|Cover By Meredith Russell|
New cover, edited and with two new chapters.
Michael comes home to Ellery to face his past, only his present keeps intruding in the form of his agent Alex Casey, who won’t take no for an answer.
Michael Hardin is back in Ellery to face his past. The victim of a hate crime, he has memories that lie just out of his reach and nightmares that won’t leave him alone.
Alex Casey loves Michael but he completely ruined everything by treating Michael like someone who needed to be wrapped in cotton wool.
Can Michael discover more about his past and find love with Alex?
“…..The Ellery Mountain series consistently delivers, each book emotional and heartwarming. I have enjoyed each of the pairings and loved all the characters, from the very first book to this, the seventh in the series….”
Ellery Mountain Series
Book 1 – The Fireman and the Cop
Book 2 – The Teacher and the Soldier
Book 3 – The Carpenter and the Actor
Book 4 – The Doctor and the Bad Boy
Book 5 – The Paramedic and the Writer
Book 6 – The Barman and the SEAL
Book 7 – The Agent and the Model
Buy Links – Print Book
Sid Love – 4.25/5 – “….R.J Scott created a home made of love and friendship with this Ellery series. What I regret is to not have seen more of all the characters because I could never have enough. I am glad we read about them, I am ecstatic they are still so close and together all of them….”
Because two men are better than one! – 4/5 – “…..The Ellery Mountain series consistently delivers, each book emotional and heartwarming. I have enjoyed each of the pairings and loved all the characters, from the very first book to this, the seventh in the series.
This is the story of Mikey, now all grown up, a successful model who no longer lives in Ellery, instead Michael (as he is now called) travels the world modelling for designer labels, only returning to town infrequently. He has found success, fame and fortune but he is still haunted by the attack on his life six years before…..”
Prism Book Alliance – 4/5 – “….I don’t really know why this is my favorite of the series. Maybe because we sympathized with Mikey from earlier in the series. Maybe it is because we were there for the initial horrors in his life. Maybe it was just the chemistry between Michael and Alex. I can’t really put my finger on it. Just read it 😉 Start with book 1, The Fireman and the Cop, and you, too, will fall in love with the men of Ellery….”
Rainbow Book Reviews – “….This is another enjoyable addition to the Ellery Mountain stories featuring not only Michael and Alex, but incorporating many of the other characters I’ve grown fond of, into the action. RJ has a great way of combining angst and tribulation with love and hope and finding a happy ending for all her very special men. I recommend this story to those who have read and love the Ellery Mountain series, along with those who may be new to it, who like sexy men, intrigue, strong female characters, small town ambiance, passion, loyalty, and strong friendships. Thanks, RJ, for giving Mikey and Alex their happily ever after….”
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The Jeep Diva – 4.5/5 – “….There is no pretentiousness when reading R.J. Scott’s Ellery Mountain series, and The Agent and the Model did not disappoint. The title is exactly what we find; modeling agent Alex and model Mikey maintain a professional relationship turned personal one, with pitfalls that require healing. After Mikey was attacked six years prior, he left the sanctuary of Ellery to enter the world of modeling only to find himself attacked again, and Alex’s need to protect him, only compounded the problem by not discussing Mikey’s potential stalker….”
The Novel Approach – 4/5 – “….I have enjoyed the Ellery Mountain series immensely. RJ Scott has a way with the writing of her series that manages to keep you well caught up and fully in touch with the former MCs of the series, and yet doesn’t take anything away from the current MCs. This is one thing that I simply love about Ms. Scott’s writing. In this book, not only did I get to see a much loved character find his happiness, but there was also a wedding and a baby!….”
Joyfully Jay – 4.5/5 – “….With various other characters dipping in and out of the story there was a real sense of time moving on in Ellery and of new beginnings for some of the older characters. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this latest addition to the Ellery Mountain family. These stories are quick and easy, never heavy, and always fun. The Agent And The Model is a lovely installment that fans of the series will not want to miss….”
Paranormal Romance Guild – 4/5 – “….This is a story of love, courage and friendship. As I stated previously, I didn’t read the other books, so I can only assume that we are once again reunited with people from Michael’s past, friends who have always been there for him. I had no trouble following the story about Michael and had a little update on some of his other friends. I recommend you read the full series from book one, because if this one is any indication they are probably all wonderful. There is romance and explicit m/m sex and a lot of wonderful men who have found their other halves….”
