She stole you
by the twinkling stars
the fire light
you were never mine
Gavin Evans gripped the steering wheel with an intensity that turned his knuckles white before he changed the radio station. That song, why did that song have to be playing today? It was almost ten years old for crying out loud. He hated that song; it would tear apart everything inside of him if he had to hear the whole damn thing. It was only then that the other station decided to mind-fuck him as well as it played All I Need is an Angel, the song that started this entire mess. He pulled to the side of the road, getting out of his SUV and kicking his tire since it was the only thing he could do at that moment with his frustration.
He let out a guttural roar, hoping that would help calm him down. It didn’t. It couldn’t. In all honesty, the only person who could ever really calm him down, was the one who had just caused him to pull over to the side of the road. Chloe Cole, pop princess, international icon, star of stage and screen, love of his life, the one who slipped away, and he never understood why she sent him that break up letter, why she couldn’t do it face to face, or what he’d done to make her so angry.
He counted to ten before getting back in his car to drive to the location of his next possible job. He had everything he needed in the back of his SUV if they decided to hire him, and they should, Gavin Evans was the best at what he did. They would be idiots to not hire him.
He still couldn’t believe that, that song still got to him almost a decade since its release when it took the world by storm. At first he’d been proud of Chloe from afar, for all that she accomplished from something that started out as a dare. That was until he sat down and listened to her entire album, listened to the lyrics, looked them up online to confirm what he’d heard. She had painted him as the bad guy, made it sound like he cheated on her, when he never did, he never would. She was the one that ended things; he still had the letter—in his wallet, hell he even carried it with him every day when he was training for the Navy, and later the SEALS, on every mission he ever went on. He would look at it whenever he got nostalgic for the past, whenever he needed to remember life wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns.
As he drove down the country road he started to relax, it would be okay, he just couldn’t turn the radio on for a while, he knew if he did he would probably just be assaulted with one of her other songs, she really was successful. Every once in a while he would start to hear a song, and realize it was her voice. It always felt as though she was haunting him.
No one expected Chloe to end up a superstar, but she was, all thanks to a dare Jordan gave her and him encouraging her to do it. An open mic night performance of one of her favorite songs, All I Need is an Angel, and everything changed. Success was just around the corner, and she dropped him like he meant nothing to her, and then dragged him through the mud with the songs she wrote, how dare she? He never thought Chloe would turn out to be like, but she did. Had he ever even known her?
Gavin did the only thing he could think of to escape it all, he ran off and joined the Navy, he got lucky and with a lot of hard, grueling work he because a part of the SEALS. Now he was retired from the military, owned his own security business that if it wasn’t already, on its way to becoming the best in the country.
He arrived at the estate, he wasn’t even sure exactly who he was meeting with. All he knew was he’d already had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement before accepting the meeting. He rolled his window down and hit the call button, “Gavin Evans, I’m from Mad Dog Security, I’m expected.”
“Mad Dog Security,” The voice on the other end seemed confused, “Oh yes, I see you on the list. Come on in and park in front of the stairs.”
After the gate opened he pulled up the driveway, impressed with how expansive the property was, whoever this celebrity was they really had done well for themselves, but he could see places where the security could be improved upon already.
Waiting on the steps were two men in designer suits. Great he had to deal with the manager an agent, he hated dealing with them. They never really seemed to understand what the celebrity really needed and he had a feeling these two sure as hell were in over their heads.
“Mr. Evans, thank you for coming out here. We’re sure this is unusual circumstances, but we’re looking for the best bodyguard and security firm for our client.” The man with curly red hair explained.
“So when do I get to know who the client is, and what’s going on?”
“Well over the years she’s received the normal scary letters from fans, always had them turned over to law enforcement of course, but the last two months, it’s been an alarming number of letters coming from the same person. We don’t know who that person is, and we thought our security detail in place already could handle it, but—the letters have gotten a bit more personal in details. They know stuff the general public doesn’t, things they couldn’t know.” The other man with the dark, greasy hair explained.
Gavin nodded, “Okay, well I can already tell you where things need to be beefed up, especially at the gate. I got in here far too easily.”
“Yes, that was one of the things we were hoping you would say. We’re also requesting that you personally be her new bodyguard, twenty-four-seven.”
Gavin took a moment, “I charge a hefty fee for that.”
“We’re willing to pay you five times you’re going rate. We need her safe, we need her family safe.” They led him up the stairs, “You will be able to move in right away, correct?”
“My stuff is in the car.” He was always prepared, knowing the higher the profile client, the more likely they would want him personally on the case. And these guys wanted to pay him five times his normal fee; he would be a fool not to take this case.
