I normally wouldn’t answer my phone while a gorgeous redhead was performing a strip tease in my bedroom, but it’s Rachel Hart-Wright calling. As my second in charge at Jameson Force Security, she wouldn’t call unless it was important. Besides, I’m just cocky enough to take a business call while receiving personal pleasure.
“This better be good, Hart,” I say curtly after connecting. My gaze drifts ever so briefly to the almost-empty glass of scotch in my hand before going to the woman dry humping my bedpost to some rock song I don’t recognize. She watches me through heavy-lidded eyes, knowing I’ll reward her.
“I don’t know if good is the word,” she drawls. “There’s a lot of money involved, but you’re not going to like who it’s from.”
“If it’s that bloody congressman who hired us to babysit his duffer son, the answer is no.” That job had taught me there are some things money can’t buy.
“What the hell is a ‘duffer’?” Rachel asks.
“Someone who’s useless,” I say distractedly as the woman in front of me peels off her bra, exposing gloriously perky tits.
“You Brits have a funny way of talking,” Rachel replies. “Why couldn’t you just have said ‘useless’?”
I feel the corners of my mouth turn upward into an amused smile, but she’ll never know. My tone is one of impatience when I mutter, “Just tell me what the job is, and I’ll approve or deny it.”
“It’s Joslyn Meyers.”
My blood pressure instantly spikes, and I tighten my fingers so hard on my glass I’m surprised it doesn’t shatter. It’s difficult not to yell into the phone, but there’s no mistaking the force of my words. “Not only no, but hell no. Whatever she needs, the answer is a bloody fucking no.”
“I think you should listen—”
“I said ‘no’,” I bark into the phone but then immediately lower my voice. “Now is there anything else we need to discuss that doesn’t have to do with Joslyn Meyers, or can I get back to what I was doing before you tried to ruin my night?”
“She’s in serious trouble,” Rachel snaps.
“Don’t care,” I snarl.
“Her life is in danger.”
Every muscle in my body goes rigid. A slight sweat breaks out on my forehead that has nothing to do with the redhead shimmying out of her panties. I give a hard shake of my head, wondering why Joslyn still has the power to affect me after all these years. Still, I manage to grit out between my teeth, “Don’t. Care.”
“That’s what you want me to tell her?” Rachel asks calmly.
“I don’t give a shit what you tell her, as long as the word ‘no’ is somewhere in your sentence.” I push away every bit of the concern for Joslyn that’s starting to rear its ugly head. “Refer her over to Miller’s agency. They do protection detail just fine.”
There’s a long moment of silence as Rachel digests what I’m saying. She’s well aware of my enmity toward the world-famous Joslyn Meyers, and I can’t understand why she wants to fight me on this. I let my eyes roam all over the now fully naked woman—who is indeed a natural redhead—hoping it will distract me from this distasteful conversation.
“Fine,” Rachel says with a sigh.
I feel elated to have this matter resolved, but I choose to ignore the fact I’m also strangely unsettled because it isn’t—not for Joslyn anyway.
“I understand and respect your decision. But you can tell her yourself.”
It doesn’t quite penetrate what happens next because before I know it, Joslyn’s soft voice comes over the line. “Kynan,” she says hesitantly.
I bolt upward in my chair, my spine stiff and unrelenting. Setting my glass on the table beside me, I see nothing even though I’m staring at the dancing woman who is now touching herself in the naughtiest way.
“Kynan,” Joslyn says again. Her voice quavers with emotion. “I could really use your help.”
I scrub a hand over my face, blinking stupidly at the woman across my bedroom as her hand works between her legs. She moans softly, but it doesn’t touch me at all.
My jaw locks hard for a moment, and I tell myself to stay strong. “We’re not taking on celebrity detail anymore. We can refer you to a good agency to fit your needs.”
Not the full truth, but she doesn’t need to know that.
