Bestseller Barton wraps up her long-running Protectors series (launched with 1995's Defending His Own) with a nail biter about private security agent Lucie Evans, whose feud with Sawyer McNamara, CEO of the Dundee Private Investigation and Security Agency, finally explodes. Lucie leaves Dundee and starts working as billionaire Cara Bedell's personal bodyguard, only to be kidnapped by hired South American killers who mistake her for Cara. Sawyer enlists the help of agent Geoff Monday and they quickly rescue Lucie. When the kidnappers follow Cara back to the U.S., Sawyer, Geoff and Lucie leave no stone unturned in their efforts to stop the thugs and find their employer. Barton tosses in several familiar names and other gifts to fans who have been cheering on Sawyer and Lucie for years; new readers will enjoy the fast pace and hot-tempered romance. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dying for Youby Beverly Barton
It was the job of her dreams but it became her worst nightmare .
All private security agent Lucie Evans wanted was a fresh startand the chance to show Sawyer McNamara, her ex-boss, that she no longer craved his absolution for a crime she didn't commit. So when the offer of a trip to South America as the personal bodyguard to a billionaire heiress… See more details below
It was the job of her dreams but it became her worst nightmare .
All private security agent Lucie Evans wanted was a fresh startand the chance to show Sawyer McNamara, her ex-boss, that she no longer craved his absolution for a crime she didn't commit. So when the offer of a trip to South America as the personal bodyguard to a billionaire heiress came up, Lucie jumped at the prospect of leaving the Dundee Agency behind. Then the nightmare began. Kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity, suddenly Lucie's only hope of survival rested with the one man she never wanted to see again.
Sawyer had spent years convincing himself that all he felt for Lucie was contemptbut with her life at stake, he was forced to face his true feelings. Though it may be a case of too little, too late. Because Lucie's captor wouldn't rest until she was silenced
once and for all.
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Daisy Holbrook prided herself on doing her job as Dundee's office manager with expertise and finesse. She kept up-to-date on dozens of cases and, at present, twenty full-time agents, numerous contract agents and six members of the office staff. The Dundee Private Security and Investigation Agency handled assignments within the United States and internationally and was known worldwide as one of the premiere agencies of its kind. Sam Dundee, the owner, visited their sixth-floor office complex in downtown Atlanta annually and was only a phone call away in emergencies. But CEO Sawyer McNamara oversaw the agency, hired and fired personnel, assigned cases and ruled Dundee's with an iron fist. His word was law. Many agents became friends and fraternized while between jobs. Not Sawyer. He maintained a professional distance between himself and the employees. Even if all the agents didn't like Sawyer, to a person, they respected him. The office staff, except for Daisy, trembled in fear whenever the big boss came anywhere near them and all the female staffers had secret crushes on him. Daisy understood why. Sawyer was not only intimidating, thus causing apprehension, but he also dressed like a GQ model, was tall, dark and handsome, and oozed sex appeal. Daisy had to admit that when she'd come to work here, straight out of college, and met him for the first time, she'd had a bit of crush on him herself.
She'd gotten over it.
As she turned on lights, checked to make sure the cleaning crew had left each private office in perfect condition, and put on two pots of coffee in the staff lounge, Daisy briefly recalled her first day on the job eight years ago. She had been nervous and unsureof herself, but determined to do her best. Within two years, the office manager had retired, leaving the position open. Daisy had been surprised, to say the least, when the then new CEO, Sawyer McNamara, had promoted her to the coveted position.
"You're intelligent, efficient and levelheaded," Sawyer had told her. "And you don't tremble in your high heels or swoon like a love-struck teenager when I speak to you."
After eight years in Dundee's employ, Daisy had gained the nickname Ms. Efficiency, of which she was extremely proud. She considered most of the agents to be her friends, some even close friends, and one in particular had stolen her heart several years ago. Everyone at Dundee's, except the man himself, knew that Daisy was in love with the rugged former SAS officer, Geoff Monday. Not only was he a womanizer, a confirmed bachelor and fifteen years her senior, but Geoff also treated her like a kid sister. Not once had he ever looked at her as if she were anything other than a buddy. Unrequited love was a bitch!
Marching down the hall toward her workstation in the center of the main office, Daisy checked her wrist-watch. 8:10 a.m. She arrived promptly at eight each morning, an hour before the other members of the staff. As a general rule, unless there was some type of emergency, the boss arrived anywhere between nine and ten. The agents who were not on assignment came and went from headquarters at various times. Just as she approached her desk, the distinct sound of the elevator stopping and the doors opening alerted her that someone was coming into work early. It would be either the boss himself or one of the agents. The office staffers usually rushed in at the last minute.
Daisy looked down the short hallway and watched while Lucie Evans exploded from the elevator, her long, curly red hair bouncing on her shoulders as she stomped her sandal-clad size-nines up the carpeted corridor.
