Going Deep: An Alpha Ops Novel

Going Deep: An Alpha Ops Novel

by Anne Calhoun

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After weeks on a sold-out tour, singer Cady Ward is coming home for the holidays. But after one too many episodes of fan-craziness, Cady’s manager decides that she needs protection—in the form of muscled cop Conn McCormick. Longing for peace and quiet to prepare before her next album drops, Cady doesn’t need a bodyguard just to deal with some vague email threats…though she can’t deny that close proximity to Conn’s body is a very nice place to be.

Conn is in the midst of a career scandal when his boss assigns him to pop-star guard duty. It’s a poor use of his skills, even though Cady’s feisty nature proves the perfect distraction for Conn while Internal Affairs investigates his case. What begins as a sizzling attraction becomes something deeper than either Conn or Cady could have expected. But when Conn uncovers the sinister plan behind the threats to Cady, he’s faced with a professional dilemma: To save her life, will he risk having a future with the only woman who’s ever touched his soul?

What these bestselling authors have to say about Anne Calhoun’s romances:

“Scintillating sexual chemistry!”—Lauren Dane

“Uncommonly good storytelling.”—Beth Kery

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250084620
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 11/01/2016
Series: Alpha Ops Series
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 625,218
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

After doing time at Fortune 500 companies on both coasts, Anne Calhoun landed in a flyover state, where she traded business casual for yoga pants and decided to write down all the lively story ideas that got her through years of monotonous corporate meetings. Her first book, LIBERATING LACEY won the EPIC Award for Best Contemporary Erotic Romance. Her story WHAT SHE NEEDS was chosen for Smart Bitch Sarah's Sizzling Book Club. Anne holds a BA in History and English, and an MA in American Studies from Columbia University. When she's not writing her hobbies include reading, knitting, and yoga. She lives in the Midwest with her family and singlehandedly supports her local Starbucks.

Read an Excerpt

Going Deep

By Anne Calhoun

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Anne Calhoun
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-08463-7


It was good to be home.

Cady Ward stood under the spotlight, the crowd's manic, vibrant energy rolling at her in waves, all but lifting her off her feet with the surging roar and applause. She smiled, lifted a hand in acknowledgment. The clapping and whistles tick up again. Sweat trickled down her ribs and spine. Her silk tank top clung to her skin as she shifted her guitar to her back, put her hands together, and bowed her appreciation to the crowd. Some of them were still singing the refrain to "Love-Crossed Stars," her biggest hit, the final song of her encore set.

"Thank you," she murmured, not sure if the sound engineer had cut her mic feed or not. Though they echoed back into her earpiece, the spoken words were lost in the din inside Lancaster's Field Energy Center.

Hometown crowds were always generous. By this time in the show, after two encores and several minutes of applause, people started to trickle out, maybe making one last stop at the merchandise table for a T-shirt or a magnet or a CD. But these folks showed no signs of dispersing. Just as reluctant to leave the high behind, Cady bent over and made her way along the edge of the stage, high-fiving and clasping hands with the people in the front rows. Her Nana's bracelet, a cherished keepsake she always wore when she performed, nearly clonked a girl on the forehead as Cady swept by. "We love you, Maud!" she cried out, borderline hysterical as she waved her homemade poster.

Maud was Cady's stage name, borrowed from her grandmother back when she needed a persona to work up the courage to put her voice out there, back when all she wanted was to be Beyoncé, Sia, Adele, a one-name wonder with multiple hits, Grammys, platinum albums. But after eight months of touring as Maud, she was back in her hometown, able to spend a few weeks being herself. Ordinary Cady Ward.

"I love you too!" she called back, vaguely aware that lurking behind the adrenaline rush of performing was the knowledge that tomorrow she'd feel like someone had taken a stick to her legs and back. Out of the corner of her eye she saw her manager, Chris Wellendorf, standing in the wings, tight shoulders and unsmiling face telegraphing his nervous tension. He didn't like it when she got too close to the fans without security personnel at hand. All it took was one crazy person to break a finger or stab her with something, one interaction gone wrong to spread all over social media.

She straightened and stepped back, automatically adjusting both bracelet and guitar, then held up her hands. "Thanks for coming, everyone. Happy holidays. Drive safely, and good night!"