“Great” They opened the front door and let Gavin in.
He was shocked that he didn’t see portraits of anyone greeting him. In every other celebrity house he’d been in he couldn’t escape them. Here he saw none. “Does she hate the way she looks in pictures?”
“She’s far more down to earth then most pop princesses.” The redhead explained.
A knot twisted in Gavin’ stomach, he decided it had to be due to hearing those damn songs earlier. “So who lives here on the property?”
“She does of course, and so does her ex-husband, their son, and her choreographer. Her parents come up on the weekends as does her younger brother, and of course her ex’s parents as well. All very friendly and cordial to be honest, sometimes we forget they’re not still married.”
“Well I would like to get a tour of the property, and of course meet everyone that lives here so we could get started.”
“Great, we’ll take you out to the dance studio, that’s where she and D.B. are working on a new routine for her upcoming tour, if this isn’t done by then you will have to go on tour with her.”
“I understand, I’ve done the tour thing before. I can handle it.” Gavin tried to ignore the chill that shot through him when they’d said D.B. though. “I’ll do whatever I can to keep her safe.”
“Great, wonderful, let’s sign the paperwork and get you that tour of the property.” The darker haired man said pulling a contract from his desk.
“Come on Chlo, you had this yesterday, what’s wrong today?” Dario Baker asked his dearest friend, his boss as she couldn’t seem to get through the simple routine that yesterday she had nailed three times.
Running her hands through her chocolate brown hair as she tried to catch her breath, “I don’t know, I feel this heaviness around me, I feel foggy. The energy is different today.”
Dario threw his head back and rolled his eyes, “Have some water and try it again.” He stepped back, towards the door of the studio to watch her when he started the music again.
Chloe took a long drink from her Nalgene before going back to the middle of the studio floor. A chill shot through her body just as she started the routine again, and the door opened, letting the afternoon sun flood the room. She found herself frozen as the oddly familiar figure entered. The moment she saw his meadow green eyes, everything faded and she crashed towards the floor.
“Chloe!” Dario called out as he raced over to her, only to be beaten by Gavin who caught her before her head hit the hardwood floor.
Dario stepped back as soon as he realized who had caught his friend, his eyes wide with shock. No wonder she fainted.
Gavin laid her on the floor raising her legs up to help restore the flow of blood. Part of him wanted to laugh; it was a total Chloe thing to do—faint upon seeing him, the other part of him boiled with a mixture of anger and worry.
Chloe’s eyes fluttered opened and they landed on Dario, “Dario—I think I need a break.”
“Yeah Snickers, I would say that.” He moved closer to her, brushing the hair from her eyes.
“I could’ve sworn I saw . . .” Her words trailed off when she felt her legs gently placed on the ground, she was afraid to look over.
“It’s okay, focus on me.” Dario instructed, “I’m going to sit you up in a moment, and then I want you to drink a little more water, and then Paul and Jenkins are going to escort you to your room.”
She took his hand, “You’re the best Dario.”
“I know.” He smiled before helping her sit up.
She focused on her breathing, on not looking at him. Who the hell did he think he was coming to see her now, after all this time? Did he really think he could stroll back into her life like he hadn’t cheated on her with her best friend?
“Drink up.” Dario handed her the Nalgene, his eyes boring into Gavin as he tried to focus on making sure Chloe was okay, “Paul, Jenkins, get her to her room. Don’t make me sic Mateo on you.”
The two men helped Chloe up, it was only then that she let herself look at Gavin. He’d changed; he had a beard now, not scruffy, but well maintained, thin and stylized really. His muscles had doubles, maybe tripled in size if that was possible. His blue t-shirt stretched across them and that alone was enough to make her feel faint.
The minute the door was closed Dario looked at Gavin; he had spent a good chunk of the last decade practicing what he would say. He had so many speeches about how disgusted he was with Gavin for sleeping with Jordan, for cheating on Chloe, for tearing her heart out after she’d finally found her talent, her passion. But he didn’t say any of that, he just balled his hand up into a fist and attempted to punch Gavin in the face, instead he was stopped by Gavin’ strong hand.
“What the fuck Dario?” That was not the reaction Gavin had expected from his oldest friend.
“How’s Jordan?” Bitter anger coated his voice.
Gavin really didn’t understand, “I don’t know, shouldn’t Chloe know that? They’re best friend.” He released his old friend’s fist.
Dario stumbled a bit as he looked up at Gavin, shaking his hand out, he was massive, he could probably twist him and Mateo into pretzels without much thought. “They haven’t been friends for a very long time. Mateo and I are her best friends.”