Five minutes past Shenandoah National Park, Michael Hardin finally stopped the car.
He had over three hundred miles in his rear-view mirror, tracing back to New York with only a couple of stops, and he was starting to feel it. Following signs to Staunton was easy enough—finding Staunton Choral Gardens B & B less so. He’d been in a daydream and entirely missed his GPS telling him to leave the road at the next right.
What he found when he doubled back on himself was a gorgeous place, all white sidings and a garden tumbling with a riot of colors. The extended house was stunning and quiet.
So very utterly, blissfully quiet.
Michael parked, then grabbed his overnight bag from the seat next to him. He considered whether he should get his suitcases out of the back.
I’m only staying here one night.
After a few short minutes of staring aimlessly at the luggage in his trunk, trying to make a decision, his New York side won out over his Ellery side, and he juggled both wheeled bags out of the car. Making that one decision had him feeling a little more confident he could carry off this “normal life” routine. No makeup artists fawning around him, no dressers draping clothes on his body, no shouting or chaos, no damn agent ordering him here, there and everywhere.
Michael locked the midnight-blue Porsche and checked he’d locked it. When parked in the city, his car was not just locked, it was left in a secure garage with guards. In fact, the thing hardly ever moved and, not for the first time, he considered why, exactly, he’d bought the car.
To spend money, that’s all, he answered his question.
When he turned to look at the B & B, he faced a guy standing right by him on the grass, staring. He had a cairn terrier in the crook of his arm who also stared but in a more appealing way. Michael flushed at the fact this stranger had seen his whole procrastination over the bags and his locking-the-car sequence.
“Just checking it’s locked,” Michael explained. Why, he didn’t know.
The man nodded as if he understood the motive behind the explanation, and then he very deliberately looked Michael up and down.
“Good morning to you,” he finally said before ambling away and muttering something under his breath. For all Michael knew, the man could be talking to his dog, but he doubted it. He was used to people checking him out and feeling that they owed it to themselves to comment on how he looked.
Michael pushed his sunglasses over his eyes. If the guy had a problem with tight designer jeans and a bright lime T-shirt that fit like a second skin, he wasn’t worth worrying about. The people who mattered, his fellow models and friends, lived in New York, not in a small town off the interstate.
He texted Jeremy to let him know where he was; then, on a whim, texted him a picture of the idyllic scene in front of him. He and Jeremy were friends and had some things in common. They both worked for Casey Models—Michael as a senior model, and Jeremy as PA to the new boss, Alexander Casey. Yep, that Alex.
Michael envied the way Jeremy dealt with Alex. While Jeremy could negotiate, wheedle and organize his way through Alex’s day, Michael never knew how to handle his enigmatic boss.
Michael shook his head to stop this train of thought. He would have to talk to Alex in Ellery—there was no way he could avoid the man—it wasn’t exactly the biggest of towns and they had mutual friends.
Now he stood in front of a beautiful B & B, facing an entire night of peace. He awkwardly made his way up the steps to the foyer, pressed the bell at a small desk, and waited.
“One minute, sir.” The female voice came from an open office door behind the desk.
“No rush,” Michael called back. He pushed his sunglasses back into his long hair and waited patiently, amusing himself by checking out the various posters with views of the surrounding area. Maybe he could leave Ellery a couple of days earlier than he’d originally planned and on the way home take a detour out into the Valley. He needed a break. Rolling his head and shoulders, he heard the cracks of tension and grimaced.
I need a massage.
He would do a few days in Ellery, show his face, visit his only family—be Mikey for a while. Ellery was always sensory overload for him, and he never lasted more than a few days. Then he’d come back here to this B & B and sleep. Just sleep—for a week, maybe—before he would have to go back to the place where he was Michael again.
“Hello, sir. I—”
The owner of the voice joined him and stopped halfway through her sentence, staring. Real, absolute, eyes-to-hair-to-face staring. She pulled herself together, then coughed to cover her momentary slip and smoothed her T-shirt over her full breasts. She couldn’t be much more than twenty, but she was certainly working that body. “Do you have a reservation?” she asked with a broad smile.
