The following is part 3 an extended sneak peek of:
The Keatyn Chronicles: Book 4
by Jillian Dodd
Wednesday, October 19th
A little more disturbing.
7:25amI’m putting on my mascara, getting ready for class, when my phone buzzes with a text. I glance down at it.
Garrett: Meet me at that little diner in town in 20 minutes. We need to talk about Miami.
Me: You’re here? In town? What’s wrong?
Garrett: I need to talk to you.
Me: You have bad news? What’s wrong??!!! Is my family okay??
Garrett: Yes, they are fine. We just have a lot to talk about.
I sign myself out of school, pretending to have a dentist appointment, and drive to the diner. Garrett meets me outside my car. The first thing he does is pull me into a hug.
“I swear, you’re going to give me gray hair. I’m glad you’re okay.”
I pull away, pleasantly surprised by his hug. “Are we going to talk about Tiny? Did you find some clues to connect him with Vincent? Is he going to jail for a very long time? Can I go back home? Can I see my family?”
He sighs and shakes his head. “Afraid not. The guy’s like teflon. I can’t get anything to stick.”
“What if we set him up?”
He narrows his eyes at me. “Set him up?”
“Yeah, planted some evidence. Made it look like he killed Tiny. Tip off the cops.”
“I believe in justice, Keatyn. But I won’t discard my morals.”
“So I guess that means hiring a hit man to take him out isn’t an option?”
Garrett laughs and shakes his head at me. “Very funny,” he says, but then his face gets serious. “There are a few things going on that I want you to know about.”
“I’m about to get the bad news now, right?”
He hands me a tabloid magazine. Sprawled across the front page is a large headline. Tommy’s affair with Abby’s best friend. Below is a photo of Tommy hugging Millie. The photo looks damaging. Millie is getting into a car and it does look like he’s saying goodbye to his lover. He’s hugging her tighter than usual.
“This can’t be true.”
“It’s not. Tommy, Millie, and a producer had dinner together in LA a few nights ago. They are trying to convince Tommy to guest star in a few episodes of Millie’s prime time soap opera. She was tired, so she was the first one to leave. Millie asked Tommy to walk her out to the car. The reason he’s hugging her so tightly is she just told him the reason for her being tired.”
My eyes get big. “She’s pregnant, isn’t she?” Oh, my gosh! I’m so excited for her and Deron!”
“She is pregnant. But the press is going crazy. Pulling out any old photos of them together without Abby. Or cropping Abby out of the picture. Your mom expects this to get worse before it gets better. I think she was planning to call you later tonight. But I wanted to make sure you don’t worry about it.”
“Thanks, Garrett, I appreciate it.”
“Now, for something a little more disturbing.”
He hands me another paper.
This one has the words, Press Release, across the top of it. Vincent Sharpe of A Breath Behind You Films is pleased to announce casting has been commenced for the green lit film, Another Day at the Lake, a remake of the Abby Johnston cult classic. Mr. Sharpe says, “While some roles have been cast, we’re looking for an unknown to play the role Abby Johnston originated. We’ll be doing nation-wide open casting calls in many major cities. If you know someone who looks like the main character in the early version of the film, please message us. And be sure to check our website for details, but get ready Miami and New York, we’re coming to you first.”
I drop the paper out of my hand and feel my knees start to give out. “This is brilliant.”
“And scary,” Garrett says quietly, grabbing my elbow so I don’t buckle to the ground. “Basically, he’s doing tryouts all over the country, but what he wants is someone to turn in your picture and tell him where to find you. On the website, it mentions they will do some surprise casting calls. As in you can nominate someone without their knowing and he will show up, surprise them, and let them audition.”
“The good news is, I don’t really look that much like my mom.”
Garrett shakes his head and holds out a picture of my mom from the movie. She’s in a swimsuit, her hair in soft waves. She has a sweetness in her face that I never used to have. But coming here has changed me. Softened me, somehow.
“You do, Keatyn. Has anyone at school mentioned that?”
“My friends went to see one of Mom’s movies. When they came back, they said that I remind them of Abby. Mostly that my voice and gestures are identical.” I start to panic. “What would I do if someone from school sent in my picture without me knowing and he showed up?” “
It’s my job to prepare for that possibility. Let’s go inside and order some breakfast. I have someone I want you to meet.”
