“Father must pay you a lot of money.” Andrea shook her head.
“You think I’m full of crap? I like protecting people. Your version of bad isn’t really bad it’s just bratty. I know real bad guys. They’d hurt you and enjoy it. I won’t let that happen.” He meant it deeper than any other client. She’d been sheltered. A smart woman, no doubt, she possessed strong survival instincts. However, outsmarting boarding school matrons and escaping a bodyguard were very different than avoiding a dangerous criminal who wanted money and would rape and torture her to get it. The idea made him sick.
“How is such a good guy going to protect me from the really bad ones?” she mocked him.
“Maybe your dad is right? Maybe you’ve just never seen my bad side?” Jake fought the urge he’d had since they’d first met, screw and spank her. The order depended on his mood but this woman needed some grown-up discipline.
IN THE END, Andrea fell asleep frustrated and turned on. A full day of working plus helping her friend Penny plan a fashion show left Andrea exhausted. As much as Jake made her blood boil, the worry of threats from outside and the stress of being out of control took her energy.
Naturally her dreams revolved around him. Why couldn’t she just go along and accept her life? Go wild like some of the rich girls? Or be good like some of the others? Start a charity and travel. Marry a rich guy to shut her parents up.
The urge to be herself ran deep and always pulled her in ways the family didn’t like. Maybe that was the attraction to Jake? They wouldn’t like it if she got serious with a guy like him. “Jake’s the type you keep on the side,” her mother said. Oh how her mother wanted her to marry royalty, even if very distant.
Her parents gave opinions and went back to their lives. They never paid much attention to her. But she wanted to be normal. Rich was good but she liked working. She’d taken some self-defense classes and carried pepper spray. That was plenty to keep her safe in the city. These threats were usually nonsense. No one had ever laid a hand or gotten that close to Andrea. Any sign of a threat and Father called in the bodyguards like the sky was falling. Andrea loved and hated the endless routine. When Jake was around, Andrea felt like there was a spotlight on her and he never let up.
The van turned and stopped. Finally! They’d been on the road for what felt like hours. He cut the engine and the back doors swung open.
His broad shoulders filled the space. His blue eyes pierced through the darkness to her, taking her in. His rugged jaw and serious expression made her tense. This dream man hadn’t changed. Same dark brown hair, handsome face, and tan skin. She’d still want him even if he were heir to some great fortune. Jake mixed her up so much she wasn’t sure how to handle him.
“Play nice,” he warned.
Her eyes drifted down his black shirt to his faded blue jeans. “You like a challenge.” No more awkward teenage plays. She’d had her experience and had gotten over his initial rejection. He’d brought up sex and her instincts were as good as ever. He wanted her.
Jake snatched her ankle, his long arms and torso had muscle enough to wrangle her. She’d never outrun or out fight him. But maybe she shouldn’t try this time? Another false alarm from her overprotective father might be something she should enjoy fully.
As she willingly slid along the van floor, her shirt bunched up revealing lacy boy cut panties that sat snug on her hips. While he’d denied her fun before, his body reacted to her now, staring openly at her less than dressed form.
He stood her up, the strong hands felt hot on her flesh. Jake smelled so good it was criminal. And he stood so close it hit her harder than ever. Having the upper hand with him was always a game and now she had better skills.
“Shoes really would’ve been good here.” She looked down at the gravel path to the cabin.
“Damn. Okay.” He swept her up in his arms and headed quickly for the house.
“No gag? I could scream.” Andrea meant it as a joke but her pussy shivered at the idea. Why was he the center of her fantasies?
His mouth tugged up in amusement. “Scream all you want. No one out here for miles and miles.” He unlocked the door and set her inside. A quaint cabin in the woods. Plaid couches, big manly territory. Jake nudged her forward.
“Only one bedroom,” he said.
The bed was huge and decked out with thick quilts. Andrea flopped on the bed and settled near the heavy wrought iron headboard to let her long legs and lace panties tempt him. “Room service?”
“Absolutely, you don’t need to move an inch.” He snapped one cuff around her wrist and the other to the iron post before removing the rope. “I’ll be back with the other stuff.”
“Stuff? What the hell?” She yanked at the handcuff. “Jake! Let me go, you jerk,” she yelled.
The doorbell to her condo rang. “Got it.” Brian jumped up.
She knew he wanted a good look at the bodyguard. He opened the door and sighed. “That view is more than lovely.”
Penny marched up to rescue Grayson. “Sorry, my brother is a bit comical at times. I was telling him about the view of Vegas from the restaurant.” She opened the door wider.
“Beautiful.” Grayson’s eyes stayed fixed on her.