The Jameson Group has expanded greatly over the last two years since I bought it from Jerico Jameson in a seven-million-dollar deal. The first thing I did was change the name to Jameson Force Security to better reflect my new business model. While the biggest chunk of our business is mainstream work—protecting celebrities and installing top-of-the-line security systems—our most lucrative contracts still came from the United States government and other foreign allies for “specialized” work that can be hard to come by.
Or more accurately… hard to get approval for. Jameson Force Security has become the go-to private security contractor. We offer the type of “off-the-books invisibility” a government might need when doing top-secret covert work.
And because the mainstream part of the business is running like a well-oiled, money-making machine and I’ve been getting a bit bored, I’ve decided to expand the covert-operations part. Because of that, Jameson Force Security was born, developed, and is now ready to take on more work.
So ready, in fact, I’m on the verge of opening a new set of offices in Pittsburgh as I need to be in better proximity to Washington, D.C. Rachel had asked me why I didn’t just move to D.C., but I can’t stand the place. I’ve always loved Pittsburgh, though. It’s a city rooted in steel, grit, and determination, which is exactly the way I’d describe Jameson Force Security. I’m going to relocate to Pittsburgh and Rachel is going to stay in Vegas to run the private-security portion of the business.
“If it’s a matter of money—” Joslyn says, interrupting my straying thoughts.
I cut her off. “It’s not.”
“Please, Kynan,” she implores, and I can hear the watery tears in her voice.
Thankfully, I’m momentarily distracted when the redhead crawls on her hands and knees toward me. Blue eyes flashing with heat, her tits swaying provocatively. Silently, and with a little bit of satisfaction, I realize this woman before me is exactly what I want and need, while the woman on the phone, probably sitting in her multimillion-dollar Malibu mansion, is not.
Hands come to my thighs, slide up, and work at my belt. My cock finally deciding to get into the game, it starts to thicken at the prospect. I settle into the chair, lifting my hips briefly so she can reach inside my pants to pull me free.
I suppress a groan as her hand circles me tight and starts to stroke. Reaching out, I cup her breast, relishing the weight of it before giving her nipple a pinch. Her lush lips peel into a wicked smile right before she puts her mouth on me.
Fuck yeah. That’s exactly what I need.
My hand goes to her hair, fingers gripping her fiery locks tightly. Using my grasp as a piston, I help her bob up and down, starting to get lost in the sensation.
“He almost killed me last night,” Joslyn says and for a moment, her words don’t register.
But then they do, and I roughly yank the redhead off my cock. Her eyes widen in surprise, but I shake my head as I sit upright in my chair again.
“What?” I manage to rasp out.
“A stalker,” she whispers. “He’s been harassing me for a really long time. Last night, though, he actually managed to break into my house. I couldn’t get to my panic room in time.”
The air in my lungs freezes. She has a panic room. Which means she’s been battling a serious threat. Everything around me seems to slow as my ears ring with her revelation.
“He heard the sirens approaching before he could…” When she abruptly stops, bile rises in my throat. She coughs before finishing softly. “He ran off, and they didn’t catch him.”
I clear my throat from the thick emotion that has built up. “Where are you? Is someone with you now?”
Joslyn mirthlessly laughs. “I’m in your office. Over on Clarke Avenue.”
“Put Rachel on the phone,” I instruct, my words clipped and impersonal.
There’s an indistinct murmuring between the women as the phone gets passed. Rachel’s brisk and professional voice comes through. “What do you want me to do?”
Longingly, I stare at the redhead who has since moved over to lounge in a sexy pose on my bed. I want to get lost in her. Want to forget everything else.
There’s no holding back the sigh of resignation that escapes me. “We’re taking the case. Starting now. Bring her to my house.”
“Your house?” Rachel asks in surprise.
“For safety’s sake, she stays with me until I can figure out who to assign this case to.”
Rachel is silent for a moment, but then murmurs, “But you’re not alone.”
“True,” I reply as I stand. My pants barely cling to the edges of my hips. I’ve even lost my hard-on, a matter that needs to be rectified immediately. After I walk around the bed, I run hot eyes over the beautiful, luscious creature stretched out there. “But that’s none of Joslyn’s concern. We’re nothing to each other but business.”
