Fri
Aug 25 2017 12:09pm

Sidney Halston Excerpt: Last First Kiss

Sidney Halston

Last First Kiss by Sidney Halston

He's an A-list Hollywood heartthrob.

She's trying to prove herself in a man's world.

For this female bodyguard, protecting her client is simply business, but what happens when sparks fly and the danger heats up?

After a series of box office flops, Rocco Monroe needs a hit. Bad press, shit talking, rumors, lies…it all goes with the territory after almost two decades in the spotlight, but when he lands the role of his career in a controversial biopic, the part of a lifetime comes with a catch: a hired bodyguard.

Annabelle Clad is so bored she wants to scream. Her life is coding and algorithms and binary codes…rinse and repeat. To her Rocco Monroe means freedom, a chance to show her overprotective brother and business partner that she can contribute to Iron Clad Securities. And no arrogant playboy will fuck up her concentration by batting his lashes at her. She would never jeopardize her reputation by swooning over any man.

That had happened once, and she wouldn’t bear that loss or humiliation ever again. Even if Rocco looks like a walking fantasy...

Get a sneak peek at Sidney Halston's Last First Kiss (available August 29, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

CHAPTER ONE

Critically acclaimed director Steven Spelling has another controversial film in the works. El Traficante is the true story of Gabriel Mendoza, Colombia’s infamous drug lord—hated by many but idolized by more. Adding to Spelling’s unorthodox style, it is rumored that none other than American heartthrob and rom com king Rocco Monroe is set to play the cartel kingpin himself. This can make or break Monroe’s career after a series of box office flops. Monroe, known more for his abs and his latest sexcapades than his acting skills, will be . . .

Anger that had been at a constant simmer for the last two weeks was now boiling over. The less than complimentary writeup in Actor’s Weekly was just one of the many articles and news stories appearing on every entertainment channel and news rag since NHN Studio leaked the casting of El Traficante.

Unable to control his temper, Rocco tossed his iPad against the nearest wall. The sound of glass shattering did nothing to mask the roar that came from his lips.

“Did that make you feel better?” Paul Allen, his agent and best friend, asked.

Breath heaving in and out, Rocco stood up, walked to his kitchen, and grabbed a bottle of water. “Maybe,” he mumbled petulantly. “What the hell, man? I mean, a series of box office flops? That’s bullshit, Drunk Crush and Bachelor Party made over two hundred and eighty-eight million dollars! Each! How the hell is that a flop?”

Rocco took a long drink.

He knew how.

His previous movies, when he had been at the peak of his career, had made more than five hundred million dollars. So sure, by his standards, the last two movies hadn’t performed as well as they’d hoped, but not when compared to any other movie star. Hell, Ryan Reynolds wished for that kind of streak.

But he wasn’t just any movie star, he was Rocco fucking Monroe.

If you wanted your new line of underwear to sell, you hired Rocco Monroe to model it. If you wanted your line of purple polka dot skinny jeans to become the new “in” thing, you had Rocco Monroe strut them on the red carpet on his way to a movie premiere. And if you wanted to see the star quarterback fall in love with the school nerd, you hired Rocco Monroe to play the hot older brother who made his dumb younger brother come to his senses and see the nerd as the swan she really was, because that is what sold hundreds of millions of dollars in tickets.

Paul snagged his own bottle of water and took a gulp, letting Rocco get all the anger out instead of interrupting. No one knew him better than Paul, and right now Rocco just needed time to vent.

“ . . . And, I can be a serious actor. Some of those movies? Women cried. In Mr. Dancy when I held Eleanor’s hand while she was fighting cancer, dude, that was fucking epic. I choke up just thinking about it. My movies have heart.” He continued to pace, riling himself up with every step he took. “I mean, really . . . who do they think they are? They don’t know how many times I’ve read that script. I’m going to blow their fucking minds! My accent is on fucking point, man. On fucking point!”

Paul leaned back on the chair. “You finished?”

Glaring at his friend, he pulled the other chair from his kitchen table and sat down. After a very deep exhale, Rocco finally said, “Yeah, I’m finished.” Of course he was finished. Bad press, shit talking, rumors, lies . . . it all went with the territory and after almost two decades in the spotlight, he had thick skin. Well, thickish skin. He just needed to get that frustration out and move on. Prove the press wrong. He was still relevant and this movie would show everyone he could be a serious actor.

Paul, ever the calm, cool, and collected guy, pulled out the leather notebook he always used to take copious notes. Rocco never understood why, with so much technology and money, Paul was still writing things down with pen and paper, but he did. All the damn time.

