The Soldier and the Bodyguard (Ellery Mountain #10) - R.J. Scott Page 0,1

the rest of JC’s life, and mine.

Because I was never leaving his side.

“Adrian? Are they taking it out?”

“Soon, JC,” I lied and leveled a glare at the doctor to warn him not to say a word. Every time JC asked me if the bullet would one day come out, I told him “soon,” and then he’d forget, until he asked me again.

Every time I lied to him another small part of me died.

“At this time, given everything I have here, our recommendation remains one of therapy…”

I glanced over at JC's grandmother, Georgina, who was sitting upright in her chair and showing no emotion. That was her upbringing, her station, her belief in what was right, but I'd seen her cry. Hell, I'd held her when she sobbed; so, I knew that the surface was calm, but under it all, there was indescribable grief. The three of us left the office—JC still holding my hand, leaning on me for support—and we made our way back to the car with careful and slow steps. The chauffeur opened the door for us, and as soon as we were inside, Georgina turned to me with determination.

“I found a place in Tennessee, rehab, horticultural therapy. There are stables nearby, no paparazzi, no one would know he was there. I want JC to go.”

My chest tightened. What would he do without me next to him? What would I do without caring for him and loving him the best way I could?

“To Tennessee?”

JC used my shoulder as a headrest and closed his eyes, mumbling something under his breath.

“They won't come to us here,” she pursed her lips, “but I understand why. There's affection at the center, warmth, love, and support.”

“Okay, if it’s the right place for him, then I’ll take him there,” I insisted. But I wouldn’t leave him. Hell, I was already making plans to rent close to wherever he was, just a small place where I could see him every day. I didn't care if we were co-dependent because I knew him better than I knew myself, and I was staying.

“I don't want you just to take him; I want you to go with him and stay. As his…” She waved a hand as if she expected me to fill in the words.

“Friend?” I suggested with caution.

“You're his friend already. At this moment in time, he needs more than just a friend; he needs you to step up and keep him safe from the threats that circulate around this damn family.” She dipped her head, as if she couldn’t believe she’d cursed. “Away from his parents, and I need you to create a security team. I need you to be his bodyguard.”

“Okay.”

“To never leave his side.”

“I won’t ever leave his side.”

“To keep my grandson safe.”

“You have my word.”

She reached over and took my hand, glancing at JC, who had drifted into sleep. “I know you love him more than you let him know.” She couldn't know how much I loved JC. Could she? Not even JC knew what I really felt.

“I don’t…” Words were hard, but her perception was legendary.

“You don’t need to lie to me. Love my grandson, wholly and completely, and keep him safe.” She laced her fingers with mine.

I nodded. “Always.”

TWO

JC

Present day – Ellery Veterans Center

The mirror lied.

It might show me my face, but that was it and it only revealed the parts of me that the world could see. I have blond hair, but wet from the shower, it was darker; and I could push it right back and flat. When it’s dry, it tends to curl, something I’d inherited from my mom; but as it got longer, I'd started tying it back, not letting one single curl escape. My eyes are blue, but just saying they were blue is underselling them. Along with my mom's curls, I had my dad's piercing blue gaze, the same eyes I saw staring down at me from billboards. Not that I saw much of them to remember the shapes of their faces, and the only reference I have now is photos in glossy magazines. Turns out that a crippled son is worse than useless for social media likes, and I hadn’t seen either of them since the one time they’d visited me in the hospital. Dad lived in Hollywood; my mom split her time between Paris and Milan; and somehow, the two of them had one of the longest marriages in Tinseltown.

Probably because they were never together.

Neither of my parents were hands-on when it