Ten years ago, Angela Meyers told everyone she went to New York to find herself. It was a lie. She fled from the aftermath of one hot night with Clay Waters. A night filled with wet heat, all-consuming releases…then his regret.
Now, with a stalker threatening to destroy her career, there’s only one man she trusts to protect her. The man she still loves, hates, needs with every breath she takes.
It’s not that Clay never craved his best friend’s younger sister. With a ticket to boot camp burning a hole in his pocket, he couldn’t allow himself to love her. The moment he lays eyes on her again, the old need—to take down her tightly wound hair, press her long, lean body to his—surges inside him stronger than ever.
But this is no ordinary bodyguard assignment. The best way to identify the voice in Angela’s shadow is to lure it into the light of day. Even if it means convincing her to trust him with her heart…and surrendering his own.
Warning: When an ex-Marine reunites with his best friend’s younger sister, explosive sex is a given. So are explosive secrets. You may never look at a pair of Snoopy pajama pants the same way again.
They were in the middle of their meal and she wondered how long it was going to take her brother to get the nerve up to get to the real point of his trip. She knew he was beating around the bush and it had a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth as she ate her perfectly cooked orange chicken. His original reason of just wanting to come up for a visit was too good to be true.
She sipped her hot tea, lacing her fingers together around the fragile cup, her elbows on the table, while staring at her brother.
He eyed her wearily, sizing her up, and she couldn’t stand the suspense any longer.
“Okay out with it,” she declared as she set her cup back on the table, waving her hand at him like she was a matador and he the bull.
“Out with what?”
He tried to look chagrined and she finally let loose a low giggle, shaking her head. “Do you really think I’m that naïve?”
“What?” he asked again.
Angela folded her arms across her chest and cocked one eyebrow at him. He chuckled and wiped his mouth with a napkin.
“How do you know? How do you always know?” he chuckled as he visibly relaxed a few degrees.
She took another drink of tea, letting it calm her frayed nerves. “You have this way of being very polite and asking questions. Beating around the bush I think is what they call it.”
He glanced up and she tried to hide a smile behind her porcelain cup as he shook his head. He took a deep breath, apparently done wasting time. “Okay, I did have a bit of an ulterior motive in coming,” he admitted.
“Well, duh,” Angela mumbled, rolling her eyes the slightest bit as she fought back another grin.
He stared at her intently across the table and her palms went slick. His smile faltered when he broke eye contact.
“This must be bad,” she guessed out loud when he had to compose himself.
“No, it’s not bad. I have to ask you a favor and I need you to try to be open-minded.”
That wouldn’t be hard. “Sure, Mark, whatever you need.” It was true. Anything he needed was his. Especially since he so rarely asked for things.
“Do you promise?” he asked quickly before she could change her mind.
“Or course.” She would give him anything. He was, hands-down, the closest member of her family and she loved him fiercely.
“I promise. Any favor you need, just tell me and I’ll make it happen.”
“Good, I’ve hired you a security team.”
There it was.
He had finally said it.
One deep breath later, he stared over at her. She was probably looking at him like he’d just called her a koala bear.
“You did what? Why?”
“The what, I just told you. I’ve hired you a private security team, to protect you when you need it. Any time you need it.” Her brain was already trying to back out of her promise, so he held up his hands to stay her excuses. “And the why is simple, Ang. We’ve all been worried about you for months and I know something is going on that you aren’t telling me. Do you deny it?” A scowl darkened his face, already expecting a lie. That hurt.
Angela thought long and hard before she answered him. “I appreciate your concern, but I don’t need nor want security around me.”
The time for playing nice had long since passed apparently.
He growled low, flipping her hand over to reveal the gash on her wrist. Speaking loud enough where only she could hear him, he said, “Can you cut the horse shit, Ang? Stop trying to change the subject and answer the fucking question. Has it started again?” Mark looked murderous in his instantaneous rage. Angela couldn’t blame him as she pulled her wrist back and slumped in her seat. She barely resisted the urge to palm the back of her head.
