Colton Family Bodyguard

Colton Family Bodyguard

by Jennifer Morey

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Overview

Experience the romance and adventure in The Coltons of Mustang Valley series!

He’s sworn off protecting women and children,
but this latest case changes everything!

Ever since tragedy struck years ago, bodyguard Callum Colton has avoided working with families. Yet when little Evie Hart becomes a witness to a kidnapping, Callum puts aside his fears to protect Evie and her mother, Hazel. That means moving in with the single mom and her adorable child—just temporarily, he insists. But can Callum keep the Harts safe while protecting his own heart?

The Coltons of Mustang Valley series:

Colton Baby Conspiracy by Marie Ferrarella

Colton’s Lethal Reunion by Tara Taylor Quinn

Colton Family Bodyguard by Jennifer Morey

Colton First Responder by Linda O. Johnston

In Colton’s Custody by Dana Nussio

Colton Manhunt by Jane Godman

Colton’s Deadly Disguise by Geri Krotow

Colton Cowboy Jeopardy by Regan Black

Colton’s Undercover Reunion by Lara Lacombe

Deadly Colton Search by Addison Fox

Hunting the Colton Fugitive by Colleen Thompson

Colton’s Last Stand by Karen Whiddon

From Harlequin Romantic Suspense: Danger. Drama. Passion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781335626400
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Series: The Coltons of Mustang Valley , #3
Edition description: Original
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 60,936
Product dimensions: 4.00(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Two-time RITA nominee and Golden Quill winner, Jennifer Morey writes her happy endings in Denver, Colorado. Aside from writing great contemporary and page-turning romantic suspense, she has a geology degree and consults compliance with the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. She loves movies, her three dogs, and her honey—not necessarily in that order! You may contact her through her website, www.jennifermorey.com

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Why did every woman he met and thought might be the one always announce at the worst possible time that she wanted babies? Callum Colton walked along a street at the edge of Mustang Valley, Arizona, on a sunny, early spring day. He had just left his now ex-girlfriend, Cindy, in tears because he'd had to tell her he was never going to have any children. He'd explained that to her at the beginning but she must have thought she could change his mind. He'd had to remind her he meant what he'd said. In truth, he felt so rotten, ending the relationship like that. She'd told him she understood and held no animosity toward him, but she was obviously very hurt.

Callum stepped into Executive Protection Services, LLC still lamenting what had happened. What else could he have done? He would have hurt his ex-girlfriend more had he continued on with her. When Cindy sat him down for The Serious Talk, she'd told him she wanted children and she wanted them with him. She loved him, and her biological clock ticked on and she felt she had to move now. That convinced him they weren't right for each other. She had hoped he felt the same as her and that he would give her children. She hadn't anticipated how unbending he was on the matter. And the truth was that he did not love her. They would have ended their relationship eventually, since she wanted a family. Why drag it out? He never had serious relationships with women he dated. How had she gotten the impression he would with her? He had told her as much. He almost shuddered as the door closed behind him and he walked through the entry with its vacant reception desk toward an office in the back.

He had enough going on without having to now feel guilty for hurting Cindy. He was still reeling from the news that his half brother, Ace, had been switched at birth and wasn't really his biological sibling. Not by blood. Who would do such a thing and why? The why of it really twisted his mind. Charles, the owner, chief executive officer, president and whatever other titles a guy like him liked to have, looked up from behind his metal-and-glass desk. The lack of clutter and nearly bare walls pretty much described him. Focused. Nothing personal. Good business head. That's why Callum had agreed to work for him. Callum had no liking for paperwork. Charles did.

"It's about time you got here." Charles stood and moved around his desk.

"I had to take care of something." Cindy's tear-damp cheeks flashed through his mind. Chaos had reigned recently in his life, ever since an email had made the rounds of his family's company, Colton Oil, saying that his oldest brother, Ace, was not a biological Colton. Since then, his father, Payne, had been shot — and now the cops even suspected Ace.

Charles stopped before him and cocked his head. "Well, that sounds like you. When you need to take care of something, nothing keeps you from doing it — not even your boss."

"I broke up with my girlfriend," Callum said.

"Another one? The hot blonde? What's wrong with you?"

Callum put his hands up. "She wanted kids."

Charles's brow creased a little. "What is it with you and kids? They're harmless and adorable. Who wouldn't want them?"

"Not me."

"Why not? They can be challenging sometimes but the rewards far outweigh that."

