment Lydia sat down on the black leather sofa, she had her phone out and was texting her assistant. Eve felt too antsy to sit. She walked around the room, stopping at an entertainment center and picking up a photo of the woman who had answered the door.
In the picture, she sat in front of a dark blue tent. A man with wavy blond hair and shocking blue eyes had his arm wrapped around her waist. He was looking down at her like she was the only woman he’d ever seen. From the way the woman’s body wrapped around the man, it would appear the feeling was mutual. Eve bit her lip, stopping herself from smiling. She could only imagine what it must feel like for someone to love you that much.
“Don’t you know it’s rude to touch other people’s belongings?” Startled, Eve dropped the photo. It bounced off the toe of her leather boot and flopped to the ground.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered, hastily placing the frame back where she’d picked it up from. Mentally cursing herself, she turned around, somehow managing to stifle her gasp.
Standing three feet in front of her was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. He was tall, towering a good foot over Eve. The man had silky blond hair that just begged to be touched. However, what she noticed the most were his amazing, green eyes. They almost seemed to sparkle. Tilting his head back, his gaze traveled down the length of Eve’s body, a smarmy smirk tugging at the corner of his lips.
“Hmm, so you’re Eve Hall, huh?” he scoffed. “I expected more.”
Clenching her hands into fists, she gritted out, “Who are you?”
“My name is Sebastian Marks, sweetheart.” He turned to Lydia, who was still on her phone. He cleared his throat, pulling her attention to him. “If I’m stopping you from something else, please feel free to leave. I wouldn’t want to waste any of your precious time, Ms. Garcia.”
“Oh, you’re fine.” Lydia waved him off, clearly not hearing the underlining sarcasm in his statement. Eve laughed, earning a lifted eyebrow from Sebastian. “And please, call me Lydia. Now . . .”
Sebastian held up his hand, cutting her off in midsentence. “Let’s take this to my office.”
Without waiting for either of the women to respond, he spun on his heel and headed down a short hallway, turning into the room on the left. Lydia gaped after him, put off by his demeanor. Though she tried to hide it, Eve thought it was hilarious. She followed him, knowing that Lydia would be right behind her. Eve made her too much money; there was no way Lydia would allow one snide comment to stop her from protecting her investment. And make no mistake, that’s all Eve was to her.
Sebastian was sitting behind a large oak desk when Eve walked inside. He motioned for her to take one of the two leather chairs opposite him. Lydia followed her a moment later, sliding into the other seat. However before she could utter a word, Sebastian leaned forward and rested his elbows on his desk.
“Let me make a few things clear before we begin,” he started. “I am not a babysitter. I don’t put up with diva attitudes, or high-maintenance little bitches who think the world should bow down at their feet. My job is to protect you, to keep you safe. Period. If you don’t abide by my rules then you’re on your own. Do you understand?”
“Eve will . . .”
Once again, Lydia was cut off when Sebastian held up a hand. “Do you understand, Miss Hall?”
“Yeah,” Eve replied, folding her arms in front of her.
Nodding his head, he turned back to Lydia. “Now, tell me what you think is going on?”
“Six months ago, Eve started receiving threatening letters.” Lydia slid her manila folder across his desk. Sebastian, however, simply brushed it to the side. “The letters are inside there.”
“Okay,” he said, but still he didn’t open the folder.
Lydia huffed, but continued. “They started off harmless enough, most of them just talking about how much he loved her.”
“He?” Sebastian asked. “How can you be sure it’s a man?”
“Oh, well, I guess we just assumed,” she mumbled. He snorted, but didn’t say anything else. “Well, like I was saying, at first they seemed harmless, but they’ve become more intense. Somehow, and we’re not entirely sure how, he managed to get close enough to get pictures of her.”
“No offense, but your girl here lives in the spotlight. There are a lot of people taking her picture. How can you be sure they aren’t from one of the tabloids?”
Lydia shook her head before standing up and opening the folder. Grabbing the photo on the top, she held it up in front Sebastian. “Does this look like your standard paparazzi snapshot?”
Sebastian took it from her, leaning back in his seat. The photograph showed Eve stepping out of the shower, her bare back left very little to the imagination. Her creamy, ivory skin had been decorated by two tattoos; a large blue and pink butterfly on her right shoulder and a guitar with orange and red flames on her left hip. Sebastian shifted in his seat, trying to adjust his erection. Eve was a beautiful woman; his desire to be near her would only hinder his ability to do his job. Yet, he struggled to tell her no. Shifting his eyes from the photograph to the woman sitting across from him, he took in her defensive posture. Though she was trying her hardest to hide it, her fear was pouring off of her.
Placing the photo back into the folder, Sebastian ran a frustrated hand over his face and through his hair. “Okay, I’ll take her on, but I have one condition.”
“What’s that?” Lydia asked while Eve merely looked at him.
“She moves in here with me.” The moment the words left his mouth, Eve was on her feet, a fire flashing through her eyes. Sebastian found it amusing and highly erotic.
“Oh, fuck no!” she spat. “I am not moving in with you! For all I know you’re some sort of crackpot.” Eve turned to Lydia. “Tell him I’m not moving in here.”
“I can’t,” she replied, standing up. “Like it or not, Eve, he’s the only choice you have left. If we don’t get this person off the streets, then Northern Star Records will have no choice but to drop you.”
Eve’s eyes fluttered to a close as she released a shaky breath. “Fine, whatever, it doesn’t matter. He’ll be just one more person trying to take control of my life.”
The next day, Daniel delivered Eve and her belongings to her new home. She hadn’t hidden the fact that she wasn’t happy about moving in with a complete stranger, but if she was honest with herself, she could think of worse men to live with. Sebastian had left an impression on her, whether that was good or bad still remained a mystery.
Eve had expected to take one of the rooms in the apartment they’d visited the day before; however, Amanda Marks, Sebastian’s sister-in-law and assistant, directed Eve and Daniel to head to the third floor. Before Eve could thank her, Amanda slammed the door in her face. Biting back a retort, Eve bustled passed Daniel and hurried up the stairs.
The iron door was wide open when they reached the top floor. Daniel muttered under his breath for her to wait, but Eve ignored him and headed inside. Eve had expected to be living in a bachelor’s pad, but that’s not what she found, not even close. The apartment she walked into had vaulted ceilings and several windows that faced out over the city. The living room, dining room, and kitchen all flowed together, creating a large, open space. The walls were all a beige color, except for one that had been painted a deep red.
Sebastian walked down the hallway, pausing for a moment when he found Eve standing there. Clearing his throat, he headed toward the front door and muttered, “You can dump her shit in the guest room.”
“Excuse me, it’s not shit,” Eve snarked. Sebastian turned and looked at her. “My belongings aren’t shit, and I’d appreciate it if you’d remember that.”
“Duly noted, sweetheart,” he replied, before walking out of the apartment.
Eve ducked her head down and followed Daniel to what she guessed was the guest room.
The walls were a sage green with two large picture windows overlooking the city. There was a large walk in closet with built in shelving. Eve checked out the attached bathroom next. There were black marble counter tops, a large tub with whirlpool jets and a massaging showerhead. The apartment was perfect — too perfect.
“Do you need anything else, Eve?” Daniel asked.
She shook her head, blinking back the tears that had begun to burn in the corners of her eyes. “No.”
Daniel nodded his head before leaving her alone. Sitting on the edge of the queen-sized bed, Eve brought her hand up to her chest, trying to quell the panic setting in. She’d been left in a strange apartment with a man she didn’t know. This was hell.
The Apartment is part of Summer Confections, Book Two in The Candy Collection. Released on June, 19, 2012.