Bodyguard to the queen of Zakhar, lieutenant Angelina Mateja is unwilling to risk her reputation or her job for US special agent Alec Jonesno matter how sexy and irresistible he is. Alec's been recruited by the king to root out a human trafficking ringnot get up close and personal with a stunning woman who practically radiates touch me and die. But after sharing a mind-blowing kiss, Alec can't deny the fire simmering beneath Angel's cool exterior. As the dangerand their attractionintensifies, Angel is forced to choose between the job of her dreams, and the man who is starting to occupy her heart
About the Author
Amelia currently resides with her Ph.D. engineer husband in quiet Vail, AZ, where they can see the stars at night and have a “million dollar view” of the Rincon Mountains from their back yard.
Read an Excerpt
Alec deplaned at the surprisingly modern airport in the quaint city of Drago, the capital of Zakhar. His computer bag was slung over his left shoulder as he made his way up the jetway, leaving his right arm free as alwayshe was one of the few men post-9/11 allowed to carry a firearm on board a plane, and he never went anywhere unarmed. After a quick glance at one of the overhead monitors, he headed down the wide corridor with the rest of the passengers toward Baggage Claim.
His posting as regional security officer to the US embassy here in Zakhar had come as a great surprise, given what had happened at his last posting. As if he was being rewarded instead of punished.
Despite the fact that he already spoke rudimentary Zakharancourtesy of an earlier assignment guarding Her Serene Highness, Princess Mara Theodora of Zakhar, before she became an American citizenhe certainly hadn't been expecting this. He'd thought he'd be banished to the diplomatic equivalent of Siberia for a long time.
Instead, it was almost as if someone had pulled strings on his behalf to get him here, but that didn't make sense. Alec didn't have the political connections to make this happen, and it had been bugging him ever since the word came down where he was being assigned next.
He'd heard a rumor the king of Zakhar had specifically requested him, but that rumor was so fantastical he'd discounted it immediately. The king knew of himhow could he not, when Alec had been one of his sister's bodyguards in the US?but the king didn't know him.
So the reason why he'd been tapped for this plum assignment was still a mystery to him for all of ninety seconds. That was how long it took for Alec to exit Security and spot Trace McKinnon behind the barricade, waiting for him. And he began to smell a rat. A large, deadly rat who worked for Alec's brother-in-law, Cody Walker, at the Denver branch of the ultra-secret "agency." Who also happened to be married to Princess Mara. And suddenly the fantastical rumor didn't seem so fantastical, after all.
"I should have known," was all Alec said as he shook McKinnon's hand.
"Hey, don't look at me. I just volunteered to meet your flight, that's all. If you want to thank anyone, thank my wife. She's the one who asked her brother to intercede on your behalf."
Alec's smile morphed into a frown. "Wait a second. I don't want anything I haven't earned."
Trace spared him a cynical glance as they walked toward Baggage Claim. "You know as well as I do that in the real world it's not always what you know but who you know. But don't think you didn't earn this assignment. Not to mention, you did the right thing taking down those terrorists, no matter what anyone says."
Alec shook his head. "Diplomatically"
McKinnon uttered a pithy, four-letter word. "You're alive. They're not. Score one for the good guys."
They arrived at the baggage carousel for Alec's flight and stood there waiting for his checked luggage to appear. "So what are you doing in Zakhar? Don't tell me you're on assignment here."
McKinnon shook his head. "No, Mara and I are here on family business. The king's wife just had a baby, hadn't you heard? You'd better believe it's a big deal here in Zakharthe birth of the crown prince, the continuation of a dynasty going back more than five hundred years. This country has been celebrating almost nonstop for a month. We're here for the christening ceremony, along with a bevy of international dignitary invitees, including our very own secretary of state standing in for the president." He grinned. "You can thank him in person for putting in a good word for you with your bossMara made sure you received an invitation to the christening."
Startled, Alec said, "Thanks I think. Speaking of babies, I hear congratulations are in order for you and the princess, too."
McKinnon's smile deepened into one of intense satisfaction. "Yeah, this summer. I didn't plan on more than one at a time, but as Mara says, children can't help being bornthey have no choice in the matter. So we're now the proud parents of twins, a boy and a girl."
"How's that working out for you?"
"It's hectic," was all McKinnon would say. But his grin told Alec he wouldn't have it any other way.
Following the two from a distance, off-duty lieutenant Angelina Mateja tucked her short, blond hair behind one ear and commented softly to her companion in Zakharan, "So that is the new RSO at the US embassy. He is younger than I thought for such an important position."
Captain Marek Zale smiled with amusement, turning his intense gaze toward her for a moment. "He is thirty-six. More than a year older than the king. Not so young."
"He appears younger." And more handsome than I expected, Angelina thought but didn't say. As one of the first female officers in the Zakharian National Forces, she was extremely careful about what she said to Captain Zale or anyone else she worked with.