Charles had two young kids. He had a wife and a nice house. A real family man. "Why did you call me here?" Callum asked in irritation.

After considering him awhile, Charles said, "You never talk about anything, do you realize that?" Callum angled his head in silent warning.

"Keeping things bottled up is unhealthy. I worry about you."

Callum said nothing and continued to look at him. "Why do you think I called you here?" Charles asked.

Callum had a pretty good idea why. And he also thought this was going to be a waste of time. "I got the job done and the client is alive." He'd done a job as a bodyguard for an executive who had a stalker. "I'm not telling you to change your ways." Charles scoffed. "I couldn't anyway. But for the welfare of this company, I am telling you to be more careful. I almost couldn't convince the police you didn't break the law."

The stalker had gotten too close to his delicate female client and Callum had given him a clear ... message. Someone must have called 911 because the police had arrived after Callum and his client left.

"You were lucky the stalker was wanted for sexual assault on another woman. If they hadn't been able to arrest him, they probably wouldn't have let you go with just a warning," his boss said.

Callum walked over to the window and passively watched cars go by and a man walking his dog on the sidewalk.

"Seriously, Callum, you can't make up your own rules as you go."

Why was Charles rambling on so long about that? Hopefully Callum had knocked some sense into him. Charles was just uncomfortable about employing a man who wasn't afraid to cross boundaries.

"I'll be careful, Charles," Callum said.

"Why does that sound so half-baked?"

Callum glanced back with a rueful grin. "Because it is. Stop worrying so much. You're not the one who would have been arrested, and protecting our clients won't damage our reputation. If anything, it will get us more business."

"You can't protect anyone if you're in jail."

Turning back to the window, Callum said, "I didn't cross the line. We advertise elite services, don't we?" The view distracted him a moment. Charles had rented an office in an attractive one-story mall with a restaurant and a gas station beside the parking lot. The back of the building faced a quiet, tree-lined road. Across the street an upscale subdivision sprawled.

"Okay, but just don't get caught."

"I knew that stalker was wanted for assault. I found out two days ago."

"You still could have been arrested, Callum. Even criminals have rights."

"I'll keep that in mind." Or not. Callum's first priority was protecting his clients. He had a strong conviction about that. Victims didn't deserve to be forced into being victims. The menace that threatened them was a cancer that had to be carved out and stopped. That's what had led him to a career as a bodyguard, and back home to support his family in a time of crisis.

"It turns out that's not the only reason I asked you to stop by. I've got another case for you. Ever hear of the country singer Blake Reynolds?"

"No." Callum liked country but didn't pay attention to the artists' names.

Outside, a black Mercedes SUV — one of the more economical versions — pulled to a stop on the side of the street. Callum caught sight of a woman with long dark hair in the driver's seat. She had a fantastic profile. At the same time, a car stopped on the side of the street about two houses down.

Callum listened to Charles explain the new case while he turned back to the woman, who climbed out of the SUV and opened the back door. She worked to free a little girl from a car seat. Normally this was when he would have turned away from the sight of a mother and her child, but something about the woman made him keep watching — and stop listening to Charles. Maybe it was that tight body in those dressy black pants, or the curve of that slender waist, or the way her those perfectly shaped breasts strained against the white blouse.

She lifted the girl from the seat and lowered her to the ground. Holding a stuffed Cookie Monster in one arm, the child looked up at her mother and said something, to which the woman shook her head. The little girl didn't appear to like the answer, an adorable pout forming beneath scrunching eyebrows, and she hugged the stuffed toy against the white top of a cute flaring black skirt. He felt an automatic pang at the adorable mother-daughter duo.

The mother went to the back of the Mercedes and lifted the hatch. Callum got a really nice view of her frame as she leaned in and retrieved two recyclable grocery bags. Setting those on the pavement, she reached in again and handed a plastic container to the little girl, who still frowned and continued to argue with her mother.

The beautiful woman crouched before her, her facial features striking him to the core. She spoke to the girl, whose frown finally smoothed.

Standing, the woman closed the hatch and lifted the bags, talking with the young girl. The child walked with short, clumsy steps beside her mother up the driveway to the front door of a house. When they disappeared inside, Callum realized how immersed he'd become in watching the woman and child. His stomach fell.

Then he looked down the street and saw the car that had pulled over was still there, with someone sitting in the driver's seat. A man. He appeared to be watching the woman's house, though he was too far away to get a good look inside. Out of habit, Callum checked the license plate but it was too far away to make out.

