Former vigilante-for-hire Simon Barré has one steadfast rule: stay far away from celebrities. Too bad Simon’s first assignment at Stark Security is to protect A-list actress Francesca Muratti. He can’t even turn down the assignment, as that would be violating his second rule—never fail a woman. Now he finds himself up-close-and-personal with a high-maintenance diva whose flash and sass drives him crazy—but whose touch he undeniably craves.

The world might believe that Francesca Muratti leads a fairy tale life, but the truth is far darker. For years, she’s kept a horrible secret about her best friend’s death. Now someone is threatening to kill Francesca if she doesn’t reveal all. She needs protection, but there’s no way she’s going to tell the sexy Stark Security agent what she did or why she’s being threatened. Which means that in order to survive and protect her secrets, Francesca must pull off the biggest acting job of her career: she’s going to have to let Simon close, but not let him see her true heart.

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Excerpt: Charmed By You
By J. Kenner

Excerpt: Charmed By You

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J. Kenner comes a new story in her Stark Security series. CHARMED BY YOU is out this week and I’m thrilled to share an excerpt!

Get a grip, Frannie. You’ve got this.

I stand in my kitchen and draw in a breath, determined to listen to my own pep talk. Yes, it’s a threat. But that doesn’t mean I have to be scared.

And even if I am scared, that doesn’t mean I have to show it.

I’m a good actress, after all. I know this. Hell, everyone knows it. I’ve been in front of the camera my whole life—literally. My little tush was filmed on many a changing table for diaper commercials, and I was the baby or toddler in so many Law & Order-type shows I can’t even remember them all.

Granted, that was more like modeling, not acting. But I’ve been doing the real thing—stepping into another persona, acting the part—since I was six and landed my first soap opera. At nine, my character died in a tragic helicopter crash, but that was okay. I’d been noticed, and after that, I’d played the perky elementary-age daughter in many a big-screen rom com, then the best friend, then the love interest.

And, of course, there’s Bright Eyes, the family sitcom that centered around the Bright family with the single dad and seven darling kids who were more than a handful. I was ten when I landed the role of Kelly Bright, the second youngest daughter. That show ran for a decade, and even though so much of it was hell, the bottom line is that I kicked serious acting ass, even parlaying that part into bigger movie roles.

Basically, I worked my tail off. I listened to my directors, took classes, and honed my craft. I’ve won Emmys and Academy Awards and raves from critics all over the globe.

Bottom line? I know how to act. More important, I know how to fake it.

And yet here I am standing in my very own house with absolutely no idea of the part I should be playing.

I draw a deep breath, then look around the kitchen. I’d supposedly come in here to top off my orange juice, but that had just been the best excuse I could come up with in the moment.

The real reason was to get away from the cabal forming in my dining area—the slew of friends and security specialists sitting around my dining table as they bang out ideas for how to keep me alive.

Alive.

Someone is trying to kill me, and the blow or the bullet or the poison or whatever could come from anywhere at any time. I’ll have no warning. No control. And that team in there is supposed to protect me, but I’m not running that show either. They’re just taking over, doing all the things to keep me safe. To keep me managed.

I shudder, but whether it’s because of fear from the cryptic note or the hard memory of my father’s controlling hand, I really don’t know. I gasp, suddenly lost in the past, and the glass I’m holding slips through my fingers and breaks on the Italian marble floor.

I gape at the mess of glass and OJ at my feet, then jump when one of the Stark Security guys bursts through the door. He’s tall and muscular, with thick honey-blond hair and green eyes with the kind of glorious lashes I pay a small fortune for. I can’t recall his name, though it’s on the tip of my tongue.

He’s not as hot as some of the men I’ve been cast opposite, but I wouldn’t kick him out of my bed. Of course, as far as every ridiculous tabloid-style website is concerned, I never kick anyone out of my bed.

“Careful,” I say, nodding to the mess. “The tiles are slippery when they get wet.”

“Especially in those shoes,” he says, glancing at my feet. I’m wearing silk slacks, a tank, and a matching jacket. A semi-casual power outfit designed to convey that I’m in charge. And, naturally, I’ve paired it with my favorite heels. I look elegant and in control.

Unfortunately, he’s absolutely right. Slip on the OJ, and I’ll look like a fool, not like a confident woman who’s taking control of a bad situation by hiring a bodyguard.

“Did you need something?” I ask.

His brows rise with what I can only assume is surprise. “I heard the glass break. I came to check on you.”

“You can see that I’m fine,” I snap, then immediately want to kick myself. I wish I could take back the words. At the very least, I should apologize for the tone. But I don’t. I have a reputation for being strong and in control. I drive hard bargains in my movie deals, and publicists know better than to try to push me around. Maybe I do need a bodyguard—but I do not need to lose control of the situation or show anyone that I’m scared.

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