Brian brushed her elbow with his but Penny ignored him. Grayson, Jake’s stepbrother, was thirty-one and tall with jet black hair and pale blue eyes. All muscled body and calm demeanor. Grayson turned Penny on from the start. She really didn’t need Brian adding to it. A tiny part of her didn’t want Grayson coming to Milan. She didn’t need the distraction or the rejection.
Still she’d agreed to a bodyguard. She’d lived in Texas until college and then made a bold move to the East Coast and met Andrea. Not well traveled by any interpretation. Her manners finally kicked in. “Grayson, this is my brother Brian. Brian, my jailer for the week, poor man, Grayson. Come in, please.”
“He can frisk me any time.” Brian could flirt with a lamppost when the mood struck him. It annoyed Penny how well he’d played it straight for so long. But Brian loved Texas, he just wasn’t meant for the small towns.
Penny wished she could be so confident. But flirting was way out of her skill set.
“Be nice, Brian.” She turned to check her home. This distance from Grayson let her think and breathe. She handed Brian the keys. “No wild parties.”
“Me? No way.” He gave her a peck on the cheek and turned to Grayson. “Anything happens to her—”
“Brian, it’s his job. He knows what he’s doing.” Penny hated being the center of attention. It was always uncomfortable. “No need to make a fuss.”
Grayson held out a hand. “It’s fine. Nothing to worry about.”
Brian shook his hand and gave Penny a wink.
The driver saved her by stepping into the doorway. “Ready, Ms. Beaumont?”
“Yes. All this luggage please and his.” She pointed toward her large pile of bags and then turned to her bodyguard. “Passport, identification, ticket, and everything?”
“All set.” They headed out. “You’re very organized.”
“Yes. Especially with new endeavors.” She shrugged as they boarded the elevator. Alone with him she felt self-conscious. His calm confidence was something she envied. It also made her very aware of him. Like a dog that seemed nice but was guarding something he’d kill for. “I’m sorry to drag you to Italy. It makes everyone more at ease but I really don’t think there is anything to worry about.”
“Those jobs are the best. But normally they don’t ask me to pose as a model. I’m not qualified.”
Not qualified? He was sexy and tall. The idea of him without a shirt or modeling briefs made her wet. But he only had to wear a tux. “Don’t worry. The rest of the models are women. It’s just the finale. It’s a gown and it doesn’t look right without an escort. Brian volunteered but he has finals. Plus I don’t want people to think I’m paranoid so it’s a good excuse.”
“Security is important. I’ll be discreet. Ask Andrea’s cousin.” He waited until she was settled in the limo before he joined her. No fuss, no hurry. She liked him.
“I know. Poor Denise. That’s part of why Brian was so insistent. I don’t have a current boyfriend or any ex-boyfriends who are stalkers. No one in Italy knows my family. They certainly don’t care that my father has a little Texas money.”
“More than a little from what I could find.”
She looked at him. “You did your homework.”
“Part of the job.”
Job. Right she was a job. “You’ve been highly recommended. I’m sorry to drag you away from your family and girlfriend.” He was being nice because he was a professional. She couldn’t let her imagination run wild. At the wedding he’d been very enthusiastic about Jake and Andrea and all the time very considerate and kind to Penny. He probably was a genuinely nice guy, but he was out of her league—at least that’s what Penny’s mother would say. Half her size or less. Trish, her little sister, for instance. Penny was so grateful not
to have her sister around right now. No one would notice Penny with Trish in the room. Certainly no man ever did. But in Milan there would be much steeper competition.
Grayson could have anyone. Penny would have to lock him up to have him to herself. Or pay him. If a man didn’t want her, she didn’t need him. That was Brian’s motto. Penny generally was single and had grown used to it. She needed to put Grayson out of her mind.
He’d said something and she’d missed it with all her mental lecturing. “I’m sorry?” she replied.
“I said you’re not taking me away from anyone. I don’t have a girlfriend. Still looking for the right challenge.”
The word gave her a chill. Challenge? It had to be a joke. “Challenge? You sound like my Uncle Lubby trying to decide which horse to break.”
“Not break. Set free. But you can’t ride and love a truly wild horse. If it doesn’t trust you, it can’t feel safe that you’ll feed and take care of it. But then it’s not really wild.”
“Oh please. Have you ever ridden a horse in your life?” He filled out his jeans and T-shirt well but he wasn’t a southern type. “You’ve got New York City written all over you. Men want skinny and pretty, not a challenge. Believe me, I’ve been a challenging woman all my life and men don’t like it. Ask any of the men in my family.”
He shifted to look at her. “That type clearly isn’t the right type of man. Not for you.”
Penny knew this plane ride would be torture. The smell of him, the way he made her feel, and that intensity he projected made her long for her bedroom and toys. He’d be in her fantasies for months.