I follow Garrett into the diner, my mind still spinning at the lengths he’s going to in an attempt to find me. Garrett stops at a table, moves out of my line of sight, and says, “Meet your new babysitter, Cooper Steele.”
Cooper Steele stands up to shake my hand. Holy hell. Please tell me that babysitting involves him spending every single night in my room. In my bed. This guy is the definition of rugged hotness. Muscles on top of muscles, short buzzed hair, tattoos. He’s not quite six feet, but a woman could learn to love flats if her reward was that body. He's wearing tailored black cargo pants and a freaking white thermal shirt that allows me to see the outline of a buff chest and muscular shoulders. Women in the diner are staring. I look around. No, they're drooling. Imagining what's bulging where we can't see.
I lean around Garrett, hold my hand out, and smile. “Hey, I’m Keatyn.”
He gestures to the seats across from him in the booth, so Garrett and I slide in. A waitress comes over, filling our cups with steamy coffee and flirting with both Cooper and Garrett. But the coffee is lukewarm compared to the man staring at me intensity.
She takes our orders and then Garrett says, “Cooper is your new interim soccer coach and will be teaching Health class.”
Clearly, I’m going to be needing private lessons on drilling the ball into the net. “How are you doing that? We already have a soccer coach.”
“She just got an amazing offer. Seems it’s always been her dream to teach soccer to underprivileged children. A charitable foundation, conveniently, just offered her that dream. Six months of handing out soccer balls and teaching soccer in third world countries. The catch was that she has to leave tomorrow. When she hesitated about leaving her girls with no coach, Cooper was recommended. His soccer experience, combined with the urgency of the offer and outstanding references, allowed for a quick hire.”
“You don’t really look like a soccer player,” I say to Cooper Steele. Cooper gives me a barely perceptible squint of his eyes, but doesn’t respond.
Garrett says, “He played on the United States Under-20 Men’s National Team which qualified for the World Cup. Graduated with honors from Brown University and is an accomplished MMA fighter.”
I look at Cooper. He gives me a teeny smirk. One that is supposed to irritate me, but I’m not sure how it could. The smirk brings out the beginnings of a sexy set of dimples.
“So I don’t get it.”
“You told me she was smart,” Cooper scoffs.
Garrett turns to me. “With the letter that I just showed you, the possibility of Vincent showing up randomly at Eastbrooke has increased exponentially. I want someone on site to help protect you.”
The waitress interrupts us by delivering our food. After she leaves, I say, “So you’re basically my bodyguard? Just how old are you, anyway?”
“He’s twenty-three,” Garrett says. “He’s also the son of a decorated military man and an expert marksman.”
“So he’ll have a gun with him at all times?”
“Obviously, he can’t.”
“Garrett, if you hired him to protect me, that means I’m paying him to protect me. I’d love to know what I’m getting for my money. A soccer player that knows how to throw a punch and kick the shit out of guy in a ring, and would be a good shot if he had a gun, doesn’t really make me feel all that safe.”
“Fine. I pulled him out of the Farm.”
“Yes, he was currently at the top of his class, training to be a CIA agent.” I nod my head. Damn. “That makes me feel better.”
“Obviously, what I just shared with you is confidential.”
I nod my head at Garrett and look at Cooper. “Is this something you want to do? Do you feel this is beneath you?”
He shakes his head. “I’m honored that I was recruited for something of this nature. I hadn’t really considered the commercial side of things.”
I laugh. “In other words, I’m paying him very well?”
Garrett nods. “Basically. And I’m always looking for people that fit into my organization. The fact that he is young and just a soccer coach means no one will think twice about him.”
I scrutinize Cooper some more. “Smile for me.” He looks at me kinda funny, but then the corners of his mouth pull up into a smile, popping out those adorable dimples. I shake my head. “Vincent is going to be the least of your worries. You should be more worried about fending off underage schoolgirls that are used to having anything they want.”
Garrett looks at his watch. “Okay, you need to get back to school. When Cooper is announced as your new coach, use your acting skills and pretend to be surprised. And be on guard. Always. And pay attention. If you hear anyone talking about Vincent’s announcement, tell Cooper. He’ll get you out of there.”
Always hot with you.