The wave of applause carried her offstage, and continued until the lighting engineer cut the stage lights and turned up the house lights. Breathing hard, Cady washed up against the wall. Around her, the band was efficiently packing away their instruments. Next, the road crew would take down the set, then the stage. By the end of the night, the auditorium would be empty, waiting silently for the next event. Given the time of year — early December — probably a Lancaster College basketball game.

"I can't sing it again." She turned to look at Chris. "I can't. If I have to sing 'Love-Crossed Stars' one more time, I will go out of my mind."

"That's the end of the tour talking. 'Love-Crossed Stars' will be your cash cow for the rest of your life. Besides, you think Paul Simon doesn't roll out 'Sounds of Silence' or 'Graceland' or 'Mrs. Robinson' at every show?"

"Paul Simon has dozens of songs he can use for a final encore," Cady said. "Dozens. All of them brilliant. All of them telling profound stories about the human condition. Are any of them love songs? No."

"Paul Simon is Paul Simon, with fifty years of singing and songwriting behind him. You are just starting out. Be happy. It was a good show," Chris said.

"You always say that," Cady replied, looking around for her water bottle.

"And I always mean it," Chris said smoothly, producing a bottle from his jacket pocket and restoring the normally impeccable lines of his suit. In concession to the casual concert venue, he'd stuffed his tie into his pocket and opened the top two buttons of his shirt. A single strand of his dishwater blond hair escaped from the gel slicking it back, giving him a vaguely rumpled look. "This time was different. Normally you're dialed up to eleven on the scale. Tonight you were around fifteen."

"These are my peeps," Cady said after she swallowed half the water. She hooked her thumb in her guitar strap and hoisted it over her head. "I'm home. I've been playing for them since I was fifteen, busking in SoMa."

"Usually without a permit," came a familiar voice next to her.

"Eve, hi!" She backed away a step when Eve reached for her. "No, you really don't want to hug me. I've sweated through my jeans."

"Don't be ridiculous," Eve said, and swept her up. "That was amazing! I loved the new take on "Summer Nights." Where do you get your energy? You've been on the road for weeks now!"

Cady hugged her back, just as hard, so grateful for her friend's early and vocal support. Chris was checking Eve out, not all that covertly, either. Eve had that kind of impact on men, even in jeans, ankle boots, and a crisp white button-down. "I've been on the road for months. We did the state fair circuit over the summer, where I ate every kind of food on a stick you can eat."

"Including fried candy bars?" Eve asked.

"All the fried candy bars," Cady said. Performing burned so many calories, she could eat whatever she wanted and stay in shape. "I drew the line at a Twinkie log on a stick, though," she added before finishing the rest of the water.

"You've got standards," Eve said, still smiling. "Oh, it's so good to see you!"

"You too." Absently, Cady introduced Chris and Eve, peering around the rapidly dismantling backstage, looking for her sister and mother. She heard Emily before she saw her, high-pitched voice, the clatter of heels as she rounded the corner and made straight for Cady.

"You're home!" Emily shrieked and launched herself at Cady.

"You're taller!" Cady laughed into Emily's hair as she wrapped her arms around Cady and pulled her close. "Great outfit," she said when Emily let go long enough for her to lean back and get a closer look.

"She tried on everything she owned," her mother said, coming in for a hug.

"Hi, Mom. Thanks for coming," Cady said.

"Ah, good to see you again, Mrs. Ward," Chris said.

Her mother smiled at him and reached for Cady to give her a quick hug and kiss. "We need to get home soon. It's a school night."

"It's Cady's homecoming concert! We talked about this. I'm going to drive Cady back to —" Chris shot her a warning glance. Emily transitioned smoothly. "— home."

"You said you were going to do that, and I said I don't want you driving late at night."

"Mom," Emily started mulishly.

"It's fine," Cady said, snagging her guitar case from the roadie who'd appeared beside her. Best to head off a fight at the pass. "I'm coming home tonight, so Emily will get a good night's sleep. Right, Em?"

Emily had the good sense to be gracious in victory, giving their mother a big hug and standing demurely by Cady's side to hold the guitar case for her. "You really like the outfit?"