Dario went to the sound system turning it off, he could feel Gavin’ intense stare on him, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“You should be it’s your fault.” Dario sat on the bench, “Why are you here?”
Gavin ran a hand over his short hair, “I’m her new bodyguard.”
“Yeah, no way in hell,” Dario pulled his phone out from his pocket and quickly pulled up a number, “No way are you going anywhere near Chloe . . . Dude, get home ASAP. No the package is with Drew and Gaia, Mateo, I just met the new bodyguard; Gavin Evans. . . Okay great see you in a few minutes then.”
“What’s that about?” Gavin crossed his arms, trying to figure this situation out.
“You were my best friend Gavin, but I am not going to let you destroy her again, and neither is Mateo. You can’t be her bodyguard; Mateo will fix this all when he gets here.”
“I have a contract that says otherwise, trust me Dario, if I knew that it was Chloe I never would’ve come here, but they’re paying me five times my regular fee.” Gavin walked a circle around Dario, “And what does Mateo have to do with any of his, I thought Paul and Jenkins were in charge.”
Dario rolled his eyes, “To an extent, when it comes to protecting Chloe, Mateo has always taken the lead and while I know she has some crazy fan whose going too far, I know that having you around is just as bad, if not worse for her.”
Gavin felt a jealous protective energy flowing through his body, one he hadn’t felt in years, one that only surged through him when it was about Chloe, “Dario, I’m a former Navy SEAL, I’m the best at what I do, if Chloe needs to be protected, then I’m the man to do it. No matter what the past is. If I wasn’t the right man for the job I wouldn’t be here. Do you really want to trust Paul and Jenkins to find another bodyguard?”
Dario really looked at him, he’d always been strong and that was when he didn’t work at it. Years in the military, working at it had just added to his natural ability. He had a fire in his eyes when he spoke Chloe’s name, and Dario wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing, then again, it probably wasn’t a good thing when a woman spends a decade writing songs about you, how you hurt her, how she still carries that paint. “It’s up to Mateo, Chloe listens to him. They’re the best divorced couple I’ve ever known.”
Gavin felt as though he shrunk to two feet tall, “Chloe and Mateo were married?”
“Yeah, how did you not know, the whole country knew. It was all over the tabloids and blogs,” Dario found Gavin’ reaction curious, “Up and coming pop princess realizes she and her best guy friend are perfect for each other, or at least they thought, a whirlwind romance, a surprise wedding.”
“When did this happen?”
“After you broke her heart,” Mateo stood in the doorway of the studio, “I was already almost home when you called Dario.”
Gavin couldn’t believe it, Mateo was almost the same height as him now, almost as muscular as Gavin had been before his military training, “You married Chloe?”
“We were married yes, but we’re divorced now.” Mateo studied his old friend; he’d known that Gavin’ company had been considered, he didn’t think he would accept the job.
“I’m going to go check on her; she fainted when she saw him.” Dario grabbed his things and went to the door, he had no idea what was going to happen between the two men and he didn’t think he wanted to witness it.
“So, I guess I missed all the press about your relationship while I was off in training.” Gavin felt as though he and Mateo were circling each other, sizing the other up before they would rumble like in an old musical.
“For ten years I thought about what I would say to you if you had the balls to show up.” Mateo removed his sports coat, “I’m sure Dario had similar things to say.”
“He just attempted to punch me.”
“But you stopped him.” Mateo smiled for just a moment before letting it fade, “How could you Gavin, and with Jordan of all people.”
“I never did anything with Jordan, except that weird campfire thing in middle school and even then Mateo you know I didn’t kiss Jordan, I never could.” The honesty of his voice caused Mateo to stop and really look at him.
“You slept with Jordan, we all know you did.”
Gavin’ face read total confusion, “I never slept with Jordan! Where did you get that idea? Is that why Dario asked me about her? I feel like I’m missing a piece of the puzzle here.”
Mateo was right in his face, “Jordan told Chloe everything, all the dirty details.”
Gavin felt Mateo push him against the wall, he was in shock, and hadn’t thought it was possible, “What are you talking about, I never slept with Jordan. I never kissed her. Jordan and I never did anything together.”
Mateo hated that he believed Gavin, “Why did you and Chloe break up?”
“She sent me a letter; actually Jordan gave it to me.” He looked down at the floor, still allowing Mateo to pin him against the wall. “It’s in my wallet; you can see it for yourself.”
Mateo released him, bracing for the moment Gavin would pin him against the wall in retaliation.
