The protector, p.5
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       The Protector, p.5
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           Jodi Ellen Malpas

  already knows that Sebastian Peters is back in town. Of course he knows. This bodyguard business is all just an elaborate plan to keep me away from Sebastian.

  I laugh on the inside for his creativity, but his underhandedness isn’t such a surprise. Having me shadowed by a bodyguard, having that bodyguard reporting back to him, will certainly keep him abreast of my life—something that he strives to do daily.

  I grit my teeth and fix my formidable father in place with a pissed-off glare. Has he no faith in me? Does he think I’ll run straight back into Seb’s arms and let him ram a gram of coke up my nose?

  “You really don’t know me at all, do you?” I spit as I turn and leave.

  Chapter 5

  JAKE

  My hand comes up and rubs my jaw as I watch her disappear out of her father’s office door, and one thing that springs to mind, surprising me, is that I didn’t see a brat. There were no signs of a self-indulgent, selfish female. What I saw, in fact, was a fiercely independent, bright young woman.

  It’s not what I expected, and the revelation should be a relief, except my strumming heart, my racing mind…and my annoyingly aching cock are telling me not to get ahead of myself. My feet are suddenly moving of their own volition, taking me out of Logan’s office and in pursuit of his daughter. Protect her. It’s simple and it’s going to keep me busy for a while.

  I’m on autopilot, my strides long and fast, as I make my way down the corridor toward the elevators. But then I catch a flash of Camille disappearing around a corner, and not in the direction of the elevators.

  “The little fucking…” My legs are sprinting, powering after her, before my quick-thinking brain delivers the instruction.

  Impulse.

  Instinct.

  Get to her.

  I charge through the door to the stairwell, the heavy wood smacking the brickwork behind it and creating a deafening echo that bounces off the contained walls. I halt, fighting the urge to pull my gun.

  She’s just doing a bunk, I reason with myself. That’s all. The last thing I need to do is scare her half to death with my Heckler. I force my breathing down a notch, listening, and I hear the light clicking of her heels.

  “Ready or not, here I come,” I mutter under my breath, throwing myself down the stairs after her. My long lunges eat the steps up in no time, and it’s only a few seconds before I spot her dainty hand holding the rail. Those ridiculous things she had on her feet are suddenly all I see in my mind’s eye. Stupid high-heeled things. She’ll break her fucking neck.

  No subject has ever been injured under my watch, accidental or not. Damn her!

  My pace increases, my urgency growing, and the relief when she comes into full view as I round a flight of stairs nearly suffocates me. It’s a silly reaction to a silly situation, but I’ve never had a subject try to escape me. Or a woman, for that matter. I fly past her, landing at the bottom of the staircase she’s tottering down, and swing around to face her. Fuck, I’m sweating. A few flights of stairs and I’m fucking sweating. What’s up with me?

  She doesn’t get time to figure out what’s just flown past her like a raging bull. Her feet fail to stop and she collides with my chest on a yelp. My arms are around her fast, holding her to me.

  I gasp, too. I don’t know why, but her slight frame compressed to my chest has sparked a bolt of heat, streaking straight down to…my cock.

  Fuck!

  I release her before I’m certain she’s gathered herself and take a few very cautious and wise steps back. My jaw is tense. My fucking heart is going loopy. What the fuck is that?

  The ball of my palm comes up and presses into my forehead, my eyes clenching shut.

  Walk away, Jake. Just walk the fuck away.

  I don’t know how long I’m standing here repeating the firm mantra, but when I finally open my eyes, she’s still standing before me, looking stable and composed. It’s more than I can say for myself, but her clear self-control forces me to bully my thoughts back into line.

  Her cute little chin lifts confidently, her face determined. For a second, I let myself admire her poise, thinking it’s quite a turn-on. Then she speaks and all thoughts of how sexy she looks vanish with the reminder of why I’m here. “I’m not agreeing to you tailing me. I have a life, and I want to get on with it.”

  “Agree or not, you and I are going to be very close.” I regret my choice of words immediately when her mouth drops open…because I can see the tip of her pink tongue, and it’s all I can do not to slam my mouth to hers and taste it. I move back again, putting space between us, as does she. I use her need to distance herself to my advantage, disregarding the fact that I moved away, too. “Don’t worry, I don’t bite.” That’s a blatant lie. I’d happily sink my teeth into her…

  “Maybe I do.”

  My eyebrows jump up in surprise before I can stop them. She’s quick. I’ll give her that. “Well,” I deadpan. “I’m told I taste good.”

  She scowls a little. “You look a little meaty for my liking.”

  “Of course. You prefer the pretty-boy type, don’t you?” I stand tall and clear my throat, as if to enhance the fact that I’m the furthest she could get from the preened, streamlined men she gets pictured with.

