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Hero for Hire

Jill Shalvis

  A baby left on a doorstep, an heiress presumed dead…and murder? Check out this classic thrilling romance by New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis!

  Brazilian heiress Terry Monteverde was supposedly killed in a tragic accident. But how could a dead woman give birth to a baby? Bounty hunter Rick Singleton goes underground in Rio to find out. His only lead is Terry’s sister, Nina Monteverde. She’s sweet, shy—and not telling what she knows. Rick’s a dangerous man to cross, but Nina’s not afraid—Rick is. He’s defenseless against her innocent charm. And that scares the hell out of him.

  A contemporary romance.

  Previously published.

  “My God, it’s not you.”

  The man stared at her, his gaze measuring. “It’s close....” Once again he studied the picture, then carefully searched her face. “Really close. But no cigar. What do you know about this woman? What did you call her...Terry? Where can I find her?”

  Nina nearly let out a laugh, but it would have been half-hysterical, so she put her hand to her mouth and shook her head.

  “I need to talk to her.”

  “You...can’t,” she said, wishing for something to rescue her from this nightmare.

  “Why not?”

  “She died last September.”

  His frown deepened. “Try again, lady.”

  Nina shook off the fear and found her temper. “I don’t know who you are, but there is a guard right inside, and—”

  “Don’t call him. I just want some answers. I need to talk to her.”

  “No.” Terry was dead.

  And she needed to remain so.

  Everything depended on her remaining so.

  Jill Shalvis has been making up stories since she could hold a pencil. Now, thankfully, she gets to do it for a living, and doesn’t plan to ever stop. Jill is a bestselling, award-winning author of over two dozen novels who has hit the Waldenbooks bestsellers lists, is a 2000 RITA® Award nominee and a two-time National Readers’ Choice Award winner. Jill’s first single title, The Street Where She Lives, appeared last October and she is hard at work on a new one.

  Hero for Hire

  Jill Shalvis

  Dear Reader,

  I’ve written over two dozen novels, and this one, Hero for Hire, was my favorite. Okay, so I say that about every book I finish.

  Nina Monteverde has a few secrets, one of which is that she’s never trusted a soul to see the real Nina. Rick Singleton hates secrets. He’s a dangerous, edgy, brooding bounty hunter still paying for the one fatal mistake that changed his life. When they are forced by circumstances to work together, sparks fly.

  So does a very unwelcome heat between them, a heat that deepens quickly both in sultry Rio de Janeiro and the untamed Amazon jungle, becoming the most terrifying thing of all: love.

  I love to hear from redaers. You can write me at P.O. Box 3945, Truckee, CA 96160-3945. For a complete list of my books, please visit or

  Thanks, and happy reading!

  Jill Shalvis



  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen


  FRUSTRATION BOILED UP inside, crawling, screaming to be let out.

  What to do?

  It should be so simple. There were only three things worth having in life—wealth, power and physical beauty.

  Yet none had been obtained, which fried the blood. Others had gotten what they wanted. Others like Terry Monteverde.... Now there was a woman who’d had it all and hadn’t even noticed. She’d lived her wild, wanton life without a single care.


  She’d been punished for that, and that punishment had been quite satisfactory.

  Only that satisfaction hadn’t lasted long, not when the family reputation and success lived on through Terry’s younger sister.

  Nina Monteverde. Sweet and lovely. Beloved by all.

  Just thinking about it had the bitterness and fury burning inside all over again. The Monteverdes had everything, everything worth coveting.

  Yet they were untouchable.

  If only Terry was still alive to pay for her sins once again.

  Since she wasn’t, Nina would have to do.


  MAN, THE HEAT was brutal. But then again, the weather in Rio de Janeiro was known for being brutal, even in the winter month of July.

  Winter being relative of course, especially in the tropics.

  Though the air came off the ocean and should have been cool, it wasn’t; but after four years in Brazil, Rick Singleton considered himself a Carioca—a native—and hardly felt a thing.

  In truth, he hardly felt anything anymore, and that was how he liked it. He’d definitely come to fit into the South American way of life, where everything was casual, come-what-may, and absolutely pleasure-based.

  Not many would consider their job pleasure-based, but Rick did. As a bounty hunter, he lived for the thrill of the chase—not to mention the money he got paid for finding his man.

  Or in this case, woman.

  Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the hazy Polaroid of a couple taken two Carnivals back. The woman with her feathery mask had eyes only for the man holding her close. They looked excited, anticipatory, and given the man’s hot gaze, they were headed for a night of passion.

  Rick didn’t know the woman’s name. All he knew was that Mitch Barnes, the man in the picture, had hired him through Finders Keepers, a private investigation agency in Texas, to find her. They’d spent one night together, she and Mitch, and the man was desperate, evidenced both by the ridiculous amount of money he’d offered Rick, and the tone of his voice when he talked about his mystery woman.

  He obviously cared a great deal about her.

