The protector, p.3
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       The Protector, p.3
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           Jodi Ellen Malpas

  I fall into stride beside a stunning Hispanic woman, keeping my eyes set firmly forward on the security guard. Seriously? All this high-tech detection equipment and this old boy is employed to monitor it? I shake my head in dismay. He must be ready for retirement, and he’s ogling the woman beside me rather than watching me—the 6' 4", towering, suited guy with a Heckler VP9 tucked away.

  Okay, I’ll cut the dribbling security guard some slack. He doesn’t know that I have a concealed weapon, but I’m definitely more of a threat than the petite beauty who’s now brushing against my arm, oblivious to the security guard’s lust-filled gaze. Because her eyes are staring dreamily up at me.

  I make a point of pressing our arms just a bit closer, winding her in. I hear her catch a breath. Then I make my move, stopping abruptly and turning, as if I’ve forgotten something, being sure to knock her bag from her shoulder.

  It happens perfectly.

  She yelps, dropping her bag and staggering back. I just catch her arm and steady her before releasing my grip. The contents of her bag scatter at her feet, and I bend to be the gentleman she will soon believe I am.

  “Apologies,” I say robotically, gathering up some of her things. She’s soon on the floor with me, as planned, taking more time to straighten out her fitted shirt than help me collect her belongings. I mildly note the thin material hugging what I can see will be pretty tasty tits.

  “No problem,” she gushes, just as the security guard joins us, willing to crack his bones so he can crouch to help and hopefully lap up some praise from the dark-haired beauty. Fuck me, I couldn’t have written this any better. I reach behind my back and pull out my gun, having a quick scan before I slide it with just the right force and accuracy across the marble floor on the outside of the X-ray machine. It comes to a smooth stop just under the baggage scanner on the other side.

  “Here.” I hand the lady her bag and do the decent thing. I help Old Bones up before he actually cracks a bone. “Okay there?”

  “All grand!” He laughs, his chest puffing out as he shakes off my helping hand. I smile on the inside. I actually smile, and it’s a genuine one. He sees me as competition. The mid-seventies, overweight old boy sees me—the thirty-five-year-old, ripped, renowned bodyguard—as a threat. Gotta love his pride.

  “After you.” I sweep my arm out in gesture for the woman to lead on once the security guard has taken up his position.

  Her smile. I swear, if I had twenty Jacks in me and it was the early hours, I might have taken her up on the blatant offer. I slip my hands into my pockets as she wanders over to the baggage scanner, adopting a shameless, seductive sway of her ample arse as she goes.

  I laugh under my breath, but enjoy the show while it lasts, as I step up and empty my pockets of my phone, keys, and wallet, placing them neatly in a tray on the baggage scanner. Then I wander casually through the X-ray machine behind her. The old boy barely even looks at me, probably wouldn’t even hear the sharp chime if I were to set off the alarm. He’s too rapt by that curvy arse heading toward the elevator.

  “You’re clear,” he mutters, giving me a brief moment of his eyes before he strolls back to his stool and grunts as he plonks himself on the seat.

  Clear? He has no idea. I collect my things, and then dip to tie my shoelace, scooping up my handgun and tucking it back into its rightful place as I rise. Then I make my way to the elevator and join the beauty, glancing up at the floor indicators and joining my hands behind my back.

  “Nice tie,” she muses, reaching over and stroking the silk that’s draping the length of my torso.

  I fail to hold back my smile at her brashness, my eyes dropping to watch her fingers caress the material. “A lady who knows what she wants,” I say quietly, meeting her eyes. “Some men find that attractive.”

  She bites her lip, pushing her chest out discreetly as she drops my tie. “They do?”

  I laugh under my breath at her feigned innocence. “Apparently.” The doors to the left-hand elevator slide open, and I stroll in before her. No need for gentlemanly manners now. She’s served her purpose. I turn and press the button for the fiftieth floor. “Shame I’m not one of them. It’s been a pleasure.” I wink cheekily, just catching her look of incredulity before the mirrored doors meet in the middle. For yet another woman who’s encountered me, I’m a fucking bastard. Story of my life. Or, at least, for the past four years.

  I’m carried quickly to the top of Logan Tower and exit into a minimal space, with white at every turn. I feel instantly cold. White marble floors, white walls—broken up only by a few abstract canvases that are equally as cold—and a huge white reception desk.

  “Sir.” A high-pitched, delighted tone yanks my attention to a woman behind the desk. “How can I help you?”

  “I have a three o’clock with Mr. Logan.” I scan the area, noting cameras at every corner. I’d put my life on the fact that he’s watching me now. My spine lengthens, my hands linking behind me as I return my eyes to the receptionist.

  She straightens her shoulders and picks up the receiver. “Mr. Logan, I have a Mr.…” Her words fade to nothing as her slip registers. She looks mortified, and it only increases when I hear the booming demand of a man down the line. She visibly cringes, covering up the speaker piece of the receiver. “I didn’t catch your name.”

  “That’s because I didn’t tell you my name.” I leave it there and watch as she dies on the spot.

  “Your name?”

  I flick a finger to the back of her computer. “Didn’t that thing tell you?”