“Smith,” Michael lied. “Adam Smith.”
She didn’t call him a liar, and given he had paid in advance for the room—or rather, Jeremy had organized it for him—she didn’t need to see his ID or even a credit card. Michael signed the register, and she handed him a room key with a large key ring proclaiming Shenandoah was the jewel of Virginia.
“You’re in room twelve, down the far corridor and towards the back,” she explained. “Would you like a wake-up call?”
Michael smiled quickly. For the first time in six months, he had no early wake-up calls. So, no way was he having an alarm. “No, thank you.”
“Papers in the morning, sir?”
“No. Thank you.”
“We’re here if you need anything. Just press zero on the phone in your room. Dinner is from 6:00 p.m., breakfast from 7:00 a.m. The card with the Wi-Fi password is in the drawer in the vanity.” She tilted her head a little, her blonde ponytail swinging over her shoulder. He saw other little signs, like her leaning on the desk and looking up at him through her eyelashes. “Is there anything else, sir?”
“No, thank you,” He added the thank-you to soften the instant reply.
She indicated a door from the foyer. “Through there.”
She sounded a little disappointed that he hadn’t joined in the flirting, but he wasn’t too worried. He had seen reactions like hers before, and his career depended on women—and men—staring at him, whether in horror, shock, or lust. He sold clothes, fragrances, watches, and jewelry, all on the back of his lucky combination of genetics.
Michael left the foyer in a hurry and stumbled through the door with less poise than a monkey, and finally, there in the corridor was the beginning of a small amount of peace. He found room twelve and let himself in. The room was large, with a white quilt and navy drapes. Windows were open to the fresh breeze that ruffled the thin net at the windows. There was the usual stuff—a TV, towels, coffee, a coffee maker… he would be okay here for one night. After piling his luggage at the end of the bed, he opened his bag. First things first—he needed a shower.
Only when he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror did he recall his green-tipped hair, courtesy of an Armani shoot. That was probably why Dog-Man and the receptionist had stared, as well as everyone at the gas stations he’d stopped at. Michael had completely forgotten about the gunk in his hair. He had left the shoot in a hurry in case Alex found him. God forbid his boss, who was also his agent, managed to locate him.
“We could carpool and road-trip,” Alex had announced enthusiastically the night before, at the studio dinner. “I haven’t been down to Ellery since last summer, and Jason keeps asking me.”
Although Michael hadn’t said it out loud, in his head he had three words. No. Fucking. Way. He had nodded as politely as he could manage and said he couldn’t see a problem with the idea. He had lied. Ten minutes in Alex’s company reduced Michael to bitter anger and crappy self-esteem, so what the hell would it be like to spend days with the man heading down the country towards Ellery?
Hot water helped to unknot the tension in his shoulders, and he spent ages soaping and rinsing and conditioning until finally he was happy that the water ran clear of the temporary pastel dye. Looking the part of a woodland warrior for a new natural clothing line was hard on his hair, and for the life of him, he couldn’t seem to remove a large blotch of brown dye from near his left nipple. Sighing, he checked out the mark in the mirror. His reflection showed it wasn’t that bad, and he knew it would likely fade in a few days. He peered at his hair and examined the stubble on his face. He should shave.
Fuck it. I’m tired.
He ignored his reflection, which was something he usually didn’t do. Didn’t matter who saw him in the middle of Staunton, or indeed Ellery. He could stop trying now. Decision made, and after setting his alarm for 7:00 p.m., he drew the drapes and settled back on the bed. He had five hours, and he needed sleep.
* * * *
When Michael woke he felt so relaxed, he almost melted back into the bed. His phone showed it was half past six and nearly time for dinner. He yawned and stretched. For the first time since he had left New York, he felt excitement over the next few weeks as the city disappeared and Ellery was so close he could taste it.
Jeremy had texted him a smiley face and hugs, and it made Michael smile. Shame the guy was straight because he was everything that ticked Michael’s boxes—smart, gentle, kind, supportive and, most of all, he could handle men like Alex.
Michael considered skipping another shower, but when he caught sight of his hair in the mirror, there was no way he could expose himself to the world looking like he’d stuck his finger in a socket. It wasn’t the public Michael worrying about his crow’s-nest hair, but the private Michael, who was kind of vain.