  She steps forward, confident, but her eyes definitely struggle not to get a quick fill of me. “And what type are you?” She cocks her head, waiting for my answer.

  That single question has me swallowing a cough. “You don’t want to know,” I answer honestly, getting no thrill from the slight widening of her eyes. I quickly remind myself why I’m here, and it isn’t to goad her. I step back again, giving us both space.

  Camille pulls herself together quickly and tugs her bag onto her shoulder. “There is no threat, is there? My ex-boyfriend is back in town, and that’s the only reason my dear father has hired you.”

  My first thought is: The drug addict of an ex-boyfriend is back? Why didn’t I know this? My second thought is: If he comes close, I’ll put a fucking bullet in his brain.

  The latter thought is purely professional. Because it’s my duty to protect her. “The threat is very real, Miss Logan.” I turn on my professional switch. The one that’s always on. Why it’s malfunctioned now is something I plan on fixing very quickly. “I’ve not been employed to keep you away from your ex-boyfriend,” I say mechanically, adding in my head that I’ll go out of my way to do exactly that, anyway. I saw the pictures of Camille during that brief meltdown. She was a shadow of the woman standing before me—this beautiful, bright, enticing woman.

  Enticing?

  The irony doesn’t escape me. I encounter women daily who go to shameful lengths to catch my eye. This woman is doing it without even trying. And damn, if it isn’t the most attractive, enticing thing in the fucking world. I shake my head mildly and those unprofessional thoughts away. Again.

  “Right,” she huffs and pushes past me, catching me off guard.

  I have her pinned to the wall in a nanosecond.

  And a nanosecond after that, I’m wondering what the fuck just happened.

  “Oh my God,” she breathes, pressing her back into the bricks behind her, her fresh breath hitting my neck in short, panting bursts.

  I consider, only for a second, that I’ve frightened her. Then I feel her hardened nipples pressing into my chest through my suit. I breathe in, swallow and repeat. Over and over, bending my knees to get her face in line with mine.

  What am I doing? This is stupid. Release her. Step away!

  Her eyes are wide, unsure and…flickering with desire. This usually wouldn’t be such a surprise to me, but I know, frighteningly, that mine are mirroring hers.

  She gulps, blinks, and looks away. “I’m pretty sure physically restraining me isn’t in your list of duties.” She swallows.

  “Don’t make any sudden movements,” I snap, battling away all of the obscene thoughts her statement has spiked, right to the deepest, safest depths of my mind. “I thought you were going to do a runner ag
ain.” I step back, and she straightens, hitting me with shimmering topaz eyes.

  “Since it seems I’m stuck with you, let’s get a few things straight.”

  I nod my agreement, short and sharp, thinking this is a great idea. Set the ground rules. The boundaries. “Go for it,” I prompt curtly.

  “Don’t talk to me,” she says, looking away from me. “And don’t touch me.”

  Again, I nod, easily agreeing. It’s probably safest all round.

  Camille pauses for a few moments. What is she thinking? “Fine,” she mutters, taking a tentative step toward me. “I’m going to pass you now. Just want to make sure you’re not going to rugby tackle me again.”

  I keep my mouth firmly shut and gesture for her to lead the way. She passes swiftly and I follow, but I center my focus past her, locating my discipline and locking it down.

  Tightly.

  Before I do something insanely stupid.

  Chapter 6

  CAMI

  I’m still trembling on the inside when I make it out to the fresh air, not remembering one stagger or step that it has taken me to get here. My breathing is all over the place. He’s behind me, keeping his distance, but still way too close for comfort…or my stability.

  I stop and glance over my shoulder, finding him stationary behind me, his hands linked behind his back. He looks like a typical bodyguard, and I’m mortified that he’s guarding me. Heather is going to fall apart. Or be jealous. I’m not sure.

  Frowning to myself, I take two steps forward, then stop again, taking another peek over my shoulder. Sharp takes two steps, too, bringing the distance between us back to a level that he obviously deems comfortable. One hundred miles away from this man still wouldn’t be comfortable. In fact, as long as this man is on the same planet as me, I won’t ever relax again. I feel violated. My freedom, my life, my happiness…my senses. They’re all under attack.

  I take two more steps and watch as Sharp does the very same thing. “This is ridiculous!” I mutter, marching on my way, dialing Heather as I do.

  “Thought you’d call pronto,” she says, definite concern in her words. “What happened with your dad?” Oh, she should be concerned, because if Jake Sharp is shadowing me, then he’ll also be shadowing my best friend, since we’re practically stuck together. Sebastian’s back. A threatening message. My new bodyguard. In the last half hour, I’ve had more shocks than is fair.

  “He hired a bodyguard for me. Apparently there’s been some threat against me.”