Instead Gavin reached in his wallet and took out the letter, it was worn, it had been through hell and back, literally.
Mateo read it, twice before looking at Gavin, “Chloe didn’t write this.” Suddenly, the fear Mateo had carried with him for the past ten years seemed to be a reality.
Gavin really looked at the words on the page for the first time in a very longtime, maybe for the first time really. He could see what Mateo meant, the handwriting was off, the way the I’s were dotted wasn’t quite right. How had he never seen this before—because he’d been too angry at what the letter said, “Then who did?”
Mateo sucked in a breath, “I have an idea, but it actually doesn’t matter right now. We have more important things at hand. Chloe is in danger.” He saw the flicker of anger in Gavin’ eyes when he said that.
“I’ve been briefed, but I’m betting you know more than Paul and Jenkins.”
“I know more than Chloe does, she doesn’t know just how dangerous the situation is. If she did, I don’t know how she would react.”
“Just how bad is this Mateo?”
“Come with me, I’ll show you.” Mateo grabbed his sports coat: he would have to find a way to convince Chloe that Gavin was the best man for the job.
Gavin closed the folder, his stomach twisted in disgust before looking up at Mateo, “She really has no idea how bad this is?”
“She knows it’s getting worse, but she doesn’t know just how bad.” Mateo handed him another folder, “This is the one that really scared me, because the information in this letter isn’t public.”
Gavin cautiously took the folder; he opened the contents, studying the letters before looking up at Mateo, “Whose Gabe?”
Mateo swallowed air before answering, “Our son.”
Stabbed in the heart, it was the only way Gavin could describe the pain he was feeling right now. “Wow, I had, um no idea.”
“It’s not public knowledge.” Mateo looked at his old friend, “Chloe would do anything in this world to protect Gabe, to keep him safe.”
Gavin nodded, trying to ignore the stabbing feeling in his heart. Why did it hurt so much to discover that Chloe and Mateo had a child together?
“I understand.” Gavin looked up at his former best friend, “I’m going to keep the safe Mateo; you have to trust that if this is going to work.”
Mateo nodded part of him wishing he didn’t have to trust Gavin again, not after everything that had happened in the past. He wasn’t really sure what to believe, and right now he had more important things to worry about, like the safety of his son and ex-wife. “Of course, Gavin.”
“Where’s Gabe now?”
“He’s with Drew and Gaia, they’re in Philadelphia visiting his parents.”
“Do they have a security team with them?”
“No, they don’t.”
“They will in about a half an hour, call and tell them that Clark Griffin will be joining them.” Gavin pulled up a file on his phone, “You can send them this information so they can make sure it’s him that arrives.”
Mateo nodded as the files arrived on his phone, “Thank you Gavin.”
“It’s my job; you will have to do something for me.”
Gavin closed his eyes for a moment, “Get Chloe to accept my help. You and I both know that is no easy task for her.”
“I’m going to do my best; I have to convince Dario first. If he’s on the same side as me, it’ll be easier to convince Chloe.”
“I’ll send Jenkins and Paul down to finish showing you around, give them a list of the security upgrades you need and we’ll have them done by tomorrow.”
Chloe was shaking as she sat in the middle of her king sized bed. She wrapped a blanket around her shoulders trying to fight off the cold feeling that was settling over her. She almost jumped out of her skin when the door opened. She was thankful when she saw the kind smile and eyes of Dario instead of the glare from the ever familiar meadow green eyes.
“Mateo is talking to him right now, I’m sure he’ll be gone soon.” Dario sat on the bed next to her, wrapping her in his arms.
“Still with you parents in Philly,” Dario could feel her shaking, “I know you’re in shock right now, it’ll be okay.”
“What if Gavin finds out?”
“Shh, he’s not going to find out.” Dario knew he was lying, of course Gavin was going to find out, it would be obvious.
Chloe bit her lip as she braced herself for her own question, “Did he mention Jordan?”
“No, I asked, but he says he hasn’t seen or heard from her in years. I know that doesn’t make it any easier Chlo, but you are stronger then you think. You will get past this. It’s just a bump in the road, with any luck Mateo is giving him the heave-ho right now and we’ll just find a new bodyguard.”
“I just wasn’t prepared to see him.”
“None of us were.”
“He wasn’t always that big, was he?”
Dario smiled as he stroked her hair, “No, apparently he’s a former Navy SEAL; he probably bulked up a bit back then.”
“A Navy SEAL” She felt her heart tighten as she flashed on all the kinds of terrible things she could imagine, the danger he was in for God only knew how many years. “But he wanted to become a Veterinarian.”