He showered again and sighed in disbelief when yet more green trickled down his torso in the water. Would the damn stuff never leave? Hell, he’d spent the first twenty miles of his drive here picking twigs out of his hair, and he had thought that was the worst of it. He didn’t bother with gel; his hair had a wave to it when it dried naturally. And when I’m not pressed into a pillow, drooling. A spray of cologne—which one, he didn’t know, because he had a bag full of the stuff—and he was ready to get dressed. Michael had carefully picked the outfit for his midway stop in the rush to get to Ellery. CK Jeans and a monochrome Neil Barrett shirt that he tucked in before pushing his feet into his McQueen sneakers. He made a habit of mixing it up and looking like a fashion-show reject. It was his signature look. A final check on his hair and he left the room.
His stomach rumbled—he had survived the journey on little more than Doritos and Sprite and, while he might not eat an awful lot, hell, he needed something now. The scents of cooking grew stronger as he reached the foyer and his nose led him to the dining room. Laid out with twelve round tables in the center, and a few strategically placed square tables around the edge, the linen was white, and the cutlery polished. This place was far too good to be a B & B; better than many of the crappy, sterile chain-hotels he stayed in when he was at shows. Not that the quality of the room mattered. Paris, Milan, Tokyo. Michael was always with everyone else, working, and only visiting his room for a few hours a night. Then all he wanted was a bed, a pillow, and somewhere to shower.
He chose a table by a wide window overlooking the garden lit by floodlights. The lush manicured lawn had raised flowerbeds at strategic positions breaking the expanse of grass.
The water was cold, and the menu interesting, and relaxation stole over him like a warm blanket.
The waiter stopped by the table, immaculate in dark pants and a crisp white shirt. “Are you ready to order a drink, sir?”
“A Bud. And I’ll have the scallops to start—”
“And he’ll have the steak and the fries for the main course.”
Michael froze in his seat at the voice from behind him.
Shit. Fuck! How the hell did Alex track me down?
“Sir?” the waiter asked curiously, looking over Michael’s head to someone behind him and then back down at Michael.
Stubbornness had Michael ordering the exact thing Alex wouldn’t expect him to order. “I’ll have the salmon with new potatoes and a garden salad,” Michael finished.
Okay, so he had been going to order the steak, but he wasn’t going to let that happen now. The waiter made a note. And yes, he was petty-minded, but fuck, he controlled what he ate, no one else.
“I’ll have the soup to start and the steak—medium rare—fries, and sautéed mushrooms. Could you also bring us a bottle of the best champagne you carry?” Alex added.
The owner of that damn sexy voice moved around the waiter and slid into the seat opposite Michael.
Alex freaking Casey grinned at him. “Hey, Michael,” he said with an easy smile. Like it didn’t matter that he had (a) turned up at the same place Michael was staying, which could not be a coincidence, and (b) sat down like he owned the world or something.
“Alex,” Michael said through gritted teeth. There went his idea of a peaceful, relaxed evening. “What are you doing here?” He wanted to ask why the hell Alex felt it was okay to sit at his table.
“Having dinner. I’m booked into fourteen, so we’re floor buddies.”
“How did you find me?”
Alex shrugged. “GPS on your phone.” He nodded seriously, then quirked a smile. “And you know I have mad hacking skills.”
“What the hell, Alex? You can’t use a computer if you try.” Michael sat back in his chair as a sudden realization hit him. “You got Jeremy to look, didn’t you?”
“I couldn’t help it if he left his cell phone on the desk,” Alex said innocently.
“On his desk? Since when does Jeremy let his phone out of his sight?”
“Well, on his desk, in his jacket pocket, whatever. What matters is that I never got your text telling me where you were staying, and so I found out the B & B you were at, and now we can carry on the journey together.”
“In two vehicles?” Michael said a little smugly. Aha! Alex hadn’t thought that one through very well.
The champagne arrived, and the waiter filled two slim crystal glasses. Alex lifted his flute and tilted it in a toast. Michael ignored his glass and the toast.
“I hired a car. I’ll leave it here to be picked up,” Alex offered breezily. “There has to be room in your Porsche for two. I can drive if you want me to.”
