Book Review

Blog Tour: Crowne Jewel by C.D. Reiss

He claims that he can’t protect me if he falls in love with me.

Crowne Jewel, an all-new bodyguard, enemies-to-lovers, second chance romance from New York Times bestselling author C.D. Reiss is available now!

Protect me at all costs.

That’s the mission my father placed on Anton Markov—my new bodyguard. Shield me from a ruthless, faceless stalker. The menace hijacked my online presence, levied chilling threats my way, and promised to unleash a barrage of damage to me personally and professionally.

There’s one problem with Anton.

It’s simple. I despise him.

He stole everything years ago—my heart, dreams, and dignity.

 With a four-line farewell note stuck to my kitchen table, he broke my heart and almost my spirit.

But it seems Anton has his own collection of grievances over what happened in New York, and he’s not willing to let them go.

It’s complicated. He hates me.

As my stalker escalates his threats, Anton and I are thrust closer together. 

His smoldering good looks, irresistible charm, and unwavering dedication to my safety blur the line between lovers and enemies.

He claims that he can’t protect me if he falls in love with me. With the danger closing in, we’re about to put that theory to the test.

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I’m sorry.

This is unbearable.

I am weak without you.

I am useless with you.

That was his note. Four lines, like a broken, postmodern five-line poem he didn’t finish because he couldn’t find anything that rhymed with unbearable. I stood at the kitchen table of my SoHo apartment with the paper tilted toward the sunlight, trying to see the impression of what came next.

Was he choosing frailty or futility?

He wasn’t useless. Not to me. He had to know that.

I would have told him as much. Reassured him. Explained that once I didn’t feel cornered, I’d be able to think about everything with a clear head. But I got sent to voicemail over, and over, and over. That was his answer. He didn’t want reassurance or explanation. He wanted out.

I never forgave him for choosing weakness.

After he left, I came back to Los Angeles with Liang—who starred in the movie I’d made after college—swearing I’d start something new.

I never speak of those two years. It’s as if it never happened, which is how I like it.

“Your brother’s opening a new club?” Liang snaps me out of it, holding up his phone to a post from Club Amea.

We’re at the valet. Anton stands a little aside from us, talking to Colleen.

“Yeah,” I scoff. “Dante thinks he’s hot shit.”

“Yeah,” Jake agrees with a shrug, tucking his fall of hair behind his ear.

I wish we hadn’t run into Anton at that stoplight because frankly, it hurts to look at him.

“I’m sorry I invited him,” Liang says. “I thought you’d be happy.”

“I am. It’s fine. He’s the reason I leave men alone.”Well, he’s part of the reason. The other reason is that the men have sucked, and I’m unfortunately not into women.

“I thought it was Neville,”Jake says.

He asked me out a bunch of times the first month I knew him, but finally got the hint when I wrote the word NO on a piece of paper and told him to look at it the next time he imagined me saying yes. He apologized and hasn’t brought it up in, like, four months—but some days, it seems as if he wants to give it one more shot. He’s a good-looking guy. Doable—if you like hapless and socially awkward—but it’s still a no.

 “Neville was the experiment that proved the hypothesis.”

“It’s masked cowboy theme!” Kelly holds her phone up to show us. “Partnership with Ozzie Dots on costumes.” She looks back down to read the text. “Invitations go out on the 15th. They’re saying it’s going to be really hard to get into.”

“Manufactured desire. Dante is such a dork,” I mutter, waving to Colleen as she gets into her Tesla.

Kelly’s car is right behind. The valet asks Liang if he has the Honda, which means he’s next. The herd is thinning.

Where’s my freaking car?

Where’s Anton’s car?

Where are the aliens to tractor beam me up to space?

There’s a weight on my shoulder. Anton’s hand. My whole body turns into the camphor he used to rub into the back of my neck. Thick. Gelatinous. Hot and cold at the same time.

“What?” I snap.

“Are you all right?”

Am I? Why is he asking? Why does he even care? I move away from Jake, pulling Anton to the side.

“What the fuck is your deal?” I demand.

“Why do I have to have a deal?”

“You disappeared three and a half years ago. Now you show up two and a half thousand miles away and want a thousand dollars for half an answer.”

He dips his head a little, coming close enough for me to get a breath of his cologne, which is nice. Really nice. Thick like bread that melts on your tongue with spice on the roof of the mouth.

Also, hard. Unyielding. Musky. It’s like burned things.

In New York, he wore something sweeter.

“I answered your questions,” he says. “You’re just not hearing me.”

I’m still not hearing him. I can’t hear anything over the rush in my head. All the thoughts I’ve avoided push against the wall I’ve built to keep them away. I should just walk away from this conversation, but I can’t move.

“You owe me an explanation.”

“You have all the information you need.” He says it slowly, as if he’s tasting the words. “There’s nothing more to say.”

“You see, Anton.” I put my hand on his chest and pinch a crease of wool between two fingers. Speaking as slowly and seductively as he did. “That’s why you are, and have always been, a fucking bore.”

“There’s no one more boring than the bored.”

“That explains why you hung around me for how long?”

“You were different then. You didn’t do so much talking without saying a single thing.”

I push away from him and stand back to look at my Insta. I never claimed to be deep. At least, not since New York, and I’m happier this way. I’m annoyed that he’s insinuating it’s a bad thing.

No, I’m annoyed that I’m thinking about this at all. It’s like squeezing the bottom of a half-filled balloon. The rubber in the hand gets loose and thick while the taut bubble on top is membrane-thin. Everything was even and cool, but now there’s an imbalance. The bottom is starved and the top is ready to burst.

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