“So, there’s news. The studio’s been getting a shit-ton of beef from hate groups. Whites who hate Hispanics. Hispanics who hate whites. Colombian nationalists, Colombian exiles, Colombian fucking socialites, Americans who like Colombian coffee . . . everyone.”

“We knew the film would draw attention.” A movie about the man who made many rich, who was both a hero to the common man and also a ruthless murderer wanted across the globe . . . yeah, it would absolutely draw attention.

“This isn’t just attention, buddy.” Paul swiped his phone, found something, and turned it around so that Rocco could see. “There was a riot in Bogota last night when the first news of the set location came out.”

Rocco flipped through some of the photos. “Riot? Maybe a small gathering.” He tried to lighten the situation but the more he looked the worse it got.

“Monroe. This is serious.” When Paul put on his agent voice, Rocco listened. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, it meant something had to be processed and dealt with. “Ten people were arrested. Five were injured.”

Rocco took the phone out of Paul’s hand and brought it right to his face. His spine stiffened. “Is that me?”

Paul sat back, comfortably. “The mannequin with the decapitated body and the brains splattered all over the Colombian flag? Yep, that’s your big fat mug. Great artistic detail. The way your blood drips from your neck is a nice touch, don’t you think?”

Rocco shut down the screen and handed it back to Paul. “Jesus Christ. It’s just a movie.”

“Not for these people. For these people, Mendoza was a god. Still is. Did you know that the most popular name in Colombia is Gabriel? ”

“Thanks for the trivia, man.” Rocco rolled his eyes. “Well, people are just overreacting. Once they see the movie they’ll know it’s not a Mendoza hate film. It’s practically a documentary.”

“People don’t always want to hear the truth, and the truth is Mendoza wasn’t such a great guy.”

“It’s a love story.” Rocco shrugged. “No one hates love stories.”

Paul held out both his index fingers and thumbs as if tracing the headline of a newspaper. “The tragic love story between Mendoza and his much younger wife Victoria, set in the jungles of Colombia where he had a palatial estate amidst his miles and miles of coca plants and the thousands of laborers he housed, fed, and kept content while the rest of Colombia’s population faced poverty from the corrupt government. Yeah. Beautiful story.”

“Aren’t you Little Miss Debbie Downer today.” He glared at his friend.

“Not a downer, realistic. Come on man, the love story is just to get a wider audience, and you know that,” Paul added. “There’s plenty of reason for people to be upset by this biopic. From his supporters to his victims.”

“Whatever,” Rocco relented, downing the rest of his water. If he wasn’t about to go work out, he’d be serving himself scotch. This was a scotch-on-the-rocks kind of conversation. “Okay, so now I know. People are angry.”

Paul leaned forward a bit. Shit, more bad news was coming. “There’s more. The studio’s going to have to shoot most of the film on a lot here in Miami. They can’t get permission to shoot on location and even if they did, it’s not safe, that’s how bad it is.”

Shit. He never expected this kind of reaction. He’d read the script and wanted the role, badly. It was his chance to shine, to be taken seriously. Boipics always brought extra attention, which he had expected. Truthfully, though, he hadn’t known enough about Colombian politics to understand the backlash this film would cause when he’d signed on for the part. But not filming in Colombia? No . . . that could not happen. Slamming his palms on the table, Rocco leaned forward. “We have to shoot on location! This is total fucking bullshit. It won’t be authentic otherwise. And if this movie flops because it looks like a total shit show, then my career really is on the line.”

Paul calmly closed his notebook. “I know. I’m working on it, trust me. I’ve expressed to the studio the importance of filming on site. They’re working on finding a safe location.” Then he pushed the notebook aside and exhaled. “But meanwhile, they want you tailed.”

“Tailed? As in a bodyguard?” Rocco asked, surprised. This was not where he had expected the conversation to go. He thought Paul was going to tell him that the movie was going to be cancelled or maybe he was getting replaced by a less controversial actor, someone who would appease the Colombian people. Someone who’d made more serious films, who wasn’t seen with different women in his arms on every rag, or someone from Colombia who could identify with its people.

But a bodyguard? No, he hadn’t expected that. He wasn’t in any physical danger, the issues were overseas, not in Miami. A bodyguard was overkill.

“Yep,” Paul said, scribbling on a page in his notebook and shutting it closed. “Here.” He took out a business card from his back pocket and slid it over to Rocco. “You have an appointment next week with Iron-Clad Security. They’re going to set you up.”

“I am not going to be tailed for the next four months.”

Paul grinned. “You most certainly are, buddy.”

“Paul . . .”

