I’m on vacation this week, so instead of a full post, I’m posting short excerpts from my three romantic adventures, the first scenes with the hero and heroine together, and I want you to vote for which one you like best!
Regan snapped her phone shut and shoved it guiltily into her pocket. Kelsey had been at school for weeks, and you’d think she’d have adjusted by now. But it didn’t matter how many times she told herself to leave Kelsey alone, she couldn’t go more than a few hours without checking on her. It was borderline psychotic.
But not something she wanted to explain to the man lounging against the wooden fence between their yards, leering at her. She groaned at his lame attempt at innuendo and shielded her eyes from the sun.
“That was really bad,” she told him.
“I know. They’re not buds, they’re bulbs.”
She shook her head and stood. “Why do I put up with you, Tyler Sloane?”
“You don’t have a choice.” He paced her down the fence as she walked to the end and grabbed another handful of bulbs. “Where’d you get those moves, anyway?”
She frowned and returned to her original spot. “What moves?”
“You stood up all at once. You know, one move. You used to be a dancer or something?”
Regan sighed. Ever since Tyler had moved in next door two years ago, he’d quizzed her like this. She never told him anything—had, in fact, fed him quite a few contradictory lies. He seemed to find the game delightful. She was tired of it.
“Not a dancer? Maybe a ninja.”
She snorted. “Leave me alone or this dirt I’m digging might fly a little far afield.”
“Yeah, right. You can’t get me from there.”
She flipped the trowel, and lumps of dirt hit him in the chest.
“All right, I give.” His bantering tone disappeared. “Actually, I wanted to ask you a favor.”
“You can ask.”
“I’ll be going out of town soon. Can you pick up my mail and paper and water my plants while I’m gone?”
“You don’t get the paper and you don’t have any plants.” She’d caught him stealing her newspaper enough times, and he just wasn’t the kind of guy to nurture houseplants.
“Oh, yeah, right. Mail, then? And just keep an eye on the house?”
He didn’t say anything else, and she stopped digging to look up. He stood there, studying her.
“You still seeing that Alan geek?”
“He’s not a geek, and yes. Why, you interested?”
She laughed, but he didn’t. She set down the trowel. “Seriously?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You never were before.”
He shook his head, the smile sitting sadly on his mouth. “You weren’t paying attention. Anyway, thanks for taking care of the mail. I’ll bring you a key before I leave.” He tapped a fist on the top rail of the fence and turned to go into the house.
Rogan watched the group striding toward them and weathered a surge of adrenaline. The guy and two
women wore nearly identical expressions of determination, and though he’d watched them come in
and knew they were with the new security team, they didn’t inspire warm fuzzies. More like fight or flight.
The bodyguard who’d been assigned to him for weeks stiffened and stepped forward, putting himself in front of Rogan. He checked his instinctive move to the side to see better. Being protected wasn’t coming easy to him, but he was learning.
The tall brunette in jeans and a leather jacket seemed to be in charge. She held out a hand to Rogan’s bodyguard.
“Kennedy Smyth, SmythShield. This is my team.”
She gestured to the group that had fanned out around her. “Anything we need to know?” she asked the
bodyguard, who shook his head.
“It’s all in the briefing report.”
“Okay, then. We’ll take it from here. Thanks.” She patted the man on his upper arm, closing in on Rogan and dismissing her predecessor.
Whether it was the patronization, the touching or the dismissal, Rogan wasn’t sure, but the man’s face darkened an instant before he grabbed Kennedy’s arm, swinging her around. Her guy—about half the size of the one he was replacing—crushed Rogan back against the wall, shielding him. Somehow, in that second, his old bodyguard wound up on the floor, Kennedy’s foot on his neck and his arm twisted between her hands.
The other female SmythShield operative shielded Bailey, while Bailey’s former bodyguard laughed.
“Nice work,” the guy on the ground said, grudgingly. Kennedy let go and helped him up, and the guy on Rogan eased off so he could at least breathe.
“Just testing,” his former guard said in a clearly insincere apology.
“SmythShield doesn’t need to be tested.”
He shrugged. “Reputation sometimes exceeds ability.” He motioned to Rogan and Bailey. “They’re all yours.”
Dismissing him for real this time, Kennedy turned to Rogan and his costar. “Let’s try this again.” She flashed a smile, and gone was the warrior she’d been a moment ago. Rogan was impressed despite himself. He wouldn’t have guessed she had any charm in her, from the way she’d taken control.
“I’m Kennedy. We have a three-person personal detail on you two and M.J., where the threat has been focused. We’ll be doing pretty much what your last personal security did, but we’re probably more intense. Similar rules. You don’t go anywhere without one of us. You don’t enter a room, outside of this building, without one of us checking it first. If you see anything suspicious or of concern, signal us. We’ll be watching. Don’t worry about looking paranoid. You won’t get laughed at. You will get scolded for not communicating with us. Got it?”
They nodded, Rogan suppressing an ill-advised grin. Kennedy focused on him. “You have any problems being guarded by a woman?”
Lark dropped the hose and picked up a clay pot, swinging it at her attacker’s head.
Startled at the voice behind her, Lark pulled her swing and spun.
The man was young, only a couple of years older than her, and good looking in a sparkly-blue-eyes, pale-blond hair, tennis-muscles kind of way. But the glee on his face almost made him look ugly.
“What the hell is going on here?” she demanded, still angry. “How do you people keep getting in?”
“Yeah, we’re gonna tell you.” The blond eyed the other man, who whimpered and rubbed at his face. “Did you blind him?”
He tsked. “That doesn’t make me happy.”
Lark didn’t say anything. If these guys knew anything about her, they weren’t surprised by her response to their attempt to steal her work. And her, apparently.
“Oh, well. Come on, Donald.”
The man tried to follow the command. The tennis blond reached for Lark’s wrist. She attempted to jerk away, but he was ready for her and held on.
“Ah-ah!” He held up a finger. “Your father taught me well. And unlike you, I’ve used what he taught me for years.”
Lark frowned at him. “You—what?” Her mind raced as she leaned away from him, her arm stretched out. Pieces came together, clicking quickly into place. Her father’s business might be struggling, but he had few true enemies. Her heart sank. “You’re Isaac Kemmerling.”
He smiled. “Daddy talks shop at home. Great, that saves us the whole getting-acquainted period.” He laughed and tugged on her arm. “Come quietly and no one gets hurt.” He turned to leave.
A man Lark hadn’t seen creeping up on them slammed his fist into Isaac’s face. He crumpled without a sound, his slack fingers sliding off Lark’s wrist. She gaped at the new guy. He was blond, too, but a darker color that would bleach into streaks in the sun. His skin tone was “computer geek” but his body was—well.
Then he looked up, and all the edges of her vision went fuzzy and dark. She swayed and blinked fast to bring it back. A hard, warm arm wrapped around her back, grounding her, and she stared up into the green-gold eyes of a dead man.
“Jason,” she breathed.
He grinned. “I guess Matt didn’t tell you.”
Before she could respond, blue-uniformed security men flooded the building, fanning out and scampering up aisles, peering under tables.
“They’re over here!” she called.
“We have to go,” Jason said, his arm tightening around her.
“I can’t, I have to—”
“We have to go now.”
Lark didn’t argue. She should stay with company security, talk to the police, make sure the two men on the floor—one still, one writhing—were taken into custody. But this man was her father’s best friend, and though she hadn’t seen him for years before he died, she trusted him.
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