At sixteen, her sister was five ten without the three-inch heels, slender as a wire coat hanger. She wore a black skirt with car wash pleats, a slim gray turtleneck, and gray suede over-the-knee boots that left a good four inches of bare thigh. The outfit would have been sleek New York professional except Emily had gone for broke with her makeup, layering in smoky eyes, a hint of blush, and dark lips. She looked far older and more sophisticated than the gawky girl Cady remembered from her last visit in February, before Emily's birthday. Emily had been trying on styles for a couple of years now, trying to find who she was as a growing woman. "You look amazing," Cady said.

"I made the skirt," Emily started. "The sweater's from —"

A mic stand tipped into an equalizer before crashing to the floor just before a man stumbled out from behind a wall of boxed equipment. He untangled his feet, then tripped again as the mic stand rolled back in his direction. He got himself upright and looked around with the fierce concentration of the stupidly drunk. He caught sight of Cady, and everyone stopped talking.

"Maud!" he yelled. Man-bun drooping at his nape, he stretched a hand toward her. "Maud, I need to talk to you!"

"Who's that?" Emily asked.

"No idea." Cady quickly scanned the backstage area for an exit strategy. The last thing she wanted to do was bolt onto the stage, where a crowd still lingered, with their phones and cameras. Her back was literally to the wall, and her little sister stood beside her in heels Cady would bet her Fender Emily couldn't run in. As unobtrusively as she could, she stepped in front of her not-so-little sister.

"You said we didn't need security in Lancaster," Chris said, his voice low and calm, not taking his eyes off the man.

"We don't. ... Hey, big guy," she said easily. "What's up?"

"Maud, I love you. I love you, and I want to be with you, and I've written some songs for us to sing together."

Once, just once, I want a man to confess his love for me using my real name. Not Maud. "Really? I could use some new material," she said, because keeping him talking was obviously the right thing to do, and because behind the drunk, two men in police polos with badges and guns clipped to their belts had materialized. One had reddish brown hair and a lean build that would be easy to underestimate. The other man had a good six inches and fifty pounds of muscle on the drunk guy and shoulders as broad as a steer's that tapered to a narrow waist. His dark brown hair swooped back from his forehead, emphasizing a square face dominated by cheekbones and a fighter's chin.

"Hi, Matt," Eve said, lifting a hand in a casual wave. Her tone was totally relaxed, but Cady knew that "Matt" was a detective with the Lancaster Police Department. Her attention switched from the admirer, stumbling into boxes and amplifiers and lighting rigs, to the two men stalking him from behind and back again. Cady was pretty sure "Matt" wasn't Shoulders, the one who'd drawn up silent as smoke just behind the drunk guy. She got a flash of slate blue eyes when he flicked a glance her way. Distract him.

"Um ... what kind of songs?" she asked.

"A sequel to 'Love-Crossed Stars.' It's about our love. Because I love you."

Beside her, Chris snorted. Trust him to find this amusing. "Uh-huh," she said. Shoulders was inches from the guy's back, so she flashed her brightest smile, gave him a bobblehead nod, and lied through her teeth. "That's my favorite song. I'd love to sing a sequel."

When Shoulders' badge and gun registered in her admirer's alcohol-soaked brain, he swung out wildly. Shoulders ducked an ineptly aimed backhand and stepped right into the drunk's body, shoving him off-balance then catching his arm on the forward swing.

"Hey," the drunk guy said, indignant, struggling. "Get the fuck off me, man. I just want to talk to her."

The taller cop got the guy's other arm in a firm grip, then locked eyes with Shoulders over the flailing drunk's head. "One ... two ... three."

Shoulders thrust his leg behind the drunk's knee. A neat twist of hips, and they took the drunk down, facefirst on the floor. A grunt, then a high-pitched yelp. "Ow! Maud!"

"Hey, Romeo," Shoulders said, snapping a cuff around the man's wrist. "You think this is your best move? Coming backstage where you don't belong, smelling like a frat party?"

"I just wanted to talk to her," the drunk slurred. "I love her. We're going to make music together."