Zakhar was fifty years behind the times in many ways, especially regarding women. The Zakharian National Forces had only opened to women after King Andre Alexei had ascended the throne of Zakhar four and a half years earlier. The men she worked with were just waiting for some sign she wasn't up to the job. Which meant she could never be anything less than the perfect professional officer.
Angelina towered over the petite queen she guarded so faithfully. Her five feet eleven inches without shoes made her nearly as tall as most of the men on the security detail. And her skill with weapons of all sortsnot to mention her skills without weaponsmade her perfectly qualified for her assignment as one of the queen's bodyguards.
She was a formidable adversary with a hard-as-nails reputation she'd worked diligently to earn. More than one man on the queen's security detail had lost to her during hand-to-hand combat training exercises. She'd even taken down Captain Zale once, though that was probably more from surprise than anything else. She'd never managed to do it a second time, although she'd tried. Repeatedly.
Now, watching the American heft a suitcase off the baggage carousel, Angelina felt an unusual twinge of physical attraction, a jolt of sexual desire in her belly and lower. It wasn't something she usually felt. Wasn't something she usually let herself feel. But there it was.
Auburn-haired Alec Jones wasn't nearly as handsome as Princess Mara's husband, Trace McKinnon, who was standing next to him. But he had a male attraction all his own, and was in superb fighting shapesomething that appealed to Angelina on the most basic level. Even though he was covered with clothing, she could see the muscles that pulled his jacket taut across his broad shoulders.
She had an instant's vision of him nakedhoned to muscle, sinew and bone, much as she wasand wondered what it would be like to take him to her bed instead of the man she'd picked to rid her of her virginity at the age of twenty. Curiosity had been followed by disappointment nine years ago, butAngelina's blue-gray eyes gleamed momentarilyshe didn't think sex with this man would be disappointing. Far from it.
Just as quickly as the thought occurred to her she banished it, but not without regret. She'd long ago resolved that any kind of romantic involvement, not to mention sex, was incompatible with her job in the Zakharian National Forces. Especially given the patronizing attitude toward women held by most of the men in the rank and file as well as the officers. Sex with any maneven a non-Zakharianwas the last thing she should be thinking about. She wasn't about to risk her reputation, or her job, for a man. No matter how sexy and irresistible he was.
Alec turned abruptly and spotted a woman across the airport watching him. Intently. She was tall, blonde and slender, with a touch-me-and-die air about her. He didn't know why, but she pushed all his buttons without even trying, and he felt himself responding to her. Hard. Fast. He laughed under his breath and ordered his body to stand down. But he wasn't surprised when his body refused to obey.
The woman and the man with her were both dressed in the kind of clothes he usually wore when on dutywhat he was wearing now, actuallyincluding a jacket to hide his shoulder holster. And there was something about them that seemed eerily familiar, something that reminded him of his own expression when he unexpectedly spotted himself in a mirror in public. A watchfulness in their eyes. An alertness in the way they held themselves, as if ready for anything. Bodyguards? he wondered. He glanced around but didn't see anyone they might be guarding. Still
"Five will get you ten, those two are bodyguards," he murmured to McKinnon as they walked in the direction of the pair, not even needing to indicate to his friend who he was talking about.
McKinnon laughed softly. "No bet," he said. "I made them as bodyguards, too, five minutes ago." He looked closer as they approached the couple, and his laughter faded. His mouth took on a grim cast and he cursed softly before adding, "I know them. Both of them. Which means they're not here by accident."
Since the eyes of the four had already met and held, the two Zakharians didn't bother trying to evade Alec and McKinnon as they came up to them.
The man read the expression on McKinnon's face, and said quickly, "Your wife, she was concerned for your safety. But she knew you would refuse protection, so she asked the queen what could be done secretly. The queen asked us as a special favor if we would keep an eye on you when we were free to do so." He shrugged, and a small smile played over his lips. "So we are here. Have you ever tried to refuse your queen anything?"
Alec grinned, caught McKinnon's eye and tried but failed to stifle his smile. Substitute the words your princess for your queen, and he knew McKinnon wouldn't have been able to answer in the affirmative. He held out his hand. "Hi, I'm Alec Jones. I'm the new regional"
"Regional security officer for the US embassy," the man completed the sentence for him. "Yes, we know. I am Captain Marek Zale," he added. "And this is Lieutenant Angelina Mateja. Queen's security detail."
Alec shook both their hands. "Pleased to meet you."
Angelina said abruptly, "You were once assigned to guard Princess Mara when she first went to Colorado, yes? You and your brother. She has spoken of you both with affection."