Paul sat back, crossing his ankle over his knee. “Gonna lay it out for you straight, Rock.” Now this was his best friend talking. Not his agent. And when his best friend laid it out, he knew it would hurt. It was going to be straightforward. No bullshit. “You’re knocking on forty’s door—”

“I’m thirty-fucking-seven, just like you, motherfucker.”

“I’m not on screen,” Paul volleyed. “Every day there’s a new star coming out. A new Brad Pitt. A new Ryan Gosling. The only way of staying current is to push your limits. Right now, you’re not the thirty-year-old heartthrob romance actor. That ship is starting to sail, brother. You’re still doing well because you have loyal fans, but that won’t last forever. We need to get you into serious roles. Look at Bradley Cooper. He went from The Hangover to a bunch of Oscar nods because he chose the right projects. This is the movie, Rock. You know it. And I know it. You were lucky to land this job. The rags are right. This isn’t your kind of role and if you blow it—it’ll be the end of your career.”

“Jesus, man.”

“I’m just telling you like it is. You need to be someone Spelling wants to work with. You can’t be the heartthrob who’s also a diva. Do what’s in your contract or they will find someone who will.”

Rocco thought about this. He knew Paul was right, but it didn’t make it any less difficult to hear. “Fine.”

Paul tapped the table twice and stood. “Good. Put it on your schedule.”

“Fine.” Rocco took out his phone and added it to his calendar.

“You know you’re the only movie star I know who doesn’t have a PA.”

“I don’t need a PA. Have I ever missed a meeting? Been late?”

“Suit yourself, man. Just don’t be late this time. The address is on the card.”

“If the studio is footing the bill, why am I even going?”

“Because I thought you’d want to get a lay of the land, choose your own guy, that sort of shit.”

“Six-five, muscles, black shirt, black pants, and grunts as answers . . . they’re all the same. Who gives a shit which one it is?”

He did not need a bodyguard—he worked out daily, knew how to shoot a gun, and could protect himself if he needed to. What would his fans think of him? The heartthrob who needed a man by his side to protect him? He wasn’t a pussy, damn it, but it didn’t seem like he’d be able to get around this stipulation on the contract.

Rocco was not looking forward to meeting the grunting meathead who was going to live with him for the next four months.

* * *

“Suck my dick,” Annie seethed. She was this close to reaching over the ridiculously huge solid wood conference room table at Iron-Clad Security and wringing her brother Josef Clad’s neck.

At the very least he deserved a good sucker punch.

“Nice, Annie. Very ladylike.”

“I’m not a lady. Stop treating me like one!”

Josef, or Joey as most people called him, sat across from her, his arms crossed over his chest, looking as angry as she felt. But she couldn’t help riling him up further. He was being an asshole, after all.

Jax, Joey’s best friend and part owner of ICS, whispered through clenched teeth as he leaned forward, his big meaty palms on the table “Can you guys cut it out? Rocco Monroe will be here in two minutes. This is the highest-profile client we’ve landed, and I don’t want you two fucking it up for us.”

Joey pinned his dark brown eyes on Annie. “I’d never fuck it up.” He then turned to Jax. “She doesn’t need to be here for this.”

Annie pushed her chair back, the bottom scratching against the beautiful stained concrete floor. “You’re kicking me out of the meeting now?”

“No one’s kicking anyone out,” Jax whisper-yelled, pointing for Annie to sit back down onto the chair. “We need her here. What’s up with you, Josef?”

But then Joey turned his anger on Jax. “Since when is my sister needed at a consultation?”

Annie didn’t give Jax a chance to answer, cutting right to the chase. She was the backbone of ICS. While they were out in the field playing superheroes, she was in the office holding everything together. “Since you opened the doors to ICS. Since I’m the one who organizes you two. Since I’m the only one who can properly secure our clients’ computers or hack most government agencies. That’s when.” She was pissed. When had her brother become a misogynistic asshole? He’d been fighting her for a week about this meeting, adamant that she not attend.

“Screw you, kid. I’m the computer guy. Jax is the muscles.”

She hated—hated!—when the guys called her “kid.”

Jax rolled his eyes. So did Annie. “So where the hell does that leave me? I’m not a fucking secretary.” She was seething. Joey refused to let her out to do fieldwork. But she was ready. She’d been ready. She needed to get out of this office. Being behind a desk all day was slowly eating away at her soul. It was true that Jax did most of the hands-on security matters, including bodyguard jobs, but it was Annie and Joey, who had a ridiculous high IQ, who handled most of the IT-related jobs. Annie was capable of doing both; they just needed to give her a chance.

Her life involved coding and algorithms and binary codes . . . rinse and repeat. She was so bored these days, she wanted to scream. “You are an important member of ICS, Annie. We need you handling things when they come in and helping me with the cases here in the office. Most of the shit that comes in these days can be resolved with a computer,” Joey said, a bit more calmly.