Charles appeared beside him, looking from the house across the street to him. "Have you heard a single word I've said?"

"Sorry, no." Callum turned away from the window.

"The singer had a girlfriend who's gone off the deep end. He's afraid she'll go after him."

"Another one of those cases?" Only this time it would be a man he protected.

"They were together for six months and she started to get too clingy, so he ended it. He said he noticed other things, too, like catching her in lies. She told her friends they were getting married. She also told him she was pregnant but she wasn't. He made her do a test and it was negative. When he asked why she lied, she said she was afraid she was going to lose him."

"Does he have any kids?" Callum asked.

"No. You've made it perfectly clear you don't want those kinds of cases — which you still haven't told me why." Charles looked out the window again. "I meant what I said about keeping things bottled up, Callum." "When do I go?" He didn't like talking about why he never took mother-child cases. Charles tried to get him to every once in a while and Callum believed that Charles was concerned about him. He had become a good friend, aside from being Callum's boss.

"He's local. That's how he heard of you."

"Me?"

"Yeah. He asked for you by name. You'll be working with his usual security team."

"He doesn't think his own team will be enough?" What kind of woman had this new client broken up with?

Charles walked back to his desk and picked up a folder. "I printed these out for you. I also emailed them. You'll understand more after you read it. He's out of the country right now, but asked if you could stay at his place next month."

Callum took the file. "Thanks." Charles knew he liked studying cases on paper more than on a screen. Some things were still better offline, like holding a book instead of a tablet.

"Any news on your father?" Charles asked.

"He's still in a coma. I'm heading over to the hospital after I go see my brother." Payne Colton had been shot after receiving a bizarre email containing the shocking news about Ace. He didn't say which brother he was going to see, since Ace was still a suspect in Payne's shooting. When Callum and his twin sister — current Colton Oil CEO Marlowe — had visited Mustang Valley General Hospital last month, they were told that a fire broke out the morning of Ace's birth and destroyed all records.

With one more look out the window that told him the car and the man were still there, Callum bade Charles farewell and left the building. But he couldn't stop thinking about that parent and child. He couldn't explain why he needed to make sure she was all right. A sixth sense told him something was off about the stranger in the car. Even though he had sworn off guarding families, he couldn't ignore this. He'd make sure the woman and her daughter were okay and then he'd be on his way.

Hazel Hart took her now-cheerful daughter's hand and walked with her toward the SUV. Earlier Evie had fussed about being told she could not go for ice cream today. Hazel's schedule was far too busy. But Evie liked passing out cookies to Hazel's clients. Hazel had told her five-year-old she could sample one with them. That had taken care of the ice cream tantrum.

Hazel glanced around. The street was quiet. This area of town didn't get much traffic. On the edge of Mustang Valley, there was a lot of new development and not much commercial business. The back of the strip mall across the street hid most of the activity there, though landscaping along the sidewalk made it more palatable for residents. The client she'd just left enjoyed the convenience of Hazel's home deliveries, especially since she had been taken ill with breast cancer. The woman was going to be all right, but had hired Hazel to provide her meals while she recovered. The woman had family but they all lived out of state and she didn't like the food her neighbors prepared.

Hazel had left her job at an upscale restaurant several months ago to go off on her own as a personal chef. She preferred the independence and not having to work under someone else's thumb. Plus, she could always be with Evie, which was her most favorite thing in the world.

Reaching the SUV, Hazel unlocked it and had her hand on the back seat door handle when Evie said, "Mommy, what is that man doing?"

Hazel looked in the direction Evie pointed and saw a man in a blue sedan, wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap.

"Why did he hit that man over the head with a rock and put him in the car?"

Hazel turned sharply to Evie. "What?" She looked around and didn't see anything.

Evie pointed. "That man put another man in the trunk, Mommy."

Hazel felt a wave of apprehension sweep through her as she stared at the sedan. If the driver had struck a man unconscious and put him into the trunk, he could not have any good intentions. He started pulling out into the street way too quickly for Hazel's comfort.

Hazel memorized the license plate as the man began driving along the street, right toward them.

Reaching for Evie's hand, she went to pull her daughter onto the sidewalk. Evie dropped her Cookie Monster and bent to pick it up. Horror flared up in Hazel. She glanced up and saw the car was almost on them! They'd be run over!

"Evie —" Just then someone swooped Evie up and grabbed Hazel's hand, yanking her backward.

