Hot and Published

A Novella

I could not put BYSTANDER down!
Jacqui Jacoby writes sexy, smart, funny, suspense
that had me hooked from the first page.
as they reclaim their future...
–Julie Rowe, author of DEADLY STRAIN


© 2015 Jacqui Jacoby, Body Count Productions, Inc.

Bystander - A NovellaBeth Hardwick has worked on the set of Snap Shots since its premiere episode five years ago. A writer by hobby, a reader by trade, she knew her all about her boss’s reputation and his pretty ladies and never thought twice that he would look in her direction.

Just getting out of a short-term, tepid warm relationship, Beth never expected trouble from her ex.  She certainly never expected she would have to turn to Sean for help. 

As the ex refuses to back down, each threat he throws escalates until fear is the only reaction. Its not only makes Beth a target, but Sean and Adian, too. Under guard and terrified, they will have to trust each other to get them all to their new life.


     Sean Branigan downshifted as he hit the light, his Audi R8 Sport sliding to a stop he didn’t want to be at. The GPS was set to Miles Criswell’s condo, but it wasn’t Miles Criswell he wanted to see.
     He looked at his watch, noting twenty-two minutes had passed since he’d received the text from Beth Hardwick. Apparently, Beth wasn’t having all too good a night and calling Sean was her only recourse.
     He turned off the radio’s rendition of a Jingle Bells commercial even though it was only four days until Thanksgiving and pulled up at the place the GPS said, parking next to a fire hydrant at eleven o’clock night, facing the opposite way. It was the only available spot and with the nerves he carried, he figured he would fuck a ticket or a tow.
     She was in trouble.
     Getting out, he reached Number 15 at the same time Allonzo arrived. It wasn’t a bad idea to bring your six-four-and-a-half, two-hundred-twenty-five-pound, special-op trained security guard to a black op rescue mission.
     Sean looked at his watch again.
     “She called twenty-seven minutes ago.”
     “What did she say?” Allonzo asked.
     “Sorry,” Branigan said squeezing his eyes tight. “She texted. There’s trouble.”
     “And boss man wants to play superhero, huh?” The smile cracking the dark face was more annoying than infuriating.
     “Do I pay you extra for unnecessary sarcasm or is it included?”
      Allonzo smiled. “Number 15. Right there.”
     Branigan walked up the mildly overgrown walkway while Allonzo stayed a little way back.
     Sean knew both Miles and Beth. Both worked for him, both were great people, but the kiss Branigan had been dying for from Beth for months, should have waited. Today was too soon.
     Sean knocked on the door, heard several muffled words, a loud shhh and then a ‘get the fuck back’.
     The door pulled open and Miles, beer in hand, leaned against the jamb. Judging by the look on his face now, he wasn’t the good guy Sean had thought him to be.
     “What do you want? It’s after hours.”
     “Yeah, I know,” Sean said. “We were heading over to get a drink and thought you might like to join us. Guys night out.”
     “Who is he?” He motioned with his beer.
     “Oh him? That’s Allonzo. You’ve seen him around.”
     “Who the fuck is Allonzo?”
     “You know the studio. Slapping security on for no reason. He gets thirsty, too. Why are all the lights out?”
     “Saving energy.”
     “Where’s Beth?”
     Miles leaned on the doorjamb. “She doesn’t live here anymore.”
     “Go, run,” an urgent, breathless voice called. “You need to go. He’s got a gun.”
     “I think maybe she does.” Sean looked over his shoulder. “Allonzo, can you make sure he doesn’t have a gun?”
     Allonzo smiled and moved up the walkway. “Sure.”
     Sean saw Miles go for the weapon, but Allonzo moved faster, getting Miles into a body lock and slamming him against the door before yanking the weapon from Miles’ hand.
     “It’s a .45,” Allonzo said, “but it doesn’t feel full enough.”
     Sean walked past the two into the living room. Even with the shadows, he could see her curled up on the end of the couch. He walked over to the end table, turning on the light, tilting his chin as he looked down at her.
     She looked away, not meeting his gaze. Her thick, long blonde hair was a mess, her make-up smeared. The dress she was wearing this afternoon torn at the sleeve. With her legs pulled up, it rode high on her thighs, but she didn’t seem to notice. The tears were only partially dry on her bruised face.
     He put a finger under her chin and pulled her face forward so he could see the deep hand prints on one cheek before pushing away to see the ones on the other side.
     He knelt in front of her.
     “He was in the warehouse,” she said softly
     “I kinda figured that out,” he said.
     “He heard what you said.”
     “What did I say?”
     “About being jealous. He wanted to show you what jealousy looked like.”
     He tried to smile but guilt edged his gut. “I’ve actually seen jealousy before and it doesn’t look anything like this.”
     She smiled a little but it was strained.
     “When you sent the text, did you call the police?”
     “I didn’t send the text.”
     He thought with pursed lips for a moment, his hands clasped in front of him. “He took your phone?”
     “Um…humph,” she said.
     “He wanted to get me here?”
     “It’s probably a good thing I called Allonzo, then.”
     “What’s with you pretty boys?” Miles said from behind him.
     “See,” he said smiling up at her. “I would have to disagree with him right there. Never thought of myself that way.”
     He stood up and started to turn.
     “Exotic,” he heard her whisper.
     He looked down at her. “I like that.”
     “You have everything you want,” Miles said. “The parts, the money, cars, super models in your bed. Why the fuck do you have to come sniffing around my average piece of shit?”
     Sean blinked and pursed his lips again. “Average piece of shit? You call her nice names like that and it might explain why it was so fucking easy to get her to look twice.”
     Miles made a move and Allonzo slammed him against the door.
     “You want to call off your dog and really discuss this?”
     “No,” Sean said. “Nothing to prove.”
     “Check her phone,” Miles snapped.
     “Where is it?” Sean asked.
     “My back pocket.”
     Allonzo retrieved it and tossed it to Sean.
     “Don’t,” she said leaning forward, grabbing Sean’s arm.
     “Why not?” Sean asked.
     “You walked right into it,” Miles said. “She’s been a fan for years. Watched all the movies. You could have done her right there in the warehouse. She’s always been hot for you.”
     “I haven’t done a film in twelve years and I made them so people could watch them, genius.”
     “Look at the phone. She’s got your picture all over it.”
     “I’ve got pictures of you on my phone,” Sean said. “We took them at the picnic.”
     “Not like these. These are movie and promo photos, showing you off.”
     “I’m kinda flattered.”
     “That’s not fair,” she said, leaning forward. “It’s the book. Remember I told you I was doing this book?”
     “Yeah,” Sean said. “I remember.”
     “The character. He’s with the CIA. I was working on him and he reminded me of you. I mean, not you, but like you. I have tons of photos on my phone for stories. Puppies and weapons and clothes and characters. I have Orlando Bloom, too.”
     “Now I’m really flattered. Allonzo, call 911                   
      He knelt down and picked up her hands, turning them palm up.
     He raised her wrists toward her. “And these?”
     She looked away, tearing up. He squeezed her hands a little.
     “Allonzo, the cops will be here in a few. Do you think you can hurt him bad without leaving a mark so we all can deny it when he accuses us?
    “Sure,” Allonzo said smiling.