Home > Tempted (Masters and Mercenaries, #26.5)

Tempted (Masters and Mercenaries, #26.5)
Author: Lexi Blake


Ally Pearson looked over the glittering lights of Los Angeles and wondered how long it would be before she saw this view again. She loved her Los Feliz home on the hillside. When the realtor had brought her here, she’d known in an instant she would buy it. It wasn’t nearly as luxurious as her parents’ place in Santa Monica. That was a mansion. This was a really nice house, but it felt like home. When she’d stepped over the threshold, it had felt like a new beginning.

It had felt like she was leaving the past behind and concentrating on her real work, her real self.

The past, it seemed, wasn’t finished with her.

“Hey. I brought you some tea.” Her mother stepped onto the terrace. It was attached to the primary bedroom and overlooked the pool and the hillside.

Some mornings she sat out here and drank coffee and thought about how good it was to have a safe place.

It wasn’t safe anymore.

She took the tea from her mom. “Thanks.”

Her mother was silent for a moment. It was how Ally knew she was steeling herself for a talk. They always cut those long moments out of the reality TV show they’d starred in for years. When her mom had one of her mom talks with her, they would cut away from that long moment before she began. The producers wanted her to look more assertive, but there was something intimate about that moment. Her mom rarely had a filter. She said what was on her mind and didn’t care what anyone thought. Except when she paused like this, Ally knew it was serious. Whatever her mother said next meant something.

She was glad they did those cutaways because this moment was meant for her and her sister and her stepdad. Not for the fans of Match Made in Hollywood. She’d loved the show and sharing it with her mom and stepdad, but it had been a relief to shut down the day-to-day production. She’d bought this place when she’d moved out of their mansion in Gillette Regent Square. Los Feliz had been her new start, and she loved it because it was full of accomplished people and up-and-comers. She fit in here better than her parents’ old-money neighborhood.

But she had the feeling she wasn’t staying here for long.

“Your stepfather and I have been talking,” her mom began. “Sweetheart, this can’t go on. Do you know what could have happened tonight?”

She took a deep breath and then turned her mother’s way. “I think murder could have happened. At least that’s what the cops think. Maybe if the guy had cut my head off they would do something about him.”

She strode back into the bedroom, stubborn will settling in even though she knew she would give in eventually. But damn it, she should be safe in her own home.

Her mom walked right behind. “Don’t talk like that. Allyson, this is the third time we know that he’s been close to you physically. It’s one thing to troll you on social media. It’s another thing to follow you to events. This is getting serious. He’s escalating.”

Ally kept walking because if she didn’t involve her stepdad, she would have to have this talk twice, and she didn’t want to. “I’ll get a dog. I’ll get a big mean dog who loves me and no one else, and if this guy shows up again, puppy will eat him and I’ll bury the bones in the garden.”

She made it to her kitchen, which rarely was used to do more than heat up the meals she had delivered once a week.

“A dog is not going to solve the problem.” There was her stepdad. Gavin Jacks had been a journeyman actor for forty years. At sixty, he could still play leading men with actresses in their twenties. Ally’s contemporaries.

It was gross, and she was happy when he’d told his agent he wouldn’t act in any production where his character’s romantic partner was younger than forty.

“I put in the security system. I’m careful about coming and going. I have a gun, and I know how to use it.” She kind of wished her stalker had still been in the house when she’d come home. Then the problem might be over.

“You need round-the-clock security,” her stepdad said gravely. He was more casual than normal, but that was probably because he’d been pulled out of bed at one in the morning when the cops called him.

He had friends in the LAPD because he’d played law enforcement characters so often. Those friends did not care about her privacy. She could have handled the situation, but no, her parents had come flying in to save the day.

Could she handle the situation? Damn, but she was tired.

When she’d seen what he’d done to her living room, she’d stood there for a moment, and it hadn’t been fear that had risen up inside her. It hadn’t been anger at her safe place being violated.

It had been genuine confusion. She’d stood there and looked at the dead birds he’d lain out on her living room floor like some offering and wondered what she’d done to deserve this. All she’d ever wanted was to do what she loved and make a living. She’d wanted to entertain people.

She’d wondered where he’d gotten the birds from and if they’d suffered and why he’d needed to use them to spell out the word WHORE on her coffee table. She’d wondered why he couldn’t have sent her a note instead.

All those poor birds dead because one man hated her.

A man who didn’t even know her.

Then she’d heard a car screeching down the street and realized it was probably him, and that was when the anger hit.

“He got around the security system,” her stepdad pointed out. “I don’t know how, but I’m going to find out. I’m hiring a security team to go over everything. Until then, your mother and I think you should spend the week with us in Santa Monica, and you should think about pulling out of the project you start next Monday.”

Oh, that was not happening. “Absolutely not. Do you have any idea how hard I had to fight for this chance? I’ve starred in every rom com that’s come my way because I’ve tried to build some kind of a box office record that erases my reality star past.”

“That show is the reason you have this house.” Her mother always got defensive about the show. Probably because it had been her idea. She was a momager of the highest order and had been since Ally’s sister starred in her first commercial as a kid.

Her sister, Brynn, was out of the business, but this was Ally’s dream. “I know. I wouldn’t take it back, Mom. It opened a lot of doors for me, but it’s closed some, too. This is a great part. It’s a dramatic part, and with a director who has three Oscars under his belt. I’m not walking away because some asshole left dead birds all over the place. Besides, it takes me out of LA for three whole months.”

“I think he followed you to New York,” her stepdad reminded her.

“That was a press tour. I’ll be on set most of the time.” She’d been dreading the three months on set in Dallas where she knew no one and would likely be an outsider in the cast, but now it seemed like a haven.

And she would show all those snobs that she had talent, too.

“And when you’re not?” her mother asked. “When you’re in a hotel room alone at night?”

“I won’t be alone. I’ll call Greg.” Greg had been her driver for the last couple of years. She’d met him in small-town Louisiana where he’d started his own golf cart limo business he called Guber. She was his only client, and her being driven around LA in a tricked-out golf cart had been one of the fans’ favorite things about the show.

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