The stranger in the sedan continued to race for them. Hazel screamed, as did Evie, as a man hauled them behind her Mercedes and up onto the sidewalk. The other car whizzed past, taking out her Mercedes' driver-side mirror.

"Are you all right?"

Hazel pulled her hand from the man's, heart flying and struggling to catch her breath. A car had just tried to mow them down! The sound of the Mercedes mirror being torn off kept echoing in her mind.

She reached for a crying Evie. The heroic man handed her daughter over and Hazel held her tightly. "It's okay, baby. We're all right." She looked at the man as she answered his question.

Hazel checked up the street and saw no sign of the driver. Then she turned back to her hero. "Thank you."

He took out his phone and called 911.

Her adrenaline began to abate as Evie's crying softened. Smoothing the few tendrils of brunette hair that had fallen free from the two ponytails sticking out from the sides of Evie's head, she wiped her daughter's cheeks.

Looking over the child's shoulder, she saw the man as more than her rescuer. His reddish-blond hair was slightly wavy and he had strong facial features. He wore dark slacks with black leather loafers that had thick soles, and between the lapels of his black jacket she could see he had on a white shirt with the first two buttons undone. He finished telling the operator where they were and disconnected. Towering above her, he was probably six-three and had an athletic build.

"I'm Callum Colton," the handsome man said. "Hazel Hart, and this is Evie, short for Evelyn."

Evie turned her head, still pouting, and looked at Callum.

"Hi, Evie. Are you okay?" Callum asked. Evie nodded.

"That's an awfully cute stuffed monster you have there," he said.

"Her name is Cookie," Evie said, brightening.

He chuckled and glanced at Hazel, who became transfixed by his smile. "That's appropriate."

Well, whether he was a kid person or not, his tactics worked. Ever since Ed ran out on her after hearing she was pregnant, Hazel always wondered whether or not a man who caught her eyes liked children.

"I think Evie saw something," Hazel said. "She said a man hit another one over the head with a rock and put him into the trunk."

The faint sound of sirens joined the gentle hum of distant town movements. Hazel put Evie down and held her hand, needing to have contact with her. Having nearly been run down by a car had rattled them both. To think Evie could have been hurt, or worse ...

"Did you see him, too?" Callum asked.

She shook her head. "He was in the car already when I saw him. I didn't get a good look at him. I did get the plate number, though."

"That's great." Then he asked Evie, "Can you describe the man?"

(Continues…)


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Colton Family Bodyguard 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
KelsieAL 3 days ago
Colton Family Bodyguard by Jennifer Morey is book three in the Coltons of Mustang Valley series. This series of novels written by various authors features the Colton Family of Mustang Valley, Arizona. This is a Mills & Boon Romantic Suspense: Heart-racing suspense, adventure and romance under extraordinary circumstances. Former Navy Seal, Callum Colton works for Executive Protection Services, LLC as a bodyguard. His current client is five-yr-old Evie Hart and her mother, Hazel. Callum normally avoids working with families but knows he must make an exception for the little girl who witnessed a crime and her mother, both of whom are penetrating his armor. Colton Family Bodyguard is another entertaining read in this series. The characters are strong and vibrant. Little Evie is a gem. The plot is engaging. The author maintains the continuity of a series not written by one author. There is some explicit sexual content that may be offensive to some readers. The ending was satisfying but felt a little stilted, so I deducted a star and gave the book a 4 out of 5 rating. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense. My thanks to HARLEQUIN – Romance (US & Canada) and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book. However, the opinions expressed in this review are 100% mine and mine alone.
LynnB888 23 days ago
Lots of danger mixed with a touch of sweet, a smidge of sass and a whole lot of steam! With book three in the exciting Colton spin-off series The Coltons of Mustang Valley, Jennifer Morey takes us on an adventure filled emotional journey in COLTON FAMILY BODYGUARD. The intrigue had my attention right off the bat and the fast paced plot kept me riveted. Callum Colton is a bit of a mystery to us so far in the series, so to learn his background story is very satisfying. The second he stepped in and helped a stranger and her little girl he endeared himself to me, and seeing him interact with that adorable little girl was super sweet. Hazel Hart is easy enough to like. She's working hard to make a satisfying life for her daughter and herself, so isn't sure what to make of being thrown into a whirlwind of luxury amid the Coltons. I highly recommend this book and the entire series so far to anyone who enjoys a fast paced story filled with intrigue and happily ever afters but who also likes the slow build of an on-going mystery that will fester throughout the entire series until the last book gives us answers.