What the fuck? No one drove Michael’s car but him. Hell, he didn’t even drive his car much. “I’m not letting you anywhere near my car. You’ve totaled a Ferrari and a Beemer in the last three months. You’re insane.”
“To be fair, I didn’t know the Ferrari was so fragile,” Alex offered with a shrug.
“Sideswiping a wall at thirty would write off most cars,” Michael snapped. Then he realized what was happening; Alex was dragging him into conversation and Michael needed to cut this off now. “I didn’t send you a text message, so you wouldn’t have received a message. You couldn’t have missed getting it if I never sent it,” Michael blurted. He felt the heat rising in his face as Alex frowned at him. Alex was evidently picking his way through what Michael had said.
“Okaaay…,” he drawled, “whatever.” The sound of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” filled the room, and Alex reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell. Frowning at the screen, he huffed, then answered with a curt, “What now?”
Michael tried not to stare, but with Alex on the phone, he had plenty of time to throw mental daggers at him. If Alex looked tired, and if there were brackets of stress around his eyes, Michael ignored them.
“…I thought you could handle two days; I was due to leave Friday anyway.”
Alex was talking in hushed tones, out of respect for the other diners, Michael imagined. Alex paused and his frown deepened. Michael couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sympathy even if he hated the guy. Alex’s dad had been forced to retire after finding out he had a heart condition, and Alex had gone from laid-back agent to full-time agency owner.
“…Whatever you need, get it done. Email me the figures and dates. … Yes, all of them. I wouldn’t trust your calculations for a minute. … You forget what happened last time.” Alex ended the call.
Suddenly Alex was all smiles, acting like he had not just been on the edge of a stress-related screaming match. “Zeus is in my room. He’ll be stoked to see you again,” he said.
Zeus was Alex’s black Labrador and the only bright thing about Alex as a whole. Well, the only thing Michael was focused on. “You don’t get the message, do you?” Michael sighed.
“You said you didn’t send one. Or did you? I’m kind of confused.” Alex sprawled in his chair and yawned behind his hand.
“That was a metaphorical ‘not getting the message.’”
Michael bit his tongue. Was Alex being deliberately being stupid here? He was a smart guy, and he was acting as if he didn’t understand a word Michael was saying, which in turn made Michael doubt his communication skills—which then made Michael stop talking at all.
They sat in silence for a while until the appetizers arrived.
“I have the contracts for next season’s shows,” Alex announced between mouthfuls.
“You could have given them to me when I arrived at Ellery,” Michael said when he swallowed the last of the delicious appetizer of scallops. “You’re staying in the same town as me, for God’s sake.”
Alex was always up in his face. As the owner of Casey Models, it was his job to run the business, and as the top model for the agency, it was Michael’s job to report to him. But this stalking him down to Ellery surely bordered on harassment. In fact, everything Alex had done around Michael since Paris bordered on harassment. Michael went out for dinner at home, and Alex was there. Michael went to the theater; Alex had a seat a few rows down. Jeez, he had even met him at the freaking grocery store. The man was a giant pain in the ass, and how Michael had managed to hold on to his temper this long was nothing short of a miracle.
Michael pushed aside any memories that threatened to surface about what had happened between him and Alex. He couldn’t afford to let Alex drag him into a self-destructive relationship. A model was only as good as his last show, and Michael had the final say on where he would be showing.
When he had talked to Jeremy about going home on his December break, his first Christmas in Ellery in over six years, what had Alex said? Only that, coincidentally, he was considering spending Christmas with his old friend and former Casey Models model, Jason McInnery, in Ellery. In freaking Ellery.
“We can pick up the road trip tomorrow,” Alex offered with a broad grin.
In your dreams. “I’m driving straight to Ellery tomorrow. No more stops.” Michael snapped.
Alex had shrugged in that annoying “never mind” way of his. Nothing seemed to faze him—not even Michael being rude to his face.
“So when you stop for snacks, I’ll watch out for guys at truck stops,” Alex had offered seriously but with a glint in his eye.
Did he not see the irony in his words? Michael didn’t need protecting from anyone. He’d taken self-defense classes, learned from the best, and there was pepper spray in his pocket. Alex protecting him was where everything had started to go so badly wrong.
“What are you going to do? Hit them over the head with your cell phone?” Michael snapped back.