“Gotcha, boss,” Rachel says, clearly amused. She’s known me for years. Hell, we were fuck buddies for a time. She caught me on the tail end of mine and Joslyn’s breakup, and I got lost between her legs as we traveled the world in search of adventures and thrills. She was easy to talk to, so she knows the basics of what happened between us.
But Rachel and I aren’t like that anymore. We’ve been colleagues at Jameson for over a decade. Once we started working together, it became purely professional. Since Jerico sold out to me, Rachel is the most trustworthy peer to me in this business. She’s also nonjudgmental. If my treatment of Joslyn is less than civilized, Rachel won’t hold it against me.
The redhead rises to her knees, then scoots toward me. Her fingers work at the buttons of my shirt. Once it’s bared, she leans in to place a kiss on the center of my chest.
My cock stirs, springing back to life, and I disconnect the call.
Joslyn is forgotten.
For the time being.
“Kynan’s done well for himself,” I murmur to Rachel as we pull into the driveway of a monstrous colonial-style Spanish mansion. It’s bigger than my house, which says a lot as mine sits at just over seven-thousand square feet of useless-to-me space.
“That he has,” she replies as she puts her Maserati Quattroporte in park and cuts the engine.
I don’t make any move to open the door. Neither does Rachel. My heart is pounding at the prospect of seeing Kynan again after all these years, but this isn’t as scary as what happened last night. Unconsciously, I bring my fingers to my throat and skim over the purple bruises there.
“How old is your kid?” I ask, turning slightly toward her. She blinks in surprise, but I throw a thumb over my shoulder to the car seat in the back.
“He’ll be six months on the twenty-third.”
I do a quick calculation in my head before smiling. “He was almost a Christmas baby then.”
“Yup.” She laughs. “Bodie, my husband, insisted we make Kris his middle name in honor of the holidays.”
Kris Kringle. Cute. “What’s his first name?”
“Anthony, but we call him Tony.”
Traditional. “Family name?”
She shakes her head with a laugh. “No. We named him after Tony Stark.”
“You’re kidding me?”
“I never kid about the Avengers,” she says in all seriousness. Tilting her head, she considers me a moment, her smile reassuring. But my pulse spikes again when she says, “Ready to get this over with?”
I nod, but what I really want is for her to start the car again, then take me to the nearest airport and put me on a flight to somewhere no one will be able to find me. That way, I could melt into obscurity and leave the psychopath who is after me far behind.
Except… he’s managed to find me time and time again over the last few years. I’ve moved four times, purchasing homes under different aliases, but he somehow hunts me down. Threatening notes followed by flowing love letters. And either bouquets of flowers at my house’s gated entry or decapitated squirrels, depending on his mood. It was sporadic enough I’d sometimes get a false sense of security—thinking he’d gotten bored and moved on—but something else would always happen.
But he’d never broken into my home before.
I knew it was him, though.
He managed to cut the power, which alerted me something might be wrong. When I heard glass break near the back patio, I dialed 9-1-1 in a nanosecond and raced toward the panic room. Even though he cut the power, my security system had a battery backup. I’d known a silent alarm would be ringing somewhere, hopefully notifying the police.
It was a good thing, too, because the man took me down in the hallway just mere feet from the door to the panic room and before 9-1-1 could even answer my call. My only saving grace had been the security company alerting the police and a cruiser just blocks from my house. The wailing sirens as they converged on my house caused him to run. Thank God, because I’d been awfully close to losing consciousness from his hands locked around my throat.
I drop my fingers away from the bruising, but Rachel’s gaze goes there, surveying the marks he left behind. When she looks at me, her eyes harden. “Kynan will protect you. We’ll figure out who this shithead is, and he won’t bother you anymore when we’re done with him.”
I manage a tremulous smile. “That’s the most reassuring thing I’ve heard in a long time. The police haven’t been able to do much with what little information they had over the last few years.”
Her eyes go soft and almost apologetic. “I don’t know the details of what happened between you and Kynan, but I’ve got the general gist of things.”