  Given the hordes of tourists that came to Brazil every year to partake in Carnival’s decadent celebration, Rick doubted the woman even lived in Rio, but for the money he’d do his best to find her. He had no clues other than the elaborate necklace she wore.

  Mitch, an injured and recovering FBI agent now living in San Antonio, hadn’t known anything about the hand-wrought gold-and-emerald necklace, except that the woman looked gorgeous in it. Apparently their one night together had produced more than just a wild heat and passion. It had also produced a baby, a fact Mitch hadn’t been aware of until he’d discovered the baby girl left on his neighbor’s doorstep was his.

  Now more than ever Mitch wanted to find the woman.

  That was Rick’s job. Not much to go on, but he’d worked on less. He hadn’t screwed up a case since his ultimate failure four years prior.

  Four years.

  It was hard to believe it had been so long, and if there’d been any emotion left in him, any at all, he’d ache at the memory.

  But his heart was as good as dead. Nothing got to him, not anymore.

  He’d find the missing woman, no matter what he had to do, then get paid and move on. No sweat.

  No looking back.

  To that end, he stood in the middle of a particularly seedy favela, one of Rio’s many shanty towns, where one fifth of the population crammed together, struggling daily just to scrape by. The run-down cities within a city sat precariously perched on the steep hillside on either side of Rio, seemingly poised to slide down the sharp cliffs. Contrary to Rio itself, which arguably had the most gorgeous vistas in all the world, t
here was little beauty to be found here.

  Rick stared down would-be pickpockets and petty thieves, knowing the first law in a place like this was to see nothing and hear nothing.

  And keep out of trouble.

  If someone pulled a gun, or even a knife, he was on his own, as all government law and order stopped at the entrance to most favelas. Having been first a Navy SEAL and then a federal marshal in another life, Rick wasn’t concerned. He could take care of himself.

  “I’m looking for a woman,” he said in Portuguese to his informant, Juan, a well-known fence and all-around low-life con artist who’d sooner sell his own mother than go to jail for his petty crimes.

  “A woman?” Juan shoved his hands into his pockets and spoke in heavily accented English. “There’s millions of people in Brazil, half of them women. Pick one.”

  “This one.” Rick held out the picture Finders Keepers had sent him.

  Juan stared at it. “Nice.”

  “Do you know her?”

  “I didn’t mean the woman.” Juan let out a crusty laugh that told Rick he’d been smoking at least half his life. “The necklace. It’s similar to O Coração de Amante.”

  “The what?”

  Juan rolled his eyes. “The Lover’s Heart,” he said in English. “The original is in a museum somewhere, but clever remakes are popular with the riqueza. You know, the wealthy.” He pulled the photo closer. “Either way, it’s a very rare piece.” He scratched his chin, eyes shining with speculation. “One could get rich off a piece like that, if it’s real.”

  Given the woman’s aristocratic beauty and dress, Rick doubted the necklace was anything but genuine. If he could trace it... “Where would I get another like it?”

  “Ah, now you’re talking.”

  “I mean legally.”

  “Oh.” He sighed with disappointment. “Well, I’d bet my entire day’s take—” He faltered at the steely, very hard cop look Rick shot him. “Er, I mean my week’s salary, man. Salary. I’m not on the take—”

  “The necklace, Juan.”

  “If it’s the real deal, it came from the Monteverde’s.”


  Face carefully blank, Juan held out his hand, palm up.

  Rick swore, searched his pockets, then slapped some reals into Juan’s outstretched palm.

  Juan pocketed the money and held out his hand again. “Try American dollars. They go further.”

  “It had better be good,” Rick warned, going back to his wallet.


  When Rick greased his palm with more bills, American this time, Juan gave him a grin that was missing more than one tooth. “Monteverde is the name of a famous Brazilian gem family. They have a huge business. An entire building in Ipanema, right on the beach. You might have seen it, it’s the ritziest place out there. All That Glitters. They cater to people with too much money on their hands.”

  “Yeah.” Rick rarely spent time in Rio’s money belt. “Thanks. Stay clean, Juan.”

  “Sure,” he vowed before slinking off.

  Rick let him go, thinking with any luck he’d find the mystery woman by the end of the day and have a nice, fat wallet. Even better, he could be on another case by this time tomorrow. He straddled his motorcycle and drove down the steep, unpaved hills of no-man’s-land, leaving the dark alleys of the favela behind. Within five minutes he drove into another world entirely, where throngs of people walked beautiful beaches half-nude, laughing, talking, running, playing without a care.

  Surrounded by tall, majestic mountains, the ocean bay glittered a brilliant azure blue, its beaches made so scenic by palm trees and tropical flowers.

  High above on the closest mountain peak towered a 130-foot statue of Christ, arms nearly as wide as he was tall, looking down on one and all, sinners and saints. The scene never failed to give Rick a cynical smile.

  All That Glitters was indeed a huge business. It occupied one of the dozens of buildings crammed right on the beach, though it was bigger and better than most.

  All eighteen floors of it.