  “You’re not on the system.” She’s losing her patience, and I’m lost in my land of amusement once again, for, what? The second time today?

  “Jake Sharp.” I put her out of her misery and she quickly removes her hand from the receiver, her body relaxing with relief.

  “Mr. Sharp, sir. Jake Sharp.” She jumps in her chair, dropping the receiver. Logan’s reputation precedes him, it seems. I’d feel sorry for her…if I were the compassionate type. Which I’m not. She scrambles to retrieve the phone. “Yes, sir!” Slamming it down, she slumps in her chair and swallows, closing her eyes. “Last door on the left.” She points down the corridor.

  I browse the few scattered canvases on my way, my nose turning up at the notorious businessman’s poor taste. They all look like a wish-wash of colors, splattered haphazardly. I’m sure my perception would be gasped at by art lovers, but I say what I see. And I see a mess.

  As I raise my fist to knock on the solid mahogany door, I hear the curt demand, “Enter!” I pull my hand back and cast a look over my shoulder, seeing a camera mounted on the wall adjacent to his office door.

  “Like Big fucking Brother,” I mutter, taking the handle and pushing my way in. I don’t know whether to be insulted or impressed to find him flanked by two apelike men.

  “Afternoon,” I say pleasantly, flicking a trained eye to the huge beasts eyeing me warily.

  Logan motions to a chair in front of his desk. “Take a seat, Sharp.”

  Shutting the door softly, a calculated move to give his ape-men a false sense of security, I wander casually over, keeping my focus on Mr. Logan but capturing every detail of his office to memory.

  Unfastening my suit jacket, I pull my trousers up a little at the knees and lower calmly into the chair. I don’t entertain the ape-boys with even a fleeting look. That would tell them I’m threatened by them. I’m not. All brawn and no brains. I bet neither could keep up a sprint for longer than five seconds.

  “Pleasure,” I lie, relaxing back in my chair. The animosity that emanates from the two bruisers pierces my skin. They don’t like me. Good. I’m not here to be liked.

  “Your reputation is impressive.” Logan picks up a file and flicks through, pretending to peruse what he expects me to believe is a pile of intel on me. I’m embarrassed on his behalf. There’s nothing in that file, but pointing it out to this idiot would be foolish. He’s paying me too well.

  Play his game, Jake.

  “I never fail.” There’s little point in being humble. My reputation really is impressive, and everyone worth their salt in security knows it. But that’s one of only a few limited details anyone knows about me. Everything else is classified.

  He casts the useless file aside, standing from his chair. His photos do him no justice. He’s even uglier in the flesh. Camille Logan gets her looks from her mother, Logan’s second estranged wife, something I quickly discovered after a detailed search on her. Camille’s mother is a stunner, probably twenty years Logan’s junior. Wife number one, a modest ten years younger than him and mother to his son—Camille’s half-brother, TJ—was tossed aside for Camille’s mother. She fled the country for her native Russia after losing custody of TJ in a nasty court battle, leaving their son in the hands of his ruthless father.

  I looked up TJ, too. Unlike Camille, he’s been unfortunate enough to inherit his father’s looks, rather than his beautiful Russian mother’s.

  Now Trevor Logan, who is turning sixty later this month, is on wife number three, the woman he left Camille’s mother for. She’s even younger than Camille and TJ.

  “You received the down payment?” Logan asks, strolling over to the window, his back to me.

  “Yes,” I answer simply, avoiding thanking him for it. We need to establish an even working ground, and me expressing any gratitude doesn’t feature in that. “When do you want me to start?”

  “Immediately.” He turns and motions an instruction to one of his men, who swiftly collects a file from Logan’s desk and brings it to me. “Everything you need to know about Camille is contained in that file.”

  Ape Boy #1 holds it out, looming over me threateningly. Any normal man would stand to avoid being towered over. I’m no normal man. I reach for the file and rest my fingertips on the end, waiting for any sign that he’s going to release it. There’s no sign, no hint that he intends to hand it over willingly. He wants me to tug, just so I can feel his resistance. I lock eyes with him, but I don’t feed his ego. I keep my fingers poised where they are and wait. I’m not backing down, and it doesn’t look like he will either. We could be here a long time.

  “Grant!” Logan barks, obviously detecting the animosity. “Give him the flaming file, for crying out loud!”

  Grant relinquishes his hold in a flash, like a scared cat, letting me have the file. I don’t relish in my victory. That would put me at a level equal to these two idiots. I rest the file on my lap and have a brief flick through.

  “My daughter is very precious to me,” Logan says.

  I don’t look at him, not because I’m absorbing the information before me, but because Logan has taken it upon himself to include a wealth of family photographs of his daughter, ranging from when she was a baby to now, and none of which I’ve already seen on the Internet. She’s always been a stunner. My eyes freeze on a shot of her exiting a club. The date displays October 2015, and she looks totally wasted. The ex. This is a paparazzi shot. How much did Logan pay to keep it out of the press? Whatever, it was wasted money. There are plenty more like these on the Web, all showing his daughter looking wasted and all in the company of her drug addict ex-boyfriend. On a grimace, I snap the file shut and give Logan my attention.