A blush blazes through me, and I drop my gaze to my lap. “He hates me. I could hear it on the phone.”
“I have no clue if that’s true,” she remarks simply. “But don’t expect him to be nice. If you want him for this job, you should be ready to deal with his attitude.”
I nod, acknowledging what she hadn’t needed to reiterate. Kynan and I split ways twelve years ago, and it hadn’t been pretty at all. I’d loved him so much. There had been a time when he’d been my entire world and sole future. But then I found out the worst about him, and it hurt too much to stay. So I left him behind without a backward glance. Leaving him is perhaps my greatest regret in life, but that doesn’t make things any better for us right now.
Straightening, I meet Rachel’s eyes. “I know exactly how Kynan feels about me. Yet, I’m still here. He’s the one for this job.”
“Why?” she asks, tilting her head in question. “There are a lot of other great security firms out there.”
That’s true. I’ve researched them over the years since the stalking started. Even used a few for personal security services. I could easily use the same ones again.
I curve my lips into a sardonic smile. “No matter his feelings toward me, Kynan is a man of integrity. He’ll take this far more seriously than anyone else would. I trust him.”
“All right then,” she says, then grabs the handle to her door and opens it. “Let’s go on in.”
I follow Rachel up the sidewalk, which is flush with cacti and tropical plants. Even though it’s June in Vegas, I pull the sides of my zip hoodie around me for protection. I’m not looking my best, that’s for sure. After I refused an ambulance to the hospital, I gladly accepted a police officer’s offer for a ride straight to the airport. I’d thrown on some yoga pants, a tank top, and grabbed my hoodie from the closet. I was so eager to leave the area I didn’t bring anything else other than my purse. I have no makeup on, my hair is a rat’s nest, and I don’t even have a brush because I don’t carry one in my purse. No, I wouldn’t do something as sensible as that. In addition to my purse, I usually always brought with me a huge cosmetic/vanity bag, which carried all the essentials needed to make sure I always look glamorous. Never even thought to bring that with me because my only thought was getting out of Santa Barbara and to Kynan for help.
There was never any doubt of where I’d go once I approached the ticket agent at the airport. The police officer kindly came in with me, and he stayed by my side until I made it to the security line. Still, I didn’t stop looking over my shoulder until I was on the plane to Vegas and every last passenger had boarded. My life was now one led by fear and survival instinct, and I knew I couldn’t survive it alone.
To my surprise, we get to Kynan’s front door and Rachel punches in a security code to unlock it. She pushes it open, then motions me inside.
The splendor of his house is lost on me—not because I’m immune to opulence, but because it’s not important to me. Over the years, many things I’d thought were important just aren’t anymore.
Crossing my arms over my chest, I scan around with minimal curiosity. Mostly, though, all I feel is nervousness over seeing the man I once loved who now hates me.
Rachel shuts the door, and I follow her into the open living room with a view of a spacious veranda. It’s filled with potted plants, a huge grill, and high-end furniture, but I barely take it in.
The sound of a door opening above catches my attention. I sweep my gaze up the massive, curved staircase that sits between the foyer and living area. There’s laughter—both male and female—and then Kynan appears with a ravishingly beautiful woman wearing nothing but a short, silky robe. It’s tied so loosely at her waist that her breasts are bared. His arm around her waist, he’s whispering something in her ear that causes her to giggle again as they descend the staircase. Kynan’s wearing track pants and a t-shirt. His dark blond hair is mussy. It’s clear they just rolled out of bed.
The first time I see him in twelve years, my only thought is about how time has been damn good to him. His hair is worn the same way, along with his trademark facial hair that hovers somewhere between a short beard and a five o’clock shadow. Clearly, he takes his health seriously as his body is as buff and cut as it was when he was twenty-six. Those arms, sleeved with tattoos, were always my weakness. Apparently, they still are because I stare at them too long.
My face flushes with embarrassment over being in Kynan’s home, unannounced and clearly ruining an evening with his girlfriend. Even worse is that I continue to ogle him shamelessly.