Uh-oh. Daisy knew that look. Spiting mad, fire shooting from her dark eyes, cheeks flushed and determination in her stride. Lucy was pissed. Royally pissed, and there was only one person who could make her that angry.
"Is he in yet?" Lucie demanded when she neared Daisy's workstation.
"No, I'm afraid not."
"Call him and tell him to get down here as fast as his half-million-dollar Mercedes will go."
"Is there some type of emergency?" Daisy knew better than to disturb Sawyer at home without a very good reason.
"Oh, yes, there's an emergency." Lucie snarled. "I'm the emergency. Tell that son of a bitch that unless he wants all those pretty paintings and sculptures in his office destroyed, he'd better be here in twenty minutes."
"Lucie, you aren't threatening to"
"Damn right, I am." Her lips curved into a wicked smile, one that told Daisy she meant business.
"If you start tearing up Mr. McNamara's office, I'll have to call security."
"Call Sawyer instead," Lucie said, as she moved past the workstation and headed farther down the hall. "I promise not to touch a thing for the next twenty minutes."
"Where are you going?"
"To get a cup of coffee first, and then I'll be waiting in the big man's office."
Daisy followed Lucie into the staff lounge. "Whatever it is, do you want to talk about it? Tell me what's wrong and I'll"
Lucie turned on her. "You'll what? Try to calm me down? Play interference between me and Sawyer? Sorry, sweetie, not this time. It's gone beyond anything anyone can say or do."
"All right. I'll call Mr. McNamara and let him know you're here and that you're upset."
"Tell him he's got twenty minutes."
Daisy paused in the doorway. "You promise that you won't do anything destructive for the next twenty minutes."
Using her index finger, Lucie marked her chest with an X and said, "Cross my heart."
As she made her way back to her desk, Daisy heaved a worried sigh. This was far from the first time Lucie Evans had been upset with Sawyer. Except for one incident when she had actually broken Sawyer's Water-ford crystal paperweight, she had never been destructive. Whatever had happened to push her to the edge had to be worse than anything that had occurred in the past. In the eight years she had worked at Dundee's, she had watched the war between Lucie and Sawyer with as much interest and morbid fascination as the rest of the staff and all the agents. No one understood why, although the animosity between the two could easily set off World War III, Sawyer hadn't fired Lucie or why Lucie hadn't quit. Daisy didn't know for sure, of course, but she suspected that since both of them were as stubborn as mules, neither would back down, or give an inch. Sawyer was waiting for Lucie to resign; and Lucie was waiting for Sawyer to fire her. Stalemate.
When she returned to her desk, Daisy called Sawyer's private home number. He answered on the third ring.
"Good morning, Daisy. Is there a problem?"
"Yes, sir, I'm afraid there is." She dreaded telling him. Usually just the mention of Lucie's name could alter his mood from positive to negative.
"Well?" he asked impatiently.
"Lucie Evans is here." Daisy waited for his reaction.
"Ms. Evans is supposed to be on assignment. Did she give you any explanation for why she walked out on a client?"
"No, sir, she didn't mention the client, but she demanded that I contact you and ask you" Daisy cleared her throat "actually tell you that if you're not here at headquarters in twenty minutes, she is going to wreck your office."
"Call security and have her No, wait. Tell her I'll be there. And if she's touched even so much as a paper clip in my office, I'll have her butt hauled off to jail."
"Yes, sir, I'll inform Ms. Evans right away."
Daisy found Lucie in Sawyer's office, sitting behind his desk in his plush leather chair. When Daisy walked in, Lucie swiveled around and smiled at her.
"Mr. McNamara will be here in twenty minutes."
Lucie lifted the glass paperweight from Sawyer's desk, a replacement for the one she had broken a couple of years ago. Daisy hurried into the room, reached out, took the paperweight from Lucie's hand and set it back on the desk.
"Promise me that you'll be a good girl." Daisy looked right at Lucie.
Lucie glanced at her wristwatch, tapped the face and said, "I'll be as good as gold for the next twenty minutes."
Sawyer poured the contents of his cup into the sink, rinsed out the sink and placed the cup in the dishwasher. His coffeemaker would shut off automatically, so he left the half-full pot on the warmer. Mrs. Terrance, his housekeeper, would arrive at ten and tidy the kitchen. He went to his bedroom, put on his jacket, picked up his briefcase and headed straight for the garage. Usually, it took him thirty minutes to drive from his home to the downtown office building that housed Dundee's. This morning, he had to find a way to cut that time by ten minutes, if possible. He had known Lucie Evans long enough to know that the lady didn't bluff. And he also knew Daisy Holbrook well enough to know she would not call security until the last possible moment, which meant that Lucie could wreck his office before the guards arrived to stop her.