LunchI get back to school in time to have lunch with Maggie, who talks endlessly about her crush on Jake, why he hasn’t texted her yet, and a bunch of gossip that I’m not really paying attention to. My mind keeps running through horrible scenarios involving Vincent showing up here. And something keeps gnawing at the corner of my mind. Something about the letter is bugging me, but I just can’t quite pinpoint why.
“What happened to the popular table?” Maggie asks, pulling me back into her conversation.
“What do you mean?”
“Look at it. It’s changed.”
I look at the table. It has changed. Whitney and Peyton are there, of course, but they are down to one minion. Tyrese is gone. Dawson, Jake, and Bryce are there, but no one else is.
“Well, after Homecoming, Whitney banished Rachel and most of the minions to a different table. I’m sure they will all make up. Where’s Katie at?”
“Retaking a test. I have to say, I’m hating that you’re in the play. I miss all of us hanging out and studying in your room.”
“Me too. How is Annie doing? She hasn’t really talked to me lately. Is she mad at me?” “
No, she’s freaking out about Ace going to her parents’ anniversary party.”
“Why?” “He looks like a dumb jock. She thinks they won’t approve. Her sisters all married skinny, nerdy types.”
“Well, hopefully they give him a chance. I would think as soon as he starts talking, they will know he’s smart.”
“I hope so. Regardless, she’s freaking out.”
“I don’t think it’s just that. I think she helped Aiden with the stars. She’s been avoiding me ever since.”
“Yeah, she has been. She’s afraid you’re mad at her.”
“I’m not going to be mad at her. She’s one of my best friends.”
“I think she’s not that used to having friends who stand by her.”
“Well, she better get used to it, right? We’re not going anywhere.”
Maggie smiles at me and nods. “Right. Oh, shit, here comes Dawson.” Then she says out of the corner of her mouth. “Or are we supposed to be happy about it?”
“I’m not sure.” She laughs. “Let me guess. It’s complicated?” We both start giggling.
“Do you ever feel like you have no idea what you are doing with your life?”
“All the time,” she says. “All the time. Hey, I gotta get to class. See ya later.”
As Dawson walks me to French, he says, “I missed sitting by you today. I’m so glad we got back together last night.”
“We didn’t get back together, Dawson.”
“I meant back together. You make me feel so good, Keatie.”
“We shouldn’t have. I mean, I shouldn’t have.”
“But you said you wanted to.”
“I needed to know if things would feel different. Did they feel different to you?”
“No, it was amazing. The way you pulled my hips into you. So hot. It’s always so hot with you.”
“I just, I think, I mean, I’m not sure we should again. Like until we decide what it’s complicated means.”
“It’s really not all that complicated, Keatie. I made a stupid mistake. You forgave me.”
“I know you’re sorry about it. But I’m not over it, Dawson. Not at all.” I tell Dawson goodbye and follow Annie and Aiden into class. Annie is still ignoring me. She’s writing furiously on a piece of paper. I sneak a glance back at Aiden. As usual, I can’t decipher what the hell he’s thinking. Miss Praline starts class by handing back the quizzes they took yesterday. Aiden holds his quiz in front of my face. I see a bright red A on the front of it. “Congratulations . . .”
“Keatyn, don’t look at his quiz,” Miss Praline chastises.
She hands me a blank one. “Go out into the hall and take this.”
I finish my quiz quickly then pull my phone out of my blazer pocket.
Me: I met with Garrett today. I hope you’re doing okay with all that’s going on in the news. And yay for Millie & Deron!!
Mom: I’m so happy for them, but I have to go in a second. I just got called on set. I hear you have a new bodyguard. Actually, I saw a picture of him. Holy hotness. Is he as hot as he looks in his picture?
Me: Yes, I did and yes, he is. I love you. Gracie’s birthday is coming up. Are you doing anything? '
Mom: Her birthday is on a Monday, so we’re all taking the day off. Having a family party at the house. She asked for a bouncy house, a rainbow, chocolate chips, tap shoes, her very own stage, and lots of balloons.
Me: So is that what you’re doing?
Mom: Yes, Tommy is having a stage built for her.
Me: I want to come.
Mom: I wish you could. I’m really worried about Vincent’s press release. Have you thought of dying your hair?
Me: Not really. Do you think I should?
Mom: Well, it might be safer, you know? I have to go. Love you.
Me: Love you too.
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