When he reaches the bottom of the stairs, his eyes come to me, but they linger only briefly and without a flicker of emotion before he addresses Rachel. “I don’t need anything else tonight, Rach. Get home to Bodie and Tony.”
Rachel inclines her head, then gives me a last reassuring smile that misses the mark with me. “See you later, Joslyn.”
“Bye,” I whisper, my throat feeling extremely parched from nerves and still raw from last night’s attack.
When the door closes behind Rachel, Kynan drops his hand to the woman’s ass and squeezes. “Be a love and get me a club soda from the bar.”
That damn British accent is still sexy as hell, too, and I hope there’s not going to be a lot of conversation tonight. I’m in sensory overload.
“Not another scotch?” the woman purrs with her hand to his chest as she leans into him.
He shakes his head, then glances at me. “Want something to drink?”
Kynan’s eyes dip briefly to my throat. He’d have to be blind not to notice the bruising, but I don’t see so much as a facial tick from him. His expression stays as bland as unbuttered grits.
The redhead sashays off, neither bothering to make any introductions. Briefly, I watch her swaying hips while she makes her way over to a recessed wet bar built into one wall before I turn back to Kynan. I swallow to wet my throat. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be barging in like this and interrupting your time with your girlfriend. I can go to a hotel, and we can meet in your office tomorrow.”
Both Kynan and the woman give simultaneous snorts of amusement, but she’s the one who responds. “Oh, I’m not his girlfriend.”
Confused, I look back and forth between them.
Kynan just shrugs. “We met this afternoon.”
“Oh,” I say softly, the implication hitting me. I’m not shocked over a one-night stand because there’s nothing wrong with a little fun, but why in the world did he have Rachel bring me here?
“We met at The Wicked Horse,” the woman adds conversationally. “I was getting flogged in the stocks, and Kynan rescued me. Whisked me off to this luxurious mansion for an evening of fun.”
I blink stupidly, trying to process the strange sentences. “I’m sorry. The Wicked Horse?”
“It’s a sex club I belong to,” Kynan replies offhandedly on his way to a sumptuous-looking armchair. He drops down with elegant grace, then motions toward the couch to indicate I should take a seat.
Now I’m shocked. So much so I’m rooted to the spot. “Sex club?”
“Oh, don’t sound so boorish, Joslyn,” Kynan chastises in that godforsaken hot British accent. “You should give kink a try. You would have no shortage of movie stars and rock gods lining up for you.”
Heat creeps up my neck, and I’m rendered speechless. A glass of club soda in her hand, the woman saunters over to Kynan. She settles right on his lap. When his hand goes between her legs, my entire body freezes.
And I don’t mean to squeeze her thigh or give her a quick caress.
Nope, he slides it right to her core. While the hem of her robe covers what he’s doing, it’s obvious it must feel good because her eyes roll back in her head, which then lolls on his shoulder. Her legs begin to fall open, obviously wanting to give him better access. I jerk my eyes to his face just in time to catch his smirk as he watches me closely for a reaction.
I spin away, mortified and equally pissed off. It’s clear he’s intentionally doing this to make me uncomfortable. I start for the door, unwilling to stand for whatever he’s trying to prove.
“Stay,” he commands and for a moment, I almost obey him. That voice of his… all cultured but incredibly arrogant and demanding. I used to obey him a lot when it came to sex, but I chalk that up to the fact I was just oh so young when we were together.
I’m not young and naïve anymore, so I keep walking.
I make it to the foyer before he calls out, “Walk out that door, Joslyn, and you know your life is in danger. Your psychopath could be out there right now.”
They are the right words.
I freeze, feeling my shoulders slump in resignation and complete helplessness. Tears prick at my eyes, and I furiously blink them back.
Resignation fills me. Not only am I in a no-win situation right now, but I’m also going to have to accept I’ll be forced to pay more than just money to get Kynan’s help. As a means to make me repent for the wrongs he perceives I did to him, it’s obvious he’s going to humiliate me first by making me stay while he gets the woman off.