  While Rick debated the best plan of action, he parked and sat at an open boteco—Rio’s answer to the American café—where he could watch the comings and goings, of which there were plenty.

  The bottom floor of All That Glitters was an upscale jewelry retail store, where he assumed the Monteverde family sold what they had designed on the other seventeen floors. As he sat back to watch the goings-on through the store window, he caught sight of her.

  The mystery woman.

  In disbelief, he pulled out the worn photo. Same color chestnut hair, wild and full, though now the sides were slicked back with glittery combs. Same light-olive skin, smooth and flawless.

  She turned then, and through the glass and the fifteen feet of hustling, bustling street that separated them, their gazes met.

  And the oddest thing happened. She seemed to see him, really see him. Him. Something deep inside Rick jerked and came to attention at that.

  It bothered him.

  As a man for hire, one who’d effectively walked away from his own life, there was no one who knew or cared about him, and he liked it that way. People wanted him only for what he could do, and he liked that too, as frankly, there was little he wouldn’t do. He’d purposely built a reputation as being the best bounty hunter in all of Brazil, and he never got personally involved with a case.

  Not ever again.

  No one touched his emotions, which he’d buried so far deep down he was certain they no longer existed.

  No one.

  But this woman... One look at her, just one meeting of the eyes, and he felt something inside him crack and soften.

  It had to be the sun.

  Or the crowd. There were millions of people in Rio and he felt as if all of them were walking up and down this very street, showing off their youth, their bodies, their indifference.

  Or maybe it was his busy schedule and lack of sleep. Since he took every case that came his way, no matter how difficult, and rarely hit dreamland easily, it was entirely possible.

  Anything but a personal connection. Narrowing his gaze, he forced a cool, hard detachment, one he was terrifyingly good at, and got back to business.

  Surveying her.

  She was average weight and build, or so he assumed, since she’d hidden nearly every inch of her body behind a business suit that didn’t fit into the Brazilian wear-as-little-as-possible way of life. She was still behind the counter, and with a visible shake, broke eye contact with him and turned to talk to another woman. With a shy smile and a light pat on the other woman’s arm, his mystery woman disappeared into the back of the store.

  She hadn’t looked at him again.

  Rick let out a long, slow breath, but before he could clear his head, a waitress came up to his table. She was dressed in a skimpy little skirt that sat low-slung on her hips and a bathing suit top designed to cover only her nipples—barely. Her crooked smile was both friendly and speculative. “Something to drink?” she asked in Portuguese, and when it took him a moment to pull his thoughts from across the street, she added in the bold way of Brazilian women, “Or...something else perhaps?”

  Women had come on to him plenty of times, and plenty of times he’d appreciated it, but at the moment he was distracted. “Have you been in there?” he asked, gesturing across the street.

  Laughing wryly, she shook her head. “Too pricey for the likes of me. But I’ve window-shopped plenty.”


  Yeah, that was it. He was going window shopping.

  * * *

  GRABBING HER PURSE, Nina Monteverde headed out. She was desperately in need of lunch, though it was already late afternoon. She’d skipped breakfast, and now that she thought about it, she’d skipped dinner the night before as well.

  Her head throbbed with it.

  Running All That Glitters was going to kill her. Second quarter paperwork was due, there were taxes to handle and several k
ey employee contracts had come up for negotiation.

  Terry could have handled all of it and more, with a bright smile.

  At the thought of her beloved sister, Nina’s throat tightened. The weight in her chest seemed to double. Triple.

  But she kept walking, relieved to find a small table available at the café across the street. Grateful, she sat down and ordered. When her drink came, she sipped it, acknowledging the burning sensation behind her eyes as exhaustion, and promised herself that tonight she’d sleep.

  No more nightmares.

  Even if today was—would have been—Terry’s birthday. Her sister should be home preparing her own celebration, just as she always had, and doing it in the outgoing, outrageous style in which she’d done everything.

  Instead of being dead.

  “Here, cara,” the waitress said, setting a sandwich on the table. Then she plopped into the empty chair and grinned. “Break time for me, too. Whew, it’s hot.”

  “It is only eighty degrees, Maria.”

  “Yes, but this is supposed to be winter. So—” she leaned close, studying Nina carefully “—you today.”

  Yes, she was off. Hard to believe she could be surrounded by people all day long and still feel...lonely. But Nina had been holding people at bay all her life, never really letting anyone in, and she’d gotten good at it.

  Too good.

  Maybe she regretted that now, that distance, but it was a hard habit to break.

  “Nina?” Maria frowned in concern. “What’s up?”

  “It has been a long day, that is all.” A long day fussing with the business end of things instead of designing, as her heart craved.

  “You need to get laid,” Maria decided.

  Nina choked on her drink. She enjoyed Maria’s company but she’d never gotten used to her friend’s easy way of sharing absolutely everything. “I am fine.”

  “You’re always fine.” Sighing lustily, ignoring the tourists at the next table who were gesturing for her attention, Maria put her feet up and leaned back. “Don’t you ever get tired of being so... fine?”