Shoulders clicked the cuff around the second wrist, then nodded at the other cop. Together they hoisted the guy up and set him on his feet. It was an impressive display of strength, given that the drunk guy's man-bun balanced out a significant beer-and-wings gut. Cady found herself staring at the band around the sleeve of Shoulders' polo choking his biceps, the way the muscles in his forearms shifted as he easily controlled his prisoner.

"How about you write her a nice letter from jail?" Shoulders said. "No, I've got this," he said to the other cop. "You stay with Eve. Come on, Romeo. You can serenade the rest of the drunk and disorderlies in the van."

Everyone watched him guide the drunk guy through the maze of equipment, including Cady's suitcases. She cast them a loathing look. Tonight was the last night she'd live out of her suitcase. Tomorrow she would unpack in her own house, eat food from her own fridge, sleep in her own bed.

"Cady, darling, the only reason we let Evan go was you saying Lancaster was safe. That nothing ever happened here. That you were no big deal here," Chris muttered.

Evan had been her bodyguard on the tour. An obsessive workout that required two hours a day in the gym meant he had the strong half of "strong silent type" down, but he talked almost incessantly, a running commentary mostly on his workout and diet that, over the course of the tour, drove Cady nuts. "It is. It was," Cady replied, fingering the bracelet in a habitual nervous gesture before she caught herself. "And you know Evan had to go. I was ready to kill him in Topeka."

"Barbecued beef tongue is delicious," Chris said, back on his phone.

"It's tongue. It's gross. I didn't care that he ate it. I cared that he wouldn't freaking shut up about it."

The chestnut-haired cop strode over to the small, frozen group. "You all right, Ms. Ward?" he asked, his gaze skimming the group before settling on Eve.

"I'm fine," Cady said. Her voice sounded almost giddy. She wasn't sure if she was relieved the guy was gone, or that this was obviously Eve's Matt. "Thank you for handling that so quickly. Please tell the other officer ..."


"Please give Officer McCormick my thanks."

"I will," he said.

"Cady, this is Matt," Eve said, as if the smile on her face and the delight in her eyes didn't give it away. "Matt, meet Cady."

"Nice to officially meet you," Matt said with a nod. "I'm a big fan."

"Thank you. I've heard so much about you from Eve."

"That's not good," Matt said easily.

"It wasn't all bad," Cady said, to laughter.

"He's been a fan almost as long as I have," Eve said. "Your first Maud concert was when?"

"The Slowdown, five, no six years ago," Matt said.

"Wow, that is a long time," Cady agreed. She'd been nineteen, on her father's shit list for refusing to go to college, singing wherever she could get a gig and eating ramen noodles out of Styrofoam cups. "I was still singing covers at that point."

"Yeah, but you had something," Eve said. "We all knew it."

"Thanks," Cady said again. She was too tired to think of something more creative to say, but with Eve she didn't have to. "I really need to get going. Emily has school tomorrow."

"Of course," Eve said. "Get some rest, then come see me. I'd love to have you at Eye Candy when you're ready."

"Ms. Ward won't be taking any engagements for the next few weeks," Chris said smoothly.

"It's not an engagement," Cady said. "It's a favor for a friend. A very dear friend."

Chris gave her a look reminding her that she needed to rest her voice. Only a few people knew about the upcoming album for which the label planned a surprise Beyoncé-style drop around Valentine's Day, less than three months away. The thought made her stomach turn a slow loop. Chris chalked it up to nerves, to exhaustion, to creative fatigue, to anything but Cady's growing uncertainty that the album was the right thing to release now.

Chris broke the silence. "We can talk about it tomorrow, when you've had a chance to rest up. I've booked a car for you."

"Hello, remember me? I'm taking her home," Emily said.

"Even better." Chris slid his phone back into his jacket pocket. "With you she's totally anonymous."

Emily's eyes darkened behind the mask of makeup. "Our time together starts now," Cady said cheerfully. "Let's grab my suitcases and we can head out."

Cady, Eve, Matt, and Chris scuffled over who would carry the two enormous suitcases she'd lugged all over North America on tour buses and the occasional plane for the last eight months. Matt and Chris finally won, and followed Emily's runway catwalk stride through the backstage area to the arena door. Eve and Cady trailed behind them.


Excerpted from Going Deep by Anne Calhoun. Copyright © 2016 Anne Calhoun. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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