She didn’t want to handle things behind the safety of a computer. Eight years in the Army had toughened her up—not that she hadn’t been tough already. She’d seen and experienced things that Jax and Joey couldn’t even begin to imagine. Anything Jax and Joey could do, she could do too—maybe better. But since Joey was already pissed off, inserting that little fact would be adding fuel to the fire.

Jax, the voice of reason, slammed his palms on the table. “Both of you. Shut up. I want you both here to meet Rocco Monroe. So you’ll both sit there, smile, nod, and let me do all the talking. You got it?” He eyed them both until Joey and Annie looked at each other, blew out a breath, and reluctantly agreed.

“You don’t need to keep using both names,” Annie mumbled. “Rocco Monroe. Rocco Monroe,” she chanted in a whiny childlike voice. Jax glared at her and Annie swiped her fingers over her mouth and pretended to throw away a key. Fine, she’d be on her best behavior.

“You couldn’t shut up if your life depended on it, kid.”

Annie whipped her head to the side and again glared at her brother. “And you couldn’t—”

“Oh my God, would you two stop it. I’m getting tired of it. You know you’re both getting worse every day, right?”

“Mom’s driving me crazy,” Joey added.

“Don’t be such a momma’s boy. And stop tattling on me.”

“I’m not tattling on you. You keep bitching to everyone who has a goddamn ear that you want fieldwork. Mom thinks it’s just a matter of time before you nag it out of me or him.” Joey pointed to Jax. “Every single day, she calls and gives me shit about your safety. And Will, who’s incommunicado, every time he has one moment to reach for a phone, all he asks is about you. Don’t even get me started on Eric—”

“I don’t need the entire rundown of the family. I got the picture, thank you very much. But mom worries about us all,” she said. Her mother didn’t want any of them putting themselves in harm’s way. The difference was, Joey normally didn’t go out. He seemed perfectly content not to leave the sanctuary of his nerddom—he loved coding—and could sit in his office all day every day. Annie needed the mental and physical challenge that came with fieldwork. It was what she was used to, what she was good at. “Algorithms don’t give us all a hard-on, Joe.”

“Oh my God. What is wrong with you?” Joey huffed as Jax chuckled. “I want peace and quiet. It’s why I love coding, you disgusting woman.”

“She’s right, man, I’ve seen the way you look at your computer screen . . .” Jax teased.

A buzz from the intercom shut them all up.

The infamous Rocco Monroe was on his way in.

From the moment Annie had heard about Rocco being a potential client, she’d been secretly doing her research. She was a huge fan of all six-three, two hundred and ten pounds of lean muscles and tan skin. His shiny, black, slicked-back hair had started to gray around the temples, making him look mysterious and worldly. Rocco’s ethnicity was ambiguous and regularly speculated about in the media. He’d played everything from the all-American baseball player in Ballers and Dreams to a sheik in The Desert Warrior. But his signature feature were his cobalt blue eyes highlighted by thick inky eyelashes. The kind of eyelashes women paid hundreds of dollars to have. And the man knew how to work them. There were pictures of him with most A-list starlets as well as a number of models and singers. He’d dated just about every woman in Hollywood, and recently, he’d been named Most Eligible Bachelor and the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine.

Annie knew why Joey was so hell-bent on keeping her away from him. Yes, part of it was her safety, but the other part was his charm. Joey was stupid enough to think she’d succumb to him like all those poor lovesick idiots Rocco’d seduced.

No, she wasn’t that kind of woman.

The arrogant playboy wouldn’t fuck up her concentration by batting his lashes at her. She would never jeopardize her reputation by swooning over any man.

That had happened once, and she wouldn’t bear that loss and humiliation ever again.

***
Copyright © 2017 by Sidney Halston.
***
Learn more about or order a copy of Last First Kiss by Sidney Halston, available August 29, 2017:

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USA Today bestselling author Sidney Halston lives her life by one simple rule: “Just Do It” - Nike. And that's exactly what she did. After working hard as an attorney, Sidney picked up a pen for the first time at thirty years old to begin her dream of writing. Having never written anything other than very exciting legal briefs, she found an outlet for her imaginative, romantic side and wrote Seeing Red. That first pen stroke sealed the deal, and she fell in love with writing. Sidney lives in South Florida with her husband and children. She loves her family above all else, and reading follows a close second. When she's not writing, you can find her reading and reading and reading. She's a reader first and a writer second. When she's not writing or reading, her life is complete and utter chaos, trying to balance family life with work and writing (and reading). But she wouldn't have it any other way.

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