But to my surprise, he addresses the woman, “We’re going to need to call it a night, love. Go get your clothes on, then call yourself a cab or an Uber. I’ve got some money in my wallet to pay for it. It’s on the dresser.”
“Sure thing,” she replies. After, there’s only the sound of kissing, moaning, and a deep groan from Kynan. I can only imagine what she’s doing to him, but I refuse to turn around.
Only when I hear the woman’s soft steps on the staircase do I give my attention to Kynan again.
“Take a seat,” he says with a nod at the couch.
My walk is slow and measured. There’s a slight limp I can’t quite cover up because I banged my knee so hard when I was tackled to the floor last night. My entire body is covered in bruises from the fight that ensued as he tried to roll me over. I thought he was going to rape me, but he merely put his hands around my throat and started to choke the life out of me.
When I reach the couch, I sit awkwardly on the edge of the cushion with my hands clenched tightly on my lap, head down.
“Tell me everything,” he says.
Raising my head, I face the man I used to love with every breath in my body.
And then I do just as he commands.
I flip the bacon, glancing up from my efforts to look across the kitchen, through the living room, and to the curved staircase that leads to the second floor where Joslyn is still apparently sleeping. I had hoped the smell of food would lure her down, since I don’t relish the thought of having to wake her up. Even the thought of hearing her husky morning voice or seeing her hair mussed from a long night’s sleep would bring back too many unsolicited memories of when we were a couple.
Besides, it’s still super early yet. I get up at five every morning to get in a quick workout, followed by breakfast and coffee. I’m on my third cup now. My stomach is growling because I’ve delayed starting to cook by at least an hour to give Joslyn an opportunity to get some more sleep. She looked bad last night, and she needs the rest.
Just the thought of those marks on her causes fury to swirl within me and I try to push it right back down again. I’ve got no business being enraged on Joslyn’s behalf. She’s nothing but a client to me now. I should only feel a healthy amount of concern for her safety with a pressing need for due diligence to catch this creepy fuck as soon as possible.
Truthfully, she deserves nothing more from me than a professional job well done.
It’s true that once, a long time ago, she had my love and undying devotion, but that was summarily killed when she left me with no explanation and moved to another state to pursue her career. One might think that’s a little harsh of me, because shouldn’t she be able to chase her dreams? And the answer is hell yes. But I’d offered to give up my career to follow her wherever her career might take her, so it was extra crushing when I wasn’t invited along.
The object of my current ire comes down the stairs, and I hate how much I’m attracted to her as she carefully descends by supporting herself with one hand on the banister. She’s now two days post attack from the stalker who managed to break into her house, and I can tell she’s even more sore today than yesterday.
Despite everything, she’s a goddamned punch to the gut. Joslyn is even more beautiful now than she was twelve years ago at the age of nineteen. She’s filled out in all the right places and despite the haunted expression in her blue eyes, her face is a work of art any man would be hard pressed to ignore. Her hair is more of a platinum blonde than when we were together, a color I can only describe as silver moonlight. Granted, it could use a good brushing, but I find the pale color suits her even better except it makes the bruising on her neck stand out in stark contrast.
Those marks, clearly from a man’s hands around her throat, were the first thing I noticed when I laid eyes on her last night. I’d battled a rage so intense I’d almost stumbled down the last two steps when I came down to meet her.
I’ve seen Joslyn a bunch of times over the years.
Usually on entertainment shows, giving interviews and such.
Accepting awards and signing autographs.
She’s come a long way from her early days as a Vegas pop singer.
Even in a wrinkled t-shirt and threadbare sweatpants, she takes my breath away. Her hair is piled messily on top of her head like a shining halo. But I have to remember that she’s no angel.
I pull the bacon from the pan, placing the slices on a paper-towel-lined plate. It gives me a reason to avert my eyes from Joslyn as she gingerly makes her way into the kitchen.
“Good morning,” she says hesitantly.
“Morning,” I reply, turning to give her a critical once over. I push aside the flutter in my stomach, which she somehow still makes me feel, then notice the bruising on her neck is a darker purple. I’m certain about one thing… before all this is through, I’m going to make that fucker pay for what he did to her. “Coffee?”