“Maybe I’d better take one of these spoons.” Alex waved a spoon under Michael’s nose.
The infuriating exchange burned inside Michael, and he concentrated on keeping himself calm. He didn’t want Alex in his space. He wanted to go home and visit, maybe see if he felt strong enough to walk in the park and confront some ghosts, show some backbone. He certainly didn’t want any damn witnesses to the vulnerability he hid so carefully inside him.
“I’m not working at the moment, and you had your biggest paycheck off me this week, so just fuck off, Alex. I don’t want you here.”
“Look. I get it. I’ll take dinner to go,” Alex murmured. He started to raise from the table, and Michael resolutely did not look up. Alex had this way of manipulating people with his beautiful big blue eyes, and Michael was not falling for that again.
Nope, not looking. I’m not looking.
He glanced up to see why Alex hadn’t moved and realized he had fallen for the standing-still-and-waiting routine. The puppy-dog expression would have looked pathetic on any other man, but on Alex, it looked damn cute. Fuck. How can such a gorgeous, sexy man be so irritating and pushy?
“Sit down and eat your dinner, for God’s sake,” Michael muttered.
“Okay.” Alex sat down immediately, then topped up his glass of champagne.
“You’re not giving up on this, are you? On the whole driving-to-Ellery with me?”
“I’m stuck with you for all day tomorrow?”
“This is work harassment.”
Alex nodded. “Probably. Would you like me to get Jeremy to send out the correct paperwork to file the issue?”
“Hell yes,” Michael snapped. He was reaching a limit.
“You won’t leave me alone.” Michael wasn’t going to file anything, he had much more final plans in his head, but he wasn’t going to share them with Alex just yet.
“Because…” Alex stopped. “I’m sorry. I’ll get Jeremy to send you the paperwork.”
Michael concentrated on his champagne flute and the tiny bubbles that traveled effortlessly from the base of the crystal to the top, popping and fizzing. He had no idea if he was drinking good stuff or not, but it tasted all right. Michael had concentrated on becoming a good model—the one that got hired because he was amenable and hardworking. He had cultivated a personality that was friendly but probably considered a little remote by some. He didn’t talk about home or family, or his connection to Jason McInnery, and he sure as hell hadn’t wasted time on knowing which wine went with which dish, or which champagne was a good one.
“You look a bit tired.”
Alex sounded concerned, but Michael wasn’t going to rise to the worry in his voice. He could, after all, say Alex was the pot calling the kettle black. “It’s been a rough six months.”
Shows, photo shoots, the Versace spread, the CK fragrance shoot, jetting from city to city, not knowing whether it was Saturday or Wednesday, eight in the morning or eight at night. Yes, he was tired, and working through Christmas hadn’t helped. He wanted to sleep and see his nana. He had turned down so many high-profile shoots this month to be in Ellery, that he was probably fucking with his business profile, but what did that matter? He made good money and, as he was turning twenty-five in a few months, he was at the point where he needed to decide what came next. Male models lasted longer than their female counterparts—he could begin to model more mature lines.
Mature at twenty-four years and nine months old? That was a joke.
“I know,” Alex offered. “You should slow down. You don’t have to take every job you’re put forward for, you know.”
Michael huffed a laugh. “My agent won’t like it if I don’t work. He’ll lose his percentage.”
“It’s not always about finances,” Alex defended.
He looked troubled for a minute, and if Michael didn’t know him better, he would swear there was a vulnerability in his expression. Alex was damn good at pretending to be all things to all people. Why would he be any different with Michael?
Abruptly, Michael had had enough. He’d paid good money for peace away from the falseness of his industry, where surface looks meant everything, everyone ignored the underbelly and where people put on acts all the time.
Michael pushed his chair back and stood up. “I’m going to bed,” he said firmly.
Alex half stood. “But your main course hasn’t arrived yet.”
“I’m suddenly not hungry.” Michael turned to leave.
“Michael,” Alex called after him. He caught up with him at the door. “It’s like you can’t stand to be in my presence.” Alex stopped and frowned when Michael didn’t immediately answer. “Will you ever forgive me for what happened in Paris?”
Michael shook his hand away, then looked him directly in the eye. “No.”
With that, he left.
And he didn’t look back.