Alec was mesmerized by both her face and voice, not to mention her body. For once he didn't have to look down to talk with a womanLieutenant Mateja was only a couple inches shorter than he was, and somehow that was especially appealing. She didn't wear any makeup, not that he could see, but she didn't need it. Hers was an understated beauty of blue eyes so pale they were almost gray, baby-fine skin that begged for the caress of a man's fingers and good bone structure that would age well. All surrounded by a sassy cap of straight corn-silk blond hair.
And her voice? The slightly accented English and the word order to her sentences reminded him of Princess Mara, but she spoke in a deep, rich contralto that made him think of warm, gooey caramel melting on top of vanilla ice cream. As for her body, she was lithe and lean, but there were curves for a discerning man to appreciate. And Alec was a very discerning man.
"Yeah," Alec answered Lieutenant Mateja's question after a few seconds. "Liammy younger brother, that isand I, and this guy here," he said, indicating McKinnon with a tilt of his head, "we were all the princess's bodyguards the first six months she taught at the University of Colorado in Boulder." He slid a sideways glance at McKinnon. "Then she married McKinnon" there's no accounting for taste, his bantering tone and expression conveyed "and the State Department decided she no longer needed DSS protection, so Liam and I were pulled off the job."
Alec focused on Lieutenant Mateja again, wonderingas most men wondered when they encountered an attractive womanwhat she'd be like in bed. He smiled inside as he imagined making love to someone he didn't have to bend down to kiss. Someone he could stretch out next to on the sheets. Someone as toned and taut as he was. But he was careful not to let his imaginings show on his face.
She already pushed his buttons, and now that he'd heard her voice, he was even more attracted to her than he had been earlier, and that was saying a lot.
It had been a while for him. His career with the DSS meant he was often posted outside the United States DSS special agents had to be available for assignment anywhere in the world on short notice. And his last posting had been in the Middle East. Look but don't touch was the watchword for a prudent man in the Middle East where local women were concerned. As for Darla, the incident at the coffeehouse had put paid to any possibilities where she was concerned.
Then, when he'd been hustled out of the country, he hadn't been back in the States long enough to pick up the threads of his social life before being posted to Zakhar. So it had been a while. Longer than he cared to acknowledge.
But now that he'd met Angelina Mateja, Alec was suddenly looking forward to his new assignment with a renewedand very maleinterest.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a very interesting book that was hard to put down. The political and cultural climate of Zakhar and the US is so contrasting as the two primary characters became involved in assignments politically and the developed a personal relationship that was complicated but evolved and became important for both of them. The differences in expectations and roles played were central to the development of a personal relationship that thrived romantically eventually. I gave it a 3 out of 4 on my personal scale and I learned from reading the book.
Fantastic book with a seriously awesome heroine. Angelina is bodyguard to the queen, a position she has fought long and hard for. From the time she was a little girl she wanted more than just to be a wife and mother. She studied hard, earned a law degree, and when the new king opened the Zakharian Defense Forces to women she immediately joined. Though things have gotten better for women, Angelina still feels that Zakharian attitudes are still fifty years behind modern times. Alec, who was one of Princess Mara's bodyguards in MacKinnon's Royal Mission, ran into some trouble on his last assignment. Expecting a reprimand and a less than desirable posting, instead he is assigned to become the regional security officer at the embassy in Zakhar. It is believed that the princess asked her brother, the king, to intercede on his behalf. When he arrives in Zakhar, he discovers that, while that may be the public story, in truth he has been selected by the king himself for another reason. There is a human trafficking ring operating between Zakhar and the States, and someone at the embassy is suspected of being involved. Alec's task is to help shut it down. Alec and Angelina meet the first day that he arrives in the country and sparks immediately fly between them. I loved their encounter the next morning, when they meet while running. They spend a little time as they run getting to know each other. When Alec asks her if she worries about running alone as she does, her reply is priceless and surprising. I liked the respect that began to build between them from that point. A moment later they are locked in a mind-blowing kiss that shakes them both up. I loved Angelina. She was strong willed and determined woman who worked hard to get where she was. Honor and duty are everything to her and she tries hard to avoid anything that would cast doubt on her ability to d her job. There are multiple scenes that show what she is up against, such as feeling she has to wait until the male security team members have spoken before she does. It is also evident in the way she is treated after the incident at the cathedral. She doesn't like it, but accepts it as the way things are. She gets a boost in confidence (and I gained even more respect for King Andre) when the king himself praises her actions and commends her in front of her male counterparts. I also liked the way he privately praised her actions and gave her advice on dealing with the effects of those actions. His praise and Alec's confidence in her also gave her the courage to ask to help with an interrogation. It was incredibly satisfying to her (and to me as a reader) to see her succeed where all the men had failed. There was one brief scene with the heads of the king's security detail that was kind of unresolved, and I would love to be a fly on the wall when they get the news that happens at the end of the book. Because of space limitations, review is continued at: http://susans2015readingblog.blogspot.com/2015/06/alecs-royal-assignment-amelia-autin-hrs.html