I was trying and failing to come up with a new song for the tour when I saw X coming toward me. The man was clearly on a mission. His gait was purposeful, dark eyes focused solely on me. The strong lines of that jaw were locked tight, and I couldn’t help but feel like a cornered rabbit under the seeing eye of the wolf.
Trying to lighten the mood, I began to play “Bay of Lights”—the song X claimed he couldn’t stand. Meeting his eyes, I belted out the lyrics and played my heart out. I could have sworn I saw his lips twitch, but it was gone by the time he reached me.
He blocked the sun completely as he loomed over me, arms crossed. I couldn’t help but notice that his crotch was right near my face. I felt the blush spread over my cheeks, and as if he was reading my mind, he cleared his throat and moved to sit on the rock beside me. “You had a visitor just now.”
“Really?” I asked, surprised. “There’s someone here?”
“It was Joel Stanton. And no—not anymore. I sent him away.”
My whole body tensed as my stomach rolled over. “Joel was here? And you…sent him away?”
X nodded, his eyes roaming over my face. “He wasn’t on the master list. I told you the rules about that.”
I could tell he thought I’d be angry—could see his body braced for it. He only relaxed when I let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you. I don’t want to see him.”
X nodded. “I’ll make sure to let the guards know. If he shows up again, I’ll personally kick him off the property.”
I gave X a fond smile. He didn’t know what had happened between Joel and me, but it felt a little bit like he was on my side. Which was nice, because, according to the media, I was a terrible heartbreaker. “I’d appreciate it.”
A tense silence fell over us before X turned to me again. “You know, I didn’t mean to insult your song.”
Laughing in response, I picked up my guitar and began to play a low melody. “I know.” I knew that was probably the most I’d get out of him on the subject. I was proven right when he got up in the next moment and gave me a small wave.
“OK, then. Call me if you need anything.”
He strode away before something he’d said earlier popped into my mind. “X, wait!”
He turned around, a small frown on his lips.
“Did the first lady really sing my song?”
I beamed. And this time, I knew I saw his lips twitch.
The whole team and I—including X—had a nice dinner together that night. We ordered in from my favorite mom-and-pop Italian restaurant down the road, and conversation flowed easily. It was a nice change from the usual tense and frantic atmosphere we all had become accustomed to as of late. Even Rob was in a cheerful mood as he oohed and ahhed over his pasta. It made me happy. I was anxious to put the accident behind me and concentrate on the tour and what it meant for my career. X was a constant reminder of the danger, of course, but I was even starting to get used to him hanging around. As long as I didn’t think about crazy fans who wanted to kill me, I was OK.
Everyone headed home at around 11:00 p.m. I went upstairs to clean up before bed, looking for Bellatrix on the way. Searching through a few rooms, I called for her, but there was no sign she was even in the house. Thinking it odd, but figuring she would show up soon, as she always did, I hopped into the shower. After nearly thirteen years, I knew her habits like the back of my hand.
I soaped up my hair, humming the tune I couldn’t get out of my head, when I heard the click of toenails on the bathroom floor. Ah. There she was.
“Where have you been all night, girl?” I called out. The clicking continued, as if she was running around in circles or was excited about something.
I smiled as I washed the soap out of my hair. What was she up to now?
Wiping the water of out my face, I drew back the curtain to see what was going on.
It took only one second for the grisly image in front of me to sink in before I screamed.