“People change, maybe his dreams changed as well.” Dario could feel her starting to calm down, but he feared it wouldn’t last. The longer Gavin was here on the property, the more likely he would be to discover Gabe.
Chloe started laughing, “I always figured he would marry Jordan. I mean he threw us away to sleep with her. The least he could’ve done was go the distance.”
“I tried to punch him; he caught my fist and just held it.”
Chloe smiled, “its sweet of you to try and tangle with him Dario, but you know I don’t like that kind of thing, and you know what he’s capable of.”
“Yeah I do,” Dario sighed, “What if, he’s the right guy to be your bodyguard, at least for right now?”
Chloe pulled away from him, “Dario, I can’t. It’s taken me ten years to get to this place, and I fainted when I saw his eyes. I can’t have him around me.”
“Chloe” The door opened, Mateo popping his head in. “Dario, I think the three of us need to talk.”
Dario knew at that moment that Mateo had decided to keep Gavin as her bodyguard.
“Mateo, please, I can’t be around him.”
“He’s the best in the business Chloe, and things are bad.” He handed her the file, “It’s worse than we’ve let you know, but you need to know. Besides your Uncle Ethan recommended his firm. He uses them at the movie studio.”
Chloe’s fingers shook as she took the file; she sat it on the bed for a moment as she counted to ten trying to gather the courage to look at it. It only took a second to slam the file shut and hide her head against Dario’s shoulder.
“Gavin stays, we’ll keep your actual contact with him to a minimum, mostly when you go out, which I think for now you shouldn’t unless you have to.” Mateo sat on the bed, taking her hand in his, “Gabe is safe with your parents, and Gavin never has to know.”
“But he knows he exists, he’ll see the pictures, eventually, he will know.” Chloe spat out, pulling her hand from her ex-husband.
“I know this is difficult Chlo, but we have to trust him. It’s the only way to make sure that you and Gabe are safe.” Mateo watched her, he wished there was another way, but after today, he knew Gavin was the one they needed.
Chloe picked at her nail polish, “Mateo, did he mention Jordan?”
He released a heavy sigh, “That’s something the two of you need to discuss at a later time. But I can say that he hasn’t see Jordan since she gave him a letter from you breaking up with him.
Chloe furrowed her brow, “Huh?”
“Dario, let’s give Chloe some time alone.” Mateo’s tone informed his friend not to go against him right now.
“What the hell man?” Dario stood at the end of the hall outside of Chloe’s room, “You didn’t see it Mateo, she just dropped the moment she saw him. Hell she would’ve cracked her head on the dance floor if he hadn’t caught her.”
“Which is why he is the perfect person to protect her right now Dario.” Mateo started down the stairs.
“I don’t want to see her get hurt by him again.”
Mateo stopped causing Dario to almost run into him. “She won’t, come with me into my office.”
Dario followed him to the first floor room, it was a decent size, perfect for him to telecommute to Gautier International, and still spend plenty of time at home with Gabe, and be around to support Chloe when she needed it.
Mateo closed the door, locking it. “I asked him about sleeping with Jordan.”
“And he denied it; I asked the same thing, so? Why would Jordan tell Chloe every dirty detail if it didn’t happen?”
Mateo leaned against his glass desk, “I don’t know Dario, but it is weird she just vanished not long afterwards right? And Gavin had a letter supposedly from Chloe, he showed it to me. Whoever wrote it knew Chloe well enough to know what to say to push Gavin away, but still couldn’t capture her handwriting perfectly.”
Dario rubbed his forehead, “So you think Jordan plotted to break them up? That she saw this as a chance to end them?”
“I don’t know, but someone did and I think they at the very least used Jordan to make it happen. It’s a hypothesis for now. Just pay attention to the words he uses, the flash in his eyes when he says her name.”
“Yeah, I saw that.” Dario leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, “You and I both know she will always love him, no matter what she can’t force herself to fall out of love with him.”
“I know, trust me, as her ex-husband I know.” Mateo still had their wedding picture on his desk, he’d known going into the marriage it was mostly for show, protection, Chloe was pregnant and she desperately wanted Mateo to be her child’s father.
Both men were silent for a longtime when Dario finally looked up, “I think he might still love her.”
“We let them figure that out, we don’t meddle, we don’t push, which knowing us will be extremely difficult.” Mateo looked towards the door, “Besides, Gabe shouldn’t get in the middle of this more then he already is.”
“You are his Father; nothing is going to change that.” Dario wished he believed the words he was saying.