  “So why exactly are you hiring me?” I ask. I know why I’m here, but the information was sketchy. I need to know more.

  “To protect my daughter.”

  “What does she need protecting from, Mr. Logan? Has there been a threat?”

  “Your services are a precautionary measure.”

  Precautionary? I don’t believe him. I’m a very expensive precaution. “You’re going to have to give me a little more than that,” I say flatly, tossing the file back on his desk, ignoring his shocked look. I’m guessing not many people tell this man how things are going to be.

  “I’ve hired you as private security. Your job is to protect my daughter.”

  “From what, Mr. Logan?” I grate, rare frustration creeping up on me. The man’s a dick. “The more information I have, the better I’ll be at my job.”

  He huffs and waves a hand in the air to one of the giants flanking his desk. “Show him.”

  I watch as one of the men takes a white envelope from the desk and passes it over, this time with no signs of resistance. He’s a fast learner. I take it and slide out the unfolded paper, finding a picture of Camille with four letters typed beneath her face.


  Short and to the point.

  “That came via courier yesterday,” Logan says. “It’s probably just some fool who’s come out on the bad side of a deal. Threats are part of the job. I upset a lot of people.” He indicates his security men. “But never has a threat been directed at my daughter. Like I said, you’re a precautionary measure. You’re the best.”

  I nod, dubious, running a thumb over the paper thoughtfully. “Yesterday, you say?” I ask casually as I chuck the paper on the desk with the file. That paper is too crisp and clean to have been handled much. There are no creases, no folded edges, no crumpling. It’s pristine. You’d expect something somewhere, even if it’s a tiny curl of a corner, given that it’s been stuffed in an envelope, delivered, and removed. God knows how many people must have handled it on its journey to the fiftieth floor of Logan Tower. Nothing?

  “Yes, yesterday.”

  I play it cool. “The name of the courier?”

  He waves a dismissive hand in the air. “We have endless couriers delivering here. We don’t keep records. They come, someone signs, and it gets sent up to the right floor.”

  I accept his answer. At least, I appear to. “No demand for any money?”


  “No demand for anything?”


  “So they just want to scare you?”

  “Many people want to scare me, Mr. Sharp.”

  “I’d rather take your money.” I shrug nonchalantly, getting more suspicious by the second. Something definitely isn’t sitting right.

  “Everyone’s motivation is different.” He gives me a knowing look that I don’t like at all. “I guess yours right now is the handsome fee I’m paying you.”

  I force my eyes not to narrow and smile instead. Logan doesn’t need to know what my motivation is. “I’ll look into it. I’m sure you want to know who’s making these threats on your daughter’s life.” I revert back to the reason I’m here.

  “Of course.” Logan’s face twists a bit in anger, throwing me a little. He looks genuinely disturbed. Could even be mentally plotting the demise of whoever’s threatening his daughter. “I’ve given your colleague access to my e-mail and records.”

  “Good.” I make a note to call Lucinda at my first opportunity as I pick up the file on Camille Logan and flick through it briefly again. “There’s nothing in the file about a boyfriend. Does she have one?”

  “Not at the moment.” He looks relieved about that. “Camille’s choice in men is historically bad. Though I plan on rectifying that.”

  “Oh, really?”

  “My friend has a son. It’s time for Camille to start settling down, and she will marry sensibly. The union of the two families would be…beneficial to all of us.”

  “Except Camille,” I point out. What is this, an arranged marriage out of the 1800s?

  “Mr. Sharp, you are not here to question my business decisions.” He glances down at his watch, and I growl on the inside. His daughter is a business decision? The fucking prick. “She’s due momentarily. Probably best you’re not here when I tell her what’s happening. She can be fiery.” He looks up at me, almost fondly. “Has her own mind. You know young girls.”

  Actually, no, I don’t know young girls. “You haven’t told her about any of this?” I’m shocked and I sound it. “She’s out there unprotected?”

  “I want everything in place first.”

  I’m not surprised very often. It takes a lot to throw me after all the shit I’ve dealt with. But I’m thrown now. “The girl’s life cou
ld be at risk and she doesn’t even know? She’s out there now, running around the streets of London in that flash Mercedes cabriolet, and you allowed that?”

  “She’s headstrong,” Logan mutters, almost regretfully. “I tried to get her to stay with her mother, but she was having none of it. And I can tell you right now that she’s not going to be happy about you shadowing her.”

  I blow out a long stream of air. “I’m hardly concealable,” I mumble under my breath as I stand. You can only protect someone if they want to be protected. I thought she wanted to be protected.

  I wander away from the three men, astounded, my gun burning a hole in my back, itching for me to draw, aim, and fire at Trevor Logan’s forehead—punishment for being such a narcissistic prick and producing such a brat of a woman. “You have a half hour before I leave,” I say over my shoulder as I let myself out. I’ll keep the upfront 100K. Payment for my inconvenience and for misleading me. I’ll have to get Lucinda to source me another contract pronto. Anywhere in the world. I don’t care. Just keep me busy.

  As I wander down the corridor, I pull my phone from my pocket and set the stopwatch. “Time starts now, Logan,” I say under my breath.

  Chapter 4