“I can get it,” she replies with a wan smile. I nod toward the coffee pot on the back counter beside the sink. My eyes follow her as she makes her way around the island.
“Cups are in the cabinet above the pot and cream is in the fridge. Still take your eggs over easy?”
Joslyn jerks, glancing over her shoulder in surprise. “Yes. That’s fine, or whatever’s easiest.”
“One’s just as easy as the other.” I shrug, hating I still remember something as simple as the way she eats her eggs after twelve years. I’ve tried extremely hard to forget everything about her.
Returning my attention to breakfast, I pull a clean pan from a cupboard and spray it with oil, setting it over a new flame on my six-burner range. I don’t offer up conversation as Joslyn makes her coffee. When she takes a seat on a stool at the island, it puts her just in my peripheral vision. Staying silent, I crack eggs into the skillet.
“I want to apologize again for intruding last night,” she offers me in a quiet voice. “I should have waited until we could meet at your office today.”
“You weren’t intruding,” I reply. It’s not said as a means to soothe her conscience but to set up a jab that’s meant to hurt. “I’d already fucked her. My evening was complete.”
When Joslyn flinches, I feel like shit for being so bloody crass, but I’m trying to reconcile the anger over how she left me with the fury over the fact someone tried to kill her.
Fuck, I hate she still matters to me when I know she shouldn’t.
Twelve years ago, I fell in love with Joslyn Meyers with no more effort than it takes to blow a feather into the air. I had just come to work for Jerico at his newly formed security service. We had served in Afghanistan together—Jerico with the U.S. Marines, while I’d been with the Royal Marines—and I was the first person he asked to join him on this private venture away from the military.
Jerico had warned me. He’d seen the way I watched her while she performed on stage in a popular Vegas pop act, and he’d told me to steer clear.
But I hadn’t.
And I had thought Joslyn felt the same. Granted, she was so young—not even twenty—and I wasn’t much more mature at twenty-six, but it felt like the real deal to me.
I guess that’s why it had hurt so much when she’d broken it off with absolutely no forewarning it was coming. One day, we were head over heels in love. The next, she’d told me it was over and she was moving to Hollywood.
End of story.
I’m fairly sure I hated her then for making a tough guy like me hurt. For choosing a life without me. I hadn’t known such a wisp of a girl could cause a physical pain inside my chest, but fuck if it didn’t take me a long damn time to get over her.
The security panel in the short hallway to the laundry room chimes. A mechanical female voice drones out, “Warning… front door opened.”
Joslyn jolts, a flash of fear crossing her face. My initial instinct is to gather her in my arms to soothe the terror away. Instead, I only say, “That’s just Rachel.”
As if on cue, Rachel enters the kitchen, carrying a box of donuts in one hand and a small duffel bag in another. “Good morning.”
“Morning,” Joslyn replies softly with a shy smile.
Rachel sets the duffel bag on the floor near Rachel’s stool. “Got you a travel bag with some clothes and toiletries.”
“Thank you.” Rachel’s tone is surprised and overly grateful.
I cock an eyebrow at the sweet confections in Rachel’s hands. “Those things will kill you, Rach.”
“But I’ll go with a smile on my face,” she teases with a grin, then tosses the box onto the island countertop in front of Joslyn. She opens the top, pulls out two donuts, and then nabs a paper towel. To Joslyn, she says, “Help yourself.”
I slide Joslyn’s over-easy eggs onto a clean plate, then toss a few slices of bacon on it. She ignores the donuts, giving me a barely perceptible, “Thank you,” when I set the food in front of her. I’m sure I’ve set the atmosphere for her meek and quiet attitude right now, and that’s fine.
Rachel and I need to settle some things, which is why I invited her over this morning.
“What’s the plan?” she asks as she settles on a stool next to Joslyn.
I whisk more eggs in a bowl while I give Rachel the low down on what Joslyn and I talked about last night.