  She coughs and splutters down the line. “You serious?”

  “Unfortunately, yes.” Resentment churns in the pit of my stomach. “At least that’s what I’m told. Now that you’ve told me Seb’s out of rehab, I’m suspicious.”

  “Hmmm.”

  I open my car and throw my bag onto the passenger seat before getting into the driver’s. I put the key in the ignition and start my car, waiting for the Bluetooth to kick in before I toss my phone on the seat with my bag, while also waiting for something else from my best mate.

  “Hello?” I prompt.

  “I’m here.”

  “Then say something!”

  “Well, either is a possibility, I guess. Seb or the threat. So what’s the deal with your bodyguard?” she asks, confused.

  “He’s basically shadowing me at all times.”

  “Well, that’s your sex life down the plug hole.” She laughs and I scowl at my windscreen. I hadn’t thought of that. I was more concerned about my freedom. Not that I put it about or anything, but if the opportunity arises, I don’t want Sharp standing at the end of the bed, observing. I shudder.

  “Cunny funt,” I mutter indignantly.

  “You know, if you’re going to say it, just say it,” she scorns as she always does when I utilize my insult of choice.

  “I need to see you.”

  “I’m outside Picasso’s. Glass of fizz?”

  “Yes,” I breathe, only just stopping myself from telling her to order a bottle, even though there’s nothing much to celebrate. “I’m just leaving Logan Tower.”

  “See you in a jiffy.” She hangs up, and I slide my Merc into drive, but I’m interrupted from speeding off when the door flies open and Sharp’s head appears.

  “This should be locked,” he points out curtly, indicating the passenger door. I’d almost forgotten about him.

  Almost.

  Not at all.

  “You’re not coming in my car.” I look away before I have a chance to indulge in his gorgeous masculinity. In my car? That’s way too close.

  “Not today, no, but once we’ve sorted the logistics, you’ll be travelling with me in my car.”

  I scoff my thoughts on that one. “We’ll see,” I say to myself, knowing damn well he caught it. Maybe if I’m as difficult as possible, he’ll quit. Worth a try.

  “Yes, we will.” He points to a Range Rover parked in front of me. “That’s me. I’ll follow you home.”

  “I’m not…” I let my words trail off, my conniving mind quickly hatching a plan. “Fine.”

  He nods and shuts the door, and I watch with narrowed eyes as his long legs eat up the short distance to his huge car. He removes his suit jacket on the way. I hiss, slamming my eyes closed to avoid the god-gorgeous sight of his tight arse beneath his trousers, and the god-damn-gorgeous sight of his broad back beneath the white cotton of his crisp shirt. “Bastard,” I mutter, cautiously peeling my lids open. His arm appears out of the window and motions for me to pull out and pass. Damn. I was hoping he’d take the lead and let me follow him.

  I sigh and check my mirrors before indicating and pulling out of my space, driving at a sensible 20 mph down the road, constantly checking my rearview mirror. He’s close behind, the chunky hood of his Range Rover practically sniffing the arse of my car. Tempting as it is, I don’t slam on my brakes so he rams me from behind and I can sue his irritating arse.

  Rams me from behind…

  My foot goes all heavy, my prized Mercedes coasting off down the road, yet he still remains tucked up closely behind me. I take a right, then a left, then a right again, and even overtake a few cars to gain some distance from him. None of it loses him, and my frustration builds and builds as my car gets faster and faster. “Fuck you, Sharp.”

  I take a sudden hard left, cutting across a black cab, getting honked and cursed at as I do. Glancing up at my mirror, I laugh when I see the taxi has come to an abrupt stop across the junction, blocking anything from coming down the road after me.

  “Take that!” I sing, feeling way too pleased with myself. The best bodyguard my father could buy? Yeah, right! I flip my music on and jig in my seat, pleased as punch as I make my way to meet Heather.

  * * *

  I pull up down a side street, seeing Heather sitting outside Picasso’s under a parasol, two glasses of champagne in front of her. Her neck lengthens like a meerkat’s when she spots me, and she waves me urgently over. I bet she’s dying to hear the lowdown. I might leave my car exactly where it is all night and order that bottle I so desperately need.

  I hurry toward her, but come to a quick stop when I hear the sound of screeching tires cornering up ahead.

  “Oh…” I breathe, my smugness dropping down a nearby drain into the sewers.

  His Range Rover speeds toward me, the roar of the engine thunderous, almost like it’s angry. Or could that be the driver inside? He skids to a stop, and I flip a glimpse to Heather. She’s riveted.

  The slam of a door makes me jump a little, and I swear I feel the ground shake under my wedges as he strides toward me. I muster up a hard front to face him.

  His finger rises and points at me accusingly as he comes closer, his face twisting. “You ever pull a stunt like that again,
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