After getting into his Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, one of his most prized possessions, Sawyer put his Bluetooth earpiece into place, backed out of the driveway and onto the road. Once in the middle of bumper-to-bumper traffic, he placed a call, which after six rings went to voice mail.
"You've reached Lucie Evans. I'm not available to take your call. Please leave your number and I'll get back to you as soon a possible."
"Damn!" Sawyer muttered under his breath.
She wasn't going to answer her cell phone. She wanted to make him squirm.
He called her again. Once again, she didn't answer.
After her recorded message ended, he said, "Touch one thing in my office and I'll contact the police."
Lucie was a loose cannon. If he'd been smart, he would have fired her when he took over the CEO reins from Ellen Denby six years ago. Actually he had thought she would resign once she realized she'd be taking orders from him. But in typical Lucie fashion, she had dug in her heels and stayed on at Dundee's. For six years, she had done everything humanly possible to make him fire her; and he had done everything within his power as CEO to make her quit.
Lucie wasn't cut out for the line of work she had chosen. Not now or in the past. Whatever had possessed her to think she would make a good FBI agent, he'd never understood. She'd had the intelligence, the grit and the determination, but not the temperament. Lucie had always been volatile. Even as a kid, she'd been high-strung and emotional.
There had been a time when they hadn' t been enemies. When they were teenagers, he had looked out for her the same way he'd looked out for his kid brother, Brenden. But that had been a long time ago. A lifetime ago.
Sawyer placed a call to the security office in the building that housed Dundee's. When one of the officers on duty answered, Sawyer said, "This is Sawyer McNamara. Send someone upstairs to the Dundee Agency on the sixth floor. Have him go to my office and wait there with one of my agents, Lucie Evans, until I arrive."
"Yes, sir. Is there some problem we need to know about?"
"Ms. Evans has threatened to wreck my office if I don't arrive there within the next fifteen minutes. I prefer not to contact the police, but handle this internal problem myself."
"Yes, sir. I'll send someone immediately."
The next call Sawyer made was to Lucie's abandoned client who had hired Dundee's for a bodyguard assignment. Taylor Lawson was a has-been TV star whose claim to fame was a role as a brash young space cadet on a futuristic drama that ran four seasons some twenty years ago. He had been invited to act as host for this year's TV Sci-fi convention in Las Vegas.
"I want a capable bodyguard," Lawson had said.
"But I want a woman. A good-looking woman that I can pass off as my girlfriend."
"I know just the agent." Sawyer had known immediately that it was the type of assignment Lucie would hate. And whenever possible, the cases she hated were the ones he chose for her.
"Yeah, who the hell is this?" the man bellowed and Sawyer realized he had no doubt disturbed Taylor Lawson's sleep.
"Mr. Lawson, this is Sawyer McNamara from Dundee's. I'm calling in reference to"
"That crazy bitch you sent me tried to murder me," Lawson said. "I've got a good mind to sue Dundee's and you and her."
"Exactly what happened?" Sawyer asked.
"I told you, she tried to kill me."
"Why would Ms. Evans try to kill you? Her job was to protect you."
Lawson coughed a few times, and then grumbled several obscenities. "She was supposed to play the part of my girlfriend. That was understood when I hired her."
"Yes, sir, that's correct."
"Well, apparently you didn't make that part of her assignment clear because she sure as hell refused to act the part."
A nagging suspicion tightened Sawyer's gut. "Precisely what did Ms. Evans refuse to do?"
"She refused to sleep with me. I paid top dollar for her services and I expected her to be worth every cent. But when I told her to strip and get in bed, she refused, so I took matters into my own hands."
"And did what?" Sawyer swallowed hard.
"I slapped her and the crazy bitch sucker punched me. Knocked me on my ass and"
"Mr. Lawson, Dundee's provides bodyguard services, nothing more. I thought I made that perfectly clear to you. If Ms. Evans had to defend herself, then consider yourself lucky that she didn't kill you. Believe me, the lady is more than capable."
"Hell, you'd think she would have been thrilled to have Lieutenant Jack Starr fuck her. Most women would be."
"Then there's your problem. You see, Lucie Evans is not like most women."
"I figure she's a butch, despite the way she looks. You should have warned me. You'll definitely be hearing from my lawyers. I've got a broken nose, a couple of cracked ribs and a black eye."
"Unless you want Ms. Evans to file charges against you for attempted rape, then I'd think twice about siccing your lawyer on us. Now, you have a good day, Mr. Lawson."
Son of a bitch! That over-the-hill has-been had tried to rape Lucie. No wonder she was pissed at him. He'd known Lawson was a sleaze, but he'd also known that Lucie could handle him. And she had. What he hadn't considered was that the man might actually try to rape her.
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