“Yes, it’s started again. Mail started arriving several weeks ago.” She looked down at the table as a tremor ran up her body at admitting the truth. “And I was attacked last week.” Mark ran his hands through his hair, a tick he resorted to only when he was really pissed.
“I can handle this,” she whispered. “I’ve already started looking into companies for events.”
“That’s what you said last time,” he drawled in his not-so-concealed Texan accent. “Look what that got you. Months of no sleep. The last time you were attacked, they broke how many bones? You had a concussion. Jesus. I wouldn’t have known any of that if it were up to you. Did my own sister call and tell me she needed me? Oh, no. Your fucking assistant called to tell me what was going on. And this was on top of all the creepy shit showing up at your building, not to mention the phone calls. Nights lying afraid in bed, and to this day, no answers as to who or why. Except that everything stopped. Magically.” His voice laced with bitter sarcasm.
When she didn’t readily deny it, he pushed onward. “You said if they came at you again you would take precautions. Sounds like the time is now, sweetheart.”
Her pride was already raising the hackles on the back of her neck. “Don’t call me sweetheart, you know it irritates me.”
She rubbed her temples in the vain attempt to stave off the migraine pounding against her skull.
She didn’t want security. She wanted her privacy and the calm surrender she had in her solitary life. She didn’t want to have to trust someone else with her safety, much less her life.
He relayed more information before she could start with all the reasons she could handle it. “It’s a firm from Texas that works only with high-profile clients. The head of C&C Security has recently become available and he’s willing to take you on, at my request. Then, only for special occasions and big events two agents will be here. I trust them implicitly, Ang. I would never suggest this if I didn’t.”
Angela searched for anything that could get her out of the trap she now found herself in.
“The police thought the attacks were random. Just some guys with too much time on his hands. Maybe a little obsessed,” she added in a rush as she could see Mark preparing to argue.
“Put yourself in my shoes, for just a moment,” Mark pleaded. “What would you do?”
Angela recognized the first blow of defeat as she stared into her brother’s concerned face. He wasn’t smug, or needling her just for the hell of it. He was scared and she knew it. It was what she saw in the mirror every time she was stupid enough to look.
She hated it when he spoke logic to her. Admittedly, if she were standing in his shoes now, she would have put her foot down last year and demanded he get security.
The last thing she wanted was someone sticking their nose into her business, but if the truth be told, depending on someone else with her safety. It simply left her feeling scared. What if she got them hurt? Or worse? She couldn’t live with that.
“Angie? Will you at least meet with him and give them a chance?” Mark asked after she failed to say a word.
She blew out the breath she had been holding and her bangs flew off her forehead for a second.
“Okay,” she finally agreed. “I’ll meet with him. When and where, since I’m sure you already have all of that planned?”
“Of course I do. Did you think I would come unprepared? He’ll be flying in tomorrow morning and I have him scheduled to meet us at your showroom at noon. Is that acceptable?” he asked with a smug smile of success.
She chuckled and shook her head. “I guess so.” Trying to regain her composure, she reached for the bill, which Mark snatched from under her palm.
“This one’s on me. Consider it a thank-you for finally listening to what we’ve all been saying for months. You’ll be happy you did.”
Mark stood and helped Angela to her feet as she grabbed her purse.
“If you ask me, I think it’s a bribe, but I’ll take it nonetheless. Thanks,” she said with a smile. She knew they all meant well, but this was going to take some getting used to.
As they walked to the front, Angela finally thought to ask, “Who is this person you have so much confidence in?”
Mark laid the bill on the counter with his credit card and said, “Oh, you know him, too, sort of. It’s Clay Waters, my best friend from high school. After high school, he…”
All of the blood rushed to her head and drowned out the rest of what Mark so animatedly talked about.
The smile she plastered on her face hid the shock and horror eating away at her insides.
She had to get out of this agreement she’d just made.
Bargain with anything she had.
Anyone else could do the job.
Need something to wet your whistle?
May I suggest a delicious bite out of the Members Only series........ :P
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