“Her stalker is incredibly smart,” I reply, shooting a quick glance at Joslyn. She’s now warily watching me just from the mention of this asswipe. “He’s been able to find out where she lives, despite her using a protective alias to purchase her home. It tells me he might be a hacker—and a damned good one at that. I’d be shocked if he didn’t already know she’s here in Vegas.”
Rachel nods in understanding. “Good thing you’re going to spring Bebe.”
Joslyn frowns. “Spring Bebe? What does that mean?”
“Just that we hopefully have our own hacker coming on board with Jameson soon,” I reply, pouring my eggs into the skillet for a slow scramble. Giving my attention to Rachel, I continue with my initial analysis of our situation. “But just because he’s smart doesn’t mean he’s not psycho. He’s been pursuing her for almost two years now, with his ultimate fantasy being to kill her. Those dark thoughts don’t just go away, so we have to expect him to come after her again.”
“But when?” Rachel muses.
“Hopefully not long,” I answer as I stir my eggs. “But he might be a little spooked at almost getting caught by the police, so I have an idea.”
Both women give me their full attention. I look up from my cooking, my gaze centering on Rachel only. “We’re going to bait him to come after Joslyn. Going to open the door figuratively to make it impossible for him to stay outside.”
Joslyn gasps. “You want him to come after me?”
“He won’t get near you.”
“Can you guarantee that?” Her eyes are narrowed on me sharply.
“Yes,” I say with a hard edge to my tone. There’s no way I’d ever let that fucker touch a hair on her head ever again.
“How are you going to lure him?” Rachel asks, and I focus on her.
Pulling the pan from the flame, I scrape my eggs onto an awaiting plate, tossing some bacon on top. I’d given this a lot of thought after I’d shown Joslyn to a guest room last night. I turn the stove off, then put the pan back on it. Placing my hands on the edge of the counter, I lay out my plan to them.
“We’re going to put on a show for him, and he won’t be able to resist coming after Joslyn.” I twist my neck slightly to give my full attention just to her. “We’ll get your publicist on it. Announce you and I are a couple. We’ll do a few photo ops. I’m going to brag how you’re absolutely protected now under my watch and this loser isn’t going to get anywhere near you. His ego won’t be able to handle it. His psychosis will demand he prove me wrong.”
“I’ve heard crazier ideas,” Rachel says before taking a huge bite of a donut.
Joslyn, I notice, lets her gaze drift off so she’s staring out the kitchen window into the side yard. Whether she’s contemplating doubts or that I might be the craziest son of a bitch she’s ever known, I have no clue. But while I might have all kinds of enmity for her, I don’t want her to have the stress of worrying about this. I wouldn’t want that on any of my clients.
“I’ll keep you safe, Jos,” I promise, surprised by the way I’ve so easily slipped back into using the endearment by shortening her name.
Those blue eyes come back to me and she nods. “I know. I trust you.”
“Good,” I say with a nod of my head, then turn back to Rachel. “I’ll keep my current schedule. Joslyn will come with me to Pittsburgh and after I finish the interview, we’ll head to her house on the West Coast where we’ll start to set the trap.”
“Pittsburgh?” Joslyn asks with surprise.
“Opening a new headquarters there, and I’ve got a potential employee to interview,” is all I say. She’s on a need to know basis and she doesn’t need to know any more. Certainly not any details about my life and this amazing career I’m still building into something more involved and complex.
She doesn’t deserve to know anything about my life, so I can’t figure out why I’m all of a sudden frustrated when she doesn’t press me about it. Instead, she just nods and picks up a piece of bacon to nibble on. It’s disconcerting because the Joslyn I’d known was a firecracker. Her personality shone through at all times, and she never just sat by quietly while things unfolded.
I let it go, though, turning back to Rachel. “Going to need you to get a few things rolling for me.”
“Shoot,” she says, and I proceed to lay out the details of my plan to take this fucker down.
Then Joslyn can be on her way to a happy life and I can get back to my own.
Code Name: Genesis (Jameson Force Security, Book #1) is a standalone romantic suspense within The Jameson Force Security series. See the full details and get your copy HERE.